Archive for July, 2013

I think I’ve already mentioned in a previous post that I’m a self-proclaimed gadget-girl.  I love anything and everything that can make my life easier, more productive, or save time.  There are 2 areas where I am bordering on obsessive when it comes to handy little items:  fitness gadgets and kitchen gadgets.  Since I am in full contest prep mode at the moment, I thought I would share with you some things that I have that are essential for my food prep.

  • Digital scale: This is a must-have item for measuring out your daily portions.  I have a relatively cheap scale that measures in ounces or grams and can be zeroed out with the push of a button (makes it super handy when you don’t feel like doing math:  i.e. having to subtract the weight of your food container – place container, reset, measure food, and go).


  • Measuring Cups/Spoons:  Have ones for dry and liquid measuring.
  • Various Sizes of Tupperware Containers:  Another must have when you prepare several meals in advance or you travel with your food.  When you bulk cook, you can just measure out the amounts you need for each meal, store them in containers and have them ready to go in the refrigerator.
  • Cooler Bag/Ice Packs:  I have both a small one that holds 1-2 meals when I’m away for only a couple of hours and a larger one for the days that I work and will need 3-4 meals.
  • Magic Bullet/Nutribullet or other Individual Blender:   I used to make all my shakes/smoothies in a regular blender but it was such a pain to clean (not to mention I would have an additional cup to wash).  With my Nutribullet, I make my shake right in an individual cup.  One cup to blend and clean.



  • Slow Cooker (Crock-Pot):  An awesome item to have when you want to make larger portions or an entire meal in one easy step.  I’ve made chicken, soup, stew, chili, etc.  The options are endless.  It’s great to be able to throw everything together in the morning and have dinner ready when you walk through the door.
  • Indoor Grill:  During the warmer weather and even on colder but dry days I definitely prefer to grill outdoors.  But, sometimes it’s just not possible (rain, snow, running out of propane! :-P).  This is where an indoor grill is priceless.  Just remember to get one with removable plates to make cleaning a snap!


  • Rice cooker:  I absolutely love my rice cooker!  I can make steel cut oats in half the time, quinoa, steam meats/vegetables, and yes, I can even cook rice in it (who woulda thought?)
  • Microwavable Cookware  Ok, so microwaving food for me is not the ideal but when you’re tight on time and need something healthy in a snap, I have several items that make microwaved food, well, edible.  Two of my favorites include my handy hard-boiled egg maker and omelet maker.  I can make 4 (or less) hard-boiled eggs in under 10 minutes without having to watch a thing and I can make an omelet with any items I want in less than 5.  I also have a steaming plate that is awesome for fish, meats, and vegetables.  I use the Nordicware line

I am a few days away from heading out on a family road trip so I figured this would be a good time to write about how I plan to stay on track with my nutrition and training while I’m on vacation.  When you are away from home for more than a few hours, it can be difficult (but not impossible) to stay on your plan.

  • Decide:  Depending on what your fitness goals are, you must first decide how you want to handle your vacation.  Is it time to take a break from your workouts?  Do you need to/want to take a break from your usual eating plan?  Remember, it is OK to stray from your usual routine while away.  That’s why it’s called a vacation!  On the other hand, do you have a competition or other event coming up?  For me, I have a competition in October so my plan is to control what I can and definitely enjoy the rest (one of the many benefits of staying within a reasonable weight in the “off-season”).  I still have plenty of time before my show, so I will venture somewhere “middle of the road”.
  • Plan:  Is this a road trip, plane trip, etc.  Figure out what will work best depending on your method of travel.  Make sure you know what is acceptable to bring on the plane and have a plan for your destination.  I will be driving so I plan to pack food for the trip.  The hotel I’m staying at will also have a refrigerator and microwave so I can also pack things like dry oats, pre-cooked food (chicken/sweet potatoes/rice) that can be kept in a cooler in the car and then placed in the fridge when we get there (if I didn’t eat it already :-P).  Reheating will be a snap.  My personal plan is to eat on plan during the day and then make a smart choice for dinners out with the family.
  • Workouts:  Here is where a little planning and some handy items will serve you well.  My hotel is supposed to have a small gym but I’m not sure of the equipment that will be available.  No worries though!  I will pack my jump rope, various strengths of resistance bands and my personal favorite – my suspension trainer that can fit in any doorway.  This easily fits into a suitcase or bag and a full-body workout can be done in 30 minutes.  And of course, there is always time for a morning run on the beach!



