Perfected fat loss takes consistency, determination and preparation. Anyone with the right mind set, will power and focus can achieve their desired outcome and will accomplish their goal if they put their mind to it!
I started writing this blog 6 weeks out from competing in my first ever bikini competition (UKDFBA – Ladies Bikini Division of which I won!) and had been strictly dieting for 6 weeks. I call my diet my prep life, as I am always prepped for the day ahead in terms of what food I will be eating, how much of it and at what times. Additional to this, I have a set workout plan that I follow daily and change up weekly to allow my body to not get used to my training – hence increased fat loss due to training intensity and stimuli. For now, I will focus purely on the diet and leave the training blog for another time, so read on to find out the truth to popular nutritional hashtags and quotes by learning the authentic bikini diet that has shaped my body like never before!
‘Abs are made in the kitchen’ – I am sure you guys have heard this time and time again, some of you may agree, others may be sceptical; but over the last 6 weeks I have come to realise that this statement is most definitely 100% true in terms of revealing and seeing your abs! Of course abdominal muscles are made stronger through exercise, core strength and weight training however you cannot see your results of hard work if you have a layer of fat over your abs. It’s great to have a good core strength and trained muscles in your mid -section but nonetheless your abs are only revealed when fat loss has occurred following a clean and strict diet.
‘If I want abs I have to stop eating carbs’ – Hell no! False! Please don’t get sucked into the no carb, ketosis, low carb cycling craze that is deemed the only way to get abs! I used to be one of those girls who was afraid of carbs, I was afraid of eating them every day (even though I craved them majorly and never listened to my body) I thought they would make me fat and I attempted the ketogenic diet. Even though I saw results on the keto diet, my body went into complete ketosis and my ketone levels were ++++ (if you aren’t familiar with the keto concept then ++++ (+4) is the highest a body can reach in terms of producing ketones). This caused damage to my kidneys and I was getting continuous kidney infections, months after months, along with the insanely annoying ‘needing to pee’ every 5 minutes problem! I had lost weight on this diet, however I felt skinny, I didn’t have much muscle tone and I was still storing fat in my lower body as well as only ever seeing my top 4 abs (A typical 4 pack) with no vascularity what so ever. I had no energy; I was tired all of the time and my body was definitely trying to tell me something. So, I began to carb cycle, I had read a lot of great reviews prior to starting and thought I would ease myself in slowly with added carbs back into my diet. Now carb cycling has its benefits especially for competitors who are very close to a show (less than 4 weeks out) and during the time I carb cycled (~10 months) I slowly grew a fear of carbs once again. I was exercising 10 times a week (I know drastic or what!) including morning and evening sessions, fasted and non-fasted and was surviving on three consecutive low carb days (less than 50g of carbs per day) followed by one high carb day (approximately 200g of carbs) and then repeating the cycle. During this time I developed an awful mental attitude to eating carbs, I binged out on my high carb day and didn’t track any of my fats on either days (on low carb days I would probably eating way above 100g of fat per day!) I despised people that ate carbs regularly and consistently, I craved for oats in the morning, each and every morning and instead fed myself a massive spoon of peanut butter each time I was hungry – you can imagine the calories I conjured up over low carb days when at least 50% of my daily intake was coming from fats! I was hitting around 2,400 calories on my high carb days and then completely regretting the loss of self-control and hating myself for binging on bad, high GI, high sugar carbs and on my preceding low carb day I would fast for longer than 16 hours and attempt to eat only 1,000 calories just to regain a sense of control and attempt to ‘undo’ the damage of the day before. I was stuck in this cycle of abusing my body by not allowing it the right nutrition and not fuelling it correctly for the day ahead and pushing it through the gruelling exercise that I did day in day out. Going through all of this and still not having lost much fat (I was a stable 20% fat at this time and looked fairly athletic) I knew I needed to make a change in order to see the changes that I desired. I hired the help of my coach – The worldwide Powerlifting Champion WNBF Pro Marina Cornwall – she assessed my diet and assisted me with my desires of achieving that ‘bikini’ stage body (~14% fat).
What did I change?
Marina set me up on a fantastic diet and changed my macros to suit my goal. My resting metabolic rate (RMR) was calculated as 1,309 calories, however I was at least 74% lean muscle (41kg was lean muscle out of my total weight of 55kg) and knew with my exercise routine and daily active job that my RMR would be slightly higher than this (around 1,700 calories). We started off with a base line of 1,600 calories per day of which increased to 1,800 calories on the days that I trained cardio (only 1 day per week for a max of 20 minutes). My macros were then split into percentages and this allowed me to allocate what foods I could eat for my calorie allowance. If you would like to know more about macros split send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
To get me into the swing of things I followed a very strict set plan consisting of only 3 types of low GI carbs, 4 types of protein sources, 2 types of protein supplements, 1 type of dairy and 1 type of healthy fats. I ate these foods and only these for 3 weeks, I was allowed one cheat meal a week (no cheat day!) and during my first week I took advantage of this cheat meal but probably a step too far (let’s say I rebounded and ate 4,500 calories within 1 sitting!). I vowed not to allow another cheat meal get so out of hand and therefore jumped straight back onto following my set plan and even though I had eaten way above my calorie intake on the day of my cheat meal I still lost weight due to such a calorie deficit over the other 6 days. I stuck to the plan for the following two weeks without a cheat meal and saw a fantastic drop in my body fat. This spurred me on to continue with the diet to achieve my overall goal and kept me motivated to see a change in my body. Day by day I noticed new aspects of my body changing, developing and shaping up to a leaner, muscular and toned physique – I loved it! Of course there were many times during these weeks were I just wanted to give into the immense cravings of pizza, chocolate, biscuits and cake (in particular I really craved iced Belgian buns – don’t ask me why!) but I knew these foods would only hinder my results and I had to stay completely determined with a strong mind set. There were days that I didn’t want to exercise, I was tired and drained from working full time teaching in a secondary school, but I kept thinking to myself stay strong and you’ll benefit and wreak the rewards by feeling ten times better post workout – with all those lovely endorphins running through my system!
