Diary of a Fitness Competitor: Prep Wrap Up & Peak Week

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Progression Through Prep

This post has been sitting in my browser tab and is actually about 4 weeks behind. Oops! I’m currently starting my reverse diet but a prep training and nutrition recap is much needed.

Unfortunately, I got sick again about 4 weeks out from my show. It’s not uncommon to get sick when you are overworked, over-stressed, or over-tired. The body and immune system just get run down. Being more susceptible to germs is high during prep.

My macros and workouts suffered quite a bit during the week I was sick. My appetite was super wonky and nothing sounded appealing. I was under eating and training suffered.

Less than a month out? Not good!

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On this particular day I was feeling exceptionally exhausted.

Thankfully, I listened to my body. I took a few days off from the gym and focused on nutrient-dense foods. My body bounced back relatively quickly which meant I had about 2-3 weeks to make some serious progress.

My training stayed fairly consistent during the last month of prep. I was lifting 6 days a week (this is normal for me off prep as well.) My bigger lifts certainly suffered due to the extended calorie deficit. Making progress in terms of strength or muscle gain is almost impossible in a calorie deficit (more on that later.)

For example…

  • Offseason squat max: 245 lbs.
  • Prep squat max: 175 lbs.
  • Offseason deadlift max: 225 lbs.
  • Prep deadlift max: 200 lbs.
  • Offseason overhead press: 75 lbs.
  • Prep overhead press: 55-65 lbs. (depended on the day.)
  • Bench… I don’t bench. (Sorry coach! 😉 )

I switched up my training during the last week of prep to accommodate my fatigue. Each workout began with The Complex (officially the Cosgrove Complex.) For those of you that don’t follow my snapchat (amandamariefitt) or Instagram, “The Complex” is my absolute favorite way to get in a quick full-body workout. My energy levels were tanking fast near the end of prep. I needed to get in the best workout as quickly as possible.

The Complex

  • Conventional Deadlifts
  • Stiff Legged Deadlifts
  • Rows
  • Power Cleans (abbreviated version of a full clean)
  • Front Squats
  • Overhead Press
  • Back Squats
  • Good Mornings

unnamedChoose a weight that you can comfortably lift on your weakest lift in the sequence. For me, my weakest lift in this sequence is overhead press. I can comfortably press 55-65 lbs so my starting weight for the complex is normally 55 lbs.

Perform each move 6 times with no rest between exercises. (6 deadlifts, 6 stiff leg deadlifts, 6 rows, 6 power cleans, 6 front squat, 6 overhead press, 6 back squat, 6 good mornings.) Rest just enough to catch your breath once you complete them all. (about 45 sec -60 sec.) Then perform 5 of each. Repeat until you are down to 1 of each. The whole sequence should take about 10-12 minutes. Your ass will be royally kicked.

This really helped me meet my activity goals during those final days when energy levels and motivation were low. I would finish up my workout with a little bit of accessory work (shoulders, back, arms, whatever…)

Cardio: Nothing crazy. I was doing about 8-10 minutes of intervals 4x per week. For me, that meant intervals on the stepper. I’m not a huge fan of the treadmill so this was simply a personal preference. My fiance and I were also bike riding about 5 miles each evening.

Peak Week

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Peak Week

I know many competitors have mixed feelings and thoughts about peak week. Some think it’s a magical time in which all the mistakes they made during prep are somehow cured or fixed. Some trainers put clients on ridiculous peak week programming in which their food is limited to a total of 6 items with excessive cardio. Many people still water and sodium deplete which is a totally out-dated, potentially dangerous, and unnecessary method.

I will direct you to Layne Nortons Peak week guidelines in which he outlines nutrition, sodium and water, supplements, etc. If you are a competitor, or coaching competitors, please take time to read each section and really delve into the science behind these recommendations.

First and foremost, peak week is not magical. If you aren’t where you need to be heading into peak week, nothing you do during peak week will fix that. Can you continue to make progress during peak week? Absolutely! Will you magically drop an additional 3% body fat? Probably not.

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Peak Week

Peak week is simply when a competitor dials in on the details, like bloating. For me, this meant paying attention to foods that cause me bloating personally. This is different for everyone so I cannot make blanket recommendations on what you should or should not be eating. The last few weeks of prep, start paying attention to which foods cause you discomfort or bloat. Make a list. Those foods are foods you want to stay away from during peak week. That’s it when it comes to nutritional guidelines. You simply want foods that agree with you and make you feel fab.

There is absolutely no reason to cut out protein shakes, powders, bars, or condiments if you’ve been eating them your entire prep with no problem. Some people cut these out because they feel the artificial sweeteners don’t agree with them. Again, personal preference. If you’ve been eating them for 8, 10, 12 weeks without issue, there won’t magically be an issue with continuing to eat them during peak week.

Sodium & Water

Honestly, I cannot believe there are still coaches who have their clients sodium and water deplete. It truly blows my mind. That body is a complex machine and strives for homeostasis. If you try to “trick it” by dehydrating yourself, all you’ve done is force your body to overcompensate by holding as much water subQ (under the skin) as possible.

Many times, competitors look worse after sodium and water depleting and look better the day after their show, once they’ve consumed salt and water. Furthermore, dehydration decreases blood volume which means you won’t get that pump or vascularity that looks so great on stage. It’s not uncommon for depleted competitors to feel weak, dizzy, or less alert. Overall, I think it’s a completely unnecessary and dangerous practice.

There are other ways to work with your body to encourage natural expulsion of excess water.

The best method is to actually sodium and water load. This means, about 10 days to 7 days out from your show, you actually increase your normal sodium and water levels. I have my clients track these sodium levels in their MyFitnessPal app and then start salting foods or using NUUN tabs in their water. The best way to think about this is “Where sodium goes, water goes.” More sodium in your tissue means more water in your tissue. This increase in sodium causes a natural increase in water and a natural decrease in aldosterone.

