Contest Prep, Nutrition, Wellness

Practicing what I preach


One of the first things we bodybuilders cut out during a prep is alcohol and sometimes it sucks. I was in prep for almost two years straight and it REALLY sucked. Although I would tell myself the standard I don’t need alcohol to have a good time schpiel, I was just really in denial, but my six-pack of abs made up for that. I’ve never been a big drinker, except during my clubbing years but that ended about a decade ago. Even so, it still sucks to cut out booze.

The reason for abstaining is simple: your body processes alcohol in a similar way as it would a super decadent dessert. So two glasses of wine is like a chocolate soufflé AND a slice of cheesecake. If you’re out to dinner and have a nice meal with a couple of drinks and then some dessert, it’s the equivalent of having all of your allotted calories in day in one sitting and then some, which ultimately leads to a plateau in fat loss (or muscle gains). As a result bodybuilders typically cut it all out completely unless it’s offseason, or they swap in booze for a weekly treat meal, which is no fun when you’ve been dieting down and can’t stop thinking about stuffing your face with a bucket of greasy French fries. I’d rather take the food over the drink any day. And so for the longest time, alcohol was a no-go for me and even going drinks with friends was usually my ordering a club soda with a lime wedge.

Last weekend though, I made the exception as a bit of an experiment to see what would happen when I drink during a contest prep. Granted I am still 5 months out, so regardless it’s no big deal. I wanted to see whether or not it actually is possible to keep it balanced and not wake up crazy bloated the next day. You see, I always advocate (as many fitness coaches do) this type of balance for my clients around the holidays or special occasions, when we know there will be good food, good drinks and you’ll definitely want to partake without feeling restricted. So I wanted to practice what I preach to see if it is possible without going overboard, and brother in-law’s 40th birthday bash would be the perfect excuse.

The day started out as a typical Saturday, where I got up at noon, fed my bunnies (pictured below) and sat down to a nice breakfast with a giant mug of coffee and a hilarious book that I could not get enough of. Nutrition-wise I’m pretty much doing macro counting as per my coach’s suggestion, so I made sure that each meal is a solid mix of complex carbs, healthy fats, and lean protein with lots of fiber. I hit the gym in the late afternoon for some serious lifting; back and biceps, which was surprisingly intense despite my ability to only curl a 25lbs barbell for 15 reps at 4 sets. I drank a ton of water all day so I was super hydrated and had another balanced meal before heading out.

ED80AD06-5900-45CD-861A-3FB2FA581EDF  image

Bunnies!                                                              Breakfast (yum!)

I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect from this party as I was the youngest there and the only single one in-house. Plus the guest list consisted of couples with young kids who are oh so excited to have a night out without their tornado of toddlers around. Basically I was concerned that I wouldn’t fit in, even though I had already known everyone quite well for many years. What can I say except that I am a super shy introvert with some pretty intense social anxiety; but that’s a story for another day.

I had a rockin time! Seriously, this was the most fun I’ve had in a while and I haven’t partied it up in years, so this was a welcomed change of pace. The great news was that I didn’t overdo it and go on a bender or binge eat the available and yummy junk food, so much to my delight I woke up feeling pretty great the next day. I realized that the strategies of balance really do work here. I had about two drinks (vodka soda, my fave) plus one shot of coconut rum which warmed my tummy up real nice. I only ate about a handful of chips and that was it. About an hour before I headed home I started chugging water like a beast. I think I had about a litre and a half, so I sobered up pretty fast. I got home around 2am, fed my bunnies a late night snack and prepped one for myself too, albeit a totally unbalanced one which consisted of toasted white crusty bread with tons vegan margarine follow by a few bites of chocolate cake and more water. Just to be clear, this snack was for me, not my bunnies; they had wheatgrass. I binged watched a few episodes of The Real Housewives before heading to bed around 5am…although my bunnies were still going strong and hopping around, take about party animals! (see what I did there J)

When I rolled out of bed a few hours later I was thrilled to see that there was no bloating (or hangover!) and that my abs were still intact and very visible (see below). My body responded well to this strategy and it managed to use the extra glycogen towards filling out my muscles nicely and giving me a great post-workout pump when I hit the gym the next day. A real win indeed.


