Are you prepared to Prep?

Happy New Year!

Once again I must apologize for my abysmal lack of content. I recently went through a personal situation before the holidays, then hide away to spend some time with my family. But here we are in the new year, and as such, New Year new me, or some of other crap like that, right?  In truth, I have never made a New Years resolution. It’s not that I don’t believe in bettering yourself, cause I fully support that. I am just the Type A, over scheduled, neurotic person who pretty much always has daily, weekly, monthly and long term goals. It helps keep my crazy to a minimal level, or at least manageable level.

So since a lot of people do actually make resolutions, and with competing becoming increasingly popular, if not main stream at this point, I figured I would talk about that. Now, I’m not going to give you a “bikini prep guide”. There are lots of those already out there on the Internet. And in all truthfulness, if you’re looking for a cookie cutter, one size fits all plan, you might as well throw away your money. Because competing it by no means easy, and it can be quite expensive. If you genuinely want to follow through you’ll need a real plan, designed for your success.

If you do have your heart set on competing, one of the things you need to first and foremost think about it is your motivation. Why do you want to do this? Not just because you’re about to give up the next 4-5 months of your life, but because shows are incredibly expensive. Are you doing it to just say you did it? Is it to prove to yourself you can? Or do you really want to make a career of this? Whatever your motivation, this is going to get you through the tough times. So before you dump a bunch of money into the necessities to get started, is that desire strong enough to justify the cost and time.

Before memberships, spray tans,  hairs, shoes, suits, posing lessons (yes this all matters) you’ll need a coach. No matter how athletic you are, how long you’ve been training, or how much you know, this is still essential. Even the pros have coaches. This is because you need an outside perspective, another set of eyes, someone to keep you sane… And accountable, and most important, someone who’s knows the game. If if its your first show you likely don’t know how to dial yourself in, or anything about back stage. This too all matters. I personally did my first show on my own. And I was a personal trainer at that time. I lived in the gym, all my friends competed, so I wasn’t entirely a noob. While I did place, in retrospect I was no where near ready… But I didn’t know I was ready, cause I didn’t know what the norm was, how I should look or feel, or what I was going up against. It was very lonely and stressful.

Ok, you got a coach. Great job! You are now an aspiring competitor, maybe even part of a team. Have you factored in the cost of travel, hotels, show registration? Yes. Ok, how about the food and supplement cost over the next 4 months? For the average meathead, food and supplements are an ongoing expense. But for someone new to this world, you’re about to dumb a ton of extra cash into your consumables. Being healthy ain’t cheap.

Have you also considered the social cost. There is no more drinking, or eating takeout. Sure, you think you can have a salad at a restaurant… But surprise. You can’t. Most commercial places soak their chicken in oil. And they also cover their grills in oils or butter. There are hidden calories everywhere. Especially sugars. Even standard dressings and sauces are laced with them. So I hope you like reading every label at the grocery store, and packing all 5-6 of your daily meals. If you have a supportive partner this may be ok. If you’re single, I can tell you from experience, it really reduced your dating options. Most guys will not know what to do with you, since you can’t eat or drink. Not to mention, they will have to keep the date under 3 hours, cause you need to get your next meal in.

In addition, since we are on the topic of dating. Prepare to have a drop in sex hormones. As women’s natural hormone levels drop as you lose body fat, you will be less interested in sex. You may look the hottest you’ve ever looked, but at this point you’d rather cuddle a pizza than a man. Partying is also a thing of the past. For one, all night dancing is just too catabolic. Secondly, if you’re the only sober one, once you get tired (it’s a given you’ll be hungry), you’ll be irritable. Thirdly, you can’t stay up late! Don’t forget you need adequate sleep for recovery, to keep your cortisol low, and you have to get up for fasted cardio… Bummer, I know.

Still reading? Awesome! You’re one of the dedicated few. As you get closer to show day, chances are you’ll be depleted. The lack or carbs will make you foggy. If you have a very demanding job, this may impact your performance. Depending on your personality you may in be “hangry”.  I know people who have taken the whole week of before their show cause they’d just couldn’t function. Mind you, everyone is different. I have been told I’m prettying content during my preps. Definitely a little bit more of a space cadet though. I can’t tell you the amount of things I’ve lost, misplaced, or number of rooms I have walked into meaninglessly.

