Posts Tagged ‘Nutrition’

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”.

The end of 2013 was one hell of a roller-coaster for me and my family.  The rush of the holidays on top of  everyday life can certainly wear one down.  But that is small beans compared to what was to come.  On Christmas night, in one sudden moment, I lost my mom.  She had been ill for awhile but this was completely unexpected.  Several days after the funeral, my dad landed in the hospital for almost a week.  The last couple of weeks have been one blurred nightmare.

This has certainly been a serious wake-up call.  In an instant, it can all be changed forever.

Health – something we certainly don’t think too much about until we don’t have it.  I don’t care who you are or how much money you make, if you don’t have your health, you’ve got nothing.  If you follow my blogs or my facebook page regularly, you’re most likely into some facet of fitness.  So, good for you!  We all need to take good care of ourselves to the best of our abilities.  There are many things that are under our control and some that aren’t.  Exercise, food choices, sleep, smoking, alcohol use, etc. – we can all make conscious choices regarding these.  We can’t change our genes or family history of certain diseases but we can choose to live our lives to minimize the effects.

I am not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions.  I know it’s the start of a new year, but why do we have to wait until January 1st to make a positive change in our lives?  That aside, I am going to work to make goals for 2014 regarding health not just physique goals or competition goals.  Being a mom, I am often putting my own needs on the back burner to take care of my kids.  But, what good would I be if I wasn’t healthy?  I plan to catch up on any medical stuff I may have set aside to make sure I’m as good on the inside as I am on the outside!

So, I challenge you to do the same.  Keep on top of your health as much as you keep on top of your workouts or meal prep.  Try to quit a nagging bad habit if you have one, drop the weight that’s been plaguing you, get more sleep, get off the computer and go workout (but finish reading this first! ;-)), or whatever else will positively influence your health.  Let’s make 2014 one hell of a healthy year!

Anyone who has tried to “diet” or clean up their nutrition can usually get off to a fairly good start.  We’re motivated to make a change and that first day or two seems somewhat easy.  We may even be really good and manage to stay on track for weeks or even months.  Then what happens?  We might not be getting enough sleep, we’re stressed at our jobs, and now is the toughest time of all…the holidays!  So what do many of us do?  We start to cave….a little nibble of this, a couple of bites of that, and maybe an extra cheat meal or four.  The cravings kick in…once we get started, the downward spiral begins.  It’s ok bro, I’m bulking! 😉

Now, I’m not a nutrition expert but I do know that sugar can be addictive for some.  An overload of sugar will actually affect the brain.  Simple sugars and sweets will cause a rapid rise in blood sugar….and then, the dreaded crash; this sets you up for a pattern of more cravings and poor eating.  Enough about that…what the heck are we supposed to do?  Never eat a donut again?

Break the cycle!  Can you do it cold turkey?  Sure, but for many this is not a long-term solution.  A quick fix, yes.  Will you lose some weight, absolutely.  But here’s the thing.  It’s just too drastic for most people.  It can be a set-up for binge-eating and lead you back to your old ways.  So, here are some tips for getting sugar out of the way of your goals:

  • Baby steps:  Pick one thing a week to cut out.  Soda drinker?  This is one of the best places to start.  Swap out your soda for water, unsweetened tea, or anything else calorie and sugar free.  DO NOT switch to diet!  Diet sodas won’t help you break your cravings for sweets.  Same goes for artificial sweeteners.  After a few weeks, your taste and cravings for sugar will decrease.  Eat more fruit when you are craving something sweet.  Keep removing sugar a little at a time – put a little less in your coffee or tea each week and it becomes easier.  Once the sugar has been out for awhile, those sweet things no longer taste the same.
  • Make sure you are getting enough protein:  protein won’t spike your blood sugar as sweets will, digests a bit slower, and may help you feel full longer.  Have a chocolate protein shake or pudding in place of “the real deal”…I blend my Top Secret Nutrition 100% Whey with ice and almond milk (makes it nice and thick) and place it in the freezer for a bit.  It’s my version of a “Frosty”.
  • Fiber!:  Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables; again, great for keeping your blood sugar levels more stable and keeping you full.
  • Exercise:  Enough said!
  • Get enough sleep:  I’ve said this in previous posts, but lack of sleep will trigger your cravings.
  • Drink enough water:  Hunger and cravings are often misinterpreted.  Make sure you are getting enough water based on your size, the weather, and activity level.  Feeling hungry or craving something?  Drink first and then re-assess.
  • If you absolutely have to have that donut and you’ve done everything in your power to avoid it….cut it in half or have just a few bites.  Sometimes, when you don’t give in (i.e. you’re being way too strict)…you become obsessed with that donut and the longer you hold out, the worse it will be.  One donut turns to 2, then maybe a piece of chocolate, your kid’s leftover cookie crumbs….you get the point!

