Happy New Year!

Hey guys – it’s been a while! Hoping everyone has had a lovely christmas and new year, I know I have. I had such a nice time being at home with my parents and cats having not been home since August. There really is no better place than home – though it was odd not having my big brother around!

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Anyway I’m being a bit of a hipster and not doing my new year’s post on new year’s day – mainly because I wasn’t functioning too well after two late, alcohol fuelled but very fun nights with my friends rolling in the new year. I’m not usually one for resolutions as I’ve always thought why wait for a socially constructed time to set yourself some goals? Just go for it! But this year I’ve made some resolutions of sorts – or maybe just continuations of goals that I thought might make an interesting blog post ūüėõ

So here we are; my new years resolutions!

1. Be kinder to my body

In 2014 my weight fluctuated a fair bit ¬†and when my weight went up it generally wasn’t in a good way. Competition prep meant dieting and breaks from competing meant putting the weight back on after enjoying the ‘forbidden fruits’ a little too much. Of course this didn’t happen every time, and I did find a good balance when I implemented Carb Backloading however I feel I did put my body under a lot of stress. In April for example, what I then thought was a mystery virus, is now clearly a manifestation of overtraining combined with a caloric deficit. I went up to 56kg after a particularly stressful week in January and didn’t do much about it until around March. Then inexperience with dieting and losing weight meant quite a battle to get back under 52kg which led me to feel horrible for about 10 days or so with aching muscles and horrendous fatigue. I now recognise those tell tale muscular pains as a time to back off training and eat more – I’ve discovered that particular type of pain has no other cause. So in that respect I’m already working towards my goal. I’ve also made the decision to go up a weight class which I think will help me no end in the long run. Around the same time I chose to stop MMA which will also probably be better for me too – less minor injury and more rest from intensive exercise. I do miss it sometimes though.

Anyway this year I’m hoping to find – and stick to – a way of eating that gives me everything I need without compromising my health. I very much enjoyed Carb Backloading and am interested in trying CarbNite – or seeing if I can find the best of the two, as I found the strength gain on Carb Backloading to be unparalleled by any other diet. This is still quite a restrictive way of eating so I will have to weigh up my options.

Another way I need to look after my body is all the extra stuff that needs to be done outside of the gym – I’m talking lacrosse balling, foam rolling, doing yoga, assistance exercises and stretching. In the last few months I’ve become particularly lax with this – but like I said before, these are goals that I’m already working on. It doesn’t help that I haven’t had any major competitions to work towards, which usually motivate me to be a little better with these things. To reduce day to day niggles this is unfortunately something that needs to be done and if I want to be the best I need to get on it! I must mention though that having started doing assistance stuff in the last few months (though maybe not as regularly as I’d like) I’ve definitely seen an improvement in my lifts – particularly working on the smaller and weaker muscles. I have my wonderful physio to thank for these improvements and hope to continue in the same vein.

2. Be kinder to my mind

The previous point brings me on to this – something I have struggled with for pretty much my whole life. As quite a perfectionist personality I can be quite hard on myself when I don’t meet my own high standards and this is something that has contributed to some pretty difficult times in previous years. Thankfully that period of my life seems to be over and I’m happier now than I’ve ever been – however there is still a part of me that expects too much.

Some of the best advice I’ve ever been given is to be your own best friend. If your best friend didn’t achieve all they set out to that day would you be disappointed?¬†Or would you tell them there’s always tomorrow? I work damn hard a lot of the time and I’ve got so much better at appreciating my own efforts, but I imagine this will be a continuous process for years to come. So every time I can’t be bothered to foam roll, miss a bench, leave the library an hour earlier than planned or stay in bed til 3pm I’ll tell myself there’s always tomorrow. And if I don’t manage to tell myself that then oh well, I’m only human! ūüôā (see, I’m doing it already haha)

This will be particularly necessary in the coming few months as I wrap up my degree – there’s going to be a lot of hard work involved! I originally aimed to get a 1st as I have been a high achiever my whole life, but I am currently sitting on an average of a high 2:2. I’m still going to aim to get the highest grade that I can but I’m not going to compromise my mental health to achieve a certification, after all I feel I bring so much more to the table than just a degree.


3. Be more helpful

Some of the people I admire the most are those that continuously help others, and I often find myself taking a back seat as I let others do the hard work. This year as well as continuing to improve my own life, I strive to help others as much as I can. Hopefully in terms of my goals this resolution won’t need to take a back seat, but this year will be the year of my own personal achievements and I’m not going to let anything get in the way. In the meantime though, I’ll be the one clearing up the weights at the end of the session.