This is by no means an article to discourage anyone from competing. I have myself competed many times, and don’t regret a single one of my preps. Some are harder than others, and no prep will be without ups and downs. Some days you’ll feel great and other days you will want to quit. I personally hate being on stage, and for me it’s about a process. Other people dream of their sparkly moment up there in the lights. My point being, whatever your motivation, it’s a big commitment. And I would never want to see anyone over commit only to be let down or throw away their hard earned money.

If you want to share your own experience, have feedback, or even questions, feel free to give your girl a shout!

Your fitbetch,
JP xox


Eat, Work, Gym, Repeat

As promised, because when you make a promise on the internet you have to keep it, here is my post on nutrition.

Chances are, if you’re even relatively athletic, or have some semblance of a gym schedule, your peers/coworkers/family members, and even sometimes gym strangers, ask you about your diet. Whether they’re trying to build muscle, lose weight, or “tone”.

First and foremost, it’s important to note that everybody’s different. Some people are sensitive to carbs, some people literally can’t go without them. And I’m not talking about your average “I love carbs” addiction, I mean people who’s actually become hypoglycaemic without them.  So when adjusting your diet, pay attention to your body and the feedback it’s giving you.

As always, if you’re a diligent reader, I’ll allude to previous articles. I personally am a big fan of keeping carbs low in the morning and throughout the day. The first meal of the day sets the tone for how your body will use and regulate carbs. By eating fats and protein as your first meal you’ll avoid spiking your insulin, which can lead to fat gain. However, go to long without eating and your can increase cortisol levels, blood sugar drops, and your body down regulates your metabolism.

Don’t feel anxious, I know this sounds complicated, but it’s not!

As a general  rule, I recommend eating every 4 hours. This may seem like a lot of food to most, but let me run you through a typical weekday for me, and in reality you’ll probably find it’s calorie and macro content add up to less than most people eat, who haphazardly eat when and what’s convenient.

Most mornings I start with 2 scoops of greens and fibre, and a spoonful of omegas 3, and a black Americano on my way to work. Honestly, I love sleep, so I don’t eat before leaving for work. This quick easy concoction gives my body some nutrition to work with, wakes me up and gets the metabolism fired up. Once I sit down at my desk I have 3.5oz of lean ground turkey which I’ve prepped before the week. It’s an easy convenient meat cookie, to get my protein in, and again, keeping cortisol low. You can add egg whites and greens to this combo if this just isn’t enough for you. Come lunch I typically have 4oz chicken with mixed salad greens and a little dressing. If I’m dieting I’ll add straight balsamic, not vinaigrette or oil, but if I, just living life, simply put whatever small amount of dressing of my choice. So there, we’re already at lunch and your carb content hasn’t exceeded More than 5-10g. Since my work day usually goes to 6, sometimes later, I try to plan accordingly. I’m I’m anticipating leaving at 6, around 4 I’ll have a small snack to tie me over until gym time. I don’t like to work out on a full stomach, but if I miss this meal I won’t get to eat again until 8 or 9. This is usually some nuts (8-12 is an appropriate serving size), with a high quality protein shake.  Whey would be the best choice here, opposed to an iso whey. I also mix mine with water to keep Cals minimal. This is a great low carb, high protein snack, with some fats to keep you full.

So congrats! You’ve made it through your work day and it’s finally gym time! You’ve kept to your diet, and hopefully you’re feeling good. My workouts typically take about 80 minutes at most, depending on the day and how busy the gym is. If I’m doing cardio, a little longer. After I’ve finished I take 1000mg of vitamin C and head home. You might ask why I don’t eat right away. Well, there are a few reasons. For one, I want to continue the fat burning process going, you body is still breaking new muscle and metabolizing fat for energy. Secondly, I prefer to eat whole foods, especially when dieting, so I can go home and relax and eat a proper meal, not out of Tupperware. And lastly, I tend to take a pre workout with stimulants prior to working out. Stimulants, such as caffeine are an appetitive suppressant, combine with high intensive training and my stomach just isn’t ready for digestion.

