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Post Bodybuillding Contest Eating. How to satisfy your Cravings without Putting your Health (and your look) at Risk

By jbehar at Aug. 19, 2015, 4:43 p.m., 16906 hits

Post Contest Eating. How to satisfy your Cravings without Putting your Health (and your look) at Risk

Many people do not realize that post contest binging can wreak havoc, not only on the way you look, but it can wreak havoc on your metabolism and your health.

Not I am not judging. I have done it several times myself, with my most memorable, my Post 1989 NPC USA Championships Appearance.

I ate everything under the sun, and went from 176 on stage to 204 in three days.

Now I know many of your saying a lot of this is probably water weight, and yes that is true, but health issues can still arise from these conditions.

For me personally, here were some of the immediate effects:

Harder to breathe
Increased sweating
Racing heart
Pain in legs and calves
Swollen legs and ankles.

I am quite positive that the high amounts of sodium that comes with the extreme amount of eating (18,000 + calories a day) caused my blood pressure to sky rocket. I still remember the deep sock lines left in my ankles, which is a huge indicator that you are holding an unsafe amount of water.

256 years later, I did it again, 35 pounds gained in 3 days. How? Here is just a partial list of some of the food intake in a 24 hour period:

2 loaded 12 “ subs
Cheesecake with Oreos
Ice Cream
1/3 of a 28 slice specialty pizza with 4 inch high cheese topping
Pemanti Dagwood Style Kobe steak sandwich, with a fried egg and french-fries piled toppings
3 breakfast sandwiches’ and a large soup
2 huge bowls of frozen yogurt with loads of toppings
2 large bags of Doritos
3 huge sodas
(There was more, I just cannot remember)

Anyhow, the result, same as before, but even quicker symptoms (within 16 hours):

Harder to breathe
Increased sweating
Racing heart
Pain in legs and calves
Swollen legs and ankles.

Are we seeing a pattern here?

Post Contest Binging Effects Hormones

The intake of junk food for multiple days following your pre-contest diet plan will result in several severe reactions related to hormonal and brain chemistry. You could literally destroy your hormonal balance in days which can take months to recover (if ever).

The restriction of comfort foods that occurs pre contest can stop the hypothalamus from creating the normal flow of peptides to our brain and results in a temporary depressive state; especially for people used to eating these foods. If this state remains your brain can become ”hard wired“ to stay in this state and it is a hard state to break.

Opioids or endorphins (the brain's ”feel-good chemicals“) are triggered when we eat specific foods. You actually can become addicted to junk food. It takes approximately 2 days to alter our brain's perception of need and stimulation. Multiple days of eating improper foods and calorie rich food can result in an excessive endorphin production from our brain. The result: overstimulation (euphoria) and then a crash (depression).

Men and Women Are Different

Most physique athletes, especially women, perform better when their post-competition weight is maintained within 10 pounds of contest-ready shape. Males can sometimes carry between 15 and 20 pounds of additional weight gain. Bodybuilders 50% more.

The goal to avoid negative consequences should be to stay no more than 10% above competition weight, regardless of whether you are male, female or what class you are in.

Excess bodyweight also takes its toll on your heart, joints, and it is also harder to lose precontest. The farther you are away from your stage weight, the longer you will need to diet, the greater risk to your hormonal system, and the more likely you will lose more muscle along the way.

Looking At The Current Research

Two studies in the October issue of Behavioral Neuroscience show that when animals are stressed, deprived and exposed to tempting food, they overeat, with different degrees of interaction. This results in what is known as ”dieters rebound“ or ”The Yo-Yo Effect.“

What this means is that given a choice between eating nutritious food versus ”junk food,“ it is likely that we will overeat the junk food. This results in nonproductive calories that further trigger our bodies craving of additional food to provide sedation of our need for protein and other nutrients.

Other studies have shown that individuals who are overweight and are given additional protein in their diet tend to crave less food over all.

