Testosterone, It’s not just for men!

I’ve discussed before the importance of optimal hormone balance, and a few ways you can adjust your diet and health habits to achieve this. However, since my blog seems to be primarily targeted towards women, given than I try to speak from personal experience (and while I may behave and dress like a 17 year old boy, I am in fact not), I want to touch on anti estrogen and estrogen support usage.

I feel that many women shy away from anything that claims to be anti estrogen, or a supposed test booster. Yes, having higher estrogen levels is one of of the defining characteristics of the “fairer” sex. But this is only relatively speaking. Estrogen is what causes you to store more fat, I.e., your lovely lady curves. And, the more fat you have, the more estrogen you produce. Fat itself has a huge influence on hormone balance and it can because a bit of a vicious cycle. But here is the kicker, testosterone, our main androgen, has to be balanced by estrogen. So many of the huge muscle bound men you see out there, may In fact have higher estrogen levels than you! It’s all about optimal balance. If your test levels, or sex hormones in general are unbalanced, you’ll notice all sorts of weird side effects. This is why some ultra lean athletes during prep sometimes lose their sex drive.

For a female looking to gain muscle, reduce middle weights/leaner legs, and all together harder body composition, a test booster, or estrogen support is an important addition. There is a reason men don’t have the signature “fat thighs” or other female issues. As well, as they tend to be stronger and build mass more easily. The answer is testosterone.

Also, you may notice around certain times of the month, or when your diet falls of track you experience specific acne patterns. Cheek and jawline acne are also indicators of hormonal imbalance. So what is a girl to do? Well, first of all, building more muscle will in turn create an anabolic demand, which will shift your body towards more optimal production. And aside from avoiding estrogen mimicker, such as plastics, and certain foods, one of my go to supplements year round is DIM.

Like many supplements, DIM has its basis in plant sciences. It is found in smaller amounts in foods like kale, broccoli and cauliflower. Veggies all body builders are all too familiar with. But in order to reap the benefits you’d have to be grazing cauliflower, all day, all night.  DIM is what I would consider a “estrogen support”, opposed to anti estrogen. It’s effective in preventing either drastic increases or decreases in estrogen. It can both inhibit the aromatase enzyme, and prevent conversion of testosterone into estrogen, which is why men with high testosterone can have high estrogen levels. It can also act on more potent forms of estrogen and convert them into less potent forms; this conversion reduces the overall effects of estrogen in the body. This is the ideal aim for most women looking to both build muscle and reduce fat.

It’s also noteworthy that high estrogen levels have been scientifically linked with cancer. Just another reason to support optimal estrogen levels. All in all, who doesn’t want to have clearer skin, better sex, a harder body and stronger lifts? (Rhetorical). Not to mention a little more mental “stability” when it comes to those fluctuations, and fuck cancer, am I right?!

Your fitbetch,
JP xoxo

Carbs, Calories and Cardio

I have most definitely lamented on this fact before, that I often struggle as to what to write about. It’s not for lack of ideas, given that at least three quarters of my thoughts revolve around training or food, so much as I’m not always sure of what you, the lovely reader might find most interesting.

There are many reasons that a person might read a blog, and finding balance between useful and informative, without sounding like a research journal is ideally my aim. Coming from a science background, nutrition and physiology are predominately my interests, and while we all have unique aptitudes and interests, I tend to follow the humanistic principle that we are all inherently the same. Not that you aren’t all beautiful and uniquely bad ass, but fundamentally we are all driven by a basic hierarchy of need.

So, going forward with such principle in mind, I am going to narcissistically assume, that if you’re reading this you likely ponder the same thoughts that I do throughout the day.., “am I eating enough; am I eating too little; do I need to bulk; am I going to get fat; should I rest if I’m sick or suck it up; are rest days necessary; are supplements necessary; which ones”? And the list of neuroticisms go on. Since I most recently discussed how to stick to a plan given post holiday mayhem, and my current conundrum let’s talk about the infamous “offseason bulk”. Since I have been slowly reverse dieting myself, but allowing cheats when out for social events or get together a I’ve been trying to stick for a diet similar to prep. I like to call this my 90/10 or 80/20 rule. Meaning I eat “clean” 80-90% of the time and leave the rest for slip ups and indulgences. But given my current plan to compete this summer I know prep is once again fast approaching.

