Alright, so if you follow me on Instagram [carafit3 + mahercaraline], then you know I’ve only talked about my reverse a handful of times in the last couple months. This is mainly because my most recent numbers haven’t changed. They haven’t increased again because I haven’t really been sticking to them like I should be [or how I’ve wanted to]. Sorry Adam, I know I’m being an annoying client right now.
I still check in with Adam and let him know what’s going on, how I’m feeling, life updates, and progress photos with my current weight. Like I’ve said in my previous blog about what you should be telling your coach [click to read], just be honest. Your coach can’t accurately help you if you are lying about where you are in your head space, or not checking in at all. Adam and I have become great friends, and close enough to where I can literally tell him I’m being a shitty client, but I’m working on it because I want this improvement season to put me in a good place for prep next year, but I also want to enjoy time with my boyfriend who I only get to see once every few weeks, and my summer as well. Adam always has my back though. Constant support [which I appreciate & need], and letting me know that he’s happy I’m at least still checking in and being honest about what I’m doing, and what I’m trying to do, because it lets him know that this is important to me. If it wasn’t, I just wouldn’t bother checking in at all, or I would just be flying off the rail completely without following the plan whatsoever.
So what I’ve really been doing is this:
I’ve been hitting my numbers about 3-5x a week, and then having my refeed day on one of those, but then also going over or under on days I end up seeing Payton on the weekend, or traveling to see a friend, or when my mom decides to cook a 5 course country cooked meal (can’t say no to cornbread haha). I could easily pack food for my travels, but I honestly don’t want to. I traveled a lot during the last bit of my prep and I packed meal after meal, or would go grocery shopping the second I got where I was going, and I did this for 7 months. I don’t feel like doing it anymore, and I tell myself that I’ll just make good decisions wherever I end up going, or I can still grocery shop there as well. And sometimes I do this, and sometimes I get taco bell. Ya win some, ya lose some.
But Improvement season isn’t just about improving your physique. It’s about improving your metabolism, your general health, your mental toughness, your muscle mass, your endurance, AND your social life!
Your metabolism takes a hit when you stay in a caloric deficit for long periods of time (aka prep or any long term dieting). This means, in order to be in a good spot for next season (or for life), one must increase calories and go into a reverse diet to restore one’s metabolic rate. Depending on the person, you could get your maintenance all the way up to 3000 calories and 350 carbs if you’re lucky (or more!), but this takes a long time. The reason we want a high maintenance, is so we don’t have to cut as low in order to lose body fat. Some competitors with freak metabolisms, and high maintenances can cut on 250 carbs at their lowest. BUT these are the outliers. This is not the norm, but it is doable if you can reverse long enough. This is why some people take a YEARS off to build this up.
Increasing your calories out of a long term deficit will also improve your overall general health. It’s no secret that staying in a deficit is not healthy long term, and y ‘all know that. So moving on, things that may have been affected, such as your gut health, your immune system, your menstrual cycle, your mood, or your sleep schedule start to improve as you increase and replenish your body. Not everyone goes through these health issues, it is ALL very individual. I personally have never lost my cycle or had any underlying illnesses, but hell yea I get moody, irritable, and exhausted!
Which leads me to the mental toughness aspect of it all. Prep in itself is a hell of an emotional roller coaster. It tests you every day you get closer to that stage. But the reverse diet tests you on a deeper level. You’ve got to be okay with watching the shreds you worked so damn hard for, fade away. You worked for months to get to the stage, you did your thing, and now you reverse. And as we do, we put on weight, muscle, and yes, fat. Fat is not the enemy here, your brain is. You need to come to terms with how your regular body, your healthy body, can serve you in ways your shredded one couldn’t. Any competitor will tell you that improvement season is [almost] harder than prep. Staying on track even though you don’t have a show or a time sensitive goal in line is tough. Especially after being so strict for so long, you kind of just want to breathe a little and let loose. But in the end, we know this is what our body needs to be better in the long run, but we also need to reel in our urges to throw caution to the wind, and stick to a general plan of attack. [tip: plan a vacation or a photoshoot a few months after your season is over so it keeps you accountable to take it slow and reverse into a good place without going over board).
