Saturday, April 27, 2013

9 weeks out

Height: 5'10". Current Weight: 133.0 lbs. We are 9 weeks out from NPC Bikini-San Jose Fit Expo. 6 solid weeks into cutting. We're down to single digits, y'all!

Today's Topic: Supplements and Gear (powerlifting and pharmaceuticals).
A lot of people ask what kinds of supplements I take. When I began my journey I simply bought some whey protein and drank a protein shake after working out or made myself some protein pancakes--they were generally pretty dry and gross haha. I'm a big fan of anything from Optimum Nutrition because I can generally find it on sale and I really like the flavors they offer. It's a respectable brand and I'm cool with it. I really like Protizyme's Peanutbutter Cookie but it is SO ridiculously expensive that I refuse to buy it anymore. I also take Creatine. I have since January and while I'm not sure as to the ways its helped me OVERTLY, I do notice that I'm more rested in between workouts and sore for lesser periods of time. I was also able to build a fair amount of muscle (which is now really starting to show as I'm in the midst of this cut) when my creatine level was at about 5 grams a day. I take Fish Oil at meal time and a minimal amount of BCAAS in the morning before I workout. I workout fasted except for a pre-workout called Serum by Magnum Nutraceuticals. This particular pre-workout REALLY gets me going and I don't crash after, which I love. The final supplement in my arsenal is a fat burner--which I'm not going to disclose the name of because you won't be able to find it. My coach works for a supplement company and was able to put me on a low dosage of this (VERY MUCH LEGAL) thermogenic and I think it's done WONDERS for my fat loss.

In terms of gear I use when I lift--chalk. That's it. No suits, no knee wraps, not even a belt--YET. My very first (hot pink!) powerlifting belt should be coming to me from Inzer in the next week. I'm THINKING about competing in the deadlift at a mini-meet at my University on May 9th. Hopefully this belt will get me tight enough to hit a 250+ deadlift (if not for the competition, then in training before my show). In terms of pharmaceutical gear aka steroids--I'm completely natural. You may be reading this thinking: "Well, duh, why would you take steroids or any illegal thermogenic if you're competing in bikini?" You may be surprised to know that the VAST majority of pro bikini competitors have cycled on some kind of gear--be it HGH to cut, or Anavar to build muscle in the off-season. Unfortunately, this is just the way the sport of bodybuilding goes. I don't have a problem with people who take steroids--like in powerlifting when individuals use deadlift and squat suits or bench shirts, you have to use any advantage you get to really put yourself in the best position to win. Bodybuilding inherently involves steroid usage, and while I think I'm VERY far away from ever needing to take some kind of substance, I don't think they should have as big of a stigma on them as they currently do. Bodybuilders--even those who CLAIM to be natural--most likely juice, and that's okay in my mind. As long as you're using proper dosage, and doing proper PCT (post-cycle therapy) I think you're just one of thousands doing the same.

Feeling: Yesterday I had 2-3 ounces of Pecan Praline Frozen Yogurt from Yogurtland! It was the first time I've had something "not quite clean" in FOREVER. It was 20 cal an ounce, 0 Fat, 4g carbs, and 1g protein. If it fits your macros! Anyway, the dairy definitely bloated me up a bit, but that's okay. I deserved a tiny cheat. And anyway-I hit 133 exactly on the scale today so I don't mind. Feeling good otherwise. Still increasing my lift numbers (hit 195 x 3 with proper form yesterday in Deadlifts). Staying positive, very happy with how things are going right now.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

9.5 weeks out

Height: 5'10". Current Weight: 134.0 lbs. We are 9.5 weeks out from NPC Bikini-San Jose Fit Expo. 5.5 solid weeks into cutting. We're down to single digits, y'all!

