Weight Gain, Depression & All ‘Round Hog Fests: How to NOT Put on 30 lbs. Post Competition
It’s funny how literally EVERY article you find online about “proper” post competition practices all tout the same advice. They say don’t go hog wild the second you step off that stage, slowly re-introduce the foods you’ve avoided for so long. Don’t stop working out. Get right back on the treadmill the very next day. Carefully add in more carbs & slowly reduce the amount of cardio you’re doing. Blah blah blah…. Easy peasy, right?
Pfffhhh yeah right. The truth is— of course all those things are grand ol’ ideas! And wouldn’t it be puddle wonderful if we could all have such strong willpower and self-control to follow these tips and stay looking tight and lean forever now that we’ve made it there?! But what every article fails to mention is the significant fact that we’re HUMAN!! And in my opinion, extremes in any magnitude will almost ALWAYS lead to other extremes and in this case, severe calorie restriction is bound to end in a giant food binge and probably gym avoidance for weeks too.
Instead of telling you the same shit everyone else does, I’m going to be as real and empathetic as possible and tell you how to eat like a hog post competition but then find “balance” and get right back on track like the proud champion you are.
Okay, first things first… you need to start drinking a lot of coffee and start smoking cigarettes. Haha just kidding!! Before I get into it, let me share my little story for all the readers who don’t know me.
On June 8th, 2013 in British Columbia, Canada, I placed first in the bikini tall division of my first ever bodybuilding competition. Winning as a vegan was definitely one of the proudest moments of my life to date and what tasted even sweeter than the victory itself was the entire tub of MaraNatha peanut butter and Camino chocolate bar my friends gave me immediately afterward. Feel free to watch my gluttonous pig-out moment here.
The next two weeks that followed were a big blur of comforting baked good memories—homemade oatmeal coconut cookies, banana bread, apple crumble, black bean brownies, date squares, pancakes, countless trips to the vegan bakery. I even made homemade vegan Beavertails on Canada Day!!!!
I knew it was wrong. I knew I wasn’t following the advice that everyone gave me. And I could see the weight piling on with every cookie I inhaled.
But give me a break. When you work so long and so hard for something and then POOF—in an instant it’s over, you no longer have anything or anyone holding you accountable and so it becomes extremely difficult to regain that control and get back on that healthy, boring food train. And in my case (and many others’) you do what makes you happy— you keep on eating.
Anyone who says you can’t get fat on a whole foods, vegan diet has clearly never eaten dates, cashews or peanut butter. After just one week post-competition, I had porked on a good 12 lbs.
So that was my post-competition experience. It’s now been almost two months since my competition. And I gotta say that I look and feel amazing. It’s of course expected that EVERY competitor is going to gain at least five to 10 lbs. and guess what?! That is perfectly NORMAL! And believe me, it’s hard sometimes looking in the mirror thinking, “all that work, months of intense training and strict dieting… all gone in a matter of days.” And for this, most bodybuilders and fitness competitors suffer from depression or what’s commonly known as “post competition blues.” What people don’t realize, however, is that A LOT goes into getting that lean i.e. no water for two days, diuretics, hours upon hours of cardio etc.
I know some bikini girls who freak right out after they gain back some weight and develop eating disorders because of it. And some just yo-yo diet off and on competition regimes because they struggle to find that balance between “stage ready” and “healthy” and refuse to accept anything less than “stage perfect.”
Well I’m telling you, I managed to get back on track the “healthy way” whilst still enjoying one hell of a post-comp food binge. Mine was worth every last muffin, folks. And I’m telling you, it’s not that hard to look fit and lean shortly after and NOT be forced back onto a competition diet.
Here are some tips and suggestions on how to find that balance.
- Instead of working out like a crazy person, I work out every second day now.
- I do just 20 – 30 minutes of cardio in the morning and literally no more than 30 minutes of weights in the evening.
- This means I’m exercising twice on my workout days but I only have three or four “workout days” per week now.
- I don’t weigh or measure my food anymore but I’m still conscious of what I’m eating so I make sure that my meals hit all my macronutrient requirements i.e. servings of veggies/fruit, starchy complex carbs, protein and healthy fats at every meal.
- I make sure I eat a big green salad every day. Whether it’s at home or from a restaurant, I know I’m getting a substantial intake of vitamins & nutrients so long as I have that big salad every day.
- If I’m dying for dessert (my big weakness), I have it. 90% of the desserts I’m consuming are homemade. And my desserts are always quite healthy made with whole, unprocessed ingredients, never salt and usually high in protein.
- For many of my favourite desserts recipes, check out my e-book!
- Literally the only beverages I ever consume are water, herbal tea and coffee. If on rare occasion, I go out for cocktails, I drink vodka with soda & lime, or I sip a whiskey or bourbon on the rocks.
- I make a conscious effort to eat really clean and healthy throughout the day then “reward” myself with a sweet treat in the evening if I’m craving sugar.
- I have a similar mantra for weekends. I eat really well throughout the week (usually at home) then will splurge on the weekends and opt for pizza or brown rice sushi.
- I STILL do a meal prep every week so my food is easily accessible at all times. It also makes me feel guilty if I don’t eat what’s already been prepared.
- I don’t keep “bad” food in my house EVER.
- Sure Double Stuffed Oreos are vegan AND delicious but are they laden with fat and sugar and all kinds of processed, unnatural ingredients? YES! Is that enough to stop me from eating an entire bag in one sitting? NO! So why not make a batch of chickpea chocolate chip cookies instead, eat the entire batch and in doing so, at least give yourself a healthy dose of fiber, protein and iron?
- I adhere to what I feel are “reasonable” portion sizes for the most part. I never eat to the point that I’m completely “stuffed” but I also don’t “accept” being hungry all the time or deprive myself of carbs or fats like a pre-competition diet entails.
- Bear in mind too that when you’re increasing the amount of food you’re eating, you’ll have more energy for your workouts. EMBRACE IT! I’m literally lifting double the amount of weight I was pre-competition. So don’t deprive yourself! Just make sure the foods you’re eating are whole, natural foods that will actually fuel your workouts and not make you feel like crap.
- Use this opportunity to fall in love with all your clothes that were too big before you competed.
- The same goes for your breasts! I might not have cheese grater abs right now but I sure do love having boobs again!
- And lastly, I don’t allow myself to feel guilty! Life is meant to be enjoyed so don’t obsess over your physical appearance to the point that it consumes your very being.
- I do my best to lead a healthy life because I know how much better I FEEL when I’m eating healthy and exercising regularly. My skin looks brighter. I have more energy. I don’t look or feel bloated. But if I want to hit up a local metal show and head bang and mosh until the wee hours of the night, you can bet your ass I will!
I hope these ideas help any other competitors out there struggling in the post-competition phase. You are not alone! I know it’s not easy and everyone’s body reacts differently. Remember too, it takes time to find that balance. And of course, you don’t just pack on 30 lbs. overnight just like you didn’t lose 30 lbs. overnight so be patient and don’t be too hard on yourself!