  • Supplements:  I plan to bring all of my Top Secret Nutrition supplements already measured out by day in a pill organizer (yes, people laugh at me all the time when I bust out my old-lady pill box)

Here is a list of food items that travel well:

  • Small bags of nuts including almonds, walnuts, peanuts, etc.
  • Protein powder (I use Top Secret Nutrition’s 100% Whey):  Measure out the amount you need into shaker bottles and bring bottled water when you’re ready to mix.
  • Dry oats:  even if your room doesn’t have a microwave, you can use the in-room coffee maker to make hot water for an instant healthy breakfast!
  • Cans or pouches of tuna/chicken – don’t forget the can opener and some plastic utensils!
  • Canned vegetables (no salt added; green beans, mixed veggies, etc ) – canned veggies are not the ideal, but it is much better than ordering off the dollar menu.
  • Meal replacement bars
  • Rice cakes, whole grain breads/crackers
  • Fruit:  Bananas, apples, pears

And what to do if you need to eat out:

  • You can always request how you want your food to be prepared in a restaurant:  for example – not cooked in oil/butter, dressings and sauces on the side, steamed/grilled/baked versus fried.
  • You can usually eyeball portion sizes and ask for a take-home bag for leftovers
  • If you must eat fast food – skip the sauces and the buns/bread; order a salad and get the lightest dressing

So, there is no need to completely ditch your healthy lifestyle while traveling.  Some situations may not be ideal, but there are certainly plenty of ways to make the damage minimal.  And remember, if it is a vacation, don’t stress out!  Just control what you can and leave the guilt behind!

My workout begins in my head. The time I spend in the gym or working out at home is one of my favorite parts of the day. It’s my time; my stress relief, the time to challenge myself, and to change myself. I think too many people waste time “going through the motions”. Day in and day out they go to the gym, hit a few machines, and call it a day. Not to mention, few show any real change – neither in their physique or their mindset. Not me…some people may think I’m a little extreme sometimes, but hey – I’m either going to do it to the best of my ability or not do it at all.

I plan, I write it down, I spend time preparing for my workout.  There is the rare occasion that I’ll actually go to the gym and “wing it”.  So, what are some of the things you can you do to get the most out of your workouts?

  • Create the Mindset:  Don’t just use your muscles, use your mind!  It is an extremely powerful and useful addition.  I start getting psyched up about my workout before I even get to the gym.  Think about walking through the gym doors:  the smell, the sound of the weights, and your specific plan for that day’s workout.  Get excited!
  • Set the Tone:  Get your headphones on and pick the right music.  If you’re not into music, find a quiet spot to warm-up.
  • Avoid the Social Scene:  This is a tough one!  Do your best to avoid talking at the gym; not only does it waste precious time, but it can easily cause you to lose focus.  This is one of the reasons why I love music (and my headphones)…but unfortunately, there are still those folks that don’t understand basic gym etiquette and will interrupt you anyway.  Just let them know you’re in the middle of your workout and you’ll catch up with them later.
  • Get Intense!  You can workout HARD or you can workout LONG but you can’t do both!  Heavy weight, supersets, drop sets, negatives, and the list goes on…incorporate some intensity techniques and you can make some great gains.
  • Hiit It!  If cardio is on your list of to-do’s, don’t spend an hour on the treadmill at 2.0 mph.  Do intervals!  Work your butt off for 20 minutes and you’ll gain (or lose!) more in that time than 2 hours on the treadmill.
  • Embrace Change:  It’s great to be consistent with your workout program, but don’t forget to change up your routine from time to time.  Switch your rep range, the order of exercises, your splits, etc.  This is one of the reasons I love using a workout journal;  I aim to improve something every week (either a heavier weight, a few more reps, etc.).
  • Time Under Tension (TUT):  This is how long the muscle is strained during a set.  This can be increased several ways:  slow down your tempo, increase the reps, and don’t lock out or completely relax during the set.  More TUT = more muscle breakdown = more growth.
  • Use the Mind-Muscle Connection:  This one takes some practice but can be a game-changer!  As I’ve said before, don’t go through the motions, actually THINK about the muscle/movement while you’re doing it.  Try it!  Drop the weight a bit and really FEEL the muscle contraction.  This will help you avoid poor form and substituting other muscle groups when the weight is too heavy.  A great one to try is the leg extension.  Use a lighter weight than normal, slow the tempo down a bit, and see/feel the quads working -really squeeze the muscle at the top of the movement.  Try this with a few exercises each week and before you know it, it’ll become a habit – and the results will be awesome!


