Decisions, Decisions…

The Ontario Physique Association has announced their upcoming fitness competition dates for the 2014 year. Right now, I am torn between two different show dates. The first show in Ottawa takes place on June 14, 2014. The second takes place on  November 1, 2014. Initially, I was aiming to participate in the November 1st show, but June 14 may be doable as well. The June show is just under 7 months from now, which is a good goal to work towards. I think this date just seems a lot more terrifying because it is sooner, and I have never even been to a bodybuilding show, let alone competed in one. I also don’t have a trainer yet, and I am nowhere near the shape I will need to be in to compete. Of course, this is the off season, and I have done 12-week intense programs before, so feasibly I should be able to compete in June.

Looking at my results from the Kris Gethin 12-week program, I can see that my largest changes took place between weeks 1-8. Despite following an even more extreme training programs during weeks 8-12, I do not see a huge difference in my body. I am certain that I can get myself to this point again, without a trainer, so it may be possible to compete in June if I have assistance in the 12 weeks leading up to the show. I will need to be taught everything there is to know about posing, tanning, make-up, etc. as well.

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Right now, to be safe, I am still going to focus on doing a show in November, but if I feel that I can get there by June, I may switch up my goal. I will work towards getting my body into the shape I was in Kris Gethin Week 12 by February, and see where I can go from there.

I have a few personal obstacles standing in the way of competing in a show in mid-June. First, I will be going to Punta Cana the first week of April for 7 days, and I want to be able to enjoy that fully, without worrying about what it may do to my show results. Second, I have two work conferences in May, which only take up approximately 6 days of the month, but that really is cutting it close. November still seems like a better bet for me, all taken into consideration, but a girl can dream. It is still motivational to try to work towards an earlier date!

Rules are Made to be Broken?

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Although I love and idolize Gizmo, I do not aspire to be him on the scale 😉

Today I broke my rule of stepping on the scale between weigh in’s. This can be just as dangerous to progress as eating between meals. When you step on the scale, you may be filled with optimism, reminiscing on that terribly difficult HIIT session you did the other day, or all the water you drank that must have flushed away the excess water weight you have been holding onto. Sadly, all your dreams may be dashed away in seconds when you see that your weight is the same as the last time you were on the scale, or even worse- went up.

When you are keeping this close of an eye on your weight, the scale is bound to lie, at least a little bit. Deep down we all know that the scale can only tell us so much about our progress, but sometimes it is hard not to fixate on a magic number that you desperately want to see. I have been dying to see my scale tell me I am 110 since 2008, but this isn’t going to happen overnight, and I also have to accept that it may never happen again. I have never really been the type of person who just drops 5 pounds fast. I have no idea how people do this, it can’t possibly be healthy, and it never happens for me.

After seeing my weight rise 0.2 lbs between Wednesday and Today, I decided to check out my weight history on my bodyspace to see how my weight changed the last time I did a transformation program, and when I was living a more sedentary lifestyle.

MY WEIGHT HISTORY 2011-Nov2013

My body tends to like to stay in the mid to high 120s naturally. If I am inactive, and spend a lot of time in restaurants, I will get closer to 130. It takes a lot of effort and careful eating for me to get into the 110s now, but I tend to feel much better and more energetic when I live this type of lifestyle. When I started Kris Gethin’s 12-week transformation program, I was about 130 as well. I started on April 1, 2013. I slowly edged my weight down from 128 to 124 in four weeks, which is a healthy loss of about 1lb per week. The greatest changes started to happen for me between weeks 4-8, and by week 8 I was in the best shape I had been in since before grad school.

This demonstrates that it takes a long time for my body to adjust to a new exercise program, and that consistency is the key to seeing results. During that diet, I only cheated three times and each time it was an emotional binge on a chocolate bunny I had stashed away from Easter. This time, I am taking a different approach. I will be attending events, just like I did last year, but instead of restricting myself entirely, I will be allowing those to be planned cheat days. This may make my progress a little bit slower, but if this is going to be a sustainable change, I have to be open to cheating a little bit, considering I won’t be doing a show for quite awhile.