The moral of the story is that you can have fun AND partake without restricting yourself or doing the opposite and getting excessive. Balance really does work. So the next time you find yourself worried about an upcoming night out, don’t panic and instead try these tried and true strategies on for size:

  1. Eat lots of hearty and healthy food throughout the day
  2. Drink tons of water
  3. Get in a serious gym sesh with lots of heavy lifting
  4. Eat before you leave home
  5. Drink lots of water when you’re done with the booze
  6. Eat a little something greasy before you go to bed
  7. Hit the gym the next day and put that extra glycogen to good use

There you have it. Take it from someone who has spent the last two years being super rigid about diet and exercise and contest prep, this shit works. I’m finally starting to see that you can be a bodybuilder, look awesome while still having a life and an awesome time at that.

Contest Prep, Wellness

I’m not as healthy as you think


I had a bit of an epiphany a few days ago. I was speaking with a friend about my New Year’s resolution to get more sleep, and I mentioned that I have been doing the exact opposite. I’m not sure if it’s just resistance on my part or something else entirely, but the bottom line is that I’m actually getting less sleep now than I was last year. As we continued chatting it suddenly hit me…the reason why I’m sleep deprived is because I like it. It sounds twisted (and it probably is), but this whole lack of sleep thing puts me under a bit of extra pressure, and like some, I thrive under pressure. What’s more is that I like the feeling of being under pressure.

It’s pretty common for athletes to burn the candle at both ends, and with an extreme sport like bodybuilding it’s 24/7. The goal with competing is to be the best you can and bring your best to the stage each time and what you put your body through is not even slightly close to the norm. We get up at sunrise for fasted cardio, spent at least an hour and a half weight training each day, eat like we have OCD, drink crazy amounts of water, take massive amounts supplements, cut ourselves off from the outside world for weeks on end, all to be on stage for a few minutes, covered in spraytan and glaze with only a few inches of material covering us up. We are extreme athletes with extreme lifestyles and the truth is you can’t be a “normal person” with this kind of lifestyle.

Bodybuilding puts you into a thrilling (and slightly punishing) state of mind where you’re always pushing more, lifting more and seeing just how far you can take it. In my case, what I’ve noticed is that I love the way it feels to be tired, going to the gym, lifting super heavy and beating my previous week’s PRs. There’s nothing like being exhausted but crushing it anyway. It makes it that much more awesome when I pick up that barbell and knock out some deadlifts like it’s nobody’s business and then up the ante on my next set by adding an extra plate or two. Like I said, it’s a little twisted.

I know this is unhealthy, but bodybuilding in general is pretty unhealthy. There is nothing healthy about dehydrating yourself for several days, or dieting down for months at a time or exercising for 2-3 hours every day, but that’s the nature of the sport and being on stage is pretty addictive. Most people will stop after one show, but for those who stay the course, like me, you get the stage bug and can never seem to shake it. This is what leads to the extreme and the constant need to push yourself further each day.

As I sit hear writing this now, it’s about 1am and my alarm will be going off at 7:30 so I can head out to my day job and then of course hit the gym. This pattern and ritual that have created is probably not one that I can maintain in the long run and it’ll most likely lead me straight to a burn out. But even with all of this logic and awareness, I still consciously choose to keep going. Maybe it’s some weird way of my trying to rebel after spending my life being on the straight and narrow, or maybe it’s about my wanting to be in control of letting myself be a little out of control, or maybe, just maybe I’ve become a glutton for punishment. Again, pretty twisted.

I know how this all started too and what’s triggered this for me. This is the first time in my life that I’m fully on my own. I met my ex-husband when I as 18 and I went straight from my parent’s house to moving in with him years later. I always had some accountability to go to bed at a decent time (although that did change for a few years in my early twenties when I was living it up, going out all the time while still living at home). Overall though, I stuck to a schedule with school and work, and I never really had any kind of big rebellious phase. So maybe this is some kind of early mid-life crisis, and a fairly tame one at that J. This is still a whole new experience for me in that I can hit gym at midnight if I want (and sometimes I do!) or go out and do whatever I want whenever I want. I’m assuming some shrink would probably think that this is a kind of coping mechanism that has to do with partial avoidance (an issue that I’ve been dealing with my entire life), but now it’s only magnified by all of the massive life changes and shitstorm that I’ve gone through over the past two years.

On the bright side, I am fully aware of what I’m doing and that it’s not good, so I think that’s the first step in my being able to work through it and get back into a healthier space. What this is making me realize is just how hard it is to break unhealthy habits. We get real comfortable, real fast with these rituals of ours and it sometimes seems impossible to let them go. The way I see it is that eventually I’ll get my shit together and start getting some real sleep again, but for tonight I think I’ll put on Netflix and watch a little Gilmore Girls instead.


