Wednesday, October 22, 2014


1. What is IIFYM?

IIFYM stands for "if it fits your macros." While many people define this in varying ways (in the same way that people define "clean eating" in different formats), for me this means that as long as a food's respective calorie, fat, carb and protein profile fits into my daily allotments, I will eat it. I believe, then, that there is no "bad" food. No food is off-limits. I do not care if a food is "processed" or "high sugar" or "high sodium." I eat foods that fit my limits. This does not mean that I binge eat Poptarts and ice cream, though. I make sure that my micronutrients are met and that nutrient dense food is a large part of my daily intake.

2. How did you start tracking your 'macros'/starting IIFYM?
I was originally a "clean eater" aka boring brofood-only meals with crazy food restrictions and massive amounts of food guilt. I developed a major eating disorder (Orthorexia and Binge-Eating Disorder) that made me so angry, hungry and fear-ridden. I started--SLOWLY!-- to incorporate flexible dieting techniques into my diet about a year ago after a 5000 calorie binge-fest at a wedding. I realized how disordered my pre-occupation with food was and made strides in experimenting with new macronutrient limits to see how my body reacted. People ask me daily: HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT TO AET YOUR MACROS AT? I started at 0.35g/ lb of body weight for fats, 1g/lb of body weight for protein and gave myself the rest in carbohydrates. At 5'10" I gave myself an estimated 1850 cal/ day and experimented from there. I realized I needed to make muscle gains and so I slowly pushed my caloric and macronutrient intake over the course of six-eight months and tracked my weight as I went. I was able to push my metabolic capacity through bulking to around 2500 cal/ day. I stopped bulking when I was 19 weeks away from my show. 

3. In terms of protein, most women aren't getting enough, is IIFYM a good way to start?

I think that people are generally misinformed about protein consumption overall. I used to think I needed to consume 200g of protein a day to gain muscle when really all it did was make me constipated! The general recommendation for athletes is a 0.8-1g/ per lb of LEAN BODY MASS (NOT body weight) for protein consumption. I push a little higher than this because I love meat!

Again--find what works for you through experimentation! 

4. What kind of fitness goals do you have to have to do IIFYM?

You have to be dedicated to weighing and calculating and counting and playing Food Tetris. IIFYM is not easy; as you prep more foods and practice making things fit (I am on
my 462nd consecutive day on MyFitnessPal) you become much more comfortable. It can absolutely feel daunting and overwhelming, but once it becomes a habit you won't want to go back! 

I love making things fit--it's like a puzzle. I do understand that the time management aspect of it is not for everyone, though. 

To go along with this, you have to be willing to eat a VARIETY of foods and not just "dirty" meals. IIFYM only truly works if you really do have moderation and balance in your diet. 

Now that I am in off season I am trying to live my life more qualitatively than just quantitatively. I enjoy free meals here and there and do not try to be absolutely perfect every day. It's about net caloric consumption over a week or month--not daily weigh-ins. 

5. There are a lot of myths about carbs, which one do you get most frustrated with? (I.E. if I eat carbs at night I'll gain weight)

I think the industry very often fear-mongers a na├»ve constituency into guilt and shame when it comes to treats and sweets. I think this attitude is far worse in the realm of fitness competitors who feel that eating four meals a day of only tilapia and asparagus is the only way to get stage lean. 

Meal timing and "carbs after dark" are myths that frustrate me to the Nth degree. There is absolutely no science behind meal timing deterring or benefitting either weight or body fat loss. While its true that carbs late at night could bloat an individual in the morning due to increased glycogen, this notion in NO WAY affects overall fitness goals. Eat when you want--the idea of "kickstarting the metabolism" has long been disproven. (Sidenote: meal timing is ONLY important for me during a peak week for a show or a carb load pre-stage). 

A few more myths quickly:

1. Lifting heavy weights makes women bulky. 
Nope. I am a powerlifter first and foremost. I lift heavy and do NOT have a traditional bodybuilding high rep/ low weight programming. I am not bulky. 

2. You must eat breakfast. 
Nope. I follow Intermittent Fasting for psychological purposes. I do not start eating until around 3 PM every day and I eat in a nine hour window until 12 AM. It works for me. 

