Tuesday, 26 June 2018

My Supplements

Over the years, I have been very open and adamant about being a natural athlete; I don’t personally care if someone is not natural, but I have found that the less I take, the better my body responds to training and diet. In 2011 I took 26+ supplements including fat burners, estrogen blockers, and diuretics. That year I didn’t get my period. At all. Soon after I came off of all those sups, I got pregnant. Through pregnancy, my hormones leveled out and everything - energy, weight maintenance, mood - just got easier for me. Those two events were all the proof I needed that being natural was the best approach for my body. 

Someone recently asked me though, what does “natural” mean to me. Well what an fascinating question that is! I never really thought of being natural as interpetive, but I suppose it is! To me, being natural means I don’t take any banned or illegal substances – anything you would find on the WADA list. I do, however, take vitamins, and as I also get a lot of questions about my supplementation I figured I would share what I have been taking for the last few months.  **Please bear in mind that I am NOT a nutritionist, nor have I consulted with nutritionists about my supplementation. I am also not a sponsored athlete - I buy what’s affordable :P

The main issues I face are: joint pain, muscle recovery, and hormonal health, so the vitamins/supplements I take address those issues only. For me, less is more, and now that my figure competition is over I will likely cut out quite a few of these items and focus on eating a diet rich in vitamins and minerals and balancing my hormones with lifestyle changes.  

Here is my list of supplements: 

Krill Oil: Provides Omega 3’s and helps relieve joint pain

Collagen: to lubricate joints and for healthy skin and nails

Glucosamine: for cartilage and joint health

Probiotics: While I don't have any issues with my GI tract, I learned that probiotics can help with cortisol levels and adrenal fatigue. 

Zinc: Involved in the maintenance of ideal hormone levels, which affect athletic performance. Helps metabolize melatonin.

Melatonin: for sleep. I actually notice the difference in my sleep quality when I take melatonin vs. when I don’t - I don’t wake up as easily when I take it, and if I do wake I go back to sleep readily.

Vitamin B12: Aids in utilization of proteins, carbs and fats. Essential in the formation of red blood cells. In retrospect, I could have probably phased this one out as I was eating LOTS of meats during comp prep.

Magnesium: Affects the muscle’s ability to contract and relax (that’s why when you get a cramp in your leg, people tell you to eat a banana) and aids in producing energy. I use this as part of my recovery strategy.

Vitamin D: I started taking this because I wasn’t going outside very much. Now that I have more free time, I hope to cut this one out.

Creatine: useful for explosive athletes as it helps regenerate ATP (a quick energy system). However, I'm going to cycle off this one for a while as it's not recommended for long-term use.

Magnum Rocket Science: pre-workout energy. 
*I never use anything other than coffee while pregnant, and usually not while breastfeeding either. 

Whey: to help me hit those protein goals! I like to take an Isolate so I get a high level of protein per scoop, and I take products with as few ingredients as possible. Right now I’m loving Diesel, but my all-time fave (and the only one I used while breastfeeding) is Lean Body For Her.  Honestly, I'll probably take this until the day I die - I add it to cereal, smoothies, oatmeal, baked goods... it's just so yummy. 

As a final note, I wholeheartedly believe that it’s better to eat whole foods rather than pills and encourage a clean diet always!  I would love to hear your perspectives on what you deem to be “natural”, and even what your thoughts are regarding my supplementation program!

Yours in health,

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

One-Year Postpartum "Transformation"

It always amuses me when I see “before and after” pics of a woman pregnant in one photo, then not pregnant in the other, with the hashtag #transformation. Because it’s like, yeah, when you pull a human out of your body of course things are gonna look a little different! It’s the fastest natural way you’ll ever lose 15lbs. Even in the months following birth, there are changes going on in your body – changes like the shrinking of the uterus and enlarging of breasts – that have dramatic effects on the way you look and feel, yet require no effort at all on your part.

Yet here I am, writing a postpartum transformation blog. What can I say…. It’s a topic many women are interested in! So I thought I’d write out what my approach has been toward postpartum recovery after having three children.  I’ll break it up into “trimesters”, since they are pretty distinct milestones and are perfect little training chunks. 

0-6 weeks
Right after giving birth your body is going through a lot of stuff. And passing a lot of stuff, if you know what I mean. It’s in full-out recovery mode.

1 week postpartum
Diet: Your body NEEDS you to eat well during this crucial phase! However, this is also a time when you’re so overwhelmed by a newborn that you may forget to eat. Do your best to eat as well as you can. Having prepared/frozen meals ready to go is a LIFE SAVER during this time.

