Archive for May, 2013

Your stomach is growling, you’re starting to get a little cranky, and you’re having a hard time concentrating…Ok, so restricting calories to lose weight/fat is not fun.  That is definitely not news!  Over the last few years, I’d like to think that I’ve gotten pretty good at it.  It certainly is a “necessary evil” when preparing for physique contests, photo shoots, or even a special occasion or vacation.  The worst part for me…HUNGER!  I don’t mind eating the same thing over and over; I don’t even mind eating my veggies.  What I do hate is being hungry.  So, I’m going to share some of my tips for controlling hunger when you’re dieting.

hungry pic

  • Food timing:  I’m a firm believer in finding what works for you in terms of meal frequency.  The two most important times that you are going to want to eat is before and after training (with post-training being the most important).  With that aside, choose what will be the best for you, 3-4 larger meals spaced throughout the day or 5-6 smaller meals.  For me, I like to eat every 2-3 hours so the smaller, more frequent meal scheme works best.  It does not work for everyone though…some people find that smaller meals are not satisfying enough and are hungry all day long.  IF (intermittent fasting) has also gained popularity…so if that’s what works for you, go for it (as long as you’re getting enough nutrition during your feeding window).
  • Fiber:  Choosing foods that are higher in fiber will help fill you up faster and keep you feeling full longer.
  • Water:  Drink plenty of water always!  Aim for at least 1 gallon/day especially if you train hard.  Sometimes you may feel “hungry” but you are actually dehydrated.  A tip for helping you eat less at mealtime is to drink a large glass of water before you eat or eat foods that are high in water content (low sodium/calorie broth based soups, fruits, leafy greens, etc.).  I like to make my own soups with a quality low sodium broth.
  • Protein:  Lean protein may help prolong satiety.  Make sure you are getting some protein with each of your meals.
  • Fat:  This important macronutrient takes a bit longer to digest and can add some great flavor and texture to your foods.  Stick to the healthy ones like avocado, nuts, and nut butters (without added sugar!).  Just be sure to watch your portion sizes with fats.
  • Distraction:  Go for a walk, work on a project, clean your house…whatever it takes to get your mind off of food.  A little distraction can go a long way!
  • Gum:  One of my favorites for helping with the sweet tooth is gum.  I think I have the entire line of “dessert gums” in my cabinet.  Nothing like a stick of apple pie for dessert!
  • Tea:  Night-time can be the hardest for a lot of people on a weight-loss journey.  After dinner, a lot of folks sit down in front of the TV and start eating out of boredom.  This is the best time to sit with a nice cup of tea.  Get a variety of decaffeinated teas:  green tea, fruit teas, chamomile, or whatever else you like.  These are great to make in advance and refrigerate when you want something cold to drink other than water.  You can even mix some of the flavors with a great protein powder for a snack!  I like to use Top Secret Nutrition’s 100% Whey in Vanilla and mix it with a fruit tea.
  • Supplements:  A lot of fat-burning supplements are very popular but equally as great are the ones that help you feel full and eat less.  Top Secret Nutrition has a great line of supplements to aid in fat loss.  Some of my favorites are:  L-Carnitine with Raspberry Ketones, L-Carnitine with Green Coffee Bean Extract, Extreme Jitter Free Fat Burner, and the New Garcinia Cambogia Extract.  All of these supplements aid in appetite control.  Another one worth mentioning is the Super F.A.S Lean.  This is great for a number of reasons:  it contains glucomannan – it is a soluble fiber that can absorb large quantities of water forming “bulk” in the stomach and making you feel more full.  It contains green tea and caffeine:  two well-studied compounds that aid in fat loss and energy.  I don’t know about you, but when my calories are restricted, my energy levels drop!  You can also try sipping some BCAAs between meals.  I love TSN’s BCAA Hyperblend Energy!  It has an amazing watermelon flavor when my water is getting boring!

Being hungry is no fun for you and usually no fun for those around you!  But, when you are properly prepared and have the right attitude, you CAN accomplish anything!

