The Blog

How I Fell in Love with Bodybuilding

Friday nights are usually reserved for ‘quality time’ for My Champ and I. 9 out of 10 times this usually involves watching something on Netflix. This past Friday I had suggested we watch ‘Pumping Iron’.  For those of you that don’t know, Pumping Iron was documentary-style film made in 1975 showcasing the then-bizarre world of bodybuilding. The film’s main star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was the highlight featured as he was in preparation for his 6th Mr. Olympia win in Pretoria, South Africa. He was then, and arguably still is the most famous bodybuilder in the world. This was My Champ’s first time seeing the film, and likely my 6th or 7th. It still gives me goosebumps when I watch it.

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I still have the copy 🙂

Growing up in my childhood home, my bedroom had this very large bookshelf. My parents kept many of the family photo albums and cherished books in this shelf. I distinctly remember being about 10 years old, and snooping in the section of the shelf where the books were kept. There I found my Dad’s copy of the 1977 version ARNOLD: The Education of a Bodybuilder. I flipped through the pages in complete awe. I loved how muscles looked! Although I knew absolutely nothing about bodybuilding in my tender youth, I knew that Arnold had quite the aesthetically pleasing physique. The attraction was not of a sexual nature, but more of a keen interest and admiration in how one could transform their body in such a way. Not only was I impressed with his appearance, I also became intrigued with the information provided regarding exercise and nutrition. Though there have been many changes to what constitutes a ‘proper’ bodybuilding diet over the years, it was obvious that to look like a beast you would have to eat and train like one! Even today (as I still have the copy in my possession) I admire the confident, no-bullshit approach Arnold had toward his craft. In order to be the best, you have believe you are the best: feed yourself with the best, train with the best, practice the best, sleep the best, always question ways you can be BETTER. I believe this applies to anyone and everyone trying to get ahead in life, no matter the goal.

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Love me some Madge

It was around this same point in time that I also became infatuated with Madonna. For a female singer/actress, the girl was RIPPED! I actually remember watching one of her music videos while my cousin was baby-sitting me, and I uttered “I want to look like that when I grow up.” Sure, Madonna has done some things in her past that are maybe questionable for a young girl to view her as a role model- but the impact she had on me as a confident, strong, independent female was huge. She was fierce. She was intimidating. I just remember loving the flow of the muscles in her arms: the visible delts, the separation of biceps, the veins in her forearms… I wanted all that. I loved that she made no secret that her appearance took much discipline through diet and training.

Many people have celebrity heroes from their childhood, and mine were Arnold and Madonna. So I guess it makes sense that I would eventually fall into the world of bodybuilding and fitness. I knew I’d never be a model for Vogue or Elle, but I knew in my heart I had what it took to be a fitness competitor. It was my desire, my passion, my everything to pursue the sport I grew up admiring. And although I’m not being displayed on a stage anymore, I’m still very much all about challenging myself to my absolute physical limits. Everyone has a ‘why’ as to how they started, and it’s important to always remember what that ‘why’ is. Keep going, because truly anything is possible 😉

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Clean and Decadent Protein Brownies

The more credit you give away, the more will come back to you. The more you help others, the more they will want to help you. – Brian Tracy

Since the creation of this site I have been blessed with much support and encouragement. I love getting feedback from all the readers, good and bad! The good feedback keeps me going, and the constructive criticism helps me to think of ways to make this ‘baby’ of mine even better. I am truly grateful for all of it. My most favourite feedback are those of you that are messaging me with amazing recipes and blog ideas!! It shows me that not only are you enjoying orangezilla.ca, but you’re also on board with the message I am trying to send: lead by example, and live the best possible life. I do believe the perspective on clean eating is changing: more people are realizing that with a little creativity and some healthy swaps, clean food can be great!

This gem of a recipe comes from my friend Lisa Caputo, who is currently preparing for her very first bikini competition. She and her husband Rosario own Cibo Bistro, an authentic Italian restaurant located in downtown Edmonton’s Oliver Square. If you ever get the opportunity, definitely check them out! Best non-franchise Italian food that has ever slipped my lips. That being said, this lady definitely knows great tasting food! This recipe is super-simple, 100% clean, and Champ approved!! This was his favourite protein brownie recipe I have made so far. I have several black bean brownie recipes on hand, and he always cringes at those because (according to him) they always taste ‘bean-y’. These are so decadent and rich with flavour, they are a great remedy sure to cure any sweet tooth craving. Enjoy!