BF Percentages 2011-2013

I tend to see body fat as a better indicator of progress. It is hard to lose body fat, and since I am using a caliper, I need to lose an entire millimeter to see a change in percentage. My issue with measuring body fat is that I am not the greatest at it. A lot of my measurements were completely wrong because I had no idea how to use the instrument properly. Sometimes I would find websites to calculate body fat for me based on measurements. I am really happy when those measurements give me the same result as my caliper, then I start to think I am on the right path.

I can say without a shaddow of a doubt that all of my measurements for March 2013 are wrong. I calculated the 25.5% measurement using a website, and I believe that result much more, considering I have seen my body at 20% and it did not look like the pictures from March. Again, like with the scale, I slowly edged my body fat down to about 18%. It stayed there for quite awhile. When I get back there, I am fairly certain that I will probably be hiring a competition trainer to help me lose the rest.

After carefully scrutinizing these numbers, I feel very confident that I can achieve the same results again. I am starting in a slightly better position, as my body fat is lower, even though my weight is higher. I maintained some of the muscle I had built between April-June 2013, since I was going to the gym fairly consistently despite my questionable diet and lack of cardiovascular activity. I am excited to see my results over time, and I will be sure to keep an open mind about the numbers. After all, they are just numbers.

Power Analysis: Scivation Xtend Review

If I had to choose my favorite bodybuilding supplement, Scivation Xtend would be it. Until recently, I had never heard of this supplement and I did not understand its value. Now that I have used it, I will never stop. What sets Xtend apart from all other BCAA supplements is the taste. I have tried a few others and they do not compare. Xtend is not chalky, it has a light, fruity flavor, and I never get bored of it. I have tried six different flavors of Xtend and I have never been disappointed. I drink Xtend all day long, it is a perfect replacement for calorie packed beverages like pop and juice, and it is easy to drink. Right now I have a collection of four Xtend flavors that I mix up so I never get bored. I also keep Xtend at work, because having it on hand is just that important. If you have never heard of Xtend or BCAA’s read on.

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What are BCAA’s?

Aside from protein, BCAA’s are probably the most important supplement you can add to your regime. BCAA’s primary function is to help build, protect, and repair your muscles. I always tell people that my water is amazing because it prevents my muscles from eating themselves, which sounds stupid, but that is basically what it comes down to. BCAA’s, or Branched Chain Amino Acids are essential amino acids that account for about 35-40% of your overall amino acid count. The body is able to produce the other 60-65% but without proper nutrition and supplementation it will not be able to benefit from the essential amino acids. The amino acids that make up BCAA’s are leucine, isoleucine and valine. Leucine is particularly beneficial for people who weight lift or  are training due to the increased anti-catabolic effects this amino acid can offer.

Why Should I Take BCAA’s?

BCAA’s are an extremely important supplement to take as part of a weight lifting program because of their ability to increase muscle protein synthesis and reduce muscle protein breakdown. BCAAs are metabolised in the muscle and as a result the body is able to utilise the essential amino acids to build new proteins within the muscle. As a direct result the risk of catabolism is significantly reduced. More than this, your ability to increase lean muscle tissue is drastically increased. BCAAs are also known for their great ability to prolong the onset of muscle fatigue whilst training which not only allows you to train with more intensity; it also helps you to sustain good strength levels. (Thank you Monstersupplements.com for the great explanation!)

BCAA’s can be taken as an intraworkout supplement, and Bodybuilding.com also suggests taking them before and after workouts. I am addicted to Xtend, and drink it all day long. I seriously picture it protecting my muscles as I drink it, and it makes me feel amazing. You can take Xtend in a double dose during your workouts as well, for added protection against muscle loss. We have all worked so hard to build our muscles, taking Xtend is like muscle life insurance. I mix it into this giant 2.2L bottle and just go crazy. I drink 2-3 of these a day, depending on if it is workout day, and each bottle contains one scoop of Xtend.

