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12 Weeks Out

Another week is in the books! This particular week was a little rough due to hormonal fluctuations associated with ovulation/PMS. Perks of being a woman… with a Mirena IUD.

Thankfully, I’ve had my IUD long enough (and tracked my [inconsistent] cycles long enough) to know what’s up. I expected some weight gain, water retention, bloating, lower energy, and cravings. Ovulation tends to hit me harder than my period. That’s just how my body rolls.

Dove headfirst into a bag of salt & vinegar chips, popcorn, and a few other carb and sodium-heavy foods mid-week. No harm done. I turned that day into one of my refeed days. I wasn’t planning on using that refeed on that particular day though, so I was stuck with 2 more leg days on lower carb days. Boo. (I try to time my leg day/heavier activity days with my refeed days.)

My weight fluctuated between 133 and 137 pounds this week. This is precisely why weight is not my number one indicator of progress. Do these numbers worry me? Not really. I know I had sodium heavy snacks, I know I am retaining water and I know my hormonal fluctuations are extreme right now. Pushing through.
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For those that follow along on my social media (Instagram and Facebook) you already know I took the opportunity to get a DEXA scan this past weekend.

A DEXA scan is a quick, easy, and accurate* way of determining body composition. The test uses low dose x-ray imaging to analyze the body. The reason I chose DEXA is because the test is one of the options with the lowest margin of error and provides a very detailed work up of body composition.

*There is no single body fat test that is 100% accurate. Each have their own margin of error. DEXA scans have a +1.5% margin of error, Bod Pods have a +2-3.5% margin of error, hydrostatic weighing (water) methods have a +2.5% margin of error, and bioelectric has a +3.5-5% margin of error.

The numbers themselves are interesting to me (from a purely scientific and sheer curiosity standpoint) but I certainly understand the reality of the margin of error and I have no emotional attachment to the numbers I was given. (I think that’s incredibly important to remember before any body composition test.) I was looking for more of a baseline so I could determine percent of body fat lost on this journey.

Tests are great for a rough estimate or baseline but I would say simply use them as a means to track progress. i.e.; overall BF% lost. Don’t get caught up in the numbers.
We tend to overestimate how lean we really are. It’s common for bikini competitors to believe they are 12-14% or women to IMG_7001believe they are 18-20% in offseason. This is very rarely the case.

This is a current photo of myself from this past week.

My DEXA scans shows me at 99 lbs of muscle with 31 lbs of fat. That puts me at, roughly, 23% BF. Crazy huh?

I carry the majority of my body fat in my hips, booty, and thighs. This is not surprising information because…

  1. I am a woman
  2. That is where, genetically, I am pre-disposed to carry most of my weight. (Some people, female or not, carry weight in their belly or other places.)

If you are interested in body composition testing, you can search for places near you that offer the test. It’s more than likely going to be a University or Sports/Nutrition Research Center. I’m sure they vary in price. I paid $99 for mine at BodyFat USA in Denver, CO. I cannot stress this enough: DO NOT GET CAUGHT UP IN THE NUMBERS. Simply use it as an additional “tool” in your body composition belt.

Nutritional Updates

IMG_7004Many women are asking about my numbers, my meals, what I’m eating, what my macros are, etc.

While I am more than happy to share that information in the name of transparency, I do want to stress that my numbers and what works for me, may or may not work for you.

My numbers certainly shouldn’t be your numbers. Your numbers should be based on your body composition, exercise habits, and goals.

(Yes, I coach! email me. Teamstrengthqueens@gmail.com)

My current macros:

  • 5 x normal days –150g carbs 150g protein 67g fat 18-25g fiber (minimum)
  • 2 x refeed days — 240g carbs 150g protein 93g fat 24-34g fiber (minimum)

If you are interested in how I am meeting those numbers you can follow me on MyFitnessPal. My diary is open to friends. My username is amandamariefitt

Fitness Updates

My lifts are still strong. Some weakness is expected as you progress deeper into a calorie deficit but, because my calories and carbs are still high, my lifts haven’t suffered. My energy levels were lower this week due to hormones but I made the best of it.

