Who doesn’t love a good cheat meal?  I know I do!  Although it can be something to look forward to when you’re in the middle of a diet or weight loss program, it can easily get you into a lot of trouble.  I hate to break it to you, but cheat meals aren’t necessary for everyone.  If you have quite a bit of weight to lose or if you’re coming off a “bulk”, “building phase”, or even maintenance, there really is no physiological reason for you to have a cheat meal.  But, in this stage of the game, there certainly is a mental benefit.  Starting a diet is hard…maintaining it is even harder.  Having a favorite meal to look forward to or a trip to a restaurant can certainly help you get through the diet grind.  A cheat meal or “reefed” can be much more important physiologically if you’ve been in a deficit for a long time or you’re extremely lean (but I’ll leave that for another blog).

Ok, so here’s the issue.  If you’ve spent all week with your diet on point, with a reasonable deficit, one tremendous meal can 100% erase your entire week…especially if you’re on the smaller side (sorry ladies).  I’ll admit, I hate counting calories but as I’ve said before, calories do count.  I’ve been trying to do a slow cut for a couple of weeks now.  My daily deficit is set around 300-400 calories, so my weekly deficit should be 2100-2800 calories if I do it right.  This should equate to just over 1/2 pound of weight loss per week (which is on the slower side, but I have found that I maintain much more lean mass when I aim for under 1 lb/week of weight loss).  So, what happens if I go out to eat with my family and have a cheat meal of 2 slices of pizza and 2 glasses of wine?  Depending on the pizza and the type of wine, that can add up to almost 1000 calories!  Subtract that from my weekly deficit and it has significantly slowed or even halted my fat loss…not good!

Here’s where planning can help out.  I recommend that you don’t necessarily look at your calories on a daily basis, but on a weekly basis.  This is where technology can be a huge help.  Websites and apps like My Fitness Pal or Lose It! can help you track your input.  You can look back over the course of the week and see how you did.  If you hit your goal everyday (meaning you didn’t go over or under your calorie/macro goal), I wouldn’t recommend having a cheat meal of 1000 calories.  On the other hand, if you’ve been slightly under your goal each day of the week, you have some “free” calories to play with.  For example, if I were under 100 calories each day of the week for 6 days in a row, I have about 600 extra calories to play with on a night out with my family.  So, I can either have the pizza OR the wine and still be on track for my estimated weekly weight loss.  Win!

This isn’t to make you completely crazy with numbers…but do try to have a decent estimate if you don’t keep track.  If you know you’ve been under your goal (or if you managed to squeeze in extra workouts during the week), it’s probably safe to say you can give yourself a reasonable treat!

Sounds like a circus! Today’s blog is going to be one of my favorite at-home circuit workouts using 4 pieces of equipment (yes, I get bored easily…) This workout can be done using one circuit alone repeating 3-5 times, 2 circuits, or all 4. Use your imagination or whatever equipment you have available.

First, make sure that you warm-up appropriately for at least 5 minutes. Then, go!  Each exercise should be performed for a total of 10-20 reps depending on your level of fitness.  Another option is to time each exercise (i.e. 30 seconds per exercise):

Circuit 1: Medicine Ball

  • Squat and Lift – squat down, tap the ball to the floor and lift overhead as you push out of the squat
  • Wood Chop – make sure to do both sides!
  • Standing Torso Rotation – perform fast but under control!
  • Overhead Ball Slams (unless you live in an apartment with downstairs neighbors!)
  • Lunge with Rotation

Circuit 2:  Kettlebells (can use Dumbbells too!)

  • KB Swing (one-arm or two arm)
  • Renegade Row (requires 2 Kettlebells or Dumbbells) – plank position with hands on bells, then alternate rowing
  • Single arm KB Snatch – both sides!
  • KB single leg Romanian Deadlift
  • Goblet Squat

Circuit 3:  Barbell (a variation of Cosgrove’s Complex)

  • Deadlift
  • Romanian Deadlift
  • Bent-over Row
  • Upright Row
  • Military or Push-Press
  • Back Squat

Circuit 4:  TRX

  • Push-Up
  • Row
  • Bicep Curls
  • Overhead Tricep Extension
  • Assisted Pistol Squat
  • Plank to Pike (with feet in loops)

If you’re up for the challenge, repeat from the top!  Also, make sure to cool-down for 5 minutes and stretch.  If you decide to try this, let me know how it went!



