Archive for the ‘Elle Mac’ Category

Supplements Used by me and Why I Use Them

Supplements used by me and why I use them is not an information sheet or an analysis of each product or supplement – there are loads more advantages to using them than I have listed here. This is a very personal blog and I am focusing on the reasons I use them myself. You may use them for different reasons, or not use them for different reasons!

I am quite unique as I have Inflammatory Bowel Disease and a suppressed immune system. At the moment I cannot exercise much due to complications with my health, but the regime below barely changes at all when I am training.

  1. Extreme Nutrition Pure L-Glutamine

I have listed this first, because I consider this to be my number one all round essential supplement. L-Glutamine is an amino acid that has been proven to reduce IBD symptoms (amongst other things). It aids in the repair of damaged cells within your intestine, and is a precursor for synthesis of certain antioxidants which appear to play a role in protecting intestinal cells from inflammation. I take it by adding a teaspoon and a half of powder to protein shakes or fresh vegetable or fruit juices, 3 times a day. It really doesn’t taste of anything in a protein shake.

The other reason I take glutamine is because over 65% of human muscle tissue is made up of glutamine. It seems absurd to me NOT to take it! It’s many advantages for bodybuilders and those who train to build muscle, or train in endurance and take part in long bouts of training can be seen under the product description at www.extremenutrition.co.uk.

During recent months when the conditions within my body have been essentially catabolic, especially during the time I was taking corticosteroids, I continued to take L-Glutamine and while I see some muscle loss from illness, I have seen less than expected.

L-Glutamine could be the most important amino acid to humans.

L-Glutamine makes up 65% of skeletal muscle and also forms your stomach lining.

  1. Extreme Nutrition Pro-6

I have used this protein powder now since 2011 when I first started training. It is really essential for me and my diet, especially at the moment, as it allows me to consume protein in an easy to digest form when I’m not feeling too well. I absolutely love the fact that Pro 6 leaves you feeling full up all day; making it great for dieting. I would not have been able to achieve what I did before without it! I have lost 15lbs recently (healthily) and have used Pro 6 throughout. It also helps to keep me on track during times of cravings as it tastes so good! It can be drank as a shake with water, and also tastes great with almond milk. I also freeze mine into ice moulds, or blend it in a jug blender with loads of ice- it tastes amazing! It also means things never get boring. I also find this blend excellent for cooking with due to it’s flavour and it isn’t full of rubbish and thickeners. This was the first protein powder I had tried in many years that did not make me feel ill. I am a massive fan of it and I cannot recommend it enough. I also use Pro 6 before I go to bed. It is easy on my stomach, it settles straight away and never causes bloating or gas. You can read the nutritional information and ingredients on the website which only add to why I love it so much!

Extreme Nutrition Pro-6

Extreme Pro-6 is a blend of 6 different protein sources which make a high protein shake,

  1. Extreme Nutrition Whey

This is my essential morning supplement, as it is a quick release protein. The Extreme Nutrition Whey is a blend of 3 different whey protein sources which gives it a superior amino acid profile. As outlined above, this product also tastes great and I love it for cooking with. It is a little more expansive when cooking, so I only use it in certain recipes. I find that Extreme Whey is really easy to digest, and at the moment I sometime use whey throughout the day too if I need to boost up my calories.

Extreme Nutrition Extreme Whey

The Best tasting and easiest mixing shake available.

  1. Extreme BCA-311 (BCAA’s)

I take Extreme Aminos all year round. I found them great during dieting to prevent muscle loss, and find that they are essential for me when I am suffering a relapse too. Extreme BCA-311 also helps assist in protein synthesis, and I am doing my best to help my body in any way I can! Extreme BCA-311 taken in free form tablet like the ones I take are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and do not stress the digestive system. Branch Chain Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein, so it makes total sense to me to improve the amino acid profile of my food by taking supplements.

    Extreme BCA-311 are an excellent source of branched chain amino acids

    Branched chain amino acids are an anti catabolic amino acid.

  1. Build and Recover

I absolutely love my post workout shake! Extreme Build & Recover makes training worthwhile, and saves messing about with working out how many sugars and how much protein I need in separate foods or drinks. I also use this product because it doesn’t just contain protein and carbohydrates- it contains KR-Evolution which I use anyway, and HMB which promotes muscle growth. Not only that but HMB is actually used to treat some medical conditions, to treat weakness, and aid in weight loss. I use this product post workout, after weight training.

    Extreme Build & Recover

    Extreme Build & Recover is the perfect post excercise recovery drink.

  1. Extreme CLA

This cheap and cheerful supplement is brilliant. Anyone who follows me on Facebook or twitter will note that I struggled a couple of months back with weight gain due to being unwell… but I am sure that taking CLA has prevented fat gain. It is shown to help regulate blood sugar levels which is another reason why I use it.