In no particular order, I am also going to list what I call some other “nutrition-busters”:

  • Not eating enough – if you’re eating very low calorie and exercising intensely, this is a recipe for disaster.
  • Portion size – even if you’re eating all the “right stuff”, too much of it will still make you gain weight.  I suggest weighing or measuring for a short period of time so that you are able to get a better understanding of correct portion size.  You don’t need to do it forever (unless you want to), just long enough to be able to judge proper portions.
  • Nighttime eating – you’ve been spot-on with your eating during the day; it’s now after dinner and you decide to sit down in front of the TV for a little bit.  A scoop of peanut butter here, a few pretzels there…soon enough, you easily add another 600-800 calories of mindless eating to your day.  Sound familiar?  It certainly does to me!  What is it about the evening that makes us crave?  There are numerous reasons including hormonal fluctuations (including the feeding/satiety hormones ghrelin and leptin), environment, and additional sensory stimulation (hello Food Network, fast-food commercials…).  What has worked for me:  herbal tea, an evening workout, writing these blogs (can’t eat if I’m too busy typing ;-)), and having a healthy alternative if I’m truly hungry (I tend to have one late-night meal before going to bed anyway).  My latest experiment that I just started this week….intermittent fasting/feeding.  I’m shifting my eating schedule to allow more evening calories…stay tuned for this one!

What a week!  So I  finally had my contest this past weekend and it was a blast!  I ended with a 2nd place finish in the Pro FitBody division.  Of course I would have loved to take 1st, but I am very happy with my placement and I’m now onto the next phases of recovery and building.

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It’s pretty amazing the things you go through the final week of preparing for a contest.  There are the last minute workouts, keeping close tabs on water intake, small tweaks in the diet, hair appointments, tanning appointments, meetings, final suit adjustments, posing practice, and the list goes on.

What I was NOT prepared for this time around, was catching a nasty cold!  About a week and a half out, my youngest daughter came home from school sick.  Well, since mommy usually becomes the cuddle blanket and the “human tissue”  (and my immune system was clearly a bit compromised from the heavy training and diet)…voila!  I got really sick just about 1 week out.  I rested for a day or 2 and felt a bit better, but when my training resumed, things went downhill AND fast!  I had no energy, had trouble breathing and started coughing anytime I tried to do cardio, and felt like I had no strength whatsoever.  BUT, I did the best I could, rested when I could, and just powered through the last few days.

Things definitely didn’t go as planned that final week but thankfully, I was stage-ready early and just had to hang on to my conditioning.

Now what?

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Well, I am definitely enjoying some (I think well-deserved :-)) treats this week and doing a few low-intensity recovery workouts.  I will also be taking my Top Secret Nutrition Cleanse & Detox supplement this week to help push the “reset” button before starting my building phase next week.  I have the judges’ feedback fresh in hand and my new plan for the remainder of the fall and winter.  So, I will continue to post some of my workouts here on the blog so look for some fun, new, and super-intense training plans coming your way!

Hey all!  Just wanted to write a few quick thoughts about where I am in my contest prep.  I have been “officially” dieting for about 3 1/2 weeks now and have made some great progress.  I’ve seen some changes on the scale, in my body-fat measurements, how my clothes are fitting, but most of all…what I’m seeing in the mirror and in progress photos.  The last 2 are by far the most important measures for me.  I also do measurements with the tape measure but only a few times during my prep.  Thus far, my diet has included plenty of carbs, dairy, and even fruit (just about daily).  I have not been overly hungry or fatigued up to this point.  So, here’s a quick run-down of my current program regarding nutrition, training, and supplementation:

Nutrition:  My carbs/protein/fat ratio is a little bit variable, but on most days it looks like this: 35C/40P/25F.  I try to plan most of my carbs around workout time.  I’ll have a slower digesting carb an hour to two hours before my workout (unless I’m training super early in the morning) and a post-workout meal containing protein and carbs (I’ll usually have some fruit with this meal).  I will occasionally have my carbs in the evening…it just depends on how my macros are working out for that particular day.  This is what works for me…I have found that if I drop my carbs too low, I have no energy for my workouts and I’m much hungrier throughout the day.

