Humans as Omnivores

Adapted from a talk by John McArdle, Ph.D.

Document Sections:
Introduction
Confusion between Taxonomy and Diet
Omnivorism
The Great Apes
Evidence of Humans as Omnivores
Archeological Record
Cell Types
Fermenting Vats
Jaws
Salivary Glands
Intestines
Conclusion
APPENDIX: Other Thoughts
For Questions or Comments
Introduction

There are a number of popular myths about vegetarianism that have no scientific basis in fact. One of these myths is that man is naturally a vegetarian because our bodies resemble plant eaters, not carnivores. In fact we are omnivores, capable of either eating meat or plant foods. The following addresses the unscientific theory of man being only a plant eater.

Confusion between Taxonomy and Diet

Much of the misinformation on the issue of man’s being a natural vegetarian arises from confusion between taxonomic (in biology, the procedure of classifying organisms in established categories) and dietary characteristics.

Members of the mammalian Order Carnivora may or may not be exclusive meat eaters. Those which eat only meat are carnivores. Dietary adaptations are not limited by a simple dichotomy between herbivores (strict vegetarians) and carnivores (strict meat-eaters), but include frugivores (predominantly fruit), gramnivores (nuts, seeds, etc.), folivores (leaves), insectivores (carnivore-insects and small vertebrates), etc. Is is also important to remember that the relation between the form (anatomy/physiology) and function (behavior) is not always one to one. Individual anatomical structures can serve one or more functions and similar functions can be served by several forms.

Omnivorism

The key category in the discussion of human diet is omnivores, which are defined as generalized feeders, with neither carnivore nor herbivore specializations for acquiring or processing food, and who are capable of consuming and do consume both animal protein and vegetation. They are basically *opportunistic* feeders (survive by eating what is available) with more generalized anatomical and physiological traits, especially the dentition (teeth). All the available evidence indicates that the natural human diet is omnivorous and would include meat. We are not, however, required to consume animal protein. We have a choice.

The Great Apes

There are very few frugivores amongst the mammals in general, and primates in particular. The only apes that are predominantly fruit eaters (gibbons and siamangs) are atypical for apes in many behavioral and ecological respects and eat substantial amounts of vegetation. Orangutans are similar, with no observations in the wild of eating meat.

Gorillas are more typically vegetarian, with less emphasis on fruit. Several years ago a very elegant study was done on the relationship between body size and diet in primates (and some other mammal groups). The only primates on the list with pure diets were the very small species (which are entirely insectivorous) and the largest (which specialize in vegetarian diet). However, the spectrum of dietary preferences reflect the daily food intake needs of each body size and the relative availability of food resources in a tropical forest. Our closest relatives among the apes are the chimpanzees (i.e., anatomically, behaviorally, genetically, and evolutionarily), who frequently kill and eat other mammals (including other primates).

Evidence of Humans as Omnivores

Archeological Record

As far back as it can be traced, clearly the archeological record indicates an omnivorous diet for humans that included meat. Our ancestry is among the hunter/gatherers from the beginning. Once domestication of food sources began, it included both animals and plants.

Cell Types

Relative number and distribution of cell types, as well as structural specializations, are more important than overall length of the intestine to determining a typical diet. Dogs are typical carnivores, but their intestinal characteristics have more in common with omnivores. Wolves eat quite a lot of plant material.

Fermenting Vats

Nearly all plant eaters have fermenting vats (enlarged chambers where foods sits and microbes attack it). Ruminants like cattle and deer have forward sacs derived from remodeled esophagus and stomach. Horses, rhinos, and colobine monkeys have posterior, hindgut sacs. Humans have no such specializations.

Jaws

Although evidence on the structure and function of human hands and jaws, behavior, and evolutionary history also either support an omnivorous diet or fail to support strict vegetarianism, the best evidence comes from our teeth.

The short canines in humans are a functional consequence of the enlarged cranium and associated reduction of the size of the jaws. In primates, canines function as both defense weapons and visual threat devices. Interestingly, the primates with the largest canines (gorillas and gelada baboons) both have basically vegetarian diets. In archeological sites, broken human molars are most often confused with broken premolars and molars of pigs, a classic omnivore. On the other hand, some herbivores have well-developed incisors that are often mistaken for those of human teeth when found in archeological excavations.

Salivary Glands

These indicate we could be omnivores. Saliva and urine data vary, depending on diet, not taxonomic group.

Intestines

Intestinal absorption is a surface area, not linear problem. Dogs (which are carnivores) have intestinal specializations more characteristic of omnivores than carnivores such as cats. The relative number of crypts and cell types is a better indication of diet than simple length. We are intermediate between the two groups.

Conclusion

Humans are classic examples of omnivores in all relevant anatomical traits. There is no basis in anatomy or physiology for the assumption that humans are pre-adapted to the vegetarian diet. For that reason, the best arguments in support of a meat-free diet remain ecological, ethical, and health concerns.

[Dr. McArdle is a vegetarian and currently Scientific Advisor to The American Anti-Vivisection Society. He is an anatomist and a primatologist.]

APPENDIX: Other Thoughts

The following information is taken from The New York Times, May 15, 1979. According to Dr. Alan Walker, a Johns Hopkins University anthropologist, Homo Erectus, the species immediately ancestorial to our own Homo Sapiens, had evidence of an omnivorous diet. Every Homo-Erectus tooth found was that of an omnivore. However, a small sample of teeth from the human-like species during a 12 million year period leading up to the Homo-Erectus period, indicates the earlier species may have been a fruit eater. Even if this species, way before our own, lived on a fruit diet, they probably would not have consumed what we consider typical fruits. Hundreds of plants produce fruits that are tougher, more substantial foods than what we eat today.