My last meal tends to be a repeat of my lunch. A combination of chicken and salad or veggies. If your are keeping some carbs in your diet, or are having a higher carb day, this would be the meal to add it in.

Finally, because I am a creature of habit, once I’ve finished dinner and cleaned up for the night I repeat my greens and fibre routine to keep everything moving, ad finish the night with chia, zma for muscle repair and relaxation, and a little PB, cause you’ve still gotta treat yourself.

Up next on the blog, pre workout and intra workout, what I like, what I’ve tried and how to get a skin tearing pump… Or maybe something else, who knows!

Your fitbetch,
JP xoxo

‘Band Wagon’

If you have Instagram (which you obviously do, ah doh), you’ve seen the increasingly popular banded exercise trend. Squatting with bands, kickbacks with bands, hip thrusts with bands… And you get the picture(s). So what’s this miracle science all about? Have bands replace weights in this female oriented booty blast craze?! And yes. I am being gender specific here. Because while the odd power lifter might have bands in his big arsenal of gym tools and accessories (easily identified as an over full duffel covered in chalk), you don’t see the average bro running out to get a set of bishbands.
*side note, if you don’t know what bishbands are, do you even fitness?

So, here’s the thing. Incorporating bands into your training are actually a great way to improve power, strengths and even hypertrophy. Yea, I said it. Hypertrophy. So maybe these girls are on to something.

Here’s the breakdown. Bands offer an ascending strength curve for the concentric range.  In lamens terms, think as you shorten the muscle. Such as sitting deeeeeeeep deep down in a squat, you’ll actually result in more tension as you come out of this position. In the bottom, you’re experiencing minimal tension. This is the normal load, but you’ll require greater than normal strength and power to push up, because as you pull further away from the bottom, the tension increases. Again, as you return back down to the bottom position, the tension deloads. And so on and so forth as you squat your little, or in this case maybe big, booty away.

Disclaimer. Doing simple banded exercises. I mean the non weighted kind, will not have this same effect. For instance, simple doing crab walks, monster walks, little kicks, whatever you wanna call it, are a great way to engage muscles, or burn them out. So these exercises still have their use at the beginning or end of an exercise. They’re also great for ppl learning to use new muscle for the first time (mind muscle connection). Or for people with muscle imbalances. A personal example being that I always have a weaker VMO (inside aspect of the thigh). I often use a band around my knees when squatting to force myself to push out, therefore engaging this muscle to work. It’s a proprioceptive response. The band around my knees forces me to consciously push them apart, opposed to buckling inwards. Otherwise, it will fall. But that is no way effects my overall strength curve. I am very specifically targeting a small muscle to engage, and over time catch up. So technically yes, it is gaining strength, but I digress.

Conclusion, bands are really just another way to force adaptive response. If you’re not trying something new or challenging yourself, your body has no reason to change. Bands are great plateau busters, as tension is a great way to increase difficulty without actually addicting additional weight.  It kicks into a different kind of response, that can shock the system, and provides a graded strength curve. So go for it, jump on that “band wagon”. Just remember there is a right and wrong way to do it if you’re actually looking to grow that booty, and not just make it dance.

Your fitbetch
JP xox

The gym and germs

Since a special someone of mine is at home sick, I thought it would be relevant to touch on how the cold can affect your training, and visa versa. The fall is a time of rampant viruses. Change of seasons, less daylight and a number of other things that can throw you out of whack. And while the cozy comfort of pumpkin spice everything may sooth your soul, there are no answers in the swirling foam.