Contest Prep

What I wish I had known about competing


I love competitive bodybuilding. Everything from the training and meal prep to the custom made posing suit and yes, I even enjoy to pre-show skin prep. Taking the decision to compete is a big deal and a big commitment. Even though I had done plenty of research, there were still many surprises things that came my way. So here is my top ten list of things I wish I had known about bodybuilding before my first show.

  1. You have far less muscle than you actually think. Most of us who work out regularly are under the impression that we’re in great shape and have a decent amount of muscle. The reality is that it’s not as much as you think. When you diet down are get your bodyfat real low, then you’ll really know how much (or how little) muscle you actually have, and it’s always a bit of a surprise. I’m not gonna lie, I looked pretty puny the first time around.
  2. Posing is super hard. I’ve written about this many times before, but I can’t stress this point enough. Posing is super technical and it doesn’t come naturally to most unless you have a background in performance arts. It takes countless hours of practice to get it right and for it to look natural. It’s a lot of slow and controlled movements that require some serious physical stamina and strength. I practice for countless hours, took multiple group posing classes and even worked with a posing 1 on 1 just to get it right. Even after 3 shows, posing is still my biggest struggle and it’s what needs the most work.
  3. Show Day is really long. The day seems to go on forever. It’s a lot of hurry up and wait. You rush to get to the venue in the morning for hair and makeup, and then rush to get back stage and then wait. Then you rush to get your spraytan retouched and glazes put on and then rush again to pump and get on stage. You’re on stage for all of 5 minutes, and then you’re done. Hours go by and then it’s the same exact thing for finals. The day is full of buildup and then quiet time and then you’re on stage, and then it’s all over. As exciting as it is to be immersed in a show, sometimes I just can’t wait for the day to be done.
  4. If you can, get a room at the hosting hotel. Like I said, show day is really long so having a room where you can get some downtime in between prejudging and finals is great. If there are any last minute changes or anything urgent that comes up on show day, you’re already there. You don’t have to worry about the logistics or traffic; you’re already on sight so it takes some stress off of you.
  5. Start your water manipulation early. You have to dehydrate yourself before a show, otherwise your hard earned muscle definition won’t show on stage. In order for this to happen safely and effectively, you need to start tweaking your hydration early on. That means training with a neoprene wrap in the months leading up to a show (this wrap makes you sweat more during a workout). Consider sitting in a sauna once a week and drinking dandelion root tea each night. Water-wise what you’ll want to do is gradually increase your intake every few weeks and in the last month you want to be taking in about 6 litres per day. During peak week, if you can drink even more. Then about 2 days out you’ll start dehydrating by cutting your intake in half on the first day, and then dropping it even further the next. On show day you won’t be drinking anything. Yes, it sounds intense and it is, but the dry-mouth isn’t nearly as horrible as others made it out to be. Diuretics are almost always a must, but be careful and opt for something natural like dandelion root which you can take in the weeks leading up to a show without it having any negative side effects on your health. I’ve seen a lot of people backstage practically keeling over from the dehydration because they waited too long and had to take the harsh chemical diuretics that made them sick, so make sure you do this right way.
  6. Low-carb doesn’t work for me. Carbs were super low by the end of my first prep and I came out looking pretty flat on stage. By my third show though, my coach and I had learned what worked best and so we kept the carbs fairly high throughout but dropped the fat intake instead. Not only was my prep a total breeze and free of cravings, but I had never looked better on show day. This may not be the case for everybody though. Other ladies have told me that they go higher on the fat intake instead and still eat lots of nuts and coconut oil right up until the end. So the moral of this story is that what works for one person, may not work for you.
  7. Vivid stress dreams are totally normal. I always have the most vivid stressful dreams about everything going wrong on show day. This has happened to me at the start of every prep. I remember these dreams so clearly even now; I’m running late, I forgot to carb-load and dehydrate, I missed my spraytan appointment, etc. These dreams seem so real that when I wake up, it seriously feels like it actually happened. Apparently this is completely normal and most athletes experience this. So just FYI in case you’re planning on competing.
  8. Be prepared on show day. Have all of your meals prepped and packed, bring some resistance bands or light dumbbells to pump up backstage and have a few backup snacks just in case. But most importantly: as soon as you get to the venue and get to the backstage/athletes area go straight to the spraytan area to find out when they’ll be doing the retouch for your category and putting on your glaze. Also keep an eye on how quickly the show is going and the order of the categories so you don’t miss your call time. I almost missed mine for my first show and having to rush right before stepping onstage was awful. I was so stressed and completely freaked out. I learned my lesson and now as soon as I arrive on sight I go straight to the spraytan area and stay close by just to be safe.
  9. I always lose my appetite immediately after a show. I’m sure you’ve seen people talk about their victory meals or post-show binge fests and although I always plan for some kind of decadent meal, my appetite always tanks. I just don’t want to eat. I can’t explain it, maybe it’s the post-contest blues, but I just don’t feel like eating a victory meal afterward. I still do it anyway, but it’s not as awesome as I thought it would be. I never binge eat because that would just make me horribly sick, but I do have a big meal just cause it’s what you do. I am thinking that for nationals though, I might just forgo it altogether if I’m not feeling it. Why eat something that I don’t even want in the first place?
  10. You get the strangest feeling when it’s all over. The post-contest blues are no joke. For me it starts as soon as I step off step and slip into my sweatpants and start chugging water to rehydrate myself. It gets eerily quiet backstage towards the end. What was once a backstage full of people, commotion and energy becomes this empty space with a few stragglers. The when you get home it’s even more apparent. The silence is almost excessive. When you go from months of build up for one day and then you spend that day surrounded by people with all of this attention on you, coming home to an empty condo is a little overwhelming. The rest and break that you get to take is nice, but it’s also a big period of adjustment in that you’ll suddenly find yourself with plenty of free time.