    Extreme CLA is great for weight management

    Conjugated Linoleic Acid has been proven to aid weight loss.

  1. Krevolution-X

I spent the majority of my adult life to date being a hater of creatine. This is due to a massive lack of understanding, and a bad experience. I use Krevolution-X because kre-alkalyn is a PH neutral creatine, and I have found that it has NO side effects! No bloating, no cramps, and there is no need for cycling or loading. I also take this all year round when I am training.

    The benefits of creatine without the downside.

    Extreme Krevolution-X is the side effect free creatine.

  1. Vitamin C

Due to my medication my immune system is quite frankly on the floor. I am susceptible to all sorts of illnesses and infections, so I take a Vitamin C supplement. I take quite a high dose and take it all year round. Vitamin C is antioxidant, which I also consider of paramount importance in my diet. A lot of clients I work with are deficient in Vitamin C or suffer the symptoms of Vitamin C deficiency and find massive improvements when they add it into their supplement regime.

  1. Omega 3’s

I consider this another one of my most essential supplements along with glutamine. Most people take in more omega 6’s than omega 3’s: which can be pro inflammatory in an incorrect balance. I take them to reduce inflammation, to reduce joint pain and arthritis symptoms, to reduce depression symptoms and to help reduce cortisol levels in my body.

  1. Calcium with Vitamin D

I don’t take much dairy in my diet, because I am simply intolerant of it. I eat goats cheese, and make my own yoghurt which I find I also tolerate. However, I still take extra calcium to assist with my hormonal balance and prevent fat storage, amongst other reasons.

  1. B Vitamin Complex

I am often deficient in Vitamin B and sometimes I have to have injections at the doctors for it. Day to day, I take a B Complex tablet. Each B Vitamin has its own benefit: including easing stress, depression, increasing energy levels, and assisting protein metabolism. These are all ticking the boxes that are essential for my personal goals!

There are another couple of other supplements used by me that won’t really be relevant to most people, such as slippery elm and green capsules (for micronutrients). I have outlined the bulk of what I take above however, and if anyone wants to get in touch then feel free.

~Elle Mac~

The Supplements I use author

Author of “The Supplements I use”

Congratulations to Team Extreme!

So, what did you all get up to at the weekend?

I went to meet and greet the beautiful Team Extreme ladies, Jo Fairbairn, Joanne Stanger and Rachael Lyons after they completed a 26.2 mile trek to raise funds for a great cause, the Macmillan Nurses.

For anyone who doesn’t know what McMillan Nurses do, they look after Cancer sufferers and their families by offering support, care, help, advice and generally anything they can do to help the victim and their family in any way they can, many people forget it’s not just the person who has cancer that needs help. Their families and friends suffer massively too.

They trekked from Stonehenge to Avebury. I was planning to take part but due to recent health complications I had to settle for shouting at them to run the last few metres along with Extreme Nutrition’s Liam Armstrong!

I did the trek last year (it rained then too!) and let me tell you, it is not for the faint hearted. You are not running on a lovely clean, flat road: think uphill stints through grass and mud, rambling paths and even a few cows and rabbits along the way too – it is quite an adventure!

Team Extreme completed the trek in just over 8 hours, which was a really good time and raised money for an excellent cause. Team Extreme, McMillan Nurses and those who they help would like to thank you and to everyone else who made a contribution to anyone taking part in the walk and also to and to Discover Adventure who made the event possible.

The girls ran the last part of the trek – I captured it on video so watch out, it might be appearing very soon! Congratulations ladies, you did yourselves and the cause you were raising money for proud. A wonderful achievement and congratulations to everyone else who took part.

~Elle Mac~

Who you aspire to be.

We all have people that we admire or who you aspire to be like, but do you ever take a step back to appreciate what YOU can achieve?

Would you rather be a sheep and follow the crowd, or would you rather lead by your own example? Originality is a beautiful thing, so dare to be different!

Many of the people who the masses who you aspire to be are admirable because they are different! They are quirky, cool and adventurous, Kai Greene, Dana Linn Bailey and even Lady Gaga spring to mind! They are all unique, daring and appealing because they appear to live their lives in a way that they truly desire.

Plus, many inspirational people suffered because of their drive. MMA sensation Rhonda Rousey, the world champion female cage fighter was homeless for a long time and lived in her car so she could follow her dreams.

Ronda Rousey - who do you aspire to be?

UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey battles Liz Carmouche during their UFC 157 match at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA Saturday, February 23, 2013. Rousey beat Carmouche via first round submission. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)

Another example of who you aspire to be for many, is Kai Greene. Kai was a natural world champion and professional bodybuilder but could not make ends meet through his earnings as natural pro so turned to non tested bodybuilding. After becoming an IFBB professional he had to indulge in performance enhancing drugs so he could attain a physique that would allow him to earn enough to follow his career choice.

