Post-Contest Bloating Blues by Jean Jitomir
I recently received an email from a figure competitor who was dealing with a bloat that “just wouldn’t go away.” There area number of factors that could enhance bloating of the body after a contest:
1. Rebound effects from drug use
Steroids, thyroid hormone and many other bodybuilding drugs all have the potential to cause bloat when administered or discontinued. I am not knowledgeable about specific effects of various drugs or how to deal with it; I have only seen the aftermath. In time, water bloat will subside; however, Growth Hormone bloat of the abdomen is pretty much irreversible. If you choose to take body building drugs, which I do not do and do not advocate, you should ensure that you are medically supervised. Make sure that your liver-specific enzymes and blood lipids are within acceptable ranges.
2. Water retention from severely reducing it the day of the competition
When you cut your water intake dramatically, your body releases a hormone called ADH or Anti Diuretic Hormone. This hormone works to hold onto every little drop of fluid in your body. When you are not drinking anything, it may not make you over bloated BUT when you reach for your trusty gallon jug after the contest, your body will hoard all of this fluid; the situation is further complicated if you have screwed up your sodium balance in extracellular fluids.
3. You are eating a lot of sodium in your diet, since it is no longer squeaky “clean”
Processed “junk” foods, avoided in the months before contest, are generally loaded with sodium. As such, your body becomes accustomed to a low-sodium diet. In the cases of severe sodium depletion, as many people feel compelled to do before a contest, your body releases a number of hormones which work together to retain sodium. Blood sodium levels are very tightly controlled; therefore, the body will not excrete any when the intake is very low. If you have sodium loaded and depleted, while loading and then cutting water, then you will pee out massive amounts of sodium and water, but the concentration of sodium in your blood will stay the same, which results in dramatically reduced blood volume.
Congratulations! Now you have absolutely no prayer of getting a pump!
Additionally, the combined sodium and water retention after a contest is a recipe for bloat.
- You may try watching your salt intake after the contest, in combination with drinking a lot of fluid. The cleaner you eat, the less water you will hold on a regular day. Specifically, limit most condiments, sauces, high-salt dairy (cheese) and high-salt meats (cold-cuts), while eating mostly fruit, vegetables, whole grains and non-preserved lean. Maintaining a great physique in the off-season requires that you in a contest-prep like manner most of the time! While there is more flexibility, the primary difference in your diet should be simply eating more food.
Over-eating carbohydrates in particular has varying affects on different individuals; however, if your body is used to only 150g/day and you increase it to 500g the next day after a few hearty meals, you will be bloated!
You cannot thrive and rebuild in a continuous state of near-ketosis, so an increase in daily carbs is warranted. But! be careful after the contest, I’ve found that 2-3 diet-free days will destroy my look for several weeks. If you plan to compete again soon or want to do photo shoots, mind your diet after the contest too!
Add additional carbohydrates in slowly, and have the additional calories in the morning and before and after your workouts, when the extra energy work toward muscle building goals!
4. You are gaining weight and are not used to seeing your body in non-contest shape
You will need to gain some fat to improve; however, you should still look like a highly fit person if the weight is added appropriately.
Numerous hormones, like over 20, influence the hypothalamus, the main feeding center of the brain. Appetite and eating is influenced by a variety of factors including hormones, environment and the rate at which you lost the weight. For instance, after a contest, the primary motivating factor for your diet is instantly gone, which can bring on a binge. Also, the post-contest gorging is often ritualized; however, it is never good for your body to do so. You are not enhancing your future contest efforts by doing over-consuming!
Appetite Hormones Include:
- Leptin: Secreted in proportion to fat mass. Signals to the brain that you have enough fat mass and don’t need to eat more. As such, it works as an appetite suppressant. As you diet, leptin levels go down a whole lot, so you do not feel satiated.
- Ghrelin: Works opposite of leptin– is an appetite-stimulating hormone that is increased as you diet
- Adiponectin: Appetite suppressant that acts like and is complimentary to leptin
- TNF-alpha, CCK, cortisol and countless others, discovered and undiscovered, influence your appetite.
5. To slow weight gain, I do not omit my cardio. I do less and reduce the intensity, but I choose not to eliminate it. This is a matter of personal response and preference!