Aldosterone is a hormone that indirectly affects water retention. Aldosterone stimulates your kidneys to absorb more sodium and water while simultaneously releasing more potassium. When you consume excess salt, your adrenals reduce their production of aldosterone, thereby allowing your kidneys to excrete more sodium. You have essentially sent your system into “over drive” and your Na+/K pumps are working quickly to try and regulate this abnormal increase in Na+ and water.

Wait, isn’t that exactly the opposite of what you want to do?  Yes.

This is why you perform this little maneuver about a week out from your show date. You give your body a few days of increased Na+ and water which causes that decrease in aldosterone and increase in Na+/K pumps. About 2 days before your show, you suddenly drop back down to “normal” levels of Na+ and water. Decreased serum sodium concentrations trigger the release of aldosterone from your adrenals. At this point, your pumps are still working quickly and the increase in aldosterone in your system means you naturally expel excess water.

For example:

“Normal” levels of sodium for me worked out to approximately 2,800 mg. About a week out I bumped that up to 3,500 mg. I also increased my water consumption by 1.5 liters (normally drink about 2-3 liters per day.) Two days before my show, I dropped back to normal levels. I continued to drink “normal” amounts of water the day before and day of my show.

The easiest way to think about this is simply: More sodium = more water retention. Less sodium = less water retention.

It makes sense that people would think that cutting out sodium completely would cause a body to drop water but your body is smarter than that. All you’ve done is force your body to retain any water it does get.

Instead, flood your body with sodium, control the water retention (a week out), and then allow your body to expel naturally.

Competition Specifics

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Glamfit Bikini – Highly recommended for WBFF diva suits!

During the last two weeks I received my theme wear, suit, and starting wrapping up my WBFF loose ends.

I officially made the decision to cross over to bikini which meant I had to contact the WBFF and add bikini division to my competitor number. Along with this change, I needed a gown!

  • WBFF Bikini: Bikini Round and Gown Round.
  • WBFF Fitness: Bikini Round and Theme Wear Round.

My mad dash for a gown happened 4 days before I left for Chicago.  I also had some last minute alterations done to my Wonder Woman theme wear. I picked up my theme wear suit 2 days before I left. Talk about last minute. 😉

I will elaborate on competition specifics, my travels to Chicago, and show day in my next post.

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Diary of a Fitness Competitor: 6 Weeks Out

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Somehow life got away from me and I haven’t updated my DFC series in almost 4 weeks. Oops!

If you follow me on snapchat or Instagram, you’ve been seeing daily updates, which is awesome. If you don’t follow me, get on it! 🙂

unnamedOne of the more acceptable reasons for my negligence to this blog series has been my recent cross-country move. Eric accepted a job in Michigan back in February and moved back immediately. My preference was to stay in Colorado until May. We just arrived in Michigan after a two day drive yesterday.

Both Eric and I are Michiganders (born & raised) so it wasn’t a hardship to move home, but we were sad to leave Colorado (6 years in Boulder!) and it was difficult to manage moving, school work, prep, and medical school applications. Unfortunately, blogging was pushed to the lowest place on the list of priorities.

Now that we have (sort of) settled in, it’s time to update everyone on the prep process.

WBFF Prep – 6 Weeks Out

On May 1st I came down with a really nasty upper respiratory infection. I’m talking coughing attacks until I almost threw up and an inability to walk fast without wheezing. Really helpful when trying to keep activity levels up and work through 2 HIIT cardio sessions per week. I knew it was viral so antibiotics wouldn’t touch it. My only choice was to balance taking care of myself, resting when needed, and still pushing through workouts.

unnamed-1My lifts didn’t suffer but my cardio did. The sessions were still completed but not with as much intensity. That is okay. I needed to go easy on myself. After about 8-10 days of zero relief I booked an appointment with my PCP for cough medicine. Again, antibiotics don’t work on viral diseases but I needed SOMETHING to help me sleep and breathe comfortably. Nabbed some prescription grade cough syrup and within about 48 hours I was finally able to get a decent nights sleep. This whole sickly process ate up about 2 weeks of my prep, which really sucked.

The week post-sickness (about 2 weeks ago) I was pretty stagnant on progress. After deliberating with my coach, she decided to set me on refeed macros for about one week. This means, for 7 days straight (at 8 weeks out from show date) I was eating 2,400 kCals and 240 g carbs daily. Talk about heaven!

Something like this can completely scare a competitor. Many women would flip out at the idea of pulling out of a deficit and eating maintenance calories 8 weeks out from a show. I understand the reasoning behind this (and trust my coach – I vetted her for a reason) so it didn’t worry me in the slightest.

The reasons behind a “diet break” or “structured refeed” are important to understand. When dieting down or continually in a deficit, metabolic function adapts. Meaning, your metabolism can actually slow down (which many women refer to as a plateau.) The seemingly logically answer is to cut more calories and increase cardio, right? Sure. That might work short term but what happens when you plateau again? Cut more? Run more? At some point, you are going to run out of calories to cut and miles to run. Misery will ensue. Welcome to the bro-competitor or yo-yo dieters nightmare.

Instead, it’s smarter to incorporate high carb days and/or structured refeeds into your program to keep metabolic function at high capacity.

Hormones play a monumental role in metabolism and weight loss. When dieting down, hormones adjust/decrease as the deficit continues. When refeeding, hormones like testosterone, leptin, and dopamine are boosted which aid in fat loss. (This means appetite usually increases and/or hunger levels are HIGH the day after a refeed. Normal and expected.)

Another [often overlooked] aspect of refeeds is the psychological one. When dieting down, it’s easy to fall down into a “cheat day hole” of unchecked calories and carbs. You can, quite easily, undo a whole week’s worth of work by indulging in 3,500+ calories in one day. Seriously, it’s much easier than some people think. Pizza, cookies, doughnuts, ice cream, pasta… it adds up fast. It’s a “once you pop you just can’t stop” mentality. Not good.