IFBB Pro Bodybuilder Kai Greene

Who do you aspire to be? Kai Greene on stage

By not following the pack you do run the risk of ridicule, most likely because people wont understand your desire to be different or to do things differently from others. This is due to most people being conditioned subconsciously from birth to conform and fit in to what we are taught to be acceptable behavior. From the minute we start school we are programmed to follow a certain set of rules and guidelines which have us mostly all thinking, acting and even dressing in a similar fashion.

This has always been an issue for women who train with weights, weight lift, box or compete in martial arts. From childhood we have been conditioned to see this as the realm of men where women, being the gentler sex, should not venture in case they get hurt! Fortunately women of today don’t really care about this, many see it as more reason to partake and break these gender related stereotyping.

As society and attitudes change more women are being accepted in typically “male” sports and pastimes with some being held up as examples before their male counterparts, Ronda Rousey, The Bella Twins in WWE, Venus and Serena Williams in tennis. We now see some women being the face of sports nutrition companies where in years gone by it was always a male bodybuilder.

You can make a choice today to quit comparing yourself to others, to quit behaving like somebody else, or to quit “doing”. We are human “beings”- just BE YOURSELF!

~Elle Mac~

Gym Etiquette

    Gym Etiquette – don’t be “that” person!

This post is for a bit of a giggle – I am sure that the majority of you will be able to relate to at least one of the points on this list when it comes to gym etiquette.

Feel free to share it with your friends- especially if they’re the ones doing these things and you want to give them a subtle hint!

  1. Rerack your weights. One of the things I hate the most is seeing guys go into the gym, loading up the leg press (as an example) with 400kg+, then just walking off. It’s a workout in itself to take off some of those weights! Another annoyance is when people leave their dumbbells or 20kg plates on the floor… people will fall over them, stub their toes, and you’re getting in the way. PUT THEM BACK!
  2. Wipe the machines down if you’re sweating. It might not be “cool” to you to carry a towel, but most gyms have paper towels to accommodate you- wipe your sweat off of the machine and keep it to yourself!
  3. Control your children in the changing rooms. I’m sorry if you are a mother and you find this offensive- but I do not appreciate “little Timmy” climbing all over my clothes and knocking my things on the floor while you’re happily blow drying your hair. Please… if you insist on bringing your children to the gym with you, consider the people around you!
  4. Keep your eyes to yourself. Staring at a another gym member while they work out is NOT a good, if you are “admiring” a member of the opposite sex, quite frankly they will just think you are a creepy pervert. Focus on yourself, and stop staring, or why not try and start a conversation?
  5. Leave your mobile phone behind! If you sit on the machine you are using between sets and are using the phone try to remember, there are people trying to train…who don’t want to listen to your conversation! You should be training hard enough that you can’t chat anyway and if you feel like chatting in the gym it shows you aren’t that serious 😉
  6. Don’t leave ridiculously long rest periods, or hog equipment. I understand that you rest between sets… but I have seen people sit there for 7-8 minutes (sometimes longer), while texting, looking around and seemingly oblivious to the fact that people are waiting to use the equipment.
  7. Wear appropriate clothing. I say no more…
  8. Don’t drop your weights. This is my personal hate… when you are chest pressing and you decide to throw your dumbbells across the floor and you look like you’ve just torn a rotator cuff as a result, you look like an idiot… not like a cool guy/girl who can lift heavy weights. I have had a 20kg dumbbell come dangerously close to my foot and the guy got a serious telling off in front of his friends!
  9. If you are sick, stay at home. Please keep your cold, flu and other ailments to yourself. Coughing sneezing and spluttering all over other people and equipment is no way to make friends!
  10. Wash yourself. There is nothing worse than that horrendous gut wrenching whiff of BO… just get clean and stay clean! There is no excuse!
  11. Don’t talk about other people who are training, mind your own business unless you are going to say something kind and remember not everyone wants advice, no matter how good it is.

~Elle Mac~

Gym Ettiquette - article author

Author of “Gym Ettiquette – don’t be “that” person”

Body Image

Body image is defined as “an individual’s concept of his own body”. It is highlighted on a daily basis in the media, and the increase in cosmetic surgery referrals, unhealthy eating and the use of drugs to lose weight or become more muscular is ever on the rise.

So where did this begin?

The nephew of Sigmund Freud, Edward Bernays, combined ideas regarding crowd psychology and the psychoanalytical ideas of his uncle to present the world with the PR techniques we see today, using propaganda to literally change the opinion of crowds of people regarding the difference between necessity and desire.

