When you know the “why”, you make decisions from a place of empowerment… versus fear, anxiety, or desperation.
#1 Meal spacing matters.
How long do I have to wait between meals?”
As I glanced down at the text message from my client, I was initially puzzled. Maybe she couldn’t do simple math? I mean, given a number of waking hours, wouldn’t one simply divide and conquer? The answer is “Yes” if you’re optimizing for your physique and “No” if you’re optimizing for your enjoyment of food.
Put differently, many of us would prefer to eat a large dinner and skip the afternoon snack. Or, skip breakfast and eat all those calories at lunch. The problem is…our bodies don’t work that way. The same number of calories, total macros – or even macro allocation – will have a different effect on your body if you skip or combine meals. This is where nutrition trackers (or plans with caloric or macro goals) fall short because they’re only looking at the aggregate daily or weekly stats, and they’re ignoring meal frequency and spacing.
In a contest diet, meal spacing is optimized to rev up your metabolism and to promote muscle maintenance (or assimilation) and fat loss.
Note: this also doesn’t mean grazing all day. This means 5-7 meals spaced evenly throughout your waking hours. If you have pre- or post-workout meal instructions, abide by these with an even greater emphasis on timing.
#2 Initially, you may worry that you’re eating too much.
Oh my God. This is so much food.”
I feel like I’m eating all the time!”
I’m struggling to get all my meals in.”
The quotes above are word-for-word conversations or text messages from my clients during their first week on a meal plan. What feels like a lot of food in your first week will soon feel fine…and eventually not enough. These are excellent signs that the process is working…your metabolism is improving, you’re putting on a little muscle tissue, and your body is working for you, not against you!
Truth-telling… it will be a pain in the a$s some days to get in that meal en route to a meeting, a doctor’s appointment, or (insert life here). Do the best you can. Prepare, plan, and buffer yourself (and your cooler) for unexpected delays.
This is also why the “prep before the prep” (a.k.a. the off-season) is an important part of the competitor’s process to both acclimate mentally / physically / emotionally to the lifestyle and to get her metabolism in gear…high gear for the “in-season” phase.
#3 Dieting or cardio that is too harsh, too quick will ultimately back-fire.
Over-dieting will wreak havoc on your metabolism, your hormones, your skin, and your energy. Telltale sign: your eyes. I can always tell if someone is dieting or working out too hard by the “dead” look in their eyes. Beyond a “dead” look, you are also likely to rebound plus in your weight, accrue cellulite, and throw off your hormonal balance.
There are no short-cuts when it comes to body transformation done well. On stage, you will be marked down for looking tired, dull, and lackluster. At the gym, your workouts and overall strength will suffer. And, most critically, your metabolism will eventually become damaged with worrisome plateaus, unsightly body fat gains (often in places you’ve never held body fat before…), and longer term risks of adrenal fatigue (nobody wants this!)
#4 Befriend your metabolism.
Your metabolism can either be a friend or foe to your fitness efforts. The better your metabolism functions, the better your body responds to nutrition and workouts, and the better you will feel and look. So, with that in mind, eat, eat, eat, while following your meal plan as much “to the T” as possible.
#5 You can’t increase your cup size, but you can lift your…
…girls. Despite things you might read, no number of push-ups, flies, pec decks, or any specific upper body exercise will “lift” your girls or increase their size. Perkiness comes from body fat loss. While some women lament losing breast size when they lose weight, many of us love it and embrace the “perks” of no bras, back pain, or saggy mom-boobs! Unlike the booty, we can’t build breasts through muscular development (thus, the preponderance of breast implants among bikini competitors). However, we can transform their shape through leaning out. Breasts are fatty tissue. As we lean out from head to toe, the girls will lean out to some extent, too.
#6 Carbs create better-looking muscles.
Dehydration, insufficient or ill-timed carbs, excessive cardio, inadequate amino acid intake from reliance on incomplete sources of protein (primarily, vegetarian sources)…can all affect the size and shape of your muscles. Full muscles are aesthetically pleasing. Flat muscles appear harder and less youthful. That booty you trained so hard for (and ate so deliberately for…) will flatten out without sufficient carbs and hydration, no matter how many squats you do or protein you consume!
#7 Wine…don’t let the scale deceive you.
Last, but not least…let’s touch on wine. For me, two weeks without wine doesn’t impact the scale. For others, it may have a minor to dramatic effect on weight loss. As women, the wine vs. body weight issue depends on a host of factors. I’m roughly the same weight with or without wine, which is inherently surprising when you consider the size of my wine glass (a.k.a. the bottle) and the sheer caloric intake of my regular wine habit. This may have more to do with dehydration (water weight) and the strategies I use when I do drink to mitigate fat gain. (More on that next week!)
So, what have I noticed? Definitely some hormonal re-balancing and toxin release…primarily through the skin in an attractive teenage-esque acne breakout! On the plus side, my hydration levels are decidedly better. I notice this when I’m doing morning cardio or lifting – I barely need to touch my water bottle, which allows me to train harder and get more from my workouts. I also experience more energy in the evening and more restful sleep patterns overnight.
When you understand the impact of wine (and alcohol more generally) on your hormones, skin, and physique, you will understand why competitors cut this “food group” from their diet. There’s too much to discuss in this one “secret”, so I will dedicate the next post to this topic with some tips, strategies, and individual considerations.
Psst…if you are female over 35 and would like to join my focus group to study the effects of wine intake on the female physique, please sign up here!
Contest prep is often shrouded in secrecy or fueled with false notions of living at the gym, starving oneself, or being unattainable for the “mere” mortal. This blog series seeks to demystify, clarify, and share some of my aha moments, FAQs, and notable mentions that are part and parcel of getting a stage physique. These stage principles can be incorporated in varying degrees in anyone’s pursuit of body transformation. Please leave a comment below with your questions or feedback. For more information about our Transformation packages, click here to set up a consult.