Ahhhh, off-season! I think every competitor welcomes the off-season with open arms, especially after a challenging contest prep. I’ve been looking forward to (and overly excited about) this off-season for the past four weeks. The feeling you get when training with full, calorie dense meals is incredible! Plus, the mental relaxation of a more flexible plan and food variety is an obvious bonus.
Without fail, we always get asked, “So, you can be normal now?” and it’s a confusing question to answer. What’s normal to you is probably abnormal to someone everyone else. To be honest, our whole yearly plan is our normal – transitioning from off-season to on-season, programming our body to gain weight and muscle mass, then lose fat again. It’s all planned, precise, and serves a specific purpose. I guess the short answer to this question is, no, I’m not going to be normal now, to the general public’s standards of normal at least.
Well then, what’s the difference between on and off-season if you aren’t going to be normal?? With different purposes, on and off-seasons have the following differences:
|Meal plan||A wider variety of food selection, more quantity.Meals are timed throughout the day, nutrients are timed for best use (carbs around training).||Food variety gets smaller as prep progresses, quantity decreases.Meals are timed, nutrients timed for best use (carbs around training, cleaner and faster digesting foods later in the day).|
|Training||Minimal cardio (mostly through my fitness classes).Weight train 6 times a week.||Cardio increases and fluctuates as needed through prep, including fasted sessions.Weight train 6 times a week, include a few more drop sets / super sets.|
|Alcohol||We could have a drink occasionally, if desired. Generally, we just don’t drink anymore though – personal preference. Vacations and special occasions might call for a drink, but overall, we don’t drink.||None.|
|Dining Out||If a craving hits, or a special occasion comes up, we’ll go out for food. We work these meals into our weekly plan and don’t go overboard within a week (for health and financial purposes).||Only for re-feed meals.|
|Re-feed Meals||Not overly necessary in our off-season as we’re eating a lot on a daily basis. If we want something “fun” or extra, we time it around a big training session such as legs or back, so the added calories help us.||Generally take place on Saturdays, if our coach feels we’ll benefit from one or need one based on progress pictures.|
Basically, there is more flexibility in the off-season, but everything is still calculated and planned for. I’m mindful of my behaviour through the week, but won’t beat myself up if I want something different one night. This is when I take the opportunity to get more creative with meals and have fun cooking again. Kyle and I will go out on date nights and enjoy ourselves with some of our favourite things (Menchies, gourmet burgers, sweet potato fries…), but we’re conscious of how often we do it. Eating out is expensive! We spend a lot on groceries each week, so it doesn’t make much sense for us to spend even more on restaurant food. However, we’re normal to the point that we enjoy the social aspect of going out for a good meal and spending the time together or with friends, where no one has to cook or clean up. See – NORMAL! Additionally, because these foods and outings are not done often, we appreciate them so much and fully enjoy every aspect of them. We just think that for people who eat out numerous times a week, it’s no longer a special treat and loses that impact and value.
In terms of training, the off-season is the most critical part of our year. With the right balance of nutrition and training, you’ll get the most out of your body and see the most changes. Food quantities go up, we train hard at the gym, and the extra fuel helps with energy and promotes muscle growth. This is the time where we get to make our improvements and focus on areas needing attention. The longer your off-season, the more advantageous it is (if you use it correctly). We take our rest days when needed, and we’ll take a few days off in a row when needed.
THIS is our normal, training hard and eating for our goals. The beauty of it is that it’s a lifestyle, everything is habit and routine now, so we don’t ever feel like we need a “break” from it. Friday would seem strange if we didn’t go to Costco and cook all our food. Evenings would seem really long and empty if we didn’t go to the gym. We would miss interacting with everyone there and spending that time together (away from work and the house). When you truly love something, and have a passion for it with goals tied to it, nothing is a sacrifice. So, yes, I will be normal – but my kind of normal. Now, I’m going to have some fancy burgers and cupcakes in Vegas and hopefully see a bunch of our favourite bodybuilding pros in person! Have a wonderful, fit, healthy weekend everyone!!