By Ron Harris
Who doesn’t love the off-season? We get to eat more and lift heavier with the goal of packing on new muscle mass. And because it’s cold outside, we don’t have to worry about staying terribly lean. But all good things must come to an end. How do you know when it’s time to switch out of that ‘bulking’ mode and start trying to trim down again? Here are a few indications.
A CONTEST IS LOOMING
This is a no-brainer, right? The average length of time for a contest prep in bodybuilding or any of the other divisions is 16 weeks. That’s assuming you didn’t allow your bodyfat to get too out of hand. If you can’t see even the hint of your abs, you probably need to start eating clean and doing more cardio at 20 weeks away from the contest date. Never try to crash diet for a contest, as you will wind up losing previous lean muscle tissue along with the fat.
YOUR SLEEP IS SUFFERING
Do you snore? Ask whoever shares your bed, they will certainly let you know! Light snoring is one thing, but sleep apnea is quite another. This sleep disorder is characterized by the actual stoppage of breathing, which can occur up to 200 times in a single night. Not only can this leave you exhausted the next day, it can potentially be fatal. The number one risk factor for sleep apnea is obesity. Sorry to break it to you, but in our quest for gains, many of us do allow so much bodyfat to accumulate that we do technically become obese. I have personally struggled with sleep apnea and never wanted to have to wear a CPAP mask to sleep, so I found I needed to keep my bodyweight under 230 pounds. If you suspect your sleep is suffering due to your off-season weight, it’s time to drop some pounds. If you’re not getting quality sleep, you’re not recovering and growing new muscle mass anyway.
YOUR HEALTH IS BEING AFFECTED
We should all strive to not only look good on the outside, but to also be healthy on the inside. Get your bloodwork done and be sure markers like your HDL and LDL cholesterol are in range and monitor your blood pressure. Get a full workup done on your heart, including an ECG (Electrocardiogram), calcium score, and an exercise stress test. Being overweight is a major risk factor for heart disease, which as you should know is the number one cause of death. If you find your heart function or anything else is being negatively affected, end your off-season and lose some weight.
YOUR GAINS HAVE STOPPED
Finally, this is probably the only reason compelling enough for many of you to end your off-season, especially if you have no aspirations of competing or even getting super lean for any other reason. Just as your body eventually gets used to lowered calories and a large volume of cardio and stops responding, there will also come a point where all your heavy lifting and eating like a bear prepping for hibernation will yield no further results in terms of muscle growth. What you need to do then is to switch gears to eating less and doing more cardio, in order to reset your system and prime it to grow again once you introduce the higher calories again at some juncture 6-12 weeks later.
Facebook: Ron Harris Writer