Should Women Take Creatine?  

Creatine is backed by research and has proven to be a legit performance enhancing supplement for over 20 years, but many people, especially women, are hesitant about taking it. Despite what you may have heard, creatine is NOT a steroid, and it is not bad for your kidneys.

 
“To date, creatine is clearly the single most effective dietary supplement for enhancing gains in anaerobic performance as well as increasing lean body mass and muscle fiber size.” 
-Jose Antonio PhD

I think that one of the main reasons why women are fearful of supplementing with creatine is due to the fear of bloating and/or weight gain, or it could be simply a lack of understanding as to what creatine actually is and what it does in the body. The reality is, there is nothing to fear about creatine.

So what IS creatine? Creatine is made up of 3 amino acids, (L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine) and is naturally occurring in the body’s skeletal muscle, as well as in certain foods. How does it work? To keep it very simple, creatine is a source of energy for your muscles during anaerobic exercise(think short burst, high intensity activities). By increasing your muscle’s creatine phosphate stores, you will have more energy available for your muscles to use during your workouts. Layne Norton explains it more in depth in this article. Basically, taking creatine can help you push harder and squeeze out a few more reps in the gym. I’m in!

Will you gain weight taking creatine? Well, yes, you probably will. Creatine pulls water into the muscles, so the weight that you gain initially will probably be just water weight. Over time, you may begin building muscle as long as you are consuming enough calories and training hard in the gym, so the scale may go up.  If  you’re worried about bloating, it will go away when you stop taking it, so no worries. I personally have been taking creatine for years and have had no major issues with bloating or water retention. To me, the benefits of supplementing with creatine outweigh the negatives.

Known benefits include:
-More energy for intense anaerobic workouts(HIIT workouts, sprints, weight training)
-Increased strength
-Increased muscle mass
-Better recovery(less soreness after workouts)

Some studies are also showing that creatine may do more than just increase athletic performance. Other possible benefits include:
-Antidepressant(in women)
-Improved cognitive function(memory, etc,)
-Improved heart health
-Treatment of neurological disorders(Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s disease)
-Better blood sugar control

So, should women take creatine? My answer is YES. If you want to be stronger, have more muscle and perform better during your workouts, then you absolutely should give it a try! How much should you take? 3-5 grams of creatine monohydrate  post workout and anytime on rest days. Just don’t expect to see instant results-give it time to work, and you’ll hopefully begin to see your performance and strength in the gym increase.

Here’s what Tom Venuto has to say about women and creatine:

“Most women’s fears of using creatine are unwarranted. Just as diet and fitness myths lead people down the path of taking bogus supplements that don’t work, myths sometimes cause us to miss out on legitimate supplements that really DO work. Women who are interested in getting stronger and increasing performance in the gym or in anaerobic / power sports who avoid creatine because of these common myths may be missing out on one of the very few effective over-the-counter performance enhancers.” 

Here are a few links you can read if I haven’t yet convinced you:
http://www.burnthefatblog.com/archives/2013/04/women-and-creatine.php
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-creatine
http://www.elitefts.com/education/nutrition/the-creatine-facts-needs-formatted/
http://www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_journal_individual.asp?blog_id=3110923
http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/creatine
http://www.just-fly-sports.com/creatine-and-the-female-athlete/

Choose Strength & Keep Challenging Yourself!

When I first started lifting weights, my only goal was to build as much muscle as possible. All I really cared about was having big biceps and a toned muscular body like the fitness models I saw in magazines.

I spent many years training like a “bodybuilder”. By that I mean that I followed a 4-5 day a week bodypart split and trained mostly in the 8-12 rep range, usually doing routines I found in fitness magazines.

I did get good results from training that way-I slowly gained muscle and got stronger from year to year. Needless to say, my training style has evolved over the past few years. I have learned a lot since then and have branched away from my bodybuilding ways.

The main goal of my workouts is no longer JUST to build muscle. Because what’s the point of looking good and not being able to do anything? I would rather be able to put my body to USE, because that’s what it’s for, right?

Part of the change in the way that I train now is largely due to my time doing CrossFit a few years ago. It really helped me to see all that I was missing out on!

Before CrossFit I had no clue what a power clean was or a kettlebell swing. I never did deadlifts or front squats.  If looking good is all you want to focus on, fine-especially if you are a competitor, because really all that matters in that case is how you look. But for me, doing CrossFit made me realize that I am NOT satisfied with just looking good.

I realized that I want to be STRONG. I want to be powerful and fit and athletic. I want to challenge my body and be able to do things I never thought I could do… not just look good when I flex in the mirror(although I will admit, I do still do that often!).

