The ‘C’ word

Carbohydrates do not make you fat, eating too much makes you fat. Unfortunately that’s the sad truth of it and cutting out carbs isn’t going to be a magical cure for ultimate weight loss if you compensate for the calories lost from carbohydrate with an alternative source such as protein. For some body builders who understand how to manipulate what they eat to maintain their physique, build muscle or whatever else they’re aiming for then good for them, but for the average person like you or I there really is no need to stress so much about carbs.
Carbohydrates give you 4kcal of energy for every gram you consume regardless of whether it’s from white bread, cookies or brown rice and there’s nothing you can do to get away from that fact, carbohydrates are what they are regardless of the source they come from. Protein also gives you 4kcal of energy per gram…. fact. Sadly, this macronutrient has received some very bad press recently and caused many people to jump on the anti-carb bandwagon. Although it’s true that we can live without it trust me, your life will be a whole lot better if you include some in your diet. The thing that makes some carbohydrate ‘healthier’ than others is usually the quantity that it is present in the food and the amount of time it takes our body to break it down as well as the presence of other nutrients in the food such as fibre and protein. Whole grain products are advocated by health professionals due to the presence of fibre which is indigestible by humans and therefore ferments in the small intestine, promoting the growth of gut bacteria which will assist in the production of short chain fatty acids… long story short, fibre = cancer prevention and making it easier to go to the toilet (yes, I am talking about poo in a blog!)
Fibre also has the effect of making you feel full for longer after finishing a meal and therefore reduces the likelihood of snacking between meals.
Another reason why some carbohydrate is considered healthier than others is the complexity of the carbohydrate. Eventually, they all get broken down in to glucose to be absorbed by the body and used as an energy source however some carbs need more processing than others in order to reach this stage, these are typically your ‘low GI’ and will cause less of a spike in blood insulin levels as glucose is released in to the bloodstream at a slower rate. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps to keep our blood sugar levels constant. Insulin spikes will cause you to become hungry more rapidly after eating so stick to your low GI carbs like sweet potatoes, brown rice, whole grains and quinoa. Insulin moves glucose into your muscle cells however muscle cells can only store so much, so when muscle cells are full up the remaining blood sugar will be shuttled into your fat cells. This causes fat storage and is the source of the myth that all carb will be stored as fat.
If insulin continues to spike repeatedly this can cause a loss of the bodies sensitivity to insulin, making the individual insulin resistant. Insulin resistance leads to type 2 diabetes…. which, in short, is not a situation you want to find yourself in!

Feel like your brain is bleeding after that carb information overload? What you really need to take away from this article is that carbs are not the enemy. Cutting carbohydrate out of your diet will most likely leave you grumpy and with a headache so don’t be afraid to carb up, I’m mostly talking to you here ladies! So eat your carbs, just consume responsibly and you’ll be fine. Stick to whole grain sources and low GI carbohydrate that will also give you plenty of fibre. Carbohydrate is the brains primary energy source and without it you will struggle to concentrate!

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What are the Effects of Antioxidants on the Immune System and Ageing?

We’ve all been told that we need to eat all these superfoods because they’re filled with antioxidants that are going to miraculously make us a million times healthier. Blueberries, goji berries, chia seeds… it’s impossible to get away from the hype surrounding these miracle foods.

But just why are these foods supposedly so good for us?

Antioxidants do exactly what the name suggests, they reverse the damaging effect that oxygen has on cells…. Yes, you read that right, oxygen can actually cause you harm! Not all oxygen is going to destroy your cells, just some unstable forms that are known as free radicals and “when out of control, can attack or react with healthy body cells, damaging fragile cell membranes and genetic material.” (Insel et al, 2006)

Free radicals are a completely naturally occurring thing in our body and do have their benefits such as killing the damaged cells which can, if left to grow and divide, lead to cancer.

The things that we think of as carcinogenic for example smoking and over exposure to sunlight all form free radicals which is what leads to the detrimental effect on cells.

