Evan Centopani Cooking in "Off-Season"
Evan Centopani cooking in "Off-Season"
Off-season habits and methodology can vary significantly between competitors and non-competitors, amateurs and pros, and even from one pro to the next. Some guys feel that the best thing for them is to not step foot in a gym for at least a month or two before returning to training and take a similar approach when it comes to their diet. Just the same, there are guys who get right back to it almost as soon as the post show cheat meal goes down. I don't suppose there is any right or wrong approach; there's only you, how you feel, and what you believe you should do based on those feelings and your goals.
For me, I always had a tough time taking it easy after competing. I suppose there are a number of reasons for that. The first and most obvious reason was that I never felt that I needed to stay out of the gym. Of course, after any show you are going to feel a bit worn down and beat up, but that's nothing a few days out of the gym, some rest, and lots of good food won't remedy! Similarly, I never felt that neglecting my diet would be of any benefit to me. That isn't to say I stay on a pre-contest diet. I certainly don't. For someone who is accustomed to eating 5-6 meals a day, I simply can't eat that much crap. I'd feel sick to my stomach. I enjoy a burger and fries as much as the next guy (maybe more), but I can't eat it five times a day! So a base of decent food has to be there for me.
Another reason I don't take a leave of absence from the gym, or throw my diet out the window after a show, is because it's too damn hard to do! Think about it. After spending the past 4-5 months gearing up for a show, I begin to get into a routine, and I become not only mentally, but physically accustomed to it. Where you find yourself at a couple weeks out from a show (the diet, the cardio, the training etc, etc…) is very different from where you start out at 16 weeks out. It's a progression, and things build as you work your way up to that. So, just as at 16 weeks out you wouldn't dive straight into doing what you will eventually do at 2 weeks out, it's not easy to just let everything go just as soon as the show is over, mentally or physically. Accelerating too quickly can be just as shocking as slamming on the brakes.
Finally, I typically approach my training and nutrition with diligence even after the show because I don't have time to screw around! I've got things I want to accomplish, and sitting on my ass and eating cupcakes isn't going to get me there.
So for me, even though the Arnold is over, and I can ease up a bit, I never stay out of the gym. Also, I always make sure my nutrition is on point. Food prep is of tremendous importance to me, and I always have food prepared and available. I'll typically prep 40 pounds of chicken and 40 pounds of fish at a time. I'll refrigerate what I plan to eat within five days and the rest gets weighed, vacuum sealed, and frozen. Doing it this way saves me time. Instead of prepping food every four or five days, I only prep once every couple weeks. (And that chest freezer is easily some of the best money I have ever spent!)