Keeping It Together In The Off Season By 5X IPL Pro Champ Marc Monaco

“In fact, these guidelines have allowed me to be stage ready in as little as seven weeks.”


Bodybuilding and Physique Competition is a demanding sport. The stress that athletes place upon their bodies during show prep can be drastic. What we as athletes strive to attain…perfect muscularity, symmetry and conditioning, can never be achieved. The fact is that there is no such thing as “perfection” in this sport, yet we all strive for it. 

     People think we are crazy because they do not understand the commitment and sacrifices we make to become the best physical version of ourself. But in their defense, we are not “normal”. We are different. We want more from ourselves, so we demand more. Unfortunately, once the competition is over, many athletes (I have been guilty once or twice) decide to engage in prior behaviors such as binge eating, partying, drinking alcohol, and getting inadequate sleep. In some cases, athletes completely stop training for a long period of time. After all, look at the foods we deprived ourselves of. All the time and sacrifices that were made. Look at all of the intense training the body endured.

"In fact, these guidelines have allowed me to be stage ready in as little as seven weeks."

     Although all of this is true, there is an alternate plan for serious athletes in the off-season. Even if you never step on stage again, this plan can be used to maintain a large amount of the progress you achieved on your journey. What if there was a way to substantially shorten the time it takes to prepare between shows that are far apart? What if there was a sustainable way to stay in peak shape with a few simple behavior modifications? Fortunately, through trial and error, I have been able to formulate specific guidelines to stay in top shape throughout the year. These guidelines have allowed me to be ready for photoshoots with only a few weeks of notice.

     In fact, these guidelines have allowed me to be stage-ready in as little as seven weeks. For the last IPL show I competed in, my prep was only seven weeks, and I brought my best package yet! Hopefully, the following guidelines can help athletes during off-season and provide smoother preparation for returning competitors.  

This list is in no specific order. Each point is equally important!

" not take an overextended break from physical activity. It’s always harder to come back after a long lay-off."

Only eat “cheat meals” in moderation.

It’s important to treat our body to foods that we eliminated during prep, but there is a limit! Try to consume healthy foods throughout the day, each week. A few “cheat meals” per week are warranted, but consume them in moderation.

Drink plenty of water.

Water is extremely important for our body. Besides being an obvious necessity, water also flushes toxins, keeps us hydrated, is good for our skin and actually can keep us from binge eating. Try to eliminate sugary beverages and only consume alcohol in moderation, if at all. If you do consume alcohol or sugary beverages, be sure to consume extra water!

Do not stop training in the off-season.

Rest is acceptable, and also expected, but do not take an overextended break from physical activity. It’s always harder to come back after a long lay-off.

Eat smaller meals throughout the day to keep your metabolism working.

Personally, I do not count macronutrients in the off-season, but I do eat an ample amount of food throughout each day. The important thing is to keep your metabolism busy! Remember, if you are not consuming enough food, or you are consuming large meals only a few times per day, your metabolism will eventually slow down.


Your body needs ample sleep for recovery. The occasional late night out with friends is acceptable, but try not to make a habit of sleep deprivation.

"Being able to pray, give thanks, ask for blessings and bless others will help your body (and mind) to achieve more than is humanly possible!"


Although this may not seem important at first glance, it is in fact the most important! Being able to pray, give thanks, ask for blessings and bless others will help your body (and mind) to achieve more than is humanly possible!


Your body requires lots of vitamins and minerals. In many cases your daily nutrition may not provide all that is needed. Seriously consider supplementing with a daily multivitamin, in addition to consuming foods that contain elements that your body may be lacking, such as vitamin B.

Go by “feel”.

You know your body by now. So if you are feeling extra bloated or notice unwanted body fat, it may be time to start adjusting your macronutrients and habits. This can be a simple modification, so do not stress too much! The important factor is to recognize the potential problem before it becomes a problem.

"Remember everything you learned about your body during your competition prep...Use these newly acquired behaviors to your benefit!" 

Plan your meals for the day.

Meal prep is a “staple” for every physique competitor, so this should be a simple guideline to follow. As I stated earlier, you do not have to measure every single macronutrient in the off-season, but at least make healthy choices for the day. If you plan in advance, you will not be tempted to overindulge in unhealthy foods because you forgot to pack your lunch!

Think of this as a lifestyle.

Remember everything you learned about your body during your competition prep, and the transformation you made through the process. You are a different person now. You are more knowledgeable and have the ability to make healthier choices, in all aspects. You are more disciplined than before. Use these newly acquired behaviors to your benefit! 

About the Author:

Marc Monaco

Marc Monaco

Marc is a Second Degree Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Blackbelt, as well as an IPL Athletic and Sports Model Pro. He has competed throughout the United States in BJJ since 2004, and has won Gold at the highest level, most notably IBJJF competition. He competed in Bodybuilding from 2002 until 2004, before taking time off to pursue his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu career. In 2020, at the age of 40, Marc reentered the sport of Physique Competition and won his Pro Card in both Masters and Open Athletic. He recently won his Pro Card in Masters Sports Model and has won five Pro titles with the IPL to date. He was also featured on the cover of the very first issue of ATHLETIC Magazine in 2021, one of his greatest accomplishments. He now serves a Head Judge for IPL competitions. Marc is a proud father of three boys and incorporates fitness into their daily lives, something he is proud to share. Marc is also a veteran of the United States Army.


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