Training:  Right now I weight-train 6 days a week.  Here is my current split:

  • Sunday:  Shoulders & Traps; 20-30 minutes light cardio with a few minutes of abs after cardio
  • Monday:  Quads & Calves; 20 minutes of HIIT cardio
  • Tuesday:  Back & Biceps; 20-30 minutes light cardio & abs
  • Wednesday:  Chest & Triceps; 20 minutes of HIIT cardio
  • Thursday:  Weak Point Training, weighted abs, and 20-30 minutes light cardio
  • Friday:  Glutes and Hamstrings; 20 minutes of HIIT cardio
  • Saturday:  Complete Rest or Yoga

So, with this schedule, I’m currently doing cardio 6 days a week but no more than 30 minutes (some days I do skip it).  For me, cardio is an adjunct to proper nutrition and resistance training.  As my prep continues, I will adjust it (up or even down) as necessary.  I will say this though…you will not find me doing hours on end.  I usually top out at 30, maybe 45 minutes.

Supplements:  I am a proud member of Team Top Secret Nutrition and I use a lot of their supplements everyday.  Here is my current stack:

  • Twice per day (usually morning and afternoon):  TSN Digestive Enzymes, Fish Oil & CLA, Advanced Joint Support, Concentrated Red Palm Oil, ActiveXtreme Mulit (a.m. only), and InterDerm (p.m. only)
  • Before each meal:  TSN Garcinia Cambogia Extract (to support weight loss, appetite control, and it affects caloric absorption)
  • Before Cardio:  If I’m doing morning cardio:  TSN Cardio Igniter;  If I’m doing my cardio in the evening:  I will take either TSN’s Extreme Jitter Free Fat Burner or the new L-Carnitine Plus Raspberry Ketones Liquid
  • Pre-Workout:  Right now I take a combination of TSN Cardio Igniter, Creavar, and Astravar 2.0 BUT I will be starting the brand-new Pump Igniter Pre-workout as soon as my shipment arrives!  Stay tuned for updates and reviews!

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  • Intra-Workout:  TSN BCAA Hyperblend Energy
  • Post-Workout:  If I don’t have a whole-foods meal, I will drink a protein shake (TSN 100% Whey)

For more information on Top Secret Nutrition products, you can check out the following links:

Dealing With Injury

Posted: June 25, 2013 in Fitness
Tags: , ,

I have been a competitive athlete pretty much all my life.  Since my childhood, I’ve dabbled in just about everything:  gymnastics, ice skating, softball, field hockey, lacrosse, ice hockey, and now bodybuilding.  With sports and hard training, pain/injury is inevitable.  I’ve suffered my fair share during my athletic career but I never let an injury stop me.  Don’t get me wrong…it is imperative that you take care of injuries in the proper way, but that doesn’t mean that you need to stop training altogether.  I certainly understand that it can be frustrating not to be able to train in the manner that you are accustomed to, but don’t give up!  Don’t throw in the towel, ditch your nutrition, and sit on the couch wallowing in self-pity.  Take a day off, take 2, or even a week if you need it, but there are plenty of things that you can do to maintain your fitness while recovering (as long as you don’t have any restrictions from your doctor!)

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  • Keep your nutrition in check.  This is going to be super important especially if your training level is lower.  Match your intake to your activity level.  If you have a minor injury and only have to avoid certain exercises, your nutrition may not have to change at all.  If you have something more serious, it is important to eat well so that you can heal, but don’t overeat if your activity is significantly less.
  • Rest.  “If something hurts, don’t do it!”  This seems simple and a bit silly, but there is a lot of truth to it.  Our bodies are amazing; they are very good at telling us when something is wrong.  Never push through bad pain because I guarantee that you’re only going to make things worse.  Rest the area, ice if needed, and don’t take loads of painkillers just to be able to train.  It’s better to take 2 weeks off than to be forced to take 6 months off.
  • Train accordingly.  This is something that is near and dear to me as we speak.  I have been dealing with an elbow issue that comes and goes.  Sometimes I can train as usual, sometimes a little lighter, and sometimes I need to avoid upper body completely.  Do what you can but don’t overdo it.
  • Train around the injury.  Shoulder hurts?  Do legs or abs.  Knee surgery?  Do upper body machines in the sitting position (avoid standing or other movements that will place stress on the knee).  Can’t do weights at all?  Hop on some cardio equipment or go for a walk.  There is almost always SOMETHING that you can do.
  • See your doc.  If your pain persists despite all your attempts at rest and home remedies, don’t be afraid to check in with your doctor.  It’s much better to take care of something in the early stages.
  • Check your form.  Make sure that your pain/injury is not a result of improper form or using too heavy a weight.  Form first, weight second.  Check your ego at the door when lifting.  It’s ok to try to continue to increase your weights as you get stronger, but make sure that you do it in a safe manner with a spotter if needed.  Have a trusted friend or personal trainer check your form if you think your injury was a result of lifting technique.
  • Vary your exercises.  Overuse can be a huge problem in sports and weightlifting.  Performing the same movements over and over again can place a significant amount of stress on muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons.  Remember to vary your exercises if you can to avoid placing too much strain on one area.  Bench press addict?  Try incline, decline, dumbbells, or a machine from time to time to hit the area a bit differently.
  • Warm-up properly and stretch.  We’re all strapped for time and I admit to being guilty of inadequate warm-ups and stretching, but it is very important to take that extra 5 minutes especially if you’ve had a prior injury in a particular area of it is an area of weakness for you.
  • Remember to get enough rest.  This is one of the most overlooked aspects of any sport or training.  REST!  Your mind may say differently, but your body needs it.  Muscles don’t grow in the gym, they grow at rest.  Make sure you take at least one day off per week to give your body a chance to recover and avoid training the same muscle groups 2 days in a row.