Effects Of Dieting and Binge Eating

The effects of dieting and binge eating are very powerful and have a very predictable effect on our hormonal systems.

When you binge, it affects your hormonal system and mostly changes the insulin, thyroid, serotonin levels and cortisol levels.

Insulin is the most powerful hormone effected by how we eat. Insulin is affected due to the high levels of carbohydrates available when our carbs are low, or insulin levels drop. The lower that our insulin levels fall, the more effect these chemical stimulants have on their receptors. In other words, the hungrier you get, and the more likely you are to eat junk food. For most people, they are so focused during pre-contest, that their desire to succeed overcomes the urge to binge (others just fuck up; been there when I was younger).

Post contest, even the most seasoned people binge. Why? Because they can. They do not think about the health issues and the possible lasting effects on their hormonal systems and post contest mental state. Elevated insulin levels will trigger your pancreas to make more and more insulin. This results in a slower and slower metabolism.

Because insulin is considered the most powerful hormone, it can take months and even years to correct its slightest dysfunction. Insulin, once attached to the cell, brings EVERYTHING out of your blood stream. More insulin results in more unwanted items being sucked into the cell. Not just protein, but sugar and fats will enter the cells, too.

Insulin is a contributor to so many other hormonal changes. By binge eating, and elevating your insulin for too long a period specifically binge eating with sugars and starches - you risk burning out your pancreas, causing less insulin to be produced (pre diabetes), or little to no insulin being produced (Type 2 Diabetes).

Binge eating will cause a decrease in your body's production of the thyroid hormone thyroxin. This results in a slower metabolism and less ability to burn fat.

The hypothalamus controls the pituitary gland which controls the thyroid. This control is all driven by the first hypothalamus' glands production of TRH (thyroid releasing hormone), and that affects the pituitary gland with produces TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), and once this trigger is received by the thyroid, it absorbs iodine and the amino acid tyrosine to make T4 and T3.

The thyroid makes about 80% of T4 and 20% of T3. The T4 is about four times less strong than the T3 at stimulating metabolism of every cell in your body. To put that in real world order for you, one unit of T3 is about 100 times stronger than any metabolism pill that you can take.

Now once T4 and T3 are produced there is a simple feedback mechanism. The T3 and T4 act like heat coming back to a thermostat in your house, more heat shuts off the furnace. Similarly, more T3 and T4 will shut off the entire production. Similar to that is the presence of high levels of insulin associated with binge eating.

Thyroid Binding Globulin (TBG) is the protein that carries the thyroid hormone in your blood stream. Insulin levels, excessive blood sugar, elevated toxins, etc., all affect the ability of TBG to do its job. Many times you may have a thyroid test and show normal T4 levels, but the carrier protein is not available to move the T4 or T3 to the cells.

Poor nutritional choices and genetics both play major roles in your deficiency of TBG. Remember, thyroid tests often test the measurement of concentration, but not the action of the hormone. The lower levels of estrogen effect the thyroid binding globulin by lowering its production. Following a competition with restrictive diets and excessive exercise, the TBG is lower and that is why you are tired all the time and sleepy.

Binge eating also impacts each of these systems. Not only do you burn less fat, but you become sluggish and less energetic.

Dieting and binge eating both stress the body. Stress causes your body produce cortisol. High levels of cortisol will result in more belly fat which can take weeks to months to reverse. Cardio activity of sessions less than 40 minutes in duration at levels that are between 60-80% MHR will result in decreased cortisol.

So what does this all mean?

If we diet for a long time, we will be predisposed to binge for several reasons, some of which are mental, some of which are behavioral, and some of which are hormonal.

So to address these things and control the amount and length of post contest binge eating I have a 15 simple yet very effective suggestions:

1. Avoid binge eating for periods longer than 24 hours after your competition.

2. Choose 1 or 2 things max a day that you want to indulge in.

3. Control Portion size.

4. Do not keep excess junk food around you during this ”fragile" hormonal, and mental post contest state.

5. Drink lots of water, preferably sodium free (you will have enough sodium from your diet and from retention). Since 60-90% of your weight gain following a contest is primarily water, drinking lots of water will dilute the sodium within your body that causes unwanted water retention.

