What does it mean to be at "the end" of something in fitness? Be that a competition season, a workout plan, a bulk or a diet...
The "end" can look like many things. To a lot of people, the "end" may look a lot like the "before", as they jump back into old habits. To others, it looks like a modified version of the "during". The truth is, it is probably different for everyone, but that doesn't mean everyone is right. So, what is the best way to come to an end?
First, let's start by talking about the worst way: doing a total 180 in terms of eating/training. This will not only shock your body, but it will undo the majority of the hard-work you put in prior! When coming to an end of something, the desire to indulge in everything you couldn't do or couldn't eat during is high. So, let's say you give into these instinctual temptations: You stuff your face and ignore exercising until you feel you "celebrated" reaching the end of your goal accordingly. A little later you take a look at the mirror or at the scale and think, "Crap! Where did all my hard-work go?!" Days of over-eating and under-training/not training have resulted in a bloated version of your previous self (mainly due to water and glycogen rebound). A continuation of these behaviors will result in quick fat gain (as your body attempts to store the excess calories) and muscle loss (because well, if you don't use it, you lose it).
Does any of that sound like a place that you want to wind up at after so many weeks/months of hard work? Probably not. So, what is the best approach for avoiding it while transitioning out of some sort of plan/diet??
Your best plan of action comes with 2 words: "gradual" and "modify". Whatever you do, do not go to the extreme opposite of what you have been doing. Keep it relatively the same, just modify. Rather than working out x days a week, only do it y times. Rather than doing x amount of cardio, only do y minutes. Gradually reintroduce foods to your body that you haven't been eating. Gradually reintroduce carbs or fats if you were on a low-carb or low-fat diet. Take time to see how your body is responding and react accordingly rather than forcing it into something.
Doing this helps you avoid the yo-yo cycle of putting in a ton of work and looking really great, but only for certain times of the year, and then slacking off and looking not-so-great for other times. As well, it helps you continually build on what you've already accomplished-- allowing you to make better year-year progress, even without being 100% on-point with your workouts/eating for a full year (an old Instagram post below goes into this a little bit in the caption...).
However, doing the "180 transition" does not build on what you've accomplished, it erases it and takes you back to square 1 every time you decide to start something a little more vigorously again-- meaning you never are growing past that initial starting point because you keep going back to it. A "180 transition" is the result of failing to plan.
Having a structured plan post-diet or post-plan is a necessity. It makes it less likely that you will experience rapid weight gain and/or strength loss. Don't want to have to worry about creating that plan yourself? Talk with a coach or a trainer that can help you transition into your everyday, realistic lifestyle. A knowledgeable trainer can help you through the process and make proper adjustments along the way (while also keeping you accountable).
Having a plan of action for "the end" can be the difference between continuing to look awesome while achieving your new goals, and looking like crap while accomplishing next to nothing.
You've worked too hard, don't let it go to waste!