In December 2012 I decided that I would like a new challenge. I got talking to a friend of mine who had thought about the NIFMA competition so we decided we would put in the work, enjoy the journey and the results! I have to say above all the other challenges I have taken on in my life (i.e. cycling Mizen to Malin, climbing Kilimanjaro etc..) this was by far the most mentally and physically challenging event I have undertaken – not on the day of the event – but the 3 month lead up to it. My mind had to be in constant focus, my training could never lapse and my nutritional regime had to be 100%. Without all of these working in sync, doing well in this type of a competition would not be possible.
I obtained advice from professionals who had done these competitions before. It is very important to do your research and know what is involved in a commitment as great as this. I was delighted that I had friends taking part in the same competition for the first time and we were able to confer on a weekly if not daily basis. A support network is vital as some days are very tough and you do need to have someone to bounce things off. My partner, family, friends and clients were a fantastic support (without which I feel training for this would have been near impossible!!).
Lots of people have been asking me what I ate and drank, and how I trained for this competition, so here is an insight to it all. I must state that this dietary protocol was designed for my weight, height and the level of training I was doing.
Note: This is not to be followed without proper instruction from an exercise and nutritional professional.
A day in my dietary regime: (Example medium carbohydrate day)
|➢ Breakfast – Meal 1 – (after 40 minutes of steady state cardiovascular training)
40gms gluten free porridge oats
1tsp chia seeds or ground mixed seeds
1/2 cup of blueberries
5grms super greens (spirulina, wheatgrass, barley, chlorella)
Scrambled eggs (1 organic egg & 2 egg whites) with mushrooms, onions & peppers
|➢ 3 hours later – Meal 2
1 organic chicken or turkey fillet
1 cup broccoli
150gms butternut squash (weight uncooked)
|➢ 3 hours later – Meal 3 – (pre training)
1 organic chicken fillet
200gms sweet potato (weight uncooked)
1 cup broccoli
|➢ 3 hours later Meal 4: (post training)
30gms whey protein powder mixed with water for quicker absorption
150gms Hake fillet
1 cup asparagus
|➢ 3 hours later Meal 5:
(last meal of the day – high in essential fats to help the body repair from training and to sleep)
100-150gms Salmon fillet
1 cup asparagus
1 cup green beans
|As a treat I may have one of the following, once to twice per week:
(but not final 3 weeks before the competition)
• 100gms natural probiotic yogurt with 20/40gms of nut butter in the afternoon
• One of my homemade snack bars
• Sweet potato bread with 20gms nut butter
My daily calories ranged between 1450 – 2000 and my intake of fats / carbohydrates and protein depended on the length of my work days and training regime:
Carbohydrate rotation is important – 2 days high, 2 days low and 3 days medium – you must co-ordinate these with your training regime.
For my body weight this was 150gms high / 100gms medium / 50gms low – but everybody is different.
High carb days sync these with your tough training days i.e. bigger muscle groups – legs / back
Med carb days synch with chest/ shoulders / arms
Low carb days – on your rest days – steady state cardio only
Depending on the carbohydrate day my protein ranged from 110-140gms (on the guide line of 1.7 – 1.9grams per kilo of body weight for building muscle) and my fats ranged from 35-50gms per day
A weeks Training regime:
Monday to Sunday 40 minutes of steady state cardio in the morning on an empty stomach, keeping your heart rate in your fat burning zone – mine was between 110-125BPM. You can do this in the evening but it suited me better to do it first thing. I either went for a power walk or to the gym before I started work, took my book and read on the stepper or x-trainer which I found quite therapeutic.
I did my weights 5 days a week in the afternoon.
I boxed off a slot every day and I highlighted in my diary the times for food during the day so I had it all mapped out. I slotted my clients in around my training. This is something I have kept up as I find it works very well for me.
I have included one of my week workouts (see below) – it is important to change the set, reps and exercises regularly within a programme so you are always challenging the body.