So there you have it, my list of things I wish I had known before my first competition. I still find myself getting new surprises and takeaways with every show since. Overall though, competitive bodybuilding is the best and it brings me so much joy. If you are looking to step onstage, then I hope you find this helpful and if ever you are looking for a coach, I’m always here.

For information on my coaching services, click here

Contest Prep, Wellness

Peak Week Pain Points


Once again I have made it to Peak Week. It is the culmination of the entire contest prep process; from mass gaining all the way through to fat loss/cutting, this is the week where one’s physique is in it’s prime condition. This is the most exciting week of the entire experience, but it also tends to be the toughest too. After weeks and months of training, some may run out of steam right at the end because they went too hard for too long, while others breeze through with a big smile on their face. Either way, this final week of prep involves lots of adjustments and commitments, both big and small.

For me, this marks my third peak week leading to the biggest competition to date: Provincial Championships, where the top 5 in each height class move on to Nationals with a chance to earn their coveted IFBB Pro Card. Many of my fellow competitors will involve ladies who have been training and competing for many years, who qualified well over a year ago and/or have had a long time dedicated to their prep. In my case, I qualified only 6 weeks earlier at the Provincial Open placing 4th in my height class. On the plus side, seeing that I was already in peak condition at 6 weeks out meant that I wouldn’t have too much work ahead of me in terms of dieting down or trying to pack on extra mass. Ultimately this short prep was different from my first two in that I was able to maintain my physique while having shorter workouts and enjoying a higher amount of carbohydrates and still seeing great results each week.

Then there came the “problems” or “challenges”. At 3 weeks out I started a new full time job (yay!). Unfortunately my office is far from home and the gym, giving me a pretty sizeable commute each day (2 hours total). This also meant that fasted cardio would be a big challenge. Instead of getting up at my leisure each morning and taking my time before heading out for a run, I now have to get up SUPER early (usually as the sun is rising) and head out the door about 20 minutes after crawling out of bed. Even with my pre-workout supps, I still feel tired and I am definitely running at a much slower pace than usual. Then I rush back home for a couple minutes of stretching, get ready for work and run out to catch the bus. After a full work day, it’s back on public transport to the gym for some serious weightlifting. By the I get home I’ve had about a 14 hour day including my workouts and transport. Needless to say, I’m wiped! The first week was intense because that was the biggest adjustment, especially with sleep. Truth be told, my solution was to just drink more coffee, which helped in the short term, but by the end of the week I started feeling the negative side effects. Too much caffeine can cause insomnia and irritability, all of which I experienced a few days into the week. Not only was I having a bit of information overload, but I was also getting way too much stimulation without any quiet downtime that I so craved. So that first weekend, I completely cut out caffeine and switched to some soothing chamomile tea instead and took some time out to listen to a few podcasts on wellness and do some quiet meditation. At 2 weeks out, I kept the caffeine intake reasonable and only having coffee pre-workout even if I started yawning midday; I definitely felt better. I started to get into a groove with my new routine, started running at my usual pace and got my energy levels back up. I also started to appreciate the early morning jogs; there’s hardly anyone out, the sun is shining and my route goes through this beautiful bike path with lots of greenery and trees. A definite positive shift in energy by week two.