As three weeks based I felt great, had noticed loads of changes and got hundreds of compliments from everyone I knew. It was a great feeling and kept me motivated for the final nine weeks until show day! At this stage I had a weigh in with my coach, I don’t like electronic machines that calculate my muscle mass, body fat percentage, bone mass, water weight and overall weight; as I find them rather off putting and depressing. However, it was still good for me to keep a check on my stats – even though a bikini competition is about aesthetics and not weight I still needed to keep an eye of my muscle mass and fat loss.
My very first weigh in at the start of my prep was the following:
I had worked my butt off for three weeks, training 6-7 times a week, following my set plan strictly and noticing a lot of differences to my stomach and arms.
My second weigh in was after 3 weeks and was the following:
Looking at my stats I actually felt rather disappointed and upset I had only lost 1kg and only 1.5% body fat. I felt like these measurements weren’t a true reflection of my bodies achievements and it made me strive harder into making a lighter weight and higher fat loss mark for my next weigh in which was in a whole months’ time. I had four weeks to knuckle down and prove, not only to my friends and people around me, but to myself that I can do this!
Towards the end of my first 3 weeks I had lowered my calories down quite drastically – probably because I knew I had my weigh in and I wanted to stupidly rush things. I was eating around 1,300-1,400 a day for about 5 days and knew this was why I had felt lethargic and lacking in any energy to train. I had lost the enjoyment of training; I hated doing my weights and wanted to just run out of the gym after 5 minutes of ‘attempting’ to exercise. This wasn’t me, I had always loved to train especially lift heavy weights but I seemed to have no energy whatsoever, I knew I had to change something as I couldn’t keep on like this.
I started to increase my calories back up to around 1,700 a day. I had been researching vastly online and in the library to see what else I could do to help me. I started to include different foods that weren’t on my set plan but actually fitted my macros perfectly. I entered the ‘flexible dieting’ stage and was now testing out the IIFYM (if it fits your macros) diet. This meant I could eat a variety of new foods as long as I had spare macros that would allowed for these foods. For example, if I had 20g of carbs and 6g of fat left over I could eat 3 x wholegrain rice cakes with 1 tablespoon of almond butter on top. This made me realise that I didn’t have to sacrifice everything in order to reach my goal; I could include things that weren’t on my plan but in moderation! If anything, this diet has taught me a huge amount of self-control when it comes to food, I no longer binge on treats I just include them into my daily allowance. I have even started to add lucky charms cereal into my weekly foods!
My third weight in was after 7 weeks and was the following:
With just 5 weeks to go until show day, my nerves had increased dramatically and I was acting like a child looking forward to Christmas (most probably because of my thoughts about the post show treats I could demolish!). I kept my training volume high and was loving the extra calories that enabled me to train to my highest potential.
The last 4 weeks were fantastic for me as I was on the summer holidays – benefits of being a teacher during the summer months! This made prep life slightly easier in some respects but in others I found that I was actually eating less than I needed to because of my lack of routine and enjoying the odd few lay ins here and there.
My coach and I started to practice posing during the days that the gym was quiet, I would attempt to strut around the studio in my high heels and bikini and focus on 4 set poses that were required for my group comparisons and stage walk. I thoroughly enjoyed this type of training until I realised how much effort is required from posing! Tensing all your muscles in a certain way for a certain period of time was actually exhausting but I knew it was a massive part of my prep and I had to nail it!
As time went by we had a weigh in 8 days out just before the start of ‘Peak Week’! My stats were:
We also did body measurements around my calf, hips, waist and back. I had lost ¼ inch on my calfs, 2 inches around my hips, 2 inches around my waist and actually put on muscle across my back with adding ½ an inch to my lats! I was extremely impressed with my progress and loved the way I felt about my body – waking up every morning not bloated or tired but with an actual six pack and feeling completely energised for the day ahead! I was entering Peak Week and boy was I excited!
Peak week consisted of less training, no leg days, no carb restriction, water loading, more calories and … wait for it … wine and marshmallows!
I started loading up on water on the Monday (with the show being on the Saturday), drinking 6-7 litres on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and peeing countless times in the middle of the night – however, because of this I woke up on Thursday tiny! My abs were popping! My body loved the water load process and rewarded me with getting rid of the horrid water retention that I was holding on to. I decreased the water down to 5 litres on Thursday and down to just 2 litres on the Friday. With a large glass of white wine the night before the show I woke up completely dehydrated and ‘dried out’ for show day! Yippee!
Saturday – The day of the show was upon me!
Stay tuned for my write up of the show, which lead to me becoming the UKDFBA USN Classic Bikini Division Champion 2015 and being the first athlete of that day to be invited to the WNBF International Championships to represent the UK in the Bikini Division on October 11th 2015!