One of the most liberating things about training as an open division strongwoman is that diets are OFF THE TABLE. Depending on what competition you’re in, could be either over 75kgs or over 82.5kgs that makes you “Open”. At a solid and steady 100kgs I will never need to worry about my weight category as I’m always going to be an “Open”. In some ways that’s depressing, but in most ways it is SO LIBERATING. For the first time in living memory I do NOT have to care about my weight!
Of course being 100kgs and mostly fat and unfit is NOT going to make me a beastly competitor. But 100kgs made up a large proportion of muscle, and being a weight my body is used to and comfortable with (and I think that’s an important point) means I can use it to my advantage. If you’re 76kgs and hurry off to put on 20kgs so you can beat me, you’re probably going to suffer and slow down because your frame won’t be used to lugging the heavy weight AND your weight around. But being a bigger lady at strongwoman is also not a disadvantage. This is astonishing because sport for the most part, and life as a woman, revolves around svelte figures with long limbs and toned muscles.
I DON’T HAVE THAT.
Sometimes it upsets me, and I need to be conscious of the fat my body holds because of my endo, PCOS and hyperinsulinemia. But part of my greater plan with strongwoman is to increase my muscle mass and slowly reduce my fat mass over time in a healthy and sustainable way that will make me stronger, fitter and more badass than ever before, so I can kick those diseases in the butt when they rear their ugly heads.
Part of this plan involves the work I’ve been doing with Tara of Sweat Like a Pig. This woman is a wizard. She knows things. But best of all – she gets it. With PCOS herself and a competitive history in strongwoman she gets my goals and the balancing act I’m going through. She works WITH me to make sure that the amount and quality of the food I’m eating is making me feel like a lifting machine and keeping my pain low and sleep quality high. She also gets that eating 1200 calories a day will only work for a very small sector of the population.
I’ve been working with Tara now for just shy of 3 months. The first meal plan she wrote for me was all about increasing my calories to fuel me for my strongman training days. I was training a lot, and hard, and had put myself on a solid 1700 calories a day (and calculated all my own macros and weighed my food properly) but I was feeling drained. My energy wasn’t there for training and my recovery was slow. Within a couple of weeks of Tara’s plan my energy levels SOARED. The only new part for me which we decided to try was carb cycling to see if it would help my fat loss while protecting or even developing my muscle mass and strength. So the key was to manipulate my carb intake while keeping my overall calories high. You’ll note the stark difference here to the average weight loss plan on the internet which will spout that it doesn’t matter what you eat as long as you keep it under x number of calories.
It made a huge difference. Body scans showed that I had gained 3kgs of muscle while losing 3kgs of fat, though overall, my weight had stayed the same. All the while I’m hitting PBs in the gym left, right and centre. I’m feeling energised and pumped every day to train, I’m loving my food and sleeping like a baby. I had to drop down a size in jeans :O
Sure, over 3 months my body has not changed drastically. Some people would do a 12-week challenge and look totally different. Lose 10-15kgs and drop 4 dress sizes. In my 12-week challenge I’ve gained about 30kgs on my deadlift max. I’ve gained about the same in my overhead press max. I can practically bench my boyfriend.
For the moment I am on some reduced calories, but specifically reduced carbs, for only a couple more days, and then loading begins in preparation for comp day. This few weeks on slightly reduced numbers (about 300 calories is the most any individual day has reduced) has been pretty tough. The first week I was starving and not sleeping well, but then my body got used to it and then I was totally fine. I’m still eating big portions and feeling full and enjoying my high quality, clean food. (I’m still eating more in a day than I was before I started with Tara.) The aim of this change was to try and encourage a little boost in my fat loss in the lead up to comp and so far it’s been a huge success overall. I am a little excited and scared for my body scan at the end of the week to tell me how it went.
Sure I still have bad days but my self confidence is based on something so much more solid than what size I wear or the number on my scales. In fact, I’m more excited when I see the scales have the same number on them, because I KNOW that I am eating amazingly and training like a demon, so if the number stays the same it means I’m doing it all RIGHT. It’s not like I’ve actually been clothes shopping either to know whether my sizes would truly have changed. Many of my gym pants struggle to stay up during training now, but I’m not sure how much of that is my body changing versus how much I trash my leggings in strongman – HAHA.
Training is only partially about the time spent in the gym. Adequately fuelling yourself is a huge component in your success. I’ve tried everything under the sun in my past to make me “a healthy size” and all I’ve learned is that none of it worked. I don’t fit the standard set of rules that apparently apply to everyone else, so nutrition has to be highly personalised for me. I know that my size and weight is not “healthy” in the conventional sense of the word, but as long as I train hard and eat well, my size and weight are irrelevant to my overall quality of life. The stronger and fitter I am, the more chance I have of bouncing back from the next endo surgery, and that is my main focus in life right now. Aside from being a lifting demon 😉
20 days to go!