Here comes the really hard part. For peak week, I’m traveling. I’ll be spending the week at a hot and sunny spot, which sounds all nice and good, but the timing is a huge problem. First of all, my flights are super early in the morning so I’ll be getting up well before the sunrise. Secondly, a plant-based contest prep diet is hard to manage while flying, options are limited so I have to be super prepared and since I’m flying international there’s no way for me to prep meals in advance. The best I can do is bring along individual packs of protein powder with some brown rice cakes, and pick up some kind of veg at the airport. Now I can’t just have any kind of salad because these always have added fats, marinades and sugars, so I’ll have to settle for the non-starchy dressing on the side type of foods. The key here is to write down everything that I eat to keep track of macros throughout the day so that I’m not missing any nutrients. Another factor is water intake. Air travel causes dehydration and bloating, which isn’t a big deal for the departure, but coming back home is a major concern (I’ll get to that shortly). Thankfully I’ll be staying in a spot with a full kitchen ad access to groceries, so sticking with my nutrition is no problem. There’s also a gym nearby, so workouts can easily be done.

You may be thinking “well, at least you’ll get to soak up some sun on the beach”…NOPE! In the 3 weeks leading up to any competition you have to avoid the sun. That’s right, I’m going to the beach but have to completely avoid all contact with the sunshine at all times. Why? Because in the sun we tan, and tan-lines cannot be covered by the spraytan on showday. No matter how hard the spraytan company may try, any difference in skin tone or color cannot be covered and evened out by the spray and I’m sure you’ll remember that my posing suit is not like a regular bikini; it’s a lot smaller and sits on the body far differently than what you see on the beach. God help you if you get sunburnt because you won’t be able to compete at all; any kind of skin irritation or redness will only be accentuated by the spraytan. So I’ll be walking around in massive heat, completely covered from head to toe with a big giant hat at all times, even if I go into the ocean. Oh, and did I mention that three days into the trip I have to stop wearing deodorant? The chemicals in deodorant turn the spraytan green and nobody wants to see moldy looking armpits.

The flight home is a whole other animal altogether. Once again, I leave early in the morning, but it also happens to fall on the day that I start my carb load and water manipulation. I’m going to be running the risk of bloating due to air travel (a big no-no). Plus in a carb load we cut all vegetables and fats, so I’ll be pretty limited to what I can eat. Again, writing everything that I eat and drink down will be the key to staying on track. Worse case scenario it’ll all protein powder and rice cakes until I get home and then I’ll eat the standard tempeh, sweet potatoes and white rice. When I do finally make it home I have to do a full workout and pre-contest beauty prep (hair stuff, mani-pedi, etc.) and pack for the contest weekend. Busy, busy.

Now this show is different in that registration for my class which usually takes place 1 day out at around 1pm is now going to be at 10:30 am, and it’s not close to home. So once again, I’ll have to get up super early for a light workout, skin prep and probably get stuck in traffic on my way there. Thankfully I will be staying at the host hotel so I’ll be able to drop my stuff and have a few hours to kill before the athlete’s meeting and my spraytan. I will be taking the opportunity to go to the hair salon and enjoy a little bit of pampering and then hopefully have enough time for an afternoon nap in my room.

The game plan for showday is nothing different (hair, makeup in the morning followed by pre-judging), but…finals is way later in the night. Usually finals would start around 1pm, this time though it starts at 6pm, so there will be at least a 5 hour gap in between. So I caved and reserved my hotel room for an extra night (since check out is at 3pm)  that way I can take a nap in between, which I’m sure I’ll need and I can stay over night if the show finishes late, which for sure it will. Finals usually lasts about 4 hours, so we won’t be out of there before 10pm. It’s an added expense, but a necessary one.

It’s gonna be an exhausting week and if you haven’t already figured out by now, I’m felling fairly stressed out over this. Stressed over the travels, stressed over the timing and planning, and stressed over how tired I know I will feel throughout the entire week. I am, however, trying to focus on the bright side. If while away I feel tired, I will sleep and if I feel overwhelmed or overstimulated, I’ll take some quiet time away from everyone to get centered again. This may not the ideal time to travel, but I know I’ll still enjoy myself even if I’m not the norm and am pretty unconventional. This trip will still give me the chance to spend some quality time with my family, maybe take an evening stroll on the beach with my husband and hopefully move at a slower pace than usual. It’ll give me the chance to slow down and get some relaxation time in while connecting with loved ones Like everything else, the key to success is to work around what you already have in place and tailor your approach to that. In my case, maintaining a positive mindset throughout, by focusing on gratitude and the progress of this particular journey to the stage, is what will ultimately allow this to remain a positive learning and growing experience.

