The highs and lows of ‘off season’

Since dieting for ‘prep’, I have never looked at food or exercise in the same way. It is a scary statement as it is so conclusive but it is so true. I think it is one of those milestones that you can’t simply ‘undo’ and continue on in your merry way. In the year since I dieted, there is a whole lot more information online about people’s experiences of prep and the immediate time afterwards, but I think there still lacks a lot of relatable content about off-season in general. So here is my take on my year in off-season, hope it is helpful!

Highs

  • Strength gains. 100% the most satisfying aspect of off-season in the gym. Eating more food, predominantly carbohydrates, fuels my workouts and my ability to perform. I am able to progress in both quantity and quality of time spent lifting weights. The only exercise where I saw a slight setback was in my pull-ups (probably because I had more weight to pull up!)
  • The ability to be more flexible with food timings. My stomach rules my day-to-day life far less. I don’t count down time to my next meal, if I am hungry, I eat!
  • The ability to be more flexible with food. Both in quantity and variety. I eat mostly the same things due to personal preference, but with more calories to play with, I am able to be a lot more free with my choices.
  • Clothes fit better. Yes losing weight is great, but when it gets to the point that nothing fits, that doesn’t do well for self-esteem either!
  • Energy levels increase.
  • Hair, skin and nails are clearer and healthier.

Lows

  • I had to get comfortable with the scales going up. It is easier said than done, but being that lean is neither healthy or sustainable. Watching the number on the scales increase goes against personal preferences as well as societal and social norms. 
  • Clothes also don’t fit, depending on when I bought them!
  • Throwbacks to being lean. It is hard when I see myself looking amazing and then in off-season shape. Although… It can provide a source of my motivation too.
  • When I have a crash of confidence about how I look, people will find it difficult to relate to. I honestly think this is the hardest. Unless they have prepped themselves, they will never be able to fully relate to my mood or self-perception. To them it seems trivial, and in the grand scheme of things, it is, but learning to love yourself at whatever stage you are at is neither straightforward nor continual.

The thing is, there are rarely days which are either all super positive or all super negative, off-season is a roller coaster, just maybe a more gentle one than prep. Throughout each day I feel positively and negatively about how I feel and look, but the thing is, so does everyone else. Being able to see the bigger picture and understanding that, although everyone around you might not be able to relate to my exact circumstance, everyone understands self-image. As soon as I realized that no one cared, or to be honest, even noticed when I had gained a pound or two, I felt quite liberated. Focusing on yourself and giving yourself a talking to when feeling negative, is the best advice I can give to anyone who is concerned about themselves. People are so narcissistic and focused on themselves, they don’t have the vision to see your off season weight gains. Enjoy the food, enjoy the strength and enjoy the process. (And look forward to the progress which you can show off when you are stage lean again).

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

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Why I joined Team New York Muscle Radio

I initially decided to ‘launch’ a separate Instagram account (@benchpressingbaubles) to my personal Instagram so I could post foodie and fitness items to my heart’s content without encroaching on my day-to-day posts and also so my friends could ‘opt in’ if they wanted to see endless fitness posts. I am very aware that not all of my ‘real life’ friends are interested in my breakfast or my latest gym session, but also aware of how prevalent social media, and health/fitness is on social media. Although such posts may not interest my friends, the wider world can take inspiration; reassurance; motivation etc. from what I have to say. Having a separate Instagram account has also given me an avenue to share information, my successes and failures and I have found it so rewarding.

