A month ago, I competed in my first NPC Figure competition where I placed 6th in my class. I went into the Emerald Cup in the best shape of my life at 117lbs and 8% body fat. I felt incredible inside and out. While I was not 100% satisfied with my placing, I know that I did everything I could to present my best self. Prior to the competition, I wasn’t sure if competing would be recurring event for me, or if this show would be my first as well as my last. However, upon completion of the competition, I knew that this wasn’t the end of my competitive career. I am in the process of moving across Tennessee and have my sights set on my next two competitions: the NPC Music City Muscle in Nashville, TN on October 5th and the NPC Dexter Jackson Memphis Classic on October 19th. With my goal set, that puts me in the “off-season” of competition training.
WHAT IS THE OFF-SEASON?
What does “off-season” training mean? Well, it depends on how you want to present yourself at the next competition. After speaking to many other competitors, most have something they want to improve on, whether that be adding muscle mass, creating more shapely glutes or perfecting one’s poses. For me, I am looking to improve the shape of my glutes as well as the overall muscle mass of my quadriceps and hamstrings. In addition, I want to perfect my posing and create a more balanced physique. Before the off-season training can truly begin, one must transition from the contest prep diet and training regimen to a more sustainable, balanced diet and physique. This transition period for most competitors tends to go one of two ways: either food and calories are slowly added back into one’s diet without the cardio changing too drastically or the competitor goes completely off of the clean eating lifestyle and drastically drops their cardio down. The results of these two scenarios results in either a slow increase in weight and body fat, or a quick weight increase resulting in metabolism annihilation and tons of regret.
Prior to the completion of my first contest, I read a lot about the dangers of the post-show binge and how to correctly transition out of show-prep. While there has been many times when I so badly wanted to eat everything in sight, because, “hey, show prep is over right so who cares?” However, I have monitored myself and limited my cheat meals to about one per week. Because of this discipline, over the past month I have gained only 5 pounds and 2% body fat, putting me at 122.8lbs and 10% body fat. This slow add has been key in my goal of adding more muscle to my frame without adding unwanted fat. My ultimate goal is build up to 125lbs at 12% body fat, ideally, by mid to late June.
HOW TO GAIN “GOOD” WEIGHT
So, how does one gain weight and up the calories without adding unwanted fat? The key is patience. Leading up to the show, I was eating about 1600 calories and doing roughly 90 minutes of cardio six days/week. For the first two weeks after the show, I ate roughly 1600-1700 calories and slightly decreased my cardio to 60-75 minutes six days/week. I allowed myself some substitutions in my regular meal plan and added some fruit, dairy, Ezekiel bread and corn tortillas back into my diet. After roughly two weeks, I increased my calories once again to roughly 1800 per day with a cheat meal about once a week. Now going into weeks five and six (post-show), I am starting to increase my calories to 2000-2100 calories per day and lowering my cardio to 60-75 minutes per day 6 days/week.
Throughout this entire transition, I have kept my lifting program to 5 days/week. I am making sure to lift as heavy as possible and have increased my leg workouts to twice a week. While I have been increasing my calories gradually, I have been trying to keep my macronutrient (carbs/protein/fat) ratios at a steady 40/40/20 ratio. I will continue increasing my calories regularly until my weight gain is simply fat rather than muscle and a small amount of fat. In order to properly keep track of this, I will need to measure my body fat at least every two weeks. This will help to ensure that I do not make the transition back to show prep harder that it needs to be.
The funny thing is that I would have never thought that I would have a hard time eating more calories. Yet, more often than not, I find myself reviewing my calories around dinner time and seeing that I have too many calories left for the day. How does this happen and how can I fix it? What I have concluded is that I need to allow myself to increase the totals calories at each individual meal in order to up the overall calorie amount. By adding calories in this way, I hope to keep my daily diet balanced. The only problem I have been coming across is working on my nutrient timing so that I can enjoy each meal and not feel like I am forcing myself to eat. I believe that as I slowly increase my calories, my appetite will also increase and I will be able to eat more food on a more regular schedule.
LOVING TO LIFT
The best part of the off season is the training. Because I am increasing my calories, I have more energy to lift even heavier. Lifting as heavy as possible in order to get the greatest muscle mass increase promotes such an incredible feeling of confidence and power. Each week, I feel myself getting stronger, lifting heavier weights with more repetitions during each training session creates such a feeling of accomplishment. In order to get the most out of this off season, I am trying some new training techniques.
Over the next month, I am going to train using periodization. So, I will lift very heavy one week with low repetitions. Then, the following week, I will do the same exact workouts, but I will use a lighter weight with higher repetitions. I will continue this pattern but will change the workouts every two weeks. I have found that using workouts that tend to be created for male bodybuilders have produced a greater muscle hypertrophy and stress on my body, which has been quite beneficial. I am so incredibly excited about the possible gains in strength and size that are to come over the next two months.
I have four months until I compete again. My goals are as follows: increase the size of my glutes and legs, build my lats and widen my back and perfect my posing. I also hope to learn how to increase my calories and add weight without feeling as if I am getting “fat” or lazy. Most importantly, I hope to increase my interaction with anyone that loves health and fitness as much as I do and exchange as much knowledge as possible. I am still learning about this fit lifestyle and need just as much advice as anyone else. I hope that you, as a reader, can help me as much as I hope to help you. Please feel free to find my on Twitters at @RachaelBruin or on Facebook. And as always, #trainhard.
Read more about Rachael’s Journey To The Stage.