Start Strong, Finish Strong


Contest Prep, Nutrition

Dirty Cheat vs Refeed

There are two common ways that one can “cheat” on their diet without throwing all their progress out the window. You can either do what’s called a Dirty Cheat or a Refeed meal. Both have their benefits and both equally have the potential for drawbacks too. Ultimately the choice is yours, but it’s I important to have a solid understanding of the reasoning behind these options.

The Dirty Cheat or cheat meal are what most people (including non-fitness enthusiasts) are fairly familiar with. The idea here is to eat a meal that’s more decadent than usual, but in the hopes of it staying balanced in terms of macros (protein, carbs and fat). In reality though, many who go for this type of cheat meal go all out and opt for fast food, deserts, junk food snacks or any combination of these into one massive meal. The good thing about a scheduled and well-timed cheat meal is that it can help you hormone-wise, especially if you’re trying to lose weight or diet-down. When calories are restricted and your bodyfat drops the hormone Leptin (which signals satiety or the feeling of fullness) can decrease while the hormone Ghrelin (which signals that you’re hungry) increases. What this means is that your brain isn’t going to let you feel full and your hunger is going to feel way more intense that it actually is. That’s why it’s so difficult for people to lose weight and keep it off; at a certain point the your body and it’s hormones are going to fight you as hard as possible to keep you hungry and reaching for food all the time. This is where the Dirty Cheat can come in handy. It has been proven time and again that a weekly cheat meal will help to raise Leptin levels and drop Ghrelin levels in the days following that big decadent meal. On the flip side, this style of eating can lead to some pretty nasty side effects. Many cheat items are unbalanced and tend to be super high fat and high carb (for example deserts or pasta with cream sauce or french fries) or super high fat and high-ish protein (for example chicken fried steak or baby-back ribs). It’s also very easy to go overboard on the portion size and overeat to the point where you are overly stuffed and may even feel sick. All of this can lead to some serious indigestion, discomfort and bloating not to mention weight gain. When you are losing weight, your metabolism becomes very sensitive and a massive meal or entire day of overeating can cause a big rebound in a short amount of time leading you to pack on body fat once again. What’s more is that if you have ever struggled with self-control around food, this may not be the best option for you as it could lead to a binge. When it comes to the Dirty Cheat, know yourself and your triggers before you indulge.

The Refeed or carb-load is an entirely different concept. Essentially you eat one meal that is super high carb, minimal fat and moderate protein. This option is great for those with a low body fat percentage, which is why this is the preferred method for bodybuilders. Those with a lower body fat  can refeed more than the average sedentary person would, i.e. they can go for a much higher carb and sizeable portion than the latter. The body can respond very well to this method of cheating, especially if you’ve been going low carb or working towards fat loss for a while.  When you carb-load your body takes in extra glycogen which promotes muscle protein synthesis (or muscle growth) and ultimately helps to bring your hormones back to an optimum level. This is why so many athletes who practice refeeds always have their best workouts the day after this meal. Their bodies and muscles are holding extra fuel so they end up pushing harder at the gym and getting a great post-workout pump. Ideally, you want to aim for the refeed to provide an extra 20-50% of extra calories than you typically take in. Bare in mind though that it depends on your body fat and how advanced you are in your training. The down side to this is that you have to be careful to what you choose to eat and ensure that fat is kept to a minimum, in fact don’t add any fat to this meal if you can help it and try to avoid eating this close to bedtime.

For many bodybuilders pre-contest carb-load is essential in the days leading up to a show. I personally take 2 days to load up on carbs before hitting the stage, but it’s always very easy to digest sources like white rice, cream of rice and sweet potatoes. The reason why we go for these types of carbohydrates is that during this time we’re also cutting and manipulating water in order to dehydrate and if you go high carb without enough water it can make you very sick. It’s best to avoid flour based refined starches as they are harder to digest and just sit heavily in your belly when you eat them without sufficient water. So forgo the pasta and breads.

