Contest prep, if done right, often doesn’t start with extreme hunger out of the gate. Initially, the friction is related to just getting back into the swing of having structure. This could mean having planned meals, eating out less, swapping your food choices to be more filling but less calorie dense such as eating more vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy etc., versus eating more calorie dense foods such as meals out, starches, oils, fattier cuts of meats, and full fat dairy.
However, when you are prepping and getting into, say your 6-8th week of dieting, hunger can start rearing its head. What follows are some of my “hunger hacks” which have helped me, and also many of my clients feel more satiated in the course of diet, ultimately leading to more successful contest seasons. Some of these “hacks” are related to your mindset or perspective and how you frame your experience, some are related to how you live your life on a day-to-day basis outside of the kitchen, and finally, some are related to the actual nutrition choices you make:
- Know your why: Remind yourself why you chose to prep, keep the goal the goal.
- Acceptance: Hunger is inevitable, you’re going to feel it, and that’s normal and ok. So, spend more energy embracing/accepting it versus fighting it.
- Productive distractions: Stay busy, an occupied mind prevents you from thinking about food and taking unwanted trips to the fridge that lead to a potential binge. Go for a walk, ride your bike, do some chores, study for school or if you’re not in school listen to a podcast or read a blog, go play miniature golf with your loved ones. Some of these activities will not only make you a better human, but also burn some additional calories.
- Eat like an adult: Wasting precious calories on your taste buds can rob you of priceless energy and satiety. Sure, you can fit anything into your macros but ask yourself, what will satiate you more, Skittles or oatmeal? Eat more complex/fibrous carbs, lean proteins, and nutrient dense foods. Are you hoarding your calories for that one grandiose meal at night while watching the food channel? Do you then wonder why you are so food focused and dragging ass earlier in the day during training and at work? Try spreading those calories out where you’ll need them the most. Remember your training/performance is the main priority for retaining muscle mass and your work/job is what buys you the Skittles…I mean oats.
- Let go of guilt and move on: If all else fails and you end up eating more than you were supposed to, don’t let guilt talk you into eating more because you’re having a pity party. Also, don’t let guilt talk you into eating less the next day or doubling down on cardio, otherwise you just might create another vicious cycle. Learn from it, make revisions to protocols (to prevent the same mistakes and to improve adherence/sustainability) and then have amnesia; forget it happened and carry on. More than likely the water weight (bloat) you picked up will dissipate after a couple days and the positive…your training will likely have improved due to the extra food.
- Seriously, know your why: Again, keep the goal the goal. I said that already, but it’s worth reinforcing.
- Real world perspective: Keep in mind, you’re not actually starving…there are real people in the world who are truly hungry. This is your choice, reminding yourself of that can make prep seem easier, and hunger less urgent.
Thanks for reading and best of luck in your contest season!