Monthly Archive: August 2014

So…What Do You DO? (Bodybuilding)

Concerned friends and family members are always confused as to what I’m training for. Why do I go to the gym twice a day? Why do I cook 500 pounds of chicken in one sitting? What does 8 weeks out mean and what is a “cheat meal”? There’s no easy way to describe it, so normally I just smile and say, “I’m 8 weeks away from wearing a bikini and heels on stage with a bunch of other girls – this is what needs to be done!”

But it’s not that simple. Let me break it down as best (and easy!) as I can.

What is it called?

When I tell people about what I do, I refer to it as “Body building,” though to be technical I’m a figure competitor. If you think of a bodybuilding show as having 4 “levels” (I’m talking about your traditional NPC show here), I’m a “Level 2.” I’ll explain.

Level One-  Bikini


Bikini athletes, like the beautiful Nikki Blackketter above from NikkiBNation, are the “level 1″ of body building. These girls are slim and athletic looking, but not overbearingly so. They have smooth lines and firm bodies. They don’t have a ton of muscle and they’re not terribly lean. Their bikini’s show off their glutes, their poses focus on their small waist and proportionate upper body. They are “level 1″ because, in the scheme of the shows, they’re the least muscular. They still lift weights and do cardio and count macros etc., but they’re expected to be lean without being “cut.”

Level Two – Figure


Figure athletes are what I consider a “level 2.” Above is Ava Cowen, who’s considered one of the top figure athletes in the game.These girls have more muscle than bikini, and that muscle is more prominent due to their lower body fat. They have strong, wide backs that are showcased in their poses. Additionally, they have to do a number of poses that show off these different muscles. Since they’re leaner than bikini they require more conditioning, and since they’re more muscular they have stricter diets to maintain this muscle. Judges like a strong back, good shoulders, and symmetry. Posing also focuses on the “X” shape – that is a wide upper body, small waist and proportionate lower body.

Level 3 – Physique


Physique is figure, but with more muscle and even leaner. Where figure athletes should have lines, physique athletes have striations. Their posing routine is more fluid and very similar to mens body building. The focus is their conditioning, size, and vascularity. They even have a 30 second routine to music much like mens bodybuilding does. Pictured above is Dana Linn Bailey, who’s considered the queen of physique. She’s won the Olympia (the Holy Grail of bodybuilding) in physique multiple times. These women are truly dedicated, their conditioning and diet is spotless. As you’ve probably guessed, the higher you go up in “levels” the harder the look is to achieve.

Level 4 – Bodybuilding


The final level of body building is body building itself. Often when I mention bodybuilding to the average person this is what they ultimately think of, mostly due to the greats like Arnold and Lou. Above is my coach Judy Gaillard, an IFBB pro women’s body builder. As you can see, they are even more muscular than physique and even more defined. The ideal is big, symmetrical muscles that are easily visualized from one muscle to the next. They, too, use similar poses as mens bodybuilding and have a 30 second pose to music routine that they do.

That’s a simple, quick and dirty break down of the 4 “levels” of body building!

Total Body Championship 2014

Hello all – what a whirlwind of a weekend!

First, my senior “project” was on Friday right before my show. Basically, you spend 2 weeks (more than that, really) writing a paper and preparing a presentation about a case you saw during your time in veterinary school. You then present it in front of the faculty and students – anywhere from 10 to 300, depending on how many show up. I had a packed audience! I wasn’t too nervous for it, except the entire tanning process had me orange and deodorant-less. That part was sketchy. Overall, I got a pretty good review for my project (I did mine on Coccidioides Mycosis in the canine – osseous form if you’re interested). My entire family flew in from Arizona to watch that AND go to my show! I was very lucky!

Getting ready to present my topic, just chilling with my mom and boyfriend before everyone showed up. I tried to hide my tan well with some tights and a long sleeved dress, I don't think I looked too bad!

After that, I showed my family around the very, very small town before heading north to the location of the show. We went to check ins (where I magically gained 1/4 and inch-  when did this happen?!), tanned me some more, ate at Outback (Everyone complains about peak week, but the carb-up and ability to eat red meat and fish every day is really, REALLY up my alley!) and then met with my coach. I knew I wasn’t as lean as I wanted to be, but my coach was supportive as always. Some of the other girls on my team commented on my muscles and I had the warm fuzzies after that!

The next morning I woke up at 5am and started on my hair. I used this tutorial about Victoria’s Secret hair and I think it turned out pretty well! I applied the last of my tan and wasn’t happy with how dark I was, I also had a less than helpful assistant. Ahem. Then it was a light breakfast of carbs and protein and off to the morning check in!

For the second show in a row I pulled a “repeat digit number.” Last time I was 66, this time I was 33. I wasn’t sure if it was some type of omen, but I thought it was cool.