As both a physical therapist and a competitive athlete, I see the shoulder as one of the most commonly injured joints. It is also one of the most complex joints in the body; it allows an enormous range of motion (to be able to throw, pull, lift, reach, etc.) and most of the stability of the shoulder is credited to soft tissue (muscles/ligaments). There are actually several joints that make up the shoulder girdle (gleno-humeral, scapulo-thoracic, sterno-clavicular and acromio-clavicular) but for simplicity’s sake, I will just refer to the entire complex as “the shoulder”.

Many of the problems in the shoulder can be attributed to muscular imbalance between the front and back (anybody recognize those bench-press folks that neglect their backs?), poor rotator cuff strength, and general poor posture (we all spend too much time sitting at computers, driving, etc.). These muscle imbalances and weaknesses, if left untreated, can lead to significant problems including pain, impingements, and tears.

I’m going to include some basic exercises for the most commonly seen problems. Insert Disclaimer here…*you MUST consult with your physician if you are experiencing any significant pain or weakness*

Generally, there is tightness in the pectoralis (chest) and latissimus dorsi muscles and weakness in the scapular stabilizers and rotator cuff muscles. Below are some basic exercises that just about anyone can benefit from (please note that NO PAIN should be felt with any of these movements. If you do feel pain, stop immediately and consult your doctor or therapist:

1: Pec Stretch: Stand in a doorway with one hand/arm on either side of the door frame. Gently lunge forward until a stretch is felt across the front of the chest. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.

2. Overhead Lat Stretch: Reach overhead with right hand. Grasp with left hand and gently pull the right arm toward your head while leaning to the left. A stretch should be felt along the side of the torso. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times. Repeat on opposite side.

3. Scapular Retractions: Also known as the “shoulder blade squeeze”. This can be done with or without resistance. It’s as easy as it sounds. Squeeze both shoulder blades DOWN and BACK. Hold 5 seconds and repeat up to 30 times. Use resistance bands for a challenge (make a loop at the end and slide over your arm so it is around the back of your shoulder).

4. Resisted External Rotation: Grab a resistive band in both hands with palms up. Keeping your arms locked to your sides and elbows bent to 90 degrees, rotate hands away from your body as far as comfortable. Pause, and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat up to 30 times.

5. Back Scratch Stretch: Reach one arm behind your back with your palm facing out. With the opposite arm reach over and behind
backstretch

6. Y, T, I’s: Using light dumbbells (or no weight at all), lie on your stomach on a bench. With both arms at the same time, raise dumbbels forward as if forming a “Y” with your arms (thumbs pointing up). Lower to the starting position and repeat for a total of 10 repetitions. Next, raise your arms out to the sides as if forming the letter “T” (again, thumbs up), lower and repeat. Finally, raise your arms back alongside your torso so your body forms the letter “I”, lower and repeat.

Always remember to take good care of your body; warm-up and cool-down adequately, pay attention to your form during exercise, rest your body when needed, and consult a medical professional for any aches/pains that persist!

Happy and healthy training!

The vast majority of us have been on a so-called “diet” or restrictive eating plan at some point in our lives. Whether you’re obese, just a little overweight, or planning for a vacation, physique contest, photo-shoot, or anything else, “dieting” can be, well, hard!

imagesCA4OLDW2

For me, I go through several phases in the course of a year when either trying to build muscle, lose fat, or really cut-up for a show so the word “diet” is definitely not foreign to me. I can’t say I necessarily like the words dieting or bulking, I prefer “eating for a goal”.

Now, with summer around the corner I (like many others) am trying to trim off a few extra pounds. I do my best to stay within a reasonable weight even in the off-season, never straying too far from stage weight. With that said, this winter I decided to work on a few areas (gain muscle) and inevitably, a few extra unwanted pounds comes with that. At the beginning of this year, I completed the first phase of my fat loss successfully. I am now onto the second phase (after a short maintenance period) and beginning to restrict calories once again. I will admit, I do a lot of funny things when dieting, so I thought I’d share a short list: “I know I’m on a diet when…”

