I don’t know about you, but in the first few weeks post comp…4-6 (ish), I am never satisfied. I have an insatiable appetite and it seemingly can never be satisfied.
It’s there all the time – gnawing away at the edge of my consciousness, no matter what I do, it won’t go away.
I’m talking about food…
Why what did you think I was talking about? :-p
Food. I think about it constantly, when I’m eating I want more, when I’m not eating I want to be eating and I’m thinking about when and what I’m going to eat next.
It doesn’t matter what I eat, I never feel full.
My brain is telling me to eat – all day, every day. It won’t shut up.
Why does it do this?
Why does it not happen during my prep?
Why does it not happen after every show when I’ve eaten a ton of crap, yet the minute I step off stage after my last show that’s when it starts?
I’m eating exactly what I eat on comp diet, but I’m eating more. On comp diet I don’t get hungry because I’m eating so much food! And now I’ve added back in strategic carbs, upped my protein, added back strategic fats and added a prescribed amount of total junk.
Right now, it’s not enough. I never, ever feel full.
My stomach shows the opposite – it ain’t flat no more…but then as part of the junk I’ve been eating crap protein bars…whey protein…dairy based. I got given a box, so I might as well eat them, but of course I’ve got a heap of inflammation, bloating, IBS going on. I know this sounds weird, but I don’t mind it – in a funny sort of way, the bloating kinda forces me to stop eating, because I so hate the ‘fat feeling’ I get after eating dairy.
But I never, ever feel full.
Do you get this?
Ok, don’t judge.
If you haven’t competed and experienced post comp you have no idea what this is like. Besides, I’m sure you have your…quirks.
So here’s my take on it and why I think competitors blow out after comp.
You’ve done with your comps – WOOHOO!!! You head out and eat. You can eat and eat and eat until you look like you’re 6 months pregnant…
Lol! The Instagram & FB pics!
But you will NOT, ever feel full.
You will feel like crap because your stomach hurts.
You will feel fat because the skinny clothes you can only wear just before comp are too tight
Your stomach will be the size of a house.
But you will not, EVER, feel full.
Your brain will still be telling you that you need to eat.
The same reason all fad/crash dieters put back on the weight they lose plus a bit more for good measure.
Ghrelin is the hungry hormone. Your body produces it when your stomach is empty, to tell you you’re hungry and it stops once you’ve eaten.
Leptin is the ‘You’re full’ hormone. It is produced by your fat stores and tends to rise in line with insulin levels…most often after you’ve eaten. It tells your brain you’re full, so you stop eating.
Between them they manage your levels of body fat.
There are a couple of interesting things about these 2 little beasties that could be why immediately post comp your brain just can’t seem to hear what they’re saying.
Leptin is made by fat. The more fat, the more leptin and you’d think the louder it would be telling your brain that you’re full and to stop eating.
Wrong. Just like you can develop insulin resistance (leading to obesity), you can develop Leptin resistance…and yes it is thought that this also directly contributes towards obesity. So your body can be screaming STOP F*****G EATING!!!
But your brain has left the building.
Leptin is also chronically reduced by physical exercise. Hmm…kinda explains why you get hungrier the more you exercise.
Now, ghrelin. The less you eat, the more Ghrelin you produce. If you keep on eating less, your body produces more Ghrelin. Anorexics have higher baseline levels of Ghrelin than people who are just normally lean. This explains why the longer you fad diet, the harder it is – your body is smarter than you and its pumping out ‘YOU’RE HUNGRY’ signals like they’re going out of fashion – you ain’t gonna win that battle in the long term.
You don’t build up Ghrelin resistance like you do with Leptin or Insulin.
So what does all this mean in the immediate post comp period.
Well, you’ve been exercising extra hard to get into comp condition so leptin could be chronically reduced. Your brain is only getting a feeble ‘You’re full’ signal.
You have less fat on you, which means less leptin production. Your brain is only getting an even more pathetic attempt at a ‘You’re full’ signal.
Double whammy for Leptin.
You’ve been in extended calorie deficit so it’s possible your Ghrelin levels are proportionally higher than they would be normally – like the anorexic effect. Your brain is getting ‘YOU’RE HUNGRY!!!! BLOODY WELL EAT SOMETHING – NOW!!!’
Oh, and it can hear this one – loud and clear. No resistance remember.
So you eat.
But leptin is on life support and breathing it’s last…
Now as long as your fat levels are below the levels that your body thinks is ideal, it just isn’t going to be pumping out enough leptin to override all that Ghrelin that’s kicking around from your extended prep.
So you eat.
BUT YOU NEVER GET FULL!!
And the fat comes back in less time than it takes you to blink.
Now, this is where things can go horribly wrong.
