The Off-Season – This can be referred to as the time after your last holiday, bodybuilding show, or the end of summer.It’s a time where the priority shifts from becoming as lean as possible, to putting on as much muscle size as possible.
It’s a time where the priority shifts from becoming as lean as possible, to putting on as much muscle size as possible.
However when approaching this phase, constant mistakes are made and people are simply not getting the most out of the hard work seen on the gym floor.
So, if this sounds like you – Read on to find out how to make your Off-Season more productive.
I’ve picked out 7 of the most common nutrition and training mistakes seen and experienced on the gym floor. In no particular order, here are the areas you’ll need to consider and focus on this Off-Season.
1) Setting realistic goals
Define the goal, and work on a needs analysis in order to get you there. In this case, ‘I want to build muscle, how much can I build?’ 1kg, 2kg, 5kg. 10kg of muscle?
This answer is very individual based as people can build muscle at different rates. Some build muscle very well, where others don’t. Studies looking into the rates of muscle growth and training adaptation from resistance type exercise have shown that everyone adapts from the training session in some way, but not all people grow muscle from it 1, 2, 3.
Bhasin et al (1996)4 carried out a landmark study looking at rates of muscle gain (fat free mass) where they recruited 40 participants to complete three supervised weight training sessions (4 sets of 6 repetitions) per week for a total of 10 weeks. From a nutrition perspective, calories (36kcal per kilogram of bodyweight and protein (1.5 grams per kilogram of bodyweight) were matched in the different groups; however one group were treated with supraphysiological doses of testosterone where the other group had a placebo (no physiological effect). After the 10 weeks of resistance training, fat free mass in the placebo group had an increase of 1.9kg – where the group treated with high dosages of testosterone gained 6.1kg with no significant change in fat mass between groups.
So, the next time you want to gain 10kg of muscle mass in an off-season, it’ll more likely be 2kg – the rest will be fat mass.
2) Starting on the wrong foot
‘You shouldn’t try to bulk if you’re over 12% body fat’
This is a statement I’ve heard often, but if there any truth to it? The reasoning behind this statement is from an energy/nutrient partitioning perspective. The theory suggests that the more body fat you have, the less receptive your muscles are to nutrients thus resulting in increased fat gain as opposed to muscle gain.
I’m half in agreement with this statement – to my knowledge, the absolute figure of 12% body fat has been pulled from thin air and has no evidence to suggest that if you bulk beyond 12% body fat the rate of muscle gain will decrease compared to an individual who is 8%, or 10% body fat.
However, overfeeding studies have some indication that improved energy/nutrient partitioning may result in less fat mass accrued. An interesting study by Bouchard et 5, 6 overfed 24 sedentary participants (no exercise) by 84,000 calories over a 100 day period – This equates to approximately 840 calories extra per day. At the end of the 100 day (14 week) trial, participants had gained an average of 8.1kg, of which 5.4kg was fat mass, and 2.7kg was fat free mass. Therefore the ratio of fat gain to muscle gain was 2:1. There was evidence to suggest that participants with higher body fat typically gained more body fat than the individuals with lower body fat. Therefore provides some evidence to this statement.
Furthermore, if you were to become too lean – i.e. post contest preparation for a bodybuilding show, then the rate of fat gain may become excessively high due to an abnormal metabolic and hormonal profile, i.e the consequences of long term dieting. Read HERE if you want to know more about how to decrease body fat regain after dieting.
Therefore, it appears that there may be a middle ground when it comes to a starting body fat percentage for a bulking phase – Too much fat mass may result in increased fat gain through decreased energy/nutrient partitioning, and too little body fat may result in rapid body fat regain.
Interestingly, the 14 weeks of overfeeding with no exercise resulted in 2.7kg of muscle gain, where the placebo group in the previous 10 week study (Bhasin et al, 1996)3 only gained 1.9kg with an exercise programme – Albeit there was differences in fat gained (significant difference) between the two studies. Therefore, combining a modest overfeeding phase with resistance exercise may result in superior results.
Next time! I’ll be going through mistakes 3, 4 and 5 which looks into the nutrition aspect to a successful off-season.