Firstly, I think it’s important to note that exercising will reduce your risk of getting sick, it has great immunity boosting properties, as well benefits for reducing stress, inflammation and regulating blood sugar and pressure. So with all these health and immunity boosting properties, couldn’t exercise get those endorphins flowing and coax your body back into feeling fab?
So, the overall consensus is that gym rats report fewer colds and other flu-like symptoms than our non gym inclined peers. This of course is within reason, there is obviously a point where you can go to far and increase the stress on your system. This is why often people get what they call a “prep cold”. If you exercise hard or for a long period of time, with little recovery, there may be a window afterwards when your immunity is suppressed and you are more likely to catch a cold or other bug. According to David Pyne: “A really intense and/or prolonged bout of exercise can lead to a temporary impairment in the immune system. Basically in the hours and the day after, you need to be mindful of that.” This is why I personally always take 1000mg of high quality vitamin C post workout, in addition to its cortisol reducing properties.
You’re probably wondering by now “well can I, or can I not exercise!? Get to the point”! Well good news, the answer is yes! As always, within reason. Exercise may even help you feel better by opening your nasal passages and temporarily relieving nasal congestion (bonus, pre workout and extra fun supplements like ephedrine are great nasal decongestants). As a general guideline, exercise is usually OK if your symptoms are all “above the neck.” I.e., seeking, coughing, sore threat, and other general yuckiness. Contraindications would be symptoms such as chest congestion, hacking cough or upset stomach. A.k.A “below the neck”. Also avoid exercise if you have a fever, fatigue or widespread muscle aches. This generally indicates a full on flu, which is serious business. Your body needs major rest! Also, stay home! Don’t spread that stuff, especially in a grimy gym, rubbing your paws all over everything. While we on the topic, also avoid subways, babies, coffee shops, nursing homes, and other germ ridden places, gross.

Since I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t throw some science at you (and would you even believe anything I say), here’s a fun little study. Thomas G. Weidner, Ph.D., of Ball State University in Munice Indiana, took 50 moderately fit student volunteers, who were divided randomly into two groups: exercising and non-exercising. Each volunteer was injected with the cold germs (areal nice guy right)? and then tracked each student for a period of ten days. Each subjects was required to keep a daily log of physical activity. The exercise group worked out either by running, biking or using a step machine for 40 minutes every day, at no more than seventy percent of their maximum capacity (measured by heart rate reserve). Now I know, this isn’t weight lifting. And I will be quite honest, weight lifting and cardio definitely have different physiological effects. But, in terms of quality, it’s some good qualify peer reviewed research.

Anyhow… Upon completion of the study and after analysis of exercise data, symptom severity, and actual mucous weight measurements, there was shown to be no significant difference in symptom severity or duration in the exercise group or in their inactive counterparts. Overall conclusion, exercising at a moderate intensity level does not intensify cold symptoms or compromise the immune system. Ta Da!!

So there you have it my loves! Move your booties, clear up those nasal passages, and shake it off! Unless you have the black lung or consumption, then leave your sick ass home 😉

Your fitbetch,

JP xoxo

Stretching, Meat heads do it too

As I sit here lounging on the couch, enjoying my traditional lazy Sunday ritual, I thought it was about time I delivered a post on training. Opposed to hormones, nutrition and supplementation, as I tend to gravitate toward, as of late.

While one of the main reasons I train is to continuously challenge myself, even I find myself slipping into old routines and patterns. Going to the gym, doing the same exercises, in the same order, at the same volume. Now mind you, I train intuitively, so if I feel strong I’ll go heavier, if I’m sore I’ll go for stretch and volume, but there still lack that variety. You need to do something new if you want to see any real growth. You need to shock you system, create the kind of stress and demand that spurs and adaptive response.

So people feel when it comes to body building you don’t need to be fancy. It’s the same basic exercises that have always been done. And they’re not entirely wrong. The truth is, when you look at anatomy there’s so only many ways, and so many angles at which you can target a muscle group, based on its natural insertion, origin and function. So what do you do?

The answer is in how you execute the movement. One of the principles of German volume training for instance, is tempo. It relies on a three second eccentric movement, at 60% max, with a 10 x 10 split. But today isn’t about volume, it’s about stretch. And not the kind you see girls in sports bras leisurely doing on the exercise mats at the gym.

So first, let’s talk a little anatomy. Muscle are wrapped in a interconnected network of fibrous tissue. It’s kind of like plastic wrap for your muscles and it’s called fascia.  Now.. If you want your muscle to grow and get bigger, this fascia need to stretch right? So how do you ensure this fascia is nice and malleable, so that you can get huge. The answer is stretch induced hypertrophy training. Sounds super fancy right?! But once again, the answer is actually pretty simple. Training with a full range of motion (none of this half rep bull shit) and holding at end range creates a nice deep stretch. Research has shown that this type of stretching can cause gene expression changes, such as an increase in IGF -1. Mini science lesson, this is a very importantly hormone for anabolic growth,  IGF -1 increase nitrogen retention (responsible for pump), protein synthesis, and hyperplasia.