Quoted from an editorial by William Clifford Roberts, M.d., Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Cardiology:

“When we kill animals to eat them, they end up killing us because their flesh, which contains cholesterol and saturated fat, was never intended for human beings, who are natural herbivores.”
Quoted from “WHAT DID OUR ANCESTORS EAT?” in Nutrition Reviews, by Stanley Garn, Professor of Nutrition and Anthropology, and William Leonard, Assistant Professor of Human Biology:

“These people of Upper Pleistocene, and later those of the mesolithic, were our immediate ancestors, no longer hunters exclusively and with whole-grain products and a variable amount of roots, fruits, leafy vegetables and nuts in their diet. We must grant them a mixed diet, with animal fat providing a smaller proportion of their food energy than was probably true for the Neanderthals.”

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The Salsa to end all Salsas.

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This salsa started as a roasted version which believe me was wonderful. However one day I was CRAVING it and simply did not have the time to roast everything. I decided to make a raw version instead. I have not made it any other way since. It’s that ” here, taste this”‘ “eyebrow raising” salsa that everyone loves 🙂

I’ve promised quite a few people the recipe so here it is. Enjoy!

Define Fit Raw Salsa

Ingredients:

5-6 fresh roman tomatoes
1 very small red onion ( about 1/2 cup chopped)
1 fresh large jalapeño
1/2 tsp puréed garlic paste
1-2 TBSP puréed cilantro or 1/2-1 cup fresh ( your choice)
3 TBSP grapeseed oil
(I use Avocado-lemon oil from Safeway)
1/4-1/3 cup lime juice (fresh preferably)
1/2 tsp sugar ( I use stevia)
1/2 tsp rock salt

Instructions:

1. Slice end off tomatoes, cut in half & remove seeds and pith.
2. Cut into very small pieces ( think salsa lol)
3.repeat process with jalapeño. ( if you like a lot of heat, leave in some seeds)
3. Finely chop red onion.
4. Mix rest of ingredients together. Pour over tomato mixture and toss gently.

I place into a plastic container with a lid so I can toss a few times while its in the fridge.

Eat with your favorite salsa chip and a homemade guacamole..

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Lake Athabasca Adventures.

Lake Athabasca 2013

 July 10, 2013

Arrived at the launch at around 7:15am. It was so muddy as to be unbelievable. We watched as the ministry truck had to get winched out after launching their boat thinking “uh oh”.

Kevin jumped on the boat & trailer and I backed our truck in deeper & deeper. Once the boat slid off I put her into 4×4 and chewed my ass out of that mess. The Big Green Tractor pulled thru for us once again. Nothing can hold her down 🙂 I’d really hate to be the next guy though.

We made it upriver to Fort Chip in about 6 hours. There was a tough wind on the big lake which made the going pretty rough. One hand holding the “oh shit” handle and one arm across my chest. Ouch!

Once in Fort Chip the same wonderful lady at the ranger station lent us her truck to fill our gas cans. Man she’s awesome. We said our goodbyes, I gave her a rough idea of our route and we jetted (lol).

The south wind was now our friend. Unlike last year when we were forced to turn around because the north waves were so high they were coming over our top and crashing in the rear of the boat. (That shit was scary let me tell you.) Our boat moved easy across the water this time.

We sailed past Sand point, where we saw a magestic bald eagle cruising just above the waterline, all the way to Lapworth Point where we found a beautiful little sand beach in a tiny bay. We were starving! Kevin cooked up some burgers and I pulled out a salad. No hotdogs for these guys 🙂

It was about 9pm and there was still plenty of sun being so far north. We were both exhausted though as we’d only had about 3 hours sleep the night before. Throw in the white water rafting, underground caving and an 8hr drive from Calgary.

I think I fell asleep 5 seconds after saying I wasn’t sure if I could sleep while it was bright out lol.

 July 11, 2013

Slept like a baby til 7:30am. Woke up to the sun shining and the sound of waves against the shoreline. What a peaceful, easy feeling. Now I know what the Eagles were singing about. Kevin is out making coffee so I guess I’ll get up and dressed and go see my amazing man for a morning hug and see about making him and I some breakfast.

Kevin found an old oil container some wanker had left behind. A bear had been chewing at it. I’m suddenly wide awake 😉

9am: Mmm, coffee is delish thanks to our Southern butter pecan creamer. Going to pack up camp and fish our way up to Fiddler point. The sun is shining and it’s looking to be a good day 🙂

 10am:

The boat is packed up. Beers are within arms reach in the cooler and Kevin is sitting in the bag naked running the kicker. It’s a gorgeous, sunny day & 25 degrees of beautiful. Going to explore the shoreline slowly for a bit.

 1pm:

We are 3/4 ways across the lake towards the islands where all the fly-in fishing lodges are located. It’s been a calm ride and the boat is planing smooth as butter. Crossing over the deep trough in the center of the lake. It’s reading over 250′ deep here. We have about 8 miles to go before we hit land again.

 3pm:

Trolling the islands down-rigging

So far we’ve reeled in 4 lake trout around the 8lb mark and one big one that gave me a major fight but spit out the barbless hook 😦

Kevin reeled in a massive Pike that weighed in at 22lbs and measured 37″. The fishing is amazing here!

 4pm:

Cruising around looking for a place to set up camp. The rocky shoreline is making this a bit difficult. We need to make sure we find a sheltered spot to avoid a repeat of last years “beached boat incident”. Don’t ask…

 7pm:

Went to the fishing camp at Jug Bay. They were so nice they even brought us to a secluded spot up a river to set up camp for a night or two.

There’s a little waterfall that pours into the river right next to us. We cast from shore and hammered two beautiful pike in the first 2 minutes! Dinner is served 🙂

10pm:

What a great day of fishing. We found a 120′ trough full of fish less than a mile from our campsite. We’ll head back there in the early morning if the storm that’s coming holds off that long. I’m feeling tired from all the fun and fresh air.

 July 12, 2013

 4am:

Woke up to an epic storm. Intense rainfall and high winds. I’m starting to feel like Dorothy. Where’s that damn Toto anyways? Screw him… I’m not looking for him in this crap;)

The tarp is going haywire in the wind so we may have to go take it down before it gives us lift off. On a good note… We tucked the boat in the perfect spot. She’s barely moving. One less thing to worry about.