Currently, my split is 2 leg days and 4 “upper body” days per week. My upper body days are normally split into shoulder/back and bicep/tricep. I don’t really work chest… I have no good reason. I don’t like working chest and I plan on getting an augmentation in the near future so I lack motivation. Bench pressing will make it’s way into my program soon enough.

The reason for 4 upper body days is because that is where most of my growth needs to happen. My lower body is quite strong and developed and my upper body is lagging.

“Rest days” aren’t really a thing for me. (Again, I do not encourage this for everyone.) As a coach and health professional I very much understand the importance of rest and recovery. That being said, I live an overall active lifestyle and strict rest wouldn’t be consistent with how I’ve always lived my life. I prefer “active rest” days meaning I take one day off from lifting (“rest”) and focus on core and cardio.

“Cardio” for me can mean many things…

In the gym, I prefer rowing and circuits. I’m not a treadmill type of girl. Never have been, never will be. For the most part, you will find me outside running up and down mountains (perks of living in the most beautiful mountainous place!) or hiking with my pups.

Example of one of my favorite circuits

  • Bodyweight squat x 10
  • Push ups x 10
  • Alternating Reverse Lunges x 10
  • Pull ups x 10
  • Mountain Climbers 30 seconds
  • Plank 30 seconds – 1 minute

No rest between exercises. Repeat 4 time (aka: heart rate is UP!)

Right now, in the interest of consistency with my prep, my coach has me on ONE 30 minute intense cardio session per week. I’m sure this will change as I grow closer to my show date.

WBFF Specifics

This week I started looking into theme wear. I am 100% certain I will be entering the Fitness Diva class and I am still up in the air on bikini. Fitness requires both a swimsuit/bikini round and a theme wear round. I am fairly sure I have my theme wear picked out (just need to inquire about some changes to make it “my own”) and I just need to pull the trigger on purchasing.

Reality check: competing is NOT cheap. Theme wear costs upwards of $1,000.00. If you are interested in competing, please make sure you have a budget. Don’t put yourself into a bad financial situation because you wanted to step on stage. It’s not worth it.

In the interest of transparency yet again, I will mention that I am a sponsored athlete. Being sponsored means you receive incentives to represent a company and it can vary on what is provided to you. Sometimes it’s free supplements or gear, discounted or free active wear, or cash incentives. In my particular situation, I had a certain amount of my entrance fees covered by my sponsor. The entire amount was not covered, but a generous portion was. This is incredibly helpful and I am grateful to the company.

Because someone will ask, I don’t have any specific recommendations on getting yourself sponsored. Being sponsored is very much a business decision. You, as an athlete, have to be able to “help” the company in some way.

  • First and foremost? Actually use and believe in the company’s products.
  • Second, have a decent social media following (you don’t always need 10K followers on IG to be sponsored but you need to have a reach and audience. Again, this is business. How can you help them?) Post about those products, show that you use them in everyday life, and make sure you represent yourself in a professional manner.
  • Be proactive. Reach out to companies and be realistic. Reaching out to bodybuilding.com or OptimumNutrition as a random face in the crowd probably isn’t going to work but finding some smaller, local companies to sponsor you is realistic and doable! Try to jump onto newer, smaller companies before they take off. Make a name for yourself. Show up at events and shows and introduce yourself. Follow your favorite companies on their social media accounts. Use their hashtags.
  • Be genuine. I have been offered multiple sponsorships that I’ve turned down because I am not interested in promoting products I don’t personally use and don’t personally believe in. People can see through bullshit. Don’t get caught up in it.

Life

Ah yes… during all of this craziness “life” is still going on. One of the biggest changes between my last prep and this current prep is my job status. I recently left my job at the hospital. There are many reasons for this decision but ultimately, it was standing in the way of my professional and academic goals.

I’ve gotten a little push back in terms of not working. If I’m not working it must be so easy for me to prep, right?

Wrong.

I am a full time student and entrepreneur. Just because I left my “9-5” does not, in any way, mean I am less busy. In fact, I have found myself busier than before.

My current academic schedule is full time. For those that don’t know, I am currently finishing my Masters in Public Health. I was also wrapping up some “side courses” for medical school.

Yep, that’s the big one. Medical school.

