Contest Prep, Wellness

Peak Week Pain Points

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Once again I have made it to Peak Week. It is the culmination of the entire contest prep process; from mass gaining all the way through to fat loss/cutting, this is the week where one’s physique is in it’s prime condition. This is the most exciting week of the entire experience, but it also tends to be the toughest too. After weeks and months of training, some may run out of steam right at the end because they went too hard for too long, while others breeze through with a big smile on their face. Either way, this final week of prep involves lots of adjustments and commitments, both big and small.

For me, this marks my third peak week leading to the biggest competition to date: Provincial Championships, where the top 5 in each height class move on to Nationals with a chance to earn their coveted IFBB Pro Card. Many of my fellow competitors will involve ladies who have been training and competing for many years, who qualified well over a year ago and/or have had a long time dedicated to their prep. In my case, I qualified only 6 weeks earlier at the Provincial Open placing 4th in my height class. On the plus side, seeing that I was already in peak condition at 6 weeks out meant that I wouldn’t have too much work ahead of me in terms of dieting down or trying to pack on extra mass. Ultimately this short prep was different from my first two in that I was able to maintain my physique while having shorter workouts and enjoying a higher amount of carbohydrates and still seeing great results each week.

Then there came the “problems” or “challenges”. At 3 weeks out I started a new full time job (yay!). Unfortunately my office is far from home and the gym, giving me a pretty sizeable commute each day (2 hours total). This also meant that fasted cardio would be a big challenge. Instead of getting up at my leisure each morning and taking my time before heading out for a run, I now have to get up SUPER early (usually as the sun is rising) and head out the door about 20 minutes after crawling out of bed. Even with my pre-workout supps, I still feel tired and I am definitely running at a much slower pace than usual. Then I rush back home for a couple minutes of stretching, get ready for work and run out to catch the bus. After a full work day, it’s back on public transport to the gym for some serious weightlifting. By the I get home I’ve had about a 14 hour day including my workouts and transport. Needless to say, I’m wiped! The first week was intense because that was the biggest adjustment, especially with sleep. Truth be told, my solution was to just drink more coffee, which helped in the short term, but by the end of the week I started feeling the negative side effects. Too much caffeine can cause insomnia and irritability, all of which I experienced a few days into the week. Not only was I having a bit of information overload, but I was also getting way too much stimulation without any quiet downtime that I so craved. So that first weekend, I completely cut out caffeine and switched to some soothing chamomile tea instead and took some time out to listen to a few podcasts on wellness and do some quiet meditation. At 2 weeks out, I kept the caffeine intake reasonable and only having coffee pre-workout even if I started yawning midday; I definitely felt better. I started to get into a groove with my new routine, started running at my usual pace and got my energy levels back up. I also started to appreciate the early morning jogs; there’s hardly anyone out, the sun is shining and my route goes through this beautiful bike path with lots of greenery and trees. A definite positive shift in energy by week two.

Here comes the really hard part. For peak week, I’m traveling. I’ll be spending the week at a hot and sunny spot, which sounds all nice and good, but the timing is a huge problem. First of all, my flights are super early in the morning so I’ll be getting up well before the sunrise. Secondly, a plant-based contest prep diet is hard to manage while flying, options are limited so I have to be super prepared and since I’m flying international there’s no way for me to prep meals in advance. The best I can do is bring along individual packs of protein powder with some brown rice cakes, and pick up some kind of veg at the airport. Now I can’t just have any kind of salad because these always have added fats, marinades and sugars, so I’ll have to settle for the non-starchy dressing on the side type of foods. The key here is to write down everything that I eat to keep track of macros throughout the day so that I’m not missing any nutrients. Another factor is water intake. Air travel causes dehydration and bloating, which isn’t a big deal for the departure, but coming back home is a major concern (I’ll get to that shortly). Thankfully I’ll be staying in a spot with a full kitchen ad access to groceries, so sticking with my nutrition is no problem. There’s also a gym nearby, so workouts can easily be done.

You may be thinking “well, at least you’ll get to soak up some sun on the beach”…NOPE! In the 3 weeks leading up to any competition you have to avoid the sun. That’s right, I’m going to the beach but have to completely avoid all contact with the sunshine at all times. Why? Because in the sun we tan, and tan-lines cannot be covered by the spraytan on showday. No matter how hard the spraytan company may try, any difference in skin tone or color cannot be covered and evened out by the spray and I’m sure you’ll remember that my posing suit is not like a regular bikini; it’s a lot smaller and sits on the body far differently than what you see on the beach. God help you if you get sunburnt because you won’t be able to compete at all; any kind of skin irritation or redness will only be accentuated by the spraytan. So I’ll be walking around in massive heat, completely covered from head to toe with a big giant hat at all times, even if I go into the ocean. Oh, and did I mention that three days into the trip I have to stop wearing deodorant? The chemicals in deodorant turn the spraytan green and nobody wants to see moldy looking armpits.