4. Explore my potential

I know I said early that I work hard a lot of the time, but a lot of the time I don’t. I’ve been known to ‘coast’ and do the bare minimum that I can do to achieve. Maybe this is my self-critical mind coming into play a bit here, but there’s no harm in wanting to better yourself right? It seems finding the fine balance between this point and number 2 will be tough.

There’s so much out there that I can do. Every time I pick up a paint brush (which isn’t often!) I astound myself and I always wonder what I could create if I spent more time practicing and honing my skills. Similarly I wonder how much better I would lift if I managed to do all of my assistance exercise, keep to a healthy diet and train to the best of my ability. ¬†This may also be true for my degree, though I feel I do work very hard already and I don’t want to fall behind on other areas of my life which are helping keep me sane. There are a few other things that this relates to as well so hopefully 2015 will be the year of achievement.

5
. Grow a big fat butt 

Self explanatory. This year will be the year that I grow out of my white-girl butt and grow into my powerlifters butt that I know is there somewhere!

2014 was hands down the best year of my life – I made new friendships and strengthened old ones, continued to enjoy and compete in a sport that I love and just generally had a blast. I have every faith that 2015 will be just as great – particularly as I have two of the best lifting partners to share it with ( @amyyspencer and @shax2 on Insta – go check them out!)

Starting the year on a PB at my first training session of 2015 wasn’t bad – managed a 90kg paused squat after achieving this weight as a new PB at a fun comp in mid-December! I’m hoping 2015 will bring me even more gains and I haven’t peaked early haha.

As has been the case for some time now I probably won’t be able to post as much as I would like to in the coming months due to that pesky little thing called a degree – but you can get more regular updates on my lifting, nutrition, and day to day antics on my Instagram which is @susiebboo

Happy 2015!

Peace and love x

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Adventures in Carb Backloading: a Review

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 22.34.59If you’ve been reading my blog you will know that for the last month or so I have been trialling John Kiefer’s¬†diet plan ‘carb backloading’. The plan essentially entails manipulating the body’s normal hormonal rhythm to create a favourable fat burning environment during the day time and promoting muscle growth in the evening after training with some very careful¬†carb¬†timing. Put simply, the program is high-fat ultra low-carb during the daytime and high-carb low-fat at night time, with¬†high GI carbs favoured for the night time backload. Moderate-high protein intake is maintained throughout, and meals are shifted to later in the day, which can mean fasting in the morning.¬†

Prep-phase

Before backloading can begin, there is a preparation phase which involves 10 days of ultra-low carb intake (ideally less than 30g a day) in order to ’empty’ the muscles of glycogen stores prior to backloading. This in turn causes weight loss (mostly water weight) which can then be used to gauge the amount of carbs which you will need to consume during the backloading phase.

I found the prep-phase to be quite enjoyable, and didn’t feel it affected my performance at training at all really. As I had followed keto-esque diets previously I was quite well versed with severely limiting carb intake, but for those less initiated it is worth looking into keto recipe sites and books to keep you on track. It’s always surprising how many hidden carbs there are in things! A more in-depth write up of my prep-phase can be found¬†here.¬†

According to the book, based on the weight I dropped after the prep-phase, if I was a male doing quite high volume training (which the book assumes you are) I would have needed around 360g carbs every night in order to replenish glycogen stores. However the book suggests that women would not need this amount, and a friend of mine who’d previously followed the plan had said that the kind of training we do really doesn’t warrant the kind of backload that Kiefer suggests. So I settled on 200-250g carbs to start off with so I could tailor it accordingly.¬†

Backloading

I’d be lying if I said I got it right straight away. The day time part of backloading is easy enough; coffee, whey isolate and coconut oil (with optional double cream) throughout the morning to stave off hunger pangs, then ultra-low carbohydrate until training time. The tricky part is getting the right amount of carbs post-training. For the first week or so I got a little excited and didn’t necessarily heed Kiefer’s warnings that women really didn’t need as much, and worked with about 250g after training. I ended up feeling soft and watery, and frankly a little fat compared with how I felt after the prep-phase. However, I didn’t really limit my fats, which I think is definitely where I went wrong.¬†Cake and steak for dinner has a nice ring to it, but cake wasn’t necessarily the right choice! The book does say to favour high GI carbs, which generally means lower fat levels, however it also suggests donuts and milkshakes for backloads. I found once I had got the carb levels right, the lower I kept my fats in the evening the better I felt in the morning.¬†

In the following two weeks I definitely hit the nail on the head with carb amounts. I dropped my intake right down to ~100g on bench and light assistance days and ~150g on squat, deadlift and HIIT days. I spread my carb intake out throughout the evening right up until bed time, and found I could pretty much rely on my body to tell me when I next needed carbs. High GI carbs such as cereal, low fat flavoured milk, frozen yoghurt, honey and low-fat baked goods all worked really well for me, and  just as it said in the book I could adjust the level of carbs I ate based on how I felt in the morning. With backloading, and also being on creatine it was a nice change to sit at around 51.6kg, which is within my weight class.

