Monday, 21 July 2014


First and foremost i will say that anything i do post comes from first hand experience and not just the regurgitation and analysis of quotes that you find on the internet. It comes from reflection on my own journey, and realisation of certain things that have given me strength in my present for my future.
Usually when you face a challenge- which can literally be anything- the general advice you get from your support system is that it is for a reason, and that in days, weeks, months, years to come you will look back and realise why you had to go through it (or something along those lines). Always comforting to hear, but difficult to grasp at the time. On retrospect, i truly believe that every experience and encounter better prepares us for our future. All hardships provide a lesson- it may a lesson you learn about a person or people in general, it may be a lesson you learn about yourself, it may be a lesson you learn about a situation so that in the future you know how to either handle it (or something worse that comes along) or avoid it. Overcoming challenges provides us with strength and resilience. If you think about any challenges you faced, you may realise that in some way or another it has actually helped you, and if it hasn't yet then take comfort in the fact it will. With every obstacle there lies a solution, and if you have overcome your obstacle then take pride in the fact you have identified a solution that has better prepared you for something greater.  

The past can often be a painful memory for some, particularly if you have faced many hardships. Memories of the past often can rouse emotion. Valuable, personal and unique lessons can be leant by having an awareness of the solutions and triumphs experienced from the past, and reflecting on what worked and what didn't work so that you can go through life developing skills necessary to advance you. It is also important to be aware of what exactly it is that causes you the pain when thinking back to the past, rather than just shutting off the past and pretending like it didn't happen. Instead, by vividly experiencing the effect the memory has on you can lead to you developing neurological pathways that result in you avoiding making the same mistake twice and re-experiencing that pain (the body is designed to avoid pain). Further, by focusing on what causes you pleasure and feeling the happiness (and whatever other emotions) can be extremely advantageous to you and your future as wherever the mind goes the body will follow. Thinking in this pleasure/pain principle is extremely useful in initiating change. With all this said, it is extremely important that you do not dwell in the past: dwelling can lead to feeling low, obsessing over the 'what ifs', and can prevent you from having your eyes open to the opportunities that lie in front of you. You have to learn all and then make the decision to leave. Don't be held by the conditions of your past. It is not where you begin, but where you end. The truth is, everyone has their story. Life comes with its bumps and roundabouts and sharp corners and brick walls, and i believe they all have their purpose, so that when we're back on the straight path the path is smoother and better. We are designed to grow; you cannot face life in a standstill. Every obstacle has a purpose. If God didn't have a purpose for it, He wouldn't have allowed it. Don't become trapped by whatever hardship you faced; you are not defined by single experiences in life, you are the result of many experiences put together. Don't focus on the single ingredient (which alone may not taste so good), but focus on the end product (which will taste amazing). You can stand up a little taller, unhunch your shoulders, and keep your head up high knowing that everything you face will only make you better. You are never given anything you cannot handle.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Been a while..

It has been a pretty long time since I have written a post, and the truth is I have been on a complete journey in the last few months. I have learnt so much in these past 10 months that I felt I wanted to share with others, but whilst i was learning i realised how wrong i had been in the past. I'll start off by saying that when i first decided to do a blog it was during a period in my life where I was beginning to immerse myself more into the fitness environment but i was still absolutely clueless about what was right in terms of reaching my goals, and what was hindering my progress. First off, damn i was skinny! Truth is, i didn't realise how skinny i was because i was on a quest for abs, and whilst every where else was losing fat, my abs never made their appearance. I just abided by the known quote 'consistency' is key, and hoped that if i kept going i'd somehow reach the destination i wanted. Well, the moment i assigned myself a contest prep coach and began my body building journey was the moment i realised i was under-nourished, had a pretty poor diet (in terms of one to support muscle building), i was doing the wrong exercises, OH THE LIST GOES ON. I didn't want to blog and talk to people about what i had done because it would mean me sharing incorrect information that would hinder other people. I even considered deleting the blog and starting afresh, but I think one day i'll be able to look back on it and see how far i've come.
First things first, my whole outlook on training and diet has completely changed. It is no longer "burn as many calories as possible, eat as little as possible". I had dedicated months to an 'off season' whereby  i literally ate to grow. My diet was one that supported muscle growth- ample protein, carbohydrates and fats- and my workouts involved lifting heavy. I wasn't used to having workouts revolving around weights, but i learnt quickly and fell in love. I suddenly had so much energy and enthusiasm for the gym, and i just felt healthy. It's a truly amazing feeling to feel healthy. I mean, during my off season my coach had my calories and carbs pretty high and i did put on a fair amount of fat as well as muscle, and that wasn't so fun. Having a year away from university meant i could hide my changing physique in baggy clothes and gym wear, but it was something that was very strange for me considering i spent the majority of my life wanting to be stick thin.
I am currently 5 weeks out until my first fitness competition, where i will be competing in UKBFF Kent Klassic. This will be the start of an amazing journey, and i truly cannot wait. I wanted to write this post to give an overview of where i'm at, but my future posts will be revolved around the lessons i have learnt spiritually throughout my journey. I hope the lessons i have learnt can help others as i believe they are universal and include challenges many if not all face, and aren't solely confined to the domains of the fitness-life, but ones that affect all aspects of life. On my journey, I've learnt that i am a deep and spiritual thinker, and i am going to embrace this aspect of my character in the hopes that it helps others.

