You would think that for most bodybuilders, fitness competitors and models that after being on a cutting diet for weeks on end that the idea of eating more food and not worrying about trying to stay super lean would be an exciting prospect… but it’s not that simple.
For us part of the process of preparing to compete next year means adding some extra muscle mass onto our frames. As with anything there is more than one way of doing this. You can do a clean bulk or a dirty bulk. In simple terms a clean bulk involves adding more calories and carbs whilst avoiding the high sugar unhealthy foods that will cause you to also add a lot of fat onto your body. A dirty bulk is basically eating lots of food including high saturated fat and high sugar foods. Whilst both methods (alongside the right training) will allow you to add muscle mass the dirty bulk can be hard going psychologically as you gain a lot of fat and lose everything you have worked hard for during your cutting phase. However, it does allow you to enjoy some of the food you may have craved during your cut. Fat will be gained during a bulking phase even during a clean bulk but excessive amounts of body fat make your future cut harder and the health implications have to also be considered. We decided to try a clean bulk to add muscle whilst staying reasonably lean and also to keep our bodies healthy. Despite this decision, being off a strict cutting plan and going on holiday meant that naughty foods crept in and we made excuses for ourselves like “well we are bulking.” This has meant that we both added more fat than we would have liked and whilst we are certainly not overweight or fat we were not very happy with our current condition, and it left us feeling very down at times.
Staying competition lean simply isn’t feasible, or healthy, and it’s hard to watch your body regain the fat that you worked so hard to lose during a strict cutting phase, but it’s part of the process and you have to accept it. We both know that we have also gained extra muscle and that hopefully when we compete in 2016 we will be bringing a better physique to the stage than we had this year but nevertheless the process has been a little demotivating in some ways.
I don’t think either of us thought bulking would be so hard psychologically but its been very very tough and we still have a way to go. Luckily we have the support of each other and the help and guidance of our trainer, but we have had “freakout days” and at times we have doubted whether we will ever get lean again!!
The cravings for high sugar foods will always be there and staying away from temptation is not easy for anyone, especially when you have deprived yourself for so long. Whilst the odd indulgence is good for you now and then when you are not cutting you also have to know where to stop, which has proved difficult for us at times. Mrs C in particular struggles with sugar cravings and it is not unheard of for her to have a binge session where she can get through a whole tub of ice cream, half a cake and a load of chocolate in one sitting!!! This is clearly very unhealthy both physically and mentally, and in true SharedGains style we do everything together, so once she starts Mr C often follows!!
Whether you are looking to compete or just lose a few pounds, adapting your lifestyle and eating habits is really tough – we all struggle with cravings and we all have our own demons to fight. There are times when we look in the mirror and don’t like what we see, we don’t want to train and we say we just want to be lazy and get fat again… We both get into a rut from time to time and rely heavily on each other to bring the other person out of it. But similarly we can be bad for each other too, and when one person is ‘cheating’ they can bring the other down with them. We may have achieved a lot but we are still human and we still make mistakes and are constantly learning about our bodies and our minds!! The last few months certainly tested us as we moved house, went on holiday twice and generally relaxed our diets way more than we probably should have, but we both realise that whilst the naughty food gives us pleasure in the short term, and is necessary from time to time, you have to know when to stop.
When you feel the desire to sit and devour the entire contents of your bread bin and fridge believe us you are not alone… We are not super human, we struggle too. But you can overcome the temptation – with enough self belief you can control it, and once you see the results of doing so it becomes easier. We are aware that we have inspired a lot of people to change their own lives and that is fantastic and really keeps us going. Being ambassadors for fitness wear companies and having future fitness goals on the horizon also makes us maintain our focus so that we can be both be positive role models, and have the right image for the companies we represent. But mainly we have to do it for ourselves as we are much happier when we feel confident in our own skin just like anyone else! The “off season” finishes at the end of December for us, and we’re back to cutting ready for Pure Elite and a few other things.
Our first attempt at bulking/off season time has taught us a few things:
1) Temptation never goes away, so get used to handling it and controlling it.
2) We will probably always fall off the wagon from time to time – we have to learn when to stop making excuses and move on.
3) Adding bulk is going to be necessary at times, and it isn’t a green light to eat junk..
4) An off-season period of time, while not being on a strict meal plan, must not become a junk-food binge.