By incorporating days of higher calories and carbs & structuring and scheduling refeed days you are able to manage the psychological aspects of dieting down and maintain some control over how many doughnuts and how much pasta you can safely consume without undoing all your hard work.

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Refeed Week!

Refeed week for me went really well. The first 2-3 days I looked great. (Glycogen filled out my muscles and I looked full and tight.) About 4-5 days in I started looking soft which is totally normal, to be expected, and didn’t worry me in the slightest. For every gram of glycogen (carbs stored in the muscle) you also hold 3 grams of water. When muscles are full, you start to “spill over” a little bit causing a watery look. Again, normal and will resolve itself once a deficit is implemented again.

This week we dropped back down to deficit calories and macros with my normal refeeds 2x per week. I went from about 135-136 lbs down to about 131 lbs and -.5 inches off my waist, which is awesome!

This past week we did another drop (boo!) and an increase on cardio of 30 minutes. The only macro that dropped this week was fat (yay! Carbs were spared) which puts me at about 130 g carbs/150 g protein/52 g fat. My refeeds dropped to about 225 g carbs/150 protein/77 fat.

I do not believe I should have to disclaimer this but just in case… my numbers should not be your numbers. We are all different and these numbers are based on my body stats, goals, individual metabolism, and workouts. My transparency is for informational purposes only.

My cardio increased from 2x HIIT sessions at 10 minutes and one 30 minute moderate intensity per week to 2x HIIT sessions (same) and 60 minutes of moderate intensity per week. I am able to split the 60 minutes which means I am essentially doing 4 days of cardio. Two 10 minute HIIT days and two 30-minute sessions per week.

Competition Specifics

Theme Wear has been ordered and is being made. My suit has not been ordered yet which is bad. Playing with fire around 6 weeks out. That needs to be number one priority this week! My suit maker says 4 weeks notice is fine but I don’t play those games. I usually prefer my clients to order no later than 8 weeks out. It’s on the list!

My suits are narrowed down to the options below (with modifications of course.)

Glamfitbikini Silver

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10861516_4Both of my shoes arrived last week before we left Colorado. The WBFF has different shoe requirements than the NPC. While the NPC mandates clear shoes with no platform, The WBFF will actually mark you down for showing up in clear posing shoes. This makes me SO HAPPY. I hate those clear shoes with a firey passion. Platforms are so much easier to walk in because the heel angle isn’t quite as sharp. I can actually run and move much more eloquently in platforms/wedges.

11293074_5_mThe silver ones are my bikini/bikini-fitness shoes and the blue shoes are for my theme wear. Killer, right?

Time to start practicing posing again!

On a side note, one of my competition prep clients placed SECOND in her first WBFF show EVER over the weekend. I could not be more proud of her. 100% flexible dieting, never restricted, no foods off limits, and no two-a-day or fasted cardio. We are currently working on a reverse diet and hoping to pull her pro-card at the next show.

Interested in coaching? Information is here.

Until next week.

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Diary of a Fitness Competitor: 10 Weeks Out

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Already dropping the ball on weekly updates! Oops.

This past weekend was busy. My fiance (Eric) was back in town and we were on a cleaning-and-fixing-up-the-house marathon. For those who are newer to my blog or social media, we are currently living in separate states. Eric took a job in our home state of Michigan back in February but I still had obligations in Colorado through May. We’ve been traveling back and forth but are quickly approaching moving deadline. The house in Colorado is being rented, which means we had to run through and paint, fix some odds and ends, plant grass, clear trash, etc. Regardless of the craziness, we still made time for the gym and macros were still met. Unfortunately, blogging fell to the wayside.

IMG_7506Last week was awesome. My energy levels were amazing, I was feeling really strong in the gym (set a couple of new PR’s), and my macros were on point. I may have burned myself out because on Sunday I crashed and burned HARD. Rest and recovery were crucial and naps were had.

Looking back, I may have caught a little bug over the weekend because this entire week I’ve been sick. Not enough to really knock me out of the game but enough to make me feel pretty crappy. It seems to be an upper-respiratory type of thing so I’ve been sleeping extra, taking additional supplements, reducing the intensity of my workouts, and generally taking care of myself.

As of today, aside from my raspy voice, it seems like I’m on the mend.

Nutrition

My macros haven’t changed (yet) and I’m grateful for that. My coach knows I prefer to EAT. Increasing cardio is fine by me as opposed to slashing calories.

My current macros:

  • 5 x normal days –150g carbs 150g protein 67g fat 18-25g fiber
  • 2 x refeed days — 240g carbs 150g protein 93g fat 24-34g fiber

If you are interested in how I am meeting those numbers you can follow me on MyFitnessPal. My diary is open to friends. My username is amandamariefitt

Not many people realize that keeping calories and carbs high for as long as possible is actually the best route during prep (or life.) 😉 Without adequate nutrition (both calories and carbs – as carbs are your body’s main source of energy) workouts suffer. You can’t possibly give workouts 100% effort if your coach has already slashed your calories to 1,200 at 10, 12, 14 weeks out. (i.e.;  get a coach who knows what’s up!) If you can’t give your workouts 100%, you won’t succeed.

Lack of energy from lack of fuel (calories) also impacts NEAT. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating, or exercise (i.e.; our daily movements.) Walking, typing, fidgeting, etc are all under the NEAT umbrella. NEAT decreases due to underfeeding, which means less calories burned overall. If you don’t have enough fuel to give your workouts 100%, it would be safe to assume your general energy levels throughout the day have crashed as well. No beuno.
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Speaking of carbs… my Doughbar Doughnuts came this week. If you haven’t taken the plunge, DO IT!

I cannot rave about these doughnuts enough (not affiliated nor an ambassador, just love this product.)

3 boxes dropped on my doorstep on Monday, like a little gift from the IIFYM Gods. I ordered Cake Batter, Oreo, and Cookie Butter and each of them are amazing in their own delicious way.

