It’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted on here – school got a bit hectic come September and I just couldn’t rationalize spending time researching something that wasn’t related to school/work!
As many of you probably know, I’ve had a rough go mentally and physically lately. The disc in my jaw slipped a couple weeks ago from chronic TMJ issues (technical term: disc displacement with reduction of the TMJ). Essentially I can’t open my mouth wider than 30mm and potentially never will be able to! I have to do 6months of alternative therapy before they will even consider surgery and surgery might not even help! And what is even more exciting is that I have pretty much maxed out all of my benefits (so it is $$$$$$$$$$$$$).
The working hypothesis is I have super loose ligaments, called ligamentous laxity, as I have so many of the problems and symptoms (i.e. jaw problems, knee problems, flat feet, back problems, hyperextension in my joints, patellar movement and cartilage issues, torn sternoclavicular ligament that subluxes, etc). The treatment for that is essential NADDA but preventative/maintenance. With this, it is important to strengthen the muscles around your joints to increase stability, take pain meds, go to physio and be careful because you break and dislocate easily (wooo).
So overall: (1) I’m super busy with school; (2) I’m super broken; (3) It is super important that I keep my muscles strong to stabilize my joints as much as possible; (4) I’m super broke because all this therapy costs so much money.
Because of (4), this is the first time in about four years that I have not paid a coach/trainer to make my meal plans, make my workout plans, and keep me accountable to my health and fitness goals. I know having a routine and structure is super important for my physical and my mental health, but I usually pay someone else to make that up for me! Because I am so busy with school/work, I usually don’t want to spend the time to think about what I am going to eat or what I am going to do at the gym – I just pay my money, get my plan, and follow.
But because of my current situation, I am making my own plan!
General things that I know about me & fitness:
- I CAN EAT EVERYTHING AND I LOVE FOOD. I rarely feel full (and could 100% win any eating competition) so it is important for me to plan out my meals and weigh/partition my food.
- GOING TO THE GYM IS MY ESCAPE. Going to the gym is my mental escape from school/work. It is my buffer between work and home. It is my mood regulator. It is my hobby. I go to the gym primarily to feel good mentally.
- I NEED GOALS. For me to feel motivated to do anything in my life – whether it be school or personal – I need a goal. I like to be working towards something.
- I NEED SOME WAY TO KEEP ME ACCOUNTABLE. Having a coach is most helpful because you are essentially paying to have someone keep you accountable to your goals. Someone you are check-in with and sending progress updates to. Someone who is cheering you on and also pushing you to work a little bit harder.
- MY HEALTH IS IMPORTANT. This includes: my joint health, my hormonal/metabolic health, and my mental health.
- I LIKE SCIENCE/EVIDENCE. I like to know why. I like to trust that what I am doing is helping me reach my goals. I like to know that the effort I put in is going to lead to results.
So what do I need?
- I need a structured meal plan.
- I need a structured workout plan that (1) keeps me active and at the gym and (2) is targetted towards some type of goal.
- I need my plans to be rooted in some degree of science/evidence.
- I need to find a way to keep myself accountable now that I am not paying someone to do that!
What are my goals & what is my plan?
Let’s get real, I can make my own workout and meal plans and I don’t need a coach (although I like having a coach because it is easier). I can also re-use to 1649264074 billion workout plans I have bought before but those were created for different goals (and like I said before, I am a very goal oriented person).
First thing is first, what are my goals?
(1) Weight Goal
I have been bulking since September. Bulking is essentially eating lots of food for the purpose of gaining muscle mass. When you are “bulking” you want to consume more energy or food than you expend. So you want to be gaining weight.
I was bulking to put on muscle to compete at nationals next year. Right now, nationals is not my goal. But right now, I want to lean out a bit and here is why:
(1) Since I might need surgery, I don’t want to be “bulked” anymore. I don’t want to go into surgery with more body fat than usual and at the highest weight I have ever been. More weight = harder on your joints. Surgery = sedentary = less muscle & more body fat.
(2) Before I prepped for a bodybuilding competition, my weight never exceeded 132lbs (and that was my ‘Jill, stop eating pizza’ weight). Like I talked about in a previous post (you can find it here) prepping (and prepping not in line with science) can lead to metabolic and hormonal changes which make you gain more weight/body fat after your show than you had before. After my show, I gained back my weight (which I needed to because prep/comp weight is not maintainable) BUT I also kept gaining (which is super common and I talked about this is in that post). I just started a bulk anyways because I thought – well, I’m already bulked more than usual so I might as well go with it and put it towards building muscle! Since starting my bulk and getting back on track with a plan and accountability, my weight ended up plateauing around 138-140lbs. Gaining weight was the point of my bulk… BUT I haven’t actually seen if I can maintain my pre-prep weight post-prep. Of course muscle weighs more than fat and my higher weight might actually be higher muscle, but during prep or a deficit, you lose muscle, and my body composition tests show an overall small increase in lean body mass since before prep to now but the increase in lean body mass does not equal the increase in weight.