Crowds of people flooded to buy clothes for fashion rather than for practicality, and one of his most famous campaigns was helping the cigarette industry overcome the taboo subject of women smoking in public- he highlighted them as “torches of freedom”, encouraging women to embrace their independence and equality to males. Perhaps more relevant was his campaign which persuaded people that bacon and eggs was the “All American Breakfast”. Why am I telling you this? I will explain.

Everything you do today and the decisions that you make are the result of a thought or mental program that you are running in your mind. This can be a difficult concept to grasp – is it really possible to program your subconscious? Well, from my own experience, YES, it is. Just to bring it back to myself for a moment.

When I was in secondary school, our sports activities were excellent. We had great facilities, and a lot of variety between strength training, indoor and outdoor activity. All my life, I had been congratulated tremendously on my academic ability. I believed it with ALL of my mind, and I was a very high achiever even with very little effort.

That was the program I was running from, because I was using my entire mind (conscious- 5%, and sub-conscious- 95%). I had a distinct belief that I had to be top of the class and the very best at everything. When it came to sports, I wasn’t the fastest runner – and so I stopped, just like that, I gave up. I believed that if I wasn’t my image of “perfect”, then why should I bother? I focused on what I was good at and let the rest fall away into a negative thought program that I couldn’t do it.

My body image became deep rooted and LIMITED – I was an academic, I was not a sports person. I made a decision that I had to look a certain way, be a certain way, and behave a certain way.

And so, I went forward into life, taking on all the other thought programs along the way, absorbing it like a sponge and giving it my full attention. I had no concept of the fact that I was in complete control of my thoughts – I absorbed and absorbed until I was bursting full of negative self body image, distorted beliefs and very low self esteem. My weight varied between 12 stone (+) and 8 stone and I can honestly say I never, ever saw a difference in myself. Although consciously, I could see and feel that my clothes were bigger or smaller, my individual concept of my body was that I had a bad shape, I was running from a negative program which genuinely saw no difference.

So, how did I make a change? I took responsibility. I learned how to use my mind. I am still a work in progress- going through a process of acceptance of ME, of who I am, of my body image, of where I stand in this very moment- only through this acceptance am I embracing the changes I am also making. I know, that if I make a change but I do not truly believe with 100% of my mind that I am there, that my subconscious (95%) will eventually over-rule my conscious decision to be a figure competitor (a decision made using 5% of my mind). If I do not embrace who I am, admire my body type and have self love then I may achieve my goals, but I will not hold them because my sub conscious will eventually kick in.

Looking at myself is the biggest challenge I face – but it is a slow and steady road and not a race, and I know and I truly believe that I am going to achieve my goal, with no doubt. I have days where my conscious takes over and the doubt starts to niggle away at me, the “what if?” and the avoidance of the mirror; but these are the days of growth for me because this is when I feel the fear and sit with it, and then take action steps to face it and overcome it. And with that, my friends, comes a great feeling of contentment and total acceptance.

So in closing, do you know more about your television than you do about your mind? Are your thought patterns a reflection of past experiences? Or are you in control of your life?

You will flick through your thought programs in your head now to come up with an answer. Make a decision and enrol your entire mind into that decision. See yourself there, feel yourself there, hear the sounds, taste the air, use all of your senses to bring that dream to the forefront of your mind and coincidentally to imprint it onto your subconscious. Go to the gym, take control of your diet, purchase those healthy supplements which will help you reach your goal or Body Image.

Whatever you see, make it a reality to your mind, and the rest will follow.

Good Luck to you all, and you are all Beautiful People!

Elle Mac

Joe Cramond posing

Joe Cramond checking his progress in the mirror.

It’s bodybuilding competition time!

    Bodybuilding competition time!

As the bodybuilding competition time approaches, I thought it would be useful and somewhat relevant to write a little bit about my own experience of standing on stage. I started dieting 16 weeks out from my competition time, having lost around 2 stone already, from eating cleanly and exercising more.

As it was my first time competing, I had so many things in my mind that had to be taken into consideration – tan, bikini, shoes, walking, posing, routine… so here are a few pointers that I would give to anyone who is about to compete for the first time!

  1. Be confident

Confidence comes from practice- so practice, practice, practice! By that I mean practice your posing, get someone who is GOOD at posing to teach you; your stage presence is paramount and so is the ability to show off your physique. A lot of people let themselves down when it comes to standing on stage because they cannot show their physique properly.

I spent hours wearing heels, and practiced walking up and down stairs, twisting, bending and just walking in them. Nothing looks worse than someone who strolls onto stage teetering in heels (or stomping their feet for the guys), so make sure you know how to walk with poise, confidence and have a structure to what you are doing.