    • I become a terrible mom and won’t share my food with my kids because I’ve carefully measured every gram
    • I scrape the pan of cooked egg whites to get EVERY LAST crusty piece
    • I scramble as fast as I can to retrieve a piece of dropped food…there is NO WAY I’m throwing that out!  I’ll either blow off the dust or give it a quick rinse…
    • I stick my finger into my shaker cup to get every last drop of my Top Secret Nutrition 100% Whey shake
    • I become the queen of smelling everyone else’s food…my kids’ oreos, their bowl of pasta…you name it, I’ve sniffed it!
    • When it’s time to stir the natural peanut butter, I’ll volunteer…that means I get to lick the spoon!  Mmmm…peanut butter…
    • A cold plate of chicken and green beans actually looks appetizing
    • I start buying different flavors of “dessert gum”
    • I go to bed early because I ran out of food for the day

Ok, so I’m poking fun at myself and no, not every day is horrible.  Just like anything else, when you commit to a goal, there will be good days and bad days.  For me, remembering why I’m doing what I’m doing and the sense of accomplishment (not to mention the physique!) I gain from “eating for fat loss” helps on the days where I’m not feeling that great.  I also have some top-notch supplements in my corner from Top Secret Nutrition.  During my 1st phase of fat loss, I took the Extreme Jitter Free Fat Burner and it worked great; it gave me a little boost in energy and helped suppress my appetite without making me jittery.  This time around, I’m taking the XAT-7 for an even greater energy and metabolism boost while helping me spare my hard-earned muscle.

See you on the beach! 🙂

Deplete, carb-up, sodium load, creatine load, dehydrate, etc. etc. etc.  There are about as many plans for peak week as there are competitors for a show!  So how the heck do you make sense of all of this and know what to do the final week so that you look your best?

The single best piece of advice that I can give you for peak week is…drum roll please…DON’T DO ANYTHING DRASTIC!  You’ve been training hard, dieting harder, and giving it your all for weeks or months, right?  So, if you’re ready, you’re ready and if you’re not, well…no peak week “trick” is going to get you ready.

With that said, there are definitely some things that you want to do and there are some things you want to avoid.  I will list some of my personal suggestions (and they are just that…I know what works for me and it may or may not work for you).  I know it seems a bit crazy, but peak week for me isn’t very different from any other week with the exception of a few things below:

  • Training:  I will maintain a pretty intense training regimen for the first half of peak week with my last workout being the Wednesday before the show.  I will complete a heavy leg day about 1 week before (to give my legs enough time to recover).  I make sure that I hit each bodypart once during this week.
  • Diet:  Carbohydrates for me remain relatively moderate to higher in the beginning of the week while my training is intense, taper down usually Wednesday and Thursday, and then increase again a bit on Friday and Saturday.  The key for me is making small changes – I am better able to monitor how my body reacts and adjust accordingly.  Protein and fat remain about the same throughout the week.
  • Water:  I will maintain at least a gallon of water a day up until Thursday and Friday – then it drops to about a half a gallon.  I never completely drop water because it’s unhealthy and our bodies (including muscles) need water!  The day of the show I will just sip water as needed only to avoid the bloated look onstage.
  • Sodium:  Believe it or not, I keep sodium about the same only dropping it a little on Thursday and Friday.  The day of the show, I will have a meal before pre-judging that includes a moderate amount of sodium.
  • Supplements:  I usually maintain my regular supplementation schedule up until the show.  I will add in a product to help with excess water this final week though.  For my next contest, I will be using Top Secret Nutrition’s Water-Less.

IMAG0110

If you’re working with a trainer, please follow his/her advice!  If you are prepping on your own, you may want to experiment (weeks before the contest!) with what techniques work best for you.  For me, making small changes during peak week has brought me the best results.

Well, there you have it!  My secret is out…

Do the hard work in the weeks and months before the show! 😉

Our days are jam-packed with responsibilities. So, how are we supposed to fit in anything extra like preparing healthy meals or training?

For those of you that are curious, I’m going to take a page out of my life and show you how I personally fit it all in, including excerpts from my training and food journals.

Most days start fairly early for me. I’m up and running at 6 a.m. (occasionally before if I need to do my training in the morning). First and foremost…COFFEE! I have two daughters so while I’m taking in my morning dose of caffeine, I’m packing lunch for my oldest.

