I’m engaged!!!

Wow… ok, focus

My wonderful fiancee and I looking oh so happy.

Ok, so remember how I said I was starting prep for June 14th on Monday this week? Well that didn’t happen… mostly because I got engaged and have been having many many celebratory drinkies with friends and family and decided to take a week to just soak it all in instead.

So now it’s been 9 days since the proposal and I’m refocusing on day-to-day life… and contest prep. So I’m officially starting tomorrow, Saturday March 1st… 15 weeks out from the competition!

I will be blogging about once a week during this prep as my work life is pretty busy and now I have a wedding to plan! So sorry… but I have to be realistic!

Some things that I planning on doing a little differently this time around:

  • Keeping my food more consistent throughout the week (i.e. eating the same thing each day for 7 days (with changes for dinner and late night snack as an option) and then changing on a weekly basis. I’ve always been all over the map with what I eat as long as I hit my targets, and I believe that is the ultimate right way to diet, BUT I want to be able to see how certain foods affect my body and the easiest way to do that is consistency. We will see how long this lasts haha.
  • Taking fewer supplements… I took a boat load of vitamins and BCAA type supplements last prep and I’m just going to try to keep it simpler this time… largely in an effort to save money for my WEDDING!!! (can you tell you will be hearing lot’s about this?)

    I had to find a place for the ring while I worked out… necklaces work!

  • Be better with my HIIT cardio and use active rest – I lift really heavy even when I’m not meaning too and it makes active rest next to impossible because I need that time to.. you know… actually rest. I’m going to try to be better with periodization this time around and actually use active rest instead of resorting to LISS cardio.

Things I am keeping the same:

  • My calories will still be high and mighty! I’m starting this cut at about 2000-2100 cals/day. I worked really hard on my metabolism this offseason (read: I ate A LOT of EVERYTHING)I gained a lot more than I intended but I also put on way more muscle that I thought I could. So I’m not worried. I haven’t tracked my food in a while, but I’d guess that my daily average cals are over 3000. So I should be able to lose weight relatively easily!
  • Lifting heavy (most of the time) – this is what I love and what keeps me coming back… so I won’t be doing too much circuit training or lighter weight higher reps until the very end of prep.
  • I’ll still be flexible and have a life. Just like last prep, I firmly maintain that this should be an enjoyable experience and one where you can still go on a date, or have a dinner out with the girls.

So it begins…

15 weeks and counting!

Also – look at this amazing proposal video I got to watch before he popped the question!!!! Ok enough bragging… sorry. I promise to learn to be modest at some point.

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2014 goals and bulking update

My last post alluded to the fact that I have already decided on plans for the next year. And I have. Oh I have.

But first… an update!

The short version: Off season is weird and frustrating and hard to navigate especially during Christmas time.

The long version: I have already gained back all the weight the I wanted to allow myself to over the next 3 months. Which means I just want to maintain… that was not my plan. To be fair I am only 2 pounds over where I planned to be at this time, but it’s definitely 2 pounds of fat and not muscle. Nonetheless, I don’t want to try to limit my calories to come back down, because my goal is to rebuild my metabolism in this off-season. My crappy metabolism is the reason I am 2 pounds heavier than I want to be in the first place!

So vicious circle goes like this:

1 – I want to rebuild my metabolism so I eat more calories

2 – My metabolism sucks, so I gain weight (also because I randomly have no self-control and eat a lot of food)

3 – I continue to eat at this level to try to rebuild my metabolism, but continue to gain weight in excess of my plan

4 – I am now over my planned weight gain and need to lose MORE weight to get competition ready

5 – I diet down for a competition, but have to diet more strictly than anticipated because I have gained more weight than planned

6 – My metabolism suffers and I can’t lose or maintain weight easily… go back to step 1. 😦

ChocolateTo be completely fair I am only 5 pounds over contest weight at 6 weeks post contest which is not terrible. And I have been doing no cardio for about a week… and I have been slightly indulgent in the last 2 weeks… so really it’s my own damn fault. But why is it so easy to pack on pounds and so freaking hard to get rid of them?!

Side note – did you know that the “?!” punctuation mark is called an interrobang?! Well now you do 🙂

Also, I decided to do a deload week this week because it’s been approximately 5 months since I’ve gone more than 2 days without weight training (other than getting sick) and I think my body needs a rest. So that probably also contributed to the extra pounds on the scale.

I want to emphasize at this point that I am NOT calling myself fat. I am still quite lean and I actually love the way I look. I like curves and I don’t mind looking softer. What I am concerned about is getting too far from my contest weight and having to go through a “difficult” contest prep again. i.e. one where I potentially further reduce my metabolic capacity.

