Bloody inflammation. It sucks.
Why? Because it adds many levels of extra stress to something that particularly for us females is hard to do – lose fat.
We all know that females are screwed when it comes to fat loss – we have 9 times more fat hungry, lipid sucking, pack away as much they can cell receptors on our butt and thighs than guys do.
That’s why we struggle to get our legs lean. It’s why we can seemingly get leaner on our upper body whilst getting fatter on our butt and thighs – there’s plenty of competitors out there in all categories who never manage to get their legs lean, that’s why it’s so desirable and sets apart the competitors who do.
Then we have fickle, mind of their own, hormones that have to be treated with kid gloves and nurtured ever so gently otherwise they’ll kick up a riot and go up and down and all around the houses more often than a prostitutes panties, causing us to have fat days and thin days, or can’t be F’d with anything or anyone days, or ‘get the F outta my way and don’t you even dare look at my bench, mate’, days at the gym. We have cry at the drop of a hat days and whats the point of even bothering, hand me the cake – ALL OF IT! days…
And it can all totally mess with your head when you’re doing comp prep.
What is Inflammation?
Well there’s the good kind you want when you’re building muscle – minute tears in the muscle fibres cause an immune system response which inflames the worked muscle site as it heals – this is your immune system rushing to the area to fight any bacteria or other nasties that might have got in. This helps recovery and is usually completely gone within 48-72 hours of a workout (hence why 2- 3 days rest before you work the same muscle again is a good idea).
Then there’s the bad kind – the gut inflammation kind which happens when you eat or drink something that you might have a sensitivity to. If you don’t know you have a sensitivity, you could be causing irritation to you gut every time you eat, every day, all year – for our whole life. This kind of constant low level stress on your immune system adds up and makes it incredibly hard for your body to function normally – it’s desperately trying to, but it’s constantly getting overloaded and can eventually lead to much more serious conditions such as Alzheimers, depression, cancer, obesity, diabetes…the list goes on!
In the short term though it can totally mess with your head when you’re doing comp prep. 🙂
Now I don’t know if I’m luckier than most, but I’ve pretty much got my prep down to a fine art now – I’ve tracked and logged everything calorie wise for the last 4-5 years. I can look up any number of weeks out on any of my preps and I’ve got my calorie levels. If I did a shorter prep, I’d just look up that many weeks out from my previous prep and start there.
From a training perspective it’s equally easy. Off season I do a 5 days on, 2 days off split, no HIIT. On Season, its a 4 day resistance, 1 HIIT, 1 Conditioning, 1 day off split.
And it works.
Perfectly…lean legs and everything.
So when I got back from England after Christmas, it was 11 weeks out from the Arnies – ok. Straight back onto prep split in terms of training and look up 11 weeks out diet – 1850 – 1900 cals. Done deal. Off we go.
Now I was a little bit unsure how I was going to go this prep, having been in prep and comp mode for 8 months last year and only finishing at the end of November I’d only done 3 weeks reverse diet and 2 full weeks off – I’ve never had such a short ‘off season’.
When I arrived back in Melbourne after the flight I reacted badly to the flight and puffed up to 63kg on the day I landed! My legs were so swollen I had cankles…
I was somewhat concerned at the time thinking I’d overcooked the relaxing thing, for the 1st few days I kinda struggled to let go of the discipline, but then I got over it and didn’t really pay too much attention to what I was eating – hot chips, roast dinners, curry, bacon butties, marmalade on toast, cheese on toast! stilton cheese on buttery crackers – lovely!
But – if I really had put on 9kg in 5 weeks I was screwed for the Arnies before I got started.
Fortunately by 2 days later I was down to 58.7kg – phew, I think I’d got away with only putting on an extra 1kg over what I was when I headed to England – and, with a total of 4 kg to go, it’s the most I’ve ever had to lose in the shortest amount of time. My usual rate of 0.5 – 0.7kg/wk loss however makes it very doable.
So off I go – comp prep week 1 – ditch the GVT training (YAWN!) and switch back to hypertrophy with intensifiers, 1900 cal comp diet – this will be easy!
