For too many years now we have been listening to the same old people tell the same old stories, gym myths, fables, what ever you call them. What I am telling you is that times have changed, and if you want to build a truly outstanding physique, well you must change also. Today, we use science and common sense as our guide, and leave the outdated gym myths to the wannabe's. You want, no DESERVE, your results NOW.
One of the most common gym myths is that you 'bulk up' in your off seasons, and you eat 'clean' for your pre-contest. By definition, bulking up means gaining heaps of bodyweight in your pursuit to build some rock hard muscle. Most trainers have no problems with this whole concept because they feel all the extra food is doing them good. They feel as though they can eat all that so called 'normal' food that 'normal' people eat so they pop down to McDonalds a couple of times a time for their cheeseburger fix. Yeah by following this approach they are gonna put on a hell of a lot of Mass, or Body Weight - notice I never said strictly muscle. They're gonna be huge alright - hugely FAT. But that's ok because Pre-contest is when they will drop all the fat to reveal the rock hard body they have built.
Got one problem with this though. If little Johnny puts on 30 kgs of bodyweight and 5 kg is lean mass, it means he has gained 25 kgs of bodyfat. What's the problem? You say. Well, that 25 extra kgs he has to lose come comp time. OK, you cannot put on muscle exclusively, but 25 kgs of fat is a bit extreme. And don't get me started, cause I know many more 'so called' athletes who think nothing of gaining an extra 30kgs of mass come off season. My question is 'why put it on in the first place'?
Off Season vs Pre-Contest Diets - Did you realise that to truly make impressive gains there should be no difference, well not in the food you eat anyway. The difference should come in the quantity of food, not quality. In the Off-season, you eat the same quality food that you would eat in the Pre-Contest, just greater amounts.
Let me ask you this. If eating good quality, structurally sound food gets you lean and hard for competition, then why would you eat differently in the off season? Why would you eat all the crap that most people put into their bodies? You must understand that your body runs 24 hours a day. Your body doesn't run in 'seasons', it doesn't go 'ok, off season now, so lets relax'. It works just as hard, and needs exactly the same quality nutritional support as it does when competition approaches.
Now you notice how I keep saying 'quality' in regards to your nutritional approach. Yes, off season is the time to relax, relative speaking. But for most, it's the time to pack on some serious muscle. Now where does muscle come from? Training is only the stimulus to create growth. Muscle comes from our diets. Muscle is Protein, and Protein is Muscle. You need to follow a diet high in QUALITY muscle building protein to really get the ball rolling. Now the last time I looked a Big Mac was not a quality protein. I love Big Mac's just as much as anyone and I do enjoy them when I have them, but they ARE NOT a staple in my diet. I might have a Big Mac once every 3-4 months as I would rather be eating high quality protein sources such as lean meats and whey proteins to enhance my physique goals.
Your off season is a time where you can afford to have those 'little luxuries' in life. There ain't nothing like a Tim Tam with your coffee, as long as it isn't 3 or 4 packets. If you follow a structured nutritional plan during your off season as well, and follow this plan for 95% of your meals, you can actually afford to have those little indulgences. Its only when too many indulgences add up that they become a problem.
So how do I structure my nutritional plan? You must always remember this. Building muscle is a 24 hour, 365 day event. If you compete in bodybuilding competitions, it is the accumulation of 12 months of sound, structured nutritional intake that makes changes to your physique from year to year. Do not reduce your muscle building efficiency by listening to the 'old school' crowd. They might think you are a little crazy for turning down the cheesecake for a more suitable option, but in 12 months time, they will be doing exactly the same thing. That same can be said for what ever particular sport/activity you do, either for competition or for your own personal enjoyment. Isn't it more enjoyable to actually get results from your training. No, I should say isn't it good to get MAXIMAL results from your training. Do not limit your results because of an ineffective approach. There is no reason to give 110% whilst in the gym to only give 50% when out.
So how do you structure your diet if there is no off-season or pre-contest? You need to structure it in a way where you maximise your results from training with your nutritional intake. Whatever your sport, your requirements will vary from person to person so you need to decide what YOU need.
The ratios of macronutrients will be an individual thing, so when you are figuring out what you need just follow these simple guidelines:
Am I recovering quick enough?
Am I recovering fully between sessions?
Do I have enough energy to get through my workouts at an intensity level needed to produce results?
Do I have enough energy for the rest of the day's activities?
Do I enjoy my nutritional plan (If you do not enjoy it, it will be harder to stick too)?
Am I getting the RESULTS I am training for?
So as you can see, there is really no off-season and no pre-contest. If you are truly dedicated to your goals, every training session will be a focused, pre-determined effort. The same needs to be said about your nutritional approach. When you think that your results totally rely on the amount of energy you have for training, and the quality of nutrients needed for growth and recovery, a less and adequate approach is not an option. Just because you might be 6 months away from competition does not means you can slack off and eat hamburgers every day. Isn't this the time when training and nutrition are more important then ever.
This is the time when competitions are won or lots, and dreams are really achieved.