With all the buzz about the latest fitness and nutrition trends and each one promising the best/fastest/easiest results, how do we go about figuring it all out.  There are so many eating “camps” out there, how do we choose what is right for us?  IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros or Flexible Dieting), IF (Intermittent Fasting), and the good old CE (Clean Eating) are just some of the big ones I come across all the time.  Which one do I promote?  All of them…

Our lives are difficult enough without throwing extra “rules” into the mix.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not bashing any program.  I’m just into simplifying things.  Do I track my macros?  More or less, yes.  Do I eat foods (or non-foods in some cases) that are considered unhealthy?  You bet I do!  Are 95+% of my meals considered “clean”?  Absolutely!  Have I skipped breakfast to save my calories for the end of the night (knowing that I had an event that was certain to include foods I don’t normally eat)?  Definitely… (Disclaimer:  I pay much closer attention to my numbers during the weeks of contest prep).

The best plan for obtaining proper nutrition is the one (or ones) that you can comfortably stick to and that will fit into your lifestyle.  I’ve read the information and grasp all the concepts of these plans, but I will not freak out if my macros are a tad bit off for the day (if they are reasonably close and my caloric intake is reasonably close to what my plan is, I’m happy).  I won’t necessarily wait until the clock reads 11:00 on the dot to eat my first meal.  If I’m starving at 10:31, I’m going to eat knowing that if I wait too much longer, I’m more likely to eat way more than I originally planned.  Yet, I always take into consideration the QUALITY and QUANTITY of my food.  Yes, calories DO matter.  If you eat too much clean food, you’re going to gain weight.  If you eat nothing but processed food but your calories are lower than you expend, you’re going to lose weight (Though I can’t guarantee that you will look or feel great).

Find what works for you!  If you need the structure of eating every 2-3 hours, go ahead!  If you want to practice IF so that you can have larger meals, do it!  I’ve probably tried a little bit of every plan and I will use bits and pieces from each one of them on any given day.  The vast majority of my meals are healthy whole foods and yours should be too.  Just remember not to get too caught up in all the “rules”.

It’s still dark outside but it’s time to wake up and get my butt out of bed.  I wobble downstairs (because yesterday was leg day of course) and start to make lunches, prepare breakfast, pack backpacks, and pack my own bag.  I then remind my girls for the 4th time that it’s time to get dressed and ready for school and eat breakfast.  Another morning rush and we’re all out the door.

After dropping off the girls, I get back in the car and give my shaker bottle a few good shakes, and start my morning ritual.  I’m on my way to the gym and it’s time to start getting myself ready for the work ahead.  Inside my shaker, one of the best pre-workouts I’ve ever used – Top Secret Nutrition’s Pump Igniter.  I like all the flavors but will admit that my favorite is the Cherry Limeade.  I mix in a scoop of TSN’s Creavar to up the ante.  Within minutes (and I do mean minutes!) of finishing, I start to feel that all-familiar tingle.  It spreads across my face and hits my ears.  I turn onto the main road and I’m starting to drive a little bit faster (I often wonder if the excuse of taking a pre-workout will get you out of a speeding ticket?).  I’m now completely focused and ready to hit the weights!


Needless to say, I absolutely love Pump Igniter.  I’ve been using it since it came out last year and have never needed more than 1 scoop.  It’s still working just as great as the first time I tried it.  I don’t hit the wall, I don’t crash afterwards.  A solid product I will continue to use and recommend.