Except by 2 days later I was weighing in at 60+ kg…
What? Put ON 2kg?
A few days later I was back at 58.5
ok…so no fat loss, thats ok, not stressing because it’ll probably take my body a week to get back into the swing of being on prep, so I’ll drop ake out 2 carb meals just to encourage the adjustment to happen a little quicker. Although this is a big drop for me, as this is the shortest prep I’ve ever done and coming off the back of such a long previous season and so little rest, I thought I’d have to be a bit more aggressive to get things moving.
A few days later I was UP to 59.5kg
A few days later back down to 58.4
Ok…this is not going quite according to plan – I should be dropping something.
Right, take out another carb drop calories by about 50…this is the lowest level I got to last season, so I really should start to see some results here.
Back up to 59 within a few days!
Normally I would advise people to stay off the scales during prep – it can totally mess with your head, but I wanted to see if there was any patterns happening here – could I tie the increases into something I was eating? Apart from the usual increase the day after my cheat meal, there did seem to be a pattern.
Cheat Meal – increase the day after
Weekend – I go slightly higher fat, lower protein, less vegetable loading than during the week and not so rigid meal times Saturday, Sunday – increase
Monday – stable or slight increase
Tuesday – drop
Wednesday – stable or slight drop to lowest level of the week.
Ok. So it seems that the higher fat at the weekend is not a good idea and its taking 2-3 days back on rigid diet to get back to my starting point.
By why have I not actually lost anything?
Prep week 3, take out another carb so only 1 carb meal left now and I’m now officially at the lowest calories I’ve been at since my novice season!
This is not good. I’m starting to stress and get frustrated – why is this not working?
Right, decision time – I’ll give it to the end of Jan and if I haven’t seen at least 1kg real drop, I’m going to pull the pin.
Monday – gain 59 again!! WTF?
Tuesday – slight drop
Wednesday – bigger drop and finally 100g lower than the lowest since I got back from England! YAY at LAST an actual loss!
Thursday – another 100g drop! YAY!.
Friday – up 0.7
Saturday – up 0.5
Sunday – drop but not back to Thursday’s level.
Goddamit. I’ve lost 200g in 3 weeks! At this rate its going to take 59 weeks to come in…that’s sometime in 2017!!!
Now we’re at the 4th week of Jan, there’s 8 weeks to go and I’ve still got 3.8kg to lose!
Now I’m really starting to second guess myself
- Is my diet on point? Yes
- Am I training hard enough? Yes – I added an extra HIIT session so I have no rest day and I haven’t done that since my Novice season!
- Am I taking any supps that I don’t usually take? No
- Am I eating anything that I don’t usually eat? No
There’s starting to be a lot of alarm bells going off…
- Calories at lowest level ever and barely losing fat
- Training at intensity not done since my novice year
- Constant puffiness and bloating – looking waterlogged and squishy
Now I’m starting to think that I might have pushed my body too hard for too long and its screwed. I’ve been getting tired and brain foggy, unable to concentrate, needing nanna naps, sleeping in a coma – then up waking up exhausted – which I’ve put down to the FST training I’m doing now, but could I have adrenal fatigue or done some damage? On the day before Australia day after chest/bi’s each time I went up the stairs at work, I was huffing and puffing and my legs were in pain from lactic acid by the time I got to the top – I go up and down these stairs 20 times a day – but pre Aus day, they were killing me!
It’s close to go-no-go cut off, I’m going to have to make a tough decision very soon, but first I need to be absolutely sure whats going on hormonally – there’s something going on here with my body that I just can’t pin down. My cycle was due and it arrived on Monday. By Wednesday I was down to 57.5kg – phew! So some of the fluctuation has been hormonal and I obviously have lost fat, but its been masked by water retention.
But I still should have dropped more than 0.5kg in 3.5 weeks when I’m approx 200 calories below the level that I know is my optimal loss threshold.
So I booked a blood test for Wednesday.
I asked for everything – full blood panel, thyroid (including T3, T4, Reverse T3), testosterone (SGBH, Free T), Kidney, Liver, Vit D, Iron, Folate, B Panel, Oestrogen, Progesterone.
