Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Calories In Vs. Calories Out? Not so fast!

December is here and, if you're anything like me, you've been thinking (or trying to avoid it) about all the goals you didn't meet and what you want to do better in the new year. I've talked about the problems with New Year's resolutions before and I've made the same mistakes as everyone else. So for 2016 I have been doing my homework and making a plan.

What kind of plan? Well, I kind of want to compete again if the stars align. I wasn't lean or built enough in May. My placings were disappointing and I felt overall miserable about the whole experience. Since then I have dropped the coaches I was working with and started putting in the time and effort to learn enough to be my own coach. Obviously, being a certified personal trainer, I can put together an exercise plan but I knew I had to go deeper. I need to understand how my diet, my lifting, my cardio, and even my sleep patterns affect everything down to a hormonal and cellular level.

I read every study I could get my hands on. I talked to competitors I admired and those that I didn't want to emulate. I took their advice back to the books and tried to figure out the why behind how it worked (or didn't). After learning so much (and still having so much more to go) I decided to share some of what I've found to help my fellow athletes and those who just want to look or feel better in the new year. If you're ready to throw out everything you've ever believed about losing weight then keep reading.

Every diet (I hate that word) starts with counting calories. As long as you eat less than you burn you'll lose weight, right? WRONG! Studies show that people who restrict their energy (calorie) intake long term will basically adjust to the new 'normal'. Hormones like leptin, insulin, testosterone, and T3 (a thyroid hormone) will all decrease. The 'bad' hormones, ghrelin and cortisol, which encourage fat storage, will increase. Over time you have to eat less and less to continue losing weight until your body is in a chronic state of starvation and you can no longer maintain your 'diet'. You will inevitably overeat at some point and gain weight quickly because your metabolism is in the toilet.

This is where calorie cycling and refeeding come into play. Periodic refeeding (having that cheat meal or dessert) can increase the hormones that encourage fat loss temporarily. Taking this a step further, refeeds should happen on a day that you lift weights. Why? Because then your body uses those extra calories to preserve muscle (or even build a little bit more) instead of storing them as fat. Keeping your caloric intake on rest days lower than on training days will further balance out the refeeds and keep fat loss steady.

This still doesn't mean you can starve yourself the rest of the time. A weekly loss of no more than 0.7% of your weight is ideal. So, at 140 pounds, this would be 1 pound a week. As you get smaller, the amount you can safely lose without sacrificing lean mass (muscle) will also shrink. This is why a long, slow 'cut' is much better than a crash diet. I made this mistake (well, my coaches did) during my competition prep. I lost 12.5 pounds in 25 days going into my show and I was tired, weak, and mean. It took months for me to regain the strength I lost and find my motivation again. And I still didn't look as good as the other girls on that stage. So, overall, I gained nothing from the deprivation and misery.

Any bodybuilder or powerlifter will tell you that decreasing your weight will also decrease your performance. One way to fight back against this is to consume most of your carbs each day around your workout. Carbohydrates are turned into glycogen and used for energy during exercise. When your carbs run out so does your motivation, strength, and performance. Make sure your body is supplied with enough energy to get through each workout and don't do cardio before weights. Studies have shown that cardio, especially HIIT (high intensity interval training), will leave your muscles too fatigued for resistance training. 

The summary of all of my research basically comes down to what you likely already knew. Losing fat is a long, slow process. Eat enough, but not too much, and exercise often. If you were looking for the shortcut to your dream body I'm sorry to tell you that there is no legal method that will get you there any faster than good old-fashioned hard work and commitment. So get to planning ahead for your 2016 goals and, by 2017, you'll probably be shopping for a new wardrobe.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Dating Problems Only Female Bodybuilders Understand

It's finally your rest day. Not knowing what to do with your life you grudgingly agree to a night out with your girls. They feel you are lacking in something they refer to as a 'social life'. "Doesn't sarcastically smiling at the creeper in the mirror at the gym count as socializing?", you wonder. But no one else agrees so you allow them to drag you to the hottest new club playing music that makes you wish for a shot of preworkout and a barbell.

