How to Ease Out of a Diet | Erin Stern

June 12, 2018

Contest season and beach season are here. This means diets, extra cardio, and caloric restriction. There are many resources out there for people who want to learn how to lean down. But, there’s not a lot of info on what to do after the diet. Many people don’t think about a post-contest plan, and many coaches are often only hired to get a result that often lasts a day! With any fitness or diet program, it’s important to ease into and out of it. Don’t quit cold turkey. When coming out of a caloric deficit, the body is primed to either gain fat or gain muscle. Let’s make sure it’s the latter! Here are 5 tips that have helped me in the past. Hopefully, they’ll help you too!

Gradually increase calories. 

The metabolism is elastic. This means that it will increase or decrease, based on a number of factors. If you’re training hard and eating a slight surplus of calories, your metabolic rate will increase. If you’ve decreased your overall caloric intake and have done this for a period of weeks, there’s a good chance that your metabolism has slowed down. This is a normal adjustment, as the body is programmed to survive – it will decrease the metabolism in an attempt to prevent starvation. To avoid weight gain and to encourage the body to go back to normal, try increasing your caloric intake by 200 calories per day, every week. 

Gradually decrease cardio. 

Competitors will often perform over an hour of cardio per day to prepare for a show. The body gets accustomed to this, and an athlete will gain weight quickly if he or she simply stops doing cardio. Just as you’d gradually increase the calories in the weeks following a diet, you should gradually decrease the cardio. If you were doing an hour of steady state cardio before the show, try 50 minutes for a week, and 40 minutes the following week. Continue decreasing the time by 10 minutes each week until you’re back to your normal off-season amount.

Be patient with the pendulum. 

Give yourself time to get back to normal. If you have dieted for 12 weeks, give yourself 12 weeks to find equilibrium. It’s normal for a rebound effect to happen after a period of deprivation. There are numerous physiological and psychological effects that happen when dieting. Once you have reached equilibrium, try to find your happy level of leanness. This way, you won’t have to diet as long for the next contest, and can get back to normal much sooner.

Set another goal. 

Give yourself a few days to eat junk and enjoy not being on a strict regimen. Then, set another goal. This can be anything from a photo shoot to a vacation to another show. It’s important to have a little time to relax and reflect, but it’s also important to not veer too far from fitness. Your goal doesn’t have to be imminent, but it should get you motivated enough to get back in the gym!

Redefine “healthy”. 

You work hard on your physique. Save a little time to work on your mind, too. Often, we see ourselves on stage looking shredded and tanned. This is not what healthy is though. We’re meant to carry a little body fat. It’s better for skin, recovery, strength, and overall health. It’s not easy watching the six-pack and striations fade… this is where the mind work needs to come in. Remind yourself that health is the most important thing. We need carbs, fats, and hydration. Working on your mind, just like working on your muscles, takes repetitive practice every day.

Don’t forget supplementation. I rely on BetaTOR while dieting and in the off-season to help me train harder. I get extra reps, which equates to more quality volume over time. Thank you for reading. Until next time, train hard, y’all!

Erin Stern, 2x Ms. Figure Olympia

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