The flight home is a whole other animal altogether. Once again, I leave early in the morning, but it also happens to fall on the day that I start my carb load and water manipulation. I’m going to be running the risk of bloating due to air travel (a big no-no). Plus in a carb load we cut all vegetables and fats, so I’ll be pretty limited to what I can eat. Again, writing everything that I eat and drink down will be the key to staying on track. Worse case scenario it’ll all protein powder and rice cakes until I get home and then I’ll eat the standard tempeh, sweet potatoes and white rice. When I do finally make it home I have to do a full workout and pre-contest beauty prep (hair stuff, mani-pedi, etc.) and pack for the contest weekend. Busy, busy.

Now this show is different in that registration for my class which usually takes place 1 day out at around 1pm is now going to be at 10:30 am, and it’s not close to home. So once again, I’ll have to get up super early for a light workout, skin prep and probably get stuck in traffic on my way there. Thankfully I will be staying at the host hotel so I’ll be able to drop my stuff and have a few hours to kill before the athlete’s meeting and my spraytan. I will be taking the opportunity to go to the hair salon and enjoy a little bit of pampering and then hopefully have enough time for an afternoon nap in my room.

The game plan for showday is nothing different (hair, makeup in the morning followed by pre-judging), but…finals is way later in the night. Usually finals would start around 1pm, this time though it starts at 6pm, so there will be at least a 5 hour gap in between. So I caved and reserved my hotel room for an extra night (since check out is at 3pm)  that way I can take a nap in between, which I’m sure I’ll need and I can stay over night if the show finishes late, which for sure it will. Finals usually lasts about 4 hours, so we won’t be out of there before 10pm. It’s an added expense, but a necessary one.

It’s gonna be an exhausting week and if you haven’t already figured out by now, I’m felling fairly stressed out over this. Stressed over the travels, stressed over the timing and planning, and stressed over how tired I know I will feel throughout the entire week. I am, however, trying to focus on the bright side. If while away I feel tired, I will sleep and if I feel overwhelmed or overstimulated, I’ll take some quiet time away from everyone to get centered again. This may not the ideal time to travel, but I know I’ll still enjoy myself even if I’m not the norm and am pretty unconventional. This trip will still give me the chance to spend some quality time with my family, maybe take an evening stroll on the beach with my husband and hopefully move at a slower pace than usual. It’ll give me the chance to slow down and get some relaxation time in while connecting with loved ones Like everything else, the key to success is to work around what you already have in place and tailor your approach to that. In my case, maintaining a positive mindset throughout, by focusing on gratitude and the progress of this particular journey to the stage, is what will ultimately allow this to remain a positive learning and growing experience.

Start Strong, Finish Strong

 

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Nutrition, Recipes

Building Muscle Without the Bulk

When most hear the term muscle building they tend to think bulk, as in getting a big and beefy looking bod. In reality, building muscle and bulking up are very different concepts that require very different regiments altogether. So let’s get one thing out of the way right now…you will not bulk up just from weightlifting alone, even if you lift really heavy. Bulking up takes many years and specific dietary requirements and supplements along with super intense workouts to sculpt your body so that you gain weight, and get big and shredded at the same time.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about building muscle. Weightlifting is obviously the way to go, but when you combine it with some cardio and along with consistent nutrition, you can pack on lean muscle without adding bodyfat. What I mean by consistent nutrition is eating a diet that includes at least half of your daily calories from carbs (to help fuel your workouts) with lean protein and some added fats per day, while keeping the prepackaged foods and junk to a minimum except for the occasional treat meal. You also want to be in a bit of a calorie surplus each day, otherwise gaining muscle will be almost impossible.

Let me be clear here: when I say building muscle I mean lean muscle; nice curve and shapely glutes, with a small looking waist giving you an hourglass/s curve in the body  (not a more square looking or v-taper physique – although that’s good too!). Very nice looking indeed!

This is basically what my goal is right now and it’s part of my post-contest recovery plan. Cutting for a contest can be very intense so it is important to give your body time to recover from it in order for it to continue to grow and to stay healthy as well. Nutrition is key here as you cannot out-train a bad diet and you can’t function well if you’re not eating enough and eating well.

That being said, here are a few of my current go-to recipes that help to fuel me for the day, power through my workouts and, of course, build some sexy lean muscle.

Banana Nut Power Bowl

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Ingredients

1 scoop vanilla protein powder

1 tablespoon powdered peanut butter

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 banana sliced thin

1 tablespoon almond butter

Instructions

  1. In bowl combine protein, powdered PB and cinnamon. Add in 1\3 cup of water and stir to combine (it should have a cookie dough-like consistency).
  2. Top with sliced banana and top it off by drizzling the almond butter

This serves as my first meal of the day right after fasted cardio and is super yummy!

