Thursday, April 5, 2012

Adelfo Cerame - Road to Wheelchair Championships: Four Tips to Survive the Post-Contest / Post-Dieting Jojo-Effect

Image 1: Would have been a disgrace to compromise this physique!
With me being pretty busy, I was actually about as curious as to how Adelfo got along the past couple of days, as you probably are. While we did discuss his training regimen in quite some detail, there was hardly enough time to discuss future dietary changes and - although I could obviously pretend otherwise - Adelfo does not even really need my advice, since he knows very well what is best for him!

So, I guess, I won't keep you on tenderhooks any longer and have him tell you how he evaded the post-contest jojo and kept his wickedly... ah, pardon, "disgustingly" ripped self amidst truckloads of gyros pita sandwiches, falafel, baba ganoush and baklava!

Surviving “post-contest”/ “post-dieting” destruction!

Last week I gave you a sneak peek on my training regimen for the next 2 weeks and promised you the low-down on its nutritional complement for today... well, and as you all should know by now, I stand I am a man of his word, but before I get lost in too much details, I thought it would be nice to give you an overview of how I successfully avoided the dreaded post-contest binge and thus prevented myself from totally destroying all the work I have put into my physique over the past couple of weeks.

You already know that I had planned to go on another famine phase, the low protein low calorie phase, I have learned about in Rob Regish's Blueprint, which, when combined with my regular intermittent fasting routine, allowed me to fulfill almost all my food cravings for the entire week after my contest, without any significant water and none of the dreaded fat-gains, you usually see when you "over-re-feed", or let's call it by its name, binge, after weeks of dieting.

How I prevented “post-contest” self-destruction.

A non-negligible plus certainly was that I did not cut my calories so drastically in this prep, to begin with. Averaging 1,400kcal even at the very end of my contest prep, I was still way above the 1000kcal or even 900kcal regimen from previous preps - and yes, I made the same mistakes as so many of you and your friends may have been making: I also cut calories way to drastically in the past.
Cutting calories is necessary, cutting them to drastically is simply dumb: Whenever you get that low, calorie-wise, the aftermath is just horrible. No matter how steady you try to up your calories (and let's be honest, usually you don't do that anyway), the drastic cut will have slowed down your metabolism so profoundly, that it will take weeks if not months to get back to normal. And while it may have taken some time, I have learned my lesson once and for all and am more than determined not to make that same mistake ever again.
Consequently, the "post-contest syndrome", as I would like to call it, was not bad at all. Although I went the usual route of just eating all the foods I was craving from the moment the show ended, those cravings did not last me a week or even two, like they can, when you have really been starving yourself. Consequently, it was not all too difficult to use my brain and stick to a couple of simple rules I had come up with in advance to avoid doing too much damage to my physique - rules, of which I believe that they could be just as useful for you as they were for me, so that I decided to share them with you:
  1. Tame your cravings right away: I had already eaten my bagels, rice cakes, candy bars and a combination of other carbohydrate + fat type foods all throughout the day of the show; and even had burgers and fries after pre-judging. That really helped with keeping the cravings at bay, so that after the night of the show, I wasn’t really that hungry anymore, but I was thirsty as f***! So I stopped by a liquor store and bought a six-pack of Guinness to quench my thirst ;-) I had a small meal after that and, being somewhat disappointed, got a more or less good night's sleep.
  2. Use intermittent fasting to avoid eating 24/7: I had planned that beforehand and stuck to my decision to get back on my IF protocol right on the morning of the next day.
  3. Try to keep a 50%/50% balance between good and trash foods: I kept, or tried to keep a good 50/50 balance with half of my caloric intake coming from the same whole foods, I ate during my whole contest prep... obviously, I am only human, so I ended up with something more along the lines of 30/70, but with the intermittent fasting (16h fast, 8h feeding window), I kept the damage under control and was very flexible as far as my food choices esp. on the first meal of my feeding window were concerned. So, if I felt like having Lebanese food, I didn’t hesitate to go eat some (dunno, why, but for some awkward reason, gyros pita sandwiches, falafel, baba ganoush and baklava were one of my biggest cravings).
  4. Set a max. 7-day limit for the feast and follow it up with a famine phase: After the week of satisfying my food cravings, I jumped on a 5-day famine/detox phase before going back to my "regular" diet, again. After months of rigorous dieting and those 7-days of pigging out, my digestive system needed a break, and - as Rob Regish explains in his Blueprint in quite some detail - it is also a good way of reminding your body not to be so wasteful with all the good protein you are feeding it the rest of the year... and did I mention that after the binge and the subsequent 5-day famine, my body looked like I was ready to step on stage, again?
Obviously, not all of you will be dieting and cutting water for a contest. You won't be eating french fries and burgers after the pre-judging and I don't know if you like Guiness. In the end, all that does yet not really matter - even if you just had to look good for your blind-date, your wedding or your school reunion - those four simple yours can come handy, whenever you have been dieting and feel the urge to binge.

