Goals

January has been a busy month. With assignments, my dissertation, and exam and ongoing training, I’ve had very little time to myself. I learnt from my experience of this time last year that it definitely wasn’t time to find comfort in food, as last year I managed to put on so much weight that I really struggled to make weight for competitions in Spring. This definitely won’t be the case this year, as I have been finding my way back into my weight class through Kiefer’s Carbnite protocol, which I will post an update on at a later date. Let’s just say that sticking to a structured eating pattern has definitely helped in terms of focusing on Uni work, but may have not been the best for my training. However, I’m a lot more comfortable in my skin and don’t need to worry about my weight at all, which is nice!

Despite lacking motivation at times towards the end of last year, I certainly haven’t been lacking in motivation the last few weeks. I think I struggle when I don’t have competitions in the near future to work towards, but this month I’ve been working hard for the GB squad day and the GBPF South Midlands this weekend. Training has actually been a very welcome break from Uni work; I’ve been arriving stressed and foggy headed and leaving having forgotten I even attend Uni and feeling great from the exercise. I’ll need to keep this in mind in the next few months as my workload is sure to increase and I will need to stay sane somehow!

I’ve bought a few new bits of kit; an SBD singlet which will make an appearance this weekend, an Inzer Forever lever belt and a pair of SBD knee sleeves. Purchases made partly due to changes in IPF equipment rules and partly to treat myself!

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My training has definitely benefited from the addition of these bits, particularly my squat. I had forgotten how springy knee sleeves are! In my first training session using my knee sleeves and belt I shocked myself by achieving a 100kg squat, which was a 10kg PB! As you may remember I set myself some goals a little while back of 100 squat, 60 bench and 120 deadlift. In the last 8 weeks I’ve slowly but surely managed all of them, starting with deadlift, then bench and finally my long-awaited triple figure squat.

As far as I’m concerned, I still haven’t fully achieved my goal as I am yet to lift these weights in competition, however this seems like an achievable goal for this weekend and I look forward to seeing what I can do. This would give me a 280kg total, a 15kg PB. It would also mean I would have added over 30kg to my raw total since moving up a weight class, which would be a big success! Obviously competition days don’t always go to plan, but I have every confidence that I will be able to lift some big numbers this weekend, so watch this space!

It would appear that my ongoing journey on the gain train has served me well, as after attending the GB squad day in London, I was lucky enough to be selected to represent GB at the European Powerlifting Championships in Pilsen. The squad day itself was a mixed experience, as despite not needing to I decided I would try maximal lifts. Having slept on two sofas pushed together, and not had the best experience travelling the day before it is no wonder that I wasn’t able to hit most of the numbers I had previously done in training. This left me frustrated, but it helped me to realise that going big is not always best. Lesson learned!

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As I mentioned before, I will be competing this weekend at the GBPF South Midlands, which I am very much looking forward to. I am in a novel and nice predicament of needing to keep my weight UP before the competition, and make sure I don’t lose anymore weight. It’ll be great to be able to have a nice big dinner the day before, and drink and eat at will in the morning before weigh in. Hopefully this will give me an edge that I won’t have had at other competitions, and will allow me to lift some big numbers.

After this weekend, I will be in full training mode for the Europeans in March. It is such an exciting opportunity, and will be my first raw international. If I stay on the same trajectory I actually might not do too badly! I am still yet to work out any specific goals, I am waiting to see how this competition goes and then how I progress in training in the coming weeks.

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I’ve got some nice low carb high fat recipes to post in the next few weeks, and I will work on a review of Carbnite too. But now it’s back to work for me, this dissertation won’t write itself!

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… 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 🙂 

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.

 

Crayfish Salad – (and some pretty exciting news!)

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Another interesting flavour combination to tickle your tastebuds!

Ingredients

  • 1 portion crayfish tails
  • 1/2 mango
  • Small amount of chopped chorizo
  • Salad leaves

I used half a pack of the crayfish tails you can get from Lidl, but I didn’t think to note down the pack size, hence the vagueness of my ingredients list! Also the chorizo I bought was a cheaper chorizo-type thing from Aldi of which I used two slices, but I know chorizo usually comes in different forms so I will leave it to you to deduce the amount to use. I found a little goes a long way.