Your body is pumping out ‘You’re hungry’ signals, which your brain is getting loud and clear, you eat and eat and eat, but your brain doesn’t recognize the pathetic attempts at ‘you’re full’ so you eat more and your metabolism can’t deal with the extra energy, you’re not exercising as much, so your body shovels it all into your fat stores, which are only too happy to suck it all up and grow as big as they possibly can as fast as they possibly can, and your grehlin levels are still elevated, your brain is being told to ‘EAT!!!’ , you eat and eat and eat, your brain is being told to eat, so you eat and eat, your fat stores suck it all up – oh, happy, happy fat days!!! Your body is now pumping out the leptin, your insulin is also sky high, your brain starts tuning in again to leptin, but it’s now so swimming in the stuff because you’ve got 20kgs of fat all of a sudden, it freaks out and totally tunes out again and now you’ve got leptin resistance piled on top of insulin resistance piled on top of…
What a total nightmare.
So how on earth do you avoid this catastrophe?
Well you could always do another competition and diet down again.
Not recommended – you could end up in a worse state.
Do NOT do this.
You’ve got to take control of the situation BEFORE it gets out of hand.
How do you do that?
- Set goals.
I set a target of 10% above comp weight. This is enough to put me in a healthy body fat range which I need to do for medical reasons.
That for me is about 57-58kg. If I’m on stage at 53.5kg and approx. 7-8% body fat, at 57-58kg I’m sitting around 18% body fat.
Still leanish for a female, but it means I stay nicely ‘toned’ looking. I like ‘toned’, I have nice shape and the tiniest hint of cut – bikini worthy
Clothes fit nicely, and there’s no wobble.
And based on this year I can cut to comp condition in 3.5 weeks – as long as my body is functioning correctly.
Bikini competitors really ought to be able to maintain year round with no gain (0-2%)
Fitness competitors you may want to set a target of 5-7% above comp weight
Figure comeptitors 10% is about right.
A goal gives you a target and direction.
If you have a target then you know when you’ve hit it. If you don’t know what you’re aiming for, how do you know when you’ve got there? You will drift aimlessly until you end up somewhere you didn’t want to be.
Oh, And don’t break it. Don’t be slack. It’s your choice.
I’ve already told you that I’m on my exact comp diet + strategic extras including a prescribed amount of junk.
This ensures I still have structure which I think is critical. On comp diet you’re very structured about your eating, chances are you know down to the gram or calorie every single thing that goes into your mouth.
And you do that every single day.
It’s when you don’t have structure or track things that the couple of lollies here, the small slice of birthday cake at the office there, the ‘well my kids are having a charity fund raiser’ freddo frogs, the soy latte mocha frappchino – that’s when the calories sneak up on you.
And you can go out with friends and social events now so weekends turn into a bit of a blur – nobody tracks what happens then!
Now, I tend to do the structure thing during the week whilst at work, the weekends are much more freeform and relaxed and quite often as I’m not training, I sometimes don’t eat – I might have 3-4 meals instead of my 5+2 snacks. That can equate to quite a lot less calories for a few days, which lowers my overall weekly calorie intake.
Heard of the 5/2 diet? Same principle. But no, I don’t’ do 5/2. It’s silly…there’s a whole other rant in there somewhere, but now is not the time J
When it comes to weight management, it not what you do on a meal by meal basis, or even a daily basis. It’s what you do on a weekly basis that makes the most impact.
So be structured during the week potentially eating less than you might want to so you have room to move at the weekend when you’re more likely to have social events.
- Don’t become a victim.
You always have full control over what you do.
You are the one who controls what goes into your mouth – no one else, you.
If you blow out, realise it’s your choice – now I know I’ve given you a total out above, I can hear it now
‘but it’s my hormones…’
Yes, your hormones probably are out of whack – to start with, but in the long run, you are the one who controls how quickly and well they adjust back to normal levels and whether they stay that way…
I repeat, don’t become a victim – you’re a strong enough person to get into competition condition, be strong enough to look after yourself post competition.
Now from my experience over the last few years, I think it took about 12 weeks in my novice season to adjust…or more to the point it took about 12 weeks and 9kg before I paid attention, figured out I was the only one who could sort out what was heading towards the realms of ‘blow out’ and started to take back control. In my 2nd season I think it took about 6 weeks (4kg) to normalize, in my 3rd season it took about 4 weeks (2kg) to normalize. I’ve just finished my 4th season, am 2 weeks (3kg) in and I’m already starting to get a bit sick of the crap.
I’m really hoping that I’ll be back to ‘normal’ in another week or so.
The more you compete, the more likely you are to have experienced something like this and hence the more likely you are to have figured out a way of dealing with it.
It still sucks though.
But it does get better.
Well. That turned out to be a bit longer than expected – I was just going to flip up a quickie on Instagram, but it occupied me nicely throughout my very delicious Malaysian and Vietnamese street food dinner at Hawkers Hall in Prahran with a couple of glasses of an excellent Mt Difficulty Sauvignon Blanc.
Now I’m going to get my crap fix – I’ve got a very nice pineapple and coconut gelati and some insanely intensely sweet raw organic unfiltered pot set honey.
A couple of teaspoons of that usually overloads my taste buds to the point where I don’t want to eat anymore of it
hurry up hormones…I’m over this.