Physique Athlete! Deal with Post-Competition Blues


Competing in physique sports is an exhilarating journey filled with dedication, intense training, and meticulous nutrition. The thrill of stepping on stage and showcasing the results of months of hard work is unparalleled. However, the period following competition often brings challenges, commonly called the "post-competition blues." These challenges are physical and psychological, and addressing them is crucial for long-term health and sustained success in the sport. Here's how you can navigate this tricky phase and come out stronger.

The Toughest Stage: Post-Competition Recovery

This stage is perhaps the most difficult, even more challenging than preparing for the competition. The key to overcoming this period is having a clear plan and your next target. A fitness athlete can recover from competition for 3-5 months. During this transition period, the goal is to restore the body from the adverse physiological changes caused by the competition diet and training regimen.

Tip: Ensure you have a specific goal or target for the offseason. This could be a new training milestone, competition, or improving overall health and well-being.

Training and Diet Adjustments

The primary aim during the post-competition period is to recover quickly and effectively. This involves significant adjustments to both training and diet:

Reduced Training Volume:

  • The strength training volume should be significantly reduced from the levels maintained during the competition season. This helps prevent overtraining and allows the body to recover.
  • Aerobic training should also be scaled back. The high volumes used to achieve peak competition conditions are no longer necessary.
  • Shifting your focus to increasing maximum strength can be highly motivating. Low-volume, high-intensity strength training not only aids recovery but also provides a fresh, engaging challenge during the post-competition phase.

Increased Energy Intake:

  • Energy intake should be increased, primarily through higher carbohydrate and fat consumption. This helps replenish glycogen stores and support hormonal recovery.
  • The goal is to gradually return body composition to baseline, avoiding excessive fat gain.

Tip: Monitor changes in body composition and adjust your diet accordingly. Focus on nutrient-dense foods that support recovery.

Eating Flexibly Post-Competition

The strict dietary guidelines during competition prep can affect your body and mind. Post-competition is the perfect time to adopt a more flexible approach to eating.

Balance and Moderation:

  • Try to eat as flexibly as possible. While it's essential to let go of the rigid guidelines, be mindful not to overeat simply because you feel hungry. Your hunger control system may still be adjusting, and it's normal to feel hungry even after eating.
  • Recognize that hunger is both a physiological and psychological phenomenon. Striking a balance is key to avoiding excessive energy intake and subsequent body fat gain.

Monitor and Communicate:

  • Monitor your morning weight regularly and discuss your hunger levels with your IFBB Coach. This will help ensure that you are on the right track with your post-competition recovery.

Enjoy Your Food:

  • Permit yourself to enjoy the foods you couldn't eat during competition prep and eat more freely at least once a week. This can help mitigate feelings of deprivation and promote a healthier relationship with food.

Tip: Plan indulgent meals or treats in a controlled manner. This way, you can enjoy them without derailing your recovery goals.

Managing Body Composition and Hormonal Balance

During recovery, it is essential to manage body composition carefully to avoid excess fat gain due to adaptive thermogenesis. A method that has gained popularity is reverse dieting, where energy intake is gradually increased to restore hormone levels without significant fat mass gain.

Reverse Dieting:

  • Quickly bring your total energy intake close to your energy balance. Once you are at or near energy balance, you can gradually increase your energy intake using reverse dieting methods.
  • This approach prevents the risk of staying in an energy deficit, which can hinder recovery. Steadily increasing your caloric intake ensures your body gets the necessary nutrients to recover while avoiding rapid fat gain.

Changes in Muscle Size:

  • Understand that the immediate post-competition period is not optimal for building muscle mass. This is a common misconception. While you may experience rapid sarcoplasmic muscle growth as glycogen stores are replenished, the actual protein structures do not grow immediately after competition. Your body needs to focus on recovery before effectively building new muscle tissue.

Hormonal Balance:

  • Accept that preparing for a competition negatively affects your hormonal balance. Anabolic hormone levels decrease, while catabolic hormone levels can drop dramatically.
  • These hormonal changes must start normalizing during the post-competition phase. Regular monitoring through blood tests is recommended. However, avoid rushing into hormone measurements immediately after the competition. Instead, wait 2-3 months for a baseline reading and then reassess 4-6 months later to check if hormone levels have recovered.

Tip: Schedule these blood tests with your healthcare provider and use the results to adjust your recovery plan as needed.

Psychological Well-being and Sleep

The post-competition phase can be emotionally challenging. The high of competition followed by a return to normalcy can lead to feelings of emptiness and depression. Addressing these feelings proactively is essential.

Psychological Support:

  • Engage in activities that bring you joy outside of fitness and bodybuilding. Whether it's spending time with loved ones, pursuing a hobby, or even taking a short vacation, these activities can help you decompress and regain emotional balance.

Sleep and Recovery:

  • Prioritize sleep quality by establishing regular sleep patterns and creating a conducive sleep environment. Adequate sleep is crucial for hormonal regulation and overall recovery.

Tip: Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night and use tools like the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) to monitor improvements.

Planning for the Long-Term

A well-implemented recovery period is essential for improving towards the next competition. This period should be long enough to restore hormonal balance before starting a new competition diet. Plan an individually tailored training period to ensure optimal progress in body composition and performance parameters.

Tip: Work with your IFBB Coach to outline a long-term plan that includes rest periods, training, and strategic dieting.


The post-competition phase can be daunting, but you can navigate it successfully with a strategic approach. You can overcome the post-competition blues by gradually increasing your caloric intake, rebalancing macronutrients, adjusting your exercise regimen, monitoring your health, addressing psychological well-being, prioritizing sleep, and planning for the future. Remember, recovery is just as important as preparation. Embrace this phase as a crucial part of your journey to becoming a better, healthier, and more balanced physique athlete.

Stay focused, stay positive, and continue passionately chasing your goals!