Only halfway through your first vodka on the rocks (gotta watch those carbs!) you are wondering if makeup and heels were originally designed as torture devices. Next thing you know some DYEL is grinding on your booty and muttering something about 'toned' and 'thick thighs'. You know you could hulk smash him but the next thing out of his mouth stops you mid-swing. "Can I buy you dinner?", he yells over the music. Before you can even finish your enthusiastic nod, you find yourself out the door. Somehow you find yourself sitting on his couch with an empty takeout container in front of you and an overeager dadbod hipster drooling on your neck. Then the real struggle begins:

1) Because you wore a sports bra

He's fumbling around looking for a clasp that doesn't exist and you absently wonder if you should buy some 'real' lingerie. Quickly dismissing that thought, you take pity and pull your sports bra off yourself, wincing at the shoulder DOMS from yesterday's workout. Your new meal ticket's face falls as he realizes there isn't actually any appreciable boobage hiding under your sweaty sportswear. But he quickly recovers and moves on to appreciating the bountiful squat booty instead.

2) Maybe you should have showered

Like most fit chicks, you've adopted the mantra that women don't sweat, they sparkle. Unnecessary showers take valuable time away from things like lifting and eating. You try to remember the last time you washed your hair or shaved, and fail. Maybe he will be so in awe of your physique that he won't notice you feel, and smell, like a gorilla. Quickly pushing him onto the bed you realize your mistake because

3) You're stronger than he is

He screams in agony clutching his concave chest where you gently (or so you thought) pushed him. You vacillate between assisting him and disgust. Your mind can't quite wrap around the realization that this skinny being has larger breasts than you. "Has this beta, PBR drinking, vegan cellar dweller ever picked up anything heavier than his Starbucks cup?", you wonder as you grasp wildly for a way to save the evening, but

4) Your metabolism won't wait for anyone

As you mumble a half-hearted apology your stomach lets out a roar like a chainsaw. A glance at the bedside clock reminds you that you're late for meal 6. You contemplate cannibalism but throw that idea out the window. There's no way this skinny fat missing link would fit your macros. Quickly fumbling for your clothes, you mutter an excuse about your grandmother's cat and stumble to the door to call an Uber while visions of peanut butter dance through your mind.

5) Getting laid is no longer worth the hassle

Finally home, you throw your heels into the darkest depths of the closet and dive into the sweats you left on the floor hours earlier. As your tupperware of chicken and broccoli rotates more slowly than paint drying you notice the coupon code for that new line of sportswear on the fridge. Ordering some new gear is just what you need to forget tonight! Sinking into the couch with a shaker bottle and a Quest bar, you feel grateful that the gym will always love you, no matter how bad you smell or how many callouses you have.Cardio would only ruin your gains anyway.

*Disclaimer: This post was created as a counterpoint to doyoueven.com's satirical article on the male perspective. Have a sense of humor!

Monday, October 5, 2015


I have been on the fence deciding between returning to the gym or the roads. Marathon training through the winter sounded terrible, especially since I would have to run in the dark before or after work, as well as struggling to fit in long runs on weekends with the kids. I printed out a training schedule, ran the first two weeks, and then decided it wasn't for me this season.

I started spending time with a fellow bodybuilder and began to miss lifting heavy (and having visible muscles). One week back in the gym and I'm reminded why training alone was so hard through my first prep. Just like the saying you are what you eat, you also are who you hang out with. Which brings me to the latest life lesson I must preach...

Bulking is evidence of trickle down economics. When one person bulks, everyone in their sphere of influence bulks. When you have dinner with a bodybuilder on a dirty bulk that dinner may consist of a pizza, two Primanti's sandwiches, a giant frosted brownie, and a couple large beers. Everything they can't have on a cut is on the menu and portion sizes are a laughable recommendation. Their food scale is getting less action than the average Comi-Con geek and their bathroom scales are hiding in terror.

This orgy of consumption slowly turns into them storing food in your fridge, insisting on making dinner (because chicken and broccoli again isn't cutting it), and suggesting horrible dining options regularly. Next thing you know you're eating right along with them. Then you're shopping list starts to look like you've never heard of macros or IIFYM. And then you're looking at the dog and thinking how he deserves some of these treats. He's looking a little skinny. And maybe the fish too... 