Now what I do with my workouts is incorporate aspects of different types of training-gymnastics skills, powerlifting, bodyweight training, Olympic lifting, and bodybuilding. I keep my reps in the 5-8 range rather than the 12-15 that is typical for most women looking to “tone up”.

I have learned so many new things that I now incorporate into my training and because of that I have gotten stronger and gained muscle. Maybe I’ll never be the strongest….maybe I’ll never be the biggest…maybe I’ll never be the most athletic, but I AM stronger and bigger and fitter than I used to be. And that’s all that matters to me-being a better version of myself year after year.

I truly believe that  more women would benefit from focusing on strength versus “toning”. To not be afraid of lifting heavy. To not make the focus of their workouts be just to burn a certain amount of calories or to see how much they can sweat. Train to be STRONG. To me, that’s so much better than punishing yourself for eating something “bad” or forcing yourself to do hours of cardio even though you hate it, just to reach a certain number on the scale. There IS a better way!

It’s important to continually challenge yourself, to set goals and not give up until you reach them. And then, set new ones! That’s what makes this journey so fun! I remember how handstands used to terrify me-I couldn’t even get my feet up over my head without getting scared. It took LOTS of practice to finally be able to hold a freestanding handstand, and I am still working on it.

 I didn’t wake up one day and just know how to do a muscle up or bang out double unders. No, it took me months and months of practice to get them. You can’t just try something a few times and then give up. You’ll never achieve anything that way! It takes consistency and persistence.  But it’s really an amazing feeling when you find yourself getting better and stronger at something that at first seemed impossible.

The cool thing is that there is always something new to learn. There are always new ways to challenge yourself. I have been weight training for about 15 years now, and I’m still learning new things and improving on old ones.  It’s what keeps me going! There has to be something besides just your looks to focus on or you will not enjoy this journey. AND you know what? You’ll probably see some awesome physical results along the way without even making that your main priority… what could be better than that?

How Cereal Helps Me Stay Lean

I have a confession: I LOVE cereal! If I could choose one food to live off of for the rest of my life-it would be cereal.

Growing up, cereal was a staple in my diet. I’d have it for breakfast, snacks, and even sometimes, for dinner. But when I started eating healthier, it was one of the things I gave up because of the high sugar content. It was also one of the foods that I missed the most! Yes, I tried some healthier cereal versions-some were okay and some were just awful…but they just weren’t the same as my Honeycomb or Captain Crunch!

Over the last year or so my nutrition philosophy has changed a bit-it’s evolved from obsessive “clean” eating to a much more balanced approach. Now that I don’t believe there are any foods I “can’t” eat or that will make me fat, I’ve realized that I CAN eat cereal and still achieve my goals of being lean and fit.

“But wait!”, you say, “Cereal is so unhealthy and so high in sugar!”

Yes, cereal is usually high in sugar, but I don’t eat it every day. Most of my carb sources come from natural, unprocessed foods such as oats, sprouted grain bread, potatoes, fruit and rice. Having a bowl of cereal once or twice a week is not going to make me fat and/or unhealthy.

The thing is, now I control my portion size, which is something that most people have a hard time with when it comes to cereal. I limit myself to one bowl(about a cup to one and a half cups), rather than the 2 huge bowls that I used to eat in one sitting! And I’m telling you, I thoroughly enjoy every single guilt free bite.

 Of course, now I would never have just cereal alone for a meal, as I try to always have a protein source with every meal. But I have had cereal for dinner a few times in the past year, something I would have NEVER allowed myself to do a couple of years ago. No, I had to choke down the chicken and broccoli every night that I hated because “carbs at night make you fat”!

I actually believe that allowing myself to have a bowl of cereal once or twice a week helps me to stay lean. What? How is that possible? Well, letting myself have foods that I enjoy every now and then(cereal being just one example), even if they aren’t the healthiest, reduces my cravings because I’m not depriving myself of a food I love. I don’t walk past something in the grocery store anymore and think, ‘oh I wish I could eat that!’ Because now I know that I CAN have anything if I really want it.

Having cereal a couple times a week keeps me from completely falling off the wagon and/or binge eating as many restrictive eaters do after resisting certain foods for so long. Since I eat enough food from all food groups as well as plenty of healthy carbs and even sugar in moderation, there is rarely a time when I have a horrible sugar or sweet cravings. I also choose to eat my high sugar cereal post-workout, at a time when my body will put the sugar and carbs to good use. I mean, it just contributes to the gains, duh!! 😉

Are there any “unhealthy” foods that you would never be able to completely give up?

My Training Journey

 A while back I posted a blog about my nutrition journey to show how it took me MANY years to get to the way I am eating now. I thought I would do the same with my training journey to show how I started and how my training has evolved throughout the years.

