The Detrimental Effects of Post-Contest Binging and How to Fight Back!

10 min read

“I just competed in my first figure competition last weekend and I haven’t been able to stop eating since the show!”

“Did you see whats-her-name? She has put on so much weight since her competition last month!”

“I put on 20 pounds after my first bikini competition and it was so much harder to lose it getting ready for my next show!”

“I’m so depressed since my show. I just can’t seem to get back the motivation that I had to eat clean and train like I did during my prep.”

If you have ever overheard any of the above statements, you are witnessing the effects of post contest rebound. Furthermore, if you have ever trained intensely for a competitive event like a physique competition, you may have suffered with this rebound yourself. After months of eating a super strict diet and enduring lengthy and strenuous workouts often several times a day, you suit up, get on stage, strut your stuff and before you know it, you the show is over and all you have to show for it is some stage photos and a tacky trophy. It’s easy to see how this could cause some degree of sadness. Although you have achieved your goal of getting on stage, you may find yourself struggling with a number of post-contest issues. The main issue that I will delve into in this article is post contest binge eating and how this relates to the phenomenon of post contest blues. It is common for athletes to suffer with disordered eating and depression after bodybuilding or physique competitions in particular, as these events require physical perfection and leanness often beyond what is healthy. It is not uncommon for competitors to overindulge after the event is over and many have a difficult time getting a handle on this binge eating behavior.

Binge eating is very common among physique competitors (men & women) after their competition is over. Many competitors begin planning their post-show cheat meal for weeks prior to the show. After months of following a strict diet void of variety and flavor, many competitors plan at length what they will indulge in after the show. In the world of physique competition, it is very common to see these super tanned lean athletes stuffing their faces with candy and pizza after the show- just check out the Facebook profiles of such athletes and I’m sure you will see many individuals even have photos of themselves chowing down on their post-contest cheat meal! In the deprived state that the body is in on the day of the contest, it’s not uncommon to suffer bloating, water retention, abdominal pain and cramping and fatigue after consuming large quantities of empty calorie foods. Your body is like a sponge in this state, absorbing every bit of what you ingest leaving you looking soft and feeling terrible.

It’s definitely normal and necessary to indulge a little bit after a show, but if continued, bingeing post contest can have many harmful effects to the athlete’s metabolism and psyche. And since many competitors have a feeling of burnout from the intense training they have endured leading up to the show, often the enormous post contest ingestion of empty calorie foods is usually accompanied with down time from cardio and weight training which only leads to muscle atrophy and fat storage.

This may come as a surprise to you if you are a competitor, but the actual contest diet sets us up for bingeing tendencies. As you diet, the leaner you get, the hungrier you become as your body secretes higher amounts of the hormone Leptin as a survival mechanism against starvation. Obviously, as this hunger persists, the athlete may find themselves fantasizing about cheeseburgers, ice cream and pizza, even though they may have never even had the love for those foods prior to starting their contest diet. Increased Leptin combined with lowered blood sugar levels from a restricted carbohydrate diet leads to the craving for carbohydrate laden foods and a decreased ability of one’s self control over the consumption of these foods.

Continued binge eating after following a strict contest diet can be very damaging to your endocrine system thus negatively affecting your metabolism. When you are very lean, your insulin levels are very low. Thus, when you binge or continue to overeat after your competition, the sudden surge of an excessive amount of carbohydrates causes a spike in the insulin secreted by your pancreas. Heightened insulin levels in the body causes the metabolism to slow down and thus lead to greater fat storage- changes that can take a long time to correct. This can play into your preparation for future contests as you could end up having to diet harder and longer if you have done damage to your metabolism after your post show pig out. I’m making you rethink that pint of Ben and Jerry’s you have planned for after you show aren’t I?