I treated this time as an assessment period. When I felt up to it (about 2 weeks postpartum) I got back to the gym and just put my body through some simple movements and stretches to sort of re-familiarize myself with myself.... see what had shifted, what was tight, what felt ok, etc.

Lifestyle: At this point I like to get outside as much as possible. The sunlight and fresh air do wonders for my mood and walking is a great way to ease back into exercise. For my first baby I stayed indoors for most of those six weeks (because it was winter, and because everyone said that’s what I had to do) and I was miserable. So for my next two I made a point of getting outside at least once a day. I also think the fresh air is important for newborn health, and I always felt that being in the sunshine helped establish their circadian rhythm (but that one’s just my own theory).

6 weeks – 6 months
At the six week mark your milk has probably regulated, baby has got the hang of nursing, and you’re getting into a lifestyle groove. Baby is going to start to get heavy now, so make sure your body is prepared!

3 months postpartum

Diet: Most experts will say that this is the point at which you can start thinking about dieting to lose the baby weight. Personally, I never had much to lose so all I did at this point was to eat healthfully, and eat plenty to support breastfeeding.

Exercise: More food, regular schedule, and a body on the mend makes this a great time to rebuild that physique! But I’m not talking about aesthetics. This is the time to work on all those postural imbalances, weakened core, tight hips, and whatever else I’ve discovered during the assessment phase. Let’s call it “rehab”. Keeping in mind also that carrying around a 10+ lbs baby takes its toll on your body, my focus during this time is always on functional movement, and overall health. 

Lifestyle: Sleep is crucial. Without sleep I get sick, my milk supply takes a hit, and I’m a terrible mother to my kids. So at this point if I don’t sleep, I don’t train. Simple as that. Your body needs rest to grow, and at this stage growth and recovery are critical.

6-9 months
Baby is eating solids and sleeping better, and I’ve laid a good foundation of fitness. Now it’s time to work.

6 months postpartum

Diet: I never start actively dieting until the 6 month mark. At this point I’m comforted knowing there’s a little safety buffer in the fact that baby is eating solid foods, so that if my supply does take a momentary dip baby’s nutrition won’t suffer. At six months I’ll start really cleaning up my diet – still not counting calories or macros, but eliminating junk food and keeping track of portions.

Exercise: By now my body is back to a sort of baseline of fitness, and I can start tackling my goals, which are usually to regain any muscle and strength lost during pregnancy.

Lifestyle: Daddy is now fully capable of wrangling the babies on his own, so I’m able to go to the gym for longer periods more frequently. My life gets a lot more structured at this point.

9-12 months
I have had this weird goal of getting into the best shape of my life by 1 year postpartum, so at around 9 months I finally buckle down and get to work on that :P Baby is in a good place with food, so I have the freedom to get more strict.

9 months postpartum

Diet and Exercise: This depends on the program I’m following at the time; with my first baby I prepped for a figure show, and with my second and third I did the Oxygen Challenge. So I follow whatever nutrition and workout program they prescribe. I will say though that around 10-11 months is when I’ll start tracking macros and cutting calories in order to lean out to the level of conditioning I’m aiming for. If and when I cut calories, I do so ever so slowly (about 100-200 calories every few weeks) and add cardio modestly so I don’t hurt my milk supply.

Lifestyle: No change here. Except that I love the freedom of having a mobile baby!

9 months pregnant
We made it! 1 year postpartum!
That's it! Baby comes first. Always. But the symbiotic relationship between a baby's growth and a mother's recovery is undeniable, and often times the things you need to do to keep baby healthy (rest, nutrition, fresh air) are also the things you need to keep yourself healthy. The female body is an amazing thing and as long as you provide it with nourishment and care, it will do the work it was made to do.

Yours in health,

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Dieting (While Breastfeeding)

Before I can see the results in the mirror or even on the scale, I can always tell I'm leaning out when people - friends and strangers both - start approaching me with questions about my program and diet.

For the past 10 weeks I have been participating in an online fitness challenge run through Oxygen Magazine, #Oxychallenge, with Kaisa Keranen as my "coach". The challenge ends next week, so I've been tightening up my diet in hopes of being selected as one of the top 20 transformations. So far I have lost 3 lbs which may not sound like much, but when you're going from 12% body fat to 10%, I promise that does take a lot of work and sacrifice.