These doughnuts are moderate carb, high protein, and low fat. Basically, every flexible dieter’s dream doughnut. They are so macro-friendly that I have been fitting one doughnut + doughnut hole into my macros every single day. Yes, that includes my lower carb days.

IMG_7504Macros for the doughnut plus hole:

  • Calories: 150
  • Carbs: 16 G
  • Protein: 11 G
  • Fat: 4 G

Pop them in the microwave for 10-15 seconds, then pop the glaze into the microwave for about 5 seconds, decorate your donut (sprinkles and crushed oreo included), and enjoy! The best part is the nutritional information for both the doughnuts and the toppings are all included (nutritional information for the toppings varies but the macros are very minimal.) Extremely easy to input into MyFitnessPal for tracking purposes.

Fitness

Right now, everything the pretty much the same. I’m still lifting 6x per week with 2 HIIT cardio sessions at 10 minutes each. My coach added one 30 minute session per week as well. This actually gives me a chance to plug in my headphones and catch up on news and politics which is fantastic.

My 30 minute session this week was a little brutal due to the bug I’m battling but I made it through AND turned it into 30 minutes of sprint intervals. Not sure where that energy came from but I hope it sticks around.

165790347_1024x1024Competition Specifics

Let’s talk theme wear!

Note to future self and other future WBFF competitors, get theme wear started ASAP.

I started emailing people 12-14 weeks out and just started hearing back (those poor designers are BUSY.) Many of them are already booked through September as well. *Panic mode* Thankfully, I found one who has some openings, can work with my budget, and is sending me sketches this afternoon. Whew. Crisis averted.

** Full disclosure (since that is what this series is all about) ** I am paying about $700 for my theme wear. Like I mentioned last week, competing is NOT cheap. If you don’t have a budget set aside, do not compete. It’s not worth it. No one needs to go into extreme debt over stepping on stage. WBFF tends to be more costly when compared to something like the NPC because of the theme wear and gowns, but each federation is costly in its own way.

Finding designers can be tricky. WBFF is a relatively newer organization and theme wear continues to get more elaborate.

Based on my searches, these are the best options I found. In order of preference…

  • Lux Costumes (My top choice – unforunately booked through September 2016)
  • Gingerwear by Tracey Labrecque (Tracey is designing my theme wear.)
  • Ravish Sands
  • Samba Couture (Affordable and pretty theme wear. Never heard back from them.)
  • Alex Davey (Gorgeous theme wear but VERY expensive. I was quoted 3-4x the amount I’m paying Tracey. Close to $2,500.00 – yeah not happening.)

Hopefully that list will help other newbies navigate the WBFF theme wear waters. Definitely reach out to them early if you know you are competing in the fitness division.

I still haven’t decided if I’m crossing over into bikini. With the bikini division, I would need an additional suit and gown. On top of this being an added expense, I am not sure if it’s worth it. My reasoning for dropping bikini previously was that I wasn’t super stoked on the mentality surrounding the bikini division of bodybuilding. With that being said, WBFF obviously holds itself to a different standard and bikini could be much different. When I make the decision, I’ll let you guys know. 😉

Life

Overall, life is still good. My goal with prep, and the idea behind my transparency, is to show people that prep doesn’t have to ruin your life. It can be fun and challenging but it shouldn’t be hell on earth. Those stories you hear about 900 calories, 2-a-day fasted cardio, waist training, 5 gallons of water followed by water depletion, and zero carb days really suck. Please don’t think that is what is necessary to step on stage.

Those competitors (and their coaches) have shown that they have very little knowledge about nutritional science, exercise physiology, or human physiology. Anyone can put their client on a super restricted 900 calorie diet with 2 hours of cardio and get results. That’s not called nutritional science though… that’s called starvation.

A smart coach has multiple certifications in both training AND nutrition, will explain the thought process and the science behind their methods and recommendations, and will never say “because I said so.” If you are planning on competing, please do your research. Pick a coach who is rooted in science, who keeps up with the latest research, and will never shy away from discussing their methods or process with you. If someone is telling you to cut complete food groups, giving you a list of only 6-10 foods you CAN eat, and encouraging unsustainable amounts of cardio… run in the opposite direction as fast as you can.

Prep is hard, I’m not going to sugar coat it. In “normal life” if I’m feeling run down or simply don’t feel like going to the gym, I don’t. In “normal life” I don’t track my macros (I focus on intuitive eating with an 80/20 balance of “healthy” and “treat” foods.) In “normal life” I have plenty of “oops!” moments.

What separates “normal life” from “competition prep” is that those oops moments must be limited or eliminated. There is no “I don’t feel like going to the gym.” You go and get your workout in because that’s what you have to do. You track and meet your macros every single day. These are the things that take you from normal life into prep life.

Prep isn’t destroying my life. I am smart and deliberate about how I plan my days and social events. On Saturday night, I went out with friends. I strategically planned for that day to be a high carb day so I could enjoy a burger, fries, and dessert. I don’t bring tupperware food with me to the bar because, in my opinion, that is 100% ridiculous. The best part about flexible dieting is the ability to be F L E X I B L E. Did I slack on my macros and not meet my numbers? Absolutely not. Did I bring cold tilapia and asparagus with me to the restaurant? ABSOLUTELY NOT.

I know for a fact that many people disagree with both these methods and me personally. That is okay. Disagreement is a normal part of life. I will continue to root myself in science, coach my own clients in a sustainable way, and follow my wonderfully educated coaches advice. I will also continue to be a voice for the flexible dieting community, in or out of prep.

For fun updates, follow me on snapchat! Amandamariefitt

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Diary of a Fitness Competitor: DEXA, Sponsorships, and Academics

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12 Weeks Out

Another week is in the books! This particular week was a little rough due to hormonal fluctuations associated with ovulation/PMS. Perks of being a woman… with a Mirena IUD.

