Countdown: 2 months

Today in August 26, 2013 and today marks 2 months to my 2nd ever fitness competition or just under 9 weeks out.

It also marks the introduction of steady state cardio into my plan.

If you read this post you’ll understand that I really was trying to avoid lots of low intensity steady state cardio or LISS because 1) I find it boring and somewhat painful and 2) it can be just as damaging to your metabolism as decreasing your calories.

Unfortunately I am not losing weight, so the planned 1 LISS cardio session a week has been upped to 2. HIITs will still be performed 3 times per week though!

This morning I decided to do some fasted cardio, which in case you don’t know, is all the rage amongst bodybuilders. Unfortunately many people get prescribed this but don’t really know why they are doing it. So being me with the Eat Clean, Train Dirty, Think Nerdy mindset, I did the research.

There are mixed views on fasted cardio, but the reason for doing it are:

  1. Exercising in a fasted state means that your glucose stores are at there lowest point in the day, therefore it is easier to burn through those stores and start burning fat stores sooner than if you had to burn though 40 grams worth or carbs from breakfast.
  2. Being in a fasted state also means that your insulin levels are low which will improve your bodies ability to process fat for energy. Insulin is the enzyme that stores fat, and it is also anabolic. It’s pretty hard to access fat stores directly when there is a lot of insulin present.

This morning’s bout of fasted cardio left my tomato red and uber sweaty… my body doesn’t really understand “moderate intensity”

The main draw backs of fasted cardio are that it can break down your lean muscle mass and you can lose some of those hard earned muscles! Obviously that is not what we want. Thankfully, you can take steps to minimize the muscle loss while still reaping the rewards of the fat loss. Taking 5-10 grams of BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) will allow your body to use the BCAAs from your supplement instead of from your muscles while you work out and minimize the muscle damage. You should also only workout at a moderate intensity for not longer than 1 hour for the best results. High intensity training while fasted can do a lot of damage to the muscles AND can be dangerous with the potential to make you feel nauseous or faint.

Hopefully with the extra cardio my body will finally drop some weight. I am making some visible progress, but I’d like it to come a little faster. If you want to follow my progress you can check out my instagram @otgfitness



Karma and getting sick

I have previously written a post about working out while you are sick and my stance is basically that if you are really sick then you should rest, if you are just using it as an excuse, then go to the gym! But I am 11 days away from my first ever competition and I am feeling oh so terrible. I don’t know if I’m actually sick or if my body has just had enough of the crazy workout regime and not enough food. I think it might be a bit of both: i.e. I am getting sick because my body does not have enough resources to fight off the infections I am exposed to… the joys of working in an office.

Mostly what I am feeling is extreme fatigue and nausea, particularly during cardio which is not fun. I would normally take nausea as a sign that I am too sick to work out. Things like sore throat, sinus issues and head colds don’t stop me, but stomach or lung issues I usually rest.

Yesterday I managed to do 1 hour on the stair mill feeling nauseous the whole time and planning to eat a good meal after and hope that helped. It did… a little. But I still wasn’t feeling great. I planned to workout after work as well (legs and some more cardio) but at 5 I decided that my body could use the rest more than the workout. I went home. On the bus about 100 feet from my door I had the sinking realization that I had forgotten my keys in the gym when I went in the tanning bed! Karma you sneaky devil! If I had gone to the gym after work I would have needed my keys to get into the gym, but nooooo I skipped it, so now I was stuck. I ended up having to scale the garage at the back of my building and crawl in through a window that had an AC unit in it (which has since been removed and the window is locked if anyone has thievery on their mind). But seriously, the universe has a way of telling you what it wants you to do, I swear, I have even talked about that before here. So I am taking the hint universe! No slacking!

This morning I woke up bright (it was actually dark) and early to work out with the uber-intense Max Shona who is training me a couple times leading up to the show at the Yonge & Eglinton Goodlife. He likes working with “athletes” because he can push them a lot harder, and oh boy does he push.

This morning he had me do 8 rounds of this workout:

Full body plyo workout

20 kettlebell swings with a 16 kg kettlebell

15 full burpees (i.e. actually jumping of the floor, not just standing up)

15 “knee-to-chin” crunches (balance on your butt and bring your upper body and knees up at the same time then extend.

That is a total of 160 kettlebell swings, 120 burpees and 120 knee/chins.

After every round I would just stop after the last extension and lay there panting until I could get up, take a few swigs on water and set up for the next round. I only broke 3 times during the burpees (broke the set into 10 then 5) and the rest of the sets were all straight, with some breathing time between the kb swings and the burpees.

As far as nutrition goes, I have been noticing my body is craving carbs…. like, a lot. So I have upped my carb intake to between 80-120 grams every day and feel much better. I try to time most of my carbs around workouts to use them most efficiently and to supply the much needed fuel to my muscles when I am asking so much of them.

In general, for muscular gains and well being you should consume some carbs before and after a workout and the type of carb (simple or complex) depends on the type of exercise… steady and long – opt for complex carbs like sweet potato; short and intense – opt for simple carbs (not straight sugar, think fruit). The ratio I like to follow is how ever many carbs you will need for your workout (30 grams is usually more than enough for the average woman and 40-50 grams for men) consume 2/3rds of the carbs before the workout to give your body energy (so 20 grams for women and 30 grams for men) and the rest after the workout to aid recovery.