Overall Weight Goal: Reduce back down to pre-prep weight slowly (target roughly 130lbs) and then find the highest possible caloric intake I can consume regularly while maintaining that weight.
2. Muscle/Strength Goals
- My glutes have always been my weakness so my glutes and hamstrings are still a high priority.
- My knee joints are super loose so it is important I have strong surrounding muscles. Therefore, quads are also a high priority.
- I need to build my lower body while not aggravating my knee problems.
- Also, for my jaw, the physio/massage-therapist/chir have all emphasized my need to strengthen my back more than my “mirror muscles” (i.e. everything in the front you can see in the mirror).
- My delts are great and I love my delts…but only my anterior delts (aka my mirror delts). My mid and rear delts are almost nonexistent.
General Lifting Plan: 2 leg days (both work glutes + quads/hams), 2 back days (one day horizontal, one day vertical) and…. I haven’t decided yet.
3. Cardio Goals
I have been doing ZERO cardio for the past couple months. I find I get out of breathe even going up the stairs now! I like to hike and I want to be overall health so I am going to add cardio back in for the purpose of cardiovascular health and endurance and hiking. With that in mind, my cardio will be steady state stairs, incline walking, or elliptical. Technically the Canadian Activity Guidelines (found here) suggest 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week. I know lifting weights counts to some extent (although that is a full separate guideline) but usually I don’t lift in a way that focuses on endurance. So I am going to start with 90 minutes per week of targeted cardiovascular exercise total (i.e. anywhere between 10 to 45 minute spurts depending on my mood).
Cardiovascular Target: 90 minutes of targeted cardiovascular training per week.
Now that I know my general goals, what is my actual plan?
Do I have the skills to be able to find and synthesize evidence to create my own evidence-based plan? Absolutely.
Do I have the time or energy right now to do that research? Absolutely not.
However, I found a researcher and coach who I trust knows his stuff and has done his research. His name is Layne Norton and he has a PhD in nutritional science and he is a pro bodybuilder… and guess what? He essentially wrote a body-building prep textbook based on science (ooooooo, aaaaaaaa). His book takes you through calculations for your food/macros and talks about cardio/weight training.
Do I have time to read the whole book? NOOOOOPE.
Do I have time to read the summaries at the end of each chapter to make a plan for myself which is going to improve my physical, mental, and cognitive health that doesn’t cost me any money? OBVI.
My PLAN to create my PLAN
- Take progress photos. It is always great to document where you are at to (1) see how far you have come and (2) be able to see the next stage of your progress.
- Calculate my calories and macro breakdown according to Layne’s evidence-informed textbook and make a sample mini meal plan.
- Create 2 weeks of workouts building on previous workouts as well as my current goals.
When you have a coach, you send check in photos every week and a general check in regarding how things are going nutrition and exercise wise. During prep, I posted progress photos every week and I stopped doing those when I surpassed my pre-prep weight. I am going to start doing a weekly update – either just on instagram or if I think I have lots to say, I’ll make a blog post.
Things I am going to keep in mind based on my previous research/blog posts:
(1) Reducing caloric intake too quickly and losing weight too quickly causes metabolic and hormonal changes that actually make it harder to keep the weight off, make you hungrier and feel less full, make you more likely to gain the weight back (and more) and make it harder to lose weight in the future (see post here).
(2) It is important to ensure your protein is high enough especially during a deficit to make sure you are not losing that much lean body mass or muscle (i.e. around 1.6 to 2.2g/kg of lean body mass) (see post here).
(3) Caloric equated diets with the same amount of protein show virtually difference in weight loss. Therefore, after ensuring your protein is sufficient, how you decide to allocate the rest fo your macros (carbs and fats) doesn’t matter as much as the number of total calories consumed (see post here).
One line summary… Reduce your calories slowly and keep protein levels up.
So there is my big long post to tell you nothing except my plan to make a plan! I am going to try to make it evidence informed and I will post everything (calorie and macro calculations, meal plan, workouts) to keep me accountable but also provide you all with some ideas you can potentially integrate into your own fitness journeys. Also, if you have any tips or advice long the way, I am all ears!
Sending positive vibes and virtual hugs,
Jillian (the Fit Nerd)