Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Meal Prep with Kari

As a competitor, I'm always curious about the diet structures and foods other competitors consume. I was one of those kids who actually liked school, and I'm always interested in learning new things. I'm always asking people what their diets are like, which foods they eat, and how they season their meals. In turn, I receive a lot of the same questions. Since tonight was Meal Prep night for me, I thought I'd share it with you.

As you most likely already know, I use a high protein, high fat, no carb diet for contest prep. I stumbled upon this approach a few years ago when a carb-cycling approach wasn't working for me. My diet allows me to eat a variety of lean proteins and fat sources.

I, however, am very lazy. So I basically eat about 4 different foods. And that's it.

My main source of protein is ground turkey. The fat content of the turkey, and the extra ingredients I add when I cook it vary, depending on how my body is responding to the diet. J watches how my body responds, and makes adjustments as necessary.

Turkey and a few extras
I cook all my turkey for the week, and then mix in some extras that keep life interesting for me.

Then I portion the batch into the amounts I need for each meal, using my food scale.

Weighing and portioning turkey
After I've portioned the batch, I seal up the baggies and put them all in the fridge, so all I have to do each evening is throw a couple baggies together to bring to work the next day.

I'm thinking of asking Ziploc to sponsor me ...
See? Told ya I'm lazy. :)

All together, it takes me about an hour to cook and portion my food for the whole week. Granted, there's very little variety in my diet, but I actually like it like that. It's very easy to figure out the root of any issues I may have, and my body is trained to process those foods like a machine.

In the off-season, I don't eat much differently; however, I do like to experiment with some different recipes. And I LOVE to bake!

For all you competitors, what's your diet like? Do you like to experiment with new prep-friendly recipes? What seasonings and spices (if any) do you use?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Treat Meal Issues

Some of my Twitter friends may know that Saturday's treat meal didn't go quite as planned ...

As discussed in my week 5 check-in video, J determined that I was making progress too quickly, so it was time for a planned and scheduled treat meal (mind you, I'm saying TREAT meal, not CHEAT meal, because it's not cheating on my diet if it's planned and scheduled!). The goal of a treat meal was to fill out my muscles and slow my metabolism down a bit. Although being 5 lbs away from my target weight with 15 more weeks of prep to go is reassuring, we need to slow things down a bit so I don't start burning muscle.

My meal was GREAT!!! J's specific instructions were to "Just eat!" And eat I did! I made 3 trips up to the sushi bar, and ate for an hour! I was stuffed when we left!

Naptime followed the meal, and I was completely unproductive for the rest of the day. I ate a couple meals later in the day (back on the regular plan, because again, it wasn't a CHEAT meal). Then I started to feel kind of icky. And then I felt REALLY icky. Without going into detail, I'll just say that I went to bed with absolutely no food in my stomach.

The next morning, instead of looking fuller and smoother, I looked dehydrated and ... leaner?

Well, that defeated the purpose.

J determined that since the sushi meal hadn't worked out as planned, I would eat ANOTHER meal! Say what?! So unexpected, yet so exciting! I had my fingers crossed that my stomach wouldn't reject this treat meal attempt.

I enjoyed an entire Chipotle bowl on Sunday afternoon. Plus chips! And later in the day, I smoothed right out as planned. I'm definitely retaining water today, and my ab lines have all but disappeared. While that was the goal, I'm still a bit bummed to see them gone so suddenly, especially after they took so long to come out of hiding!

I anticipate the next few days being a bit rough as my body makes the shift back into ketosis. I should be feeling back to normal by the end of the week. So while the plan didn't quite work as intended at first, we got the results we were looking for AND I got 2 treat meals!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Operation Pro Week 5 Check-In

I chatted with J last night about how my diet and prep is going for Team Universe. Turns out, I'm making progress too quickly! D'oh! But that's a GOOD problem to have. We talk about what his plan is to make sure I bring my best conditioning to the stage in July.

It's been 5 weeks so far ... only 15 more to go!

Friday, March 25, 2011

No more trips to the library!