Phase 1
1997-2003:Lifting weights for softball

It all started 17 years ago, with a little set of pink dumbbells just like this:

 
Many of you  know my story-I was a softball pitcher and my dad wanted me to strengthen my arm with some strength training exercises. I did what he told me, and all I can say is that I fell in love with it. It went from something to make me better at pitching to something that was fun! That was when my love for muscles began, and I found that weight training was a way for me to  build up my scrawny frame. Of course, I eventually “outgrew” the little pink dumbbells, so my dad got me a heavier set. I continued lifting weights in my bedroom religiously, all through middle school and high school, along with using the weight room during softball conditioning a couple months during the year.
See my weights there in the bottom left corner?

Phase 2 
2003-2010: Gym/bodybuilding workouts
When I was around 18 was the first time I actually started working out at a gym.  I got most of my workout knowledge from fitness magazines and ESPN’s “Bodyshaping” show that used to come on TV, so there was still a lot for me to learn! It was around this time that I met my husband and started going to the gym with him.

He helped me with setting up my workouts and showing me new exercises. This was when I first began doing a body part split, the typical “bodybuilder” style of training. It was usually something like back and bis, chest and tris, shoulders, legs, etc, but I would try to switch it  up every so often. I trained 4-6 days a week(no cardio), and I made some  really good progress over time.


Phase 3
2010-2012: Crossfit
Fast forward about 7 years to 2010. This was the year when my training completely changed. I was introduced to CrossFit and after some convincing, I finally decided to give it a try. One of the main reasons I finally “let go” of the bodybuilding workouts I was doing was because of how jacked some of the CrossFit women were that I was seeing-I wanted to look like that! So I did my first “WOD”, which was brutal of course, and just decided to go all in. When I commit to something, I don’t do it half way! I totally stopped my bodybuilding workouts and was ALL about CrossFit-I immersed myself in it, as is what normally happens when people start CrossFit. I “drank the kool-aid”, as they say!

I followed the daily WODs posted on the CrossFit website, of course with modifications since there were many movements that were completely new to me. I read articles and watched video after video to learn how to do the movements. I had never done Olympic lifts before, so I spent a lot of time teaching myself how to do them, as well as other things like muscle ups, rope climbs,handstands, kipping pullups, and double unders.

It was fun learning new things, and training my body in a completely different way than I was used to. I absolutely loved it! This is when my mindset about fitness really changed. I began focusing even more on my strength, and on what my body could DO, rather than just training for looks. It was awesome. Like I always say, CrossFit opened my eyes to all that was out there outside of bodybuilding. I did CrossFit workouts for about 2 years. And the thing was, I DIDN’T lose any muscle, despite not doing any type of isolation movements whatsoever. In fact, I actually built muscle!

Phase 4-
2012: CrossFit + strength( Wendler 531)
As much as I loved CrossFit, there came a point where I started falling MORE in love with the big powerlifts and really wanted to focus on simply getting stronger. I was also starting to feel a little burnt out on just absolutely killing myself every workout and not being able to ever breathe! It got to the point where I felt like I was going through the motions, and it was starting not to be fun any more. That’s when I knew it was time for a change.

I did some research online and found a CrossFit strength bias program that I began to do in addition to CrossFit WODs. I really enjoyed the heavy lifting and eventually came to find Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 powerlifting program. I think I did about 3 cycles of the “Boring But Big” program. While I did enjoy it at first, it eventually just became, well, boring. At that point I just felt I needed more variety.

Phase 5
2012-2014: “Hybrid” upper/ lower split
From Wendler 5-3-1 with some short some CrossFit WODs, I eventually began to phase out the CrossFit completely. I also stopped following Wendler and went to a more strength and conditioning style of workouts where I was following a 4 day upper/lower split.

I found a way to incorporate powerlifting movements and Olympic lifts into my training, as well as things I learned from CrossFit, and that is what I have stuck with to this day. I did at one point a few years ago add in a CrossFit workout once a week in addition to the workouts I was doing, but I eventually phased that out. I can’t remember the last time I did CrossFit, and I’m not sure if I ever want to do it again!

Phase 6
Fall 2014: Powerlifting
In 2014 I decided to just do something crazy-I signed up for a powerlifting meet! I did so knowing that I wasn’t the strongest person out there and that I wouldn’t win anything-I just wanted to get out of my comfort zone and try something new! I had been doing the 3 power lifts in my training for a while, but not really training as a “true” powerlifter with the sole intention of increasing my one rep max on the big three lifts.

