How to Know If You're Eating Enough During Development Season?


When it comes to fitness and bodybuilding, the mind is almost as important as the body. Successful fitness athletes and bodybuilders are known for their intense motivation, often willing their muscles to grow through sheer determination. However, the mental aspect of fitness and bodybuilding goes beyond motivation. To excel, one must understand and master training techniques, eat enough, sleep well, develop personal instincts, and learn to listen to their body. Training hard is essential, but training smart is crucial.

For beginners, sticking to the basics is key. In the beginning, you can't rely on how you feel during training or meals because you don't have the experience to recognize the right things. Like knowing when to take a deload week  or how much to eat. Over time, as you master the basics and gain experience, you can start to trust your instincts and tailor your training and eating to what works best for you. This individualized approach is the art of fitness and bodybuilding.

Advanced fitness athletes and bodybuilders, even those at the top of their game, continually evaluate and adjust their routines to optimize their progress. This process involves not only physical effort but also critical thinking and adaptability. Understanding various training principles and how they impact your body is essential for long-term success.

The Food Aversion Problem

A significant challenge during the development season for physique athletes is food aversion. Unlike the common struggle of dealing with hunger during fat loss phases, development season requires athletes to consume more calories than their body naturally demands. Maintaining an energy surplus is optimal for muscle growth, but this often means eating more food than desired, leading to unique challenges.

One critical issue is that as athletes sustain energy surplus over time, their natural hunger signals diminish. The body's ability to regulate hunger to maintain homeostasis means that prolonged periods of high-calorie consumption can reduce the feeling of hunger, making it increasingly difficult to consume the necessary calories. This aversion to eating can be as problematic as the temptation to overeat during fat loss phases.

Studies have shown that not all physique athletes consume enough calories during their development season, which can hinder muscle growth. Factors contributing to this include baseline lower appetites due to genetics, personality traits, or medication. Some individuals naturally have a low appetite and may "forget to eat" when busy, making it harder to maintain a caloric surplus. Additionally, athletes with high baseline energy expenditures, such as those with physically demanding jobs or high daily non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), must consume even more food to achieve a caloric surplus.

How to Know If You Are Eating Enough During the Development Season

Maintaining the correct caloric intake is crucial for muscle growth. Here are some indicators that you are eating enough during your development season:

  • Morning Weight: Your weight should be rising steadily as planned.
  • Body Measurements: Measurements of muscle groups should be increasing.
  • Strength Levels: You should notice an increase in strength in the gym.
  • Training Intensity and Recovery: You should be able to train harder, recover well, and see continuous improvement. Training should be more intense than when preparing for a competition.
  • Sleep: Good sleep quality and quantity.
  • Alertness: You should have a good state of alertness throughout the day.
  • Female Athletes: Maintaining a regular menstrual cycle.
  • Male Athletes: Normal libido levels.
  • Mood: Feeling more excited and upbeat rather than depressed and apathetic.

Hunger Promotion Strategies

Addressing food aversion requires strategic dietary adjustments to minimize stress and maximize adherence to development season. Here are some effective strategies:

1. Choose Lower Volume Food Options

Opt for lower-volume, high-calorie foods to increase caloric intake without feeling overly full. Prioritize grains like white rice and pasta over more filling options like oatmeal. As the diet progresses, consider adjusting the macronutrient balance by slightly reducing carbs and increasing fats to make consuming the required calories more manageable.

2. Modify Food Palatability 

Highly palatable foods are less filling and can stimulate a greater desire to eat. Enhance the taste of your meals through seasoning and varied cooking methods. Incorporate occasional junk food items into an otherwise healthy diet to make eating more enjoyable, especially towards the end of a muscle gain phase.

3. Decrease Protein Intake

While protein is essential for muscle growth, it is also very filling. Lowering protein intake to the minimum required for muscle maintenance (around 0.8g per pound of body weight) during a hypercaloric diet can make it easier to consume the necessary calories by allowing more room for less-filling foods.

4. Modify Nutrient Timing

Distribute your food intake throughout the day to times when you are more likely to feel hungry or less food-averse. Eating larger meals when naturally hungrier can reduce the discomfort of eating when you are not hungry.

5. Eat Lower Fiber Foods

High-fiber foods, while healthy, can contribute to a feeling of fullness. During a development season, substitute some high-fiber foods with lower-fiber alternatives, such as brown rice with white rice. This adjustment helps reduce fullness while still providing adequate fiber for health.

6. Increase Liquid Calories

Incorporating liquid calories through protein shakes, carb powders, and nutrient-dense liquids like whole milk can help you consume more calories without feeling overly full. Liquid meals are especially beneficial around workouts due to their quick digestion and nutrient absorption.

7. Avoid Calorie-Free Liquids and Eat Sooner and Faster

Avoid drinking large amounts of calorie-free liquids before meals as they can contribute to a feeling of fullness. Eat your meals steadily without long pauses to maximize your consumption before fullness signals kick in.

8. Decrease Caffeine Consumption

Caffeine acts as an appetite suppressant. Reducing caffeine intake during muscle gain phases can help maintain a healthy appetite and make it easier to consume the necessary calories.

Practical Application

Implement these strategies progressively throughout your development season. Start with minimal adjustments and increase these techniques as you encounter more difficulty consuming the required calories. Tailor these strategies to your individual needs to enhance comfort and adherence to your diet plan.

In conclusion, the food aversion problem during the development season is a significant challenge for physique athletes. However, by understanding the factors contributing to this issue and employing effective hunger promotion strategies, athletes can maintain the hypercaloric state necessary for optimal muscle growth. Remember, fitness and bodybuilding success involves physical effort, strategic thinking, and adaptability to overcome challenges.