Why small changes are key
I like to think about fat burning during contest prep much like RPM’s on a car, we switch gears and RPM’s increase, we switch gears again and once again RPM’s increase. What happens though when we find our self in a lower gear and are accelerating too fast, the car stalls and the RPM’s go to zero. Your body is a finely tuned machine that reacts very well to change, hence switching gears. The body is built to adapt to outside stressors, have you ever noticed on a diet when you reduce calories you may become hungry for say 3 or 4 days but then as a week or two passes you find yourself feeling more satisfied by your food portions? Adaptation at its finest. The body can also adapt to extreme stressors through a more extreme signaling known to the body as fight or flight mode. Fight of flight mode will cause the body to turn on defense mechanisms that preserve the body in its current state to protect it. During contest prep you never want to push your body to this point, or else much like a car, the body will stall.
While in the contest prep phase I never understood the idea of making changes to a plan if body fat levels are clearly decreasing. Unless you’re drastically behind there would be no reason to make changes to a plan that is yielding a visual difference of about a .5-1% body-fat loss per week. Often though you will see prep coaches go “great changes this week, increase cardio from 30 to 60 minutes, drop carbs by 50 grams” I’ve had this happen to me and seen it happen to countless other people and it drives me crazy because I know exactly what is going to potentially happen. Body’s RPM’s go through the roof and stall!… the fat burning process have been nullified. Now what happens? The body has no choice but to start burning away at your hard earned muscle. Not good. Not only are we now losing what we were worked hard for in the off-season but we have now sent the body into a state of extreme catabolism and are setting off a cascade of stress hormones including every bodybuilders favorite cortisol, you know the one that makes you hold water and blur your conditioning. Yeah… not fun.
So how do we set ourselves up in the best possible position to be able to make small changes and keep our body’s from severe depletion and starvation. Here are my key points, one, stay lean enough in the off-season, there is no reason in the off-season that you should look like a power lifter, why spend half the year fixing your mistakes because you let yourself go. Remember you aren’t bigger because your fatter. Ok, so say you like to indulge quite a bit, if you do this start your diet at least 16-20 weeks out, you need time to diet off all of the fat without messing up your metabolism, taking excessive fat burners, and hurting yourself. Bodybuilding may be an extreme sport but balance is key. Burning out your adrenal glands will cause for an ugly rebound as the lethargy post show will only induce greater cravings. The need for dopamine to the brain and increased energy levels to “feel good” will only be that much greater. The easiest but ugliest route to achieve this is through sugary foods. Which then in turn will wreak havoc on insulin sensitivity. Remember there is no short cuts and no easy fixes, if there were everyone would like great, all the time.
This is why bodybuilding is a year round process. It isn’t a 4 or 6 months out of the year process. Everything affects everything; there is always a rippling effect from the decisions that we make. So when you’re ready to begin your bodybuilding journey seriously, start smart and reap the rewards of the process.