As Bikini and Fitness athletes gear up for the start of the 2019 season or enter the final prep for the prestigious Arnold Classic Africa, many will start that dreaded low-calorie competition diet.
Low carb intakes and the resultant dip in energy levels can make the most simple daily activities seem strenuous, yet you still need to find the energy to get through your normal work day and train. This takes tremendous dedication and is what makes the competitive physique stage one of the most physically and mentally demanding sports on the planet.
To help you through the next prep diet, we offer a few hacks that you can use to help boost your energy levels to get you through a training session or provide a boost on those difficult day.
The obvious choice when looking for a quick energy boost is a stimulant like caffeine, green tea extract, bitter orange, guarana, yerba mate or ginseng. These psychoactive drugs have the ability to improve both your mental and physical function.
Stimulants are quick-acting for an immediate kick and enhance alertness and wakefulness, improve your mood, boost energy levels and endurance, and they also improve movement. They can also dampen your feelings of hunger, and will boost your metabolism.
You can take them in pure form or use products that contain them, like a few strong cups of coffee or a thermogenic fat burner or energy drink. However, beware of the calorie content of energy drinks as they can add significantly to your daily total.
It may seem like a simple idea, but few ever give it much thought. The more energy you conserve throughout the day by sitting whenever you can and keeping your heart rate low, the more energy you’ll have left for your workout.
You can also do other things to conserve energy like taking the elevator or escalator instead of walking up the stairs like you normally do, or walking as little as possible during the day. So put your feet up whenever you can and limit unnecessary movement as much as possible.
If you’re feeling tired and low on energy while dieting down, more sleep can help to boost your energy levels. Ensure you get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night when you start dieting and take power naps during the day whenever you can or right before you daily workout. Just 20-30 minutes of sleep can leave you feeling energised and ready to move some heavy weights.
Eat more nutrient-dense foods
Certain foods pack a bigger punch than others, calorie for calorie. Nutrient density is a measure of the ratio of nutrient content (in grams) to the total energy content (in kilocalories or joules). Nutrient dense foods will have a high level of nutrients, which include vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and essential fatty acids, in relation to the number of calories the food contains. This means you can eat less food and still get all the nutrition your body needs, which helps to boost energy levels and keeps you healthy while on low calorie diets.
Raw natural foods in their unaltered state generally have the highest nutrient density. Many raw foodists are able to live active lifestyles on just 1,000 calories a day. While this is a bit extreme for physique athletes, the same concept applies in this instance.
If two athletes diet down on a 1,600 calorie-a-day diet, the one who chooses nutrient-dense foods will derive more energy and benefit from the same amount of calories.
Supplement your energy levels
Pre-workout supplements are packed full of energy-boosting stimulants to help increase workout intensity, focus and endurance. Just be sure to check the nutritional value of the products you use. Finding a pre-workout that delivers the biggest punch with the fewest calories is the best option for your competition diet.
Drink more water
Proper hydration is a key element in energy production, and is something many athletes overlook. This is why one of the most common reasons for low energy levels is not drinking enough water. Water can also make you feel full, which gives you a feeling of satiety after a hard day of dieting. This can often be the psychological boost your mind needs to get to the gym.
This may contradict point 2, but sometimes a simple walk around the block or the house can boost your energy levels as it improves oxygen circulation to your muscles and brain. This can often be enough to rid you of the lethargic feeling that plagues athletes when they diet. So, if you feel really flat and no amount of rest helps, then get up and get moving. Just keep the intensity and duration low so that you don’t expend too much energy unnecessarily.
Mental fatigue can often manifest as physical fatigue. That is why some quiet time or meditation can help to boost energy levels and leave you feeling invigorated and refreshed. Meditating also allows you to conserve some of the energy that may have otherwise been wasted during the day.
Studies have also shown that meditation can help to modulate pain, something many associate with dieting. By taking control of your thoughts and emotions it can help to get you through the difficult pre-contest diet with as little ‘pain’ and discomfort as possible.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.