Let’s talk a little bit about post-contest blues. Many competitors feel down or depressed after their show is done. The effects of post-contest bingeing can almost always be to blame for this change in mood. Dieting for months for a physique competition is close to starvation since most contest diets are void of variety, low in calories, fat and carbohydrates. Many athletes find that once they open the floodgates to bingeing on junk and empty calories, they are unable to stop. Eating junk food after a lengthy contest diet causes the release of endorphins- the feel good chemicals in the brain. Many describe the release of endorphins that you get when you give into your cravings after the show as a “high”. These endorphins have an even more powerful effect on your mood in a dieted state, as the hungrier you are, the greater the sense of euphoria you will experience. Once you have started this reaction, it becomes even harder to stop it as you will notice greater fluctuations in mood relating directly to what you eat, and strong cravings for junk food that are difficult to resist. You must be very careful to monitor portion size of calorie rich foods in this delicate post-contest state so that you can control the release of these endorphins. It is also best to get back on a clean eating plan as soon as possible to avoid sinking into a depressive state and a cycle of binge eating that is difficult to get out of.

Ok, so now we understand how bad it is for us as physique athletes to binge eat after a show, but how do we combat this? Below are some of my strategies that I have developed over my past 7 years of competing in fitness, figure and bikini.

Femme Phorm Strategies to fight back against post contest binge eating and rebound
  1. Don’t misread what is being said in this article- your body definitely needs extra calories to recover and repair itself after the rigors of contest prep. After a show, your body is primed to absorb muscle building nutrients and thus what you need give your body is healthy complex carbs, lean protein and veggies. Empty calories are not conducive to muscle growth and repair. If you give your body healthy calories, you are likely to see positive gains, increased strength and endurance and of course, your weight will remain in control. I recommend having a night off from the contest diet after the show and resuming to a clean eating plan within 24 hours of the show. Getting back on a plan sooner will benefit your mood and your metabolism.
  2. I’m also not saying to continue to avoid junk food like the plague. It’s totally fine and not harmful to enjoy sensible portions of your favorite cheat foods. Remember, too much of ANYTHING is not a good thing and therefore you will definitely want to avoid stuffing yourself!! Try to limit the amount of these empty calories to 500 calories or less, once a week post-contest.
  3. Do not eliminate cardio post contest. Many competitors find themselves doing hours of cardio every day weeks leading up to the show. Think of what happens to your body if you suddenly quit cardio cold turkey after becoming accustomed to that training regimen? You will want to gradually cut back on the length and intensity of sessions but continue to perform daily in order to maintain control over weight gain. I find it is a good idea for me to find fun ways to incorporate cardio rather than trucking away on the treadmill such as running around playing soccer with my son in the yard. This is definitely a more fun and relaxed way to get your cardio in!
  4. Monitor your weight gain post contest. The most successful competitors at the top of their game manage to maintain a healthy weight during their off season that is usually not greater than 10 pounds from their contest weight for women or 20-30 pounds for male bodybuilders. I’m not an advocate of the scale so try to limit yourself to weighing in only once a week at the same time each week to keep tabs on your weight. It’s also not a bad idea to meet up with your trainer or nutrition coach in the off-season to monitor your body fat levels as well. This will serve you well in your prep for your next show or event, as you will likely dial it in much easier if you keep a handle on your weight and body fat.
  5. Continue to eat clean, 5-6 times a day. Just because the show is over, it does not mean that every fast food restaurant becomes a free for all. If you want to maintain the physique you have worked hard to attain, you must continue to eat healthy, eating a clean meal or snack every 2-3 waking hours throughout the day. This doesn’t mean that you should stick to your contest diet year round. Contest diets are typically very low in calories and lack important nutrients since the immediate goal is fat loss for a stage ready, lean physique. If followed for a prolonged period of time, the athlete will suffer muscle loss and illness as a result of malnutrition. A good rule of thumb for female physique competitors is to add back 200 clean calories a day to your diet during the first week and gradually add more food as your body settles back to a healthy baseline after the competition.
  6. Keep junk food out of your house!! Just because the show is over, doesn’t mean you will still have the willpower of steel that you had during the contest prep phase. Stocking your cupboards with empty calorie foods will only lead to cheating! It’s so easy to say you won’t eat a stack of Oreos even though they are in the cupboard. So many people sneak treats during their offseason simply because they don’t have to worry about getting in front of a panel of judges in the near future. Also, if you plan to cheat once a week, please don’t buy yourself an entire chocolate cake and tell yourself you are only going to have one piece!! Please, people! Go out for a special treat and throw away any leftovers so that you are done with it and ready to resume your clean eating plan after the cheat!
  7. Reframe and refocus. After your show, you should have some plans as to what your next goal is. Perhaps the judges’ feedback suggests that you need to work on your shoulders or your glutes. Maybe you want have been thinking about taking up a new training style in your offseason to add variety and put on some muscle. Whatever it is, write it down somewhere where you can see it every day in order to stay focused (I find a dry erase board on the refrigerator a great place to write down my goal and my plan). On top of that, devise a plan for yourself as to how you will attain that goal. Be sure to get with your trainer and put together a post contest diet for yourself too.
  8. Keep a positive attitude. When reflecting back on how hard you worked to reach your goal of getting on stage, commend yourself for the discipline you had while pushing yourself to your limit. If you look at your former two a day workouts as a chore and the thought of tilapia and asparagus makes you gag, you will find it easier to stray back to unhealthy eating habits, making it harder to stay in shape or ever get back on stage in the future. I have known many guys and gals who use a physique competition to clean up their diet and get in shape for a show, only to revert back to their old ways the moment the competition tan fades away. They regard the process as torture and can’t wait to get back to a “normal life”. Unfortunately, these are also the people who whine about how much different they look than when they were getting ready for the show. The athletes who are the most successful in this sport make clean eating and training regularly a lifestyle and love doing it. These people train hard day in day out and eat clean all year round. They might allow more variety into their diet and occasional cheats, but for the most part, they live the lifestyle 24/7 and therefore, they manage to maintain a fit body all year round.
  9. Continue to give your body a steady flow of protein. As always, I recommend 1 – 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight for female athletes every day spaced out over 5-6 small meals and snacks throughout the day. This is imperative for muscle growth and repair but is also particularly important in the fight against post contest blues and rebound. Protein rich foods help to regulate blood sugar and thus decrease cravings for empty calories and junk food. The best way to give yourself a sweet treat and stay lean is to toss some fresh berries, ice cubes, filtered water and a scoop of 1st Phorm Level 1 protein powder in the blender and whip up a glass of deliciousness! Low in carbs and calories, this is the best way to give your body a convenient serving of protein with an awesome taste that will have you saying “No thank you” to junk food!
  10. Add Evening Primrose Oil to supplement stack. I supplement with Evening Primrose Oil year round but this is an especially important supplement to athletes in the post contest phase. Oil of Evening Primrose helps to stabilize blood sugar and thus helps to control carbohydrate cravings. I recommend 500 mg, once a day.