You may have heard of carotenoids, they’re the things that you get in carrots and the reason behind the old wives tale of carrots helping you see in the dark. But your mum wasn’t too far from the truth when she told you this! The carotenoid antioxidants that are present in some foods such as carrots can actually help to slow the process of age related macular degeneration of cells in the eyes which can cause cataracts and lead to blindness. (Garewal, 2007) Vitamin A is a major player when it comes to eye health. Without the presence of vitamin A in the eye you would be unable to convert light in to the images that we are able to see. (Isel Ross and Turner, 2006) Vitamin C and Vitamin E are also two important antioxidants to consider when looking at eye health.

Like cataracts, the risk of cancer increases with age as long exposure to free radicals and genetic mutation due to oxidative stress takes hold of cells. Vitamin D has been linked to a role in cancer prevention and trials involving vitamin C, Beta Carotene, Riboflavin and Niacin to name but a few have all been carried out with varying degrees of success shown. (Bostick et al, 2011) It is difficult to find an end point for these clinical trials and to evaluate them properly to show how successful they have been which often makes them inconclusive. Firstly, you need a large amount of time for the damaging effects of free radicals on cells to develop in to cancers (anywhere between 10 and 30 years). Secondly, everyone has different health statuses to begin with and different lifestyle factors are difficult to take in to account.

So what does all this mean? Basically it means that nobody really knows! The human body is a very complex thing and every human being is unique. It is easier to become deficient in a vitamin with antioxidant properties than it is to experience to toxic effects of too much of that vitamin so surely it is best to be cautious and try to consume the daily recommended intake of each vitamin. Vitamins don’t also have to be eaten in the form of fancy and expensive superfoods from health food shops, below is a list of some essential vitamins and good foods to eat that contain high amounts of each one.

Vitamin A: Sweet potatoes, beef liver, carrots, eggs

Vitamin B6: chickpeas, fish, beef liver, poultry

Vitamin C: Sweet red peppers, kiwi fruit, broccoli

Vitamin K: Leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach)

Vitamin D: Fatty fishes (salmon, swordfish, mackerel), milk, fortified breakfast cereal

Vitamin E: Sunflower seeds, almonds (Health.com, no date)

Bibliography

  •  Bostick, R M., Goodman, M., Kucuk, O., Jones, D P. (18th May 2011) Clinical trials of antioxidants as cancer prevention agents: Past, present, and future [Online] [Accessed 4th November 2014] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0891584911003200
  • Garewal, H S. (1997) Antioxidants and Disease Prevention. Florida: CRC Press LCC.
  • Health.com. (No Date) The Best Foods For Every Vitamin And Mineral [Online] [Accessed 4th November 2014] http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20660118_11,00.html
  • Insel, P., Ross, D., Turner, R E. (2006) Discovering Nutrition. 2nd Edition. Sudbury, Massachusetts: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

 

 

 

The Olympia Dream 

This is a tough one to write and I’ve been trying to decide where to start for a while now! I feel like I should make some bold opening statement or quote something inspirational but nothing is coming to mind! So I’ll begin with a holiday. 

I spent a month of the summer travelling the east coast of the beautiful country that is Australia with two of my sisters and followed this up with a week in Cornwall with my family. Those five weeks were honestly liberating. It sounds so cliche but I learned a hell of a lot about myself and about people in general. 

After competing twice earlier this year I was emotionally and physically ready for a break from life. I can’t even begin to explain how draining prep is and I kept a list of the ridiculous stuff I cried over during the process. Ever burst in to tears because your favourite underwear wasn’t clean and you’d run out of Greek yoghurt, thrown your slippers at the wall out of frustration then cried some more and apologised to your slippers? Didn’t think so! 

In my time away I learned primarily how to listen to my body. If it needed sleep it got sleep and if it wanted bread then that’s exactly what I gave it! I didn’t track a single thing and the only ‘training’ I did was a couple of morning runs in bondi, swimming, surfing and walking back to the buffet for extra dessert. It felt good to be a normal human for a while and not worry that the cookies didn’t fit my macros (or the ice cream that I scooped up with them for that matter). 

Upon returning I was honestly ready to be back in the gym but not to track food again and I’m still eating intuitively. 

I was also ready for some new challenges. 