As some of you may know, I'm an avid reader. Not just a weekend reader ... no, I devour 2 - 3 books a week. Because I'm also a self-proclaimed cheapskate, I have a very close relationship with the local library. I try to get to the library at least once or twice a week, depending on when books are due or when books on hold are available. Normally, running to the library wouldn't be a big deal. Except, when I'm in prep, EVERYTHING feels like a big deal.
Books I currently have checked out from the library.
I've been lusting over the NookColor ever since my mom got one for Christmas. But again, since I'm a cheapskate, I held off on buying one. And then earlier this week, my parents informed me they wanted to buy me a Nook as an early birthday present. Hooray!
Oooooh! Pretty Nook!
I'm so excited not to have to drag around big, heavy, hardcover library books anymore! I can just pack up my Nook and hit the cardio deck! I also discovered the Nook can hold music and videos.

Doing cardio never looked so appealing!

Do you read, watch videos or TV, or listen to music, while you do cardio?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Operation Pro Mindset to the Rescue!

Yesterday was quite the day. I've talked before about making lemonade when life hands me lemons, but yesterday, I just couldn't quite get the bitter lemons to transform into sweet lemonade. I swear, they were rolling at me at an astonishing pace! Nothing was going right.


I've admitted that it takes very little for the waterworks to start up. I cry easily, whether I'm at work or at the gym. So I guess I should be proud of myself for holding off the tears until I got into the car at the end of the workday. I blubbered to J for a couple min, then wiped my face, squared my shoulders, and marched into the gym, ready to tackle my workout.

Operation Pro Mindset

Once I changed into my workout clothes (and tried on my new stage heels!), I was able to put the disappointments and frustrations of the day behind me and focus on my workout. J didn't have a client at that time, either, so he trained me and helped me push further than I would've if I had trained by myself. By the time I was finished with my workout, I was in a better mood.

My new stage heels. Aren't they purdy?! J'adore the rhinestones.
We decided to change my evening cardio from the treadmill to the bike this week, so I hopped on the bike, turned on my iPod, and buried myself in a new book. Lemme tell ya - switching cardio modes was interesting! I had to keep an eye on my intensity in order to avoid an unexpected asthma attack.

I'm thankful I was able to put my frustrations aside and really focus on doing what I needed to do for prep. I feel great about my workout, and it really did help improve my mood and outlook.

While prep can be difficult and tiring at times, it can also be a positive thing in so many ways. It's a tangible goal that provides an opportunity for focus and self-discovery.

For all you competitors and future competitors, how has prep helped you?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Right Where I'm Supposed to Be

Have you ever taken a moment and thought about how you got to this point in your life? Have you thought about the things and people along the way that have influenced and guided you? Was there one event, or a string of events linked together that helped guide your journey? Or perhaps a person or several people who were an influence?

This afternoon, I was thinking about my own journey to get to this point in my life.

Eight years ago, I never would have imaged I'd be a successful Figure competitor living in the DC area. Heck, eight years ago, I'd never even heard of Figure! And although I had dreams of living on either the East or West coast, I didn't think moving away from Minnesota and my family was even a remote possibility. At that time, my life plans were to get a good office job (or as good a job as an English major can get in Central MN), get married, and start a family.

And then everything changed. And I had to reevaluate the direction I wanted my life to take.

After a series of events that I truly believe were supposed to happen, - some were happy and others were utterly tragic - six years ago, I moved out to Montana.

A couple months before I moved, I'd rediscovered my love of training regularly, so when I got to Montana and met others who competed, my life changed again. I focused all my energy on training for the 2006 Emerald Cup in Seattle, WA ... and the second I stepped on stage, I knew I'd found one of my life callings.

Three years later, I met J at the Pittsburgh show, and my life drastically changed yet again. I moved to DC in 2009, and I'm now training to win my Pro card.

Sometimes when I think about the vastly different directions my life has taken, I'm reminded again that I believe everything happens for a reason. Things happen at the time and in the place they're supposed to happen.

I have no idea where I'll be in five years ... but I do know that I'll be exactly where I'm supposed to be at that point in time.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

'Tis the Season to Compete

'Tis the season to be in contest prep. It seems like nearly every competitor I talk to (and I talk to a lot each week!) is in prep. Although there may be a couple shows before March, it seems like the Arnold is the official kick-off to contest season. Earlier this today, I was marking some shows on my calendar, and realized that there are quite a few shows within a reasonable driving distance from DC. (Have I mentioned lately how much I love living out here?)