 

Recipe

1 cup over-ripe banana (approx. 3 medium bananas)

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup natural smooth peanut butter (melted)

2 scoops Magnum Nutraceuticals Quattro Protein Powder in Chocolate Love/Chocolate Peanut Butter Addiction

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Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. In a blender/food processor/electric mixer, blend everything until smooth; you may need to add water to make it the consistency of brownie batter.
  3. Pour batter in to a shallow non-stick pan.
  4. Bake for 30 mins, or until toothpick/knife comes out clean from the centre.
  5. Let cool completely before cutting into squares. Best after slight refrigeration. Once cooled, I individually wrapped each bar in plastic wrap and stored in the fridge for a convenient snack on the go 🙂

*Yields 9 bars

Macros per bar: 167 calories; 7.8 g F; 14.1 C; 10.7 g P; 3.1 g fibre

 

Healthy Chocolate Mousse

My only regret with this recipe is the picture doesn’t do it justice! This decadent, guilt-free snack has become a staple in my nightly routine. Currently my only ‘lower carb’ meal is the one I have right before bed. I ensure that I have some sort of healthy fat incorporated to keep me satiated while I sleep. I have posted about ‘smoothie bowls’ before containing avocado with Magnum Quattro protein (the BEST 😉 ) but this switch up makes for a smaller, yet rich and satisfying meal resembling more of a dessert. I really can’t get enough avocado… and chocolate… I’m female, ’nuff said. I give you “Healthy Chocolate Mousse”! Enjoy!!

Recipe

1/2 ripe avocado, medium (approx 2 oz.)

1/2 scoop (or 2 tbsp) Magnum Quattro protein in Chocolate Love/Chocolate Peanut Butter Addiction**

1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or your milk of choice)

2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Splenda/stevia, to taste

Dash cinnamon (optional)

Directions

  1. Blend all ingredients in food processor/blender on medium-low speed until smooth, no visible lumps. You may add more/use less milk, depending on desired consistency: I like mine to resemble chocolate pudding.
  2. Pour contents  into a bowl and enjoy!!

 

*Yields one serving

**May add more protein powder depending on nutritional needs; may need more milk for consistency

Macros: 199 calories; 13 g C; 12 g F; 19 g P

Quitting is Immature

A couple months ago I was training with My Champ (a VERY rare occasion) and he noticed I was getting frustrated. He was teaching me some new lifts, and also (trying to) help me with my current technique on a few things. He called me out on my anger: “You can’t get mad just because you’re not good at something. You can’t just give up because you’re not immediately perfect (at this).” Man, is he good. Those who do not know me well may think I am good at most things- the truth is, I am NOT and the things I excel at took much time and effort before I mastered them.

I used this example to get through a tough day I had at work this past week. I won’t divulge into the specifics of what went on, but my confidence was suffering greatly at my job. I’m taking on a lot of new responsibilities in one of my roles at the hospital, and though I’ve been at this for a while there are days where I feel I’m just not good enough. Funny thing is, I had been having a great few weeks of training, and my personal life has never been better. Something had to shift, I suppose. I confided in a couple of colleagues regarding my concerns in my performance, and I’m so glad I did. Both individuals gave me the reassurance I needed: questioning yourself sometimes shows how much you CARE, and I am NORMAL!! Who doesn’t question themselves from time to time? Being over-confident can definitely backfire, especially in my line of work. No one is completely flawless. We should always be thinking of ways to self-improve or be better in our daily tasks. We (and by this I mean me) should also forgive ourselves and understand that we are human and can’t always be perfect.

I have to remind myself sometimes that I will never ‘know it all’ and I am going to screw up. That’s life. The world of health care and management is constantly changing and evolving, and I will always have to adapt. Getting back to the example I gave with My Champ: I can’t just give up when something is hard. That gets me nowhere, if not backwards. Can you imagine what our lives would be like if we quit because we weren’t automatically ‘perfect’? We would never learn how to walk: we would all be crawling; none of us would learn to ride our bikes because we fell; we would remain illiterate; we would refer to spaghetti only as ‘noodles’ because we kept saying ‘pisghettie’ instead. Ridiculous, isn’t it? Life takes effort and practice. I do tend to relate many life experiences to training, because the challenges we face physically are a metaphor to the obstacles we face in the outside world. Life, like lifting or running, doesn’t get easier- you just get better. Don’t ever quit; humble yourself, and grow to be better than before.

Easy ‘Pulled’ Salsa Chicken

After 5 years of competing in fitness, you’d think I’d never want to see another chicken breast. While that is somewhat true, I definitely try my best to incorporate a variety of protein sources into my current regime. I surprisingly do still love chicken! My all-time favourite way to prepare a lean chicken breast is simply over the barbecue. But since My Champ and I acquired a slow-cooker over this past Holiday season, the barbecue has taken a back seat 😉

I know I’m late to the party, but where has this delightful appliance been all my life?? I so wish I had this tool in my arsenal during my competition meal-prep days. I still love barbecuing, but the slow cooker is an excellent, indoor option during the cold winter months. And the clean, healthy recipes are infinite!!