3. You need to "cut out" certain foods during show prep (i.e. Fruit, dairy, processed foods). 
Nope. I followed an entire prep IIFYM. The only thing I cut towards the end was dairy because I am lactose-intolerant and usually manage it with the help of Lactaid pills. I wanted to make it easier on myself, so I cut dairy because I felt like it--not because I HAD to. 

4. High carbs are bad. 
Nope. For me carbs are amazing. My body does not react well with high FATS and so my fats are consistently low (35-50g) year round. I figured this out through experimentation over the course of two years counting calories. Everyone is different and there is absolutely no one way to do show prep or lose weight in general. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

26 days out

I'm feeling really good. This is the end--the final push. My calories dip a little more and cardio increases. I'm really back and forth with my physique and my posing needs work... but overall I'm excited to walk into this show SO much healthier and happier mentally and physically.

IIFYM works my friends. I'm still eating everything I want, but I've started to limit the candy :) I'll "clean" things up on Saturday once I'm officially 3 weeks out. I want to have pretty consistent sodium levels so that I can manipulate them and water load come peak week.

8 Weeks ago vs. today.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

5 weeks out!

I can't believe we are only 5 weeks out from the show. It's been a long 14 weeks of cutting so far. I started at around 144.8 lbs after my bulk (I'm 5'10") and I'm sitting at around 137.6 now. So that's an average of a little more that 0.5lb/week which is EXACTLY what I wanted to do. Last time I cut way too quickly... I lost over a pound a week for 10 weeks and then stopped doing cardio so I wouldn't lose any more. Now I am just picking up on my cardio again :)

I love IIFYM. I love being able to eat ice cream and Oreos and cookie butter and candy every day. I had my last refeed on Tuesday. FOUR Psycho donuts... originally Kyle was gonna split them with me but he only had like half of one. So, yeah. That was amazing.

I've been playing that mental game with myself. I know I'm leaning out. But I know when we get closer to the show I'm gonna be WAY leaner--or so it will seem. I still have plenty of time to shred down 2% more body fat (I'd like to walk on stage at around 15). In any case, some days I feel disheartened. Some days I'm like "I just wanna eat 2500 calories again." Some days I'm like "I wanna sleep in and not ever do cardio." But for now I know I have to keep grinding. For most people, after 14 weeks they would have competed already. But I knew I wanted to do a slow and steady 19-20 week cut. It's helped me so much mentally.

I'll likely have to cut calories maybe one more time and then the final couple weeks I will bring my sodium and "fun foods" down considerably. Dairy and cheese make me bloat so that will be gone about 2 weeks out. Broccoli and asparagus do the same so my final weeks of carbs will include more Ube potatoes, carrots, and green beans. I won't ever eat "clean" but I will start to reduce the processed foods so that there is less fluctuation in my sodium / bloat day to day. Here is what a typical "bro food" meal looks like for me:

Okay, here are some pictures.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

It's been a long time... 6 weeks out.

A lot of people read this blog still--and DAMN, how things have changed. Let me clear some things up:

  •  I took a long time off from competing. I'm 6 weeks out from my next show in San Francisco now.
  • I bulked for eight full months. I reverse dieted by pushing my calories upwards 100 every 3-4 weeks.
  • I made a switch to IIFYM (if it fits your macros) a long time ago. I restored my metabolism. I repaired my relationship with food. I have developed a major eating disorder due to "clean eating." The fear of gaining weight again will never go away...but I can maintain my bingeing through IIFYM. 
    • I EAT WHATEVER I WANT--if it fits within my caloric and macronutrient levels. ANYTHING--there are NO bad foods. Cake, cookies, ice cream, Oreos, pasta, bread, chocolate, cheesecake--don't care. Even on prep--6 weeks out--I eat it if it fits.
    • This doesn't mean I don't eat "bro food" still. I do. I eat lots of chicken and veggies. I make sure ALL of my micronutrients are in check before I eat my desserts.
  • I built a lot of muscle. I got a lot stronger. I gained weight. I have a much bigger butt. I post my whole life on my instagram @ohilyssa
  • I got sponsored by Serious Nutrition Solutions!
  • I got a Welsh Corgi puppy--Leia!
  • What else do you want to know?
2 days out from my last show vs. 6 weeks out now. TOTALLY different body.


Oblique and back.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Why Alcohol and Bodybuilding DO NOT mix.