 9am:

The storm has finally subsided. What a night! Scary and exhilarating all at once. Our bladders are full and our stomachs are empty. Time to switch that around.

 12pm:

Decided to break camp and try for Jug Bay because the mosquitos are so bad. We cooked Bacon, eggs, toast & coffee on the boat with the Coleman. I’d like to hug the person who invented that gadget. Made a run for the bay after but the waves are massive. Far too risky to continue on so we turned back and tucked in behind an island to wait it out. Time to catch some fish while we wait.

Pike x6

 3pm:

Weather shows no sign of clearing. Winds are at 42 knots (78km/hr) out on the lake. Two of the locals were forced into the same bay on their seadoos. The winds are supposed to start dying down at midnight, so it looks like another wet night of camping.

4:30pm:

Set up camp in the bay. We seem to be fairly sheltered from the wind but the rain is unrelenting. Poor Kevin is out getting firewood while I blow up the air-bed. I think he’s being very optimistic about having a fire lol.

 6:30pm

I said screw it and went to sleep. Constant rain and damp makes my lupus act up, so I’ll try to catch up on my rest for tomorrow.

 July 13, 2013

 7am:

Woke up to what I perceived to be sun but in reality was a single tiny gap in the cloud cover. I can almost her Mother Nature saying “psyche!”

We’re going to make a run for Jug Bay Camp.

 9am:

We made it! Waves were high but not crazy like last night. Jacquie and the guys were super welcoming. Their dock was ripped off from the waves last night so we used the beach.

After a hot coffee (heaven) and a chat we settled into our cabin. On went the heater to dry our rain & wave soaked gear and off we go to the shower house. Ahhhhh…

 11am:

OMG… Best moment ever. Q-tip in my ears. Woo Hoo! I’m officially clean again 🙂

 6pm:

Back from fishing. I caught a nice Laker:) Back for a home cooked meal at the camp.

Spent time around the bonfire with the other two guests and the camp guides Devon & Quinton. Man can they drink!

 July 14,2013

6:30am

We’re up and at ’em early this morning. Breakfast & coffee downed then off to the Sand Dunes on the other side of the lake.

 8am:

The waves are nuts! This is gonna be a bumpy ride. No more typing for a while. I need both hands lol.

 9:30am

Took this long just to get across. The troughs were deep and rough so it took longer than it was supposed to.

 11:30am:

The sand dunes were beautiful. Got great pics 🙂

The waves are still high. We’re going to shoot back across to the other side and down-rig our way amongst the many islands there.

6:30pm

Caught a multitude of fish and marked some nice spots for the next trip out here. One fish spit the lute right back at us and I got it on video!

 July 15, 2013

11am:

It’s Monday. I packed the gear while Kevin gassed the boat up. Time to start the two day trip home. There are some serious black clouds forming in the distance. We’re going to try to end run them like footballers at the Super Bowl. Fingers crossed!

 3:30pm

Made a good run all the way to Fidler Point. The waves are getting nasty so we’re tucked in behind a little island. Hoping it settles down but not counting on it. Need to decide in a bit what to do.

 3:31pm

Lol. The emergency weather radio kicked in. It’s decided. Major thunderstorm blowing in. Time to make a run for it!

 6:45pm:

Managed to wiggle past the storms edge and avoid the serious stuff. Gassing up at Fort Chip and then heading upriver. Looks like a two day trip home just turned into one. We’ll be getting in late. We’ll have to run the last half of the river in the dark 😦 on the bright side 😉 I took some amazing pictures today 🙂

It’ll be nice to sleep in our own bed tonight and have the day off to relax tomorrow. Err… Or do laundry, unpack the boat & empty the coolers 😛

9pm:

We’re losing light fast and we’ve caught up with the storm that we dodged. Damn you Mother Nature. The river has so many dead trees in it it’s crazy. The flooding really tore up the banks and weakened the root system of a lot of really big trees. Next year is going to be like an obstacle course coming down here lol.

Not sure if we’ll risk running the river in the dark. Might end up sleeping in the boat… In the rain…fml…

July 16, 2013

5am:

OMFG. It’s safe to say that we will NEVER sleep on the boat again unless the only other option is certain death. And even then I’d have to mull it over for a while first. Kevin is starting to drive again. He’s letting me “sleep” a while longer lol.

6:15am:

I’m up. The boat is sucking gas like an Irishman that hasn’t drank in a week The boat needs to be balanced better and the top needs to come off to lessen the drag. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if we ran out of gas a mile from the dock? Umm… NO! Actually yes, but not for like a week lol.

Saw my fifth Bald Eagle of the trip just now 🙂 Kevin was lucky enough to see one take off from by our campsite a few mornings ago.

 7:30am:

The water has really dropped the week we were gone. Sandbars and huge trees popping up all over the place. I’m glad we stopped last night regardless of the comfort level. (Which was about -6). I’d hate to hit one of those suckers in the dark.

 10:30am:

Finally made it to the boat launch. It’s even more of a muddy mess than when we left. The F350 got stuck bad trying to pull the boat & trailer out. It took 2 trucks to get us out and something let go in the front end. The drive home was a bit slow as Kevin could barely steer the truck 😛

What…A…Trip.

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Prepping for Competition

Choosing A Show

The first step in preparing for a show is to choose an organization and a division in which to compete. We’re assuming the second has been done, as this article is geared towards figure competitors. There are also divisions for fitness, bikini, and fitness model.

As for choosing an organization, attend local shows in your area and research the different organization websites online. Check out results and photos from the shows you are looking to enter to see what the desired look is, and decide which look you prefer and could likely attain.

For a figure competition, you should allow yourself 3-6 months of preparation. This ensures enough time to take care of all the details, while also focusing on your training and diet, without added stress of being pressed to meet a deadline and wondering if you’ll be ready on time.

After selecting several shows of interest, research the chosen organization’s criteria, rules, and judging requirements. You will have to submit your entry form and registration fee, adhere to any drug-testing requirements, and put together posing routines and quarter turns according to that organization’s standards.