My most recent pictures:

Friday, 25 October 2013

Fasted Cardio

Fasted Cardio is a hot topic of debate- some believe it is the best way to get rid of the stubborn fat on your body, others completely dismiss it as unhelpful for fat loss, whilst others believe it can actually be detrimental to your lean body mass (the muscle on your body) and potential muscle gains.

Fasted Cardio is the aerobic exercise you would perform first thing in the morning prior to breakfast. Now some do this completely fasted- i.e. the last meal they had was the night before, whereas others take a protein source just before (usually a protein shake and BCAA supplement tablets) in the aim of preserving muscle.

I used to do fasted cardio 1-2 years ago. I would usually do a morning 45minute spinning class at around 6.30am before going to Uni. After the class i would immediately drink a protein shake and on my way out of the gym buy a Starbucks Porridge (there was a Starbucks inside my gym). Now during that time i didn't lift weights- i was more of a cardio girl. I was not too concerned about gaining muscle, as my main priority was losing fat. I mean now i understand that ideally you want to do BOTH (achieved by lifting weights and adding in cardio to suit your goals), but anyway that was what i did. I didn't find that i was low in energy. If i was tired i would drink a coffee in a flask on the way to the gym. I had enough energy to make "personal bests" in terms of km on the spin bike. I also found that because my uni degree was so demanding, waking up early and getting my gym session done at a time where i would usually be in bed worked for me.

Now, 1-2 years later, i have reviewed a lot of the science data that is out there, and listened to a few podcasts by well respected scientists, phd/master graduates and notorious industry figures. Here are some facts I gathered:

- your glycogen stores deplete 50% just from sleeping (overnight fast). Glycogen is a fuel source, and one that will typically be used during aerobic exercise.
-Those that say fasted cardio burns the muscle is stemmed from the idea that if your glycogen level is low, the body will want to preserve it and so will use the fats as fuel instead.
-To burn fat on your body it required liberation of Fatty Acids from the fat tissues which are then transported to the muscle, liver and heart where they are oxidised for energy.
-The critics say that this fat-burning process which requires liberation and oxidation occurs over DAYS and not hours. They therefore say that just by having an overnight fast it would not lead to the body using fats as an alternate source.
-Science studies have shown that as a general rule, if you burn carbohydrates during a workout then you inevitably burn more fast in the post-exercise period. Thus over 24 hours, the ones who exercise in a fed state burn more fat than those that exercise in a fasted state.
-True fat loss boils down to diet as opposed to trying to trick the body to utilise its fat stores. You must review your macronutrient intake of protein, carbohydrates and fats during the day.
-Pre workout and Post workout are the 2 more essential meal times in terms of optimising muscle gains. To lose the pre workout window can be detrimental.
-Studies have shown a greater Nitrogen Loss when fasted. Nitrogen is a molecule which makes up Protein, and so this is evidence or potential detrimental catabolism (breaking down) of muscle.
-If you are still keen on fasted cardio, the recommendation is to keep heart rate between 60-65% max and to ideally take a protein shake or BCAA supplement tablets just before.
-Food is not going to stop you from breaking down fat. It isn't as simple as "i wont eat, then i'll exercise and then i'll lose fat". In fact, when you food there is a "thermic effect" whereby energy is used to break it down, and this creates an afterburn. The afterburn is thus higher when exercising in a fed state, leading to an overall greater caloric burn.
-If you don't have enough energy in the morning to really go hard in your exercise routine then it is not going to really be beneficial.