The Number One Reason…

Posted: March 6, 2014 in Fitness
Tags: , , ,

Time!  It’s the number one reason people give for not participating in a regular exercise program, right?  If you can find 30 minutes, you can certainly get a decent workout in.  It just takes a combination of motivation, determination, and a little bit of creativity.  I had quite a busy day today.  So busy, in fact, that I was not able to get to the gym.  I actually didn’t have any significant time to myself until my kids went to bed.  I certainly didn’t want to spend over an hour exercising…I didn’t want to throw in the towel either.  I planned today to be a cardio/core day because I knew I wouldn’t be able to adequately train legs at home.  I wanted it to be a fast but effective workout and not a 20 minute walk in the park followed by 4 sets of 20 crunches…So, here is what I did with my 30 minutes…

  • 5 minute warm-up on my Spin Bike

I set my workout timer for 20 cycles of 1 minute each (actually 1 minute and 10 seconds to allow me to switch between the bike and core exercises…no cheating here!) and alternated between 1 minute sprints on my bike and 1 minute of each of the following core exercises.  There was absolutely no rest until I finished the 20 cycles…so here is a list of the exercises I alternated with my bike sprints:

  • Knee-Ins
  • Crunch
  • Russian Twist with Medicine Ball
  • Ab Wheel Roll-outs (what was I thinking doing this for 1 minute straight?!)
  • Frog Crunch
  • Scissor Kicks
  • Bicycle Crunch
  • Plank
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Double Crunch

Rest about 1 minute at the end (just enough to hydrate and catch your breath…)

  • 5 minute cool-down on Spin Bike

That’s it…30 minutes (ok maybe like 33 minutes and 20 seconds but who’s counting) and covered in sweat!  Give it a try…you’ll either thank me or, well, not…

Well, I’m tired of 2 things:  I’m tired of winter and all this snow and I’m tired of my winter “fluff”!  Although I don’t have any specific competition plans yet, I’m at that point where it is time to shift gears.  I love being able to eat a ton of food and I love feeling super strong in the gym.  What I DON’T love is not fitting into my clothes…now don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t consider myself “fat” by any means but it’s time to drop a bit of fluff in preparation for the warmer months (I think they’re coming, I hope they’re coming).

I’m going to document my journey for several reasons:  To keep me accountable, to fill you guys in on what my personal fat loss plans look like and how they can change from week to week/month to month, and to remind myself on tough days why I “do what I do”.

So, here goes.  I will call today my official start:  Day 1.  So, what do I do on Day 1?  Nothing too different than I do any other day except build a small calorie deficit into my plan and work a bit of cardio in.  So, today, I am being a bit more conscious of certain food choices, I won’t always “eat when I’m hungry”, and I will drop about 200-300 calories from my daily plan.  That’s about it; nothing too exciting and nothing too drastic.  Although it isn’t necessary to eat a certain number of meals, I like to eat more frequent meals when I’m trying to lose fat.  I won’t cut any food groups, I won’t drastically drop my carbs, and I won’t do more than 20-30 minutes of cardio at a time.  I’ll follow a plan for about 2 weeks before making any major changes…my rule of thumb, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

I’m starting this journey at 130 pounds.  I don’t generally weigh myself or do body-fat measurements during my “building season”.  I just concentrate on my strength, how I look in the mirror, and how I am feeling overall.  I will take more measurements this week so that I have some starting numbers.

My supplement stack will also change at this point.  For now, I have recently added Top Secret Nutrition’s Probiotic Weight Loss product twice a day.  2 things I’ve noticed right off the bat with taking this product:  a moderate suppression of my appetite and overall less bloating.  I will keep you updated on all my supplements, training, and diet changes as I progress.

Ready, set, go!

Hey guys and girls…well, the mad baker is at it again.  Last week I made some protein brownies using Top Secret Nutrition’s 100% Whey in Chocolate and they were pretty good.  But, I felt the need to tweak the recipe just a bit to get them a little more moist.  So, I gave it another go tonight and think I came up with one that was pretty darn good.  So, here goes:


  • 1/2 cup oat flour (you can grind up oatmeal – just make sure you measure AFTER grinding)
  • 3 scoops Top Secret Nutrition 100% Whey, chocolate
  • 3 TBSP Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup stevia, splenda, or truvia (I used truvia in my recipe)
  • 4 oz unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1/4 cup liquid egg whites
  • 1/8 cup Walden Farms Zero Sugar/Zero Calorie chocolate syrup

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9 x 9 baking pan with Pam baking spray.