It’s a good idea to contact the show promoter to sort out any questions you may have at this point. If the show requires traveling, ensure you find a means to get there and make any necessary reservations, including airfare or hotel, if required.

12 – 8 Weeks Out

At the 3-month point, you should begin the first stages of preparation. They include hiring any professionals to assist you and mapping out the first stages of your training and diet.
if you have budget constraints, I suggest hiring one person to take care of the one area in which you feel you need the most help. For many competitors that area is diet. What to eat, what not to eat, in what amounts, when, and how to peak during that final week are beyond most workout enthusiasts’ basic knowledge.

Diet

At 12 weeks out you should begin counting calories and starting to eliminate the junk foods from your diet. Get into the habit of eating 5-7 meals per day, each meal containing a protein, carbohydrate, and some fat, and drinking one gallon of water per day.

Limit cheat meals to one meal on the weekend, NOT the entire day :P. Start preparing your daily meal plans, buying and cooking food from scratch as much as possible, and weighing and measuring portions. Also be sure to track your calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fat for every item you put in your mouth.

Begin limiting simple sugars to what is found in fruits and complex carbohydrates – no junk food sweets or candy. Replace any full-fat dairy products with low-fat or fat-free versions. Start increasing your fiber intake gradually, and aim for 35g per day.

A great tool to track your daily food intake is the “Lose It” app. It’s free, and contains a huge food database and the option to customize your own foods.

If you are doing your own diet, begin by putting in 1g of protein for every pound of bodyweight, as a minimum. You do not need to go higher than 1.25g per pound. Make sure to keep healthy fats in your diet as well. Keep about 20-30g of fat in your diet, and supplement with nuts or nut butters to ensure you’re reaching those numbers.

When it comes to carbohydrates, much is determined by your individual body type. Are you overly sensitive to carbohydrates and tend to store fat easily? You will probably want to keep this number equal with your protein intake. If you are thin-framed, have a fast metabolism, and have a hard time putting on fat or muscle, you can stand to add more carbs in your diet.

These first few weeks, you want to make sure you are consistent with whatever numbers you go for. You will then be able to track your progress and make changes according to what your body does.

Consistency is the key in any successful nutrition program. If you aren’t doing the same thing from day to day, how do you know if you are getting enough protein, too many carbs, or not enough water? Eliminate all but one variable (carbs), and use your weight and energy levels to determine if you need more or less calories.

Training

A lot of new competitors hear the false rumor that to lean out, they need to increase their reps and decrease their weight to get more of a fat-burning effect. This will increase your heart rate, but it will also allow your body to give up much more of its hard-earned muscle. With the primary goals of contest prep being to lean out and to conserve muscle, you definitely do not want to go this route.

What you should do is continue on the same lifting routine that got you the physique you have right now if you’re happy with it. You want to keep the weights as heavy as you can throughout your prep period. It will get difficult; your energy levels and strength both decrease dramatically on reduced calories and lower body fat levels.

Your weight workouts should focus on high intensity. You can make any type of workout a high-intensity one. There are many techniques in which to do this. You can reduce your rest periods to 45-60 seconds between sets, and begin super-setting exercises together.

You can throw in a few high-rep sets to really get your heart-rate up, but remember not to sacrifice weight in your other exercises and sets. Negatives, drop sets, and forced reps are other great ways to increase your training intensity. Your heart rate should be soaring, you should be sweating, and your muscles should definitely be burning and fatigued!

Cardio

It’s difficult to recommend a proper cardio regimen for anyone without knowing their training history, body type, and how much fat they need to lose for a show. In general, I recommend starting with 3 30-minute sessions per week and take it from there. If you are already doing more than that, do not increase your cardio at this point, just maintain where you are.

Cardio should only be increased upon the occurrence of two things: one, you stop losing fat for at least 2 weeks without having changed anything else in your program; two, you first drop your calories by 100-200 consistently for 1-2 weeks and have still not lost any body fat.

Always manipulate your diet first, and do it slowly and gradually, before increasing your cardio. Once you have to increase cardio, add 5-15 minutes to each session for the first week and that will likely do the trick. Once your sessions reach 45-60 minutes in length, you can add in another day of cardio.

I always recommend taking one day out of the week where you rest completely from all weight training, cardio, classes, and practice. Your body needs the rest and it’s a nice perk to look forward to at the end of the week, helping rest and recharge you physically and mentally for next week’s training and diet.

Supplements

Since there is so much controversy regarding particular supplements and whether they work or not, my supplement recommendations come in order of importance and in order of effectiveness based on popular research and my own experience. If there is something not on the list you wish to take and can afford to do so, then there is nothing wrong with adding it in to make your preparation and life a little easier.

Multi-Vitamin/Mineral – First and foremost, this is a necessity. I even double the dose and take one each in the morning and evening during contest prep. While on reduced calories and strenuous exercise, you are depleting your body of its necessary vitamins and nutrients, so doubling up on this supplement is a great idea.
Extra Vitamin C – This is also a necessity for all my clients in contest prep mode. The extra vitamin C is needed to help boost the immune system, which is severely weakened from all the rigors of contest prep.
Add to that the fact that most competitors diet through the winter months when colds are rampant, and you have a potential recipe for disaster. Take 500 mg in the morning and 500 mg in the evening. Even though there is C in your multi-vitamin, it’s not enough.

Extra Calcium – This is very important for female competitors and should not be ignored. Women need a minimum of 1200-1400 mg daily, and most multi-vitamins only contain 500 mg. Add 500 mg of calcium in your morning and evening doses to ensure you are meeting the minimum requirement.

Glutamine – Take 5-10 g daily, split into 2 doses. Pre or post-workout is a great time to take glutamine, and also right before bed.

Echinacea and Gingko Biloba – I am an adamant believer in the effectiveness of herbal remedies, so I’ve added these two herbs to the supplementation program. The Echinacea helps boost the immune system, important for reasons mentioned above, and the Gingko helps with mental clarity, alertness, and concentration, all of which are depleted on a low-calorie, lower carbohydrate contest diet.

