By Laura Petrolino
After seven months of lifting lots of heavy things and eating all the food (ALL THE FOOD), I officially start prep this week for my next figure competition.
The “prep” phase of the bodybuilding cycle often gets the most focus (probably because that’s when you look shreddy and want to take videos of yourself every hour just to watch your muscles move…#humananatomyFTW). But really “improvement season” (what I’ve been in the last seven months) is the MOST important part of the sport of bodybuilding.
“Show lean” is not “life lean,” and just as a runner or triathlete’s training and nutrition looks different in the phase prior to race day than it does during a building stage, so does the plan for a bodybuilder. During improvement season you have to change to build and improve your physique—which is the ultimate goal.
After a show you start a reverse diet, a time where you slowly increase your macros (normally while decreasing or eliminating cardio), so you can start productively gaining and building again. “Productively” being the key phrase here.
Because my metabolism is at tapeworm level, after my October show we dropped cardio immediately (we actually dropped it around three weeks prior to my show), and upped my macros substantially right out of the gate. Over the proceeding months my macros continued to increase, while we watched my weight gain and (most importantly for me) hunger level.
I tend to need to eat much more than I would if left to my own devices and hunger triggers, so we have to be careful not to increase me too quickly (while my metabolism can handle it) or my hunger will shut down. Bad news when you are trying to gain.
My ending improvement season macros ended up putting me a bit about 3000 calories (which is a lot of food for a small built, 5’2″ chick). At this level eating feels like a part time job, and every improvement season I feel like I should invest in a potato farm, since I eat A LOT of potatoes.
Over the course of the last seven months I’ve gained about 15 lbs from stage weight and my strength has increased tremendously. The most exciting part for me is looking at photos of myself at the end of last improvement season, vs. this one. Not only am I five pounds heavier, but significantly leaner.
Last check-in shots prior to the start of prep 2016!!! Wheeeeee! It’s been a freaking awesome improvement season. So much fun lifting all the heavy things and then thinking I’ve lifted the most I could and just going out there and lifting more heavy things (including the massive amount of rice and potatoes I’ve consumed). And pumped to bring my 397.5 percent to this phase. Also….I seem to have an odd tendency to lift my right big toe in my front pose….every time. #ToePopPetrolino or as @biggreenpen would say #petropop 😁 Anyway….my toe pop and I are ready to rock it! 💥💥💥
(I’ll be posting comparison photos of the two later today.)
This tells us a good amount of lean mass (vs. fat) was gained during this off-season—which is the ultimate goal.
Follow me on Instagram and Snapchat (lkpetrolino) over the next four months as I prep for my next show August 20th. Prep is always a fun and exciting ride, and especially if you are thinking about doing a physique competition sometime in the future, it helps to watch a few people honestly discuss prep so you have some idea of what it requires (although it is different for everyone to a certain extent).
Here we go….