So this is where things get tricky. It’s common to have a fear of post show rebound. This fear is often associated with the dreaded and misunderstood carbs. As competitors approach a show you often cut carbs more severely in order to deplete glycogen stores and increase fat burning. But coming out of a show you have to slowly reintroduce them. During the early phases of my prep I was consuming oh so delicious carbs both with breakfast and post workout, ideal times if you’re concerned with insulin sensitivity and to maximize both fat loss while maintaining muscle and fuelling your workouts as well as recovery. In the later stages of prep I removed both morning and post workout carbs to increase fat burning. This isn’t necessary for everyone, as it does compromise your muscle mass, recovery, and immune function among other things. In my particular case my body’s is stubborn and I don’t lean out necessarily as easily as others.

So, while I have been eating carbs mostly come the weekends when I’m out enjoying what I like to call “normal life”, I’ve yet to add back in my morning Ezekiel bread (yum) and post workout rice. Now… While I am still in a calorie surplus, the question becomes am I effectively healing my metabolism. For instance, while some bodies function better on fats than carbs, such as myself, only carbs have the effect of spiking hormones to up regulate your metabolism.  And unless you’re going keto (high fat, moderate protein, little to no carbs) this isn’t necessarily going to keep you lean.

When doing multiple shows its important to ensure your metabolism isn’t damaged before dieting, otherwise each time it will become successively harder to lean out. In fact, with true metabolic damage, as I’ve previously discusses, you might In fact gain weight. Which is frustrating for any competitor or coach. So while often a little excess “fluff” does come with adding in carbs over time, if done slowly, and effectively, a person can theoretically not gain any real substantial weight, while still altering their body composition. The key here being purposeful and calculated calorie surplus, with attention to carbs.

There are lots of different numbers out there but my best suggestion is to add about 100-200 extra calories per week, ideally at times your body will best utilize (i.e.s post workout) and monitor your body’s response. Take photos, mark down your strength gains, have a second set of eyes if you’re a poor judge of physical appearance like myself. Start conservatively, until you find your ideal balance. This is one mayor reason I’m a big fan of long “offseasons”. Getting to know your body, optimizing your body’s ability to grow and heal, as well as ramping up your ability to burn fat make for a far less stressful prep (less cardio, umm, yes please). As well as quality physique. You can’t fake real gains. Which ideally is why we all got into the sport, right?

Cheers to carbs!
Your fitbetch, JP xoxo

The end of the holidays

Well the Christmas festivities are now coming to an end and tonight people will be out celebrating all the good fortune of 2015, or saying farewell to misfortune. I guess the only appropriate thing to really blog about on such an occasion would be new beginnings.

Most people tend to make new year resolutions on such an occasion. I personally consider myself a bit of a control freak. So, I always have weekly, daily, monthly and long term goals. I have a huge chalkboard in my entrance, in which I write it all down, and since I live in a teeny, tiny hobbit hole, it’s basically always in sight. I see it when I wake, when I leave, when I come home and before I go to bed. With working multiple jobs, various circles of friends, coaching, training and a semi long distance relationship I often find I’m lost if I fail to plan. Even over the holiday period, when most of us having n even larger social calendar to balance, and a few extra days off, it’s easy to fall off track. I find myself aimless making plans throughout the day if I don’t set myself on a specific schedule and then wondering how I manage to be so busy yet accomplish nothing at all. This can be a terribly frustrating feeling for an over organized, obsessive freak like myself. I, like a child, function best with structure. So, back to my original point, as this is all likely quite non useful to you thus far, new year, new me and what not…

We all have things we want to accomplish, and honestly, feeling meaningful and productive is satisfying! I’m sure you’ve all heard the adage “fail to plan, plan to fail”. And while cliche it is true. It’s highly unlikely that anyone has made successful “fitness” profess without a plan. A complaint I often hear from family, friends and clients is that the go to the gym but with no aim or purpose or even concept of periodization. They have an idea of what they want to look like but no real concept of how to systematically achieve it. This involves a combination of training knowledge, nutrition, self awareness and then some form of plan to achieve it. If you’re going to the gym day in and out with no idea of what your body needs, what your caloric input or output is, and how to support muscle growth or fat loss it’s easy to become frustrated and lost. The most enviable physiques are the product of planning over and over again. You set both short and long term goals. Most people will feel discouraged with a large goal as we need short term feedback, but still require a long term aspiration. Like school where a degree is the large goal, individual course, terms, exams, and classes are the successively smaller goals. Fitness should be approached with the same meticulous manner as any other endeavour for optimal success. The same way one day day doesn’t ruin your success, one good day doesn’t achieve it either, but it is positive momentum.

So my best advice is to spend your hangover or personal day researching a fun personal project, being yourself, and contemplating how to get to know your body better and what it will take to get you that rocking ass or deadlift PR you’ve been chasing.

Happy new year with love,
Your fitbetch JP xoxo