Survival of the Fittest: The Last Few Weeks of A Contest Prep

You’re tired. You’re hungry. You’re cranky. You’re not sure how you will make it through your next workout, and then cardio, and then four more weeks of the same. You question whether or not you’ll be ready. You’re checking the roster to see who else is competing, sizing yourself up against them. You check your abs a few times per day to see if hat last bit of fat has finally gone away. And all you can think about is pizza and donuts.

No, you’re not crazy. You’re 4 weeks out.

Even the most well planned, well thought out, sanely executed contest preps can be extremely grueling. Competing in a physique contest is NOT easy. You are pushing your body to a state its not likely comfortable maintaining and this can prove mentally and physically challenging for even the toughest of athletes.

So how do you handle the mental aspect of those last few weeks before a show, without finding yourself elbow deep in a gallon of ice cream?

It’s easy.

Just suck it up buttercup, you’re almost there…

But for real, here are a few pointers that have helped me through those last few tough weeks before a show.

1. Do not allow yourself to become overwhelmed. This is one of the only times I would suggest NOT looking at the big picture. If you overwhelm your thought process with “oh my god, how am I going to do this for another 4 weeks” you will never survive. So break it down into pieces. Take one workout, one cardio, one meal at a time. After all, it really is only one workout, or one cardio, or one meal that you have to get through. It’s nothing more or nothing less. You’ve done it before and you can do it again.

2. Trust the process. Your body will be ready if you just trust the process. You can only do what you can do. Stressing out about how you look or not being ready will only increase cortisol levels, causing you to hold more water and fat. Relax. Take a deep breath. And have faith that your body will do what it needs to do.

3. Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing. Do what YOU are supposed to do. Just because Johnny is cutting sodium and Mary is doing two hours of cardio does not mean that YOU need to be doing that. Do what is best for YOU.

4. On a similar note, stop worrying about who else is going to be at your show. You can only control what YOU bring to the stage. It doesn’t matter if Jay Cutler is going to be in your class. It should not change what YOU put into how you look. So stop worrying about it!

5. Keep your mind busy with things other than contest prep. I know that all you feel like doing is sleeping until it’s the next time to eat again. But staying busy can help distract you from the overwhelming thoughts of “will I be ready in time” and “how will I look.” Find things to do- movies, hang out with friends, read, clean, etc. Time is going to pass regardless, but it’s better spent doing things that help keep you calm, rather than stressing you out.

6. Surround yourself with people that support you. Having a solid support system is key during those last few weeks. The last thing you need is negativity. Stay near people that boost you up and give you the confidence to keep going.

7. And finally, believe that no matter what, it will be worth it. And trust me, it will be. No matter how you look or where you place, you will be so happy that you didn’t give up. You want to be able to say, I gave it my all, I could not have done anything more. It is an experience you will never forget.

So there you have it. I hope you find these tips helpful. Please feel free to comment and share your own “survival of the fittest” tips below!

Advertisements

The Absolute Best Diet Ever

As a Registered Dietitian I get asked almost daily the question of “what is the best diet to follow?” There are so many diets and plans and theories and philosophies out there it’s nearly impossible to keep track of it all even as a professional in the field.

So let me answer this age old question for you. What is the best diet to follow? The one that works for YOU. The one you can stick with for the rest of your life. The one that keeps you healthy while still allowing you to enjoy your life and the food that comes with it. In fact, it’s not a diet at all. It’s how you want to live.

There are certainly plenty of ‘quick fixes’ for rapid weight loss. But there are no quick fixes for keeping it off. That requires work, and consistency; permanent change, finding something that you can live with for your life. Doing it that way may take longer and in a society that wants instant results, that’s a hard pill to swallow. But it’s necessary. If you’re not doing something you can keep doing forever, odds are the weight’s going to come back.

Find the balance that works for you. If that means subscribing to one of the nutritional philosophies out there, then great. Do your research, learn the approach and make sure it’s good for your overall health. Then believe in it and stay with it.

For me, I’m just not the type that can picture my life without pizza and ice cream. Does that mean I eat it everyday? Of course not. Every week? Maybe, if I’m not training for anything specific. But I try to work it in with the rest of what I’m eating, try to time it well with training and try not to overdo it.

Balanced healthy nutrition. Lots of fresh stuff and limited processed stuff MOST of the time. That’s my approach. I’m not perfect and I still struggle with food choices but I’ve found that this is what works best for me. You need to find what works for YOU!

And don’t be afraid to ask for help 😉

How To Recover from a Bad Day

As a registered dietitian, I don’t believe in ‘good’ foods or ‘bad’ foods, I believe all foods can serve a purpose. I try to encourage my patients and clients that are looking to achieve a healthy lifestyle to choose fresh, unprocessed, natural foods ‘most of the time.’ On the other hand, as a pro fitness athlete I understand that there are foods that will help reach you goals and there are foods that will not. And I encourage those athletes with a deadline (competition, photoshoot, show, etc) to choose the right foods ‘all of the time’ – especially if that deadline is within the next six weeks (off season athletes refer to the first recommendation).

Regardless of which category you fall into, there may come a time when you have a ‘bad’ meal or even a ‘bad’ day, whether by choice or by life circumstances. It happens to all of us. And in all honesty, a single bad meal or even an entire day should not be enough to completely derail your efforts. How you recover from such a day though, can make the difference between continuing to move forward toward your goal or taking several steps backwards.
So here are some strategies for recovering from those ‘bad days’-

1. Don’t delay getting back on track. Often one cookie turns into 10, one meal turns into a whole day, and one day turns into a week. Don’t let that happen. Make a conscious decision to stop. Turn it around, and get back on track. No procrastinating!

2. Avoid compensation cardio, cleanses, crazy diets, etc. There is no need to punish yourself for overindulging. All this will really do is mess up your metabolism and water balance even more, and it will create a negative mindset. So don’t do it. Get back to your normal meal plan and your normal workout schedule.

3. Drink lots and lots of water!! This will help get rid of any sodium or carbohydrate bloat. Additionally, if you had a drink (or 10), you’re likely dehydrated, so make sure to get that water in.

4. Try to avoid processed carbs and high sodium foods. Typically I’m not one to recommend a sodium restricted diet for athletes however if you’re sodium sensitive and already retaining water from yesterday’s food fest, you may benefit from just cutting back a little bit. And if nothing else, just stay away from the processed stuff.
– as an addition to #4, if you do tend to retain a lot of water you can try to include some foods with natural diuretic properties such as grapefruit, asparagus, cucumber or fresh squeezed lemon in your water.

5. Try adding a probiotic and a good multivitamin. Probiotics can help aid with digestion and healthy bowel function which may be necessary after eating foods your system is not used to. Furthermore, most metabolic processes rely on vitamins and minerals as cofactors so a good multivitamin can help boost your body’s ability to handle/metabolize the excess food. Antioxidants can also help rid the body of oxidative stress brought on by poor food choices.

6. And finally, and most importantly, let it go. Move on. Do not dwell on yesterday’s decisions. Do not waste time beating yourself up about what you did or did not eat. Don’t get on the scale for a few days because odds are you’ll have gained some water weight (and that number may be enough to freak some people out) Focus on what you are going to do now. You have the choice to keep moving forward toward your goal or to let it hold you back. Choose to move forward!!