I decided to hire a trainer for the three months prior to the meet. My strength had seemed to come to a stall, so I was hoping that all I needed was a coach and some new programming techniques! I absolutely loved training for the meet, especially just having a program to follow and a specific goal to work towards. The workouts weren’t THAT much different than how I’d been training, but instead of trying to be good at everything, which is usually how I train, the aim was just to be as strong as I could be. The focus in training was on bringing up weak links with the accessory lifts and tweaking my form on the big lifts.

While I didn’t do as well as I had wanted to at the meet, I really enjoyed the entire process. It was fun training with bands and chains and all that  cool stuff! The meet was a great experience, and I would love to do it again sometime if I felt like I could really add some weight on the bar!

2015
To be honest, I’m not training for anything specific at the moment, and I kind of like it that way. At some point maybe I’ll have a desire to just train for strength again, or maybe I’ll even throw in a CrossFit workout into the week occasionally, who knows? Right now I love that I can still do bodyweight and gymnastics movements like muscle ups, handstands, and rope climbs….

….but I’m also not ashamed to do a few bicep curls, too!
And I’m still squatting, benching, and deadlifting heavy, of course!

I still currently follow a 4 day upper/lower split that I switch up every 6-8 weeks. I’ve found this to be what I always go back to and what I just enjoy most. Am I training in the “best” way to build muscle or strength? Probably not. But I’m training in a way that I enjoy, and THAT is THE most important thing if you want to continue this for a lifetime!

And the thing is, there really is no “perfect” training plan. Everyone has different ideas and philosophies and everyone’s body RESPONDS differently to different styles of training. As you can see, I’ve tried many different techniques, from bodybuilding to CrossFit to powerlifting, and have found a way to combine some aspects from each of those into a program that I really love and hope to continue forever. But I still have many years of training ahead of me, so who knows what new things I might try or come to love along the way!

What I want to show in this post is that in order to find that perfect program for YOU, you have to be willing to change things up and try something different, something out of your comfort zone, at some point. Otherwise, you’ll never know if something else could give you better results, or what you might just fall in love with!

Always keep an open mind and be willing to give other training philosophies a chance. Maybe train for a powerlifting meet if you’ve been bodybuilding for a while. Or try a CrossFit WOD. Or back off from the weights and just focus on getting better at bodyweight exercises for a few months. That’s what makes this journey so fun, at least to me-being able to find new ways to challenge your body!

What styles of training have you all tried? Have you ever discovered something that you loved by venturing out of your comfort zone?

Perfection Is the Enemy of Good  

 Something I have realized from being a trainer for 8 years, is that there will ALWAYS be an excuse to not eat healthy.

 In the summer, it’s all the cookouts and drinking all weekend at the lake, so you say you’ll start eating better when summer is over. But then there are the multiple holidays and family gatherings in the fall and winter, so you decide to wait until the New Year for a “fresh start”. Then maybe you actually do well for a few weeks in January, until some other event comes up-a concert, a birthday party, a wedding, a vacation, etc.
But you know what? That’s life. If you always wait until the absolute “perfect” conditions to start eating healthy and exercising, it’s never going to happen. You’ll just continue the cycle of eating well for a few weeks or months, until something comes up that throws you off track again and causes you go back to your bad habits.
What ends up happening is that you actually only eat well for a few months, if that, out of the entire year, yet you wonder why you’re not seeing any results. It’s because you haven’t been consistent. It’s because when your diet can’t be “perfect”, you just throw your hands up and quit.
What’s the solution? Well, it’s all about your mindset. You have to view eating healthy as a way of life; you have to realize that just because you can’t be “perfect”, doesn’t mean you can’t at least do “good enough”. You have to get to the point to where if some event comes along that throws you off track for a day or two, it’s NO big deal. You just continue with healthier habits, no harm done.
There is never any reason why you can’t just pick right back up with healthy eating after a day or even a week of splurging. You ALWAYS have the opportunity to do better, whether it’s the next meal, the next day, or the next week. You won’t ruin your diet with a few splurges. It’s the consistent, daily choices you make that matter in the long run.
Trying to be on the perfect diet all the time may be what is actually stopping you from making any progress at all.

My Thoughts On The Cleating Eating Vs. IIFYM Debate

Oh, the unending IIFYM versus clean eating debate…

It irritates me to no end when I hear people say things like, “I’m against iifym”, or “I’m against clean eating”. Okay, well, why? Just because YOU don’t follow a particular nutrition protocol doesn’t mean it can’t work for someone else. If someone has found what works for them, isn’t that what really matters, whether you agree with it or not?

Maybe someone developed an eating disorder by trying to eat “clean” 24/7 and IIFYM has helped them find freedom from fearing certain foods. Or maybe it’s the opposite: someone enjoys clean eating because it allows them the freedom of not having to track and calculate grams, ounces, and percentages, or weigh and measure every single thing they eat. Have you thought about that?