Thankfully, I’ve had my IUD long enough (and tracked my [inconsistent] cycles long enough) to know what’s up. I expected some weight gain, water retention, bloating, lower energy, and cravings. Ovulation tends to hit me harder than my period. That’s just how my body rolls.

Dove headfirst into a bag of salt & vinegar chips, popcorn, and a few other carb and sodium-heavy foods mid-week. No harm done. I turned that day into one of my refeed days. I wasn’t planning on using that refeed on that particular day though, so I was stuck with 2 more leg days on lower carb days. Boo. (I try to time my leg day/heavier activity days with my refeed days.)

My weight fluctuated between 133 and 137 pounds this week. This is precisely why weight is not my number one indicator of progress. Do these numbers worry me? Not really. I know I had sodium heavy snacks, I know I am retaining water and I know my hormonal fluctuations are extreme right now. Pushing through.
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For those that follow along on my social media (Instagram and Facebook) you already know I took the opportunity to get a DEXA scan this past weekend.

A DEXA scan is a quick, easy, and accurate* way of determining body composition. The test uses low dose x-ray imaging to analyze the body. The reason I chose DEXA is because the test is one of the options with the lowest margin of error and provides a very detailed work up of body composition.

*There is no single body fat test that is 100% accurate. Each have their own margin of error. DEXA scans have a +1.5% margin of error, Bod Pods have a +2-3.5% margin of error, hydrostatic weighing (water) methods have a +2.5% margin of error, and bioelectric has a +3.5-5% margin of error.

The numbers themselves are interesting to me (from a purely scientific and sheer curiosity standpoint) but I certainly understand the reality of the margin of error and I have no emotional attachment to the numbers I was given. (I think that’s incredibly important to remember before any body composition test.) I was looking for more of a baseline so I could determine percent of body fat lost on this journey.

Tests are great for a rough estimate or baseline but I would say simply use them as a means to track progress. i.e.; overall BF% lost. Don’t get caught up in the numbers.
We tend to overestimate how lean we really are. It’s common for bikini competitors to believe they are 12-14% or women to IMG_7001believe they are 18-20% in offseason. This is very rarely the case.

This is a current photo of myself from this past week.

My DEXA scans shows me at 99 lbs of muscle with 31 lbs of fat. That puts me at, roughly, 23% BF. Crazy huh?

I carry the majority of my body fat in my hips, booty, and thighs. This is not surprising information because…

  1. I am a woman
  2. That is where, genetically, I am pre-disposed to carry most of my weight. (Some people, female or not, carry weight in their belly or other places.)

If you are interested in body composition testing, you can search for places near you that offer the test. It’s more than likely going to be a University or Sports/Nutrition Research Center. I’m sure they vary in price. I paid $99 for mine at BodyFat USA in Denver, CO. I cannot stress this enough: DO NOT GET CAUGHT UP IN THE NUMBERS. Simply use it as an additional “tool” in your body composition belt.

Nutritional Updates

IMG_7004Many women are asking about my numbers, my meals, what I’m eating, what my macros are, etc.

While I am more than happy to share that information in the name of transparency, I do want to stress that my numbers and what works for me, may or may not work for you.

My numbers certainly shouldn’t be your numbers. Your numbers should be based on your body composition, exercise habits, and goals.

(Yes, I coach! email me. Teamstrengthqueens@gmail.com)

My current macros:

  • 5 x normal days –150g carbs 150g protein 67g fat 18-25g fiber (minimum)
  • 2 x refeed days — 240g carbs 150g protein 93g fat 24-34g fiber (minimum)

If you are interested in how I am meeting those numbers you can follow me on MyFitnessPal. My diary is open to friends. My username is amandamariefitt

Fitness Updates

My lifts are still strong. Some weakness is expected as you progress deeper into a calorie deficit but, because my calories and carbs are still high, my lifts haven’t suffered. My energy levels were lower this week due to hormones but I made the best of it.

Currently, my split is 2 leg days and 4 “upper body” days per week. My upper body days are normally split into shoulder/back and bicep/tricep. I don’t really work chest… I have no good reason. I don’t like working chest and I plan on getting an augmentation in the near future so I lack motivation. Bench pressing will make it’s way into my program soon enough.

The reason for 4 upper body days is because that is where most of my growth needs to happen. My lower body is quite strong and developed and my upper body is lagging.

“Rest days” aren’t really a thing for me. (Again, I do not encourage this for everyone.) As a coach and health professional I very much understand the importance of rest and recovery. That being said, I live an overall active lifestyle and strict rest wouldn’t be consistent with how I’ve always lived my life. I prefer “active rest” days meaning I take one day off from lifting (“rest”) and focus on core and cardio.

“Cardio” for me can mean many things…

In the gym, I prefer rowing and circuits. I’m not a treadmill type of girl. Never have been, never will be. For the most part, you will find me outside running up and down mountains (perks of living in the most beautiful mountainous place!) or hiking with my pups.

Example of one of my favorite circuits

  • Bodyweight squat x 10
  • Push ups x 10
  • Alternating Reverse Lunges x 10
  • Pull ups x 10
  • Mountain Climbers 30 seconds
  • Plank 30 seconds – 1 minute

No rest between exercises. Repeat 4 time (aka: heart rate is UP!)

Right now, in the interest of consistency with my prep, my coach has me on ONE 30 minute intense cardio session per week. I’m sure this will change as I grow closer to my show date.

WBFF Specifics

This week I started looking into theme wear. I am 100% certain I will be entering the Fitness Diva class and I am still up in the air on bikini. Fitness requires both a swimsuit/bikini round and a theme wear round. I am fairly sure I have my theme wear picked out (just need to inquire about some changes to make it “my own”) and I just need to pull the trigger on purchasing.

Reality check: competing is NOT cheap. Theme wear costs upwards of $1,000.00. If you are interested in competing, please make sure you have a budget. Don’t put yourself into a bad financial situation because you wanted to step on stage. It’s not worth it.

