The winter months is usually the time when competitive bodybuilders take a break from the rigors of hardcore dieting and allow themselves the freedom of eating at will. This time, otherwise known as the offseason, is a chance to pack in calorie rich, dense and nutritious foods in copious amounts and in excess with the hope of gaining new muscle when combined with heavy lifting in the gym. You'll often hear people saying that you have to eat big and lift big to get big and I agree entirely with that mindset. What I don't agree with is allowing yourself to be lazy during this time and just get totally out of shape. You should be just as regimented during the offseason as you are in the competitive season to really get the most out of this time. If not, when it gets to the point of the year when you want to strip away the fat to see what you've gained, the transition from pounding back food all time to being in a caloric deficit, becomes stressful and very frustrating. So if you think you're going to have a hard time segueing into the dieting season, here are two very useful tips to help you out.
One Change at a Time
The biggest mistake people make as they transition into dieting mode is changing everything all at once. That means their diet changes, then more training in the gym becomes the norm as well as adding in cardio that has been missing for months. Behaviours also change in that you're starting to prepare meals daily to bring with you wherever you go, you start scheduling your days around your training, you cut back or cut out all social gatherings you had been enjoying and your life looks totally different than what it had been in months. If you put all of this on yourself all at the same time, it can become too overwhelming which ultimately leads to failure. Instead, make one change at a time, let your body adjust to that one change until it stops responding to it and then add another change. If you start everything all at once, you'll give yourself nowhere to go real quick which is when frustration levels will rise. Remember, this is not a race so be patient, make small but gradual changes and you'll have a much better transition into the dieting season.
Focus Only on You
This is really where the age of social media can throw a wrench in things for you. Back in the days prior to instant access to almost everyone, you had no idea what others around you were doing, how they were progressing and what they looked like. Aside from the people in your area who you saw at the gym, you had no one to measure your gains against. Now that we have social media and a ton of self publicity, it's very easy to size up your competition and this can either be good or bad for you as you progress through the early stages of the dieting season; especially if you're getting ready for a show and there is an end date on the calendar. This could just be the old school mentality coming out in me or the fact that I never really cared about how others were progressing, but I encourage you to limit or eliminate any research you might feel compelled to do in finding out how others around you are doing with regards to this seasonal transition. I know some of you will say well you can just use it as motivation and that's very true for the confident and seasoned veterans of this sport. But not everyone is as sure of themselves as others are and seeing someone who is in better shape than they are at such an early stage of the process could be very detrimental and extremely discouraging. I think it's much better to just focus on you and your progress and leave the others to theirs.
There's no denying the fact that changing certain behaviours, especially when the comfort levels of those behaviours are high, is a difficult thing to do even though you know it's what's best for you. It's like when you made the decision to switch from wearing your J's all the time to finally wearing Heyday Footwear. It was a tough choice at first but once made, you can't believe that you've been missing out this whole time and it makes it that much easier to buy your second and third pairs. Again, gradual progression is the plan, make little changes at a time, focus on what you're accomplishing and no one else and eventually you'll have a chiselled body and a jacked up Heyday collection in no time.
Author: Dana Bushell
AST Sports Science sponsored athlete/writer, sponsored by Schiek Sports Inc.