Combine all dry ingredients first, then add wet ingredients and mix well.  Add the batter to the pan and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes until done (toothpick or knife comes out clean).  Check first around 20 minutes and then every 2 minutes after…do not overcook!  Cool for about 10 minutes, cut into 9 even squares (or 9 ridiculously uneven squares if you’re me) and enjoy!

Here is the nutritional breakdown per brownie:

  • Calories:  101 (darn that single calorie!)
  • Protein: 12 grams
  • Carbs: 8 grams (only 2 sugar/2 fiber)
  • Fat:  3 grams

Optional:  add crushed walnuts or anything else your heart desires (just don’t forget to add those calories in if you’re keeping track).  Hope you enjoy them!

Hey guys and girls…a little late this week but it’s that time again.  I’m going to follow up on a blog I did a couple of weeks ago about pyramid training.  To show you the diversity of this type of training, I’m sharing with you the workout I did for my back this week which includes what I like to call some “super” pyramid sets.  Refer to my blog here if you are unfamiliar with pyramid training:  https://fitgirlkris.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/why-i-love-pyramids/

What I did in this workout was to use the pyramid system with my last set consisting of very high repetitions:

1)  One-arm DB Row (3-way hand position – palm facing behind you and upper arm perpendicular to your body, palm facing body, palm facing forward):

  • 10 reps each position (no rest)
  • 6 reps each position
  • 4 reps each position
  • 20 reps each position (this last set is a total of 60 non-stop reps each arm)

After this first exercise, you’re back should already be nice and toasty!

2)  Wide Grip Lat Pulldown:

  • 20 reps
  • 15 reps
  • 12 reps
  • 8 reps
  • 6 reps
  • 40 reps wide, 40 reps close (no rest)

3)  Seated Cable Row:

  • 15 reps
  • 12 reps
  • 10 reps
  • 8 reps
  • 6 reps
  • 4 reps
  • 60 reps

Last 2 exercises:  Superset

  • Back Flye over Incline Bench
  • DB Pullover

These 2 were performed with usual rep schemes (I did 12-15 reps here)

This routine is fairly unusual for me:  I tend to include many more exercises but trust me, by ending each of the above sets with super high reps (after performing a very heavy weight for 4-6 reps), you will be done!

If you decide to give it a try, let me know how it went!


Posted: February 5, 2014 in Fitness, Nutrition
Tags: , ,

It’s about that time again…cutting season.  Spring is approaching (Dear God I hope so because I don’t think I can stand any more single digit temperatures or any more snow!).  Ok, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I’m going to write a little post on my thoughts about carb-cycling for any of you that are interested…wink, wink (you know who you are! ;-))

Carb-cycling:  What is it?  Who is it for?  How do I implement it?

Carb-cycling at the basic level is rotating your carb intake each day to include low carb, moderate carb, and high carb days.  Just like any other meal plan, there are countless ways to do it.  You can have 5 low carb days and 2 high carb days or 2 low, 3 medium, and 2 high carb days…and so on…At this stage, I’m usually consuming 6 meals per day but you can use this with any meal frequency plan.  This type of “zig-zag” carbohydrate intake helps to fuel your system, aid in fat loss, and help preserve muscle.  I’m not going to get into the scientific aspect of it (you can google it and read all the details you want).  My purpose is to share my insight on when and how to use this approach (and how I’ve successfully used it in the past).

So, who is it for and how do I do it?  I personally think that carb-cycling is the most beneficial when used to break a plateau in a fat-loss program or for the final few weeks of contest dieting.  This is where I found the most benefit.  Anyone can use it at any time, but I like to “save” it when I need a little kick-start to my fat loss program.  As I’ve said before, slow and steady wins the race when it comes to fat loss.  I personally believe that one should follow a balanced program of adequate protein, carbs, and fat as long as it is working for you (even if it is slower than you like!).  If you think you have quite a bit of fat to lose, wait to add carb-cycling.  If you’re near your goal and need a jump-start, give it a go.

