Bikini & Figure Competitions: Calories & 2 Weeks Out
By Kate Horney
I can’t believe we are just two weeks out from the big day!
It’s been a pretty fun journey to this point; we have kept with our quick & efficient workouts and have managed to keep a reasonable caloric intake. (No crazy diets here!)
One question that many of you have asked is…..
What have we done with our calories?
While I do believe that calories matter, I think it needs to be made clear that calories are NOT the WHOLE PICTURE. Excessive exercise (sometimes twice/day! of cardio) and suffering through weeks of extreme dieting may be the fitness industry’s norm for bikini & figure competition prep, but it’s approach that is is incomplete. The missing piece of the puzzle is the hormonal changes required for sustained, healthy fat loss.
With that said, Patrick and I have have done three things to get lean and get in show shape…Eat the right things (both quantity & quality), take advantage of hormones for optimal body change, and cycle carbs. We have changed our diets during each week of prep, but these principles have stayed the same…
1. Get a caloric deficit by eating the right things.
This should be familiar to every member of the BeyondFit family. It might be a bit of a surprise that this works all the way to the highest levels of competition. We do track what we eat now that we are in the last few weeks, but we are eating those same high-fiber, protein-rich foods that we always have. We still feel full at the end of the day. That is important, because otherwise we would be trying to simply will-power our way through this-and that is simply not sustainable.
2. Take advantage of the hormones to change your body.
There are two hormones we are especially concerned with-Insulin and Leptin. These serve to regulate storage and hunger.
As we are creating our caloric deficit, we also make sure to remain insulin sensitive! Insulin is an anabolic storage hormone is produced by the pancreas and serves to regulate the carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body. When insulin levels are high, extra calories are stored as fat. In addition, insulin inhibits the release of glucagon, thus stopping the use of fat as an energy source. Insulin sensitivity is a desirable state because it prevents your body from storing excess fat. We accomplish this through our diet by eating complex carbs and fibrous veggies as well as by increasing our insulin sensitivity (and decreasing cortisol) through long leisurely walks. (1+ running on the treadmill? No thanks!)
We also have to make sure we keep our Leptin levels in check in order to keep our hunger from overcoming us. Leptin is a hunger hormone that is produced by the adipose (fat) tissue. When you are craving food, it is an indication that you are not producing leptin. High calorie foods, stress (yes, even stress your body experiences from being in a caloric deficit), and sleep deprivation tend to produce leptin resistance, causing your body not to feel full.
Exercise and proper fat loss nutrition have the opposite effect. This is why most people can’t simply “eat less” to loose weight. So to keep this in check, we eat a high volume of low calorie food (adding broccoli to a meal is an example of how to do this) that keeps us feeling full while lowering the hormone, Leptin, that gives us the desire to eat. (and eat and eat and eat…. hello mexican food/chips & peanut butter). 🙂
3. Cycle your carbs for ultimate fat loss.
Carb cycling takes the macronutrients (the proteins, fats and carbs) of your meals and manipulates them to reduce body fat to very low levels while still keeping preserving your muscle and keeping your metabolic potential high. Eating starchy carbs earlier in the day will increase fat burning at night while you sleep. Eating a large carbohydrate meal close to bed will blunt growth hormone release during sleep and thus blunt the potential to burn fat. A lot goes into this part of our competition prep, but essentially, our strategic cycling of low/high carb days is maximizing our muscle breakdown and fat storage.
P.S. More posing practice for me this week….
Think I’ll ever feel comfortable in these heels?! 🙂