6. Return to your pre-contest meal plan as it was approximately four weeks out, as soon as possible. For women that may be around 1500 calories, men around 2800 calories. Of course this will be specific to your situation.

7. Continue eating six to eight small meals per day, with a good quantity of lean protein per meal, as well as moderate complex carbs and healthy unsaturated fats (Omega 3, 6 and 9)). Omega 3: Flaxseed oil, Pumpkin seeds, Sardines, Salmon. Omega 6: Walnuts, Almonds, Peanuts, Sunflower seeds, Omega 9: Olive Oil, Avocado,

8. Include the fibrous veggies, sweet potatoes, lean protein, and healthy fats in your meal plan, BEFORE hitting a binge meal/snack

9. Eat Asparagus, which is low calorie and also acts as a natural diuretic.

10. Slowly increase your caloric intake slowly over the next few weeks. To
lessen the likelihood of regaining body fat, bump your calorie intake up by 100-200 calories per week until you're at maintenance level. The only exception: short-term dieting. If your diet only lasted a week or two the metabolic adaptations you have to recover from should be minimal.

11. Avoid drinking your calories. Especially avoid sweet coffee drinks and canned soft drinks, which contain large amounts of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS wreaks havoc on your body. It is automatically absorbed by your cells to manufacture fat quickly and store it.

12. Supplement with chromium, cinnamon, Fish oils for the week following a competition. These supplements help stabilize blood sugar levels.

13. Avoid post contest weight gain greater than 5 to 10 pounds for a female and 15 to 20 pounds for male.

14. Stay Active. Besides hitting the gym, walk when you can, take the stairs not the elevator. These little bouts of activity can add up and burn some of those excess calories that comes with binge eating.

15. Do not abandon cardio during this period. Cardio should be at least 50% of pre contest levels. Most people who perform cardio usually perform it at a low-intensity, over a long duration. Frequency is also usually high. New studies show that long sessions of cardio are NOT hormone friendly. Replace 3 of the normal steady state low intensity cardio sessions with High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Cardio. HIIT is a method whereby your overall cardio duration and frequency are less, but your intensity is much higher, and as a result your burn more fat, and increase your BMR (burning more calories for hours afterwards).

It is a very hormonally-friendly way of doing cardio. As mentioned earlier, new studies show that long periods of cardio, or even cardio done at a low to medium frequency, can create a catabolic (muscle wasting) hormonal environment. The body responds to medium-high frequency cardio by releasing high levels of cortisol to cope with the physical demands you place on your body, which is unfavorable to fat burning. HIIT cardio also avoids the possibility that you are end up using protein as energy. During longer-duration cardio, your body begins to search for secondary energy when your carbohydrate stores become depleted. As a result, protein that should be used for muscle growth and repair is being used to fuel you during cardio. When you limit cardio to 15-20 minutes, the way HIIT is performed, you minimize the possibility of burning protein, and instead burn a higher percentage of adipose tissue (fat).

About the Author Jeff Behar

Jeff Behar, MS, MBA, is a well-known health, fitness, wellness author and anti aging, champion natural bodybuilder (2014 Masters Grand Prix Champion, 2015 California State Masters Champion), and a recognized health, fitness and nutrition expert with over 30 years of experience in the health, fitness, disease prevention, nutrition, and anti-aging fields.

As a recognized health, fitness and nutrition expert, Jeff Behar's has been featured on several radio shows, TV, and in several popular bodybuilding publications such as Flex, Ironman and in several highly regarded peer reviewed scientific journals. Jeff Behar is also the CEO and founder and and a Medical Commentator on exercise for The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, the worlds largest medical academy for anti-aging and regenerative medicine, provides medical professionals with the latest Anti-Aging, regenerative, functional and metabolic medicine.


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