TOPIC: What Are The Symptoms And Treatments For Post-Competition Blues?
Following a competition your body begins to naturally drift away from that "perfect physique," which one cannot maintain forever.
What are the symptoms and treatments for post-competition blues?
Who is likely to get this type of depression?
Bonus Question: Have you ever had post competition blues? If so, how long did it last and how did you deal with it?
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Post-competition blues is a serious issue. Most people go into their first competition not even being aware of it. Sadly the competitor that goes into a physique competition blind to it will most likely get so twisted afterwards that their first taste of the "stage" will be ruined.
The symptoms are obvious and I'm sure anyone who has competed has had the following thoughts:
We train/prepare for months, and going through the process the anxiety/excitement gets us through both the good and bad times. Throughout the preparation, one builds this great anticipation for what it will be like. In addition, one see's themselves going through a transformation that few will ever experience.
Point is, for months one sees better and better in themselves. The day of the competition arrives, and regardless of the outcome, at the end of the day, IT'S OVER! The next day you wake up, and that first meal or your morning cardio session is not a "must" anymore. All of a sudden you don't have a "deadline" and a plan to get there.
The person who is most likely to experience this is more often than not, the first timer. In addition, it may be the competitor who instead of using their "passion" to go through the process mistakenly uses "obsession".
They turn their lives upside down in preparation for this event. However when it's all over, they've screwed up all the big things in life that go a lot further than the stage (like a relationship or their job). So now all of a sudden after months of preparing, they no longer have a competition to strive for as well as they may have neglected other aspects or people in their life and now they are really experiencing self doubt/regret.
The way to go through bodybuilding is NOT to be "outcome based". There are too many uncontrollable variables to judge your whole opinion of the event on. Instead the better option is to be "process based".
Enjoy that process that you go through, which includes:
When you master this, the outcome does not matter, because you've already succeeded and you will not fall into a "post-competition state of depression."
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The second symptom would be one that I personally had an experience with in that we try to keep that competition look afterwards, or more so, we don't want to let it go.
The Monday after a show, you decide after a weekend of pigging out to get back to that "pre contest" diet you were on 1 week out from the show (dumbest thing ever really). People fail to realize that though it yields some of the best conditioning ever, how negative the whole process is on the body after a long period of time.
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The reason it is unrealistic to maintain the look all the time is because it's not ideal/practical for the human body to maintain. One's adrenals and hormones are working double overtime for those months but after a while nobody's body can keep doing it. At some point, there is burn out.
I fell victim to looking in the mirror afterwards and judging myself based on how I looked a week or two ago on stage. I would tell myself to get back to eating the way I was leading up to the show, but would be so burned out after 2-3 successful days of eating back on the contest diet, that one night I'd just lose it and binge until I'd nearly want to cry my insides were hurting so bad.
So now, instead of just being balanced I had put myself on the COMPLETE other end of the spectrum. I now looked fat/bloated and puffy which is twice as bad as I was before I decided to lose control and went all out eating. Had I just found balance and stuck to it, my body would have settled down at a nice point. However when you do it the wrong way, the cycle just keeps going and going and if one does not find peace of mind or balance it could lead to a serious eating disorder!
Dealing With Post-Contest Depression
After several shows, I don't claim to have ALL the answers, but I think I've put together a few decent ways to avoid this mind boggling issue...
1. Be Excited To Compete:
As you go through your prep, be excited to compete! That's great, however, don't get so obsessed that you lose sight of reality. Remember it's "process based" NOT "outcome based".
2. Prepare To Eventually Lose The Physique:
Start preparing yourself ahead of time to ACCEPT that afterwards that razor sharp physique will slowly disappear but at the same time your body will be thanking you for the break your giving it (after all, offseason if done correctly is where one makes their gains and changes their physique for the next time they compete - NOT on a pre-contest calorie deficit diet).
3. Have A Game Plan:
Have a game plan of how you're going to handle the first few days afterwards as well as when you get back to training. Have areas of concern to work on & envision those lagging muscle parts being better down the road.
Related Lagging Body Parts Articles:
4. Be Prepared To Take A Week Off:
Be prepared to take at least 1 week off from everything after the show. (I know there are those people out there who read that and will say "Oh, I can't do nothing!"... trust me, you'll live. Your body will get a chance to calm down after all the stress/demands you've been placing on it. Hormone levels will balance out and odds are when you do return to training you'll feel better than ever!)
5. Spend A Few Days Off Your Diet:
Consider taking your significant other and/or kids out to that dinner that you were not able to have with them for the last few months. After that, be ready to let that phase be done (though if you're like me... you'll be so sick of those foods after a few days; you won't have a hard time walking away).
6. Get Back Into Your Diet Slowly:
After enjoying yourself for a few short days, start getting back to the staple foods you use year round. Obviously one needs to slowly start bringing up their daily caloric intake.
Related Calorie Articles:
My advice, that seems to work, is start your first week by adding 200 calories more per day from where you left off at the end of your pre contest diet (Ex: if you were eating 1900 calories before your show, get right back to 2100 calories a day for that first week).
7. Monitor Your Weight:
Monitor your weight 1-2 times per week as well as be a tough judge in the mirror. Each week if you haven't gained more than a pound (may be a few more in the beginning as your body calms down and settles at a more realistic weight) add 100 more calories each week until you notice too aggressive of weight gain on the scale or you see too much fat gain in the mirror.
8. Allow 1-2 Cheat Meals Each Week:
Allow yourself 1-2 cheat meals each week. I think one can do too much damage with an entire day, when they are already eating off-season calories throughout the week, so keep it to a "cheat meal".
9. Have Fun With Your Eating:
Have fun with your eating and don't be as obsessive. Get enough; not too much and not too little. Try to pick the right types of foods at the right times. Enjoy knowing that you are fueling your body to be its best. Let your passion for the sport get you through each day, not your obsession.
10. Listen To Your Body:
Listen to your body. If a food doesn't work well for you, find one that does. Like what you eat, like training and most of all, thank/spend time with the ones who supported you throughout your competition journey because without them, you may have not made it through!
If one takes all of the above information to heart and applies them correctly, you will be successful in not having a run in with the post-competition blues and enjoy being a physique competitor.