In the interest of transparency yet again, I will mention that I am a sponsored athlete. Being sponsored means you receive incentives to represent a company and it can vary on what is provided to you. Sometimes it’s free supplements or gear, discounted or free active wear, or cash incentives. In my particular situation, I had a certain amount of my entrance fees covered by my sponsor. The entire amount was not covered, but a generous portion was. This is incredibly helpful and I am grateful to the company.

Because someone will ask, I don’t have any specific recommendations on getting yourself sponsored. Being sponsored is very much a business decision. You, as an athlete, have to be able to “help” the company in some way.

  • First and foremost? Actually use and believe in the company’s products.
  • Second, have a decent social media following (you don’t always need 10K followers on IG to be sponsored but you need to have a reach and audience. Again, this is business. How can you help them?) Post about those products, show that you use them in everyday life, and make sure you represent yourself in a professional manner.
  • Be proactive. Reach out to companies and be realistic. Reaching out to bodybuilding.com or OptimumNutrition as a random face in the crowd probably isn’t going to work but finding some smaller, local companies to sponsor you is realistic and doable! Try to jump onto newer, smaller companies before they take off. Make a name for yourself. Show up at events and shows and introduce yourself. Follow your favorite companies on their social media accounts. Use their hashtags.
  • Be genuine. I have been offered multiple sponsorships that I’ve turned down because I am not interested in promoting products I don’t personally use and don’t personally believe in. People can see through bullshit. Don’t get caught up in it.

Life

Ah yes… during all of this craziness “life” is still going on. One of the biggest changes between my last prep and this current prep is my job status. I recently left my job at the hospital. There are many reasons for this decision but ultimately, it was standing in the way of my professional and academic goals.

I’ve gotten a little push back in terms of not working. If I’m not working it must be so easy for me to prep, right?

Wrong.

I am a full time student and entrepreneur. Just because I left my “9-5” does not, in any way, mean I am less busy. In fact, I have found myself busier than before.

My current academic schedule is full time. For those that don’t know, I am currently finishing my Masters in Public Health. I was also wrapping up some “side courses” for medical school.

Yep, that’s the big one. Medical school.

I take my MCAT in about a month and have been stressed on that for many weeks. Studying for that test is a total mind-f&%# especially for someone who wasn’t pre-med. (Quick backtrack: I was pre-law. Loved the idea of international policy and, after working abroad, realized I liked hands on care over health policy. Enter the goal to be a physician.)

I am a completely out-of-the-box applicant, I have none of the required pre-requisites, and I am, in every way, the worst “on paper” applicant ever. (There. I said it.)

Why even bother applying?

Because times are changing for medicine and the medical school process. Many highly regarded schools have recently done away with standard pre-requisites because they are searching for more well-rounded applicants. Enter: Me.

Passionate, smart, driven, and have 5 years of experience in many different aspects of health care. Now all I need to do is tackle the MCAT (without the help of pre-reqs) and I can move along this process.

Along with academic pursuits, I am also now coaching clients full time. That means more clients, more nutritional updates, and more business ventures.

Quitting my 9-5 didn’t make me less busy, it made me more busy. Learning to manage my own schedule has been a challenge all on its own. (You should see my planner.)

…but I digress. 🙂

I’m looking forward to another great week of (hopefully) increased energy and lower body fat.

On the agenda? Reach out to the theme wear company and get that all sorted. Closing my eyes, pushing send, and saying goodbye to a portion of my bank account. Wish me luck. 😉

As always, feel free to leave comments and I will do my best to address all of them. For longer questions please email me at balancedbrunette@gmail.com. If you are interested in coaching (both competition prep and lifestyle coaching) please email me at teamstrengthqueens@gmail.com.

Amanda Signature

Diary of a Fitness Competitor: Moving From The NPC to WBFF

DFC Header
If you followed along on my last journey, Diary of a Bikini Competitor, then you already know I was itching to get myself out of the NPC and potentially out of the bikini division. There are many reasons for my decision but ultimately it came down to the fact that I didn’t enjoy my previous competition experience and the NPC was not the right fit for me.
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The fact is that certain body types will do better in different organizations and individual structure and physique dictate that. My body type is much more athletic and “full” looking, which doesn’t fit well with NPC bikini [unwritten] guidelines.

Originally, I had said I was moving out of competition/bodybuilding world and into a more athletic field (sprint tris, sports leagues, Tough Mudders, etc.) While I certainly have my eye on a few more athletic endeavors, I have decided to give competing one more shot. This time around, I am competing WBFF.

In my opinion, WBFF fitness models look healthier and more athletic than some of the competitors I’ve witnessed at previous NPC/IFBB shows. I have also found that many more WBFF competitors share my flexible dieting philosophy. While I could talk all day about the difference (and many people would disagree) it really comes down to this: NPC isn’t a good fit for me and I would like to try something new.

The appeal of fitness divisions, combined with theme wear and gowns, is also a huge draw. What woman doesn’t want to throw on a pair of wings like a ripped Victoria’s Secret model?

Jen Jewell - WBFF fitness model pro.
Jen Jewell – WBFF fitness model pro
Andreia Brazier - 4x WBFF Fitness Diva Champion
Andreia Brazier – 4x WBFF Fitness Diva Champion
IFBB Bikini Pro Narmin Assria
IFBB Bikini Pro Narmin Assria

 

 

 

 

 

 

My last go around, I has just started following a flexible dieting lifestyle. My prep was based, roughly, on flexible dieting principles but I certainly hadn’t nailed everything down yet. Truth? I managed it myself and I didn’t manage it well. There is a reason even the best of the best have their own coaches. It’s really easy to second guess everything you do, even if [logically] you know what you are doing is correct.

This time around, I hired a coach of my own.

My coach works closely with Layne Norton, is highly qualified, and follows flexible dieting principles which is precisely why I choose her. She will be managing the nutritional aspects of my 12 week prep.