I really enjoyed bikini but it wasn’t fulfilling and doesn’t really suit my competitive nature. I’m not there to take part, it’s not all about the journey and discovering myself. I like winning. If I discover myself in the process then that’s great. I found the judging very subjective and its demoralising to work so hard and see someone place higher than you because you were ‘too lean.’ To be brutally honest some of the girls who hit the stage don’t actually look like they train. 

I’ve struggled with some digestive issues since March this year which have, at times, left me looking several months pregnant after the smallest of meals and at the moment a lot of foods are off the menu as they’re causing major flare ups, which is a shame because I really like mushrooms, sweet corn and chickpeas! 

I had a couple of things in the back of my mind whilst I was cuddling kangaroos and snorkelling with turtles and the time away brought some clarity to these big ideas!

After returning from Australia I had some talent testing with UK sport and despite a new peak power PB on a watt bike of 883W (not bad for a month off and lack of training specificity) I wasn’t selected to move forwards on to the next phase of testing. Truthfully this crushed me. I love competing in sport and it’s always been in the back of my mind that one day I’ll make it to an Olympic Games, this felt like my last chance to achieve this and it’s finally sinking in that I’m probably never going to. To me it felt like I’d failed at what has been my dream since I first began competing in sport. I bitterly watched the remainder of the Rio Olympics, feeling aimless and like a total failure. (I know this is completely unwarranted as I’ve achieved some pretty awesome things in my 21 years.) 

Time for a new dream, the Olympics has become the Olympia. 

So I’ve decided that I’m going to compete in bodyfitness.

And I have a coach to help me do that! 

This is a pretty scary decision but one that I’m so ready to embrace! I’ve gone from losing a lot of weight to gaining some back to involuntarily losing some again because I’m struggling to eat enough to maintain without causing massive gastrointestinal distress and now I’m ready for a new chapter in the physique story and to gain some serious delts and quads. 

I recently spoke to another girl who competes in bodyfitness and she summed it up perfectly with the statement 

“We work too hard to look soft.” 

I have a show in mind for next year and an action plan to get me there….. Looks like I’ll be needing a new bikini! 

Time out 

No, I’m not talking about the little chocolates that you used to get in boxes of Cadbury heroes. 

I feel like the take home message from this post is pretty important so I’m going to put it at the start instead of the end. 

For anyone considering competing, please think about what you’re about to put your body through. You can get in to brilliant shape without the need to compete to prove it.

I’m realising new things about myself every day and today’s realisation is that my personal journey and development over the past few years has been phenomenal. I’ve done so much and experienced so many things that have helped me to grow as a person. But it’s also been exhausting. 

Today I’m well and truly burnt out and have spent most of the day in bed after a poor attempt at a gym session. When I finally did gather the energy to do anything I went to the train station and headed for home, in need of some TLC that only a mum can provide and a bit of family time. 

I’ve been teetering on the edge of a burnout for the past couple of months and I won’t be undertaking another contest prep without some serious consideration and maybe a coach to keep an eye on me. The toll that the past few months has taken on my mind and body is unexplainable and my relationship with pretty much everything has completely changed….. Including my arm hair…. Once you’ve shaved all that off for tanning purposes you’ll never want it back.

I thought I’d found my comfortable place, where I was at ease with the balance of life etc etc and felt comfortable in my own body again. Turns out I haven’t quite got there yet, maybe I’ll never get there! What I do know is that I’m stuck in a cycle that I’m struggling to get out of and one that I know a lot of competitors find difficult to manage, let me lay it out for you:

  • You hit your physical peak on show day and everything thereafter doesn’t feel adequate.
  • You obsess over and crave food during prep, no matter how flexible your diet is some things simply are out of the question. 
  • You binge eat
  • You feel horrible about it
  • You restrict yourself 
  • You then get more cravings
  • You have good and bad body image days
  • You train really hard to compensate for the food increases 
  • You eventually burn out and have to go home for a cuddle from your family.

See what I mean, exhausting! 

Can you imagine feeling all of that and still having to balance university, exams, work and making sure you have enough clean underwear. 