I also think it is really important to be comfortable in what you are wearing. Girls, get your bikini fitted properly and make sure you have someone to help you get into it on the day- and make sure it won’t slip out of place! I made the mistake of getting a “pro cut” on the bottom of mine, and my glutes just were not lean enough to pull it off – I was constantly worrying about my wedgie (sorry, but this is real life!!!) Make sure your hair is in place properly too. Guys, the same goes regarding the fit of what you are wearing- make sure it fits properly.

2.        Be prepared

Make sure that you can do your routine without your music. So many people get into the “monkey position” in the middle of the stage, only to discover their music won’t play. They then either throw a tantrum and leave or half-heartedly carry through a routine with a very sad look on their face. Your music should not matter – it will be fantastic if your music plays, but you need to be able to perform what you are doing to a counted beat so if it doesn’t, it is irrelevant.

Be prepared when it comes to your competition tan. Both guys and girls need to make sure you exfoliate and that your skin is smooth and hair free, ready to get the lashings of rather fruity smelling tan that you need for getting on stage. I don’t agree with the necessity to use sunbeds as a “base tan” because after all, once you are tanned up, you will really see that whatever shade you are underneath does not matter because trust me… it WILL be covered!

Make sure you know what brand of tan you are going to use and that that your federation allows it. It is worth doing a “test run” (probably somewhere like your foot is a good idea, rather than your arm or something that people are going to see!)

Also, be prepared to win but be prepared to come last too- even if you come last, as cliché as it sounds, you ARE a winner. Getting on stage in next to nothing, being criticised on the body that you have worked so hard for, is a HARD thing to do. Be prepared to take a knock, for the criticism if it comes at you, and for the feeling of either winning, or not winning!

3.     Remember What You Did it For

Why did you decide to step on stage? What are you doing this for? I think that it is invaluable to remember why you set out to do it in the first place. Imagine, for example, that your goal was optimum health. You compete in a natural bodybuilding competition, and you are the healthiest you have ever felt- and you win! You have a trophy in your hands, and you are ready for the next level. Fast forward and you are advised you need to use anabolic steroids to advance, and fat burners, and cut out food groups… now is it healthy? Is it still in line with your goal? NEVER LOSE SIGHT OF YOUR ORIGINAL GOAL! Be true to yourself, be head strong, and remember what you are in it for.

4.      Never Take Life Too Seriously

Overall, be proud of what you have achieved and enjoy the experience! All of your weeks of hard work and dieting boil down to a few minutes on stage- so shine, have fun and show the world what you are all about! My “rule number 6” is “never take life too seriously” (6 is my lucky number, I know this is random but I have said it for years!) Really, there are so many important things in life and there is a difference between dedication and commitment, and taking life too seriously.

Joining a bodybuilding forum can be a good idea too, it lets you find people in exactly the same position you are in and it may allow you to befriend someone entering the same contest you are which means you can help each other back stage with tan and pumping up.

Good luck to everyone planning on doing a bodybuilding competition this year, ciao for now!

~Elle Mac~

Bodybuilding Competition Picture

A picture from the 1994 Mr Olympia Bodybuilding Competition

How I Lost as Much Weight Fast!

    How I Lost as Much Weight Fast

As promised, here is my blog on how I lost more than 4 stones in weight between October 2011 and April 2012.

    Diet

To begin with, I made gradual changes to my diet to allow myself to adapt to a healthy eating mindset. I didn’t want to get back into my usual mindset of being “on” or “off” a diet; this time, it was all about a lifestyle change. I began with drinking more water and removing all preserved junk foods, then removing sugary and creamy sauces, then observing my carbohydrate intake, and then educating myself regarding food groups and macro nutrients.

The key to all of it was teaching myself and not depending on anyone else to do that for me. If you learn what you need to, you don’t need to spend any money on “coaches” (please see my previous blog about how to choose a good coach), or expensive fad diets. Just be smart- eat clean, which means eating foods that are from natural sources and do not contain additives, preservatives and artificial colours/sweeteners.

CLA for fat management

Losing weight is hard, this articles losing

I ate 6 small meals a day, and worked out how many grams of carbohydrates, fats and protein I needed daily. I didn’t use any formulas, just a bit of trial and error and keeping my protein intake high, around 1.5-2 grams per pound of lean body mass). This was the key to How I Lost as Much Weight Fast.

I also continued to eat out but I chose smarter foods – tomato based sauces, lots of protein and vegetables and complex carbohydrates.

I started competition preparation January 2012 for 16 weeks. My diet changed again to a very strict structure, no fruit and no dairy. I had already lost around two and a half stone at the start of my prep.

It isn’t rocket science, and we are all SO unique that you’ll waste your time Googling diets or copying what other people do. With some trial and (hopefully less) error you’ll find what works for you.