And on that note, let’s segue into my plans! I know most people do this at new year, but I like to have my goals and plans in place before Christmas because I love planning… and lifting. Lifting’s my favourite.

Fitness Goals:

1 – Get Pro status with UFE *oh gosh, I’m actually admitting that I want this… breathe, ok, whew* by the end of 2014

2 – Compete at the regional level with OPA and place top 3 in my category.

3 – Complete at least 2 non-bodybuilding related sporting events.

Ok, so that first one is a big one. UFE is only getting bigger which means the caliber of competitors is only getting higher. So getting pro status is no easy task. I plan to compete at Halloween Mayhem again and the World Championships 2 weeks later. These are both fall shows and would be a year after the last competition I did.

The second goal is to compete with the OPA, which is the federation that flows into the CBBF and then the IFBB. I mostly just want to see what the difference is between federations and which one I like better. I plan to compete in the spring with OP (June 14th in all likelihood) and so I will be competing at 2 separate times this year. Therefore I’ll be going through 2 separate preps.

My hope is that by competing twice I can get into a better rhythm and also get my body more accustomed to a leaner physique. Your body actually needs time at a new weight to get acclimatized, otherwise it will go back to its comfort zone. BUT, if my body is not reacting well, I will stop and just compete in the fall like I did this year. I only want to do what is maintainable and healthy.

The third goal is one I haven’t fully fleshed out yet. I definitely want to do another obstacle race. I like having a non-appearance based goal to keep me focused on functional fitness. I haven’t fully decided what the second event will be, but I secretly want to try powerlifting… or not so secretly now I guess :S But we will see what come of that. I may try something with martial arts instead. It’s all about learning new things and branching out.

Layne Norton and my love of plans

There has been a lot… and I mean A LOT… of talk about metabolic damage and the “REAL” side of the bodybuilding industry recently. It seems like everyone and there grandma is coming out about the fact that the health industry ain’t so healthy. Well I said that from day one 😉 but I’m so glad it’s becoming common knowledge.

I want to weigh in a little bit here. When I prepped for my contest, my calories started at around 1900 12 weeks out and the lowest I dropped was to 1400 2 weeks out (I was lower for peak week, but that doesn’t count because it was like 3 days). I never did more than 50 minutes of cardio at a time and I think I did 2 sessions of cardio twice in my entire prep. Part of that is because I hate cardio, part is because I have a job that rarely stops after 8 hours, but a large part 2 is that I know what marathoners look like and logic told me that long sessions of cardio was probably not the answer.

Me at competition weight

Me at competition weight

Over the course of about 12 weeks I went from 142 lbs to 132 lbs and didn’t really feel to restricted until about 3 weeks out. I personally think I looked great and not to mention I retained a lot of my muscle mass. After the show I gained weight immediately, about 8 pounds in the first 2 weeks and then slowly another 12 pounds. I have had a really hard time trying to get that weight off me even though I’m sticking to my diet and eating less than I was before (about 1800 cals per day).

So, do I think I have metabolic damage? Not really, I think I was stupid and gained weight too quickly for my metabolism to keep up. I also think that my metabolism slowed down through the dieting which is normal, that is why we have plateaus, it’s out body adapting. But I don’t think I did any serious damage.

Over the past few days I’ve read up on a lot of Layne Norton’s papers and VLOGs and the like and even though I don’t think I would say my metabolism has been damaged, it’s definitely slowed down. His work shows that you can rebuild and even drastically increase your metabolism over time by slowly and consistently adding carbs and fats to the diet. And he means slow… like 5 g of carb and 2 g of fat per week! That’s like an extra quarter of an apple and 1 tbsp of 10% cream. He also says that you probably won’t gain weight doing that and that after a year that’s 250 grams of carbs or 1000 calories with minimal weight gain.

So I have a plan!!! I love planning as proven in this post.

While I don’t really want to start gaining any weight at the moment since I am not very lean right, I will try to add in more carbs until my show prep starts so that I have more to cut from. Then after my show, which I plan to do on October 26th, I will follow his protocol and basically reverse diet to to increase my metabolism while staying lean. He says that you might gain about 1 pound per 1-2 months, some of that being muscle, but that you might also not gain weight. Sounds good to me! Then when you want to diet for a show or anything again, you have more calories to work from and you won’t have so much fat to trim in the first place!

If you want to check out Layne Norton’s stuff his website is here.

 

Why I eat many small meals

There is a pretty standard aspect of a fitness competition diet that requires you to eat a small meal every 2-3 hours instead of going longer periods of time and eating larger meals. But do you know why?

A lot of people believe that eating small meals more frequently increases their metabolism and this is the main reason that eating many small meals is touted as effective for weight loss.

