Contest Prep, Nutrition, Wellness

Eating Enough

There is one concept that seems to evade so many people. In fact, it is most likely one of the main reasons why so many struggle to get in shape, lose weight and keep it off for good. What is this mystery concept you ask? Eating enough. That’s right, for most eating enough and losing weight just don’t mix, which is why we still believe that diet equates calorie restriction and deficit.

The old theory of calories in, calories out isn’t as clear cut as you may think. Actually calculating how many calories you burn in a day is almost impossible, even if you have wearable tech (for example a Fitbit) because it doesn’t take into account your resting metabolic rate, stress levels, hormone fluctuations, etc. So trying to figure out the right amount of calories to take in is equally as challenging. Some say 1500 calories for others it’s 1200 and so on. It’s pretty confusing. Truth be told, there is no one size fits all for calories, but if you are looking to lose weight or if you have ever tries to in the past, chances are you’re not eating enough. You still have to support your body’s basic requirements to function and if you drop calories too low your body is going to tell your brain that it is starving and it will hold on to whatever bodyfat it can no matter how hard you workout or how low you drop your carb intake.

The reactions that I get when it comes to my regiment and my nutrition is usually surprise followed by slight disbelief and “Yeah, right” look in the other persons eyes. Others are always surprised to hear that I eat 6 to 7 meals each day and with that surprise assume that it’s a tiny miny portioned sized “meal”, which could not be further from the truth. I even get asked “Yeah, but how many of those so called meals are just protein shakes mixed with water?”. The answer is zero FYI. Yes, I do consume protein powder, but it’s always paired with additional food otherwise it wouldn’t be filling enough. I eat for volume and I like to feel full no matter where I’m at in my training.

To help shed a little light on this, here is what a typical day of eating looks like at 4 weeks away from the Provincial Championship.

Meal 1

 

A combo of carbs and protein is perfect for my post-fasted cardio meal. I opt for 1/4c dry measure of a whole grain with a 30g scoop of brown rice protein powder and 1/4c of blueberries. Anytime I go for something sweet I always spice it up with cinnamon and a pinch of turmeric (it’s an anti-inflammatory). My 2 fave ways to prep this meal is to combine the ingredients to make either a Brown Rice Bowl (as shown on left) or a Mug Cake (on the right). Delish!

Meal 2

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For this meal I always go for 4 oz of either tofu or tempeh with 1 cup of veg…and everything is smothered in mustard and hot sauce.

Meal 3

This serves as my pre-weight training meal which I’ll have about an hour before hitting the gym with a giant cup of coffee instead of a pre-workout supplement. This meal is sweet and combines 1 scoop of brown rice protein powder with 3 oz of mashed sweet potatoes with (again) cinnamon and turmeric. It’s kind of like a protein pudding with some extra carbs to fuel me up for some heavy lifting.

Meal 4

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My post-workout meal is eaten 45 minutes after my gym session is done. I always opt for white rice (which I love!) and 3 oz of this high protein bread (recipe courtesy of my coach) made from wheat gluten. It is so nice to eat bread every day when in contest prep. You may have noticed that most post-workout meals contain fast digesting carbs (like white rice). The reason for that is because whenever you exercise your body releases cortisol (the stress hormone), but this is a good thing as it is what allows you to push hard when you train. After you’re done, the sugars in carbohydrates are what help bring your cortisol levels back down to a stable amount.

Meal 5

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This one is probably my favorite. 1/2c black beans, 2 cups of sautéed spinach with hot sauce and 1 TB coconut oil is a great combo. The great thing is that on Mondays and Fridays (when I train legs) I get to up my carbs for this meal and add 3 oz of sweet potatoes, since I’m lifting heavier. The bigger the muscle, the heavier you can lift, the more recovery fuel (i.e. food) your body needs. So twice a week I like to mix things up a bit and use my ingredients to make brownies!

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Meal 6

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This is a quazi-oatmeal type of meal. Since I want to keep protein high at my last meal of the day, instead of using actual oats I use what’s called texturized vegetable protein (TVP). TVP is great because it’s a blank canvas and it takes on whatever flavours you add to it. Obviously I want this to be sweet so I go for 1/4c dry measure, with shredded zucchini (for volume), 2 TB of powdered peanut butter and 1/2 tsp of stevia. Surprisingly good.