Today's Topic: Money
I am so excited and terrified at the same time! I'm excited because I'm only a few short weeks away from designing and ordering my competition suit, buying my NPC card and contest entry, and getting all the details sorted out. I'm terrified because I feel like I still have so much work to do with my body AND because this is all going to be very expensive over the next few months. For anyone reading this who doesn't know: I pretty much have three jobs. I work at night at a fancy restaurant (I've been with the company for almost four years), I'm a TA for a Literature course at my university (I have 79 students) and I'm a full-time graduate student in English and Comparative Literature. I STILL find time to work out 6 days a week (even if that means at 8:30 AM with my coach) and these next few weeks are going to be HELL finishing up two 15-20 page term papers and a large Digital Humanities project. To say that I'm busy is an understatement. The REASON I'm able to do all of this, though, is (number 1) I have the drive, motivation, and dedication to do so, and (number two) because I have saved enough money to pay my rent all the way until September, pay all my utilities, groceries, car payment, phone payment, workout clothes, and still have enough left over to pay around ~900 dollars left that I have to put out for this competition's expenses. YES this is very expensive, but I don't waste my money on things I don't need (okay, I buy an extra sports bra or tank here or there that I don't need ;) ), I don't eat out, I don't buy alcohol, and I know the amount in my bank account at all times. I worked all throughout college so that I could move out on my own and take care of myself. I use my tax refunds to pay rent and tuition. I recently got hired as an instructor at my University for the Fall so that will take care of tuition and I'll get extra money as a stipend. I budget, write everything down, and I plan out every dollar so that I still have "what-if?" money in the bank. I cannot stress how important it is to get your finances straight so that you can really focus on the things that matter in your life--for me, that's fitness.

Feeling: A little bloated today. I decided to go off birth control and my body is reacting a little poorly to the change (essentially, the lack of regulating hormones). I think in the long-run, I will feel much better without those hormones, even if I means I have to go through a tougher time once every month because of it. Hopefully that feeling subsides. I'm also a little annoyed because I ordered my hot pink powerlifting belt from Inzer OVER a month ago and it's still not going to be here until next week. They are sending me knee wraps and a shirt to say "sorry" but it's still frustrating. It's all good though, I'm not letting anything get me down this week--or ever. I have so much to be thankful for. Last week was absolutely HORRIBLE, with the bombings, shootings, explosions, and earthquakes. So much death and devastation. It totally made me appreciate the amazing life I have and all the progress I'm making--because when I think I have problems, I have to remember people like Jeff Bauman who lost both his legs. Really?! I'm gonna sit here and complain about the fact that I wish I could have a marshmallow? STFU and Train, Ilyssa. Get to work. Love the life you live and live the life you love.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

10 weeks out

Shout out to the SJSU Powerlifting Team--you all are like a second family to me. Thanks for all the encouragement.

Height: 5'10". Current Weight: 134.4 lbs. We are 10 weeks out from NPC Bikini-San Jose Fit Expo. 5 solid weeks into cutting. We are 1/3 of the way through the cut ALREADY! I cannot believe the progress I'm making and the fact that I still have a lot of my strength in tact. Coach doesn't want to change anything about my diet or training at the moment because everything seems to be working for me. I truly believe that taking those 8 weeks off in between my weight loss and this competition cut to BULK and eat 2400-2500 calories a day was a GREAT thing for my body. I'm really leaning out and STILL eating 1900-2000 calories a day with only a fat burner and 3-4 days of cardio (mostly HIIT workouts). I know that weightloss will really slow down after this (until I cycle off the fat burner of course) so I'm just going to be happy that I reached my goal weight! I can't believe it! On stage I'd like to be about 4-5 pounds LESS than where I'm at currently, but this would be the weight I'd like to stay around after prep because the powerlifting weight class I'd be in is 132 lbs (something I could easily cut down to from this weight before a competition of that nature).
I decided not to eat oatmeal for breakfast this week and have an apple if I'm hungry instead. I just wanna switch it up (exciting, I know). I've also cut back on veggies, as I've mentioned before, because I'm so bored with them and I'd rather just have quinoa or sweet potato. I'm excited to eventually start carb cycling and see my abs pop on the day after lo-carb days! Speaking of abs, I guess it's just my genetics that I develop obliques first and maybe abs will come in eventually. No matter--everyone's body is different and it's fun to watch it change over time.

Feeling: Good! People have noticed that I'm really starting to lean out and that is encouraging. You can tell from the pictures that I'm starting to get lots of fat loss on my hips/love handles which is encouraging. I just wish my arms and legs would catch up HAHA! I want to keep as much of my shrinking boobs as possible but beggars can't be choosers :( My roommate has decided to make some changes in her lifestyle and workout schedule and so it's been really encouraging to pass the knowledge I have on to her. Yesterday I helped out with a Woman's Lifting Event at the gym that a friend put on, and I loved helping out other girls who were interested in lifting heavy. I can't believe just a few months ago I was sitting on my couch eating horrible foods and getting fatter every day...and now I'm becoming a bikini competitor who inspires other people. It's SO encouraging...thank you all for the support. I've realized that it's time for me to see MYSELF as my only true competition. Sure, there are girls out there training RIGHT NOW who I will be on stage with in 10 short weeks. But I need to look to myself for inspiration and find the drive inside of me to push through the next two phases of the cut. If other people are inspired by my story, why can't I be inspired by my own story?! I worked so hard to get to where I am today, so instead of fawning over photoshopped bodies of fitness models and wishing I had abs like some of my (amazing and wonderful) instagram fitfam...why don't I just focus on the encouragement around me and fuel my mind with that sense of accomplishment? I am my own worst enemy; I nitpick...I'm never satisfied...and THAT'S OKAY. But, I need to love who I am every day so that at the end of this I can look back with an overwhelming sense of pride.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

10.5 weeks out.

