Let’s start this blog by saying… I WON my first show of the season! Last weekend, I competed in PCA Saxon Classic and in a line-up of 18 or so girls, I did it! I have never allowed myself to actually want to win before. Never let myself think that way. This time, I really wanted it and I made it known. And so as unexpected as it was, I am still super thankful and appreciative of that moment. Those who know me, know that I’ve previously been stuck at 3rd place for 2 years, so it was a little external validation for my methods, I’m not going to lie.
The prep journey to date
I previously wrote a post about my approach to prep this year, and I won’t go in to that again. If you’d like to read it and get a little insight in to my macros and my training, you can do so on the earlier blog. In the last few weeks of prep, I experienced indirectly some negativity towards the way that I prep, and more importantly, how much of this prep that I share. And more importantly, since my win, I’ve had a lot of messages from girls who have been on strict ketogenic diets, or 4 meals of chicken and broccoli a day for months, and want a more flexible approach to prep. They’ve seen my posts of eating potato scones or Milky Bar buttons, and of course they want to know if they can do it too. I wanted to write a bit about the truth behind my methods. How I do it and why I do it, and hopefully inspire some of you who want to compete, that it can be done in a (semi)-sanity saving way.
The way that I prep
Like I said, I gave a pretty detailed account of my prep in an earlier blog post. In a nutshell, I prepped flexibly. I chose mostly nutritious foods to fill my macros, from green vegetables and cottage cheese, to breads, milk and yoghurt. In addition, I had a little wiggle room for less physiologically nutritious, but totally delicious and psychologically nutritious foods, such as a few squares of chocolate or protein cheese *mind wanders to protein cheese on crumpets with Branston pickle…*. I had high carbohydrate ‘refeeds’ most weekends because I had kept a relatively lean off season (not particularly intentionally, I just ate intuitively and maintained a calorie surplus accordingly) and so I could afford this, and it helped maintain my fullness. I’ve said it before, but physiologically the only benefit I see from refeeds is a restoration of glycogen stores. They don’t really do anything ‘hormonal’, but can make someone pretty damn happy when they’re that hungry! I enjoyed meals out up until about 2 weeks before my show and in actual fact, I increased calories leading in to my show (minus peak week because I tend to turn a little more bro at this point ashamedly, minus the bars of Lindt that I consume).
As someone with a binge mentality, I feel strongly that restricting myself to the same repetitive staple ‘nutritious’ foods, lends only to negativity surrounding other foods that are deemed as ‘unhealthy’ (the definition of unhealthy in this case being foods that are harmful to health). I do not believe that foods are ‘unhealthy’, and to some extent, all foods provide some level of nutritional value. Not only that, have you ever followed a strict prep diet on a restricted range of foods, then come off it and eaten alternative foods and discovered that your gut can no longer handle it? Your gut is so highly adaptable, that eventually it appears to adapt to a restricted intake. When you introduce new foods (if bread is ever ‘new’ to you, reassess your life…) your stomach is painful, bloated and it’s uncomfortable to eat. Cue spending the next 6 months slowly learning to eat ‘normal’ foods again. So as you can read in the earlier blog, I do allow myself a little bit of what I fancy most days on prep, and on some days more than others.
Since stepping off stage, in one week I’ve had a few pizzas, a meal out and a few bits of what I fancy. I have also increased my range of nutrient intakes through preparing vegetable dense casseroles and salads, topped with high quality protein sources and served with fresh breads and baked squash. I have not felt the need to binge every day. I did not need to cram in all the foods that I’ve missed for months (except pizza, that is one food that is noticeably absent from competition prep for me as I get closer to a show, and has since been consumed in vast quantities).
I have been suggested to make light of prep, to make it look ‘easy’. Please know, that this is NOT the case. I was tired and I was hungry on this prep, like every other and like everyone else. I struggled with concentration at the end. I was freezing and exhausted for a few weeks. I struggled with self-confidence and questioned myself frequently. But, I have a relationship that I want to keep happy, family and friends that I love and two jobs to not only hold down, but to excel at. Because these things are my life, my loves and my income. Competing does not earn me money. It brings me focus and I love it and love the journey. So externally, I stay focused, positive and upbeat because I appreciate all of these things that I have. I appreciate my body for playing ball. I appreciate that despite the stress that I put it under, my body is healthy when so many aren’t, so how can I complain? This does NOT mean I found prep easier than anyone else. It means I maintained perspective. If you choose to compete, keep this perspective. Remember that no one at work cares that you’re hungry. That people you love around you have so much more going on than your diet. That those who depend on you, be they students, clients, family members, they depend on you to be your best, all of the time. You owe it to them. A diet is not an excuse to balls up anything else in life.
Can anyone do it?
Let me make it clear. I prepped myself this way. I have prepped clients in a similar way. I also have clients that I prep on 6 square meals a day with an unfair amount of chicken and sweet potato (although these are few and far between). I have some clients that I utilise ‘carb cycling’ with. I have some that respond well to relatively low-carbohydrate diets, and some that respond well to low-fat. I have some that diet on 2000kcal at the beginning of a prep, and some that start at 1600kcal, and a few around these values. I have some clients that work so hard on a lower calorie intake than I would like, and a calorie intake that the Nutritionist in me squirms at. Something to remember is that I am a Nutritionist (a real registered type…). I’m not Prep Coach as such. We all have to go hungry to get on stage at the end of the day, but unfortunately some people have to go lower than others. Such is the unfair physiological game. Some of us are blessed with dropping fat on higher calories, and some of us are also blessed with Dumbo ears and a nose that rivals Pinocchio on a bad day. But hey, you can’t have it all…
What I do not have however, is a set method for everyone, other than flexibility. I don’t mean flexibility in that these girls can eat what they want ‘if it fits their macros’, but that they have the flexibility and empowerment to make decisions for themselves about what works for them as individuals. As females with minds. As females who value their health, strength and empowerment. As females who are capable of knowing what their preferences are, what makes them feel good and what works to support them to maintain their lives at the same time as following a diet that can, at many times, be restrictive to a #balanced life.
I spoke with someone recently who had been prepped for her show on 1000 kcal and got so ill after it, that she never competed again. Before telling me who coached her, I had already guessed. Because that is their method of doing things. We all know of those coaches who get the results that they want in their own unique way… And provided that doesn’t do any long-term damage, it is certainly not my place to say what I think on here. After all, they get results a lot of the time, and lots of people are happy to use these methods. But I can only hope that in the future, when asked, my clients don’t need to say that they have been prepped by me because it is apparent in their health, their happiness and the fact that they’re not only stepping on stage looking their best, but they’re leaving stage with a positive plan for their future health and progression, and a pride that they didn’t kill themselves to make it there…
What’s right for you?
If you’re looking to compete, start working with a coach before you need to diet down. Ask about their methods. Ask what you can expect from the next 10,12,14 weeks. A good coach will be able to tell you the possibilities but not the specifics, because we respond to your progress week-by-week, not by some sort of standardised rule for making changes. Know what you need as an individual. Some coaches ignore the mentality in favour of the ‘all-or-nothing’ stage win mentality, which is awesome if you’re that type of character. Some pay more attention to a holistic approach to your nutrition (and by holistic I don’t mean the hair style you have and make up you choose, although highly important). Some know that you’ll be keto by 4 weeks out. Some know that you’ll be on all sorts of pharmaceutical assistance. Some know you won’t. Ask questions. Know what you need as a person. But never assume that one person’s methods will be the same as another, or that your journey should be the same as another’s.
For me, it’s on to the next one after a successful week off diet. Bodypower stage experience is calling!