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What Makes Xtend Special?

Supplement stores offer a wide array of BCAA products, so what makes Xtend so special? I currently have Optimum Nutrition’s BCAA supplement, AmiN.O. Energy, which is also a very good choice, as all Optimum Nutrition supplements are, but there is just something incredible about Scivation Xtend. Xtend is sugar-free, which is great if you are watching your calories. It is like crystal lite, but it actually does good things for your body. Seriously, Xtend tastes amazing. I was the happiest person on the planet when they came out with new flavors, and I have tried Mango and Strawberry Kiwi so far and have loved them both. The first flavor of Xtend that I tried was Grape because Kris Gethin suggested it. It really is amazing, but I would definitely say that Mango is my favorite. It tastes like a glass of fresh mango juice (a more artificial version) and that is something you can get excited about if you are eating a very bland diet.

Xtend helps me to fight sugar cravings because it is sweet, and it makes me feel like I am drinking something totally different. It doesn’t have an aftertaste, doesn’t taste like chalk, doesn’t have a crazy amount of coloring that makes you question what you are doing to your body. It is just incredible. Other BCAA supplements tend to taste very strange because BCAAs are hard to disguise. It anyone has had a glass of glutamine (amino acid) straight, you know exactly what I mean. It is vomit inducing, and very chalky. Even glutamine mixes in with Xtend and you can’t taste it! I have noticed that a lot of other BCAA supplements have not been able to disguise the amino acid taste, which makes them very difficult to drink. If they have, they are much less flavorful and thus difficult to consume all day long, every day, for life.

In a 12 week period I went through two and a half containers. It was just that good.

Here are my ratings of the flavors I have tried:

Grape Escape: 4 – this has the perfect amount of sweetness. Grape can often be really artificial and difficult to enjoy, but this flavor does not have that typical artificial taste. It is a great choice, I bought two containers of it and loved them both.

Green Apple Explosion: 4.5 – until I tried Mango Nectar, this was my favorite flavor. It is genuinely delicious. It has a little bit of a sour kick to it, which makes it even more interesting. I absolutely love it and highly suggest it.

Lemon Lime Sour: 3 – this flavor is good, but it was a little bit strange. It didn’t appeal to me as much as the others, but it was still great and I would get it again.

Mango Nectar: 5 – this is my current favorite flavor. It tastes like mango juice, and is absolutely amazing. I even like to mix it with vanilla protein, it makes it taste like an orange creamsicle. You cannot go wrong with this flavor if you are a mango lover.

Raspberry Blue: 4 – this flavor is very good as well, great flavor combination that reminds me of Gatorade. It has the highest ratings on bb.com!

Strawberry Kiwi: 4.5 – this is part of their new collection of flavors. It is a great combination of two of my favorite fruits and I was dying to try it. It is light and fruity and tastes a lot like crystal lite.

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Where to Buy Xtend?

You can buy Xtend at any supplement store. I have been buying it off bodybuilding.com because Canadian supplement stores have insane prices and I would much rather wait for a package than pay those kinds of insane prices. You can get it at Popeye’s if you want to, but I suggest ordering it online. It is a way better deal. It comes in four different sizes: 5, 15, 30 and 90 servings.

Visit bb.com to check out prices and more reviews and be sure to add BCAA’s to your supplement program!

The Importance of Supplementation

I am a strong believer in the benefits of supplementation as part of a bodybuilding program. When selecting which supplements to take, the first place I look is the reviews section. Reviews are important, whether you are new on the bodybuilding scene and want to know what the ‘must buy’ products are, or if you are interested in switching up your supplement line-up and want some advice to help you choose a new product. I always read the reviews on bodybuilding.com because it is important to know what you are getting yourself into. Choosing a supplement can be like choosing a Caribbean resort, people give reviews that are unrealistic, whether they be way too positive, or too negative. If you read between the lines, you can find the information you are looking for.