Glucosamine Complex – This is very important during contest prep. As you lean out, your joints, tendons, and ligaments become more susceptible to injury; there is less fat around the joint to cushion and protect it. In addition, the high volume of weight training and cardio puts a lot of stress on your joints. Adding in glucosamine helps rebuild the cartilage around your joints and prevent injuries. (If allergic to shellfish make sure to get the shellfish free one)

Water – Don’t forget water! Get into that habit now of drinking 3-4 liters per day. It might take you a while to build up to that, but it is definitely a necessity. Water is so important for many bodily functions, and has the added bonus of keeping your skin clear and helping you feel full while dieting.

Posing Suits

Also at this point, you need to begin reviewing posing suit designers and narrowing down some suit styles and colors you like, that also fit your budget. Contact 2-3 designers whose work you like, and let them know the date of your show and what division you’ll be competing in.

Tell them what suit or suits you need, and ask them to send you sample photos and fabric swatches. Many designers are booked 3-4 months out, so reserving your spot by 2-3 months is very important to ensure you’re getting the designer and the suit that you want.

Posing

If you’ve never competed, you should begin learning and practicing your poses immediately. These differ as well, so research your show’s organization to ensure you are meeting their exact requirements for quarter turns, presentation walks, and routines.

I also suggest using online resources, such as Bodybuilding.com, for instructional articles on posing. There are several DVD’s available for purchase, including one by IFBB Pro Tanji Johnson (“Instructional Posing DvD”) and NPC Judge Sandy Ranalli (“What are the Judges Looking for in Figure & Fitness?”).

You should begin practicing your poses 1-2 times per week, aiming to hold each pose for 30-60 seconds and repeat 3-5 times. Observe yourself in a full-length mirror, and be sure to practice in the actual shoes you’ll be wearing for the show!

Practicing on a hardwood floor, such as your gym’s group exercise room, is also great, as most competition stages are hardwood. If possible, have someone take photos or a video of you posing so you can assess your poses and make appropriate changes.

Learning and practicing the poses required for a fitness or figure contest is one of the most important aspects of competition preparation.

8 – 4 Weeks Out

At the 2-month point, you should be well on your way to honing that perfect figure physique. You shouldn’t have more than 8 pounds of body fat to lose at this point.

If you have less, just stay on track and still keep your weekend cheat meal in. If you’re right on track or a bit behind, you should definitely eliminate your cheat meals at this point.

Instead, you can opt for a higher calorie day by adding in some extra carbs, at a moderate level, as a “cheat.” We’ll discuss that in more detail under the “Diet” section.

If you’ve done everything I suggested in Part 1, you’ve already been registered for your show, your suit maker is busy sewing and gluing, and your quarter turns are nearly perfect!

You should be keeping your training heavy and intense, and hitting your diet ratios nearly to perfection every day. It should be getting easier and becoming more of a habit at this point.

Diet

Your diet should only be changing based on the quickness of your fat loss. If you started on time, you shouldn’t be trying to lose more than about a pound per week.
If you are on track or find that you are ready early, add in a little more food every few days to prevent further weight loss. If you are behind schedule, drop your carbs a little lower for 2-3 days and have a higher day once or twice per week.

Remember to still stay consistent with everything. Change only one variable at a time so you know exactly what is going right (or wrong) and exactly what to change to progress further.

Training And Cardio

Your training shouldn’t be changing at all at this point. You may have lost a little strength and energy from lower calories and reduced body fat, but the changes should only be minor. Keep training hard and heavy as long as you can!

Your cardio should be steadily but slowly increasing in duration, only as needed. Only increase once you’ve plateaued for a week, dropped calories a bit, and you’re still not losing body fat. Remember, if you increase too much too fast, you will risk overtraining and muscle loss. Cardio should be supplementary in your fat loss goals to diet and training, in that order.

Supplements

In addition to the supplements I suggested in Part 1, many competitors benefit from adding in a fat-burner supplement program between eight and four weeks out.
Why not add it sooner? You can, but the body will build up a tolerance to most fat-burners, rendering them ineffective without going above and beyond the recommended dosage.

In addition, you shouldn’t need one prior to 8 weeks, as you are not yet holding an extremely low body fat level until after this point. In order to know exactly when to add in a fat-burner, listen to your body.

When you notice a severe drop in energy, moodiness, and hunger, it’s probably time to add it in.

Posing Suits, Jewelry, Heels, Etc.

You probably won’t have your posing suits yet, but your designer should be well underway in making your suits. She may ask for updated measurements as your body fat drops, to make final adjustments for a proper fit.
You should expect to receive your suit by 1-3 weeks before the show. Once you receive it, try it on to ensure a proper fit and practice your posing in the suit from now on.

If you haven’t purchased heels yet, begin by researching online stores to find a shoe that fits both your organization’s requirements and that matches your suits. Most girls choose a clear shoe between 4″-5″ in height, but this is not a requirement by most organizations. Just make sure the shoe’s upper material is minimized as not to detract from your physique. I recommend a shoe with a 1/2″ or less platform under the toe, and 4 – 4 1/2″ heel height.

This shoe gives your legs a long and lean look, with just enough height to pop the calf and lengthen the legs without causing difficulty walking.

Once you’ve chosen your suits, buy jewelry to accompany each suit. Hopefully, you’ve picked a silver or gold theme, not both, so you can wear the same jewelry for each round.

Don’t buy or wear expensive jewelry, as it will get dirty, and possibly be lost or stolen. I suggest going to Claire’s or Icing and picking a nice pair of dangle earrings (2-3″ in length), and a bracelet.

You should also order your tanning supplies around 4 weeks out or arrange for a spray tan. i highly suggest having backup product on and in case for some reason the appointment falls through. Bodybuilding.com has a huge selection of items, and they arrive at your door within a few days.

I’ve tried almost all the products available, and found the absolute best to be Olympic Tan. It’s the easiest and fastest to apply, and requires minimum coats for a deep, dark color. It’s convenient foam formula serves as both an excellent base tan and a bronzer, in one.