NOT TRUE

English: Myth Logo

English: Myth Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This myth has been disproved many times, but the reason it exists in the first place is because of research about the thermic effect of food… the WHAAAAA?! you say. The thermic effect of food is basically the fact that it takes a certain amount of energy in order to process the food we eat (which gives us energy). The fitness community took the information and assumed that if you are always eating a small amount of food, you are always having to digest and therefore you will always be burning calories. That’s a pretty solid argument. Unfortunately the thermic effect of food is only related to the quantity of the food you eat and the type of food, not how often you are eating.

On average about 15% of the calories that you get from food are required just to digest that food. Certain foods are much higher than that which is where the whole “negative” calorie foods come in. Meat is generally a bit harder to digest and has a thermic effect of around 30%, but is also calorie dense. Complex carbs take a lot of energy to be processed into glycogen that can be used for energy and are also thermic at around 10% -30% depending on the source. The EASIEST foods to digest and the lowest thermic effect is… guess…

Go on guess…

That’s right, sugar and fat. Simple carbs are very easily processed by your body into fuel, as is fat. Both these food sources have a thermic effect of a measly 3%.

No wonder high protein diets work right?

So if the whole eating frequently to boost metabolism thing is a myth… why do I do it?

There are some really great reasons to eat frequently and the main reasons are:

  1. I really like eating! I’m serious, I really like that I can look forward to another snack or meal in just a couple of hours. This is probably a psychological issue on my part, but hey, I like it and it works for me, so why not.
  2. It helps you get the right macros. Personally, I don’t really have a problem with this because I’m fine with eating a 12 oz steak in one go 😉 but I know a lot of people can’t eat that much meat at one time. Eating 4-6 oz portions, 5 times during the day will get you well above you 1g / pound of body weight goal for protein
  3. It helps regulate blood sugar. This has 2 sides… on the plus side it keeps your insulin level steady which helps spare muscle (yay!) and improves satiety. On the other hand, you almost always have insulin present which means you are “anabolic” (gaining mode) and this can be detrimental to fat loss. However, this side effect can be improved by reducing or excluding carbs from some of the meals. Many people do this by excluding carbs from their evening meals. This keeps insulin levels low and allows your body to access fat stores for fuel.
  4. It helps you put on lean muscle. This ties into point 3, by keeping insulin present the body is in an anabolic mode. If you are sitting on the coach that is going to mean fat, BUT if you are lifting heavy in the gym that means those calories are going to go straight into your muscles! This is also why simple carbs are recommended right after a workout if you are trying to gain muscle… they increase insulin levels and insulin helps shuttle the glycogen into the muscles and repair them.

Some downsides to eating frequently:

  1. It trains your body to be hungry. This is frequently touted as a positive because it means your metabolism is revving, but the real reason for this is the small spike in insulin and cortisol after every meal. If you are training hard you are probably pretty insulin sensitive (that’s a good thing) which means that a drop in blood sugar will make you feel hungry, and not surprisingly, you blood sugar tends to drop about 2-3 hours after a meal. That hunger is temporary because your blood sugar will naturally level off as your insulin levels decrease, but if you always respond to that hunger with food, you won’t realize that and the cycle will continue.
  2. It can inhibit fat loss. Fat is utilized very effectively during fasting periods like overnight, but throughout the day there is a stead supply of calories (if you are eating enough which I hope you are) so the body uses those calories instead of fat. This is also to do with the insulin that is constantly present when eating frequently.

So what am I trying to say here?

There are good reasons to eat small frequent meals, but the most common reason is not valid. You should analyze whether it’s really helping you achieve your goals. If you prefer eating fewer, larger meals you are not at a disadvantage for losing weight, though you may have a harder time gaining or retaining muscle. There are 3 things that are paramount to eating for fitness and body composition at the end of the day:

  • Calories are still king – you can’t eat 4000 calories a day and expect to lose weight (unless you are Jay Cutler and actually need that many calories), alternatively you can’t eat 1200 calories a day and expect to not crash your metabolism. You need to find a happy medium where your metabolism is happy, you can actually operate with good energy levels and still maintain the body composition you want, I’m trying to work my way to about 2000 cals per day.
  • Nutrient timing is key – even if you choose to only eat 3 meals a day, you need to make sure that your pre and post workout nutrition is solid and supporting your goals. Get your carbs in around your workout and make sure you are eating protein that is easily absorbed right after a workout (whey powder is great).
  • Macros count – Regardless of whether you are eating 1 meal or 9 meals, your protein, fat and carb intake should still match your goals, so if you don’t think you can manage eating a large amount of a particular macro at one point… split it up and eat smaller more frequent meals 😉