As a natural pro bodybuilder, often my desire to train and eat appropriately can wax and wane just like anyone else. However, I have discovered, my desire to stay committed to my diet and training goals are often higher when I am in what I call “The Sweet Spot” of competition prep. In this Sweet Spot, I often feel my best! I usually don’t have a huge amount of cravings or temptations for food that will take me off course, I am still very strong in the gym, in fact I often still continue to set PRs and usually my energy is really high!

So, what is the Sweet Spot and how do I get there? 

For me, the sweet spot of competition prep is either the 2-4 months following my show seasons leading into the offseason or it’s the competition prep season often up until the last 4-6 weeks. It’s usually not during my full offseason when my weight is at it’s highest. I find during that time, I can often feel sluggish. My energy can be quite low, which could be attributed to the lack of cardiovascular exercise and also carrying around a little too much weight.  When I am in the Sweet Spot, my bodyfat is above stage lean, but it’s usually not as high as my full offseason bodyfat and weight. I usually do some cardio (2-3 days per week), often high intensity and for a short amount of time. My weight training is usually a powerful session of either high amounts of volume or heavier weight training with powerlifting involved.

In the Sweet Spot, my food cravings are what I would call pretty normal. I would get hungry when it’s time to eat, but I’m not feeling ravenous like I usually am when I’m only 2-3 weeks out from a show. In fact, I could have a piece of cake or ice cream or not at all and I’m usually not tempted either way. If I did eat some cake, I often would feel satisfied and not feel tempted to eat anything else that would take me off course and that piece of cake usually wouldn’t have much overall affect on my weight either, as long as I kept the rest of my day roughly in line with my planned targets. My desire to binge eat (like I often feel ready to do post-competition), is basically non-existent. In fact, if I tried to gorge myself, I would probably make myself sick because my tolerance for overeating is very low during this time.

Can the Sweet Spot Change? 

Yes, I definitely believe it can for competitors. Over time, I feel that your bodyfat set point adapts to what you tend to hold onto the longest. So, if you are overweight for a long period of time in your life, your body’s natural tendency to go back to that weight is going to be pretty high. Your food cravings will likely get higher the lower your weight goes. However, I would also say the opposite is true. The longer you sustain a relatively lean state, your body will naturally find that to be a new comfortable point for you and you may be able to maintain that level without too much hassle. For me, I find that competition prep is usually not bad, in fact, I feel really energized for often all the way up until the final weeks. Usually, when my bodyfat dips below 5%, that’s when I find my food cravings start to go way up and my energy in the gym starts to decline. All the way down to that point though, I usually feel great!

Find Your Sweet Spot and Stay There!

I would strongly recommend that you find your sweet spot of training and dieting. Often, you may discover that you too will set some personal bests, your energy may stay high, and your food cravings will be lower. For many people, I believe this is a point where their diet is adequately giving them the nutrients their body needs to keep high amounts of energy during the day but it’s not excessive, your workouts are intense and you are aerobically fit as well. For people that are not doing competitions, I would strongly suggest finding this point and try to maintain this lifestyle as best you can. It’s a state of great health! In fact, I would say I’m currently in my “sweet spot” and have been for a couple of months. I recently had my lab values checked and everything looked great including low blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol levels. For competitors, I would still recommend finding ways to maintain this period of training. I believe you will continue to make great gains of strength and endurance. You will also likely see visually your progress better than during times of higher bodyfat levels. If you have any questions about finding your sweet spot of training and dieting, please let me know. I’m happy to help!

Find your sweet spot and go after it!

“Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life. You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.” Proverbs 19:20-21 NLT

Jon Arnold
Owner and CEO of Integrated Fitness of Dover LLC
ACE Certified Personal Trainer, NASM CES, B.S. Nutrition