And inevitably, you wake up to the truth one day. You're bulking by association. And it's AWESOME!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

NPC Mid-Atlantic Cup Championships Recap

I've been thinking about getting around to writing this since May. It's been a crazy four months since my first NPC show and I should probably get this done before I start trying to get back to writing about running and my new passion, acro.

If you follow me on FaceBook then you know that I lost A LOT of weight going into the show. The last week I was eating only chicken, ground turkey, and asparagus for six meals a day. I was drinking 1-2 gallons of water per day while taking over-the-counter diuretics to pull the water from between my skin and muscle. I had to go for spray tanning three times leading into my debut and I still could have been darker. I booked my makeup artist and received my bikini. I already had my heels and jewelry and wig. I also had to get a mani/pedi. Needless to say I was running on empty and on the verge of losing it at any second the last few weeks.

The morning of the show I checked in and got my tan touched up. I had my makeup done and got changed into my bikini and heels. I would spend most of the day only covered by a short and very sheer robe. About an hour before my first class, the open division, went on all of us were shuffled into a tiny, hot changing room. We were all struggling to adjust straps and glue our suits in place (no one wants to see THAT wardrobe malfunction). There was last minute posing practices and pumping up. Girls were eating poptarts and mini candy bars to get a carb pump. And there was a team with the tanning company rubbing us all down with oil. I can only imagine that I should have been embarrassed or shy but I was too excited.

It was finally time to step on stage and I watched the first several girls walk out and pose. Finally my name was called and I thought for sure I would freak out. Thankfully all those months of practice took over and I posed perfectly with a huge grin on my face. I had a blast and felt like it was over in only seconds.

We were ushered back off the stage and back into the changing room and cycled back out for my second division (Novice). It went just as quickly and I was then facing hours of down time before finals that night. Based on my stage placement during the morning show I knew I probably hadn't placed in my classes so I wasn't too worried about getting touched up for finals.

 My coach instructed me to go grab a burger and relax. I happily complied by devouring a burger and some sweet potato fries at Burgatory before heading back to the venue. I felt really out of place being ridiculously tan, too skinny, and made up like a hooker. Everyone was staring at me and all I could think about was trying not to drool on myself waiting for food.

The evening show was just as hectic and fast paced as the morning. Shuffle through the changing room twice, get glued into my suit, have my chest/stomach/butt oiled, then stand in line to be rushed across the stage. The only difference this time was awards were given before we were hustled back off. I placed 8th in the Open division. I couldn't believe it and I was really sad but I still had another class to go so I returned to the line and went through it all again.

I placed third in the novice class. Of course, I still can't be satisfied with anything so, as soon as I was off the stage, I went to the bathroom and cried as I changed into my celebration dress. After a few minutes I pulled myself together and returned to Sean and my family outside. We snapped a few pics of me with my short sword and then it was off to Fuel & Fuddle for dinner with no restraints! That was by far my favorite part of the whole experience!

After the show, I found that there was so much pressure to return to 'normal' eating. Sean was tired of me meal prepping and saying no to beers or dessert every day. My friends and family wanted to go out since I had been reclusive for so long. Before I knew it I was bloated and chubby. I put on about 15-20 pounds in a matter of a week or two. It took me another week or two to reel myself in but then I got back on track.

My breakup a couple months later left me reeling again. But once I recovered I found that my passion for eating clean was renewed. I have now dropped back down to near my stage weight (about 123-125 pounds). I honestly would consider competing again now except for a few things. First, it is expensive. I easily spent a few thousand dollars throughout prep and the competition. Second, I can't have a social life while training that intensely and I have come to value my close friendships too much to sacrifice them again. And lastly, I have fallen in love with acro (and started running again). I can do acro for 5-6 hours a day on the weekend, come home covered in bruises, and still want to do it again the next day. 