I’ll tell you what I’m “for”, and that’s anything that helps someone get results in a stress free, enjoyable, sustainable way.

I don’t follow any particular nutrition protocol, whether it’s Paleo, or gluten free, or whatever. I don’t consider myself a clean eater, and I don’t track my macros. While I would say I lean slightly more towards IIFYM, I do see the pros and cons of both. Plus, I have experimented with both myself, so I feel that I have an open mind towards both sides.

I think the reason that there is such a debate is just ignorance and misunderstanding from people on both sides. Some clean eaters can’t comprehend the fact that you can eat foods that are considered “bad” and still achieve your phsyique goals and that no certain foods make you fat. And some macro trackers can’t comprehend that you can actually get results by NOT tracking every morsel of food you put in your mouth. Macro people think that cleaners are miserable and restrictive, while clean eaters think that the macro people do nothing but junk food all day. While that may be true in some cases, overall, it’s not the truth at all.

From what I’ve seen and experienced myself, the IIFYM protocol allows for more freedom in food choices and is less restrictive in some ways, while clean eating often(not always) causes you to fear certain foods and become obsessed with eating only completely natural, unprocessed foods. Of course, the same can happen with macro tracking as well, by becoming super obsessed with hitting your percentages perfectlyWhen it causes you stress or anxiety and actually begins to take away from your well being and quality of life, that’s when it becomes a problem. That’s when you know it’s time to make a change and open your mind to the possibility that there may be a better way.

As for me, I fall somewhere in the middle of both protocols. Clean eating taught me about food quality and the importance of fueling your body with healthy, nutrient dense foods, and IIFYM taught me about portion sizes, calorie control and the importance of eating the right balance of macronutrients. It takes some experimentation, but I do believe that you can find a good balance between both by learning proper portion sizes, making sure to get in enough healthy protein, fats, and carbs from mostly natural sources, but also allowing yourself some treats and “not so healthy” foods in proper portions. I have found that this is what works best for ME, and ultimately, that is what is most important-finding what works for you.

Don’t be so quick to be “against” something until you really know what it’s about or have tried it out for yourself. Maybe you’ve been a clean eater but you’re still struggling with losing fat – in that case, it might actually be helpful for you to track macros for a short time to see if maybe you need to adjust some things, such as calories, or carbs/protein/ fat amounts Or maybe you’ve been tracking macros obsessively to the point where it’s stressing you out. In that case, you may actually benefit from taking a break from tracking for a while.

Can’t we all just get along? I don’t see why we can’t just all be happy for each other that we’ve each found what works for us,even if we think our way is “better”. Remember, everyone is on a journey right now. Maybe they have yet to discover what you have, or maybe they are just happy with what they’re currently doing! Then so be it! As the saying goes, promote what you love rather than bashing what you hate. Maybe you’ll get more people to come over to your side by showing how awesome and freeing it is, rather than making fun or trying to argue people to your side. Just a thought!

What are your thoughts on this endless debate? Do you”side” with one or the other?

How I Satisfy My Sweet Tooth

My favorite way to satisfy a sweet tooth is quite simple, really-eat something sweet! 😉 In all seriousness though, I know this can be a major issue for some. When people ask me how they can satisfy their sweet cravings, what they are usually asking for are some healthier options that they can have in place of a candy bar or ice cream.

Now, I have to say, I absolutely LOVE sweets. Some people are more savory/salty people, but I am definitely a sweets person. So I get it. I couldn’t imagine life without sweets, so I will never be one to tell people that they just need more willpower, or that they need to cut out sugar completely. I don’t believe in that. With that being said, even though I love my sweets, I actually don’t have major cravings for them, as long as I have a few strategies in place.

First of all, I don’t deny myself anything. As soon as you tell yourself you can’t have sweets, what’s the first thing that will happen? Yup, you guessed it-you will start craving sweets! I normally don’t have things like cookies and candy bars and ice cream on a daily basis, but the thing is, I don’t feel that I CAN’T have them. And that makes all the difference.

Also, because I’m so satisfied with all my meals and don’t try to eat perfectly “clean” all the time, I actually don’t even want sweets every day. I have a package of Oreos, Reese’s AND ice cream in my house right now, and I’m not even tempted by them. Some people will say not to even have that kind of stuff in your house, but I think that the more you are exposed to it, the less temptation it actually brings.

Another way I keep my sweet cravings at bay is by incorporating healthier “treats” into my diet on daily basis. For example, I have things like low fat ice cream or cereal a couple times a week after lifting, my protein “sludge” and caramel rice cakes with peanut butter as a bedtime snack, and protein muffins for snacks or after dinner dessert. I also love Carbmaster yogurts and Quest bars for the occasional snack. These things all satisfy my sweet tooth so that I don’t crave the less healthy stuff.