Hope this helps!

Monday, 21 October 2013

The Mind

We control the environment we live in, the circumstances and events we face. Some think the answer to problems is to change the circumstances, but the truth is it all lies within us. We have to change our outlook to the external events, and we evoke the positive changes that are necessary for us to live a happy, fulfilled life. Every goal made can be achieved- you have to believe it in every cell of your body. It has to be a fixed, unshakeable belief which cannot be broken down by doubt - in your mind or from other people. People have powers over other people- and what i mean by this is that we are susceptible to other people’s suggestions. Some are more than others. We have to believe so strongly, that we don’t allow doubt, fear or worry to break down the belief. We also must surround ourselves with positivity and symbols of success and accomplishment- both from thinking it and saying it to yourself over and over again, but also from people around us. Everything we hear, say, speak in turn has a knock on effect on the things we feel and how we act and view things. We can set the wheels in motion to achieve our goals just by believing that they can be achieved. Belief also comes from habitually and repetitively saying things to ourselves. Once we fully believe, and have faith and expectancy that it will come true, then it will. The mind is powerful. To be the best you have to not only believe that you can be the best, but also that you will be the best. Positive reinforcement and expectancy is paramount. 

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Strength Of Mind

I have become more and more engrossed with the bodybuilding and fitness industry, and with it has come watching videos of Arnold, discussing his past and how his vision lead him to set his eyes on a goal and never give up- to keep pushing when others told him he was crazy or would never achieve it- and allowed every barrier to strengthen him and fuel his desire. His life is truly inspiring, and his videos are motivating. I would truly recommend watching them all because he is a martyr for setting your eyes on a goal- WHATEVER that may be- and not giving up until you reach it. I believe that is what makes a champion. 

I started thinking about my own experience and how far I had come. One thought in particular was to do with me being an anomaly of my family- casual thought of the day. Now my great-uncle used to do bodybuilding competitions in Malta (something i didn't learn until recently), now other than that ONE RELATION, no other family member- close or distant- has a faint interest in exercise, nutrition, or having a healthy lifestyle. I come from a maltese family who believe eating in abundance is a sign of health, and gaining weight (albeit not huge amounts) is actually a good thing. My grandma on my mum side loved to cook, and was always in the kitchen setting up 3 course meals for them all, and so my mum recalls this as being the norm. All her siblings are overweight- 2 had anorexia as teens, and the other had bullimia. My dad used to be skinny, but in his 20's was diagnosed with Diabetes Type 2 and thereafter the weight has piled on. This has not been helped by his carbohydrate-laden meals, and sedentary lifestyle.  My whole extended family are sedentary- no exercise AT ALL. Me, my sister, my mum and dad live in England whilst the rest of our family live in malta so i will stick to just discussing us. 
My family  set their meals around eating carbohydrates. The portions are excessive, and it is normal for my dad (who does the cooking) to make huge amounts so that they (i don't eat his food- never have) can go back for more servings. My dad loves cooking- particularly baking and bakes loafs of bread every day including home-made pizzas. 
Now i have always been different. From a young age i took a real interest in health, and wanted to be slim and lean. I loved exercise and i liked looking a certain way. I have always been the anomaly of the house- even in my personality i can often be introverted and after a day out, i do love to have some "me time", so often at home you'll find me in my room with my macbook. Now in terms of eating habits, i have always cooked or prepared my own meals. My family are so amazingly supportive of everything that i do that they never made any comment or anything. In fact my mum would ask me to make a list of "my foods" and she would do the food shopping for "my foods". It was always obvious in the kitchen fridge or cupboard which foods were mine and which was the rest of the family's.