When I started hitting the gym about 6 years ago, I had no idea what supplements even were, or where I could get them. I would just go into the GNC in my local mall, get really confused, and buy all of the awful stuff the store associates would suggest to me. I didn’t do my homework, because I had no idea that there was a science behind all of it–DUH. I really didn’t know very much about supplements at all until I picked up Kris Gethin’s book, Body By Designwhich has recently had a cover and title change. This book gives you all the information you could ever need to know about supplementation, and suggests some really great products. When I started this program, I bought every single supplement he suggested. People thought I was insane, but it all worked. I lost weight, toned up, and only after that did people around me start to think that supplements may actually be an important component of going to the gym.

Initially, the only things I ever took were protein powder and glutamine, and I always bought some awful tubs at Walmart that tasted terrible. I knew I was supposed to have carbs post workout, so I would just add fruit punch powder or something along those lines to my shake. I really have no idea if it worked, since I wasn’t consistent with it and I had no idea what I was doing, I was just going off things that people had suggested to me here and there. Having at least a basic knowledge of the importance of supplementation is key to success, and ignoring the entire industry won’t get you serious results.

In order to ensure you get results, it is important to have a combination of exercise, healthy diet, rest and supplementation. As much as I think it is insane that people go into the gym and think they will get a ripped figure spending hours on the elliptical and doing crunches, I think it is even more insane that people are against supplementation, especially when those people drink, smoke, etc.

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Supplementation can be great, when done the right way. I will be reviewing supplements every week to explain not only what they do and their importance, but also their quality. I have a closet full of supplements that I have been wanting to review, especially since many of them I have purchased more than once because of how much I believe in them. Since I usually do a combination of many supplements, it is difficult to pinpoint which ones are the most beneficial, and I think they all work well together. If you are new to supplementation, bb.com has an amazing article, which I have posted below.

Beginner’s Supplement Guide: 5 Supplements You Need Now

Supplement stacks can intimidate newcomers to nutrition and training. This is your beginner’s guide, starting with the main ingredients!
by Alex Carson Jun 28, 2012

Supplements will never replace proper nutrition, but they can help you hit your fitness goals faster! Supplements complement your diet and help cover nutrient gaps, ensuring that your body has what it needs for peak performance. No matter what your training goals are, the right supplements can help improve your health, performance and physique.

Of course, you should always know what you fuel you put in your tank. In other words, don’t use anything you don’t understand. Assuming you already use a multivitamin, these five mini-guides will help you build a solid supplement foundation!

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Protein

Pop open the protein section of a 20-year-old diet book. It looks nothing like today’s nutrition literature! It was thought that the human body needed 10-to-15 percent of its daily caloric intake from protein, a number still propagated by official government guidelines.

Now, after extensive study and testing, it’s commonly thought that 20-to-30 percent is a more accurate intake, especially for hard-training athletes and weekend warriors.

Because they’ve been educated by strength trainers and coaches, athletes eat high amounts of protein. Their coaches discovered what works best through decades of trial and error. Just recently has this information been absorbed by the general public.

The first and most obvious step to getting enough daily protein is through food – preferably through animal sources, complete proteins. This can be time-consuming and expensive.

Eating every 2-to-3 hours isn’t possible for some people, while others just don’t want to eat that frequently. That’s where protein supplementation factors in.

Protein supplements act fast and enable you to comfortably and affordably meet your daily protein goals, even when you’re busy at work. At certain times, especially after a workout, protein supplements may even be more beneficial than food. Because whey protein is digested quickly and easily, it’s the ideal post-workout protein source.

Dymatize Elite Whey Isolate

Dymatize Elite Whey Isolate

This Low Cost, Low Carb Protein Is Perfect For Carb Watchers!*

Find Dymatize Elite Whey Isolate in our store.