 

Lastly, one major reason I can keep my sweet tooth at bay is because I actually DO allow myself to have sweets. Look, part of enjoying life is enjoying good food, and I’m not going to miss out on that. I have one weekly “treat meal”, as I like to call it, which is usually dinner and then whatever dessert I’m craving. I try not to go overboard with it, but it really does help me psychologically to never feel like I’m missing out or restricting myself. After my treat meal, I’m good for another week of healthy(but NOT perfect) eating. Most of my meals are lean proteins, complex carbs, and fruits and vegetables, so a once a week splurge isn’t going to derail my progress or ruin my physique.

What are some of your strategies for satisfying a sweet tooth?

My Nutrition Journey  

Something you may not know: I didn’t always eat healthy! Just like most of the general American population, I loved junk food and lived on a steady diet of candy, sweets, chips, ramen noodles, and fast food until I was about 18.

I didn’t wake up one day and decide, “I’m going to eat  healthy from here on out!” No, getting to where I am now with my nutrition has been a LONG process. It wasn’t easy giving up some of the things I loved, but what made it easier was that I did it little by little over a period ofYEARS until I got to the point where eating healthy just became a part of my life. It wasn’t about losing weight or having 6 pack abs- it began with a decision to simply start caring about my health.

Even though is hasn’t always been easy, I enjoy the way that I eat now knowing that I’m healthy and that I’m giving my body the nutrients it needs. And the physical results that came from changing my nutrition habits over the years aren’t too bad either. 😉

I wanted to share with you all my journey to healthier eating to show that it didn’t happen overnight. As I was reflecting back over the years, I realized that there were many “phases” that I went through with my nutrition, which I will break down here for you:

Phase 1  (Birth-18 years old)
This is when I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted! There was no portion control, no cares about calories. I didn’t worry about eating healthy whatsoever and didn’t know what a macronutrient was. My senior year of high school I was probably at my highest body fat, even though I was active in sports. That’s what a steady diet of Reese cups, Skittles, and Happy Meals will do!

Summer 2003

Phase 2  (18-23-ish?)
This is when I started becoming more conscious of my health and decided to start eating better. I was taking some basic health/ nutrition classes in college and for the first time realized how horrible I was eating. However, I did NOT make a sudden switch from a diet of junk food to eating chicken and broccoli. I started making a few small changes here and there, such as cutting out soft drinks and candy, eating fast food less and bringing my lunch to school and work more often, and choosing healthier snacks instead of candy bars. Just by doing this, I lost weight, although I was NOT trying to do so. This came simply as a result of not eating so much crap!

Summer 2006

Phase 3 (23-26)
This was the phase where I was eating what I thought was healthy….but actually wasn’t.What I mean by that is that I was eating a ton of processed foods, things that were low fat, low sugar, whole grain, and whatnot. I mean, that means it’s healthy, right? Or so I thought. I wasn’t eating much quality, nutrient dense food, and hardly any vegetables whatsoever.  My diet consisted of things like sugar free puddings, canned soups, Lean Cuisine meals, cereal bars, bread, cereal, lunch meat, turkey hot dogs, etc. Not that you can never eat things like that, but when they take up the majority of your diet, I don’t think it’s healthy.

I did eventually begin to learn about “clean” eating at this point, and I was becoming more aware of getting a balance of each food group(although I remember that one of my main protein sources was skim milk, which I had at almost every meal, ha!).  I still pretty much just ate intuitively without thinking about how much fat, carbs, or protein were in each meal or how many calories I was consuming. As long as I thought it was healthy, I just ate whatever I wanted.

Summer 2009

Phase 4 (26-28)
I would consider this my “clean eating”/restrictive phase. This was when I decided to try to lean out for the first time in my life and see if I could get a 6 pack. Stoooopid idea looking back, but I had to find out for myself. It was part of the journey! I began researching things on the internet about how to lean out, and this was how I learned about macronutrients, food prepping, portion sizes, etc. This is also when I began to cut carbs at night because that’s what everything on the Internet was telling me I had to do to lose fat. So I began to prep my food for the week ahead of time, increased protein, cut back on carbs, and focused more on portion sizes rather than just eating whatever I wanted. I also started eating more vegetables than I ever had and focused on eating mostly “clean” foods with a cheat meal once a week.

Summer 2010

The good thing about this phase was that I was eating more “real” food, more protein and healthy fats, and less processed carbs. And I did slowly get leaner in the process. No, I never achieved my 6 pack goal, but that was because I began to realize that for me to have a 6 pack, I had to get super lean…. and I was not willing to sacrifice my muscle for the sake of a 6 pack.