Since I do talk with so many competitors, the only way I can keep up with their competition dates is to write them down. That's right - those of you with whom I talk regularly ... I've got your competition dates written down because you're important to me.

I love cheering people on and answering random questions about anything and everything to do with prep. Competing is my passion, one of my favorite things to talk about. Sometimes I'm guilty of talking about it TOO often, much to the chagrin of some family and friends.

I'm excited for those of you who have a show coming up soon, especially for those of you getting ready for your very first show. I remember all the emotion, excitement, and fear that surrounded my first show. And even after competing in 9 shows, I still feel some of those same emotions. I was a bit burned out from competing earlier this year, but when I went to watch the NPC Maryland in August, I was reminded again of how much I love this sport.

Although prep may sometimes feel like it's forever, time actually does fly by. I can't believe I'm halfway through my 4th week of dieting already! Only 16 more weeks until I step on stage again!

For those of you in prep right now (which is most of my online friends!), keep up the hard work, stay focused, and have confidence in yourself. We're all gonna rock the stage this year!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Levrone Report & Active Recovery Workouts

Yesterday, IFBB Pro Kevin Levrone filmed J doing an Active Recovery workout at the gym. We're excited that Kevin decided to feature him on the Levrone Report this week!

Last month, J wrote a blog about Active Recovery workouts and when you can incorporate them into your training schedule. I've used this technique several times, usually after shows or right before I start prep. It's at those points when my body is depleted and worn down either from prep or from hard, heavy training before I begin prep. These workouts allow me to train without over-training.

Have any of you ever done recovery-type workouts? When did you incorporate them into your training schedule?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Operation Pro Week 3 Check-In

Week 3 of Operation Pro is over! I filmed a short video last night talking about my progress and how prep is going. Seventeen more weeks to go!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

New Mantra

I'm back from the Arnold, and wanted to give you an update on my prep, and to share with you something that's been helping me remain positive when I feel like whining.

Week 3 Update
After only two full weeks of dieting, I'm already seeing some significant changes in my body. My clothes are fitting looser, or in some cases, not fitting at all. I always feel a combination of excitement and dismay upon discovered my clothes no longer fit. Excitement because - hey, progress! Dismay because now I don't have any black dress pants that fit.

The number on the scale is steadily decreasing, which is also exciting! As of Monday, I'd lost 9 lbs since I started prep. I was up 1 lb yesterday because I think my body is finally starting to recover from the dehydration of the Arnold weekend. Although I got all my meals in (100% on my diet, of course!), I only managed to drink about half the amount of water I normally drink per day. Although I've lost weight, I don't see any muscle definition yet - I just feel like a smaller version of my shape from three weeks ago. I just keep telling myself to be patient; the changes will show soon enough.

Stopping to eat a meal outside the Arnold expo hall
My overall energy level is still good. Although I've been tired this week, I don't feel like I'm dragging, and I had enough energy to make it through the Arnold expo for several days. Walking around the expo was definitely a higher energy expenditure, so my body is naturally still tired from a long, exciting weekend.

Because my body is responding so well to prep, we're going to add more food to my diet next week. (YAY!) We want to make sure my metabolism stays fast and doesn't slow down, thereby halting progress.

My New Mantra
One thing I've been repeating to myself since I started prep is this:

"Don't let the food control you."

That means don't let being hungry affect your mood or the direction of your thoughts. Don't focus on or whine about being hungry. Being hungry is a natural and expected part of prep; it's nothing new, and it's inevitable, so why whine about it? If you're hungry, you're hungry; don't focus on it and freak out because it's time to eat RIGHT NOW. Being late for a meal time is going to happen, so it's not a reason to panic or to get upset.

So far, every time I've started to freak out about being late for a meal, or started to whine about being hungry, I've stopped and reminded myself that the food does not control. I control me. I alone am responsible for how I'm acting and feeling. Yes, my body is tired. Yes, my body is hungry. But it's MY choice to put myself through discomfort, and other people don't need to hear me whine about it.