Here’s a quick list to guide you into protein supplementation.

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Fish Oil

Fish oil’s numerous benefits come from its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA. Omega-3s are considered “essential fatty acids,” which means they’re necessary for human health, but aren’t made by the body.

Omega-3 fats are found most abundantly in oily fish, eggs, grass-fed beef and wild animals (deer, elk, etc.). Omega-3 fatty acids are also present in various non-animal products, such as Brazil nuts, walnuts and flaxseeds.

In Palaeolithic times, omega-3 fats were found more abundantly in numerous animals. Due to industrial farming, modern preservation methods and reduced soil quality, today’s animal products typically contain fewer total omega-3 fatty acids.

Because of their rich EPA and DHA content, fish oil supplements are an ideal omega-3 source. Fish oil is an essential supplement, whether you’re trying to build muscleburn fat, or boost overall health.

Optimum Fish Oil

Optimum Fish Oil

Natural Overall Health Support for a Healthy Heart and Joints!*

Find Optimum Fish Oil in our store.

Fish oil supports:

  • Cognitive function
  • Normal, healthy immune system function
  • Heart health
  • Healthy skin
  • Vision
  • Joint health
  • And more!
3/
Branched Chain Amino Acids

The branched chain amino acids are leucine, isoleucine and valine. When taken during training, BCAAs can improve prolonged performance and promote recovery. BCAAs may also reduce muscle breakdown (catabolism), potentially leading to more total muscle growth.

BCAAs may:

  • Increase energy
  • Enhance protein synthesis
  • Boost strength and power
  • Improve muscle-building potential

Naturally found in foods high in protein, BCAAs are already part of anyone’s diet. As a supplement, however, BCAAs are particularly useful during a workout for increased energy, less total muscle breakdown, and improved recovery.

BSN AMINOx

BSN AMINOx

Unleash Your Anabolic Potential! 10g of Micronized Anti-Catabolic Amino Acids per Serving!*

Find BSN AMINOx in our store.

They’re also useful on non-training days to help maintain lean body mass.

4/
Glutamine

Glutamine is an adaptogenic amino acid found in protein. It’s the most abundant amino acid in skeletal muscle, and also plays a vital role in immune system health and the wellbeing of the entire body.

In supplement form, glutamine can yield additional benefits to help build muscle mass.

Glutamine supports:

  • Muscle growth
  • Reduced muscle catabolism
  • Normal, healthy immune system function
  • Gut health

Glutamine is particularly beneficial after workouts because it has the ability to re-synthesize muscle glycogen and glutamine levels lost during exercise without the release of insulin.

This is great news for people who workout several time per week, especially on a low-carb diet. Longer recovery time means a longer time to reach your goals. Start supplementing with glutamine!

Optimum Glutamine 1000 Caps

Optimum Glutamine 1000 Caps

Optimum Nutrition’s Glutamine 1000 Caps are made from the highest quality glutamine available on the market. Each capsule provides 1,000 mg (1g) of pure L-Glutamine.

Find Optimum Glutamine 1000 Caps in our store.

5/
Creatine

Creatine is one of the most-well-studied supplements on the market. It has been shown to improve sprint times and boost the performance of athletes engaged in high-intensity activity, such as weightlifting and strength training.

Creatine can boost maximal strength and energy output during exercise, allowing you to lift heavier, longer. It also acts as a “cell volumizer,” making muscles fuller.

Promera Con-Cret

Promera Con-Cret

Pure Concentrated Creatine Hydrochloride With Unique Micro-Dosing!*

Find Promera Con-Cret in our store.

Creatine is a by-product of amino acid metabolites found in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. Approximately 95 percent of creatine is stored in skeletal muscle, and the remaining five percent in the liver, kidneys, brain and testes.

While there are multiple forms of creatine available, creatine monohydrate has been around longest and is the best-tested.