With having a separate Instagram account, I have also become a lot more adventurous in seeking out fellow health and fitness advocates, both on a local and global level. In my thirst for knowledge, I discovered New York Muscle Radio. I have only had an iPad for approximately three months and purchased one due to my lengthy commutes (hearing Justin Bieber repeatedly got old, fast!) so began listening to podcasts. I was immediately drawn to the titles of the podcasts by New York Muscle Radio – relevant and varied. The first episode I listened to ‘What not to do during peak week’ really struck a chord and I quickly downloaded prior episodes. Pete and Anthony have such a breadth of knowledge which they communicate so clearly, yet naturally. You can tell that the information they are sharing is learned from experience instead of regurgitated textbook. Nothing is difficult to understand, even when they are explaining more complex health and fitness terminology (I had always wondered what FST7 stood for and the reasoning for its placement in some training programs). They cater for audiences far beyond stereotypical ‘meatheads’ and have such a varied and extensive guest list too, covering topics like eating disorders, flexible dieting, powerlifting…even photography. Beyond the factual aspects, their podcast is full of banter, often involving distaste for any soy products, which leaves you laughing along and people judging you at stop lights. Plus I love their accents, wish I said coffee like they do!

With the information Pete and Anthony share about themselves, I knew that I could be a New York Muscle Radio athlete. They live and breathe flexible dieting (and have a longer run on MyFitnessPal than I do!) which is really important to me. I have done the whole keto low calorie diet and learned that it doesn’t work for me. I have learned that my body loves carbs and I also love food and cooking far too much to be living off plain foods – healthy eating is not synonymous with suffering. I also love their training recommendations. I have never been one to do workouts purely because someone pretty did them on Instagram, but I know lots of people do that. I like working out like a guy (just without the grunting) and am always on a mission to get more confident at lifting heavy. Moreover, I can relate to their work ethic as well as their passion for health and fitness. These guys are both highly driven (they wouldn’t have a leading podcast on top of full time jobs and families if they weren’t) and also they attribute lots of their successes to the bodybuilding world. I, too, am very driven and also really fell in love with fitness when I felt like the rest of my life was falling apart. 

I would never apply to be sponsored by anything or anyone that I didn’t love. It goes against all my fundamental principles. I love New York Muscle Radio, and also love how much they share my appreciation for Trader Joe’s and Dymatize protein powder. So when I heard they were searching for sponsored athletes, I knew I had to apply. I was completely shocked that they have taken little old me on board, and can’t thank them enough for this opportunity. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings. Cheers to New York Muscle Radio! Go check them out: www.newyorkmuscleradio.com

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

Protein snickerdoodle pumpkin brownies

‘Tis the season to pumpkin spice, and although I don’t walk around drinking pumpkin spice lattes whilst wearing Uggs, I am a stereotypical millennial who is fully on the pumpkin spice bandwagon. I bought a can of pumpkin a couple of weeks ago in Trader Joes and it has been sitting in my cupboard as the realization dawned on me that I actually have to do something with it. I researched some recipes online and all of them involved many ingredients, some obscure, that I really didn’t want to faff about with. So I decided to create my own. These brownies are super light, but actually require a bit of chewing, which makes them feel satisfying. They are not too sweet, plenty of pumpkin spice, easy to prepare and versatile. 


Macros per brownie (recipe makes 16): 66kcal; 7.1g carbs, 5.8g protein, 1.3g fat

Ingredients

1 can (427g) pumpkin purée

2 scoops snickerdoodle whey isolate (I used BPI sports, but any cinnamon or vanilla whey would work)

4.5oz coconut flour

1/2cup water (room temperature)

4 egg whites

3 single serve packets of Truvia

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp pumpkin spice seasoning (if you don’t have pumpkin spice, then 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp ground cloves)

Pinch of fine salt

Method

1. Line a 20cm/8inch brownie pan with grease proof paper and preheat oven to 350f/180c.

2. In a large mixing bowl, sieve the coconut flour, whey protein, Truvia, salt, pumpkin spice and baking powder.

3. Pour in the pumpkin, egg whites and water and combine the mixture thoroughly.

4. Transfer mixture to the brownie pan and bake in the centre of your pre-heated oven for approximately 30 minutes. The top should be browned and when you put a knife into the brownies, it should come out clean.

5. With a sharp knife, divide into 16 squares and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan before transferring to a wire rack to allow to cool completely.

Serve on their own, topped with nut butter, cream cheese or yoghurt for a delicious seasonal guilt free snack.


Benchpressingbaubles, x