This was also when a few people at my work were on their Paleo kick, which was the start of my whole thinking that carbs were “bad” thing. And while I never went to the Paleo style of eating, I began to live in a state of fear about what I was eating because of what I was reading and being told. I felt like everything that I loved to eat was bad for me. I thought that eating “too many” carbs or eating carbs at night would make me fat. Food was definitely becoming a source of stress and anxiety for me, as I was constantly thinking about what I was going to eat and when and worrying about if I had too many carbs or fats that day. I avoided many foods that I loved and choked down food that I hated. It wasn’t good.

Phase 5 (27-29)
This was when I began to track my calories and macros for the first time. I was never obsessive about weighing and measuring to the exact ounce, but it gave me an idea of how much I was consuming of each macro and a calorie goal to hit each day. The main point of tracking for me was to focus on gaining weight. It really helped me to see how much I needed to eat, and I did gain some weight by doing so.

Fall 2011

I would say I tracked on and off for a couple of  years and then I stopped completely because I felt that I could maintain my weight without tracking at that point. Plus, I wanted to get away from obsessing over food so much, and I knew that tracking constantly was not going to help me do that.

NOW
After about 10 years, I can say that I have finally found what works for me. I eat in a way that helps me to maintain the physique I want but without being stressed, obsessive or super restrictive.

Summer 2014

Do I eat perfect? Absolutely not. Am I completely free from thinking about food a little too much? No, and I don’t think I ever will be. I think I will always be pretty meticulous about my eating, but I never want to obsessively track calories or macros or ever fear any food or food groups again!

I do have some guidelines that I try to follow, such as having a protein source with every meal, and eating every 3-4 hours, watching portion sizes, etc., but there are no set “rules” that I feel I have to adhere to. I’ve accepted that it’s just not realistic for me to eat “perfect”(whatever that means!). I’ll never be one of those Paleo, gluten free, all natural, all organic food people-more power to them, but it’s not for me. I want to enjoy and LOVE what I eat, not force myself to eat things I don’t like or feel like there are foods I “can’t” eat.

I am happy to say that I got over my fear of carbs and have realized that there is no reasonto live in fear of food(no matter what Food Babe or anyone else says!). I now eat plenty of carbs(even at night!!). I eat lots of healthy, nutritious foods, but I also incorporate what some would consider “bad” or unhealthy foods into my diet, as well as a weekly treat meal, simply for my sanity. I’ve found a good balance between being too restrictive and too lenient, which I think is the hardest part for most people.

I hope that this post will give hope to those who are struggling with getting it “right” when it comes to nutrition. I want you to see that it’s a learning process. It’s about trying new things, experimenting, and finding what works for you, which may take some time. Like I always say, it’s not about what gives you the fastest results-it’s about finding a nutrition plan that fits with your lifestyle and that is sustainable for the long run. I also hope it shows that while it may seem like people like me have it all together, it’s not that we just have super human willpower or more dedication than anyone else. No, it’s a learning process for everyone.

I will admit that eating healthy isn’t always easy, especially not at first. But it DOES get easier, especially when it becomes a lifestyle instead of a diet. Diets are only temporary and often just leave you right back at square one when you go back to your “normal” eating. Making small changes over time is what I have found to be the best approach to creating permanent, lasting changes. By never going on a “diet” or following any particular nutrition protocol, I’ve been able to make eating healthy a part of my life, not something I do occasionally to lose weight or to shape up for a beach trip. It’s the reason why I never go “off” my diet-because I’ve never been ON one!

So if you’re still on your journey towards finding what works for you, don’t give up! Keep trying new things, making adjustments along the way. Get rid of the “diet” mentality, and stop trying to be perfect. Just focus on your health, and then incorporate some small changes that you can realistically stick to for the long run!

 

Stop Apologizing

 I was trying on bikinis the other day at Target, and I’m not gonna lie….looking in the mirror, I felt pretty darn good about myself. I liked the way I looked and all the muscles that I saw!

So I snapped some pics to send to Matt so see which ones he liked, and looking at them later I found myself starting to think that I didn’t look lean enough. And I instantly thought to myself, “Really??That is stupid, Lindsay.” It’s like, I thought I was long past this…but no.

To be honest, I still struggle with my body image. Not all of the time or near as much as I used to, but I  DO have my days. The crazy thing is I can know that I’m really lean but still have days where I feel fat. Yes, it is stupid. I know this.

Then I started thinking about how social media can almost make you feel like it’s not okay to be okay with NOT wanting to be crazy lean. You know what I mean?