I have seen bodybuilders go for the Dirty Cheat pre-contest instead of the carb-load, but it can backfire if you’re not careful. Again, you’re dehydrated so if you eat a big fatty, sugary meal without enough water it’ll cause serious bloating pre-contest which is a no-no. So a lot of athletes end having to take a harsh laxative to make sure it gets out of their system before they hit the stage. Ultimately you run the risk of going to an extreme here…proceed with caution. At each show I’ve seen people backstage eating chips, chocolate bars or pastries right before prejudging and going out for a Dirty Cheat meal before finals. I personally am sitting there with my white rice and tempeh or sweet potatoes and brown rice protein powder and I only take in sugar right before I hit the stage in the form of white rice and maple syrup (and it’s a tablespoon at that). I don’t want to risk anything at that point and bloat or feel uncomfortable while trying to pose.

This may all seem a bit intense to figure out what works best for you as there really is a science behind all of this. I was always doing a traditional weekly treat meal, but now especially with my training being more advanced and getting closer to show day I switch to weekly refeeds. My body responds very well to this and  get to enjoy some really nice food while refueling my body at the same time. Some weeks I’ll go for salty and have whole grain pasta with a homemade tomato sauce (no oil!) or I’ll go for sweet instead and have homemade donuts made from oatbran, banana and maple syrup. Last week I really treated myself to something awesome where I had cereal treats from a brown rice cocoa breakfast cereal with vegan marshmallows (made from cassava instead of gelatin). It was sooooo good. The carbs hit me fast and I felt like jogging for about an hour after I had eaten, but my workout the next day was awesome. Thanks to my replenished glycogen I hit some new PRs and crushed it at the gym!

Give both cheat options a try and see how your body feels after and how well it impacts your progress. Keep in mind that these meals are meant to help you physically, recharge your batteries and reset your metabolism. This can be invaluable to anyone regardless of their goals, so try to fit one meal like this into your week. Enjoy it, savour it and use those extra calories to your benefit.

Start Strong, Finish Strong


Contest Prep, Nutrition

Carb Loading & Dehydration


After 16 weeks of training and consistent nutrition, I am now only 3 days away from competing. All that work and effort comes down to the final few days. The last stage of prep involves carb loading, water manipulation and final beauty prep (the fun-ish part).

Let’s start with carb loading. To non-competitors, eating a high amount of carbohydrates pre-contest may seem counterintuitive, but when done correctly, this method of eating can greatly impact one’s physique in the best way. When I say carbs, I don’t mean things like bread or deserts as these tend to be hard on the digestive track and will cause bloating especially at this point in prep. What I really mean is the fast and easy to digest stuff such as white rice and sweet potatoes combined with easy to digest protein sources such as rice protein powder and tempeh, without any added fats. The reason why we carb load pre-contest is to replenish glycogen stores which ultimately allow your muscles to have a full appearance while staying shredded and lean without any bloat. Here’s the science behind it… Carbs and water bind together and the muscles act like a sponge that soak up all the carbs and water together which end up giving that nice and full look with lots of definition.

The second part of this process involves water manipulation and is just as important as carb loading. In the weeks leading up to the show you gradually increase water intake until you reach at least 6 litres per day and then come peak week you drink as much water as humanly possible. This allows your body to flush out everything and become super efficient at shedding any potential excess water. then in the days leading up to the show, you slowly taper off the water. In my case, I cut my water intake in half 2 days prior, then 1 day out I go for 2 litres before 1pm and then drink smaller increments of water every couple of hours until we cut it completely save for 1 oz at each meal. Show day is 1 oz at each meal and that’s it. Why? Dehydration makes everything tighten up and shows off all the definition in the muscles. the dryer you are, the better you look.

As for the beauty part, well that’s something nice but also a bit time consuming. In the weeks leading up to the show you have to start the skin prep process to help the spray tan come out as nice as possible. This means daily exfoliation, moisturizing twice a day (unscented of course) and stop deodorant usage 3 days as it makes the spray tan come out green. Then there’s the mani-pedi; I do it myself to save a few bucks and stick with a neutral color with a little bit of sparkles so that it doesn’t clash with my suit. I also make sure to cleanse my face daily and do 2 full at-home facials during peak week so that my skin is ready to go and the makeup will better “take” and last on my face.

Going back to the spray tan, it’s super important to go dark because under the bright stage lights, without the tan you look completely washed out and you won’t see any definition. And yes, it is the industry standard and every athlete does it. Up close you look brown, but on stage you’re fabulous.

Some people say that the dehydration process is the worst of the entire contest prep, but I have to disagree; getting my legs waxed last week was pure torture. That being said, being really thirsty sucks, but on show you’re so busy that you don’t even notice.