We are 10.5 weeks out from NPC Bikini-San Jose Fit Expo. 4.5 solid weeks into cutting. The most difficult part right now is getting down my posing in heels. I can pose just fine flat-footed. But as soon as I get in those heels I wobble and can't seem to contort my body the right way to get that tiny waist and flex my abs. It's frustrating, but I've had a friend helping me and I will eventually hire a posing coach. I think I've found a good pose (seen in the above pictures). Shoving my glute to that left side really helps me flex without running out of air. Today I woke up really bloated, but overall I've been feeling rather tight and dry. I'm dropping weight quickly and not changing my calorie intake at all. There's been a lot of drama in the fitness community lately--in particular about coaches that have cookie-cutter diet plans and drive their athletes into adrenal fatigue and destroy their metabolisms. I've said this before, but I'll say it again. I am SO grateful for a coach who is supportive of a relatively high calorie diet and minimal cardio. I'm lucky because I POWERLIFT. Many girls lift, sure. But are they deadlifting 175 x 12? Are they doing a full bench workout? Are they squatting WITHOUT the Smith Machine and forcing their bodies to figure out stabilization on their own? Many of them probably aren't. You can do curls, lat pull downs, cable flies, and all that other accessory work all day (trust me, I do it too) but unless you LIFT HEAVY with the big four, I don't think it's possible to really shed that fat and get lean unless you incorporate lots more cardio or cut your carbs/calories. I've found success because I put my body through exercises that target not just isolated muscle groups--they strain the whole body. I truly believe my quick progress has been due to this type of programming. Ladies! LIFT. HEAVY. DO THE BIG FOUR. GET INTO THE BEST SHAPE OF YOUR LIFE.

Feeling: Good! I've been able to keep up with the diet, and it's not too difficult thus far. I still have a greek yogurt with almonds every day (and a Quest bar or two!) I looked at MyFitnessPal and yesterday was my Day 200! I cannot believe I have been on this fitness journey for that long! It's truly flown by, and I'm really proud of the progress I've made. This week I made the decision to stop comparing myself to other women--they have a different journey and a totally different story from me. The progress I make is my own--I don't need to base the quality of my physique on anyone else! I need to be confident in the changes I've made and the places I'm going. Stay positive. Push every day. Don't cheat. Don't give up! Height: 5'10". Current Weight: 135 lbs.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

11 weeks out.

We are 11 weeks out from NPC Bikini-San Jose Fit Expo. 4 solid weeks into cutting. Sorry for the mass of pictures, but I finally got a bikini to pose in with a scrunch butt. That's a photo I posted on my instagram (@ohilyssa if you'd like to follow me). This week...or the last couple days...have been really hard. My heart has been broken and I've been really sad. Regardless, yesterday I got in the gym for pull day and yanked out 175# x 12. Last time I attempted 175 I squeezed out 8. But this time, I was able to take in huge breaths at the bottom and really drive off by sticking deep in the ground. I ripped open all of my calluses, but it was so worth it. My coach is in Texas for collegiate nationals, so it was nice to have some powerlifting friends there with me to cheer me own.

Feeling: Like I said, kinda down and depressed due to personal / relational issues...but the gym gives me a euphoria that takes away that pain for a little while. The carb craving at night is difficult--as it should be. But I push through regardless. No cheats. Not even a mini marshmallow or one extra almond. I've dropped weight REALLY quickly though because of this lack of carbs. I really believe that I was holding so much water the first 2.5 weeks BECAUSE of eating carbs at night...and therefore I wasn't getting accurate readings of my weight. I stayed at 137.5 or so for over a week and then dropped to 136 and now 135.5 rapidly. You have to remember I'm eating 1900 calories AT LEAST every day...and I'm still dropping weight. Bikini competitors DO NOT need to starve themselves to lose body fat. Height: 5'10". Current Weight: 135.5 lbs.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