I take my MCAT in about a month and have been stressed on that for many weeks. Studying for that test is a total mind-f&%# especially for someone who wasn’t pre-med. (Quick backtrack: I was pre-law. Loved the idea of international policy and, after working abroad, realized I liked hands on care over health policy. Enter the goal to be a physician.)

I am a completely out-of-the-box applicant, I have none of the required pre-requisites, and I am, in every way, the worst “on paper” applicant ever. (There. I said it.)

Why even bother applying?

Because times are changing for medicine and the medical school process. Many highly regarded schools have recently done away with standard pre-requisites because they are searching for more well-rounded applicants. Enter: Me.

Passionate, smart, driven, and have 5 years of experience in many different aspects of health care. Now all I need to do is tackle the MCAT (without the help of pre-reqs) and I can move along this process.

Along with academic pursuits, I am also now coaching clients full time. That means more clients, more nutritional updates, and more business ventures.

Quitting my 9-5 didn’t make me less busy, it made me more busy. Learning to manage my own schedule has been a challenge all on its own. (You should see my planner.)

…but I digress. 🙂

I’m looking forward to another great week of (hopefully) increased energy and lower body fat.

On the agenda? Reach out to the theme wear company and get that all sorted. Closing my eyes, pushing send, and saying goodbye to a portion of my bank account. Wish me luck. 😉

As always, feel free to leave comments and I will do my best to address all of them. For longer questions please email me at balancedbrunette@gmail.com. If you are interested in coaching (both competition prep and lifestyle coaching) please email me at teamstrengthqueens@gmail.com.

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2 Comments on Diary of a Fitness Competitor: DEXA, Sponsorships, and Academics

  1. Megan
    May 24, 2016 at 6:25 pm (1 year ago)

    Does the iud effect your body in a negative way as far as weight loss/fat loss? I was on the pill for years and started prepping for my first comp this year. My coach didn’t know I was on the pill and said I needed to get off of it so my lower half would lean out. So I did just that, it’s been 2-3 months off the pill now but I’m not comfortable not using a birth control method. I’ve been looking into IUDs but I haven’t come across anyone’s experience that has it and and is actively trying to gain muscle/lose fat.. Thanks!!

    Reply
    • Balanced Brunette
      May 25, 2016 at 7:26 am (1 year ago)

      Every single person has a different reaction to varying birth control methods. If you were on the pill for a long time, there was no reason to come off. (Bad coaching.) Your body had already “adjusted” from being on the pill long term. With the IUD, there are several options and side effects are different based on the type.

      Paragard IUD: Non-hormonal. Works by using copper as a deterrent to sperm. Pro: lasts up to 10 years (can be removed before 10 years), non-hormonal (I personally believe this is a con, not a pro. I prefer hormones to ensure I am protected), and long term. (No daily / weekly method.) Con: Heavier bleeding, heavier cramping. Not recommended for anyone who already has heavy periods.

      Mirena IUD: Hormonal. Works by releasing 20mcg of levonorgestrel (same hormone in the mini-pill) into the uterus each day. There is no estrogen associated with the Mirena IUD. Pro: lasts up to 5 years. Long term method. Utilizes hormones to prevent pregnancy (IMO – a safer method), and can lighten periods and cramps (some women experience no bleeding on the Mirena, others have regular but lighter periods.) Cons: Bleeding is inconsistent. The Mirena works by thinning the lining in your uterus so shedding the first couple weeks and months can be constant. Will regulate over time. Some initiate breast engorgement or a slight (3 lb) weight gain MAY occur. This is rarely due to the actual method but rather changes in your appetite (if you regulate or track food consumption, you are fine.)

      Other hormonal IUD options (Skyla, Liletta) — Both have varying levels of hormones (less than the mirena) and last 3-5 years. Check with your provider to see if they offer those options.

      I don’t know if I would recommend getting an IUD inserted if you are mid-prep. There are a lot of changes to deal with that would make prep somewhat miserable. I WOULD recommend IUD’s out of all birth control methods.

      If you are looking for something short term (during prep) I would suggest either 1. getting back on the pill or 2. trying nuvaring. As for after prep, go for the IUD. When you have something long enough (i.e.; I’ve had a Mirena for 4 years) your body has already adjusted to the hormones and method.

      If anything, I struggle more with thyroid management and weight loss. (Which is common for many women.)

      Hope that helps.

      Reply

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