My main point is that despite my kitchen smelling of a bakery 24/7, or the treats that i see around the house i have never been tempted. In fact, it actually fuels my desire because i LIKE and ENJOY being different. I know that my will power is exceptionally strong- always has been. I always did what i wanted- more in a focused way rather than a spoilt-brat/princess way. During ALevels my friends would still go out to clubs etc, but for me and my goals i knew i needed 3As in my Alevels and that meant making sacrifices. I used to have comments made my friends about this but it didn't phase me. I am very all or nothing, and with my 'all' mentality comes tunnel vision 
I do believe if you want something enough, and are in-tune with what exactly is required of you and what you must sacrifice, then temptation won’t phase you. Psychology plays a huge part- i always said "i want to achieve *this* so i must do *that*" as opposed to "i can't do *this* because i have to do *that*". If you are looking for an excuse to break away from a goal- i.e. it is one you don't really care about or that was inflicted on you by your parents, friends, peer pressure etc, then the willpower you can force will only take you so far. 
When people asked me about why i was so healthy and never used to indulge, I found the easiest way to answer that was to tell people i was “brought up around health”. The truth is i wasn’t- my family sometimes resembles "fat families"- as much as i do love them, they have zero care in the world for nutrition or exercise. No one would understand why i made the decisions i did, chose to put workouts as a priority, and chose to ate the way i did, so It was a lot easier to tell that lie, because then suddenly people understood. I think the strength comes from within, because my goals are different to my family's- my vision is to do with turning my body into a personification of my mental strength. I overcame a lot of demons in my past, and each made me stronger. 
I hope this motivates at least one person to stick to their goals and find the strength within. Everyone has their struggles, and not everything comes easily- i would love to have a family that ate the way i did and would even go to the gym with me- but that is life, and you have to face whatever challenges or rocky paths are set forth. They will only build your character and strength, so embrace it and congratulate yourself on your achievements wherever you are in your journey/path towards your goal. 

Monday, 30 September 2013

Exercise: Going Through The Motions

Today i woke up and reflected on the past few weeks of my fitness journey. Ever since stepping into the gym and deciding No More "i wish i could look like this... i wish i didn't have this... i wish i could do this.." i have learnt so many things about my body and mind. It really is a journey. For the past few days i have been daydreaming about the day i have firm glutes. It is my weak spot, so i am going to turn it into my STRONG spot. I started to think "WHY didn't i start doing squats the moment i learnt how to walk as a baby", but in actual fact i HAVE tried to work on my bum in the past. I mean, okay maybe not as hard/many times as i should have but it's not like i NEGLECTED it. Now with my perspective in the incredible benefits of lifting weights i realise my approach to how to use exercise FOR my body was a bit off the mark. Let me explain.
NB: I am going to group Leg/Glute exercises as just 'Legs'
-I was very hesitant about working out my legs because all my life i've had muscular legs. I used to walk for 8 mins up a hill from the bus stop after school to my house, and within 5seconds of this routine my calves were so muscular. My friends all had skinny legs. I used to be so envious, so i used to WANT the muscle to waste in my legs. I avoided going too heavy with weights and using a very challenging gradient/resistance on machines for this reason.
-In August i started to not give a * about other peoples legs, and just focus on mine. Once a week i started incorporating exercises that weren't going to really bulk up my legs, but would work my glutes. I started doing squats and lunges on a bosu ball without heavy weights (8kg if anything), glute bridges, leg bands, squats without heavy weights. And started incorporating the stair/stepper into my workout.
-Overtime, i started to want to use heavier weights, and so began using the Leg Press, Lunges with a 10kg --> 15kg bar, [deadlifts- back and hamstrings but also glutes], Split leg squat. etc. My gym at the time didn't have a squat rack so i couldn't really squat heavy.
- Truth is, i never TRULY felt my glutes working. I did these exercises with the mentality of just going through the motion. Now i did sweat, i did find certain reps and certain sets challenging, and occasionally had DOMS the next day, but i just assumed that by doing these exercises, i was inevitably working out my glutes. 
-This isn't the case. Anyone can pick a weight that's really heavy. Anyone can walk up high gradients on the treadmill, use the stair machine.
I realised that i used to get the ache in my Quads. My Quads had built up over time because even when i was doing exercises to target my glutes, my quads fully took over. Now even now when i work with my trainer i feel it in my quads aswell, but i ALSO feel it in my glutes. I have never really felt it in my glutes before. My quads are strong, which means any stress on my legs, the quads are quick to take over. Even with squats and leg presses, my quads would take over.
-If you want to work a muscle, you need to FEEL the muscle working. You have to put it under stress. This means using the correct form and using a weight that feels challenging. I think when people say "lift heavy" it actually is confusing. Like people used to say this to me, and i used to think WHAT IS HEAVY. what do they MEAN. To make it simple, just lift a weight that feels like its a challenge. That makes you breath out and sigh and even make funny faces after a few reps.
-If you want to grow that muscle, you need to repair the damage you've done to it by putting it under the stress of the exercise. This means eating enough protein. The recommendation to build muscle is 1.5g protein per kg of body weight per day. You are NOT going to get big and bulky. TRUST ME. Muscle takes TIME to grow. And if you are getting bigger, then it's most likely fat gain, so reassess your net calorie input (i.e. are you eating more than you are burning off).
-I almost... ALMOST.. put the blame on genetics. i thought WHY WHY can some people work out less hard than me, or even actually have the same approach and just go through the motions, yet still reap the benefits. But genetics or NOT, it's not an excuse. Your attitude and consistency will ALWAYS triumph genetics. 
-If you are like me and your quads take over your glutes, 'Pre-fatiguing- the quads before you start your glutes-focused exercise help. This means doing heavy and high rep training of an exercise that will just work the quads, till the point where they feel weak. This will help prevent them from 'taking over' when you move onto exercises for your glutes.
-FEEL THE MUSCLE. This may mean doing a more focused exercise routing with fewer exercises. This may even mean dropping the weight to a lighter one so your form is perfect. This may mean squeezing at the top of an exercise, or keeping the muscle contracted by doing pulses/half reps. This may mean using a machine and instead of strictly obeying the picture drawing/instructions it has on how to use it, and tailoring it to how it works for YOU.
I hope this helps, because i really wish someone told me this sooner. Just saying "lift heavy" means nothing. Stay focused, and keep your eyes on your goal. Don't give up, you've got this 