The dreaded plateau…yes, we’ve all been there.  You’re doing everything right:  not missing your workouts, nutrition is on point, you’re getting adequate rest, and using smart supplementation.  Instead of adding ridiculous amounts of cardio or dropping calories too low, here is where I’ll start to implement a carb-cycling approach.  I prefer the 2 low, 3 moderate, and 2 high carb days when starting out.  I will generally reserve the higher carb days for intense training days (legs or back) and try to keep my carb intake higher around my training times (before and after my workouts).  Again, this is IN GENERAL!  I have eaten carbs at different times (eeek…even before bed!) – you have to find what is going to fit your training schedule and lifestyle (i.e.  if you train later in the afternoon or at night, eating carbs late at night is completely fine IMHO).

Is there a specific time I should do this for?  Maybe…(helpful, aren’t I?  ;-))  Again, a general time frame of as little as 2-3 weeks, several months, or more.  It all depends on what your goals are.  You can’t really tell if something is working unless you do it for at least 2 weeks.  So, if you’ve hit a plateau and want to give it a try, aim to do it for at least 2 weeks to see if it is working.  If not, change the variables, switch out a higher carb day for an additional low or medium one.  Just don’t change too many variables at once.

In terms of how long to use it for, think “big picture”…is this a sustainable way of eating for you?  I’ll be honest, I HATE low carb days…I turn into a cranky idiot (now, where did I put those car keys….oh yeah, they’re in my hand….ahem…).  I also find that if I do too many low carb days for too long, I start to lose muscle.  So personally, if I’m cycling with 3 or more low carb days per week, I’ll maintain that for no longer than 4 weeks.  If I’m following a general plan according to training (high carbs on brutal training days, moderate carbs on less intense days, and lower carb on rest or cardio days) I can follow it longer-term.

There you have it…carb-cycling is just another tool that you can use on your journey to your ideal physique.  If you have any questions, please feel free to add them in the comments or hit me up on my FB page (www.facebook.com/KristineLoockWnbfPro)!

This week for me has been all about the pyramid.  I frequently change up my routines and rep schemes to maximize either strength, endurance, or power.  Enter, pyramids…with this classic workout scheme, you can get the best of “all” worlds.  Simply put, pyramids follow either an upward or downward scheme of reps, weight, or sets.  If you’re creative, there are an endless number of ways you can create your own pyramid.  The most popular variations are

  • Ascending:  This is where you increase the weight but decrease the reps with each successive set
  • Descending:  You decrease the weight but increase the reps with each successive set
  • “Triangle”:  This will include both ascending and descending

Here’s why I love it:  You can set up pyramids to include as few or as many sets as you want.  The higher reps can increase muscular endurance, the moderate reps/weight can focus on muscle hypertrophy, and the super low reps/heaviest weight can enhance your maximum strength and power.  These rep schemes are mere guidelines for their “intended purpose”…any resistance training you do will build muscle and time under tension is one of the greatest determinants.  Again, another reason to love pyramids.  If you do the triangle version, you can have as many as 7 +sets….increased volume = increased time under tension = gains!


Here is an example of a higher volume pyramid set that you can do:

  • Set 1:  Light weight: 15 reps
  • Set 2:  Light/medium weight:  12 reps
  • Set 3:  Medium weight: 10 reps
  • Set 4:  Medium/heavy weight:  8 reps
  • Set 5:  Heaviest weight: 3-6 reps
  • Set 6:  Medium/heavy weight:  Aim for 8 reps
  • Set 7:  Medium weight:  Aim for 10 reps
  • Set 8:  Light/medium weight:  Aim for 12 reps
  • Set 9:  Light weight:  Aim for 15 reps

Notice for the descending portion, I wrote “Aim for” with the reps.  If you’re working intensely (as you should be!) during your workout, you may be fatigued and not quite able to complete all the reps with good form/safety.

And here is an example of a lower volume “Ascending” Pyramid set:

  • Set 1:  Light weight 12 reps
  • Set 2:  Medium weight:  10 reps
  • Set 3:  Heavy weight:  6-8 reps
  • Set 4:  Heaviest or attempting PR:  2-4 reps

So you see, the only limitation is your imagination.  If you’ve never tried pyramids before, add some to your next workout!