So it’s time for me to take some time off for a little while. I love being strong but I also miss my slightly scrawnier days of long distance running, ploymetric and gymnastic training and not stressing over food. I spent almost an hour aimlessly wandering asda yesterday and came out with a box of cherries and some chicken….. If that’s not a messed up food relationship I don’t know what is! 

On top of all this my body is physically knackered. I’m not recovering anywhere near as quickly as I used to, which is partly down to my lifts being a whole lot heavier than they used to be and the recent volume training I’ve been playing around with. All of my muscles feel dead, my back and shoulders hurt and don’t even get me started on the state of my legs after squats, rack pulls and hip thrusts. 

For me, a break is taking the form of a month in Australia. In two weeks time I’ll be setting off on a summer adventure with my little sister to join our older sister down under for a month of island hopping, swimming, surfing, sunbathing and exploring. Then we’ll see what life throws at me when I return for my final year in Manchester.

So for now, bikini competing…. It’s been fun. ✌🏻️

I Found Happy 

It’s been over two weeks since the USN Classic at the bodypower expo and I think I’ve finally done it! 

I’ve found my happy place.

After nationals I had the goal of another show but following bodypower I was pretty much free in terms of training and diet. A few too many indulgences and substantially increased energy intake from a bit of binge eating saw my weight go mental for a bit, fluctuating up to 5kg overnight as I entered an unhealthy binge/restrict cycle. 

My body has done some pretty crazy things and I can’t deny it….. All the extra food and some pretty heavy glute focused leg sessions made my glutes look INCREDIBLE and reminded me why my sisters once called me ‘thunder thighs.’ Thanks guys….. That was a great one for my self esteem 😂. This rebound effect can be really detrimental and cause some girls to gain a load of unwanted excess fat post-show but fortunately for me I’ve managed to keep it in check! I did struggle with feeling like a whale for a good week but that was probably something to do with the post show crumpets and ice cream. 

I’m still seeing some of the repercussions of dieting like low energy levels, a disrupted sleep pattern and upset stomach due to my body being unable to handle any volume of food! But things are generally improving, especially in the gym where I hit a squat PB last week of 5×5 at 85kg.

Today I’ve felt totally at peace with my body (despite a weird craving for plantains) and I believe a decision to partially stop tracking my macros is mostly responsible for this. I’m keeping an eye on protein but I’m eating in accordance with what my body wants and how I feel. Today I wanted steak and plantains so that’s what I had.

With 25 days to go until I head down under with my sisters for an epic month of travelling I’m finally in a place where I feel totally comfortable with myself.

This level of comfortable is a little smaller, perhaps a little skinnier, softer than the stage lean bikini girl I was a few weeks back and happy to eat ice cream for pudding. This might not be ideal for everyone but for me this is my happy place and my comfort zone. 

Fat: Friend or Foe?

High fat, low carb diets are increasing in popularity with fitness professionals preaching ‘fat will not make you fat’

NEWSFLASH:

Fat will still make you fat if you eat too much of it.

Sorry.

The reason that dieticians and health professionals have supported a low fat diet for years is largely due to the fact that fat contains 9kcal per gram whereas carbohydrates contribute 4kcal per gram to energy intake. Reduce fat and you reduce calories, a simple and pretty effective strategy for weight management if you ask me as long as the deficit created by a reduced fat intake isn’t compensated for by increasing the intake of other macronutrients (carbs and protein).

I can hear your brains whirring….. But Charlotte, if fat is so calorific why are people promoting high fat diets for weight loss?!

Fat is great….. Cheese and avocados are mostly fat and if you’ve never had a cheese and avocado toasted sandwich then you’re missing out. It’s also a powerhouse of energy and the average person’s body fat stores can sustain them for around 120 hours at marathon pace, whereas carbohydrate stores will only last you about 90 minutes at the same pace. Training and living in a mostly carbohydrate deficient state, in simple terms, trains the body to use fat as an energy source meaning that you theoretically become more efficient at burning through your body fat stores. If you give your body fat to use it will use it, similarly, if you give your body carbs it will use them. The human body is basically really lazy and will use carbohydrate over fat as carbs are easier to convert in to energy.