So that’s all that is left of my prep. A few more days of solid posing practice and I’ll be ready to go. I feel as though my physique has changed in such a positive way and that I really will be presenting my best. Three days out and then go time!

Start Strong, Finish Strong

Contest Prep, Nutrition, Recipes

The Final Cut


Fat loss and dieting down can be a huge challenge for anybody. With only 9 days left until show day, I am down to the wire and getting to the last phase of losing whatever last bit of body fat I can before I hit the stage. Here I’ll share what a full day of meals looks like for me and a few last minute tricks that help my body get lean while staying strong.

Meal 1

My first meal of the day also serves as my post-fasted cardio meal and it’s high protein, low carb with a little bit of added fat.

What you see above is 3 oz of tempeh, 1 cup baby spinach with 1 TB of coconut oil, plus 1 scoop of brown rice protein powder. Tempeh (fermented soy beans) serves as a great source of protein as it contains probiotics and fiber. The brown rice powder is also ideal as it’s easy to digest and has the same amino acid profile as a whole egg. I choose spinach as my veggie for this meal as it contains lots of fiber and iron (*I always drizzle some lemon juice with this to increase my body’s ability to absorb the iron). Coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides which are (again) easy to digest, go directly to the liver and are ultimately used by the body as fuel instead of being stored as body fat.

Meal 2


This meal is composed of 4 oz of extra firm tofu and 1 cup of veg. In this case I opt for mixed greens drizzled with lemon juice and top the sautéed tofu with yellow mustard for added flavour.

Meal 3

This serves as my pre-weight training meal and is 1 of 2 meals that I am able to lightly salt and have a small serving of starch. For this one I take in another scoop of brown rice protein, 2 oz of steamed sweet potato and 1 cup of the dreaded steamed asparagus. The tiny amount of added carbs for this meal is an absolute must for me to be able to crush my workout every day and the asparagus is a great natural diuretic that serves as a staple for every bodybuilder. I usually will combine the powder with mashed sweet potato and cinnamon to create a sweet tasting protein pudding mix that goes nicely with my pre-workout strong-ass cup of coffee; for an added boost.

Meal 4

My post-workout meal contains yet another cup of the dreaded asparagus, lightly salted, along with another 2 oz of sweet potato and 4 oz of tofu. I’ve become very creative with this meal in particular as I started to notice that I was always wanting something sweet post-workout. So I blend the tofu and sweet potato together and add a bit of stevia, cinnamon and water to create a my contest prep friendly cheesecake. It may sound odd but it’s amazing. It satisfies my sweet tooth, keeps cravings to a minimum, while allowing me to maximize my recovery with solid nutrition.

Meal 5

I don’t really enjoy this meal to be honest. No matter how I try to tinker with the flavor profile or method of cooking, it’s just boring and pretty bland to be honest. I eat 4 oz of tempeh with 2 cups of veg; usually either spinach or mixed greens. I season with lemon juice (also a diuretic) and hot sauce (great for fat burning and jacking up the metabolism as it contains capsaicin). Like I said though, it’s not that great but at least it’s filling.

Meal 6

This one I love! I take one scoop of a plant based blend of protein powder with another scoop of brown rice powder and combine with water to create a pudding. Then I add 1 tsp of melted coconut oil and stir to combine. It’s soooooo good. I love it so much. There’s something really wonderful about sitting in my jammies in front of the tv before bed, watching a sitcom while eating a creamy and sweet late night snack. The protein combined with the coconut oil makes for a slow digesting meal that is ideal for my body to digest overnight while getting a good night’s sleep.

So that’s that. Six meals each day, spaced every 2-3 hours apart to deliver constant fuel and nourishment. In terms of my water consumption, thankfully I’m only having 4 litres a day, as opposed to the 6 litres I was having in my last prep. My supplements haven’t changed except that I’ve added a fat burner in the last few weeks to help ease my body into continuous fat loss, but as I’ve mentioned before, it’s short term use only. You may have also noticed that I’ve cut out the cruciferous veg at this point and it’s for a good reason. Things like brocoli, kale, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts tend to cause bloating, so instead I stick with the non-bloaty stuff like mixed greens, spinach and stupid asparagus.

After 4 months of prep and training, I’m down to the last 9 days. I’m so excited to get back on stage again! Next up is peak week which means lots of posing practice, water manipulation and carb-loading. Some find peak week to be the toughest part, but I see it as the final chapter before the fun part.

Start Strong, Finish Strong