The gradually awesome approach – April Blackford

15 Mar

April Simmons Blackford

This article is similar to the approach we teach in the Ladies Specific Q&A sessions.  The “Science Lab” allows you to interact with other people in a similar situation to yours and ask questions in a virtual classroom setting as well as a private group.  The details are in the link above.

First, let me start out by saying that for as long as I have known what a true “carb” is, I have always (I guess not technically always) had a sort of “fear” of them. Within the past 6 months, the light bulb finally went off in my head and I had that much-needed “Ah-ha!” moment. This has truly got to be the best thing, both physically and mentally, to have ever happened to me.

I want to rewind to when this amazing experience first occurred. I am a member of the LeanYou Facebook group and in August 2012, we decided to have a friendly 16 week competition where guys and gals were separated into categories of cutting and bulking.  At the time, I honestly did not have a lot of so-called “weight” or fat to drop, but I had bulked over the summer and put on some extra fat that I wasn’t feeling comfortable with.  I decided to be a good sport and join in, to help keep the others in the group motivated. My initial plan (in my mind) was easy:  I thought, “Well crap, I’ll just go low carb with a once-a-week reefed, drop a bunch of fat and breeze through this!!”  Well, that was a nightmare; a freaking nightmare. If you look up “freaking nightmare” in the dictionary, it will reference a picture of me. I was still continuing to lift heavy at the gym 3 days a week. The first couple of days were fine, but then my workouts started to suffer. Actually, they sucked. I was so weak that my body would tremble with simple movements like dumbbell bench press. My main lifts, like deadlift, squat and bench press, were even worse.  My pulse would race to the point that I felt like I was going to have a heart attack, but I kept up with it for 6 weeks. At the end of the 6 weeks, the scale had only moved a whopping 3lbs.  “Only 3lbs???!! What??” I wanted to eat my sweet potatoes, kabocha squash, and Brussels sprouts more than once a week!! So, I sat and thought it out and said, “There has to be a better way.”

Abandoning Low Carb was scary

I immediately stopped the low carb method and started on more of a moderate carb cycling approach. The new plan consisted of low carbs on rest days, two medium carb training days, and one high carb on my heaviest training day. What happened? I started slowly dropping fat and at the end of the 16 weeks, I was down 14lbs. After the competition, I knew I had to reverse out of my diet and reset my body and hormones. At this point, my body was screaming at me.  ”What the heck are you trying to do to me!!!?” I had consistently eaten at a deficit for 16 weeks. It was time to start back increasing my calories and carbs, and yes, I was nervous; I think it is natural to have that feeling. I knew to expect an increase in water weight, mainly for the simple fact that carbs hold more water.

First week: I increased all my days by an extra 25g of carbs compared to what I was eating at before. I did that for two weeks, increased again and continued ‘til I reached my highest level yet. I was now at 150g on rest days and 225g on training days…YAY!! Time for happy dance! I get to eat carbs every day now, not just the days where I slam some heavy weight around at the gym!

Now Performance is the driver

Fast-forward to where I am now: I have been eating at maintenance since November. My strength has blown up in this time. I hit a new deadlift best of 220lbs for 2 reps a few weeks ago.  Something magical has happened; I stopped caring about the scale and losing weight, started focusing only on my lifts, and I’m getting leaner! I officially weigh 7lbs more now than November. My abs look good, my arms are getting vascular, and my butt is growing (this was the year of the butt for me you know.)

Strategic Carbs within reason

Now, what and when I eat is probably the next question. I eat protein/fat throughout the day and save the majority of my carbs (especially starchy carbs) for night. Is it Carb Back-Loading? I don’t know; I guess you could say I do a clean version of some sort. I eat a LOT (and I mean a LOT) of sweet potatoes…Like, I am seriously obsessed. I love yams; Japanese and Okinawan varieties the best. I have a natural sweet tooth, so I don’t care for regular potatoes or rice too much. My absolute favorite carb source is kabocha squash; I could seriously eat this every single day.  It is not as starchy as potatoes, therefore I limit these to my rest days only, but can you imagine eating 2lbs for less than 300 calories?

When that “Ah-ha!” moment occurred to me, things changed. I finally stopped obsessing, and started seeing results. The moment when I realized that less it not always good, and more is better, is when the magic happened. As I tell my friends now, “Don’t be scared of the carbs.” They are truly magical for me. Like, really magic.

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