The competition I choose is WBFF Chicago. Why not Denver? Well, surprise! My fiance and I are moving back to Michigan. It’s been a crazy couple months of living apart, new jobs, quitting old jobs, finding a new house, and planning a move back across the country. With that being said, Chicago is obviously a much closer choice. Many people have asked, “won’t it be hard to prep with all that going on!?” Well, not really. That’s the beauty of flexible dieting and having someone else managing my numbers for me.

IMG_6672Because my goal is to compete in the fitness division, I have spent the last year eating close to my TDEE and really focusing on building my upper body.

My calories have been close to 2,400 with about 240 grams of carbs. Starting a prep this high is ideal, because it means I won’t have to cut nearly as hard.

As of today, I am 12 weeks and 4 days out from the July show and I have been “on prep” for 1 week.

My prep is starting out well. My two “refeed” days are my original 2,400 calories and 240 carbs with the rest of my days closer to 1,800 calories and 150 grams of carbs. Week 1 was brutal. A 600 calorie deficit is no joke! After 2-3 days I was able to tweak my food (hello volume foods!) to help with the hunger and I feel like I’m finally in a routine.

Cardio is pretty much non-existent at this point. (Beginning a prep when you aren’t using cardio to stay lean is pretty great.) I am doing 30 minutes of intense cardio once a week now. This week? A 30 minute 2,000+ elevation hike in the beautiful front range. Not bad!

Just as I did last time, I will do a recap each week of my experience and progress.

I am so excited about this new journey!

Amanda Signature

That Recipe Has How Much Protein?

How Much Protein Do I Need?

This has “tons of protein!

I see countless recipes flooding my Facebook feed and Pinterest that boast “tons of protein.” These particular foods usually end up with 1-5 grams of protein per serving. Whoa!

Wait… that is not what I would consider “tons of protein.” Oatmeal with almond milk (which has, generously, 1 gram of protein per serving) is not “tons of protein.” Almonds are not a good source of protein but they are a fantastic source of dietary fat and magnesium. Do they have protein? Sure. Is it tons? Not quite.

Let’s start with the nutritional science of protein.

One of the best things about protein is its thermodynamic properties.

Thermodynamics: heat generated in processing food. As in, the heat given off by your body breaking down carbs, fats, and proteins.

The thermic effects of each macronutrient is approximately 2–3% for lipids, 6–8% for carbohydrates, and 25–30% for proteins. As you can see, the thermic effect of protein is significantly higher than the thermic effect of both fats and carbs. Why does this matter? When eating a higher protein diet, 140 additional kcalories are lost as heat just by eating. That means you are “burning” an extra 140 calories by eating.

This is why understanding the science behind your food choices is incredibly important.

If you are a healthy, active, and relatively normal* individual, you should be eating at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. (Remember: There are many, many situations that can affect this number. If a client is overweight, I would never set them at 200+ grams of protein just because they weigh 200+ lbs. These numbers need to be adjusted based on individual body composition and goals. That is why you hire a coach!)

Example: a 130 lbs female who works out about 4-5 x per week and lifts should be eating approximately 130 grams of protein per day.

This becomes tricky when you have a certain amount of carbohydrates you need to meet as well. Say this 130 lb athletic female is eating approximately 1,800 calories per day to maintain her body composition. She is eating 180 grams of carbs, 60 grams of fat, and 130 grams of protein. If she’s going to meet her protein goal without going over her carbohydrate goal, she needs to focus on foods that are high in protein without being high in other macronutrients. It’s easy to say a bowl of oatmeal is “high protein” because it has 10 grams of protein but what you may not realize is that it also has 46 grams of carbs. Is this bad? Of course not. If you are already close to your carb goal for the day and are lacking in protein is this going to be the best choice? Probably not.

Protein: The Most Bang For Your Calorie Buck
Protein: The Most Bang For Your Calorie Buck

One of the first things my clients realize after their first two weeks of tracking is that they had no idea how carb heavy their diet was. You might be cutting calories in an attempt to lose weight but remember, macronutrient splits are important for body composition. Meeting that amount of protein for the first time can be challenging!

That is why I love macro-tracking and flexible dieting so much! You really learn how to interpret nutrition labels and, through tracking each macronutrient, you begin to understand which foods truly are a great source of protein.

If you are interested in tracking macros and you are new to the method, I suggest a macro-consult to get you started.

* I use the term “normal” to indicate no underlying medication conditions. 1 gr / 1 lb protein for most normal individuals will not cause harm to healthy kidneys. If you have a kidney disorder then you are clearly aware that you have a unique medical condition and should not follow mainstream nutritional advice.

Diary of a Fitness Competitor: Changing Tides

Just Like Seasons, People and Plans Change

For the past year, my goals have been fitness competition related. I’ve been bouncing between bikini, fitness, and figure all year desperately trying to find my perfect fit. Struggling when I don’t feel a connection to the women around me and conflicted when I secretly despise almost everything about the fitness competition world.

Can competing be a tool for personal development, challenge your body and mind, and hone your skills in the kitchen and gym? Absolutely. Can competing damage your body, mentality, and general enjoyment of life? Without a doubt.

Just Like Seasons, People and Plans Change.

This post is not meant to trash the bodybuilding or competition world. Many of my wonderful friends compete, I coach competitors full-time, and my online “tribe” of amazing female friends includes multiple successful competitors.

This isn’t about them, this is about me.

Satisfaction for me has always come from competitive sports and I don’t consider posing in a bikini and heels a sport. My enjoyment comes from volleyball, lacrosse, and pick up games of soccer. Happiness and satisfaction come from outdoor activities such as trail running, mountain biking, and water sports. There is nothing more satisfying than a hard-as-hell mountain bike ride or finally conquering that 2,700+ ft elevation gain while running up a mountain. I’m an outdoor enthusiast and adventurer at heart and my happiness has been muted by focusing on the wrong activities.