    Training

I trained three days of weights a week right from the beginning to the day I competed. My split was chest/shoulders/triceps, back/biceps and legs. I didn’t do any cardio to begin with really, apart from the odd walk once or twice a week. I kept continually changing shape and dropping fat so I didn’t need to. I added in more cardio during my prep but again I didn’t overdo it. My main focus was training with weights and training smart, with the correct form and intensity.

    Mind Techniques

I’m a qualified life coach with masses of experience and a background in psychology (particularly Adlerian psychology) and NLP. I used a lot of techniques I had learned to help me work towards achieving my goals, in particular, visualisation and the “stop” technique.

So there we have it, clean and simple. That’s How I Lost So Much Weight Fast, with baby steps and dedication!

Thanks for reading and continuing to follow me on my never ending journey of self improvement 🙂

~Elle Mac~

How I Lost So Much Weight So Fast

How I Lost So Much Weight So Fast

Carbohydrates, Friend – Foe?

Carbohydrates- the new enemy of the modern world. The arch enemy of diets that litter hundreds of women’s magazines worldwide. But when did this hate for carbohydrates emerge? Why are people so afraid of carbs, and why do they think that the solution is to eat low fat AND low carb? Is there anything else left that we aren’t afraid to eat?

Through the test of time, different food stuffs, exercise regimes and techniques are all heavily criticised and get bad press. Now, even protein is getting bad press: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/19449377.

So, what’s the deal with carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are often described as an energy source, as your body can convert them more readily into glucose which provides you with fuel. Your body will either use glucose immediately, or store it in your liver or muscles for when it is needed. Your pancreas secretes insulin, which controls the uptake of glucose by your cells.

Excess glucose is converted to glycogen, which is stored in your liver, fat or muscles. Your body releases glucagon to convert glycogen back to glucose, which is then released into your bloodstream for your body to use.

Here comes the part that we all hear about all the time: the difference between good and “bad” carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are “good” carbohydrates- they ensure that this cycle of glucose, glycogen and glucagon is a slow one and that you have slower and more sustainable energy levels in your body. Refined carbohydrates cause peaks and drops of sugar levels and less stable energy levels in your body.

Carbohydrates aren’t “higher in calories” than protein- in fact, 1g of carbohydrates contains 4 calories and 1g of protein contains the same- 4 calories. What differs is how your body uses the different macronutrients and the metabolic effect they have.

Despite the popularity of cutting carbohydrates, they play an essential role in the body and are imperative for dietary health and should form part of a successful weight management regime. When consumed in the correct portions, they will only break down to provide the body with energy and excess calories will not be stored as fat.

Oh, and one more thing I must mention: you know those great “zero carb” diets you go on, and you lose around half a stone in week – do you realise why? It’s because you drop WATER weight. I get so mad when I see ridiculous advertisements for “lose 7lbs in 10 days” and on closer inspection they are always cutting out carbohydrates!

Carbohydrates cause your body to hoard salt/sodium rather than get rid of it- and in turn your body must increase it’s fluid level to remain balanced. When you cut carbohydrates, you let go of water and also salt that your body has been holding.

Carbohydrates often get bad press- we are told they cause diabetes, they stimulate our appetites and they make us fat. The reason they are called a “macro nutrient” is because they are one of three major nutrients required in our diets- carbohydrates, fats and protein.

I fear that this is a topic that could go on for hours, and I have no doubt will spark much debate; particularly from the ketogenic diet lovers out there. However, in summary, I will leave you with a link to an excellent article by Extreme Nutrition athlete and DFAC Natural Professional Bodybuilder, world champion Andrew Chappell, and tell you that carbohydrates are good when you make good choices!

Low carbohydrate, high protein diets- a poor fit for the natural bodybuilder: http://www.musclechat.co.uk/natural-bodybuilding-natural-olympia-no-2-andrew-chappell/35813-high-protein-low-carb-diets-poor-fit-natural-bodybuilder-part-1-a.html

DFAC Natural Pro Bodybuilder Andrew Chappell

DFAC Natural Pro Bodybuilder Andrew Chappell is not afraid of carbohydrates

http://www.musclechat.co.uk/natural-bodybuilding-natural-olympia-no-2-andrew-chappell/36361-high-protein-low-carb-diets-poor-fit-natural-bodybuilder-part-2-a.html

~Elle Mac~

Off Season bulking

    Off season bulking, what does it really mean?

Off season bulking is all about building muscle and making improvements, and I won’t pretend it’s easy changing shape so quickly. I think as a bodybuilder it’s all too easy to get hooked on being so lean and facing the concept of “bulk” and gaining muscle off season.

I personally hate the word “bulk”… it sounds like you are on a mission to gain weight in any way possible. I often hear people saying “I’m on a dirty bulk”, meaning they eat junk… and I think… great, way to go… you’re just getting fat then!!

