Howdy, friends!! I’m now 4 days out from my first fitness competition, and I’m coming in right on schedule. This means I’m a bit tired, a bit hungry, and leaner than I’ve ever been in my life!!! I think I’m at about 10-11% body fat right now, and sometimes I can’t believe what I see in the mirror.
How did this happen???
Well, I’m pretty sure I know… I spent 6 months last year slightly but consistently overeating (about 200 extra calories a day of healthy foods,) and lifting heavy weights. This added about 9 pounds of muscle to my body.
Then for the next 3 months, I reduced to maintenance calories, and my coach gradually added cardiovascular exercise to create a small caloric deficit. This allowed me to slowly start dropping body fat while still maintaining my strength. And finally, for the past 9 weeks, my calories have been gradually cut to where I’m now at a 600 calorie-per-day deficit, which I really feel! We’ve added even more cardio- I’m now up to 3 hours per week, some of it in a fasted state. (And I’m still lifting heavy weights 5 days a week.) This final push is making a daily difference in shredding off that last bit of body fat and dialling me in perfectly for show day.
This has been a great contest prep.
However, I’ve come to realise that this is not a maintainable state! I used to think how great it would be to walk around super-lean and shredded all the time, and if I were “just disciplined enough,” I could. But now that I see what it really takes to get here, I’ve changed my mind. The look is great, and I hope it serves me well on show day. However, the vigilance required to reduce and maintain body fat below 15% is not worth the sacrifices it requires. So I’m happy to report that as of Monday after the show, I’m bumping my calories right back up to maintenance, which will let me live well at a weight 3-4 pounds heavier than I am right now.
I’ll consider it a joy & a delight to gain back those pounds… especially imagining some of the foods that will be contributing!
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed every stage of this contest prep. I loved gaining weight and seeing new muscle on my body. I’ve also loved the “cutting” phase, even though it comes with its set of restrictions, because with those restrictions comes the payoff of watching all that new muscle pop out. And you know me… I’ve really loved creating new recipes to “fit my macros” and make my food yummy.
Of course this means I haven’t eaten as “intuitively” as I used to. During my building phase, I ate more than felt comfortable. And now in my cutting phase, I’m eating much less. There are times (not always!) that my food choices are dictated by the training plan rather than by what I want at the moment. Intuitive eating emphasizes eating when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re full, and making sensible food choices most of the time. (The other times are for wine, cheese, & chocolate!) And I’ll get back to this way of eating (for the most part) even as I continue to train. I’m looking forward to making food choices based on my hunger & desires, while still eating to fuel my new sport.
So even though I’ll say goodbye to the extreme shreds, I’ll happily say hello again to foods I’ve had to ignore for several weeks, and also to a few extra pounds that will give me strength & energy. Let’s bring it on!