I hope you find the information in this article helpful to you and it is my hope that you will find some comfort in knowing that post-contest bingeing and rebound happen to many physique athletes. Now that you are armed with the knowledge and strategies to defeat these issues, I hope that you will find greater success on the stage and enjoy life both during your prep and in the post contest phase!

♥ Gillian

The post The Detrimental Effects of Post-Contest Binging and How to Fight Back! appeared first on 1st Phorm.

1st Phorm Athlete Gillian Risebury
1st Phorm Athlete Gillian Risebury

Also in Articles

Meal Replacements and Powders: What You Need to Know
Meal Replacements and Powders: What You Need to Know

7 min read

Do you eat too much... or fail to eat enough?

Falling short on protein requirements?

Or maybe you’re looking to supplement your current diet?

No matter what you’re goals are, there is a good chance you […]

Read More
Opti-Reds 50 vs Opti-Greens 50
Opti-Reds 50 vs Opti-Greens 50

4 min read

One common thing I get asked is “What’s the difference between Opti-Greens 50 and Opti-Reds 50?”

It is then followed up almost every time by “Which one should I take or should I be taking them both?”

Just like a lot of things in regards to supplements, it really depends on [...]

Read More
Protein’s Role In Fat Loss
Protein’s Role In Fat Loss

5 min read

In today’s world, we hear this all the time… increasing your protein intake can help you lose fat. While this is true in some degrees, it may not be in the way you might think. Does protein burn fat? Let’s dig into this a bit and […]

Read More

Join the Legion of Boom