Example food day

8am: Coffee, Whey Isolate, Coconut Oil, Double Cream, 2x Omega 3, Multivit

10am: Coffee, Whey Isolate, Double Cream, Creatine

11:30am: Beef burger, 1/2 avocado, salad, 2x Omega 3, 2x L-Carnitine (not in the plan)

2:30pm: Satay chicken, garlic aubergine

5:30pm: Gluten free sausages, courgettes, small piece of cheese, 2x Omega 3

7:30pm: (post-training) 1/2 scoop casein, 1/2 scoop whey, Creatine, BCAA’s, low-fat strawberry milk

8:30pm: Chicken breast with high-carb curry sauce

9:30pm: Cereal with honey and low fat yoghurt

(10pm: melba toast and lemon curd)

As you can see I am eating the majority of my meals later on in the day. These portions are all pretty small but still fill me up. 

Results

The picture on the left was taken the day before the prep-phase, and the picture on the right was taken around 3 and a half weeks later, so just a few weeks into the backloading. I don’t think I need to say much; the results are pretty clear. As a fat-loss tool, carb backloading works. (Also I have a droopy shoulder?!)

I will say though that I don’t think you can see that clearly in the picture the amount of muscle I’ve put on. I’ve had several people comment on the size of my traps and shoulders in the last few weeks, and I can definitely feel a difference.¬†

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Performance

Often with weight loss programs the fear is that strength will be lost along with the fat. This is absolutely not the case with backloading. Despite having no carbs before training, which felt really odd for a little while, I’ve felt full of energy and my squat and deadlift have been soaring in the last few weeks. My bench has stalled a little though I feel that is probably due to having reached the limitations of my bench shirt more than anything else.

Even at times where I’ve had quite a small meal before training and subsequently felt a little peckish during the session, I haven’t experienced any of the light-headed weak feeling that I would normally have on an empty stomach. This is also the case during the fasted mornings, where normally I would be ravenous and shaky by 11am, I am finding myself to be clear headed and well-functioning. Being fuelled by the previous evening’s meals definitely feels a little weird and takes some getting used to, but it’s definitely worth it.

Competing

I suppose the best way of gauging how carb backloading has affected my performance would be to assess how I fared in competition, and I think it would be fair to say I did quite well. I achieved a new British record for squat, and got my PB deadlift of 130kg which I have been chasing for quite a while. 

The main thing to mention in terms of competition is how backloading affects you psychologically in preparation for a competition. Having had the prep-phase of the plan, I was confident that I would be able to drop enough to be safely in my weight class for a day-time weigh in, which took away a lot of the stress involved in preparing for the comp. Additionally, it was a great confidence booster to go into a competition feeling almost‚Ķ big. Ok, maybe not big, but definitely ‘fuller’ than I normally feel going into a comp. I normally will have had at least 5 days of full keto in order to drop in which can leave you feeling almost skinny. This time round however, I had my last backload on the wednesday evening, then another Saturday night before the competition on the Sunday.¬†Knowing my glycogen stores would be full, and that there was no reason I would be any weaker than normal was awesome.

Overall 

Overall I’d say carb backloading is definitely worth a try for any committed athlete looking to boost their performance, gain muscle and shed some fat. I’d say it’s not for everyone, as you need to be very strict with nutrient timings, and the plan definitely works best when you train in the evening which obviously doesn’t suit everyone.¬†

The book is easy to understand and follow, and it’s good to be able to understand the science behind a diet as it really helps you to stick to it. No daytime insulin spikes thank you very much!¬†

¬†I think the book could maybe have had more information for women. There are obviously so many variables for training types and dietary needs that can’t be covered in just one e-book, but as we make up pretty much half the population I thought there might have been more detail on how to adjust the plan for that one particularly important variable, gender. It took me¬†some tweaking to get it right and some time to get used to, so perseverance is key.

Thankfully my competition this last weekend was in the evening so my carb intake was around the same time as normal, and I’ve not had to go through the whole prep-phase again. I’ll be continuing to follow the plan until at least after my Turin competition, but I do feel this isn’t something I’ll be doing forever. Although I’ve had favourable performance and appearance results from the plan in the short term, I do wonder how the human body would cope in the long-term (which Kiefer does mention as a negative of the plan).¬†

Watch this space for any more updates about carb backloading, and do let me know if there’s anything you think I might have missed off, or any questions you might have, I’d be happy to answer ūüôā¬†

Squat Progression

I haven’t been posting much over the last few weeks as I have been moving house! A couple weeks without proper internet and lots to be getting on with has left me very little time for updates, but I should be back posting a bit more regularly now. ¬†My new house is lovely and I’m all settled in to a much bigger room, where I have room to foam roll and do my rehab exercises so I’m very happy¬†ūüôā

I will be posting a much more in-depth review of the carb-backloading¬†(CBL) diet I have been following within the next fortnight, but for now I’m just going to say that I’m loving it.¬†It took a bit of getting used to and I didn’t get it right first time round, but I seem to have got the hang of it now. I look and feel great, and I feel my performance in the gym has greatly benefited from it. ¬†I would like to see how I fare in my competition next weekend having¬†followed the plan for a month or so (including prep-phase) so as well as my competition write up you can expect a¬†CBL review then too.

