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June 22, 2022

Reverse Diet Properly from Bikini Competitions

Your Bikini Show is Over … Now What?

If you’re reading this, congratulations! You’ve just completed a grueling bikini prep and are on the road to your off-season or maybe it was even your last show. Regardless of where you are in your journey, the weeks following your show are crucial for your both mental and physical health. But without a plan in place, you could face a variety of issues down the road like rapid weight gain, binge eating, body dysmorphia, hormonal dysfunction and so much more. This is why it’s so important to have a strategy post-show!

bowl of veggies fruit eggs talking about reverse dieting after bikini competition

The First 4-6 Weeks Post-show

For many, the focus on nutrition and training quickly fades and goes to the backburner the minute they step off the stage causing unwanted weight gain, anxiety, insatiable hunger and many other long-term issues. The best thing you can do for yourself now and for your future is to enter peak week with a post-show strategy.

You should plan to continue a fairly regimented diet and cardio routine for at least 4 weeks after your show, if not more, considering the amount of weight lost. If you worked with a coach during your prep, begin talking to them about your post-show plan weeks in advance so you know what to expect. Depending on your contract with them, you might be on your own once your bikini show is over and that’s really important to establish before show day. 

If you will be on your own, you can create a post-show strategy from the helpful tips below or reach out to another coach prior to show day who has extensive experience in helping women reverse diet properly. (Hi, that’s me!) 

Steph Dorworth bikini competition coach reverse dieting

How to Increase Your Calories

You’ve been in a calorie deficit for many weeks! Now is the time to fuel and nourish your body with wholesome foods and slowly start bringing your calories back up to a healthy place. 

Why reverse diet? When calories are increased in a controlled manner over time to increase metabolic rate it will also minimize body fat gain. 

If you’ve been on a meal plan for months and will be left without a coach come Monday after your show, I’d recommend sticking to similar foods but incorporating one or two new items to your plan each week to slowly introduce more variety into your diet. Things like apples, bananas, whole-grain toast, nuts, etc. are a few simple additions you can add to bring up calories. Adding variety back into your menu not only helps increase your calories but helps stimulate a healthy gut as well!

Two options:

  • If you’ve been counting just calories, I’d recommend initially increasing your calories by about +85 focusing on fat and carbs. 
  • If you've been counting macros, I'd recommend initially increasing your carbs by 10g and fats by 5g. This equates to +85 Calories.

From there, you can add more as the weeks go on while listing to your body and learning your natural hunger cues. Add calories each week unless average weight gain increases by more than 0.2-0.5%, then keep them the same.  

FAQs about Reverse Dieting

How long should you reverse diet? It differs for everyone. Ultimately your goal should be to get calories as high as you can - the more the better. You're done if you hit a point of gaining >5-10lb, are sick of eating, it’s hard to get in enough carbs/fats on 80% healthy foods and you feel you need >20% treats to hit them, when you’re happy with your calorie intake and physique, or until you’ve hit your calculated metabolic rate or a little more (to account for exercise/activity).

What's the difference between reverse dieting and recovery eating? Reverse dieting when carbs and fats are slowly added back in until you hit maintenance calories. The increase in intake leads to increased EE and limit fat regain. Whereas recovery dieting is a deliberate jump to a small caloric surplus and quicker rise in intake, so more fat regain may occur early on in the process compared to reverse dieting. For example, immediately adding in 250+ Calories and then building up quickly from there. Both strategies are fine and depends on how long someone wants to remain lean or how eager they are to get back to eating more. 

bowl of veggies eggs tomatoes talking about reverse dieting after bikini competition with Steph Dorworth

Change Your Workout Routine

Your body has been through a lot this prep. For most, prep brings high cortisol levels, a down-regulated thyroid, menstrual cycle loss, lethargy and a slower metabolism. We want to reverse these downregulations by giving your body plenty of rest and time to recover. 

Depending on how much cardio you’ve been doing and the number of days you’ve been in the gym, I like to implement the 75% rule. Bring your cardio and training down initially by 75% following your show to give your body a well-deserved break. 

For example, this can look like 45 minutes of cardio instead of 60 and training 4 days a week instead of 5. While working out is a stress relief to many, it still induces cortisol and we want to minimize that while focusing on recovering our mental and physical health. 

You can continue to reduce your cardio until you reach a place that feels more sustainable and it adds to your overall wellbeing. After all, movement is great for us! It’s just the amount that we want to be mindful of and not overdo it. Remember, recovery is our goal post-show, not fat loss!

bowl of healthy food apples blueberries talking about reverse dieting after bikini competition contest prep
Mental Wealth for Your Physical Health

You just spent the last 12–16 weeks highly focused on every change your body was going through like watching the scale come down, looking for new abs every morning, and feeling very lean and shredded at the gym. Reverse dieting can be another exciting time for new changes but many struggle to see the scale go up and watch the shreds fade.  

This is where a strong awareness of your mental health is key. The body that you stepped on stage with is not a sustainable version of you. That body was built on a very specific regime and peaked to perfection for a whole week prior just to obtain that look. If you can enter prep knowing this, reverse dieting will be a lot easier. But some of us are not as prepared for the emotions and struggles post-show body changes can bring.

Understanding our body image and what triggers us can make a world of difference in how you handle your physical changes as you begin to reverse diet. Post-show is a time to honor your body and thank it for everything it did during those exhausting weeks leading up to your bikini show. 

Here are some tips to thrive mentally post-show:

  • Understand that the scale will go up

  • Seeing lines fade is normal and necessary for a healthy, functioning body

  • Journal every morning with body-positive affirmations 

  • Know that there will be good and bad days. Welcome them both. 

  • Focus on the experiences you get to have now that you have more time and energy. 

This one deserved its own line … don’t go through it alone! Having someone by your side to voice your struggles to and get advice from is essential. And having someone who’s been in your shoes and truly understands what you’re going through is even better! 

If you feel like you could use an expert eye and someone to support you physically, mentally and emotionally during your post-show journey, let’s chat!

beautiful to the core Steph Dorworth contest prep coach
reverse diet properly from bikini competitions
reverse diet properly from bikini competitions
reverse diet properly from bikini competitions
reverse diet properly from bikini competitions

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