Pre-contest and Post-contest Nutrition


“How do you eat when you are not prepping for a show?” “How do you maintain your physique off season?”  “How do you control yourself without losing all your gains?” I get questions like these constantly so when it was IFM Inside Expert article deadline time, it only made sense to choose this topic to write about.

Here is the article I wrote that was printed in the current issue (August/September 2014) of Inside Fitness Magazine. It’s about pre-contest and post-contest nutrition. Please share!

Before and After (the nitty-gritty on post-contest nutrition)

by Nichelle Laus (@nichellelaus)

Have you ever heard and wondered what people meant by off season? In the fitness world, it would be nice to always stay in “contest shape” but in reality, most people just can’t. It is a misconception to many that most fitness models and competitors look at the top of their game all the time.

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The truth is, most of the men and women you see in fitness magazines usually book their photo shoots around competition time, when they are their leanest.  In order to get that taut, it takes extreme dedication and commitment to a nutritional plan that is tailored specifically to your needs.

So what exactly is the difference between a pre-contest and post-contest nutrition plan? To stay lean, and maintain optimal and consistent results all year round, there is not much difference other than quantity of food, as well as more frequent re-feed meals.

Pre-contest nutrition plans vary from person to person and from contest to contest depending on how the body is responding to the program. During contest preparation, I typically keep my protein higher (approx. 1-1.5 gms per pound of bodyweight), and my fats and carbohydrates lower.  My post-contest nutrition plan still consists of the same foods, because I enjoy them (remember, it is a lifestyle, not a diet!). In my post-contest plan, the amount of protein I take in is lowered slightly, and my carbohydrates and fats are increased subsequently.

A lot of competitors restrict themselves so much during their pre-contest nutrition that they end up turning their amazing gains into fails post-competition because they endure days of food gluttony post contest. There are steps that you can take to ensure you don’t overindulge following your trip to the stage, however. Here are a few tips to help you from falling into this food post-contest trap.

Enjoy with Moderation
Do enjoy your post-competition meal that you have been craving – you earned it!! Make sure it satisfies, but do not add extra salt, or go crazy on sodium enriched (i.e. packaged) foods right away. On contest day, your body is similar to that of a dry sponge because of water depletion, and will definitely soak up anything you put into it. Many foods, especially restaurant and fast foods, are enhanced with sodium, so you need to be pay attention not to consume too much too fast, or you will bloat right up. Of course you can treat yourself – you just have to do it responsibly!

Get Back to Basics

You will need to quickly get back to the basics of eating based on quality and quantity for maintenance or making gains, depending what you are aiming for. Pay particular attention to choosing clean, wholesome foods and making sure you get lean proteins, as well as complex carbs, and healthy fats at each meal. You may need to work with an experienced coach or trainer who can set you up on a plan that is designed for your post-contest or “off-season” goals.

Watch your Alcohol

I am not a big drinker. I would rather eat my calories than drink them, but of course that is not the case for everybody. If you feel the need to celebrate your post-contest success with a bevvy, just make sure you chase it down with water.

Set another Goal

One way to slow down the post-contest binge is to immediately set another fitness goal! Whether it be a new challenge, or revisiting a past one, take the plunge! You will be less tempted to “go crazy.” What I usually do is book a photo shoot shortly after my trip to the stage so I keep on track and stay focused.
As always, I recommend staying as balanced as possible all year round, and taking more time to prepare for your contest so you can remain consistent, moderate, and have your occasional cheat meal to keep you mentally focused.

Let me know what you think! Grab a copy of Inside Fitness Magazine on newsstands, and check them out online at Do you have a question I could answer? Send an email to and the question may get published in a future issue of Inside Fitness.



Disclosure: I may receive affiliate compensation for some of the links below at no cost to you if you decide to purchase a paid plan. You can read our affiliate disclosure in our privacy policy. This site is not intending to provide financial advice. This is for entertainment only.

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