Nutrition plays such a huge part in my goals. When I first started my journey I went into it completely blind. We did not have the money for me to hire a nutritionist and I am one who likes to do her own research and figure out what works for me.
Man I did not know the ride I was in for. My views on food and the "ideal" nutrition plan have completely changed in a matter of nearly two years. There is so much information out there it can be completely overwhelming. Which plan do you follow, which coaches are giving out the best advice, which competitors are following plans that keep them healthy and are not starving themselves?
I also had my own personal disadvantages in regard to my health. I had been dealing with heart conditions since I was 18, my body metabolizes everything so much faster than the "normal" person. My cardiologist was a HUGE help in the entire process, very encouraging and making sure I was making the right choices to reach my goals and keep my heart healthy. The only concern he ever voiced to me was the final week of competition prep, he flat out asked me to please not cut sodium and water because that could cause huge issues for my heart.
Kyle was a huge help in the sense of how many calories I should consume each day for my goals and giving me a breakdown of how many grams of protein, carbs and fat I would need. My first go round I went the ridiculous route of eating the same thing all the time, egg whites, tilapia, chicken breast, broccoli. Oats were really the only truly filling carb I allowed myself. I was not happy with my prep, I did not enjoy my food because I wouldn't season anything or use condiments. I was so terrified I it would be detrimental to my prep and make it more difficult to lose body fat.
My workouts and cardio were amazing the entire time. Kyle never had me doing more than 40 minutes of steady state cardio and that was just once a week, other than that it was HIIT workouts and runs because I was also training for races. My downfall that first prep was 100% my nutrition and my lack of knowledge.
When I began prepping for my second competition I chose to "follow" the Fighter Diet plan. I did not follow it 100% because I also believe in the IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) plan. Pauline Nordin (Fighter Diet) and Layne Norton (IIFYM) are both amazing people who know their stuff. I did so much research, read their blogs watched Layne's video logs and learned so much. At times I was completely overwhelmed but I just kept writing out information I felt would help me the most in my notebooks.
I did realize during that first prep that carbs do not affect my body like the "normal" person. Cutting carbs during peak week did the opposite of what it was supposed to do, I was flat and didn't look as lean as I did the weekend before the competition. I was disappointed because I had worked so hard and my food plan was my undoing.
Before my second competition I met with Dawn Zaruba for some posing practice. She was so gracious, honest and kind. She let me know that not everyone is the same, there is nothing wrong with doing something different for peak week. Carbs affect everyone differently and it is up to me to track them and know what amounts work best for my body, I could be that lucky competitor that actually does not need to cut carbs during the final week and she was right!
The second competition was better than the first, we still played with the carbs a bit which did affect me not in the best way. I brought a better overall package to the stage but a light went off in my head, STOP trying to do my final prep like the majority of competitors, that does not work for me!
After all of this I am extremely happy with my nutrition, I love my food. I do track my macros but I am not freaking out over it. I have my calorie goals for each day and my main goal is to get in all the protein I need to help my muscles recover from my intense workouts. I choose carbs that I truly enjoy such as oatmeal, sweet potatoes, green beans, brussel sprouts, Quest bars, greek yogurt, rice and even bread (ahhhh, I know bread, how can I!) ;) I love my chicken breast but I also eat steak, lean ground beef, ground turkey and pork. My meals make me happy, I look forward to eating them, I find little ways to change things up.
My heart is healthy, I no longer have annual appointments with my cardiologist. Just as important as that my mind is healthy, I am mentally in a very good place. I do not compete to earn a trophy, I compete because I love to train, I love how strong and confident I feel. It has helped me improve in two of my favorite sports volleyball and running.
This is a LIFESTYLE. My family enjoys the meals I make for dinner, tweaking some of our favorites with healthier ingredients makes everyone happy. Bella is a very healthy, happy little girl who enjoys making yummy foods with her mommy and makes good choices for herself. Not because I am forcing her to but because she is learning just as I am what makes her feel good. Kyle is proud of me, I think anyway ;) He also enjoys the dinners I am making so that all of us can be healthy and enjoy our lives doing what we love, together.
There is no such thing as perfection when it comes to nutrition. It takes a lot of work, research and trying out new things. Don't ever give up, each of us will find our way and learn to live our lives so that we are healthy and able to enjoy our time that we have.