Back Pain Getting You Down?

Injuries are a part of life, especially for those leading very active lifestyles. Injuries and bodybuilding seem to go hand in hand, a simple google search provides 1,970,000 search results for the keywords combined, which should be a clear sign that it can be a dangerous sport. I have certainly been injured, and am injured, and these injuries get me down. I tend to really freak out when I feel an abnormal amount of pain after a workout that is far from the usual pain of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). So what do we do when we get injured? One option is giving up bodybuilding temporarily, but this is an unhappy choice.

A few months ago I seriously injured the lower left side of my back doing squats on a smith machine. I had heard about how dangerous this was, but my gym did not have any other options for weighted squats, so I took my chances. It was an unusual day, because this usually empty workplace gym actually had someone who was doing their entire workout on the smith machine. I waited, and went through my entire hour long workout and she was still not done with the smith machine. So I alternated with her, and she was doing dead lifts. I am not sure if I injured my back on my squats, or lifting part of her dead lift weight back up to start my squats. Either way, my back is still painful five months later. I have temporarily fixed it with massage therapy, but it needs a lot more work. I was working around this injury, avoiding squats and dead lifts, and other exercises I wasn’t confident with. I recently started doing squats again and it has become slightly more painful as a result.

Last Thursday, I was doing my regular workout and I injured the middle of my back, in between my shoulder blades. I presume it was from the wide-grip lateral pulldowns, since when I complete this motion weightless, I feel a lot of pain. During the workout, I did not feel any pain, I felt nothing out of the ordinary. I did not even notice any back pain until two hours after I finished my workout, and the exercises that caused the pain were my second and third of the day! I skipped the gym and cardio on Friday and Saturday to give it a rest, and did only cardio on Sunday. I went back to my usual Chest/Tricep workout today and noticed something truly terrifying: I was a lot weaker than last week. Last week I was benching 65 pounds, 4 sets of 12. This week 6 reps was a serious struggle, and I was significantly weaker on the right side, almost dropping the bar. This, and a few similarly terrifying examples showed me that I clearly injured my back worse than I thought, and that it is more injured on the right side, which failed much faster in a few exercises.

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Needless to say, I am seriously concerned about this injury. I have 6 massage therapy appointments booked over the next month, which I am hoping will help work out the injury. If not, I will  have to start to visit a physiotherapist. Since I am still determined to get back into shape and live a healthy lifestyle, I am going to try to train around my injuries. I will likely remove all back exercises from my workouts, as well as squats. I have been looking into training around injuries and I found this excellent article on bodybuilding.com. I will definitely be reducing my weights and upping my reps, as this seems like a logical thing to do. I may also add more cardio, and focus more on burning fat rather than building muscle. It is definitely better to take things slowly rather than continue to train hard and end up unable to train for months. I am going to watch my injuries closely and see if they start to subside. Tomorrow is my first massage therapy appointment, and I will be checking with her to see if she suggests going to physio. Fingers crossed that things will get back to normal again soon!

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 Journey

This is my journey to prove to myself that I have the power to stick with the fitness lifestyle. I enjoy clean eating and weightlifting, and even cardio (as long as it is running outside, on a treadmill, or using the stair climber!), so the dilemma I have always faced is why it is so difficult for me to be consistent with it.

In April 2013, I started doing Kris Gethin’s Body By Design program and it changed my life. I was stuck in a terrible job that I despised, and the program took me away from that. Better yet, Kris proclaimed that each transformation program he completed always pushed him forward in other aspects of his life as well. This also happened for me. In those 12 weeks, I gained the confidence to apply for new jobs, and by the end of the program, I had found my dream job. I also managed to shred 14 pounds of body fat, while gaining two pounds of muscle.

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Once the program ended, so did my motivation to continue with fitness. I had to find a new gym, make a new schedule, and move jobs and homes. Needless to say, I fell off the wagon. Four short months later, I regained all of the fat that I had lost before. This was very damaging, as I worked to hard before to get into shape and I could not believe that I had lost all of the results I had achieved. In that time, I went back and forth, trying new programs, and failing at them. This damaged me even further. Something had to change.

Since I enjoyed bodybuilding so much, I had always been interested in doing a fitness competition. My last job was very political, and as such I could not put myself into the spotlight as it could be damaging to my boss’s reputation. I had been talking to a close girlfriend who was motivated by the changes I had made to my figure over the course of my transformation program, and she decided to commit fully and do a show. Watching her face the challenges associated with competing both scared me and tempted me. Finally, after failing again and again, I decided that I needed to take the plunge for real this time. I studied many programs that I had done and aspired to do, and built a program that I feel I can stick with for the next few months. I decided to set a reasonable goal: competing in my first show in a year. I would love to do one sooner, but I feel that one year is a period of time I can work with.

My mission is this: Take my body from what it is now, to the stage in one year. Basically, I am starting at 131.2 pounds, and 23.8% body fat, and I need to work towards a goal of 112 pounds, and 12% body fat. These are approximations, of course, but everyone needs a long term goal. I want to do the majority of this on my own, and hire a trainer 12 weeks out from the show to complete the final shred, teach me everything I need to know about posing and dehydration, and prep me mentally for the reality of the challenge.

I will be documenting the entire journey through my blog, as well as bodybuilding.com. This not only gives me accountability, but it motivates me to stick to the program. Since I have seen myself weigh the same amounts many times in my life, I understand that I will always look different at the same weight, thus I do not put very much emphasis on the scale. I am much more concerned about the fat lost, as well as inches lost. These will be tracked twice a week, on Wednesday and Sunday, with pictures done once a week on Sunday.

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Starting Weight: 131.2

Starting BF: 23.8%

I believe that diet, exercise and proper supplementation are the keys to success. I will be updating changes in diet and exercise, as well as reviews of the supplements I am using, in order to track what works and what does not. Of course, I decided to start this just as we enter another Canadian winter, so motivation is also key, and I will be posting all of the articles and images that keep me going, despite the -40 temperatures, and snow storms.

The journey is beginning, and I have the Power to Shred!