One bottle is all you will need for one show. The best applicator I’ve seen are the Jan Tana round sponges. They smooth the tanning agent on evenly and quickly, unlike paint brushes or using your hands with gloves alone. Figure girls don’t need posing oil, so save your money on that.

The Last 4 Weeks

The final month of contest prep is the most grueling and difficult. You are over-trained, underfed, moody, and ready to be done with all this pre-contest stuff already! Biding your time and pressing on until the day of the show is probably the most difficult thing at this point, as time seems to slow to a crawl.

Motivation and energy levels can also drop, so it’s important to do everything you can to stay on track with workouts and diet and push yourself to keep your training intensity high!

There is not much to do differently at this point, except coast on in to show day knowing that you’ve done everything in your power to come in at 100%. If you do this, you will not have any disappointments on show day!

Staying Motivated:

I will list some of my favorite techniques to stay motivated during the tough times of contest prep. Remember, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it!

Post pictures of your favorite competitors & inspirational quotes.
Read bodybuilding & fitness magazines.
Watch fitness/figure videos.
Attend a local competition.
Visit motivating fitness web sites.
Call your spouse, best friend or family member for support (a good support team is essential!).
Treat yourself to a day at the spa.
Visualize how you want to look on show day.
Pray for mental and physical strength.
Schedule a photo shoot (seeing your photos can give you a true view of how good you really look!).

Training, Diet & Supplementation

Your training will be getting more difficult at this point. The number one struggle will be to keep your energy levels and strength up at the gym.

Time your complex carb meals and supplements to give you the ultimate energy right when you need it – pre-workout. You may be up to two training sessions per day at this point, which is very common.

Cardio:

When Is The Best Time To Do Cardio?
If possible, I suggest doing cardio on days you do not lift, or at least as a separate training session. The shorter your training sessions, the more energy and intensity you can devote to each session, the better recovered you will be before the next workout, and the more muscle you will retain.
A big pre-contest myth is that you have to do cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. All this does is make you hungry and cranky, aid in muscle loss, lower your capability to train with high intensity, and deplete your glycogen stores – sometimes to the point where they are low all day long and can’t recover or refill before your next workout.

The truth is, performing cardio in a fasted state will promote amino acid oxidation and cortisol release. Cortisol is a very catabolic hormone that prohibits fat retention and inhibits muscle gain.1 If you just don’t like doing cardio with food in your stomach, at a minimum take some glutamine and/or BCAA’s to give your body an energy source other than your muscle tissue!

Diet:

To fuel your workouts, avoid muscle-wasting, and recovery quickly. Make sure you are ingesting complex carbohydrates at breakfast and pre-workout. If you have extra carbs to add in, do so post-workout.
These are your three most important meals and should be structured first in your meal planning. Your other 3-5 meals should be “filler” meals, where you are getting a variety of lean proteins and fibrous vegetables to give yourself a varying array of amino acid profiles, vitamins and minerals.

Supplementation:

As for supplementation, some people find that creatine and natural hormone boosters can cause excess water retention that is most definitely undesirable for competition.
If you experience this, I suggest tapering off of these supplements 4-2 weeks out. Supplements that you can and should keep in up until show day include your:

Glutamine
BCAA’s
Multivitamin/mineral
Fat-burner
Immune boosters (Echinacea, Gingko Biloba)
EFA’s
Glucosamine

Fees, Entry Forms & Travel Arrangements

If you haven’t sent in your entry form and made travel arrangements at this point, you have no time to wait! Check with the organization and show promoter to make sure you’ve filled out all the proper paperwork and sent in the fees for entry, membership, and if applicable, drug-testing.

Some promoters require money orders, proof of age or residency, and certain postage standards, so check the fine print and details to make sure your paperwork meets the guidelines. You don’t want to show up on the day of the show only to find that you were never registered to compete!

Also, finalize your travel and hotel accommodations if you haven’t done so already. It’s also a good idea to check with your hotel/airline to make sure your reservations are still good 1-2 weeks out.

Ask the hotel if they have a microwave and refrigerator available in the hotel lobby or in your room. Most often, you can pay a small fee to get a refrigerator delivered to your room once you arrive.

Check Ahead To Make Sure Your Registration Is Complete.

Make A Packing/Shopping List:

You should make your packing list now, so that you can purchase any items you are short on or forgot you needed. This will save you the stress of arriving without the necessary items and conveniences, and having to run around to get them or do without them.

Competition Shopping List:

2-piece swimsuit
1-piece swimsuit (if applicable)
Heels
Tanning agent, applicator, Bikini Bite, Pam spray (for sheen)
Jewelry for each swimsuit round (earrings & bracelet)
Stage makeup/applicators & cosmetic bag
Hair styling items & products
Large cooler for 2-3 days of food
Small cooler to take on show day
Safety pins, scissors, crazy glue (for suit mishaps)
Hooded, zippered front, drawstring waist, loose-fitting pant suit (cotton or velour)
Flip-flops to wear on show day
Small rolling suitcase to bring to the show
Old towels – 2 bath towels, 1-2 hand towels, 1-2 wash cloths (good for applying tanning agent/oil, wiping off surfaces and protecting hotel items from getting stained)

Choose Your Hair & Make-Up:

Decide how you want to do your hair for both rounds of prejudging and finals. Do a little research and try out your hairstyles 1-2 times before the day of the show to avoid complications.
Clean and relatively simple hairstyles are always the best option. Avoid flamboyant hair-do’s that do little but distract the judges and audience from your physique.

Whether you are curly or straight-haired, make sure your hair is shiny, healthy and smooth (frizz-free) to present your best package to the judges. I also suggest a coloring touch-up and/or deep conditioning 2-3 weeks out.

Choose make-up that flatters your palette (warm or cool) and coordinates with your suits. This doesn’t mean it has to match your suit color, just compliment it. Buy your make-up no later than 2 weeks out, and practice several different application techniques and colors to find the best match for your skin tone, facial features and suit colors.

Do A Mock Competition Run-Through

They say that practice makes perfect, and this is preached so often for good reason – it’s true, especially when it comes to figure competition. If you lack the experience of some of the seasoned competitors, you can make up for it by doing a mock competition run-through.

