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The key is to make small adjustments and have something in your back pocket that you can adjust in order to keep weight loss moving.Due to the reductions I have needed to make along the way, I am currently eating ~50-55% of my offseason maintenance caloric intake in order to achieve my desired rate of loss; however, I am only doing around 30min cardio weekly.At this point, my guess is that I’ve made contest prep sound like an absolutely miserable experience and have you considering if you really want to go through with that first competition.However, I want to make it clear that my entire contest prep has not been terrible and everything I discussed above is how I (and others in the published literature) feel when we get near stage-lean.It is not uncommon to see a competitor weigh more and have higher body fat than they did at the start of contest prep as a result (known as body fat overshooting) [7-9].Body fat overshooting occurs because the amount of time it takes hormones and metabolic rate to normal after a contest prep takes longer than the amount of time required to add body weight and body fat after food is rapidly added .In addition to a reduction in metabolic rate and losses in body weight, muscle, body fat, and strength, other effects of contest preparation I experience now that I am near stage-lean include: These effects are similar to what has been reported in the scientific literature in natural bodybuilders preparing for competition where worsening of mood, increased hunger, and reductions in hormones such as: testosterone, insulin, thyroid, leptin and increases in grehlin and cortisol are common .
On a side note, the fact that metabolic rate and hormone levels take time to normalize post-contest is a big reason why taking a sufficient offseason is necessary because the hormone profile of someone who is stage-lean is not going to be desirable for someone looking to add muscle mass and feel more normal again.
In addition, they are part of the reason why staying contest-lean is not in a competitor’s best interest long-term. Take a look at ) Interestingly, many of these effects are similar to what was observed during the Minnesota Starvation Experiment in the 1940’s: ( Historically, after a bodybuilding competition a competitor goes back to eating what they were prior to contest preparation.
This results in rapid weight gain, much of which is water, glycogen, and body fat.
(Note from Mike: As Peter says, reverse dieting requires its own article, so take a look at ) Reverse dieting is an approach I plan to take after my competitions and something I have had success with following my previous contest preps.
To begin, I generally increase caloric intake by 10-20% and reduce cardio by roughly half to get me out of a deficit and closer to maintenance.
As expected when muscle is lost, my strength also has declined.