Apple Cinnamon Donuts

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Ingredients

1 1/2 cups oat flour

2 scoops vanilla protein powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 medium sized apple, peeled and chopped

2 teaspoons natural peanut butter

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl combine almond milk and vinegar, and set aside
  2. In a medium bowl combine, protein, baking powder and cinnamon
  3. Add in the almond milk mixture and peanut butter, stir to combine and fold in the apple
  4. Spray a donut pan with non-stick spray and divide batter into 6 equal portions
  5. Bake at 375 degrees F for 20 minute, rotate the pan half at the 10 minute mark
  6. Let it cool completely before eating. This makes 2 servings of 3 donuts each

This serves as my pre-workout meal

Sweet Potato Fries

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Ingredients

1 medium sweet potatoes

salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Slice sweet potato into thin strips
  2. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray, place potato strips evenly and add salt and pepper
  3. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, then remove from pan and flip fries over, place back in oven and bake for another 15 minutes. Makes about 2 servings

These three recipes are great for staying fit allow you to enjoy delicious food everyday without gaining bodyfat.

Start It, Finish It

Contest Prep, Nutrition, Recipes

My Contest Prep Meals

My approach to food during my prep has been a combination of simplicity and deliciousness; I focus on eating the foods that are in line with my goals but that also taste super great and are easy to prep. So here is what a typical day of eating looks like for me at 12 weeks out from my first show.

Meal 1

scrambled tofu

1 serving of lean protein with 1 cup of non-starchy veg and 1 tsp of oil. What you see here is my scrambled tofu with one cup of kale sautéed in 1 tsp of coconut oil. Sometimes I’ll add either hot sauce or salsa for a bit of added flavor.

Meal 2

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1 serving of either a starchy vegetable like sweet potatoes or a whole grain like oats (the equivalent of 15 grams of carbs) with 1/4 cup of blueberries and a serving of lean protein. I will typically have an oat bran donut and protein chocolate mousse topped with the berries.

Meal 3 – I aim for 30 grams of carbs coming from a whole grain or starchy veg (usually 1/2 cup of quinoa or popcorn – 3 tablespoons of kernels yields 30 grams of carbs, or 2 slices of sprouted grain bread to make a sandwich) along with 1/4 cup of beans and 1 cup of non-starchy veg

Meal 4 – 1 serving of lean protein, 2 cups of non-starchy veg and 1/4 cup of raw nuts. Usually I’ll opt for this recipe:

Vegan Caesar Salad

caesar salad

Ingredients

2 cups mixed greens

2 tablespoons sliced onions

3 ounces extra firm tofu

1/4 cup almonds (soaked for 1 hour)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Pinch of salt, pepper and oregano

Directions

Place mixed greens and onion in a bowl. In a food processor combine almonds, vinegar and spices, blend until smooth (can add a tablespoon of water if too thick). Poor dressing over greens and toss to combine.

Meal 5

dinner

1 serving of lean protein, 1/2 cup beans and 3 cups of non-starchy veg. Pictured here is 3 ounces of extra firm tofu with 1/2 cup lentils and a combo of green peppers, brocoli, kale and onions. Everything is sautéed together with a mix of spices and seasonings. FYI, this is the meal that I look forward to the least each day! No matter what combo of flavours or veg, by the time I get to this meal I’m usually fed up with all the fiber and vegetables…but it keeps me full and leads up to my favorite meal of the day!

Meal 6 – 1 serving of lean protein and either 1/4 cup of raw nuts or 2 tablespoons of nut butter or oil (the equivalent to 15 grams of fat). My go-to recipe that was a happy accident is what keeps me happy during my contest prep. Check it out below and try it out for yourself, I know you’ll love it.

Chocolate Drizzled Cookie Dough

cookie dough

Ingredients

1 scoop vanilla protein powder

1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds

1/2 tablespoon peanut butter *

2 squares of stevia sweetened dark chocolate **

Pinch of cinnamon

Directions

Combine protein powder, ground flax and cinnamon in a bowl. Add 1/4 cup of water and the peanut butter to the mix and stir to combine (you are looking to have a thick batter that resembles the consistency of typical cookie dough). Place chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and heat for about 1 minute on high in a microwave until fully melted. Slowly drizzle chocolate over the cookie dough mix and enjoy!

*Always opt for the natural nut butters where the only ingredient is nuts

** If you can’t find stevia sweetened dark chocolate, melt 100% dark chocolate with stevia instead. If you are caffeine sensitive opt for unsweetened carob chips instead of dark chocolate; in this case it would turn out more like a chocolate chip cookie dough batter.

So there you have it, 6 meals each day spaced out 2-3 hours apart. I always keep the same structure for my meals as listed above and all meals are consumed in this exact order each day regardless of the timing of my workouts. Usually I try to schedule in my workouts around the higher carb meals just for the extra fuel source, but I still find myself having great workouts regardless. Thankfully I am still enjoying my weekly treat meals, but now it’s very important to keep them balanced and to never overdo it and eat to the point where my tummy is super full…although last week’s meal did have me waddling out of the restaurant!

Start It, Finish It