11.5 Weeks Out

We are 11.5 weeks out from NPC Bikini-San Jose Fit Expo. 3.5 solid weeks into cutting. Yeash. This is all feeling so real. I scheduled my hair and makeup for the big day, I have my posing shoes, I'm seriously looking at suits with crystals and embellishments, I'm trying to get my poses down (figuring out how to REALLY elongate my already super-long torso), eating cleaner than ever (aka no more milk or peanutbutter), and I'm totally dialed in. I posted my progress on r/bodybuilding on Reddit and I got a lot of support, but one commenter totally put it in perspective for me: I'm doing this probably a little too soon. I totally respected and appreciated his honest feedback. My case is rather special: I went from couch potato to bikini competitor in less than 7 months (the day I compete will be exactly 9 months into my journey). I'm not anywhere near the caliber of the pros. I have far less muscle development, not to mention definition than the pros. Sure, I've worked extremely hard, and I've gotten some great results. BUT. I don't have the experience, I'm not lean enough yet to really tell what kind of genetics my body has in store for definition, and there are gonna be girls who will come in looking much better than I could possibly look because I've done this for a much shorter span of time than they have. Regardless, I'm just happy that I'm going to be walking across stage. I'm nervous, but I'm going to come in super conditioned, super confident, and super proud of the work I put in. No excuses. Train insane or remain the same.

Feeling: Been tired this first half of the week. No carbs after 7:30PM hits me in the morning when I train. But I'm happy with how it dries me out so I'm going to continue doing it. Minor headache earlier this week, but drank lots of water and it went away. Height: 5'10". Current Weight: 137 lbs. (Probably less, but I'm hugely bloated because I'm currently at that time of the month).

Saturday, April 6, 2013

12 weeks out

We are 12 weeks out from NPC Bikini-San Jose Fit Expo. 3 solid weeks into cutting. Time really is going by quickly. I figured out this past week that carbs really mess with my body. I sometimes run out of time to eat (Especially when I'm working) so I end up eating late at night (10-11 pm). I'm trying to kick that habit, and I've decided not to have any carbs after 7:30 PM. The past few days I have been trying that and I have been MUCH more dry in the morning (no bloating). It's really difficult, though, because cravings kick in. I had my first "disgust" feeling towards chicken this week...aka I just could not eat it anymore. I put it aside and finished it 30 minutes later. I know that feeling is only going to come up more frequently the closer we get to competition. I've also decided to completely let go of peanutbutter and, once I finish this last gallon, give up milk entirely for unsweetened vanilla almond milk. I think overall the lack of dairy will do me some good. I'm still experimenting, obviously. Coach is on-board. We will see what he does to my diet over the next couple weeks. I can feel

Feeling: Feeling the no-carb thing in the morning when I workout's okay, carbs are still around 160g during the day. My emotions go up and down. Sometimes I feel really good about my body and other times I feel like I have so much work to do that it's overwhelming. I have to remember that I am STILL 12 weeks out. I can really start worrying maybe 4 weeks from now (and let's hope I'm even more shredded by then because the fat burner cycle will end). Height: 5'10". Current Weight: 137 lbs.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

12.5 weeks out

We are 12.5 weeks out from NPC Bikini-San Jose Fit Expo. 2.5 solid weeks into cutting. Wow. I cannot believe how fast time is flying by. I feel like I just started my cut and we're already 2.5 solid weeks in. The first couple weeks were difficult--not just because I had to really change my outlook on macros, but because I thought I would immediately see results once I did. Now, 2.5 weeks in, I am reaping the rewards on clean eating (and still allowing myself to have a spoonful of peanutbutter or two if I feel I've earned it!) I've figured out new ways to combine my food so that it's not bland and boring. For example: LEAN 95/5 ground beef with egg whites is quickly becoming the perfect small protein lunch. Combine that with sweet potato and a bit of avocado and we're talking! Coach is happy with my progress so far, and is hoping to keep me at the same about of cardio (3 times a week) for now. Once we get closer to the competition I know we will start playing around with cardio, sugar, dairy and carb cycling. For now, I'm seeing progress, and hoping to dip into the high 136s by next week. I still think my ideal weight across stage would be 125-127. But that would come from drying out. I think I will be at a true weight of 128-129 by the end of the 12 weeks...and those final couple pounds will be from absolutely no water in my system.

Feeling: A little more tired--but that may be from the stressful week I've had so far. Coffee pre-workout is really helping. I find that the salty cravings have left, and the sweet cravings are kicking in a bit more. Height: 5'10". Current Weight: 137.2 lbs.