Do your full hair and makeup, apply posing oil/sheen spray, put your suits and jewelry on, and run through each posing round, changing in between. You can do this alone, but it’s best to have a small close audience, like a spouse, best friend or trainer.

Do this run-through 2-3 weeks out so that you can change anything needed before the final week, when you’ll be too busy. Get honest feedback from your “judges” and have them take pictures so you can review your posing and presentation as well.

The Final Week

Your last week of contest prep will be unlike any other. During this week you will manipulate your diet for maximum muscle fullness and minimal water retention.

You will cut back on training so your body can recover for the demands of the competition day. And you will tie up any loose ends with buying and packing items needed and finalizing travel and hotel arrangements.

Diet:

What you need to realize is that your goal for peak week is to come in full and hard with no water under the skin. You do, however, want the water in your muscles so you don’t appear flat and soft.

The general rule of thumb I tell new competitors is to not try anything extreme the first show. A 2-3 day carb depletion with a moderate increase the day before or of the competition, coupled with moderately-low sodium intake and high water intake, will result in the hardness and fullness they are going for.

A good nutritionist will know this and will plan your week accordingly. If you are doing it on your own, stick with the simple basics, as extreme plans result in extreme (and most often undesirable) reactions.

You may opt to add in a natural herbal diuretic to assist with water loss, but if your food and water are properly manipulated, this isn’t always necessary.

A product that I highly recommend is MHP XPel. It contains natural herbs to help flush out excess water, but also contains a balance of electrolytes to keep the water in the muscles and out of the skin. It is unlike any other herbal diuretic on the market.

Training:

Your training should be minimized this week, with workouts being performed at only 80% of your full workload and intensity, with no intense workouts after mid-week.
Training during the final week helps deplete glycogen stores and again, get rid of any excess water, prior to carbing up right before the show.

Cardio should be cut back to half or less of what your former volume was, and should be done at moderately-low intensity. You should spend more time polishing up your stage walk and quarter turns this week, but make sure you get plenty of rest Thursday and Friday so you’re ready to go come show day!

Tanning:

The tanning process should begin about 3 weeks out, with exfoliating your skin 1-2 times per week. This will help your base tan apply smoother and more evenly, and your skin will be glowing and healthy-looking on show day.
What most competitors do, and what I recommend, is to begin Tuesday night with the tanning process.

Start by exfoliating the skin and removing unwanted body hair, either by shaving or a depilatory cream. Apply your base tanning product with a sponge or gloved hands. If your product comes in a spray bottle, pour it into a disposable plastic cup or bowl. It’s much easier to apply this way.

Tan your entire body up to your neck, but do not tan your elbows, armpits, knees, hands, feet, or face. Let the agent dry for 15-30 minutes before putting old clothes on. Sleep with the agent on and rinse in cold water with no soap the following morning. Moisturize if desired.

Repeat this process (minus the exfoliating, instead just rinse body in cold water) Wednesday and Thursday nights. Friday morning will be your final shower and shaving touch-up, if needed. All coats applied Friday and Saturday should be done with special care, as they will not be rinsed off, so mistakes will be more visible.

Space applications out about every 3-4 hours, to give the agent enough time to dry and enhance in color before the next coat is applied. Repeat this process for 3-4 total coats on Friday.

Apply no more than 1-2 coats to the body parts you previously skipped – elbows, armpits, knees, hands, face, and feet. Apply a final touch-up coat Saturday morning, if necessary. On the day of the show, use a moisturizer or some Pam spray to get a nice even sheen without a wet, oily look.

Trust me it is way easier to arrange with a spray tan company lol.

The Day Of The Show

Wake up early enough so that you can fix your make-up & hair, pack your show day bag (see packing list at the end) and food, fix your tan if necessary, and arrive 30 minutes before the competitor meeting is set to begin. There is nothing wrong with being early, and this alleviates a lot of stress.

Arrive at the show ready to step on stage, other than a few minor touch ups with hair and makeup, since you never know what will be available once you arrive at the venue.

You don’t have to wear your suit, but have it readily available at check-in. Pay attention at the competitor meeting so you know what time you have to be at each event and location.

Expediters and promoters will not wait for you to start the show, so if you’re not there, you don’t get to compete! Treat everyone and everything with kindness and respect – this will help make your day a positive experience.

Don’t be afraid to eat and drink water on the day of the show. You should be carbing up this day and drinking a cup with every meal, to stay hydrated and keep your muscles full.

Eating and drinking on show day aren’t going to suddenly make you fat after 12 weeks of dieting, and your body needs the food and water for energy and a strong performance.

Show Day Packing List:

Posing Suits
Heels
Makeup
Beauty Blotting Papers
Small Mirror
Jewelry
Tanning Supplies
(Paint, sponges, washrag)
Lotion
Pam Cooking Spray
(for sheen)
Latex Gloves
Spare Hand & Face Towels
Q-tips
Scissors
Safety Pins
Crazy Glue
Hair Ties
Hairbrush
Hair Products
(Gel, Hairspray, Curling Iron, etc.)
Toothbrush/Paste
Mouthwash
Food
Bottled Water
Flip-Flops
Umbrella
Music (CD & Tape)
Bikini Bite
Vaseline for Teeth
Sugarless Gum
Photo Shoot Clothing
Clothing Change
(for after show party/dinner)
Disposable Camera
Snacks (for after the show)
Business Cards
Photographs
Promotional Items
Directions to show and hotel
Copy of entry form & organization membership card
Tampons (girls only unless its been a really bad day for the guys 😉
Supplements

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Glycemic Index / Load Explained

GLYCEMIC INDEX
The glycemic index resulted from the work of scientists who studied volunteers who ate 50 g of carbs and a control food such as white bread. Blood samples taken from these subjects determined blood glucose levels prior to eating and then at intervals over several hours after eating. They applied the data they obtained to many foods using various calculations. Then they compiled a list of foods and their corresponding value based on how fast or slow the food became glucose in the body after eating. Generally the foods with low values took longest to turn to sugar and therefore are easiest on the pancreas. This list of glycemic values gave birth to the glycemic index.

