Creating the Perfect Off-Season
Off-season is a time for adding quality mass—muscle with minimal fat. Here's how IFBB Pro Toni Perdikakis makes the most of her time away from the stage
Recently, I have received a lot of inquiries on what the best choices for off-season fuel are. As you know, I believe how you fuel your body during off-season can be more important than contest prep. Why? Because this is where the real work takes place. You are trying to bring up weak bodyparts, improve on your overall physique as well as set yourself up for a good contest prep. It’s a time when your goal is to pack on muscle, so that when you strip down all the fat, you end up with fiercely improved physique!
The fact of the matter is, you are what you eat, and that is why it is important you make the appropriate choices. So, you need to stick with the muscle-building staples: egg whites, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, chicken, fish, lean ground beef, bison, oats, brown rice, yams, cream of rice, fibrous veggies, fruit and, one of my favorites, healthy fats.
I’m huge fan of healthy fats, as I find my body responds well to them. I’m also a fan of having and sticking to a meal plan. I post mine up on my refrigerator to ensure I follow it every day. It helps me stay within my guidelines, like making sure I have carbs in the first three meals of the day, or some days only in the first two meals of the day and then post workout; and that I have either protein and fats or protein and carbs every meal, with the exception of my first meal where I try to include both carbs and fats with my protein. My daily calorie intake remains fairly constant, hovering around 1500-1800 calories per day. When I reward myself with a cheat meal, I actually plan and schedule them. And rather than have an entire day of cheating, instead I will swap out my chicken or white fish for 5-6 oz. salmon one night, then 5-6 oz. lean ground beef another night, and allow myself one frozen yogurt a week (Froyo is like my kryptonite—I absolutely love, love, love it!). When I know I have a night out planned, I try to save my reward meal for then. (Now that I am “back on the market” and don’t have any upcoming competitions, I can't turn down the dates with the usual excuse of I'm dieting!) My general rule of thumb is: either a glass or two of wine or a dessert. That’s it.
Off-season is definitely a time to experiment with your foods. Don't doubt yourself, you know what you are supposed to eat. And if you are questioning it, then you’re most likely not supposed to be eating it. I always recommend keeping the ingredients simple. Once you start to get into low fat this, or low carb/sugar that, you have entered chemical land. You are putting undue stress on your body, which is trying to digest those preservatives and chemicals.
Enjoy your down time, but be smart. Use the extra calories and yum-yum foods to fuel some intense workouts. Step outside of the box… just a little. See what works for you and what doesn't.