Stretching can also lead to an internal remodelling of the muscle when done repeatedly. And aside from feeling strong AF, isn’t this why most of us lift. It’s right in the name “body building”. But seriously, how cool is it that you can intentionally  affect the internal structure of your muscle?! Research believes this is the fault of additional sarcomeres. Mini science lesson (again), these are what allow your muscle to move heavy things. Sarcomeres slide in one another through actin and myosin, causing lengthening  and shortening. The thought is if you add more, the muscle won’t overstretch and tear.

Lastly, the act of stretching with the addition of weight/tension, can add to the overall time under tension  and metabolic stress on the muscle itself.  For attentive readers, and fellow science geeks, you’ll know that this is essentially the principle of growing little muscles into big strong muscles. Lift heavy things, and lift them slowly.

Disclaimer. There is a time and place for partials, pumps, and fast reps, but you’ll just have to stay tuned for another day 😉

You fit betch,
JP xoxo

Bye Bye bikini Season, Helllllllooooo Cake!

Well hello friends!

As summer comes to end I’ve been noticing a trend around the office. With cooler temperatures looming in the not so distant future there’s been a certain “fuck it, bikini season is over” attitude. So of course, this has me thinking about carbs (let’s be honest, when am I not)?

Years ago, at one of my first personal training jobs I encountered the concept of carb back loading. It really isn’t so different from what I had been doing so the theory peaked my interest. It boasts the ability to eat high glycemic index carbs, in abundance, and still drop fat and increase strength. What is this?! The holy grail of dieting.

The basic premise of carb backloading is you use these mechanisms to your advantage by not eating carbs when your body is most able to store them as fat (early in the day). Instead, you eat carbs when your body is most likely to store them as glycogen in the muscles (later in the day, and after working out). Not only have you increased your insulin sensitivity by abstaining from foods which increase a spike in blood sugar, but you’ve also induced a insulin sensitive state through diet and exercise induced glycogen depletion. The basic premise is that you eat light during the morning,  and early afternoon hours, and load up at night. This is also popular among individuals who practice paleo or primal lifestyle diets. You eat little-to-no carbs until after your workout, which should be later in the afternoon, then your carb intake begins with your post-workout meal and it continues throughout the evening.

Levels of numerous hormones vary across the day and night. Attentive readers will know, cortisol spikes in the morming (wake up hormone), and in times of stress, mental or physical. Now, cortisol fluctuations are not only attributable to changes in sleep/wakefulness and physical demand, but also to a circadian timing system governed by the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus. Sleep has a strong effect on levels of some hormones such as growth hormone but little effect on others which are more strongly regulated by the circadian timing system (e.g., melatonin). The suprachiasmatic nucleus exerts its influence on hormones via neuronal and humoral signals but it is now also apparent that peripheral tissues contain circadian clock proteins, similar to those in the suprachiasmatic nucleus, that are also involved in hormone regulation.

In modern society, many individuals frequently and/or chronically undergo circadian misalignment by desynchronizing their sleep/wake and fasting/feeding cycle from the circadian timing system. This is from shift work, chronic stress, working out in the evening because of job demands, or just modern chaos. Recent experiments indicate that circadian misalignment has an adverse effect on metabolic and hormonal factors such as circulating glucose and insulin. In lamen a terms, shitty sleep, high stress, insomnia, all equal weight gain, thanks to imbalanced hormones. So, in a society in which most individual work out post work, after long ass work days, we are deliberately throwing off our rhythm and groove. You should be winding down, not winding up! So what a girl to do? Our careers are equally as our fitness goals. How else are you supposed to afford supplements and spandex?

The answer is Insulin sensitivity. In both muscle and fat cells, insulin  is higher in the morning than the evening, which means that both muscle and fat cells will be more receptive to glucose earlier in the day. This is good in the case of muscle (more glucose absorbed into the muscles = better performance in the gym), and bad in the case of fat (more glucose absorbed into the fat cells = more fat storage). You can manipulate this little fact to your advantage. By using weightlifting later in the day to deplete glycogen stores and increase insulin sensitivity in the muscle cells, but not the fat cells, you prime muscle for glycogen absorption. Therefore, when you then start eating carbs, your body preferentially shuttles them into the muscles, not fat cells. And voila!! Eat carbs, get muscles, lose fat!