When you hear the words healthy eating or “clean” eating, what do you think of?  You probably think of eating the same foods, over and over again…chicken, vegetables, oatmeal, blah, blah, and blah!  I used to think that eating the same foods would be the best way to get a stage-worthy physique and yes, it can absolutely work!  If you tend to be a creature of habit and enjoy eating the same foods, prepared the same way all the time, I say go for it (as long as you are getting the appropriate required macronutrients and micronutrients)!  But for me, I tend to get bored easily and start “craving” some variety.  Well, since variety is the spice of life, it can easily be incorporated into your diet.

I am not the world’s best cook, but I have been known to whip up a few edible things from time to time 😛 !  There are a number of ways that you can change up your diet and they range from simple to extravagant.  Since I’m usually in a rush, simple works best for me…for example, I was not in the mood for another round of chicken and salad, so I made these stuffed peppers last night in about 40 minutes using 2 bell peppers, 93% lean ground beef, no salt added diced tomatoes, brown rice, garlic/onion/pepper/Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil Garlic, and a sprinkling of low-fat mozzarella on top.  They are about 260 calories per pepper…


  • Spice it up!  This is by far THE easiest way to change things up.  I am a huge fan of the Mrs. Dash spice line (bordering on having a problem I think ;-))  If you usually grill or bake your chicken, change up the spice:  Italian, Southwest, Lemon Pepper, etc.

My Mrs. Dash Collection

  • Change the way you prepare:  If you generally grill your meats, try a stir fry with a wide variety of vegetables or throw your meat in the slow cooker with a low sodium broth.
  • Be creative!  If you have a favorite recipe but it is loaded with unhealthy ingredients, find substitutes!  You can check out the list on the Mayo Clinic site here: (just as an FYI, not all the substitutions on this list are great…always read labels!).  I’ve made Turkey meatloaf with veggies & oats (instead of breadcrumbs) and “healthy chocolate cupcakes” for my girls using dates!  Ok, I really made them for me…
  • Vary your staples!  Change up your regulars…there are so many fruits and vegetables to choose from, different protein sources (chicken, turkey, lean beef, fish, tofu, etc.), carbs (brown rice, quinoa, sprouted grain breads, and soba noodles are some of my favorites), fats (nuts and natural nut butters, avocado, olive and coconut oil, seeds like chia, and don’t forget about whole eggs!)
  • Whip up some great smoothies!  How many times have you made the same protein shake?  I’ve been guilty of this in the past too.  My old standby is whey and unsweetened almond milk (I use Top Secret Nutrition’s 100% Whey).  This is great by itself by why not change it up?  Add some banana, raspberries, or peanut butter to the chocolate flavor.  Vanilla is amazing because it is super versatile.  You can add so many different ingredients:  avocado, spinach, fruits, or pretty much anything you desire.  Not a breakfast eater?  Make a coffee drink using protein powder.  Mix vanilla for a latte or chocolate for a mocha!  Hot or cold, this is definitely one of my favorites!  TSN also has a great protein that has already done this for you…check out the Energizing Whey (

So, if your daily mealplan looks something like this: Meal 1:  oatmeal and eggwhites, Meal 2:  chicken, broccoli, and rice, Meal 3:  chicken, broccoli, and rice….(you get the point!), try to incorporate at least one or two different meals a week that will help you keep things interesting as well as staying on track!

