How to Come Off a Pre-Contest Bodybuilding Diet

By Matt Porter Flex

The nutrition article every competitive bodybuilder should read

I can’t count how many times I have heard bodybuilding/physique competitors publicize on social media what they will be devouring after their contest is finished. I have seen people buy and stockpile hundreds of dollars’ worth of empty calorie junk food, none of it conducive to bodybuilding. If this happens to describe you (assuming you’re in the midst of a contest diet) or something you have done in the past—please read this article carefully and save yourself some damage control. I want to thoroughly discuss the pitfalls, and even dangers of this mentality that says. “I am going to demolish some junk food for one to two weeks after my show, then I will clean it up.” Adhering to this two-week “see food” diet will potentially lead to the following unfortunate outcomes:

  • EXTREME FULL-BODY EDEMA, initiating hypertension, and depending on severity, hospitalization.
  • EXTREME LETHARGY, causing a lack of motivational energy.
  • DEPRESSION due to going from a contest-ready physique to the Pillsbury Doughboy imitator in seven days or less.
  • ELECTROLYTE IMBALANCES, causing irregular muscle cramping and muscle tightness, making it difficult to weight train or even walk for long periods of time.

So let me embed some very crucial and helpful information in your brain on how to really come out of a contest-prep diet and not suffer these negative side effects and outcomes.

First off, I want people to adopt the mindset that a champion needs to be concerned with bringing his or her very best package to the stage and focus solely on first place, not what junk foods they are craving most toward the final four weeks out from their competition. I believe seasoned competitors realize this, but I still see experienced vets talking about food fantasies quite often. This is completely understandable for a newbie or first-time competitor, but I would expect more from seasoned vets. During the final four weeks is when you design (or have your nutrition coach) design a plan of attack for post-contest with precisely how to transition out of this delicate phase properly. Planning your post-contest nutrition plan, supplement regimen, and off-season training protocol will ease your mind so you are not winging it or playing it by ear (which will never work out optimally).

I’m not saying you cannot or should not have some fun and celebrate and eat amazing foods you’ve been deprived of, but you need to know when to call it quits, and how to control and regulate the rebound effects from enjoying these tasty delicacies.

Another factor often not considered has to do with whether you’re a naturally stubborn endomorph body type or a blazing fast ectomorph body type. If you’re the metabolically slower endomorph, this article is even more imperative for you to take to heart, as I’ve witnessed these individuals (endomorphs) go from stage-ready to looking 20 weeks out in five to seven days! The ectomorph counterpart will have much more leeway with coming off a contest diet and could potentially experience only water retention from going gung ho on a weeklong food frenzy. This means the ectomorph should keep things regulated immediately post-contest to ensure the transition into off-season is optimized.


First, I am going to lay out a detailed example of how a competitor can avoid the negative ramifications of coming out of the contest diet the wrong way:

The competitor is now three days out from his/her contest. Carbohydrates have been reduced to fewer than 50 grams per day from their previous 200-gram allotment. The competitor has now begun to reduce sodium levels to attempt to rid the subcutaneous tissue of water retention. Water consumption prior to this point was at two gallons per day, and it has now been reduced to one gallon, and eventually it will be just sips of fluid one1 day out from the contest. The competitor has also employed water-loss pills in conjunction with the water/ sodium/carbohydrate restriction to further increase diuresis, and hopefully appear shrink-wrapped the morning of the contest.

Every single one of the crucial dietary manipulations that this competitor utilized will spell absolute disaster if he or she chooses to go hog-wild post-contest by eating everything in sight.


After concluding the night portion (award ceremony) of the contest—and hopefully collecting your first-place trophy, you then go of to a fun restaurant with friends and family to eat anything you’ve been craving.

Have a blast, eat until you’re satisfied, and then I’m sure on your way home or back to your hotel you will make a few more pit stops to pick up some treats to shove down your throat before passing out.

The next morning, have a breakfast of your choice. I am sure it will comprise pancakes, waffles, bacon, eggs, etc…

This is where I tell my clients to then eat your normal diet meals until dinnertime that day, and follow with a dinner of your choice with your significant other, friends, or family.

Then, on Monday, it is time to put in some work and fight through the inevitable rebound that will, unfortunately, take place. You will now go back to your pre-contest water ingestion amounts, perhaps two gallons per day. You’ll also go back to your lowest carbohydrate phase of your pre-contest diet. Finally, you will resume cardiovascular training to also fight the rebound and get the body’s water balance to return to homeostasis.

Something to be aware of is that the rebound will creep up on you Monday morning, and as you ingest more water, you’ll now bloat more dramatically, since aldosterone and vasopressin are trying to normalize and regulate fluid balance. You will be a human sponge and soak up all ingested water from Monday until Wednesday, give or take a day or two. By Thursday, assuming you have implemented the pre-contest cardio, low-carbohydrate menu, and normal sodium intake, the body will then start releasing subcutaneous fluid, and you’ll start looking stage ready again.

By the next weekend, you should be balanced out, and ready to slowly dive into your off-season nutrition and training plan. I understand this will be very difficult for most to fathom—going back to cardio and low carbohydrates—but trust me, you’ll thank me for sharing this approach with you!

After the “damage control” week, the following week you’ll slowly increase your carbohydrate allotment, and perhaps slowly taper your cardio duration. I will usually allow my athletes to schedule a cheat meal or two on the weekends, and when I say cheat meal, I mean one meal of their choice—not an entire day of gluttony!

I hope that all competitors gain access to this two-part article series and read it thoroughly, as disregarding the transition out of the contest diet will affect your off-season in a negative manner. Remember, starting a gaining phase from a lean starting point is your best option. You can preferably slap on lean muscle over fat mass given you carefully give your body the right amounts of healthy macronutrients, opposed to complete, utter junk food!


  • How depleted of carbohydrates and dietary fats were you going into your contest?
  • How much water depletion did you undergo?
  • How much sodium manipulation did you endure?
  • How much cardio were you doing?
  • How many thermogenic weightloss products were you taking prior to show time?


  • Breakfast of your choice
  • Eat normal pre-contest diet meals after breakfast
  • Dinner of your choice in evening


  • Depleted glycogen levels increased GLUT-4 transporter proteins in muscle cells and increased glycogen synthase enzymes, which will cause super-saturation of glucose storage.
  • Lowered sodium levels over a few days will now increase aldosterone levels (“sodium hormone”), and the body will go into fight-or-flight mode, and actually preserve water in extracellular tissues, under the skin.
  • Tapered water levels over a few days will now increase vasopressin (or antidiuretic hormone) and also cause the body to scavenge water in extracellular tissues, since no water is being ingested.
  • Diuretic products will deplete electrolyte levels in cells and blood and cause mild to severe mineral imbalances, resulting in a myriad of potentially awful side effects. – FLEX

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