Figure was towards the end of the morning show and was at the bottom of second call outs. I’m not going to lie – I was a little disappointed. I KNOW shows are about how conditioned you are, but I thought my muscle would have almost made up for it? Conditioning beats size every day. I was also upset because that 1/4 inch I came in versus my last show put me as the shortest girl in a class of 10, instead of the tallest girl in a class of 5. You see why I was a little upset by the entire process? These things are no one’s fault (especially not my own) and I tried not to let it affect me.

10548107_10203973437969729_5585720118210173783_oAfter the morning show I met up with my boyfriend, his grandma and brother, and my entire family and we went to get lunch. Another great thing about my coach is that she’s pro burger and fries between morning and night shows. Hella thumbs up from me! We went to the Neon Pig, a small grocery that had rave reviews, and I got a buffalo burger. My west coast family didn’t understand what a grocery was and found it fascinating that people were coming to buy their cuts of meat and veggies from a place that also made food. Sure, we have cafe’s inside of restaurants back home, but not quite like a grocery. Then, of course, I passed the hell out at the hotel.

The night show was awesome because figure was one of the first classes up! That meant less time to wait until I could devour the Gigi’s Cupcakes my family got me. I did not place top 5, so when they called that I ditched the rest of the show to EAT with my family! I did stay to watch my amazing coach and her husband do their posing routines, which I’m always in love with.

The results came out a few days later and I learned I was 9th out of 10 girls. I was a little disappointed (okay, a lot!) but it did light a fire under my ass for the Dexter Jackson, which is in 8 weeks. So the prep begins again!

Front pose, one of the mandatory poses

As always, I'm in love with my back!

Competition Tans

Last night I started the tanning process for my competition. A lot of people wait until the day before their show and get a professional to spray them, which is a great idea for your first show. Just make sure these people know what they’re doing because it can end really, really poorly.

My first show was almost a year ago exactly and I used the tanning salon recommended by the show. The problem? This was the first body building show in Northern Mississippi EVER so none of the tanning salons were equipped with the know-how on competition tans. They didn’t know how dark to make girls, nor did they have the correct technique. My tan ended up very splotchy and ended with me calling my coach crying because I looked like I had leopard spots. I ended up having to go back in to get it fixed, which is way too much stress the night before your first show. I ended up being almost the lightest girl on stage and I was docked for it.

My second show I worked with a coach that recommended doing the tan yourself. She gave great hand outs that my previous one didn’t have (exfoliate with non-oil based exfoliants, shave EVERYTHING, no soaps/deodorant, etc) and it made the process a lot easier. Not only that, it was WAY cheaper. Paying someone cost $100, but I’ve seen the real professionals (Liquid Spray Tanz, etc.) cost upwards of $150-$300. They do a great job and take out the guess work (and do touch ups on show day) but most of us don’t have that cash lying around.

My coach recommends a step-wise tanning fashion where you slowly apply your tan over a few days. Not only that, but I paid $80 for 2 shows worth of Pro Tan and 5 shows worth of Jana Tan. WAY cheaper than the spray job, and for my second show I was one of the darker girls on stage.

Do what works for you. If you’re getting your tan sprayed, make sure these people have done it before. It’s so stressful to be there the night before a show and have a shitty tan or not be dark enough. You WILL get marked down if you’re not dark enough.

As for spraying your face – I’d say it’s 50/50. I personally do it because I’m so pale and putting on foundation that dark makes me look horrible. I don’t do the same number of coats, just enough to get my face within a shade or 3 of my body. Others don’t at all.

As for bed tanning – also at your own discretion. Competitions tans are basically body paint, you can get as dark as you want if you just keep layering it up. One of my coaches refuses to tan, the other is a tan-a-holic, so even in the industry there’s variety. Go with what makes you comfortable.

HIIT Sprints and Tuna Cakes

One of my favorite ways to do cardio is in the form of HIIT or sprints. I absolutely hate cardio. Running gives me shin splints and visible bruising within minutes, the elliptical is boring, and I just dislike it. If I can pump out a quick 30 minute or so workout and burn the same – if not more – calories than steady state I’m so happy.

Of course, this rule doesn’t apply to days when I’m catching up on my favorite TV shows. I love the stairmaster on intervals and some True Blood or The Last Ship. Recently I’ve started watching X-Files from the beginning and it’s been heaven sent.


After today’s back/leg day workout I wanted to really up the ante. Since I have a break from school for 2 weeks (so I can write my senior paper and senior presentation) I’ve been getting SLEEP! It’s heaven sent because I was averaging like 4-5 hours a night, then going back to school for patient care/rounds, then crashing in bed for a few hours, then doing a half-assed gym session…ah. I was tired, hangry and over it. Once I got onto a more normal sleeping schedule my workouts became a joy again. Sure, during this carb depleted state I can’t rep out 275# deadlifts like a pro anymore but I can do 155# for 15 reps. I feel a need to make up for my week of sleep deprivation by killing it during my post workout cardio.

Today, I did some sprints on the treadmill.