Training in the last few weeks has been a strange mixture between strength training and competition prep, as although I am competing at the GBPF All England next weekend, I am ‘training through’ and my focus is on the Western European Cup mid-September. I’ve been working up near max attempts, with emphasis on competition rehearsal but also working on technique and having a little more volume in sessions than I normally would pre-comp.

I’ve made the tough decision to have a few months off from MMA, leaving me more time to do assistance work for powerlifting and allowing my body some respite from the consistent minor injuries. My penultimate MMA session was amazing, I had the luxury of a one-on-one session with the trainer which made me anxious to come back after a few months. However, with the weeks I’ve had off I am starting to realise it may be impossible to chase both hobbies. I had a very enjoyable private session today with a mate which I will be doing occasionally in the coming months to keep things ticking along, should I decide to go back to training a few times a week, but for now my focus is on becoming a better lifter.

One thing I have particularly been working on in the last month or so is my squat technique; working on sitting back into my new suit and keeping my chest up so I don’t ‘crumple’ as much under the weight of the bar. I’ve seen massive improvements in my squat form which may be down to any number of things; new suit, new belt, new wraps, new CBL diet, new hand position on the bar, more core work or any combination of all these things.

 

I’ve made a video showing my squat progression. The first squat is my 117.5kg squat at the Welsh champs back in April, and the second one is a 120kg squat from training a few weeks ago. I came out of the 120kg grinning as I could feel such an improvement in my core stability. In the video you can see my walk-out is a lot stronger, my knees don’t go forwards as much and I don’t look so much like quasimodo on the way up out of the squat. I’m delighted with my progress, but there is always more work to do.

I’m looking forward to the competition next weekend as it will be good practice for the Turin competition, and I also have the chance to set yet more British records. I am very likely to¬†break my squat record, have a chance of breaking my bench record (though I am not holding out too much hope) and I plan to set the deadlift record (130kg), which I recently hit in training. It’s something I’ve been striving for for a few months now and it’s well within my grasp now!

Just a quick reminder of my fundraising page where I am hoping to raise a bit of money towards the costs of my Italy trip, as it will be entirely self-funded. I have already raised enough to cover the cost of my flights which is fantastic, but anything else people can spare would be so useful!

Adventures in Carb Backloading

Having heard about it¬†from a friend¬†of mine several months back, ever since I’ve been intrigued to try Carb Backloading (CBL), a fat-shedding, muscle-gaining dietary plan devised by John Kiefer.¬†

The plan essentially entails following an ultra low carb diet during the day, then replenishing glycogen stores with high GI carbs in the evening after training, with a few other modifications such as not eating breakfast. 

In recent months when following my keto-ish diet to drop in to my weight class, I’ve sort of crudely followed this diet, having kind of worked some of it out for myself, but it seems I run out of energy after more than a week or so and just isn’t sustainable. As the plan is a bit more structured and contains higher GI carbs for my post-training nutrition, I’m interested to see if this plan leaves me with a bit more energy.¬†

As you’ve probably noticed my weight is quite often an issue and although I did find a ‘sweet spot’ recently with a medium-low carb diet, I still feel there are improvements to be made. I’m hoping to be able to put on a bit of muscle in the next few weeks, and being able to do this while losing a bit of fat (which is what the plan promises!) is an ideal situation.

The first 10 days of the plan involves going full keto, with an intake of just 30g of carbs a day. This is¬†¬†to ‘train’ the body to use fat for energy, and to fully deplete glycogen stores. I started doing this yesterday, and as ever am constantly looking for new recipes for a bit of variety in my diet. As much as I love chicken legs and burnt broccoli, it can get tedious after the 8th day in a row!
So in the next 10 days or so you can expect some more low-carb recipes that I’ve devised. I’ve bought myself a bunch of spices and have made friends with chilli, so look forward to some aromatic and spicy concoctions.¬†

I’ve taken a pre-CBL progress picture, and have recorded my weight so hopefully I will be able to use these for reference a few weeks down the line.¬†Then I’ll write a review of my experience with following the plan as a woman as it was predominantly aimed at men.¬†

Kiefer’s CBL is available as an e-book here.