In conclusion, it’s not really magic, or wizardry, and you don’t need to starve yourself to reduce your goals. It’s just the basic scientific concept of nutrient timing. When we’re talking body composition, What you eat is just as important as when you eat it!

Eat cake, get cake. You’re welcome 😉

Your fitbetch,

Lean Legs

Leaning out for a show is by no means an easy task. In fact, weight loss in general proves to be a difficulty for most people. All you have to do is scroll through your instragram feed or mind the pop ups on your commuter to see that weight loss itself is a huge industry. This is even more so prevalent for women. While a fair amount of pressure to be thin is directed more towards women, they also have their own biology working against them. So how does one fight their own hormonal disposition to carry excess adipose tissue in the most womanly of ways?

Many competitors, including myself have the issue of “bringing in” their legs. I personally spend a lot of time on my feet, causing my body to hold more water in my legs. But water weight aside,  hormones are the real issue here. Fat storage is based on 2 types of cell receptors, known as alpha adrenergic receptors and beta adrenergic receptors. Alpha receptors encourage fat storage, and are more prevalent in women, especially hips, thighs and glutes. In contrast, beta release fat. Science has proven that we can not decrease the number of fat cells in our body, only shrink the size of the ones we have. This is pre determined to a certain degree on genetics and childhood experience. So, if you want to burn fat from stubborn areas, how can you manipulate the ratio of alpha to beta cells?

Hormones. Both the answer and the problem is one. Estrogen, the female prevalent hormone, to progesterone, such as testosterones, ratios are key. There are a wide variety of supplements on the market to better help balance hormone levels, in addition to avoiding estrogen mimicking compounds such as soy, and plastics. Drinking green tea has also been shown to help, which can stimulate fat burning by passing alpha receptors. However, one of the best things any women can do is actually weight train. Increases in lean muscle tissue actually increase testosterone levels naturally in women, shifting the hormone balance in a more favourable ratio. In addition to the calories being burnt this is a favourable combination.

So, if lean legs are the goal, how can women utilize this knowledge to fight stubborn fat and bring in that desired leg definition? One method that seems to be widely used is fasted cardio or fasted exercise. When exercising in a fasted state the body in a lower-insulin state, due to a lack of glycogen, which the body has to pull from muscle stores. This state is desired because it results in suppression of ALPHA receptor activity. It also causes the body to increase catecholamine hormone production (adrenaline/noradrenaline), which now can preferentially increase BETA receptor activity. This type of catabolism will maximize fat burning, but especially help shift those stubborn type A cells.

If you aren’t able to do fasted cardio, or workout early in the day (before eating), post workout cardio is also useful. While weight training your body will also dip into those glycogen stores when there is no longer any free floating glycogen present for use. This is particularly useful in high volume training, such as that seen in most competitors during contest prep. The higher the volume, such as giant sets, supersets sets, or 100s, the more your body has to deplete its current stores. Doing cardio post workout, will then result in a similar state to fasted exercise. For this reason, I often shift my training during prep to train lower body twice or even three times a week is recovery allows. During this time you aren’t aiming to lift heavy, but incorporate higher volume and conditioning in order to release that stubborn fat and tighten the look of the legs.

The next issue to obviously address here is cardio. There is a large variety of types, and time of course, so what is going to best suit your individual needs? I highly recommend starting with 15-20 minutes of intense sprint training or interval training, utilizing the legs. While full body cardio may burn fat, the focus here is to address the legs specifically. This can be stepper sprints, sled pushed or bike sprints. HIIT cardio has been most effective for fat burning. But the key is to follow your sprints with some steady state, to ensure the increased fat released gets burned rather than restored. This is known as beta oxidation.

There is a time and place for different styles of training. Excessive fasted workouts and incredibly high volume will not necessarily lend to strength or size gains, which we will leave for another time, but this style of training when used properly in over a certain period of time will undoubtedly help when addressing stubborn lower body issues.