Friday, March 20, 2015

My experiments at the Gym - Focusing on Gaining Muscle not Losing Weight

Hello Everyone,
Sorry I have sort of disappeared for a while. We have just been very active with hockey, dance, swim..........And I have been on a bit of a spring cleaning binge. So I rarely get to the computer and I haven't been doing much experimenting in the kitchen with recipes.

Instead I have been experimenting in the gym. I'm on a bit of a roll with my work-outs. I'm up to about 5 work-outs a week, and sometimes I actually have to force myself to take a rest day because I know I need them but I don't really wanna.

I'm not saying this to brag. Exercising is just a habit. When you're out of the habit - its brutal and it sucks. When you're in the habit - its pretty easy. I'm in the habit today. Friday March 20th, 2015. Life could throw me a curve ball any day and that might no longer be possible so I'm just enjoying it.

I feel really fit and energetic. I feel good. I'm a slave to my grain and dairy-free diet, sleep rules, hormones and supplements but generally I feel really good so its worth it.

But. There's always a butt (a slightly jiggly one as the case may be).

Even with working out 5 days a week and eating my grain-free, dairy-free, low sugar diet I started gaining some weight. Not lots of weight. Just five pounds in all the wrong places so my clothes were starting to feel tight and things were starting to look mighty jiggly.

I'm not looking for sympathy. This may annoy the hell out of people who need/want to lose a lot of weight but I'm just telling my story so chill. And keep in mind that I had already gained 15 pounds (in about 6 months) post breast-feeding so I'm not trying to be super skinny - just the right weight for me. The weight where I feel best without depriving myself.

I wasn't freaking out or anything. I have a pretty comfortable relationship with my body. Its not perfect but I'm pretty impressed with all the crazy shit it can still do. Make babies. Do headstands. Dance like its nobodies business.

But I did decide it was time to look at what I was doing and how it was possible that I was gaining weight (and no, it wasn't all muscle) when I'm the picture of a clean-eating fitness princess from the outside looking in.

Well, I have a few secrets.

1) My "low-sugar" diet isn't always that low sugar. I have a sweet tooth that won't quit. I don't eat "unrefined white sugar", but let me tell you, there are lots of ways to let sugar sneak its way back into your life disguised as clean-eating. Paleo pancakes with syrup anyone. Grapes (did you know they are addicting). Dark Chocolate (my nemesis - sorry for saying that - I really do love you chocolate);
2) I have a huge appetite. Huge. Always. Hungry. Plus I love food. My husband is almost twice my size and most days I eat more than him. Enough said. I eat a lot of calories in a day. Everyday. Lots. You would probably be shocked, maybe disgusted, if  you spent an entire day with me;
3) I hate cardio. Hate it. Actually not a secret. I was bragging about my new-found love of yoga and hatred for running a while back. Well, I was getting to the point where I was almost exclusively doing yoga and no cardio or weight training;
4) When you give up grains its hard to find snacks. So I was eating a shit-load of nuts. Fatty. delicious. High calorie nuts.

Well, after lots of reading and a hard look at my diet and exercise plan I realized that obviously doing yoga 5 days a week was making me super stretchy and I was learning lots of neat tricks...........but my line-backer diet and lack of cardio and weights was not giving me the body I wanted. Yeah, I looked fine. But I didn't want to replace my entire wardrobe for 5 pounds. And I like to train with a goal.

So after all my reading (really love the Eat to Perform Facebook page and articles) what did I conclude:

1) Although its okay to eat lots of calories (its actually really bad to under-eat if you are active) - my diet was a little too heavy on calories from sugar and fat and not enough from protein.............and I CAN'T BELIEVE I'm saying this but not enough carbohydrates.  I wasn't feeding my workouts with carbs for energy or protein so that I could actually maintain/build muscle;
2) I didn't/don't need to lose weight. I just want to lose some fat and gain some muscle;
3) Muscle burns lots of calories (and looks damn hot) so if I'm going to eat like a 250 pound football player I'd sure as hell better build some muscle to torch some of those calories;
4) You will only build muscle by lifting heavy things while feeding your body the right macro-nutrients and calories; and
5) Its okay to hate cardio. Its not a necessity.

Enter the "8-week challenge". I'm on week three. And I feel great. Here is what I decided to do for eight weeks:

1) Don't worry about restricting calories but get lots of protein at the right times.  I don't track my food (tried for a day - too much bloody work) but just try to a) get some carbs before a work-out for energy and enough protein after a work-out for muscle recovery, and b) get enough protein throughout the day (I have a rough idea of what it should be but I don't track it or over-think it - I just make sure I have protein with each meal and snack);
2) Cut out sugar (pretty much, almost). Now I can say I'm on a low sugar diet. Not no-sugar. Just low-sugar. Wow. Do I ever feel better. Energy levels are WAY more stable. Moods are better. but for the record, the CRAVINGS DO NOT GO AWAY. Yes - they are less intense. But they are still there;
3) Take it easy on the nuts. Eat them, just don't go nuts on them. LOL.
4) Lift HEAVY weights twice a week;
5) Do high intensity intervals (with or without weights) at least once per week.

So this is what I'm experimenting with. I'm in week three and my clothes feel loser around the waist. Yay - I hated that feeling of flab spilling over the top of my jeans.  I'm never hungry, well, I'm always hungry but I'm never hungrier than usual. I'm already starting to feel stronger - I'm lifting heavier weights all the time- its actually pretty fun.

And this morning my girls were looking at my scrawny arms and said "Mommy you don't have much muscle". Point taken - I have long spindly arms. So naturally, I pulled off my shirt and flexed my back for them. Their eyes went big and one of them said "You look like a man". LOL. I think its working.

So that's my update. I'll let you know how my experiment this the end of my love affair with yoga? Can you eat a shit-load of food and still lose fat if you focus on gaining muscle? Can you really forgo steady state cardio and look your best?

I guess only time (and willpower) will tell.

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