How To Stay In Contest Shape During The Off-Season

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By Nichelle Laus (@NichelleLaus)

Have you ever wondered what people meant by “off season”? In the fitness world, it would be nice to always stay in “contest shape,” but in reality most people just can’t. It is a misconception to many that most fitness models and competitors look at the top of their game all the time.

The truth is, most of the women and men you see in fitness magazines usually book their photo shoots around competition time, when they are at their leanest. In order to get that taut, it takes extreme dedication and commitment to a nutritional plan that is tailored specifically to your needs.

So what exactly is the difference between a pre-contest and post-contest nutrition plan? To stay lean and maintain optimal and consistent results all year round, there is not much difference other than quantity of food, as well as more frequent re-feed meals.

Pre-contest nutrition plans vary from person to person and from contest to contest, depending on how your body is responding to the program. During contest preparation, I typically keep my protein higher (about 1 to 1.5 grams per pound of body weight), and my fats and carbohydrates lower. My post-contest nutrition plan still consists of the same foods, because I enjoy them (remember, it is a lifestyle, not a diet!). In my post-contest plan, the amount of protein I take in is lowered slightly, and my carbohydrates and fats are increased subsequently.

A lot of competitors restrict themselves so much during their pre-contest nutrition that they end up turning their amazing gains into fails post-competition because they endure days of food gluttony. There are steps that you can take to ensure you don’t overindulge following your trip to the stage, however. Here are a few tips to help you from falling into this post-contest food trap.

Enjoy With Moderation
Do enjoy your post-competition meal that you have been craving — you earned it! Make sure it satisfies, but do not add extra salt or go crazy on sodium-enriched (i.e. packaged) foods right away. On contest day, your body is similar to that of a dry sponge because of water depletion, and will deinitely soak up anything you put into it. Many foods, especially restaurant and fast foods, are enhanced with sodium, so you need to be paying attention and not consume too much too fast, or you will bloat right up. Of course you can always treat yourself — you just have to do it responsibly!

Get Back To Basics
You will need to quickly get back to the basics of eating based on quality and quantity for maintenance or making gains, depending on what you are aiming for. Pay particular attention to choosing clean, wholesome foods and making sure you get lean proteins as well as complex carbs and healthy fats at each meal. You may need to work with an experienced coach or trainer who can set you up on a plan that is designed for your post-contest or “off-season” goals.

Watch Your Alcohol
I am not a big drinker. I would rather eat my calories than drink them, but of course that is not the case for everybody. If you feel the need to celebrate your post-contest success with a bevvy, just make sure you chase it down with water.

Set Another Goal
One way to slow down the post-contest binge is to immediately set another itness goal. Whether it be a new challenge, or revisiting a past one, take the plunge! You will be less tempted to “go crazy.” What I usually do is book a photo shoot shortly after my trip to the stage so I keep on track and stay focused.

As always, I recommend staying as balanced as possible all year round, and taking more time to prepare for your contest so you can remain consistent, moderate, and have the occasional cheat meal to keep you mentally focused.

Nichelle Laus is a trainer and competitor who prides herself on prepping clients right for the stage.

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