The benefits of fat do extend beyond cheese and avocado sandwiches however. There’s also butter and eggs! Or even better, scrambled eggs cooked in butter! But enough of fantasising about food, I’m still in the bikini prep mind-set where my calories were restricted.

In all seriousness, fat fills you up and keeps you full for a long time, meaning that you’re probably a lot less likely to snack on sugary treats which will most likely push you over your calorific goals for the day. It also allows you to absorb the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and well as nutrients like lycopene, found in tomatoes.

The next benefit of this macronutrient is the hormonal regulation that it provides. Ever heard of female bodybuilders or female athletes in general not getting their regular menstrual cycle? That’s because they’re not fat enough. Adipose tissue regulates a whole host of hormones from sex hormones to those involves in the regulation of satiety. Biological processes suffer without the presence of fat in the diet! Digestion is one such process…..Think of fat as a lubricant for the digestive system.

All of this information doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go high fat in order to improve your body composition, a simple calorie deficit will work wonders for that! I personally don’t particularly like high fat. I also don’t like high carb as it makes me feel sluggish and tired.

I like balance.

Turns out that balance can get you to 12% body fat on a bod pod.

Post Competition Reflection

The question that’s on the tip of everybody’s tongue after competing at the bodypower expo was,

“so when’s the next one?”

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In all honesty, I don’t know. I still haven’t worked out how I feel about the political, drug taking, aesthetics driven world that is bodybuilding. Obviously there are girls that get themselves in to phenomenal shape without the extra “help” provided by substances that I still don’t fully understand the mechanisms of. Laxatives, rice cakes and near starvation diets are only part of it, emotionally and mentally I’m drained and not a lot can phase me at the moment as I’ve basically just run out of (insert expletive that rhymes with ducks here) to give! I struggle to get my head around the concept that physical performance doesn’t actually matter as long as you look good which made my heavy lifting and physically exhausting training seem obsolete and unnecessary in the world of aesthetics. Many bikini girls have never deadlifted anything more than their bodyweight and stick with the 20 rep range, a number that makes me want to puke just thinking about it!

For the moment I’m fat and happy, with my heavy lifting and looming month of sun, sea and sand in Australia keeping me content. I miss being absolutely shredded but it’s not maintainable or healthy so my slightly softer (but let’s face it still pretty lean) physique will suffice for now.

Many people consider competing so I’ve compiled a bit of a list of the things you might want to seriously think about before you take the leap in to physique competitions.

  • Your energy levels get really low.

I didn’t realise just how low and terrible I felt until I increased my energy intake again after the show and saw my motivation, energy levels and performance dramatically increase. Although I’m still pretty wiped out after about 16 weeks of dieting I no longer need my daily 4pm nap and I’m actually enjoying going for runs, high intensity circuits and training like a bit of a nutter purely for fun.

  • Your sex drive goes down the toilet.

Yep, that slightly taboo subject that nobody wants to talk about! I was pretty much a potato for the last few weeks of prep with very little interest in anything other than food, training and a little bit of uni work. Decreased fat intake and body fat levels will play havoc with sex hormones and competition prep is the reason why many relationships suffer and breakdown between fitness couples.

  • Your digestive system hates you.

I don’t know what combination of low calorie, low fat and a lot of vegetables caused my digestive system to rebel so much but oh my goodness it did. I lost track of what food groups were causing what symptoms in the end but bloating, diarrhoea, stomach cramp and constipation are all horrendous realities for many competitors, especially as they begin to reintroduce foods back in to their diet or increase their energy intake after a show.

  • It can be downright miserable.

There are a lot of highs but similarly there are many lows from complete emotional breakdowns on the phone to my mum to binge eating and the disordered eating habits that develop as a result of extensive dieting. I had to reign myself in a few times at work and stop myself from snapping at irritating customers. If you’re going to compete you need a support network around you that will calmly take the biscuits away from you and go tuck you up in bed or let you sob uncontrollably in to their shoulder for no reason at all other than you just feel like a damn good cry.

Dieting Hacks

How do I lose weight? 

