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Post-Show – What You Should Be Doing After You Step Off Stage

After spending weeks prepping for your big day on stage, you might not have given much thought to what comes after the show. 

Leading up to the big day, most people have customized their diet and training down to the very last detail ¬¬– when they are going to eat, how they are going to reduce their carbohydrates in the days immediately before the show, what types of workouts they will be doing, and so on.

All of this pre-planning takes attention away from planning for post-show, which can be of equal importance  – particularly for first-time competitors.  Putting your body through the rigors of training impacts both how it functions as well as how you feel. Properly taking care of your body after the show will help speed your recovery so you can get back into gym training again.

Here are some of the most important factors to consider in the post-show time period.

Physical Aspects of the Post-Show Period
While you might look as though you’re in the best shape of your life after the show, you likely are not going to feel like it.  The low-carbohydrate and low-calorie diet you’ve been on for the last several weeks has taken its toll on both your endurance and strength levels, leaving you feeling weaker than you have in the past.

Low-calorie affects your workout recovery time. While you may have felt great the day after a workout on your regular diet, now you it takes two days to fully recover.  This is because the more food you give your body after training, the more nutrients it will have available to it to repair the broken down body tissues and build itself back up stronger.

Since you are going to be drained immediately after the show, it’s important that you give your body a few days of complete rest.  This, coupled with a change in eating behaviour, should help restore the muscle glycogen levels, which will restore your energy levels.  Don’t be surprised if it takes a three or four days for you to start feeling better; it can be a slow process so have some patience with yourself.

After giving yourself a full five days to rest and recuperate, then you can ease back into your workouts.  At this point you should aim to do about half the volume at a slightly reduced weight to allow your body to readjust to your usual routine without over taxing your system.  Perform one- to- three workouts in this manner and then progress to lifting heavier weights that are closer to where you left off pre-show.

Some individuals will have used a much higher rep range protocol with their workouts during the few weeks before a show -- so at this point you can decide which type of workout you wish to carry on your training with.
Cardio will also be reduced significantly at this point since you will no longer require as much to lower fat levels.  You may want include a few moderately paced cardio sessions each week for overall health, but doing too much right now is just going to hinder your post-show recovery.

Ask your trainer you were what they would recommend for your post-show routine, since they will have a thorough understanding of the exact type of program you were doing to get ready and what it will take for your individual body to recover.

Nutritional Aspects of the Post-Show Period

Your diet will be one of the biggest changes you make post-show since you’re no longer on an extremely strict diet to lower your body fat levels.  Most competitors will take part in a ‘post-competition cheat meal’ where they essentially eat anything and everything they have been craving while on their strict diet.

Although a cheat meal can really satisfy psychological cravings, it can also wreak havoc on your body.  Because you are carb and water deprived by the time of the show, a high intake of carbohydrates, calories, and sodium can cause extreme bloating can shock your system and lead to as much as ten-pound weight gain overnight – sometimes more.  Some individuals find this doesn’t bother them but others will feel very ill  – especially when looking at the number on the scale the next day. Regardless of what you eat post-show, you should avoid weighing yourself as even a small amount of carbohydrates are going to cause you to gain water weight.

After your initial binge meal, aim to bring calories up slowly closer to maintenance, making sure you’re taking in at least 100 grams of carbohydrates per day in addition to any extra calories that are required to support your daily training.  Gradually adjusting your will help regulate your thyroid  – the gland that releases the hormones that monitor your metabolism, helping ensure that it recovers from the show in a healthy way.

Individuals who continue to keep carbohydrates low out of fear that it will only cause them to regain fat do more harm than good in the long run as it crashes their metabolism.  Anytime you are on a low-carbohydrate diet for more than a six-week period, you should include a few days of higher carbohydrate eating to help ‘reset’ the metabolism. This is especially important after a show.

Be sure you’re taking in enough protein during this time as well, aiming to get at least one gram of protein per pound of body weight. You may have increased your protein intake prior the show to 1.5-2 grams per pound, but as you raise your total calorie intake, it is no longer necessary to maintain increased protein levels.

Fat should also not be avoided at this point to help regulate the hormones associated with a healthy metabolism and help ensure your body returns to its normal functioning. 

Psychological Aspects of the Post-Show Period
The psychological aspects of the post-show period are often the hardest for many competitors. Not only do they deal with the sudden end of the pre-show excitement, but they also battle the changes taking place in their bodies.

It is no secret that as you see yourself become leaner, you’re going to start feeling better about your accomplishments.  This feeling motivates most competitors to work harder on their diets to push their bodies.  The problem comes when they like this new level of leanness so much that they try and maintain it during the post-show period. While it may feel great to have so much muscle definition, it’s important to realize your body was not designed to maintain such low body fat levels.  Trying to maintain this level is going to cause major problems with your energy levels, your reproductive system, your immune response, as well as a whole host of other factors associated with proper health.  You simply must accept the fact that the body needs to regain some body fat in order to be healthy again.  Psychologically, this can be difficult.  You want to say lean, yet your body is acting against you.

You’re also working against the fact that you’ve been under weeks of chronic calorie restriction, which also adds to a high amount of psychological stress and tension.

Some competitors will start binge eating after the show, feeling like they can’t eat enough to become full.  Others will continue to partially restrict themselves, trying to avoid the weight regain that they should be experiencing.

It may help for you to talk to other competitors during this time so you can share experiences of what they did that helped them get through the trying first couple of weeks.  Discussing what’s going on will also help you understand that the changes are normal and necessary. 

If you’re really struggling, consider talking to a counsellor. Difficulties coping may be a red flag that you should be very careful with future competitions.  Some personality types tend to be more prone to obsessive behaviours and eating disorders. If this describes you,  you may need to be more careful in your training in order to keep your body and your mind healthy.

Another thing you might find helpful is to schedule your next show right away, as this tells your mind that the changes are only temporary and gives you something to look forward to.  Just don’t schedule the show too close to your last show, as you want time to recover and then make improvements so next time you step on stage, you looking even better than before.

By keeping these three aspects in mind as you come out of your show, you can help ensure that the post-show period is just as enjoyable as the pre-show period.  There are going to be trying times, just as there was pre-show, but if you try and look at the experience in a positive light as much as possible, it’ll help give you a favourable impression about competing – and chances are you’ll be back for more.

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