Next up, get everyone dressed and ready for the day. I try to make sure that clothes for my girls are picked out the night before to avoid any morning wardrobe drama…”you wear what you picked out last night and that’s final!”

My oldest is in school full-time so she’s the first to be dropped off, followed by my pre-schooler.

A moment to breathe for me and one of my favorite parts of the day: training time! I sip my pre-workout while I drive to the gym. I’ll spend approximately 45-60 minutes weight-training and then tack on an additional 20-30 minutes of cardio at the end. My post-workout meal follows right after I’m done training.

Once I’m finished at the gym, I’m on the run again! Time to pick up my youngest from pre-school (she only spends a few hours there a couple times a week), head home, take a quick shower and prepare our lunches. I usually try to pre-cook several days worth of meals so that meal prep during the day is fast and easy. I’ll grab my food from the fridge, then heat and eat! Having meals ready makes me less likely to make poor choices when I’m hungry and in a hurry!

Time to head out once again and get my groceries for the week. I take my youngest with me (which always makes any shopping trip twice as long!) and load up on fresh fruits, veggies, complex carbs, and lean meats. I’m usually suckered into getting one or two treats for my daughter but I try to steer-clear of the chocolate aisle!

Done shopping, groceries are put away (well, at least the refrigerated stuff!) and then it’s time to pick up my oldest from school.

Snacks, homework, finish putting the groceries away, dinner prep, dishes, baths for the kids, and then their bedtime! If I’m prepping for a show or trying to lean out (as I am now for the summer), I’ll do another short bout of cardio (20-30 minutes) right after I put them to bed.  Yet another shower, snack for me and then…whew, my bedtime! And then I’ll do it all again tomorrow! Sound exhausting? Most definitely! Worth the effort? You bet!

Here’s a typical day’s diet, training, and supplement schedule:

Meals:

Meal 1: Coffee, Top Secret Nutrition Protein Shake made with Unsweetened Almond Milk; Oats topped with Raspberries and a dash of Sugar-Free Syrup.

Meal 2: (Post-workout treat!) 1 Cup Non-Fat Greek Yogurt with 1/2 Frozen Banana & 1/2 Cup Frozen Blueberries.  A nice cold treat after a hard workout!

Meal 3: 5 Ounces Grilled Chicken, 1-2 Cups Broccoli, and 1/2 Cup Brown Rice

Meal 4: 1 Cup 1% Cottage Cheese & a handful of Raw Almonds OR another TSN Shake if I’m on the run!

Meal 5: 5-6 Ounces Lean Meat (Chicken, Fish, Lean Beef) and a Large Spinach Salad topped with Cucumbers/Bell Peppers/Onions/Fat-Free Feta Cheese and Balsalmic Vinegar

Meal 6: (Just before bed): 1 1/2 Scoops 100% Casein Protein mixed into a pudding with 1 TBSP Natural Peanut Butter – frozen for 1 hour (kills the sweet tooth!)

Training:

Typical Back Day Workout (one of my favorites)!  Warm-up sets are fairly easy, working sets I try to lift as heavy as I can with good form almost failing on the last rep or two.

Bent-Over Barbell Rows: 2 warm-up sets of 10 reps; 4 working sets of 8-10 reps

Pull-ups: 4 sets to failure with varying grips

Seated Row: 1 warm-up set of 10-12 reps; 4 working sets of 8-12

Unilateral Cable Pull-Down: 4 sets of 12

Straight-Arm Pull-Down: 4 sets of 12-15

Cardio After: 20-30 minutes (preferrably HIIT)

Supplements (all of my supplements are from Top Secret Nutrition):

AM: 1 Grab & Go Packet of Diet Accelerator N-Pack (has everything I need!)

IMAG1605

Pre-Workout: 1 Scoop each of Cardio Igniter and Creavar

Intra-Workout: 1 Scoop each of BCAA Hyperblend Energy and Creavar

PM: Hair, Skin, & Nails, Green Coffee Bean Extract, and Fish Oil & CLA

Before Bed: TSN Sleep

Throughout the Day:  TSN 100% Whey Shakes as described above