I’m really enjoying combining fish and fruit at the moment, I think the fresh combination of sweet and salty works really well especially in these summer months. I have one more to try out before I move into a lower-carb phase (so no fruit) which I am very excited about, and will be sure to post!

Training of late has been a little frustrating, with my bench shirt difficulties and struggling to get to depth in my squat suit I have been feeling a little unprepared for the British. Sometimes all it takes though, is some outside perspective to remind me of my successes. Speaking to a friend of mine on Facebook I was reminded that although I have been struggling with these two lifts, my deadlift is sailing and the 130kg british standard is well within my reach.

I’ve also tried to remind myself that the weights I’ve been working with inn the region of my opener for squat and bench are still pretty darn heavy, and if I was repeatedly doing singles at an equivalent weight raw I’d be congratulating myself! Kit lifting is such a different game to raw and it definitely doesn’t always go right. I just need to trust that my coach is right when he says we’re just where we need to be at the moment, and the British will go as swimmingly as I need it to!

Which brings me to my next point, which I have somehow forgotten to mention in the past few days! Some very exciting news indeed! Following some email conference with one of the head honchos in the GBPF, I am delighted to announce that I have been nominated for selection for the World Junior Championships in Hungary. This doesn’t mean that I am definitely going, as my performance at the British will be assessed before I am officially selected, but I am definitely in the running. One step closer to my goal!

Although there is a lot of pressure for me to perform well at the British, I will have one less pressure on me in terms of my weight. I weighed myself at 52.0kg this morning, two weeks out and not even having done keto (though I have been restricting my carbs a little) I’m well on my way to being safely within my weight class. I’m going to let this be a lesson to me for future competitions; to start early and put less pressure on myself! It also means that the kit is fitting me more like it will actually fit me at the competition, as even a kilo can make a massive difference.

The frustrations I’ve been having with my kit, while putting me in a grump during training, have actually made me more determined to get things right and make sure I’m fully prepared and confident for the British. Looking forward to the next week or so of training and tuning up, of which I will keep you all updated.

Flavour Combinations – Mackerel Salad

I’ve been trying out a few new flavour combinations for salads in recent weeks, but it feels a bit wrong to post them as recipes, as combining the ingredients in a dish is hardly taxing!  So I’ve made a new category; flavour combinations, where you will be able to find all my ‘recipes’ for interesting salads.

First of which is a delicious but slightly weird mackerel salad, inspired by my mother.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 fillet smoked mackerel
  • 1 steamed beetroot
  • 1 satsuma
  • Salad leaves (I used a mix with rocket)

I know it sounds weird, but the sweet of the satsuma really complements the saltiness of the mackerel.It’s also quite a stunning salad with the purple of the beetroot and orange satsuma. Don’t knock it before you try it!

This salad is a nutrient powerhouse; mackerel is an outstanding source of omega-3 fatty acids and is also rich in vitamins B6, B12 and D. Beetroot is high in folate and manganese, and also provides magnesium, potassium and iron. Satsumas are high in vitamin A and C, and full of antioxidants, while rocket is a great source of vitamin K and alpha-linoleic acid. Makes you wonder why people rely on multivitamins when combinations like this exist…

 

Shepherdess Pie

With my mission to have a varied diet, I’ve been experimenting a bit in the kitchen lately, so you can all look forward to some more healthy recipes in the coming weeks.

This is my (relatively) low-carb take on a shepherd’s pie, using celeriac and leek for the topping and pork mince for the base. This is one of the first recipes that I’ve made entirely from my own imagination, and I’m really proud of how it’s turned out, hopefully you’ll like it too! I hadn’t ever tried celeriac until a few weeks ago in a lovely vegetable pie that my friend made me, so this is my first time ever using it, and I think it works really well against the rich flavour of the pork mince. This took me about 40 minutes to prepare but I’m not very efficient in the kitchen, and was making it up as I went along, so you could realistically make it in about 30 minutes. I’d love to know what people think of this recipe, so if you try it  out do let me know what you think 🙂

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Ingredients 

For the topping

  • 1kg Celeriac (AKA celery root)
  • 2 medium leeks
  • 50g low fat cream cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the base

  • 1 medium white onion
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1/2 tsp crushed fennel seeds
  • 500g reduced fat pork mince
  • 1x 500g carton passata
  • 1/4 tsp stevia (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (optional)
  • Frying oil of your choice

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Makes 4 largish portions or 5 Susie-sized portions