It’s the question that I get asked time and time again by pretty much everybody I encounter that knows I’m a nutrition student. The basis of dieting is to create a calorie deficit in a style which you can maintain until you reach your desired goal weight. At this point you can reverse diet so that you can eat more without gaining back the weight you’ve worked so hard to lose! This will be covered in a blog post soon to be published on http://www.themusclemovement.co.uk

I’ve come up with a list of food swaps, tips and general dieting hacks to make creating a calorie deficit a little easier.

1) Fill your plate with veggies.

 I base all of my meals around vegetables to give me the food volume I need to not feel as hungry throughout the day. Yes, even my breakfast porridge is filled with courgette! Aim for at least 2/3 of the plate covered by veg. This will increase the fibre content of your diet which is great for the prevention of colorectal cancer and helps to slow down the absorption of carbohydrates, contributing to a feeling of fullness. Veggies are also very nutrient dense and contribute to overall health through micronutrients such as vitamins C and A, along with a whole host of other antioxidants and essential nutrients. 

Think of veggies as low calorie bulk, an entire small courgette (depending on the size) is around 20-25kcal! 

2) Eat from a smaller plate or bowl.

You can’t fit as much ice cream in a small bowl so logic says that you probably won’t put as much in as you would a large bowl. This works for me as long as I don’t go back for seconds! 

3) Get a spiralizer.

Seriously, I love mine! I spiralise EVERYTHING! Carrot, courgette, sweet potato…. You name it I’ll probably try and spiralise it. This acts as a lower calorie alternative to spaghetti and adds volume to food. 

4) Snack swap.

If you’re one of those people that finds themselves snacking on a high calorie chocolate bar at around 3pm then simply swap it for an apple or banana or whatever else you fancy! Even that granola bar can be ultra high in energy. An 80 kcal apple compared to 207kcal for a Kit Kat Chunky? The Apple will probably keep you feeling fuller too! 

5) Beverage swap

If you must have your frappucinno then don’t get whipped cream on it, opt for a lighter option, swap some of your fruit juices for water, swap coke for diet drinks. Hot chocolate? Options do a great 40kcal drink (as long as you follow the serving size). I think you get the picture by now, this is all about energy balance so reducing your energy intake by swapping 120kcal of orange juice for 0kcal of water will help contribute to fat loss.

6) Laughing cow light

I ADORE cheese. Who doesn’t?! But it’s basically a little powerhouse of energy. That means I get less food volume throughout the day and I’d rather have an extra chicken breast than a chunk of cheese. Laughing cow light triangles come in at about 25kcal each. Adding one of these to my dinner can make my day that little bit brighter. Similarly, cottage cheese is a great lower calorie option as it’s filled with protein too which increases satiety. 

7) Walking lunch breaks 

I try to incorporate a walk in to my day, even if this means going to the tesco a mile away instead of the one around the corner. It’s bizarre I know but even walking at 3mph burns around 300kcal an hour! That’s compared to the 80kcal an hour burnt whilst sitting motionless (James Kreiger is a great person to follow for more on this!) Non-exercise associated thermogenesis is almost as important as diet in the bid for fat loss. 

Bodypower thoughts 

These past few days have been the first time in this entire process that I’m seriously wondered if I’ve pushed my body too far. Along the way I’ve cried, struggled, overslept, ground out reps and begrudgingly eaten my tuna when I’d much rather be having a roast dinner with all the trimmings…. But I’ve always kept going. 

On Thursday morning I couldn’t just man up and do it.

It amazes me how much my energy levels can fluctuate on a day to day basis and on Thursday morning they were sub-zero. Regardless, it was squat day so I got up before work and was in the gym for 5am. By 6am I was back home under my duvet too exhausted to cry and feeling like I’d just run a marathon with a sack of bricks on my back. For the first time I simply couldn’t do it! 

Dieting is tough and performance is bound to drop off slightly as body fat levels and consequently stored energy levels decline but I was struggling to squat 60kg. I can normally grind out 7×7 at 80kg or something similar, maybe sets of 3 or 5 at 90kg depending on my training phase, not this week. I dropped to 50kg for sets of 10…. Trying to at least maintain some volume if I couldn’t manage any weight. Two sets in and my legs almost gave way and I went light headed. 