Off Season Bulking isn’t about gaining weight in any way possible. Personally, I set myself an “allowance” of 14lbs over my stage weight. I realise I will probably be a lot less on stage the next time (depending on how heavy my lean mass is next time as I will have more muscle), as this time, I didn’t lean right down to the bone!! (I did that for a reason, by the way).

Remember, if you gain loads and loads of fat, you’ve got to strip it off again. If you have more to lose, you could ultimately end up dieting a lot harder… and losing the muscle you worked so hard to gain in the first place. What a waste of time that would be!

You also need to remember that muscle acts like a furnace. If you carry more muscle, you need more calories as your metabolic rate increases. So the more muscle you gain, the more you can eat. You don’t need to eat loads and loads though, if you don’t have a high muscle mass to begin with. You will just get fat. What’s the point?

So now, my aim is to build muscle… and I am intrigued to discover, the more I read, how your body doesn’t want to carry more muscle as it puts it under stress. And do you ever hear people say “I stopped training and lost muscle really fast”? That’s because your body will lose muscle unless it needs to keep it, which is why it’s important to put it under stress and lift progressively heavier weights!

I am all for the simple principle “calories in vs calories out”. I can’t see how there is logically one given formula for everybody to calculate their caloric requirements, it actually makes no sense. It all depends on how active a person is, how much muscle they have, how hard they train, how long their training sessions are…

The thing I got majorly confused with was how much fats, carbohydrates and protein do you need? Now, I have spent hours trying to work it out, and been given some fabulous advice, but I know ultimately, particularly as I have Crohns Disease, I need to listen to my body and NONE of us are the same so there has to be a little trial and error for all.

My main aims are getting sufficient protein to help protect my muscle and build more, and then I will work my other macros (fats and carbohydrates) around it. I know I will probably get criticised for that, but hey… I would rather eat what suits me, than force feed myself or end up with a sick bowel. I have spent the past 7 years of my life in and out of hospital. I would rather keep my tummy happy and healthy!!

What works best, for me personally, (remember, it might not work for you…) is to eat more carbohydrates on heavy training days (legs mainly) and less on lighter days. I want enough carbohydrates to fuel my training, and optimise muscle glycogen stores between workouts. Why have more when I don’t need it? It just works best for me. In terms of protein, I hit about 150g a day, sometimes more. I sort of go by that age old rule of 1g to 1lb of body weight. It works for me, and I don’t see the need to eat excess protein I won’t burn off. I aim for healthy fats- nuts, olive oil, egg yolks.

I did write myself a plan, so I have a loose structure, but I don’t let it take over my life. You need to ENJOY what you are doing. I’m not stupid, I know not to eat massive amounts of calories or get my calories from junk. I make sure I get enough protein, and fit my other macros in around it to suit how I feel that day health wise, or what I’m doing.

The main thing I am learning is, don’t stress. Don’t get TOO caught up with numbers. Enjoy the process. Yes, I am concerned about being the VERY best I can be. But I have a life. I have a job, a boyfriend, family and friends. I want those things to flourish as much as I want to be a successful bodybuilder. For me, it is all about striking a balance.

In conclusion, bulking isn’t about gaining weight, it’s about packing on muscle and you can do that while you are quite lean. Don’t put on what you’re going to need to burn off again! 😉

~~Elle Mac~~

Off Season Bulking article

Off Season Bulking

Alcohol, Detrimental or Advantageous?

Alcohol, Detrimental or Advantageous? When you think about alcohol, what immediately comes to mind?

For me, many things come to mind: partying, dancing, relaxation, having fun and laughter. When I trained as a life coach, my mentor turned to me and asked me one day asking “why do you drink?” I immediately got defensive and asked, “What do you mean, why do I drink? Because I want to!” I was missing the point of course.

What he was probing at was the reasons for me to drink alcohol. Was it relaxation? Confidence? Perhaps to be a little more flirtatious? If you can identify what it is, then congratulations! Now you have a starting point for setting a personal development goal. By aiming to achieve your “alcohol” goal without the alcohol, you’re going to develop as a person. There’s no denying that.

I am not here to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t do, I am only here to express my experiences and inform you all on what alcohol does to your body. I am constantly deciding to stop alcohol completely, then having “just a few” drinks, then ending up feeling terrible… which is exactly why, coincidentally, I am writing this at the moment.

I know that by identifying why I drink, I can achieve the goal in a different way and diminish the distorted belief that only alcohol can help me do that. Sure, it’s probably much easier to have a few glasses of wine and strut my stuff as if I’m Beyonce, but the challenge excites me to do that sober. I think that anyone who has followed my journey so far can see I like a challenge!!