As usual they refused to do Oestrogen and progesterone ‘because they change daily according to your cycle’ – yes I know that – do it anyway.
they refused T3 and T4 – yes I know its expensive – do it anyway.
And then the doctor asked if I had any allergies…
I’m coeliac, lactose intolerant and allergic to nightshade vegetables…
‘What are those?’ asks the doc
‘Eggplant, Capsicum, Tomatoes….
and White potato…’
After day 3 of being back on comp diet, I swapped my baked sweet potato for baked white potato because of the additional resistant starch in white potatoes that aids satiety on low cal diets…and fat loss…the irony.
I’d completely forgotten that it was a nightshade!
Ok out goes the white potato!
And whilst we’re looking at nightshades – what else is a nightshade? I might as well make sure I’m completely free of this pesky family.
Turns out paprika – that I’ve also been flavouring all my meat with – is a nightshade.
Dammit – there’s goes the venison stew I was planning this week – it heavily depends on paprika as the main spice!
Aswagandha which happens to be one of the herbs in the cortisol/stress management supp I’ve been taking is also a nightshade.
I’ve been eating lots of things I’m allergic to and even though I’ve been taking my vile naturopath anti inflammatory concoction every day, it’s obviously just not strong enough to handle the amount of inflammation causing foods I’ve been eating – no wonder I’ve constantly looked bloated and puffy, felt fat and quite literally had the shits every day since I got back from England!
Straight away I gave away the stress supps, threw away the remaining potatoes and paprika covered chicken I’d baked for the week and all the paprika containing herb mixes in my cupboard.
Wednesday – big drop – Yay! at last real fat loss 1.3kg!
Thursday – stable, but I felt thin and I had more energy
Friday – standard post cheat increase
At the weekend I bumped up my protein macro above 65% to cover for the lost carbs and…
Monday – 1.2kg drop from sundays increase but only back to last wednesdays level
Tuesday – woohoo!! 56.15!! thats 1.15kg since last wednesday!
I’ve dropped 2kg in 2 days and I’m right back on track!
Bloody inflammation! It’s completely masked any progress that I had actually been making for the last 4 weeks. I’ve been getting stressed and frustrated about whether I’ve pushed myself too hard and caused hormonal imbalances. I’ve been second guessing and doubting my process and have dropped my calories to what I consider too far below where I should be – all because my own stupid oversight has caused my immune system to fire up and retain water as it tries to heal itself from the inflammation from the nightshade’s I’ve been eating.
Once I got rid of all the offending foods and have not eaten them for a few days now, I’m noticing that I have a lot more energy – the brain fog, and inability to concentrate has gone, the nanna naps are not even a feature as I have energy all day. I’m bouncing up the stairs at work even after legs day! I’m waking up before my alarm and don’t feel like I’ve been hit by a train. I’m feeling stronger in the gym and today we cranked up the intensity a further notch. I’m going to start increasing my food again as well, back to my more usual levels – no point being ultra severe when I don’t need to be!
My stomach is flat!!!
Beware the Belladonna – deadly nightshade.
In my case its not just the Belladonna that is deadly – they all are!
If you’re experiencing anything similar and are getting frustrated with lack of progress, here’s a couple of things to try:
- Try dandelion and licorice tea to see if that helps out
- Get a full blood and hormone workup – find out whats going on with your metabolism
- Go through your diet with a fine tooth comb – is it really as clean as you think it is? Are you absolutely eating the correct amounts of whatever your macros are?
- Go to a naturopath and get a full allergy test – there could be foods that you’re allergic to and don’t know about it. Do not just cut out foods like dairy, or gluten or eggs or nuts just because its trendy and you’ve heard that they’re bad for you on comp diet – find out for real.
Aiden even remarked today how my skin seemed much fresher, my eyes were clearer and how I just seemed to be more ‘me’.
Well, yes – I feel like I’m back to ‘me’ as well and I actually look like a competitor on prep rather than someone who has been enjoying the good paddock for the last 4 weeks.