I don't drink. I never have. In college my friends dragged me out to bars, and we went to Vegas for New Years, and we went to house parties held by the sports teams...but I would be the sober one. Always. Even in Vegas during New Years! OCCASIONALLY I will have a glass of wine with family or Crown Royal on the rocks... but when I say occasionally, I think the last time that happened was in July 2013 when I went to Vancouver with my Dad. Alcohol isn't exciting for me, I don't like the way it makes me feel, and it's not conducive to my goals and aspirations. That being said, alcohol is not a cheat meal. In fact, I don't recommend cheat meals for anyone because the idea of eating anything you want in excess dangerously can turn into binges and cause multi-day consequences. Cheat meals are actually, in my plan, RE-FEED meals. They still hit macros, with an increase in carbs. Re-feed meals are earned. They are meant to be lower-fat, higher-carb refeeds of glycogen to your muscles. For this to happen, we recommend eating at a deficit or lower-calories throughout the week with 4-6 intense training sessions. Your glycogen levels are low and your insulin-sensitivity is high. Re-feed meals, in my plan, usually don't happen until the very last week once the individual has seen progress and gotten used to counting and prepping. If you're going to have a glass of Red wine occasionally, I don't see a problem in that. Alcohol is 7 calories a gram--more than a carbohydrate or protein gram and without any of the nutritional benefits (empty calories). If you are maintaining a macros-focused diet and training 5-6 times a week and then having the occasional, low sugar and low calorie alcoholic beverage...I think the effects in the grand scheme are negligible. Binge drinking, or anything more than a casual drink is absolutely a problem though.

Alcohol's effects usually span 1-2 days even after the night out. Alcohol dehydrates you. It inhibits VO2 (maximal oxygen consumption), it increases alcohol blood acidity, it can decrease your strength in the gym the next day...

Alcohol can leave you lethargic and it can affect the quality of your sleep--something essential for muscle synthesis and training performance.

Your liver may take two or more days to actually process and metabolize the alcohol in your system--energy and effort that should be spent metabolizing GlYCOGEN--which effectively inhibits and hinders everything LeanGains attempts to do.

You have testosterone in your system--men and women both do. We NEED the small amount of testosterone we have to build muscle. There have been studies that show that alcohol actually causes testosterone levels to DIP for up to 24 hours after drinking. Testosterone both breaks down in the blood stream and is inhibited in production. Alcohol also causes CORTISOL levels to rise and stay elevated while testosterone levels are suppressed...this means that your blood sugar will be increased for way longer than it should be. While cortisol is essential to carbohydrate metabolization, having it elevated for this long can affect the LeanGains cycling program because your metabolism won't be able to shift the way we want it to.

And of course: Alcohol INCREASES hunger and the possibility for snacking / munchies. While it would be fallacious to claim that all people who drink eventually eat over their calorie limits as well, the potential is there.

When out: Try alternating alcoholic beverages with 0-calorie drinks like water, iced tea, or maybe a Diet Coke. Wine, and clear alcohol are the best choices...especially if you mix the latter with 0-calorie mix-ins.

I'll connect again to the quote I mentioned up top. Are your choices and actions conducive to your goals and aspirations? While I understand that a social life is important and that you don't want to limit yourself from doing the things you love, but bodybuilding and attempting to get your body in the best possible shape often comes with sacrifices. I would love to sit on my couch some nights and eat pint after pint of Ben & Jerry's...but I don't because I know that what I am seeking doesn't mesh with that.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Decided to push back my show so I can get fat.

Well... sort of.

I want to focus on gaining TONS of mass...and really let my body get used to eating food that I LOVE again. I'm going to help my boyfriend (Kyle / @sir_elsea) with his show in San Jose in four weeks, and then compete in a powerlifting meet in late March. My next show will be in May or June. (That's a full years worth of muscle growth!!)

I've discussed this a bit on Reddit, and those who know me in real life know, that I've strugggggggled with food pretty much my entire life. When I was a child, I ate whatever I want--like most kids do--and I played every sport under the sun, so I was exceptionally skinny. My mom would always tell me "the fact that you eat so poorly is going to catch up to you one day!" When my parents were going through their divorce, I never ate. I got down to about 98lbs at 5'7". By the end of high school I was 5'9" (I'm currently 5'10"). I've always been tall for my age, so once the poor eating (ice cream, candy, and snacks all day long) finally did catch up to me, I wore the weight well. I suppose it started around Senior year in high school, but I ballooned by more than 25 lbs by the end of my first year in college.