Anderson P. and Baumberg B. examine the motivations behind drinking alcohol in “Alcohol in Europe: a public health perspective”. Surprisingly enough, it is this same article that mentions the “positive” effects of alcohol, although the underlying tone is a negative one. A study in the UK demonstrated that drinking no “booze” results in a lower mortality risk, which to me and you, is a lower risk of death.

For older people aged over 65, this increases to less than half a drink a day (5g of alcohol) and even more surprisingly increases again to less than 10g a day (less than one drink) for people over 65 (White et al., 2002). The positive effects are namely a reduction in coronary heart disease, according to these statistics.

It is important to remember these studies only take account of alcohol consumption and do not consider diet, physical activity or underlying conditions. I am not a big lover of statistics! They seem to remove so many other factors. I also find it interesting how the positive effects are shown in older age groups, whereas there is a common misconception that we should all drink a glass of wine a day… or is it two? How many times have you convinced yourself by saying: “It’s good for me, THEY did some study some place that said it!” 

It is also important to point out here that many studies were conducted on those who contracted coronary heart disease- it was this group of people who were shown to live longer by consuming low levels of alcohol, not the general population. I’m not an expert, but I wonder if the effect on the heart is anything to do with the fact it thins your blood, which obviously prevents heart attacks?

Besides the positive physical effects, there are listed many psychological benefits. These are very vague, and outline “better mental health”. I take it that the fact that alcohol is a depressant is being removed from this study then. Again, the point I was making in the beginning is that if you feel alcohol helps you to destress or be more outgoing, maybe it’s better (and healthier) to strive to achieve that in a different way? Oh, and I can also safely assume that alcoholism is being excluded as well, and the psychological and physical turmoil that results.

It is fair to surmise that the negative effects of alcohol do outweigh the allegedly positive ones. Again, when researching this, I did notice that the “negative” effects were mainly associated with binge drinking only, so I have made it clear what the negative effects are and when they come about. The definition of binge drinking provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is defined as 5 drinks on one occasion for men, and 4 drinks for women. Do you “binge” more often than you thought?

  • Just one drink, which is not binge drinking, effects our basic functions, such as walking, talking, and control of our limbs
  • Research by the Department of Health shows that a man drinking 5 pints in a week consumes the same number of calories as someone who eats 221 doughnuts in a year. If you value your waistline, and you “binge drink” according to the above definition, this is something to think about.
  • “Heavy” drinking irritates your stomach and can result in nausea and diarrhoea
  • Alcohol has a dehydrating effect, whatever the quantity. Not only will you have a headache, but your skin will also dehydrate leading to wrinkles and premature aging.
  • Extreme levels of drinking, which is more than 30 “units” per week (10ml or 8g of pure alcohol per unit, i.e. one third of a pint of beer) can occasionally cause psychosis
  • After just two units of alcohol, memory loss can occur, lack of concentration and one becomes mentally slower
  • Consumption of alcohol, although it is not clear how much, is linked to anxiety and depression. I for one can say I always feel really down after a night out drinking alcohol!
  • Binge drinking can lead to impotence, make you infertile and reduce libido
  • Drinking enough alcohol to get intoxicated or drunk can lead to suffocation by choking on your own vomit. The amount it requires to get drunk obviously varies from person to person
  • Binge drinking causes abnormal and irregular heart rhythms which can lead to heart disease, strokes or your heart becoming enlarged
  • More than two drinks a day increases your risk of cancer of the bowel and throat
  • Binge drinking can make you aggressive or violent
  • Alcohol consumption depletes your electrolytes (potassium and sodium). This is important for athletes- as electrolytes are salts that are naturally a part of body fluids and help increase the absorption of fluid into the bloodstream.
  • Binge drinking can affect your brain and body for up to THREE days!
  • Alcohol effects sleep patterns, which again, are all important for athletes, as this results in fatigue, impaired ability to recover and increased risk of injury.
  • Alcohol causes blood vessels to dilate, which causes increased heat loss and your muscles will get cold, which means they will be slower and weaker during contractions
  • Alcohol and muscle building do not go hand in hand. This is the deciding point for me. What’s the point in slugging it out in the gym and pushing myself physically if alcohol is detrimental to it all? Alcohol reduces growth hormone by a whopping 70%, which affects muscular development. Also, because alcohol is a toxin, your body will work to remove this first and not work on your recovery, hence you will not recover properly before your next gym session. Alcohol also decreases the concentration of testosterone in the body, hence affecting muscle growth.

These outline just some of the negative and positive effects of drinking alcohol. Ultimately, we are all in control of what we put into our bodies. As a competitive athlete, I can safely summise that alcohol isn’t a necessary part of my lifestyle. I shall be seeing the new year in sober! Have a great new year everyone!

Six Pack of beer, good for you or bad for you?

An article discussing alcohol and its effects on people and exercise.

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