You did it! After months of dieting and training for the big day you finally got there, in the best shape of your life. All the hard work, the sacrifices you had to make, the tears, sleepless nights and hunger begin to be distant memory on the day of the show. Your glowing tan, beautiful hair and make up, and gorgeous bikini make you feel like a superstar. Your friends and family are very proud of you and everyone in the audience is inspired by you and admires your physique. The whole experience is just amazing and gives you such a high that stays with you for a few days after the show.
Then life returns to normal, your tan starts to fade and your body loses its peak shape. There is no longer a goal to focus on and you suddenly feel a bit lost. It is also hard to accept that your body gets a bit “softer” again. I know this feeling very well having competed twice before and thankfully I can say that I was able to handle the post-competition period both times very well and didn’t rebound as many other girls sadly do. It can sometimes take months post-show until you feel “normal” again and I hope these tips that I am sharing with you will help to ease the process.
1. Adopt a healthy mindset
This is the number one tip that I can give to anyone who competes. Simply accepting the fact that being in “stage shape” all year round is not realistic and more importantly, it is not healthy to maintain such low body fat levels especially for females. Women are not meant to be shredded! We need a higher amount of bodyfat for optimum health, normal hormonal function and ovulation. 15%-20% is still considered lean and is ideal to maintain.
Focus on all the positives that come with the “off-season”…enjoy having more energy, being able to socialise with friends & family, sleeping better, being able to lift heavy in the gym, as well as enjoying a more relaxed diet, including a few treat meals here and there. Not only that but this is a great time to start making more improvements to your physique. The next challenge…because its always great to have one 😉
2. Post-show eating
This is the best part isn’t it? After months of dieting, restriction and feeling hungry, you finally get to enjoy some nice food without having to measure or think about calories, macros etc. Here is what I recommend…
Enjoy a nice meal with your family & friends after the show. Hell, the day after the competition you can also enjoy going a little wild! Just make sure you drink plenty of water as well. Your body will likely be holding onto water due to the highly processed and sodium rich food that most competitors indulge in post-show and drinking more water will help flushing out excess water retention from the body. Avoid binging, just eat until you feel satisfied and not overfull. Consuming an extreme amount of calories puts your body under more stress and will make you feel awful , especially if you are coming from a depleted and dehydrated state post-show.
By Monday or the second day after the show, it is a good time to return to healthy eating. You’ve probably had enough “junk” food by this time anyway. Eat a good variety of wholefoods and gradually increase calories week by week to ensure recovery and to help boost your metabolism and rebalance hormones. Limit treat meals to the weekend and stay active to avoid excessive fat gain.
Make sure you get a good few days complete rest after the competition. Your body is under a lot of stress in the lead up to the show and it needs time to recover. You might feel ready to return to the gym after a few days but avoid pushing yourself too hard. This is not the time to make improvements but to recover, especially if you pushed yourself right up to the finish line. Your central nervous system needs a lot more time to do that than your muscles, so just keep the intensity low for a few weeks and stick to bodyweight or light weight training, low intensity cardio and stretching or yoga. You will come back with renewed vigour and motivation to really kill it in the gym!
4. Set new goals
Always have a goal in mind to work towards next. Whether it be another competition, making improvements, or increasing strength, you need something that keeps you motivated. Make sure you keep those long-term goals in mind, and focus on achieving those short-term goals. Have a plan of action of how you are going to achieve these goals. It also helps to have someone you can be accountable to. Perhaps a friend or a coach who you can send regular updates and progress photos to.
Most importantly, remember that fitness is a journey and not a destination. Embrace every little success along the way, learn to love your body and enjoy taking care of it; the results will automatically follow.