Seated row – warm up
Bent over row BB – overhand
Single arm row
Cable Lat pulldown – underhand grip
Standing rear fly
High / med / low
Walking lunges BB
BB squats w/ heels on plates
2x 15 single legs
2 x 15 double legs
2 x 15 single legs
2x 15 double legs
3x 12-15 single legs
Inc chest press
Cable chest fly
Hand release Push ups
Decline bench press
Flat bench press
3 x 12- 15
|Shoulders / Abs:
Shoulder press DB
Machine hammer press
3 x 12-15
Lateral raise DB
Cable Ab curl
3 x 20
|Arms & Calves:
BB bicep curls
DB hammer curls
3x 12 -15
3 x failure
Cable tricep over head extension
Standing Calf raises
3 x15 – 20
Seated calf raises
3 x 12- 15
Keeping an exercise and nutritional journal is vital – I call it the food, mood, bowel movement & exercise journal – you need to keep track of your progress and see what works well and doesn’t work for your body. If your bowel movements change for the worse – i.e. constipated, become too loose or are discoloured – you know there is something disagreeing with you. You need to track these to make sure your detoxification pathways are all open and you are not holding onto any toxins.
The weeks coming up to the competition are vital, you need to get as much rest and sleep as possible and really mind yourself. I had regular epsom salt baths, did dry skin brushing to help with any excess fluid retention and I also did some mindfulness meditation to relax my mind and to keep me focused.
For a competition like this they are looking for a lean, healthy even look with no muscular striations.
You need to be competition ready 2 weeks before you step on the stage! You need those 2 weeks to build confidence and to really work on your poses, routine and stage presence. I spent 30 minutes 3-4 times a week prancing around the studio (at lunch time when fewer people were in the gym.. haha!) I got some of my colleagues to video-record me so I could see what I needed to improve on before the big day.
My weight in Dec 2012 was 60kg and my Body fat was 17%. I took my time and slowly lost 6kgs (1lb per week) and 6% body fat, but I have to say if I was to do this again I would do it in the summer months as in the depths of the Irish winter you do need that extra bit of insulation – I was freezing!!
On the day of the competition I weighed in at 54kg and I was 11% body fat. Although this weight is still within my BMI range for my 5’4 height, it is not sustainable and is an unsafe body fat for females to maintain. I am currently at 58kgs and 16% body fat, which is a comfortable weight and a safe body fat for me. I said to myself from the start that I wanted to see how far I could push my body and if I saw any signs of hormonal changes i.e. Amenorrhoea (absence of menstrual period) I would pull back. I did notice that because my diet was so clean any menstrual PMS and discomfort I had before was decreased significantly.
I used some natural supplements to aid my recovery and to make sure I had enough nutrients to sustain my days. When exercising the nutrients are burned up quickly, so it is important to make sure to replace the depleted stores and assist the body with revitalization.
Note: It is important that you get a qualified practitioners advice on supplementation as you must not exceed the therapeutic dose of supplements.
➢ Super greens (spirulina, wheatgrass, barley, chlorella) – these are a good combinations of greens helping to repair cells, increasing energy & endurance, strengthen immune system and act as an antioxidant helping to detoxify the body.
➢ Multivitamin and mineral – vitamins and minerals work together in order to give you a balanced amount of all the components needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle – when exercising you use up more vitamins and minerals so it is important to replace them.
➢ Whey isolates protein – (Pulsin natural whey sugar free & gluten free) – one of the best quality proteins available from any food source due to its full spectrum amino acid profile, rapid speed at which it can be assimilated during digestion and a protein content of 90%. It helps to restoring muscle glycogen, repair and rebuild muscle helping with recovery after workouts.
➢ B – complex – to assist with energy production, for good digestion and the production of HCl (Hydrochloric acid) and to assist in the breakdown of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, to maintain a healthy nervous system, essential for correct RNA and DNA synthesis and cell reproduction.
➢ Probiotic – These help to keep and maintain good bacteria levels within the gut boosting immune response, decrease inflammation that can be caused by diet and stress or exercise.
➢ Omega 3, 6 & 9 fish oil with CoQ10 – a combination of 3 fish oils as well as CoQ10 and GLA, these act as an antioxidant to support healthy brain function and they also have and anti-inflammatory effect which is important when exercising intensely.
➢ ZMA (Zinc, Magnesium and B6) – Magnesium, and Vitamin B6 may significantly increase anabolic hormone levels and muscle strength in well-trained athletes. These combined with Zinc may also help to increase endurance, growth and restful sleep.