Like most people are always trying to be leaner, to get their abs to pop, or more veins to show. Or they’re complaining about the extra “fluff” they have right now and how they can’t wait to start “cutting” again or whatever. It’s rare to see someone who is a little “softer” and actually totally okay with it.

Another thing I’ve noticed that bothers me is that I’ll often see people post a mirror selfie with a caption something to the effect of, “So I’m not at my leanest right now”… which to me almost seems like they are apologizing for it.

We should not have to apologize or make excuses for not being super lean!!

What is so wrong with having a little bit more bodyfat and actually being OKAY with it?? What is so wrong with being happy with the way you look even if you don’t have visible abs? What is so wrong with choosing mental health, strength, and lots of food over having 6 pack abs?

Not being shredded does NOT mean you have any less discipline or that you work any less harder than someone who is. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care about how you look, or that you don’t have goals. And being super lean doesn’t mean you’re more “hardcore” or that you’re better than anyone else!

I like the way I look with more bodyfat, and so does my husband. This is not a temporary thing where I’m “bulking” so that I can cut later. No, I have no desire to be any leaner than I am right now… ever. I like my body, and it’s only when I compare myself to others that I start to have doubts and insecurities about the way I look.

It’s a sad thing when you don’t feel that you can be okay with being okay with your body, just because others aren’t okay with theirs.

How I Stay Lean Year Round

Since I am not a competitor, for me, there is no “off-season”. I am able to stay relatively lean year round. 6 pack lean? No, but that is not my goal and is unattainable for my body type. I have NO desire to be shredded, just to look muscular and athletic.

My goal has been to build muscle for, like,…well, basically my whole life, and I have been able to do so without doing the whole “bulking” thing. Maybe it has been a slower process because of that, but I’m okay with that!

I actually like the way I look now and am at the point where I’m not wanting to gain TONs more muscle(more in the glutes would be nice, though!) or lean out any more. I mostly just want to maintain my current look while being able to eat foods I love, enjoy living life and not have to eat super strict ALL of the time. 

Here are a few things that I help me do that:

*Lift heavy. First and foremost, I lift heavy. None of this metabolic conditioning or circuit training stuff with high reps and low weight. I’ve never done that. My reps are usually between 3 and 8, and up to 10-12 on some isolation exercises.

*Finishers. Along with heavy lifting, I also include short “finishers” after my workouts about twice a week, usually consisting of 5-10 minutes of kettlebell swings, battle ropes, prowler sprints, or jump rope. I do NO traditional cardio besides walking for 10-20 minutes on my off days.

*Nutrition. Of course, you can’t stay lean without eating right, so that is a big part of it. I don’t follow any sort of diet or nutrition plan, and I’m not paleo or high carb or low carb or anything like that. I do eat pretty “clean” most of the time, and by that I mean eating mostly whole, natural foods, BUT I don’t feel that you have to be miserable and eat nothing but chicken and broccoli to be lean and healthy. To me, having to live like that just for the sake of having 6 pack abs or being super ripped is not living. 
*Watch portion sizes. I have tracked calories and macros some in the past, but I found that that just made me obsess over food too much and gave me anxiety. I am now able to pretty much know how much of each food group to have in a day and at each meal. I do watch my portion sizes, especially with fats and carbs, and I make sure that every meal includes a protein source.

*No food “rules” or restrictions.  Seems like nowadays everyone is gluten free or dairy free or whatever. If you have an allergy or don’t function well from a certain food, then eliminate it, but if not, don’t do something just because everyone else is doing it! I don’t restrict myself from any food group and allow myself to eat foods that I enjoy. Restriction only leads to cravings and bingeing! There was a time when I lived by certain food rules, such as only eating carbs early in the day. Now I know that it doesn’t really matter when you eat, but what your overall calorie intake is over the course of the day.

*Treat myself. I always have one free meal a week to eat whatever I want, but NOT a whole day. In addition to that, I have a post workout “treat” once or twice a week, like a Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich or my favorite cereal, and I also have a piece of dark chocolate or a Hershey kiss almost every day! Doing those things and not eating super strict helps me to stay on track and never feel like I am dieting or that I “can’t” have any certain foods. It keeps me from falling off the wagon, as they say, and keeps me sane!

When it comes to nutrition and training, it’s so important to find something that is sustainable, something you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life, not something that makes you miserable(unless of course, you’re prepping for a show, and that is a completely different thing). It’s really about finding what best works for YOU, which may take some time and experimentation.

Just remember, this is a lifestyle, and you are in it for the long haul! So don’t look for something that will give you the fastest results possible-if it’s not sustainable, then really, what’s the point?

I’m frequently asked how I eat and train, so hopefully this will answer some of your questions!  Feel free to message me with any questions you may have about training or nutrition.