If pain or injury strikes, don’t give up!  Get mad, get frustrated, or whatever it is that helps you, and then get over it!  Take a short break and then find some way to work around it until you recover.

Why is losing fat so darn hard?  The concept seems easy enough…to lose fat we must consume less calories than we are expending, right?  Well, yes and no.  Unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy.  I know some people who would argue that it is, but we must consider many things when trying to attain our best physique.  Will we lose weight on a steady diet of donuts as long as our calories are low enough.  I guess we would but our bodies would be poorly nourished wouldn’t they?  And could we lose weight without exercise…sure, but what would we look like?  My point here is that there needs to be a balance between nutrition, exercise, and rest.  There’s not too much we can do about our genetics, but we can certainly control the other three factors.  I’m going to list a few important things to consider when embarking on a weight-loss journey:

  • If you have a great deal of weight to lose and are relatively untrained, it IS possible to gain lean mass and lose fat at the same time.  If you have a good amount of weight training under your belt, it’s not going to be the same.  Here is where I suggest picking a primary goal.  Too many people bounce back and forth between “bulking” and “cutting” to make any real changes in their physique.  If your goal is fat loss, structure your training and nutrition accordingly.  What I mean is, you are going to need to be in a caloric deficit to lose fat and your training should be geared towards maintaining the lean mass you already have.  And when thinking about lengths of cutting/bulking cycles, think months, not weeks.
  • Please, please, please…don’t overdo the cardio!  Cardio should be used as a supplement to a sound nutrition and resistance training plan.  I’m not saying ‘don’t do cardio’, I’m just saying don’t do 2 hours of cardio a day!  Enough said.
  • Another common mistake is dropping calories too low.  Less is NOT more especially if you are training intensely.  You need enough calories to support your metabolism and training.  Not only that, it can set you up for binge-eating.
  • Don’t quit if you’re not seeing the scale move.  Too many people put too much emphasis on the numbers of the scale.  If the numbers aren’t going down (or God forbid they go up!), they get frustrated or depressed and give up.  Throw out your scale if you must!  Many factors can change your weight over the course of a week or even the course of a day!  Water weight from an increase in carb or sodium intake, hormonal changes, and yes, even your bathroom habits can alter that number!  My advice? Look in the mirror, take progress pictures, and take measurements.  We can all usually tell when our clothes are fitting better.  These are MUCH more important than a silly number.
  • Be patient!  Healthy and long-lasting weight/fat loss is going to take time!  Don’t fall for any ridiculous plans that promise a 10 pound loss in 2 weeks (unless of course you’re truly obese).  It IS possible to drop weight too fast:  it can be unhealthy and you can lose your hard-earned lean mass. Rapid fat-loss plans are impossible to sustain and once you stop the plan, you can actually become fatter (if you did lose lean mass and then gain more weight back).  An average person should aim to lose no more than 1-2 pounds per week.  A person who is already fairly lean, 1/2 to 1 pound per week.
  • Modify your training/nutrition AS NEEDED.  Don’t make changes to your program if it’s still working!  Plateaus are inevitable…nutrition and/or training will need to be modified at some point.  Don’t change just for the sake of change and don’t make too many adjustments at once.
  • Use refeeds for your body and your mind if you are following a low-carb program!  Dieting is tough.  We may feel deprived, tired, cranky or all of the above.  Refeeds (or increasing your calories and carbohydrates but maintaining lower fat) can help replenish muscle glycogen (and performance), may help restore leptin levels (a hormone that helps control hunger), and can certainly have a positive effect on our mood!  Refeeds are more important as your bodyfat levels become lower (think:  losing those last 5-10 pounds).
  • Write it down:  studies show that keeping a food journal can greatly increase your chance of success.  It keeps you accountable and can be a real eye-opener if you’ve never tracked your food intake before.  This also goes for watching portion size!  Too much healthy food is still too much!

I could probably babble on, but I’ll sum it up really quickly!  Be patient, train hard, eat right, sleep well, and you’ll be sure to lose…um, win.  I mean… you’re gonna look great!

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.

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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! 😉