I could almost forgive this as I’d trained glutes on Wednesday and given them a very heavy session as well as hitting a deadlift PB on Monday, but when I decided to try some upper body work and could barely pick up a 16kg dumbbell I crumbled, welled up and left. 

So what’s the point in this blog? 

I’m 2 weeks and 2 days out from the Bodypower expo and re-assessing my training and nutrition strategy. I’m really lean, roughly 12% body fat according to a bodpod. This week I’ve given myself a bit of a refeed. This refeed actually started as a minor episode of binge eating with at least 100g of peanut butter being absolutely demolished along with other carb heavy goods as my body craved energy that I’ve been denying it. I woke up super lean with a drop in scale weight. My food intake was lower than normal on Wednesday due to a slightly unhappy and upset stomach and general lack of appetite but I re-fed again on Thursday after my horrendous squatting and it turns out that you don’t get fat overnight. I maintained my leanness. 

Moral of the story…. You can take your calories too low! I’m jumping mine back up closer to maintenance in a reverse-dieting style to regain some energy and come at bodypower with everything I can throw at it! 

The bits nobody tells you about show day 

I competed yesterday and to say that it’s a surreal experience is the understatement of a lifetime. There are a few things that I wasn’t anticipating, some shocking, others amusing! What is for certain though is that you can’t understand the process until you’ve actually competed.

To begin with, all of your personal boundaries will be crossed. You go in to get slathered in spray tan that resembles wood stain and smells like potatoes and are faced with a room full of naked people. You strip off, stand in a little pop up tent and a complete stranger sprays you before dabbing at various parts of your body with a spongy glove. My boobs were well and truly buffed! Then before you go on stage another random woman rubs oil in to every available inch of skin on display. 

Going back to the boobs….. I’ve never seen fake boobs before, I saw more than my fair share yesterday and I think I’ll stick with my own less than ample chest! 

This fake tan looks fine under stage lighting however as soon as you step foot outside and in to the natural light you then realise how much you look like an Oompa Loompa. The tan also gets everywhere, I just chucked out the baggy top I took to wear over the top of it and my bed sheets are going to need liberal amounts of bleach even after I scrubbed myself in the shower!  I’ve honestly never felt so sticky and grubby in ally life and couldn’t wait to get home and let a hot shower wash it all away, my shower was a disgusting colour when I was finished.

The competition is also over as quickly as it begins. The bit I find difficult to get my head around is the lack of explanation of any kind of scoring system. Three girls are chosen as the top three and the rest of you are just discarded backstage with no idea where you’ve placed or why you did or didn’t make top three. Results are published the next day but it’s annoying to come away from a show not knowing how you performed. 

Bikinis are another big show day issue. Leave plenty of time to put it on, if you try to wriggle in to it too quickly you’ll probably end up cutting your fingers to pieces on the connectors (like I did) or dragging them up your leg, ruining your tan and scraping your thighs in the process. I made this mistake with taking my bikini bottoms off too quickly the first time I ever tried it on and scraped my quads. 

We also glue our bikinis to our bums, Bikini Bite is a roll on glue and a bikini girls best friend. UKBFF regulations state that the bottoms should cover at least 2/3 of the glutes, so glute exposing slippage of your bikini is not only embarrassing but could cost you a top three place. 

The next thing you should know about the glamorous life of a bikini girl is that posing kind of hurts. I’ve learnt that the more awkward and uncomfortable you feel, the better you probably look. Our backsides don’t naturally sit like that, it takes a whole lot of lower back contortion to stick it out in such a way that the judges are happy with. My class was held in front pose for ages….. I didn’t know it was possible to get cramp in your knee up until that moment but let me assure you, it’s entirely possible! It takes a lot of practicing to be able to hold poses properly and for a long time without feeling like your muscles are about to descend in to spasm. 