Fast forward several years to September 29th, 2012 when I started this fitness journey. I started counting calories (a measly 1460 a day--what a joke!) but I didn't really look at macronutrients at this point. I lost quite a bit of weight (you can see this in my earliest posts). Then, when training for my bikini competition, I started calculating macronutrient grams. For a while, it was fun trying to fit everything in. But I still only ate "clean" foods--what I perceived to be "clean" foods. Carbs NEEDED to be oats, brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes. Protein NEEDED to always be lean chicken or turkey. Fats NEEDED to be as minimal as possible--from meats--and MAYBE a bit of avocado. I refused to even have a tiny nibble of a cookie. Quest Bars and maybe a protein cheesecake were my "saving grace" when I had a sweet craving. But, I thought, this is what bikini competitors need to do! NO EXCUSES. DON'T BACK DOWN! DON'T GIVE IN! I got SO lean. I had abs! Combine that with an insane tan (I tanned for around 5 straight months), and I looked so so so tiny. 5'10", 128 lbs on stage. Currently, I'm around 136lbs, and I look and feel SO much healthier. But I didn't get to this point without going through terrible hardship.

After my show (where I placed 6th), I binged. I ate so much food and hated myself for the next couple of days. Then I would retract and start eating at my calorie limit... until I got into a situation (like July 4th) where there was tons of delicious food around. I would binge binge binge. Then I would retract and start eating at my calorie limit and do CARDIO every single day because I was self-loathing and punishing myself. Then a wedding came (October 5th) and I binged so badly that I almost vomited. Then I went back for more food. I was bawling my eyes out and my poor boyfriend looks at me and says "Ilyssa, there is something wrong. This is not okay." I flashed back to all the nights I would sit up in bed meticulously planning every freaking macronutrient PERFECTLY TO THE GRAM for the next days meals in My Fitness Pal. I flashed back to the all the times I WISHED I could just have a tiny bite of that cake, but NO NO NO ITS BAD ITS BAD WHAT ARE YOU DOING? GIVING UP? I flashed back to all the self-loathing I did when I was overweight and all the times I justified my 170+ lb frame with "Oh, it takes a lot of calories to maintain these curves!"

I realized that my self-loathing had just transformed itself into "clean eating" self-punishment.

It was then that I made a change. I decided I couldn't go on with such a strict diet any longer. I couldn't go through these phases of binging and restricting and binging and restricting. This was ORTHOREXIA--aka, only consuming foods you PERCEIVE to be healthy. I needed to find a healthy medium. So I started to follow "iifym" also known as if it fits your macros. Now, I eat whatever the hell I want--as long as it fits within my 1900-1950 cal a day, ~43 Fat, ~214 Carb, ~165 Protein limit. (On non-training days it's more like ~65 Fat, ~150 Carb, ~180 Protein). Last night I had the most massive bowl of Protein Frozen Yogurt. Now, I can fit in Chicken Tikka Masala. Now I can eat waffles. Now, I eat cookies. Now, I eat peanut brittle. Now, I go to YOGURTLAND. Now, I have jelly beans and mike n' ikes and M & Ms. But I do these things in MODERATION and they are generally my "dessert" at the end of the day after I've had a "clean" omelette, a chicken stir-fry, turkey taquitos, Greek Yogurt and a Quest Bar or something. I still get in my "healthy" vegetables and fruits--bananas, apples, carrots, broccoli, brussels sprouts, spaghetti squash... but I get to "TREAT" myself at the end of the night with a big bowl of Oats and Snickerdoodle cookies. Because, if I have the leftover macros, I'm going to eat it. Now I have curves again...but they're MUSCULAR.

I can talk all day about how this has dramatically improved my life (I wrote my e-book all about delicious desserts!:, and I'm not saying the food obsession is not still there...but I'm learning to deal with it... and I'm learning to listen to my body. And I eat when I'm hungry--which yesterday didn't start until 4 PM. It's 10:40 and I'm going to go make a waffle now. 1 TBSP Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour. 2 TBSP coconut flour. 1 egg whites. 1/3 cup Almond Milk. 1/8 cup Greek Yogurt. Baking Powder. Stevia. Salt. 50g (25 inside, 25 on top) Blueberries. Topped with Greek Yogurt and Sugar-Free Syrup.

Thanks for listening / reading my rant.