Even though I’m less than 1 month away from show day, I still get to enjoy a once weekly refeed meal. Let me be clear though, a refeed meal is not a cheat meal. A refeed is like a carb load where you eat high carb, moderate protein and the least amount of fat possible (no fats are added to this meal). If I want something savory I’ll go for pasta, but I make the sauce myself so that there’s no oil added to it. usually though, I prefer sweet and I recently created and devoured this cereal treat. I found a brown rice cereal and vegan marshmallows (made from cassava instead of gelatin). It was SUPER amazing!

So there you have it. As you can see I don’t “eat like a bird” and neither should you. Food is fuel so nourish yourself and eat to live. Give yourself the energy you need by eating enough each day, regardless of your goals. Don’t worry about the calories, because chances are, you’re probably not eating enough as is. Focus on quality ingredients and balanced meals to support you, your workouts and your health.

Start Strong, Finish Strong

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Contest Prep, Recipes

The Hard – ish Part

With only a few weeks left until I step onstage, things are getting intense. I’m up to 1.5 gallons of water per day (not counting coffee) and I’m down to about 1200 calories per day mostly coming from protein (fat is almost non existant and carbs are limited to veg and a little post workout sweet potato). The goal now is to take off any tiny bit of body fat so that all of my hard earned muscle and curve will show while I’m under the bright stage lights.

Although I started my prep back in March, it’s now the end of October and that means it’s time to “tighten up” as my coach put it. Thankfully my entire training wasn’t quite as intense as it is now; many competitors go super low calorie from the get-go and spend months doing two 60 minute cardio sessions per day plus weightlifting! Yikes. Now I’m at 5 weightlifting days and 5 fasted cardio days each week and even that will shortly be done as I get closer to show day.

For now though, sleep is my best friend. When I don’t get restful sleep I feel lethargic and snippy. The important thing to keep in mind with any intense training is that the harder it gets, the greater the recovery time your body will need in order to see results. Another interesting thing is that although I have cut out weekly treat meals at this point, I surprisingly don’t miss it. Before I would count down the days to my next treat meal, making big plans for what I would indulge in, but now there’s nothing. No cravings, nothing. It certainly helps to look in the mirror and see my six-pack of abs and cellulite free tush, but all in all I’m good. The first few days on this stricter diet were challenging (as it usually goes with any diet change), but I got used to it really fast and the only time I get hangry is when I’ve gone past the 2 hour mark since my last meal.

I continue to get creative with my allotted ingredients for each meal, so there is no deprivation here. Most recently I came up with a protein packed postworkout waffle that I love and find is only fitting for the cooler autumn weather.

Pumpkin Spice Waffle

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Ingredients

4 oz baked sweet potato (without skin)

1 scoop vanilla protein powder

1 tsp cinnamon

pinch of nutmeg, cardamom, clove (optional)

Directions

In a bowl mash sweet potato until smooth then add the remaining ingredients and mix until well combined (texture should resemble a thick batter). Heat waffle iron on medium-high, when ready pour in batter and spread evenly throughout. Cook until golden and crispy.

I’m usually not one for cooking with heat when it comes to protein powder, but this recipe is really good and combines the complex carbs and lean protein to help me recover post workout. You may have heard of protein pancakes and such; they have been very popular with bodybuilders for many years and are now becoming more mainstream for those looking for a healthier alternative to the standard (and unhealthy) breakfast. Instead of spending money on the expensive pre-made mixes that you can sometimes find in store for a hefty price, try your own recipe instead (like this one) or do a quick google search for protein pancake recipe and you will find tons. There are plenty of options that play around with protein sources (some use egg whites or silken tofu instead of protein powder) and complex carbs as well.

As I’m nearing the end of this training, I’ve come to realize that the final weeks of contest prep are a lot like kindergarten where snacks are scheduled, naptime is essential, and you’re always right on the edge of throwing a tantum. It’s funny because I swear its true. Without question, this entire experience has been completely worth it. I’ve learned so much and have a far better appreciation of how important it is to put your health first, always. Being stage lean may be only short term, but the journey towards it is really spectacular.

Start It, Finish It