The last thing that I wasn’t expecting was some of the prep horror stories recounted by the other girls (all of whom are absolutely lovely) of laxatives, diuretics, extreme calorie restriction, double cardio sessions, training three times a day and elimination diets that left them eating turkey breast, egg whites and broccoli. Many of these girls may try to promote a healthy and balanced lifestyle but quietly engage in practices that are enough to put anybody off competing for life. It seems that some coaches really don’t know what they’re doing and prescribe dangerous and downright stupid things to some of the girls!  

 

It’s Almost Peak Week

I squatted 100kg on Thursday, so that’s another of my 2016 goals checked off along with a 60kg bench, just the 120kg deadlift to go! 

At 55/56kg body weight, 12.5% body fat (ish, I haven’t measured for about a month) and just over two weeks away from my first bikini competition I’d say that’s pretty good going. The bit of that story I didn’t exactly tell people was that I only hit 100 because I added up my plates incorrectly and thought I only had 90kg…… I wondered why it felt so heavy! So I was basically disgusted with myself when I ground out a solitary rep and couldn’t manage another when I was aiming for triples at 90kg. Much to my delight I then looked at the bar again and realised I’d used 25 plates instead of 20s. 100kg squat in the bag and I didn’t even mean to. 

I think this goes to show how much it is possible to be held back by your own mind, especially when it comes to fitness. I would never have dreamed of even attempting to go for the 100kg when I was two weeks out and this is where I feel a lot of bikini girls in particular go wrong with their training. As soon as you begin dieting for a competition you begin to feel more tired and training does definitely become a bigger challenge as energy levels are so much lower. As soon as these feelings of fatigue begin to kick in a lot of people will drop their weight and increase reps as they assume that the crowd mentality of ‘I’m dieting therefore I won’t be able to lift heavy’ is true. 

I’m not saying that everyone should be hitting a new 1 RM a couple of weeks out but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t continue to lift as heavy as possible in the run up to a competition. 

Sometimes you just have to put your big girl knickers on, suck it up and grind out the reps no matter how hard it is. 

That being said, prep really does take its toll! I’ve been sick twice today and have felt poorly on and off for the past couple of weeks. My digestive system hates me for some reason and my 20 minute nap yesterday turned in to an hour and a half deep sleep (dribble and everything). I feel flat, bloated, cold, tired and grumpy all at the same time and no amount of Omega-3’s and vitamin supplements are helping to rid my quads and glutes of the ever present fatigue that verges on the edge of cramp. 

The one God send is that I’m ready, I’m stage ready and can re-feed a little this week, ready for depletion to begin on Monday before I increase my carbs and fill out these little muscles ready for the stage next Sunday.

If anyone ever suggests that you do a bodybuilding competition when you’re not already in pretty good physical shape I would advise you to laugh hysterically and run in the opposite direction.

Aesthetics has been more of a mental battle than a physical one for me. One week and five days to go until Nationals!  

 

Do You Even Lift? 

I feel like a lot of bikini girls talk about being full, strong, curvy and all of their #gains….. Then diet down to similar proportions as a twig. I’m confused, this is a weird sport! You spend your off season trying to build muscle and then seem to diet it all off when it comes to show time. I kind of want to ask some of these girls if they even lift because it sure as hell doesn’t look like it. 

I start to get seriously lean, then get advised not to overdiet, what even is overdieting? I have no idea anymore. Aesthetics seems to come with a lot of conflicting information which basically boils down to this:

You must be lean, but not too lean, however you must be tiny and should wear fake tan to make yourself look more muscular. But don’t be too muscular! Have curves, embrace your femininity, diet away all of your gains but remain full figured and have huge glutes…. But not too many abs. 

Confusing isn’t it! Am I missing something? Is there another section of the rule book that I haven’t seen that actually tells you what you’re supposed to look like a little more accurately? 

Am I lean enough? Am I too lean? I’m 12.7% body fat…. That’s pretty damn lean, but I still don’t feel like I’m small enough. 

Maybe this is why I’m in a state of slightly blissful euphoria at the moment? Safe in the knowledge that nobody actually has a bloody clue what a bikini girl is supposed to look like and we’re all just making it up as we go along. 

On another note: back pose….. I think I might be getting the hang of this….. Maybe….. But as this is a completely new back pose everyone just seems to be making up their own variations of it.