It’s that time again!  I’m gearing up to start my first competition prep of the year.  In the past, I have competed both in the Spring and the Fall but decided to take a little extra time this year to experiment with my physique.  After my last show in 2012, there were definitely some areas that I wanted to improve.  So I took the Fall/Winter to try to add some lean mass and I made some positive changes.  In the beginning of 2013, I was unsure of when I wanted to do my next competition.  If I did a Spring show, that would mean a fairly rapid cut and a risk of losing the muscle that I worked so hard for.  I started off the year with a 6 week slow cut and made some great changes.  I also got really sick with the flu and was out of commission for about 2 weeks.  Decision made!  No Spring show for me…I would wait until the Summer or even the Fall.  I took a few weeks to bring myself back up to maintenance and to continue to work on some areas with my sights potentially set on an early Summer show.  As the weeks went by, I was still not feeling ready to diet so again, I decided to wait.

Well, July is now here and…I’m ready!  In just a few short weeks, I will begin my “official” contest diet.  I am giving myself plenty of time to prepare.  No extreme diets, no excessive cardio.  A healthy diet followed consistently (with adjustments made as needed) with my training emphasis still on weights.  I plan to make this another slow cut because I had great results during my earlier 6 week trial.

I am also blessed to have Top Secret Nutrition by my side this time around.  They have an awesome array of supplements that I have had the privilege to use both during my “off-season” earlier this year and now for my prep.  I’m going to list some of my personal favorites and how I am using them during my contest prep:


  • Diet Accelerator N-Pack:  It can’t get any easier than this!  This has everything you need in one convenient grab-and-go packet.  This is perfect for my busy mornings.  It contains a multivitamin, fish oil, carnitine/raspberry ketones, an antioxidant blend, CLA, arginine/citrulline, and mood enhancers.  A great addition to any stack when trying to diet.
  • Cardio Igniter:  Ok, this is the product that got me hooked on Top Secret Nutrition!  I use this before EVERY workout…can’t workout without it!  I use it alone before cardio and I stack it with Creavar (TSN’s creatine blend) prior to hitting the weights.  Cardio Igniter gets me sweating, gives me a great boost of energy, and tons of endurance.  It also helps me burn fat while protecting my lean muscle.
  • 100% Whey:  This is my go-to protein post-workout.  It has 25 grams of protein and is low in calories, fat, and carbs.  Oh yeah…and it tastes great too!  I’ve probably tried every protein out there and this one is definitely a keeper!  I also use it between meals to stave off hunger without wrecking my diet.
  • BCAA Hyperblend Energy:  I love to drink this intra-workout.  It has a great watermelon flavor and in addition to BCAAs and other anabolic ingredients, it contains a nice dose of caffeine to keep me energized during my workouts.  I would have included this in my picture, but sadly, I’m all out 😦
  • Extreme Jitter Free Fat Burner:  This is a “no rules” fat burner.  It has some great ingredients that give me a nice, smooth energy and mild appetite suppression.  This is not an over-the-top fat burner and that is why I love it.  I can take this at any point during the day (even late at night before an evening workout) and it will not keep me up or make my heart pound out of my chest.  I used this product during my  6 week cut earlier this year (without really changing my diet or workouts) and easily lost a couple of pounds.
  • Advanced Joint Support:  My workouts are tough (and I’m not getting any younger!), so this is a great supplement to help protect my joints.  This is especially important when I’m cutting, my calories are lower, and sometimes my food choices are limited.
  • Digestive Enzymes:  You can only utilize what you’re able to digest.  TSN’s formula also contains Pre- and Pro-biotics.
  • Cal-Trim 1000:  Ok, nobody’s perfect and this is mommy’s little helper when I do have a cheat meal!

This is only a small sampling of the great products Top Secret Nutrition has to offer.  You can check out their website at and see the entire line of supplements.  You can also check out their page of awesome athletes (wink, wink ;-)).  I’ll be updating periodically throughout my prep, so stay tuned and wish me luck!