Method

  1. Peel and chop the celeriac into cubes, then put on to boil for approximately 20 minutes
  2. Peel and finely chop the onions and garlic, and fry over a medium heat (I used coconut oil but you can use whichever oil you prefer) for 5 minutes until softened, adding the crushed fennel seeds after about 4 minutes
  3. Add the pork mince to the onion mix and fry over a medium-high heat until browned
  4. Add the carton of passata to the pork, reducing the heat to low-medium and allow it to simmer
  5. At this point chop the leeks and put them in to soften with the celeriac for the remaining few minutes of boiling
  6. If using, add the stevia and salt to the pork at this point. I always add some sort of sweetener to tomato dishes to combat the acidity, but usually don’t use salt. The salt and sweetener are entirely optional
  7. If you want the top to be a little crunchy, preheat your grill now
  8. Drain the vegetables and allow them to steam off for a few minutes, then use a hand-held blender to puree these along with the cream cheese. I didn’t thoroughly blitz the mix and left some leek pieces in tact for added texture
  9. Take the pork off the heat (it should have simmered for about 10 minutes now), and pour into an oven dish, spreading the veg mix on top
  10. Sprinkle the top of the pie with any seasonings that you fancy, and place under the grill for about 5 minutes until a little brown and crispy
  11. Serve and enjoy!

Sweet Spot

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Having experimented a lot with my diet over the last year or so, at the moment I seem to have found a sweet-spot where I’m able to eat a variety of foods, including some carbohydrates, and stay full while losing/maintaining weight and keeping up my performance in the gym. Although I’ve only been keeping this diet for just over a week, I can already feel its benefits in my energy and satiety levels, the number on the scale and my overall satisfaction with my diet.

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An example of my day’s food at the moment is as follows:

8am: black coffee with tbsp coconut oil

10am: 3 tbsp low-fat fromage frais with fruit and seeds

11:30am: portion of shepherdess pie (recipe to follow)

2:30pm: mackerel salad (recipe to follow)

5pm: banana pancake (banana, 2 eggs, 1/2 scoop casein)

8pm: (post-training) baked potato with tin of tuna, low-fat cream cheese and asparagus

I’ve found that having my coffee then waiting a few hours to eat to be better than getting up and eating straight away, as I’m able to do my fasted low intensity steady state (LISS) cardio (walking in the park) and work up a small appetite for my first meal, which is still only small. Low fat fromage frais has been a god-send find, as it is cheap (£1 for 500g) and boasts better macros than other low-fat yoghurts, beaten only by 0% greek yoghurt in my opinion. Perfect as a scrimper’s alternative. Having banished fruit (bar bananas) from my diet for months, it’s nice to have something sweet in my diet once more, though I do feel like a classic white-girl dieter having fruit and yoghurt for breakfast!

I’ve successfully made my way down to sub 53kg, with a few weeks to go and still eating carbs. If I continue in the same vein I’ll be comfortably into my category and still be able to maintain my strength. I attribute this weight loss (over a kilo in just over a week) to consistently walking in the morning, a clean and consistent diet, and an increase in my fluid intake.

With the added benefit of being LISS cardio, I’ve found walking in the park to be a great way to start the day, as it gives me time to enjoy the greenery, organise my thoughts and wake up a bit before I start the day. `I cannot recommend it enough to anyone that gets a bit frazzled and bogged down with their to-do list, and it’s been suggested that it can help lift your spirits too. I’ve also been working on a small personal goal, which I’m not going to divulge now (because of this TED video), but which I will hopefully be able to showcase sometime in the near future!

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As it’s getting rather hot down here in Bournemouth at the moment, I’ve needed to increase my fluid intake, which has probably also helped with my weight management. Water is such a vital part of our health, yet I was almost surprised to find it in my 200 super foods book. It’s the most absolutely essential part of our diet, but some of us still walk around unknowingly dehydrated on a daily basis. Even mild dehydration can impair both physical and mental performance, so make sure you’re getting enough water. I try and aim for at least 3 litres per day, and increase this in the warm weather.

Although I’ve reduced the amount I’ve been posting recently, this is hopefully for the better. I’m trying to make sure I post more quality rather than quantity, as even I found reading my regular training updates a little tedious. So hopefully the quality of my blog will improve and I can continue to regale you with the life of a 20 year old powerlifter without boring your socks off  🙂