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Olympia 2013: Bikini

Olympia 2013: Bikini: My Favs
Ok. Let me first start by saying: Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow. INSPIRATION AT ITS FINEST. If you are considering/currently training/are a bikini competitor- or for any other category of bodybuilding- JUST WOW you need to look at the pictures! Or help me build a time machine so that we can go back in time and make sure we're in Las Vegas and have tickets for it. I now can't wait for the Arnold competition! Okay, focus.
Now i am truly obsessed with Amanda Latona. Ok the word obsessed makes me sound crazy, she is just so inspirational. From watching interviews and her exercise videos, her personality is amazing. But then her body is just phenomenal. And YOU KNOW it took a thousand buckets of sweat and tears to achieve that. She is my inspiration particularly for the Glutes area! This is how she looked for Olympia 2013, and she came 6th.

Nathalia Melo was Ms Olympia Bikini 2012. She is Beautiful, and her stage presence is phenomenal. I watched a youtube video of Olympia 2013 bikini, and your eyes are drawn to her. She came 4th in this years Olympia. Amazing body and Amazing face- she looks leaner than she did last year, but overall Nathalia does have a leaner look- particularly her mid section. Oh and her glutes are also inspiring!!!!

The winner of Ms Olympia Bikini 2013 was Ashley Kaltwasser. Having looked through the pictures of the Olympia Bikini, i have to say she definitely deserved it. I was SHOCKED Amanda Latona didn't win, but that's because in my eyes she's perfect and embodies "ms bikini". HOWEVER, i recall saying - OUT LOUD- "damn", when i saw Ashley's pictures. Her body is just perfect. I mean lean and muscular, but soft and feminine. Her boobs don't look disproportionate. Her skin and tan is perfect and even. Her makeup and hair is just right. I am not surprised she won. Her story is also motivating, because she placed 10th in Arnold Classic 2013 and then went on to win OLYMPIA. This shows the importance of not giving up.
The last girl i'll talk about is Michelle Brannan. Now I have been following her on Twitter and Instagram for some time. She looks like a porcelain barbie-doll (but the natural kind, not the fake looking), and her body is always tight. She seems incredibly focused and her determination lead her to be the first Olympia Bikini girl to represent UK. That is some achievement.