Welcome to part 3 of our Competition Prep Blog.
This week we are going to look at hunger. What you should expect during your contest prep and how to combat those hunger pangs.
During your prep diet period you are undoubtedly going to feel hungry. You will be working towards getting your body to drop a percentage of body fat that it may have never done before, and for some classes the goal could be a degree of leanness that isn't considered to be healthy.
Dieting is never easy, but understanding what real hunger is as opposed to habit can make the process easier and with less 'slip ups'. Sometimes (especially when you first start) the hunger you are feeling is more mental. Your brain telling you that your consumption is less than what it's used to or psychological cravings as you miss your favourite foods or social gatherings. This is not the same as the struggles you will face further down the line. Learn to ask yourself, 'Do I really want it?' 'Am I really starving?' Have a glass of water, and then ask yourself again.
Real hunger, when your body is depleted comes with many issues. Some you need to learn to control or just put up with. Others, can be an indicator of an underlying issue.
Mood swings. We have all seen the "I'm sorry for what I said when I was hungry" memes. Be prepared to argue and grumble over nothing at people you love. More so, make sure they are prepared to put up with you whilst you're HANGRY!
In order to survive, your body will attempt to conserve energy. Slowing you down, killing your drive and making time seem to fly whilst you sit almost zoned out. Again, this is normal. Your workouts will eventually suffer as you don't have energy stores to train at the same intensity as before. However, feeling faint, dizzy spells, blurred vision is not something you should be pushing through in the name of being a 'badass'. Carry emergency 'sugary' snacks if these symptoms should arise (dried fruit snacks work fast and can fit into most prep plans). Sit, eat and reassess whether you should continue your session. If the issue is becoming a regular occurrence think about removing or lowering the intensity of the exercise that seems to be the cause or look into whether your preworkout meal is enough to fuel you.
Occasionally, rather than hunger you feel the opposite. A complete lack of appetite can occur when your hormonal balance is off. Do not think this is a good sign. Sure, not feeling as though you're starving would make the prep mentally easier, but the truth is far from it.
You will eventually begin to lose all the 'off season' work you put in, your sleep patterns will become erratic and the end result would be far from what you had originally dreamed of.
On the other hand, you may feel a constant mild nausea that only passes when you eat, but eating is the last thing on your mind when you feel sick right? This is a problem I personally struggle with and have had to learn to keep meal timings strict to reduce the feeling of discomfort. If this is happening to you, my best advice is to keep at least one meal and one snack with you at all times. Then being delayed in traffic, stuck in a meeting or just general life slowing you down won't let the sickness get on top of you.
If you start feeling a loss of appetite, nausea or dizzy spells speak to your coach immediately. A good coach would then begin to question you, not just tell you its perfectly normal.
If you have a coach and are allowed cheat days or refeeds these should be discussed and planned with them.
If you don't have a prep coach here is some information on how we work our refeeds. They should be planned, but not necessarily trackable, meaning you can visit a restaurant if you so choose. Planning not only applies to 'when' you are going to have the meal but also 'what' you are going to eat. There is lots of info online in regards to weekly cheats and instamodels taking pictures of refeed meals pretty much all the time and so its easy to think you can do the same. Try not to pay attention to what anyone else says/does and do what works best for you. If you have a tendency to binge eat, or feel guilty post cheat, then its not the best option for you.
The frequency of refeeds depends on your levels of depletion. Your body can show signs of physical depletion with poor training performance or by the body looking flat and lacking muscularity. Being depleted is a normal part of the dieting process and strategically planned refeeds will temporarily counteract the effects and leave you looking fuller and training better. However, you need to be in the right state of depletion for this to be possible without ruining your progress. Occasionally, mental depletion becomes the issue. We have a client staring at us with a dead, empty look in their eyes, struggling to string a sentence together and basically becoming a zombie..... they need a refeed!
Its not about wanting a night out with your friends, its not about ordering fast food and stuffing yourself to 'rev up your metabolism'. They are designed to keep you on track to your stage goals. Don't waste your hard work, if you are unsure hire a coach.
Having a craving for certain foods on any diet is normal so it stands to reason that on prep not only will they be more frequent but sometimes even a little cuckoo too.
You can crave foods you miss from before the prep. Pizza is the main culprit for most of our clients, but any foods that make you feel comforted or bring back memories of fun times are usually high up on the list of things that we all crave. These are psychological cravings created when your brain needs social stimulation or support, and can easily be battled through with a little willpower.
Craving foods you usually don't eat or even like is a little more unusual. These can indicate a hormonal imbalance or the need for your macronutrient balance to be reassessed (depending on what the craving is for). They are usually the hardest cravings to ignore and can last an entire prep even after your coach allows you to work them in somewhere (if they do). Keep your willpower strong and make note of anything unusual to discuss with your coach at your next check in.
Tips and tricks to kill those pesky cravings.
* Choose a coach that plans your nutrition around your favourite pre prep meals. There are healthier alternatives to most recipes you love. If you have someone who understands what you enjoy and you can satisfy your love of food throughout your diet you are less likely to have cravings and it becomes easier to fight them off when you do.
* Eat a lot! Yes you will be in a calorie deficit whilst trying to drop body fat, but, if your stomach is full the other side effects of hunger will ease. A plate full of steamed veggies is a lot more filling than a snack size mars bar which will leave you wanting to raid the cupboards in 5 minutes.
* Fibre. It takes a long time to digest keeping you satisfied, plus it slows down the absorption rate of nutrients and stabilises blood sugars. Try to stick to veggies remembering the point above and utilise the sweetness from fruits when dessert cravings strike.
* Hydrate! Hunger can actually be thirst in disguise. On prep you should be consuming plenty of water anyway but as a craving hits, having 250ml of water can fill the stomach allowing the craving to pass. Extra Tip: If the craving is sweet, or you are also feeling the burden of constantly being cold whilst at a low body fat, try caffeine free herbal or fruit teas. Hot tea will warm you up, hydrate you and be pleasing to the palate.
In summary, hunger is your bodie
s normal response to being in an energy deficit. Although it may be uncomfortable at some points throughout your prep, it is important to remember that you have chosen to push your body through an abnormal situation to achieve your desired look. Your body wont go down without a fight and it takes great dedication and willpower to keep on pushing.
......Keep on pushing!