Finding myself stuck between who I am as a person and who I am supposed to be as a competitor was frustrating. As a person and coach I promote balance. Enjoyment of life, enjoyment of food, fueling an active body, educating about nutrition, and learning to love lifting and muscle. Many of my beliefs cross over into competition world. You can certainly flexible diet your way to the stage and you can enjoy yourself while creating a stage-worthy body. Yet, right there, that simple sentence… makes me cringe. “Stage worthy body.”

I get it. Stepping on stage means being lean but when did stepping on stage become “miserable from lack of carbs”, malnourished or unnatural looking, and/or a beauty contest? Why are more young women than ever jumping on the bandwagon of low-carb, low-calorie, 2 hour cardio plans in a desperate attempt to step on stage looking “perfect”?

More importantly, why do I care?

Simple. I care because these women come to me post show, completely destroyed both mentally and physically, looking for answers regarding fitness, nutrition, and living a balanced life. How can I possible coach effectively and practice what I preach if I am part of such a warped “sport”?

For a while, I rectified my feelings by saying I was a different kind of competitor and coach. That I didn’t jump on the bandwagon of ridiculous “tricks” or tips that unqualified people sell for $1,000 a pop. That I would never sacrifice my beliefs for a trophy. As a coach and a woman who values and respects her body, I simply refused to “harm” myself to win first place.

This past year, I accomplished just that. I stepped on stage after 12 weeks of flexible dieting, low cardio, and structured lifting.

The result? Nothing spectacular.

Don’t get me wrong, I looked fantastic. I was lean and muscular and all done up the way a bikini competitor is supposed to look. Yet, I didn’t feel happy or accomplished. In fact, I felt out-of-place and agitated the entire day. Nothing about standing around in heels and a bikini made me feel athletic or competitive. Leaving the show, scrubbing off my ridiculous tan, and waking the up the next morning to all the possibilities of the Colorado Rockies was the best part of the whole weekend.

For many months, I was convinced it was the division. The feedback I received was essentially that I was “too muscular” for bikini division. The choice seemed clear, move to fitness or figure. I was happy with my decision for while. Keep lifting and growing and doing exactly what I love, because I do love lifting. I prepped for many weeks for a show this November. Because I wasn’t happy with my experience with NPC, I even changed federations. New federation, new division, and fresh goals.

After 8 weeks of prep, I was still questioning why I wanted to step on stage.

For me, posing is unnatural. Not because I don’t practice, but because I hate heels. My normal life doesn’t consist of string bikinis (and I grew up on the water and living in my “normal person” bikini.) You will rarely find me in a full face of makeup or with curled and sprayed hair. Do I love dressing up? Of course. Most women do. Do I want to parade myself around in a thong while teetering around on 5 inch heels? Not really. So, why was I choosing to “show off” my athletic body that way?

Honestly, I had no good answer.

Without understanding why I wanted to compete, it seemed silly to continue. With that realization, I exited the competition scene.

Do I still love lifting? Unquestionably.

Lifting changed my life 3 years ago and it will continue to be a fundamental part of whole I am as a person, coach, and athlete. You won’t find me skipping out on the gym simply because my overall goals have changed.

I spent the past several weeks simply living. Eating the way I usually eat which is a balanced diet of healthy, nutritious foods and treats and lifting 3-4 days a week (as opposed to 7.) I jumped on my mountain bike and donned my hiking pack for the first time in months. The pure joy and athletic feeling I got from biking around the lake and hiking through the fall foliage far outweighed anything I felt from stepping on stage.

My passion is adventure and outdoor activity. I’ve always known this and I don’t know why I’ve been fighting what I’m passionate about. Am I done competing? I have no idea. The idea of fitness and/or figure still intrigues me. The ability to sculpt a body simply through nutritional tweaks is amazing and I never intend to stop coaching my wonderful ladies. If I can be a voice of logic, reason, and science in a world filled with bad advice and unqualified coaches, I will be.

Giving up competing altogether isn’t something I intend to do but I needed to find a different sort of competition. One that not only resonated with my passions but with my personal definition of athletic.

Over the past several weeks I have become much more interested in triathlons.

Living in Colorado, triathlons have always been a huge part of the lifestyle. I never considered them because the competition out here is fierce. Then I realized, why should that stop me? If athleticism, competition, and like-minded people are what I’m after, it seems that triathlons might just be the perfect fit.

Sprint triathlons usually consist of a 750-meter swim, 20k bike ride and a 5k run. This is half the distance of an Olympic triathlon and less than a quarter of the distance of an Ironman.Moving forward, I will be training for my first sprint tri next year. For those who are unfamiliar with the terminology, a sprint tri is a short distance triathlon which is ideal for new competitors. Sprint triathlons usually consist of a 750-meter swim, 20k bike ride and a 5k run. This is half the distance of an Olympic triathlon and less than a quarter of the distance of an Ironman.

Competing in a triathlon is a physically demanding task, which is perfect for my lifestyle and goals. Even training for a short-distance triathlon, such as a sprint, can take several weeks or months of training, depending on your physical fitness level. Because sprint triathlons are endurance sports, the most important part of training is improving endurance with cardiovascular exercise. It’s impossible to compete in a triathlon without cardiovascular capabilities. (This is vastly different from bodybuilding.) Aside from the cardio aspect, developing muscle is also a key component to the training regime. Because triathlons are multi-disciplinary activities, and each discipline involves the use of different muscles, developing muscle throughout the body is very important.

Never underestimate the importance of having fun and enjoying lifePersonally, I am restless and flighty and get bored incredibly easy. One sport simply isn’t enough. Overall, the mentality, athleticism, and competitiveness of triathlons makes so much more sense for my lifestyle and passion.

Most importantly? I will be able to participate in activities I actually love.

My take-away from the past year of immersing myself in the world of bodybuilding has been never force yourself to do something you are not 100% committed to and never underestimate the importance of having fun and enjoying life.

Diary of a Fitness Competitor will continue and evolve just as I have as an athlete.

With Happiness and Passion,

Amanda Signature