So instead of doing what I'm 'good' at I have chosen what makes me happy. I do acro with my friends 2-3 days each week, run 5-6 days, and try to get out for a cheat meal, beer, and some conversation at least once a week. I may never have a perfect six pack ever again but I do have all of the best intangible things life has to offer now.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Relationship Goals

Have you seen these stupid memes? I mean, relationships need goals but not the kind that have to do with eating junk food and buying matching crap. Or maybe I'm just being pessimistic.

Many things Everything has changed since I last posted. In a matter of a couple hours I went from engaged to single. I was left with my head spinning and my heart broken. I ached for the future that no longer existed. I hurt for my kids to lose someone they had come to adore. I tortured myself over what I should have, could have, done differently.

And then, one day, I woke up without feeling like a hole had been punched through my chest. I tried dating and found it held little interest. I made a lot of new friends but that was it. The whole affair felt like too much effort. And then I realized why. I'd finally found the right person... Me.

Not to be cliche, but yet totally cliche. I started running again. I started lifting again. I fell head over heels in love with acro yoga and aerial play. I began to eat again and then I began to meal prep and experiment with my farm share each week. I rearranged my apartment and hung up new pictures. Pictures of me and my new (and old) friends. I went to see concerts and eat at new restaurants. I took bike rides in my underwear with 500 other crazy people. Boating, swimming, and tubing happened along with a trip to the wave pool. I did yoga in Market Square. I was LIVING.

Life is once again bountiful

Die Antwoord easily earns my vote for craziest concert ever!

I learned to invert myself on aerial silks

 I managed to hang from a lyra on an aerial rig

Pittsburgh Undies Ride

Who doesn't want to hang by their neck?

New friends and water sports

I lost a lot of my zest for life and motivation after my competition. I'll recap all that happened in those final weeks and immediately after soon. But I've found something much bigger in the aftermath. I've found the one person who won't let me down. She makes sure I get up early to get to work before I'm scheduled so I can rise through the ranks in my career. She encourages me to try new things, like taking an acro class on Monday nights. If I need a spotter at the gym or a running partner, she's right there. And when I'd rather fall asleep on the couch than stay up for a concert she pushes me out the door.

Maybe it's hokey or maybe I finally found the missing piece that was actually there all along. All I know is, this relationship has goals, BIG ones. And you'll just have to stick around to see where they take me!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Honey, We're Home!

Sean and I officially live in the same state now! We picked up a U-haul on Wednesday morning and were on the road by 2PM. Unfortunately, we hit a snowstorm in West Virginia that lasted until we reached Pennsylvania around 3AM Thursday morning. We slept for a few hours and then unpacked the U-haul before heading downtown for my mother's birthday celebration.

Needless to say, it was a long day and we were both exhausted. We made some poor food choices and I definitely did not drink enough water. I didn't miss any workouts though! My coaches are surely disappointed but they gave me my plan for next week and I'm back on point. I also chose my show date: May 16 for the NPC Mid-Atlantic Cup Championships. If you're interested in attending the information is here.

Loaded and ready to roll

The rest of the update is in my latest vlog so check it out!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Forging The Future

Life is kind of like metal. Sometimes it's fluid and moving along. And sometimes it gets hard and it feels like you're stuck. Either way it's beautiful and tough. And it makes an amazing circle that can bond two people forever.

Sean's ring

Sean asked his friend to make the ring he will wear, conceivably for the rest of our lives. It arrived today and it's gorgeous! I can't thank Barefoot Forge enough for creating this work of art. You can also find them on Facebook here. Please give them a like and follow if amazing, handcrafted jewelry is of interest to you.

Handcrafted Damascus Steel Rings from Barefoot Forge

In other big news, I finally have a show date. I chose the NPC Mid-Atlantic Cup Championships on May 16. That puts me at roughly 11 weeks out right now! I'm really happy with my gains so far but I'm worried about leaning out. I'm trusting my coaches to guide me through all of this and I know everything will be just perfect if I stick to their plan!

Me - December 1, 2014

Me - Today

I've ordered my bikini and competition jewelry. I have my heels. It's all so real now. But first, I'm off to South Carolina to move my future husband back to PA! So, if I happen to be MIA this week, please forgive me. WE will be home next weekend! 

Have a wonderful week fit fam!