Reverse dieting - going back up at the correct pace

Image 2: Looking at those pictures there is little doubt that Adelfo's four tips work(ed) outstandingly well. But, let's be honest, would he suggest you copy them, if they did not? I don't think so ;-)
After you have successfully staved off the the worst rebounds and "survived" the famine, you do want to get your calories back up again. I mean, you might just say, "Hey, the USA Wheelchair Championships are on June 23, 2012, Adelfo! So why don't you just keep rolling on your current caloric intake for the next 13 weeks and see how that goes?" Yet while this would certainly be an option, I have been talking to Adel aka Dr. Andro about this and he agreed that it would not only be very difficult to conserve the form I am in for more than just a month, but also - and this was what I was thinking as well - that I would be giving away the chance to pack on another few pounds of lean muscle mass.

My current plan is to gradually increase my calories (the majority coming from the starchy carbs and fruits the reintroduction of which during my contest diet has been nothing but beneficial), to the point where I am gaining muscle at a relative constant rate without compromising the outstanding form I am currently in. Obviously there will come a point where eventually I will have to stop increasing and gradually cut it back down to peak for my show, but the initial target, Adel and I both thought would be realistic, is ~2000kcal/day. As of now, I am still 50-80kcal shy off the 1,800kcal mark I have been hovering around for quite some time during my previous prep - in the end, we will see how, or I should say, if the plan going to work out ;-)

Meal timing, caloric and carb zigzagging

Meal timing is something that will be of huge importance in this context. Especially in view of the fact that I want to take advantage from the glycogen replenishing and performance enhancing effects of an increased (yet still overall below the recommendations of the ADA) carb intake, I will carefully plan the lions-share of my carbohydrate intake in the hours immediately post- and around my workouts. Thusly, I want to keep the partitioning of carb-deried triglycerides into the fat cells minimal by just having my muscle and liver glycogen stores suck the carbs away - from a scientific perspective this may be an over-simplification of the underlying physiological processes, I know, but as a practitioner you do not have to understand all the metabolic details to make good use of this strategy, which does still require that you gradually increase the amount of calories and carefully monitor how your body reacts to each and every change.
Table 1: Macronutrient ratio and timing on training days
At least to some degree, it is always a matter of trial and error until you eventually figure the right numbers out - those numbers that allow you to build muscle without sporadically gaining (better even losing) a few fat molecules ;-) Caloric ZigZagging is something that can support you in this effort, because it will help you to match your caloric intake to your expenditure and place the majority of your carbs on your workout days. For me this means that I will lower my total calorie and my carbohydrate intake on non-workout days, keep my protein intake constant and increase my fats a tad.
Table 2: Macronutrient ratio and timing on rest days
The data in table 1 and table 2 give you an idea of how the net result will look like. And in case you are wondering why my training-day carbohydrate macros are a bit odd, it's because I have started using Myotropics' new flagship product Physique 2.0. It's a high protein (40g) meal replacement which contains ~17g of those the novel fast absorbing, slow digesting carbohydrate source, Dr. Andro wrote about months ago. I am honestly, very psyched about having the opportunity to take its ability to help you burn fat while to a test - the version I have here is something like a beta for the Myotropics athletes, the final version, which will have an improved flavoring system, should yet be available at your favorite supplement store very soon.
On my own account (by Dr. Andro): If you follow Adelfo's link to the new Myotropics blog, you will notice that, aside from his own recipes, you will also find a handful of selected SuppVersity articles over there. This is part of an agreement I have with Vince Andrich, whom many of you probably know as one of the hosts of the BodRX show to which I have contributed in the past, as well. With me being 100% free on which articles I repost to promote the SuppVersity and Vince getting some quality content for Myotropics' new website, this is a win-win situation for both of us, which, and I hope I do not even have to point that out, is not going to change my overall very critical stance towards the supplement industry - even so, it appears as if Dr. Connelly and Vince Andrich have been reading the right blogpost, when they came up with the ingredient profile of their new product *rofl*
For the mean time, I suggest you go and take a look at my latest recipe, the "Post-Workout Locomoco", which is part of a new series I am writing for Myotropics' blog page. You don't have to worry though, there is no chance that you are going to miss any of those, since I will always post a link to them here in my weekly SuppVersity posts and when worse comes to worse, you still got my facebook page, where you will always find links to all the latest news, pics and obviously blogposts ;-)