If you have read any of my past blog posts, then you know that my preparation for the 2012 figure season was not a pleasant one. Let me say this, however, before I begin discussing last season's prep and this season's prep: what I have and what I am about to share are my experiences unique to me. I don't intend to say that all competitors react the same way to the "high protein/high fat/low carb" diet that is prescribed for many in this industry. What I do intend is to share what I went through, what I did in the off season in order to keep my promise to myself that I wouldn't suffer like that again for a trophy, and how I managed to still get lean with my carbs and my sanity in tact. I won't go into too much detail abou the 2012 season, as I have already given a pretty detailed diary of the experience here. In short, I found that after my first round of competitions in 2011, I rebounded badly (30 pounds gained), had a tremendously difficult time getting the weight off once I began prep, was put through a depletion, had my carbs greatly reduced, and eventually spent a day of carb binging 8 weeks out from show. I was drained both mentally and physically (I blame part of that on my work schedule and busy family life), and my self confidence continued to plummet with each meal plan change that took away my complx carbohydrates. I did well at the show, coming in 1st in my Class for Master's and 5th in my Class for the Open. However, I knew for sure that if I ever planned on doing another show, I would now allow my body to go through the suffering that I felt it had. I decided I really needed to learn more about nutrition and how the body uses the macronutrients as fuel. I took the NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialist course and learned, much to my dismay, that everything I had done to prep for the first four shows was detrimental to my health and metabolism. In fact, I learned that drastically lowering one's carbohydrate ratios was the last thing anyone, even competitors, wanted to do! I learned how to manipulate my protein and carbohydrate ratios pre and post workout in order to get stronger, help me recover faster, and still remain within a healthy body fat range. I learned that fat was, in fact, the least metabolic of the three macronutrients, so I began to question the logic behind adding high fat ratios to a competitor's diet. I learned about ketosis and its dangers. I learned how important complex carbohydrates were not just in the assistance of muscle growth and repair, but how ESSENTIAL they were for the proper functioning of the central nervous system. I can go on and on about the wealth of information NASMs FNS course gave me, as well as the wealth of info I derived from some of the IDEA Fitness professionals at the annual conference. However, I was still a little skeptical. After all, I had practiced nothing different on-season and had seen the typical body builder's diet work again and again. That is when I decided to seek out a nutritionist. And not just any nutritionist--probably the best in her field: Kim Porterfield. My husband and I had followed an eating regimen about five years ago called Get Lean, co-authored by CN Keith Klein and bodybuilding legend Lee Labrada. The information presented, as well as the meal plans, actually echoed all that I had just learned from my course. We both had gotten great success with the plan, and that was even with a whole cheat day (which I do NOT recommend!). My husband was so impressed that he actually sought out to hire Keith. He was handed over to Kim, with the assurance that if Keith didn't have 100% confidence in her abilities, he would not let her work with his clients. This time, it was my turn. I needed to validate all that NASM and the IDEA pros were telling me through first hand experience, so I hired Kim. During our first consult, I asked a lot of questions about how the body responds to the high protein/high fat diets, about metabolic meltdowns, about the necessity of high carbohydrate consumption, and about getting lean without too much suffering, In fact, I learned that I could get stage ready without suffering at all. We started early (16 weeks out instead of the typical 12) in order to get me from 20% body fat to 15%: goal accomplished in one month! I was eating foods I loved and plenty of them, so I never felt depreived. Even as the caloric intake began to lower, my carb intake stayed at such a level where I was able to stay energized and focused throughout the day. When my fat loss attempts did stall, Kim refused to deplete me. She explained that it wouldn't do much but change the number on the scale by taking away a bit of hard-earned muscle. Instead, she knew that I was in a great deal of pain (back and hip), so she told me to stop working legs, stop cardio (running), and go to my doctor. I did as she asked and once my PCP got the pain from the spasm in my back and the chronic inflammation in my hip under control, the fat began to fly off again. In order to give Kim an idea of what was going on with my body, I did bi-weekly hydrostatic weigh-ins. My first one, back in December 2012, had me with a little over 118 pounds of lean body mass and 20% body fat. three weeks before the show, I was still 118 pounds of lean mass but 10% body fat. I am convinced that the no change in my lean body mass was a combination of my excellent supplements supplied by DotFIT (I used Recover and Build, Amino Boost, and Muscle Defender both offa nd on season), and Kim's manipulation of my macros. I now practice the same philosophy as Kim with my own clients. I teach them that carbohydrates are not the enemy; rather, perhaps the types of carbs they are choosing (processed and sugar loaded), the timing of their carbohydrate intake, or the LACK of carbohydrates is what stumps their weight loss/strength gain goals. Everything comes in a delicate balance. Too much of any of the macronutrients can cause weight gain; on the same token, too little of any of them can be harmful as well. I am always learning so that I can bring my best to my clients. I am thankful for my FNS certification, I am thankful for the knowledge shared by the presenters at the IDEA Conferences and through our monthly magazine Fitness Journal, I am thankful for my mentor, Kim, and I am thankful to my clients who entrust their health to me. It is my hope to add to my professional portfolio a CN degree. After all, I can definitely give you a burn out workout in the gym, but if you don't have strong nutritional support, then you are heading for disappointment. Remember--you can't outrun bad nutrition.