ROLE OF FIBER
Nutritionists soon realized that the index did not take into consideration the actual amount of carbs in the foods. The missing piece, the amount of fiber, needed consideration. In answer to this need, the concept of glycemic load evolved. The glycemic load takes into account the amount of fiber contained in the food. Fiber has shown the ability to slow the metabolic processing of carbohydrates, making the carbs less offensive to the body. Therefore, a food that has a moderate GI value but contains lots of fiber may actually have a low glycemic load.

CALCULATIONS
You can calculate the glycemic load of a food or of an entire meal by using this simple equation. First look up the food in the glycemic index, which is available as a paperback. Take its glycemic index value and multiply it by the amount of available carb grams of the food minus the amount of fiber grams of the food. Now divide the answer by 100, and you have the glycemic load of that food. Do this for all the foods in a meal and add the results together. This gives you the glycemic load of the entire meal. Mathematically the equation looks like this: (GI) x (g of carbs – g of fiber) ÷ 100.

SAMPLE APPLICATION
A 1-cup, 225-g serving of bananas has a GI of 52 and a carbohydrate content of 51.4 g. It also has 5.9 g of fiber, which you subtract from the carb content of 51.4 g. With this reduction you now have 45.5 g of carbs. Plug the numbers into the equation. 52 x (51.4 – 5.9) = 45.6 divided by 100. These bananas have a glycemic load of 24, which represents a low and desirable value. You can find the fiber content of the food on its package if it’s a processed food.

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Girls can’t do that!

Girls can’t do that!

I have been a personal trainer for a crazy amount of years. I started in a time when most women didn’t go to the gyms. They followed their videos in the comfort of their living rooms and didn’t dream of invading the dark smelly caves where the big boys hung out. You can imagine people’s expressions when I decided to become a trainer! I was a skinny little girl, about 115lbs soaking wet but with a big attitude 🙂

I remember one guy that said “girls can’t take the kind of pain it takes to do this”. Boy I wish I would’ve ran into him 5 minutes after giving birth to my daughter. Hrmfph!

I was lucky enough to be mentored by a couple that owned a Golds Gym in Niagara Falls at the very start of my journey. Greg was an excellent trainer even by today’s standards. He was way ahead of his time. He taught me the importance of form and tempo over weight. How to effectively squeeze the muscle. To warm up, cool down & stretch. This all sounds very common now but you have to realize that this was when all everyone did was walk, pick up the heaviest dumbbells they could find and start heaving them about. Oh wait, lots of people sill do that… Well that’s a whole ‘nother blog 😉

I was lucky enough to be an independent trainer my whole career. Believe me it wasn’t always easy in the beginning. I literally starved a few times. Resorting to shoplifting steaks on Sundays to get enough protein in my skinny body. Cans of tuna were 35 cents, protein powder was chalky and disgusting. I’d put them both in the blender and chug it down while holding my nose and gagging. You guys have no idea how easy you have it with all the products available to you. Flavors like butter pecan, chocolate fudge… I wish! Lol.

In 2009 I came to Fort McMurray to work at Mac Island. It seemed to make sense. I’m in my 40’s. probably going to work another ten or so years. Seemed like a good fit. It was just opening and the excitement was palpable. I started as a trainer in the gym there but quickly moved up to Fitness Coordinator then on to Health & Wellness Coordinator. For a time it seemed like that it was where I belonged. I learned a lot of things there. I can run excel like a pro now. Meetings up the wazoo helped me make a lot of great connections in the community. I worked with some wonderful people and some not so wonderful people. To be expected in a corporation of that size. But therein lies the crunch… A corporation. Anyone that knows me well knows that I LOVE change, I LOVE being creative, I LOVE speaking my mind. I do not love following the herd. I started to feel restless, like something was missing.

I do not want to reside in the Ivory tower. I want to live in the trenches. For that is where the real battles are won or lost.

I do not want to spend the last years of my career sitting at a desk or censoring my every word and action to ensure it fits in with the “image” that has been created. I want to be me, I want to speak the truth even if it offends some people because THAT is what makes me an effective trainer. The ability to look my clients square in the eye and tell them “bullshit” and “stop saying what you can’t do”. People understand truth, they recognize it and they want to hear it whether they realize it at that moment or not.

And so I have one back full circle to where I belong. One on one with people that are craving change, reaching for goals that once seemed so far away but now are moving closer with each day. I live for those texts and phone calls telling me they just bought a bikini and it felt GOOD or they just ran their first 5km in sub 30 minutes! Or watching a little “girl” push more weight than some of the guys around her. It’s like a high for me. You can feel their joy and it as a tuner it fills you up with pride in their accomplishments.

I’m in the midst of getting my university nutrition degree. The great part of this is that I already know this stuff. Easiest course ever for me 🙂 This is something I can do til the end of days, because I have a feeling that I’m not going to like the whole retirement thing. All that sitting still stuff. Blech…

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Avocado Potato Salad

Avocado Potato Salad (8 servings)

Ingredients:

4 cups Red garden mini potatoes, chopped
2 Avocados, ripe
2 TBS Olive Oil
2 TBSP Lime juice
1/4 TSP sea salt
1/4 TSP Cayenne pepper
1/4 CUP Green onions, chopped
1 CUP Cucumber, diced
1 CUP Red & yellow peppers, diced
1 CUP Celery, chopped
3 Radishes, sliced

Directions:
Place potatoes in a pot with water, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a light boil and cook until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork (but not soft!). Drain and set aside to cool.
To make the dressing, chop avocado into the food processor, with lime juice, salt, cayenne pepper and oil. Blend until creamy.
Put all ingredients in a large bowl to mix, until all vegetables are lightly coated. Garnish with radishes and green onions, and serve!

Nutrients:
Calories 198
Protein 3.4g
Carb 23.4g
Fiber 5.6g
Sugar 3g
Fat 11.1g
Sat Fat 1.6g

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