Set your incline HIGH – I’m talking 10% or so. Do a 3 minute walking warm up with dynamic stretches. Now, set the treadmill for SPRINT SPEED. This is highly individualized, my sprint speed is like 6 mph haha. Do 15 seconds on/15 seconds off. That is, run for 15 seconds, jump off for 15 seconds, jump on for 15, etc. Do as many rounds as you can – mine usually adds up to 15 or so minutes. Cool down with a speed walking pace on incline.

Most importantly? DO NOT HOLD ONTO THE HANDLES. I could write a novel on why this is bad for you (oh wait, I did!) If it’s too hard, back down! Lower the incline, lower the speed. No one gives a hoot how high your treadmill is jacked up or how fast you’re running. You know your body best, don’t cheat yourself to “show off.”

Anyway, I love that little kick me in the booty workout. It gets my heart rate UP!

When I came home I was craving something new – which, if you’re a figure competitor a week out from a show, you know doesn’t exist. Your diet is strict to the point of eating the same thing every day. I really don’t mind this one bit because I’m a creature of habit. The less guess work the better for me. But I wanted to dress up a classic, so I made TUNA CAKES!

Tuna Cakes!

Tuna Cakes

  • Beat 1 large egg until the yolk is broken
  • Add 1 can of tuna – about 4oz total
  • Season with your favorite seasonings – onion powder, garlic powder, Miss Dash, whatevs
  • Add spinach if you’re feeling creative!
  • Cook in a non-stick pan over low-medium heat until you can easily flip it

I added dijon to mine (aka the Holy Grail of Figure Prep) because to me dijon + tuna is the best combo ever. Depending on your ingredients your macros will change, but mine ended up as 187 calories, 1 g of carbs, 6g of fat and 28g of protein. I also added some broccoli with some Miss Dash steamed. In the mug is Chamomile tea, which I’ve been drinking like a mad woman before bed. I was raised by a tea-loving mother and it’s definitely carried onto my adulthood. Not pictured is the casein and peanut butter medley I had for “dessert.”

I’m going to end this post with a gratuitous picture of my back, because I’m really, really happy with the progress it’s made. I blame deadlifts!

Pepe Le Pew boxers are anabolic, that's a fact

A Case Against Breakfast

Let me preface this article by saying “If you’re hungry, you should eat.” Plenty of people wake up ravenous, enjoy breakfast, and go on with their day. Others wake up without an appetite and report that when they do eat breakfast, they feel like crap all morning, or they’re hungry twenty minutes later. Without delving into the “What are you eating? How much? Etc” argument, I’d like to present this little piece of science for those of you who want it. If you find breakfast a chore here’s some ammo to shoot at the pro-breakfast crowd always trying to get in your face. If you’re not hungry, you’re not hungry: end of story. Every body is different.

Let’s start with hormones and waking. Cortisol (click the link to read about it) is a huge part of your sensation to wake up. It gradually rises through the night, and reaches its peak when you open your eyes. Your cortisol is highest in the morning and may continue to rise after you wake up, until about 30-45 minutes later. That’s breakfast time. Here’s the deal with cortisol – it antagonizes insulin. Insulin helps pull the sugar from your bloodstream after a meal and put it into your cells to refuel them. Because of this, you end up with a higher blood sugar than you would normally.

The issue is that with a blunted insulin response your cells aren’t getting the energy they need. Simply put, insulin gives the energy directly to the cells, and cortisol gets in the way of them doing that. If your cells are yearning for energy they’re going to send hunger signals to your brain to encourage you to eat and feed your cells. This is the case with people with chronically elevated cortisol levels as well who have trouble maintaining a normal appetite.

What about the fit person?

A fit person will have increased insulin sensitivity, especially as they lean out. They tend to be very responsive to an increase in blood sugar and quick and efficiently pump out insulin to compensate. These people then see their blood glucose drop faster, and tend to get hungrier faster. This is exacerbated in the fasted morning states with a high cortisol. You have an extremely active pancreas pumping out insulin and being countered by cortisol, so you’re pumping out more. This can mean a dramatic decrease in blood glucose. Not so much as to cause hypoglycemia, per se, but enough for your hunger signals to fire up just a short time later.

But why does this not affect ALL people – why are some people breakfast lovers and others aren’t? The level of cortisol in your blood is highly dependent on a lot of factors. Some people simply do not have a high enough level of cortisol to counteract any of the breakfast-induced blood sugar problems. Others, such as diabetics, have a need for a regular blood sugar management. Every individual is different, which is why I say again – if you’re hungry, eat!

Lastly, let’s look at a very specific study targeted at the traditional “If you skip breakfast you’ll gain weight” hoopla. This study was a 16 week controlled study in overweight and obese adults, one group ate breakfast, the other didn’t. Between both groups the average weight loss was 1.18 kgs vs. 1.17 kgs. Essentially, the results showed little difference in weight loss between breakfast eaters and non-breakfast eaters.

So, as I said earlier – eat if you’re hungry, don’t eat if you’re not. If you find breakfast is detrimental to your state of mind (no one likes being ravenous at 9am!) then skip it. It’s your individual choice.