Starting Your Day Off Right

We hear time and time again about the importance of a morning routine and the effect it has on the rest of the day. Starting your day off with positive habits has the ability to improve your mood, while keeping you motivated. I notice a huge difference in my ability to be productive and successful if I have skipped over breakfast and exercise, opting to rush out the door or laze around and watch TV. Of course, it is easy to make a routine and not stick to it, especially when lack of sleep comes into the mix. The ability to have a strong start to the day really starts at night, and that has always been my issue. I often find myself stressed out about having to get up early and do cardio since it requires energy and motivation, both of which are often difficult to find in the morning, especially in the dead of winter when it is dark and miserable out.

Excuses will always exist, and persistence is the key to a successful morning routine. I suggest starting off with some easy to manage tasks, and repeating them every day until they become habitual. Getting up early and completing my morning cardio not only gives me pride, but also gives me a necessary energy boost. I have heard conflicting arguments when it comes to morning cardio, whether it is fasted or completed after breakfast. I have done it both ways, and I am no closer to the answer as to which one is better for you.

Right now, I am sticking to fasted cardio because I am taking fat burners, which need to be taken on an empty stomach (with water) 30 minutes before breakfast. This is a perfect opportunity to fit in my morning cardio without having to wake up half an hour earlier just to take the pill before breakfast, followed by cardio. The cardio I do in the morning is low intensity, another well debated topic. After completing Kris Gethin’s 12 week transformation plan, I came to agree with him that cardio that raises your heart rate, but is not intense enough to surpass the fat burning zone, is perfect for bodybuilding. Intense cardio burns off that hard earned muscle I have worked so hard to build, and that is not what I am going for at all.

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My Routine:

I start my morning off with a huge glass of water, and a fat burner (Ripped Freak). I fill my 1L bottle with 1 scoop of xtend and water, and get on the treadmill for 20 minutes. Right now, I am using an incline of 4 and a speed of 4.2 mph. This is perfect for raising heart rate, but keeping it steady and low enough to burn fat and keep muscle. Over time, I will raise the number of minutes I do cardio in the morning. My last 12 week program began with 20 minutes and increased to 30 minutes. I will be doing the same thing again, raising my time by 5 minutes every 4-5 weeks.

Once I complete my cardio, I make a breakfast that is high in protein. I require 30g of protein in each meal (6 meals a day). I like to switch up my breakfasts to keep it interesting, this way I don’t get bored and want to snack before my next meal. I choose a breakfast option, prepare it, and take it with my vitamins and supplements (OptiWomen, Vitamin D, Calcium Magnesium, Creatine). Simple, but effective.

Breakfast Ideas:

1 cup egg whites, 1 piece toast, no sugar added jam

Oatmeal and protein powder (mixed)

Breakfast Shake (recipe and image below)

Protein Pancakes- made with egg whites, oats and protein powder

P28 bread and no sugar added jam

Turkey Bacon Slices (4-5) and Toast

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On mornings where I am rushed for time, I love making protein shakes in my Magic Bullet. These are great because they can be taken to go, and require less prep and clean up than eggs!

Magic Bullet Morning Shake

1 cup water

1 cup berries (I used blueberries)

1/4 to 1/3 cup oats

1 scoop protein powder (I used Chocolate Coconut)

1 tbsp splenda (optional)

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp cinnamon

Ice Cubes

A breakfast that is high in protein and contains good, clean carbs will keep you alert and well fueled in the morning. I eat every three hours, and I require a good breakfast to keep my mind off snacking between meals. This is especially a problem working in a building with a cafeteria and vending machine close by, offering an assortment of unhealthy options. Having a routine definitely helps in the struggle to keep away from these tempting items. I also find that when I drink enough water and take morning vitamins and supplements that I do not have as many cravings.

Who doesn’t love a giant bottle of water with Xtend?

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Cheers to the morning!