Fat loss (note that I don’t say weight loss because that is NEVER the goal) is a little different and I usually stick to carbs and protein before only if I am really going to go hard and nothing if it’s a slower workout and straight protein with potentially some healthy fat after the workout. This morning I knew I would need the carbs so I whipped up a wicked protein shake that did the trick.



  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
  • ½ c. Frozen raspberries
  • 1 c. Pure coconut water (like coco samba)

Directions: Blend and drink while running around getting ready for the gym!

Nutritional Info:  Cals – 215    Carbs – 20 g   Fats – 3 g   Protein – 27 g (my protein powder is higher protein than most, so adjust if yours is different)

Then after the workout I had 1 oz of almonds and some more protein to refuel. This afternoon’s workout (yes today is a 2-a-day) I will have an apple before followed my protein sludge when I get home or just straight to dinner if I make it quick.

FYI there has been a baked goods cart coming desk to desk in my office for the last 2 days, it is pure torture. Stop the madness! I had few nibbles of a cookie and it tasted divine, I cannot wait to indulge a bit after the competition, but no gluten (or very little) because stomach aches are not fun!

Exercise should be enjoyable… or at least not torture

I hate cardio… there, I said it. I know most of you are thinking it and trying to convince yourself that no no, I really do like going running for an hour feeling like my heart is going to explode out of my chest. You liar! I know some of you probably actually do like running, or other forms of endurance cardio. For instance, I have a friend who ran her first marathon in under 3 hours and 20 minutes and she actually enjoys it. She is also all of 5’2” and probably 110 lbs. She is essentially made for running long distances. I am not.

Let’s think from a biological perspective though. Our bodies are not made to run marathons, sure we have been nomadic at times in our history, but that didn’t involve running for 4 hours and definitely not on pavement. Marathons and running in general is hard on your body because it’s jarring and repetitive. Putting your body through that much exertion releases huge amounts of cortisol, damages you fascia (particularly in your feet) and generally breaks down your body. Our ancestors walked extremely long distances, and they certainly ran when the time called for it, but I can guarantee you they never jogged. Speaking from an evolutionary perspective, there was just never a need.

So what are our bodies made for? Well for one, they are made for walking long distances using lateral movements on uneven surfaces (I am very guilty of just getting on a treadmill, but get outside please). For two, they are designed for short bursts of intense energy or sprinting (think escaping certain death or trying to catch your next meal). Have you ever compared a sprinter to a marathoner?

I think it’s pretty obvious that the person on the left has conserved more lean body mass and generally looks healthier that the person on the right.

But what about all that science-y stuff that says steady state cardio for the win?! Well let’s clarify that. Science has shown that steady state cardio exertion, which is typically defined as consistently keeping your heart rate at about 60% of your maximal effort, is the best for fat loss. This is consistently touted as the reason that you should run at 5 mph for hours on end to lose weight. The problem with this is the study was looking at fat burning and metabolic increases DURING exercise as compared with sprinting or other high intensity workouts. When studies were done that tested the oxygen consumption (a measure of metabolism) and other measures over longer periods of time they found that high intensity workouts burned less fat while the exercise was happening (burning almost exclusively glycogen stores) but that the body continued to metabolize fat for hours after the workout, returning to “normal” about 6 hours later. Comparatively the steady state cardio had minimal lasting metabolic effects.

Additionally, sprinting retains muscle mass and can even help you build mass when compared to long sessions of cardio. Muscle burns more calories at rest that fat or having less muscle. So putting on muscle will also help you lose fat.

There are so many different options out there for cardio vascular exercise, and let me just make this clear, cardio is EXTREMELY important for your health. Your body is not made to do the same thing over and over again, so don’t! Of course you have your favourite workout, but there are lots of different options. Some of the best out there for torching fat are as follows:

  • Tabata workouts or sprints  –> go here if that means nothing to you
  • HIIT – or high intensity interval training
  • Hill walking – this can be emulated on a treadmill and is a natural interval style workout
  • Sprinting – try doing the 100 meter dash a couple of times
  • Cycling – I hate spin classes, but they are definitely awesome to mix up your cardio and who doesn’t love a good bike ride?
  • Interval running  – not HIIT, this is more of a walk run style workout
  • Circuit training – I do leg circuits all the time… in fact I’m doing one today
  • Hiking/long walks – go to a park, it has the added benefit of getting you outside which makes you happier… really it does! Think vitamin D and endorphins.
  • Random sports – most sports involve short bursts of high energy, similar to HIIT

My point is: don’t feel chained to the treadmill to lose weight. There are so many different ways to increase your heart rate, confuse your body and make it burn fat like crazy. If you love running, then you’re probably one of the few people whose body is more tailored for that type of exercise. If that’s the case, then go for it! But if not, listen to your body. I personally find sprinting, and Tabata style workouts way more fun and super rewarding. Plus I get great results that way because (1) I am willing to do it and not make excuses, and (2) my body responds really well to it because I am listening to what it wants… bodies are awesome like that!

I’m sure plenty of people disagree with me on this one, so feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. I love a good debate!