One of the main reasons for the improvement season is to put on more muscle mass. Basically, you are replenishing the muscle you may have lost as you lost body fat during prep, and then some. The goal [at least for most] is to put on more muscle than the year before, and then come in fuller and tighter on stage the year following. This way you can try to come in at a slightly higher body fat, but look leaner. Plus, I mean, who doesn’t want more muscle (I’ve been trying to get “bulky” for 7 years ladies, calm down). Along with the muscle mass, will come fat, it’s inevitable so let it happen. You will get softer, BUT you will have the opportunity to get stronger! Weeeee! That’s the fun part when you get to lift HEAVY on a more consistent basis! Take advantage of the added intake, and get after some PRs! I normally always have muscle and strength at the top of my list, and then I max out at the end of my bulk, before prep starts. My previous deadlift PR was 255 this past January, so I would love to get back to that again this winter.
Now, about that social life. Not everyone lets being in prep affect their life outside of it, but to be real, you WILL have to sacrifice a lot if you plan to have a successful season. And towards the end, you’re honestly going to want to skip out on things because of how tired you are, and how on point you need to be. I mainly stuck to my routine this year because 1. I had 3-4 jobs. 2. My boyfriend was 3000 miles away. And 3. I enjoy being by myself lots of times. So I didn’t have a lot going on to begin with until I got closer to my shows. In the beginning of my prep I traveled to work the Arnold in Columbus, to my God Daughter’s baptism, and I went to my best friend’s baby shower in northern California as well, and then I didn’t really travel until I left for my shows in June. And when I was finally able to go see Payton, it was during my final peak week for NPC Universe, which was a VERY important show for me. I still traveled to go see him for a couple days at 4 days out, and then came back and went to New Jersey a day later. You can still do things, just plan ahead. I packed every single meal for my trips, and made sure I knew what the plan was so I could still be active in some way, if I couldn’t get to a gym. But your social life in improvement season can drastically improve with the increase of calories. Like, oh shit, 100 extra carbs, hello hibachi double rice! Or hello one too many vodkee cranberries! The world is your oyster (pun intended)! But like I said, more room for food dates and red wine, more room for making more fun trips less stressful with planning, and most importantly, more room for gaaaaains!
But aaaanyways, I’m rambling. To circle back around, my reverse is going “ok” not great. I am working on being better with hitting my numbers more consistently, without going under or over too much. I’m also wanting to amp up my workout intensity as well, and really push myself again. Which makes me really excited for my Fall Challenge to start up so that I can have an actual program to follow for a solid 8 weeks as soon as I’m back in California. I’m fluctuating around 145-150 [I’m 5’11”], and I feel good, but some days are harder than others seeing my body change in literal reverse. I want to stay in this weight range, and believe I can do that if I continue to ACTUALLY hit my numbers haha.
My plans moving forward are to do just that; be more consistent in my reverse diet macros, and increase my workout intensity. Payton and I are actually planning our first real vacation together for the beginning of November, so I’m using that as my motivation to stick to my goals. Adam and I have already talked about it, and we will be doing a mini cut during the month of October to stay in a good place, and cut a little bit into Halloween and Hawaii in November. Once I’m home from vacation, we will reverse back out again, and continue to increase until I start prep next year sometime.
Here are my weekly check ins from 1 week post show to 8 weeks post show.
My Fall Challenge enrollment is open and closes on LABOR DAY this coming Monday! The start date is September 10th the following week, and I’ll be dong the workouts with y ‘all! So from September 10th – November 5th (8 weeks), your workouts, custom nutrition, cardio and supplement recommendations, and accountability will all be taken care of! Whether your goal is to lose body fat, gain muscle, get stronger, gain confidence, or maybe you just want a steady workout routine again, all of that is doable with this challenge! For more info, and to see the grand prizes you can win, CLICK HERE!