It's MY choice to respond either positively or negatively. And I chose to be positive!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pressing Pause

As I've said so many times, sometimes I just wish the world would pause while I'm in prep, and then resume after my shows. But life goes on, and we must adapt and go with the flow.

Several weeks ago, I got a jury summons in the mail. The date I'm supposed to potentially serve is this Friday, March 4 ... which also happens to be during the Arnold Sports Festival. J and I had originally planned on heading out to Ohio on Thursday; however, I won't know whether or not I have to serve on Friday until Thursday evening. How inconvenient.

Until this weekend, we hadn't determined if we'd still head to Ohio on Friday night after I served, or if we'd just skip the whole thing this year. I've purposely been avoiding all things related to the Arnold, as I was feeling bad that I potentially couldn't go. J, on the other hand, was ravenously devouring all information, and was little-puppy enthusiastic about going to the Arnold.

We won't know when we're going to head out - it all depends on whether I get called in for jury duty on Friday.  If I do, we'll leave Friday evening. If I don't, we'll leave early Friday morning. I'm so impatient to just KNOW right now.

If I do have to serve, this will be the first time I've been dieting while summoned. I'm apprehensive about how I'm going to get all my food and water in while at the courthouse. I'm also concerned about the frequent restroom trips all the water drinking requires. (Are there restroom breaks during trials?) This is one of those times where I wish the world would pause while I'm in prep.

I'm also not thrilled about having to diet at the Arnold too. I heart protein bars with a passion, and I won't be able to eat any of the zillions of samples at the expo, which is rather depressing to me. So I'll do what I did last year and collect all the samples in a bag, then stick them in the freezer until after my show. Yeah, I know it sounds weird, but this way, I can still get the experience of the bars both at the expo and later in the year.

I packed most of my food tonight - counted almonds and weighed turkey. I discovered I need to make more turkey tomorrow night, so there will be more food packing tomorrow. I'm bringing my cooler with me, of course, and I'll be eating all of my meals on time, regardless of where we happen to be. I won't be able to go out to a nice dinner, I won't be able to partake in the hotel continental breakfast (which I love!), and I'll have to drag my cooler with me all day both days. I'm sort of disappointed about all of this, but at the same time, I'm doing what I need to do to win in July. I also made sure our hotel had at least a treadmill so I can get all my cardio sessions in this weekend. Taking a trip is no excuse to slack on prep!
“In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves...self-discipline with all of them came first.”
~ Harry S Truman 
I know I'm going to have a wonderful time this weekend, regardless of the fact that I'm in prep. In fact, I may just walk away even more motivated by seeing all the other Figure and Fitness ladies at the expo!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Finally in Ketosis

I've officially been in prep for a week. In my last update, I mentioned I didn't feel well as a result of my keto diet. I'm happy to say, I feel great now! It took about a week for my body to shift from using carbs for energy to using fats. I now have energy and don't feel like I'm moving underwater all the time. Plus, I've lost 5 lbs!

I got a couple questions from people about my diet and how I can tell when I'm in ketosis. I don't use keto sticks to figure it out; I can tell just by how I feel. If I eliminate carbs for a couple days, I usually feel very sluggish, and every movement feels heavy, like I'm moving against water. After a few days, though, my energy level increases and I feel normal again. That's my indication that my body has shifted into burning fats for energy. The carbs are now completely out of my body, and the main source of energy fuel is fats.

Although it's really exciting and motivating to have lost 5 lbs so quickly, I realize that's just water weight at this point. Just goes to show how much water I retain from eating carbs! There's a drastic difference in my progress pictures from last week to this week, which is exciting!

My clothes are already fitting differently (better!), which is also motivating. And thus far, I don't have any cravings. I thought I'd be upset that I don't have any treat meals this prep, but I'm actually oddly excited about it! I don't have to dread the Saturday evening tummy aches (from all the treats consumed) and the Sun-Mon bloat that follows. I also don't have to deal with shifting back into ketosis each week after my treat meal. So instead of feeling sluggish and non-energetic for a couple days each week, I can look forward to feeling good nearly every day!

I realize that prep is inevitably going to get more difficult, and I'm sure the cravings will come eventually. But for now, I'm glad I'm happy with how prep is going and with how I'm feeling. Only 19 more weeks to go!