June 26th vs August 26th
June 26th vs August 26th

I've been counting macros for years, but only adopted the IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) approach two years ago. Now, there's no going back. I love the flexibility it provides me; I can be as planned or as loose as I want. I never understood why when your coach told you to eat, say, tilapia for a certain meal you couldn't swap it for another food with a similar macro profile, like cod. IIFYM is the answer to that question: you can!! I currently use the My Fitness Pal app to track my macros, but I have also used MyMacros+ and like both. You simply search your food, input the quantity, and it calculates how many macros you've consumed and how many you have left, based on your goals.

When I'm not cutting, my calories usually range between 2,300 - 2,600, comprising of 50% carbs, 30% fats, and 20% protein. Those are guesstimates only, as I don't count calories or macros usually.... only numbers of servings (another blog post on that someday). Through years of trial and monitoring, I have learned that I'm a Mixed Metabolic Type, meaning I do best with a mid-range distribution of all the macronutrients. When I'm trying to lose fat I increase my protein and drop the carbs, though still trying to stay in that mid-range, mind you. If you don't already know what kind of macronutrient profile works best for you, I would suggest tracking your food for a few weeks, making note of how you feel a couple hours after every meal, and day-to-day. Consider things like your digestion, energy level, mood, bowel movements, mental clarity, libido, exercise recovery, appetite, cravings, weight, etc. You can also take a metabolic typing quiz to help guide you at the onset.

I need to mention now that I am still breastfeeding several times per day. I have always waited until my babies are six months old and eating some solids before doing any kind of caloric manipulation because I figure if my milk supply does take a momentary dip, I can compensate with a bit more food. It's just what I'm comfortable with. Although I have never been a high milk producer, I have also never had any problems with milk production while I'm dieting. I breastfeed on-demand, which I believe helps keep my supply up (when baby is hungry, she drinks. And the more baby drinks, the more Mommy makes), and I cut my calories gradually. So my very first step before cutting any calories is always to simply clean up my nutrition; not eating as much junk, reducing condiments, drinking more water, and getting into the habit of cooking more often. Kaisa's meal plan for this challenge worked perfectly here, as she's big on eating whole foods and incorporating fruits and vegetables in every meal. Cleaning up the diet inevitably reduces my calories slightly, and I would say when I'm eating freely but eating clean my calories are closer to 2,100 - 2,300. Again, just a guess as I'm still not counting at that point. When my body stops responding to that, then it's time to start eliminating calories, tracking and playing with macros. This is where I pull out the MFP app. Because I've been eating well for a couple months at this point, my actual food doesn't change much - just the quantities. It's amazing how simply measuring and tracking your food makes you eat less! I stick to a modest 500 calories per day, bringing me down to 1,800 calories per day and doing some carb cycling, which means I alternate between eating high carbs, low carbs, and moderate carbs.

*% carb/protein/fat
High carb days: 60/20/20

Moderate carb days: 40/30/30

Low carb days: 20/45/35

Other yumminess 

I try to time my high carb days with heavy workout/activity days because omigosh, lifting on a low carb day SUUUUCCCCKKKKSSSSS!!!! I do re-feed days/meals a couple times per week. I'm sure my friends would say I'm a terrible dieter because they always see me letting loose at get-togethers, but that's because I time my re-feeds with social activities ;) I dieted through my best friend's wedding once, and realized afterwards there's more to life than striated quads.

My next step after another plateau would/will be to increase cardio and play with my macros a little bit more, maybe decreasing carbs on low-moderate days, or only doing one high carb day per week. I'd rather play with those elements than reduce calories further so I have the energy for breastfeeding!  If that doesn't get me to my goal, I'll drop another 200 calories and see what that does. Not sure I'm willing to eat less than 1,600 calories, lol. I have a great goal, but at this point there's not enough on the line for me to make those kinds of sacrifices. I need to also add that I'm not super duper anal about counting every single gram of every food item that passes my lips. The way I see it is this: every day looks different for me. I'm more active on some days, and less on others. Some days I need more than 1,800 calories and some days I need less. Some days my baby eats a lot of milk, other days she eats less. Some days my kids eat half my lunch, so then I pick at theirs. Why should I be so fixated on a number when my body is so variable? If I were doing a figure competition where it was crucial for me to be ripped, then yes, I would get very serious with it. But again, at this point there's just not enough on the line for me to drive myself crazy with those kinds of details.

So I hope that gives some insight into my approach, or "strategy". If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me! And please wish me luck on the final few weeks of my fitness challenge :D

Yours in health, Tess