I have seen others post recipes similar to mine, but I really wanted to get the salsa-water ratio right before I shared my version. I found if you didn’t add any water the chicken turned out a little dry- although the flavour was still outstanding! Adding too much water didn’t do the flavour justice. This is great to prepare at the start of your week, as it will make many servings for yourself/household. It’s also super versatile and can be served with any kind of starch. You won’t believe how easy and tasty this is. Enjoy!

Recipe

1 package fresh/frozen boneless-skinless chicken breasts (about 5-6 breasts)

1 jar of your favourite salsa (approx. 500 mL): my favourite is Newman’s Own Sweet Mango/Tequila Lime

1 cup water (ratio should always be 1/2 of salsa volume)

2-3 cloves garlic (optional)

1/2 chopped onion (optional)

Directions

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Hey, it’s a part of the directions! Patience is a virtue 😉

  1. Spray the inside of your slow-cooker with a non-stick spray.
  2. Line the bottom of slow-cooker with chicken. Recipe turns out best when chicken is uncut. Add garlic, onions if you choose.
  3. Pour salsa and water over chicken. Liquid should make it all the way to the bottom of chicken.
  4. Set slow-cooker to ‘slow’; leave cooking for 6-8 hours. Rest/live your life until ready 😉
  5. Once cooked, ‘pull’/shred chicken apart with tongs or a fork. Serve over rice, potatoes, or in a wrap. My personal favourite is in a whole wheat tortilla with reduced-fat cheese. Ole!!

Macros (approx. depending on salsa, based on 120 g serving): 134 calories; 2 g C; 5 g F; 20 g P

Win, Love, or Draw

This past week and weekend was challenging, yet successful. Those of you that know me personally or follow via social media may have seen My Champ honouring his namesake, as he won his Muay Thai fight that he headlined in Calgary. I am so incredibly proud, though I was very confident he would take it. I succeeded in my own personal goals with my triathlon training as well. This was my ‘peak volume’ week where I pushed myself beyond my own perceived limits. While we were out celebrating My Champ’s win, I was inspired to write this piece on what it is to truly love and support an elite athlete.

When My Champ and I began dating he knew what he was getting into. We were friends first, and he was well aware that I was heavy into my sport of Figure at a National level. He never once questioned the amount I had to train, the time I spent on my meal prep, the attention I may have received from both men and women, and never mind the mood swings! He not only accepted, but understood all of that.  He too had dreams of his own. He was finishing his kinesiology degree, working as a trainer on top of that, and was just kicking off his Muay Thai career. If there was any common ground we shared at all, it was that we were ambitious as hell and would do whatever it takes to get what/where we wanted. Nothing has changed.

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A rare site: all dressed up and out of our fitness attire at My Champ’s Christmas party this past December

In recent times, my goals have shifted. I decided to walk away from the figure stage, and was happy to slow down- to a point. Even My Champ knew that would only go on for so long. I needed a new goal, a new challenge as I am happiest when I’m working towards something. This man is a far cry from past suitors. Most would have given anything for me to slow down, and be ecstatic at my decision to do so. But since he has my best interests at heart, he knows the busier I am, the happier I am.

So now since he has me figured out (to a degree 😉 ) I am now learning what it means to support him. Friday was the 4th fight I have been present for, but probably the 7th or 8th training camp I’ve experienced with him. Support means different things for people. For me, it’s being there for everything. I do need praise and encouragement. I need a shoulder to cry on and the odd pep talk every now and then. For My Champ, support means SPACE. Training camps involve 5 if not 6 nights a week at home alone when he’s still at training. When he gets home, he just wants to eat and go to bed. Fridays or Sundays are when I see him the most, but he’s still training on those days. He has something going on every single day of the week. He works long hours, and trains with more dedication than anyone I know. When he has a fight coming up, nothing keeps him from training.

The day before and the day of his fight, I actually keep my communication with him to a minimum. This is not easy. Even if I see him at the venue, I only come to him if he waves me over. All of me wants to text/talk to him every hour on the hour, but that’s not of use to him. That’s just it: it’s about HIM. This is his time. When I was competing it was about what I wanted- that’s why I get it. I need to not be an extra distraction for the head space he needs to be in to execute the best possible performance. I respect that, and I respect him.

I am by no stretch an expert on relationships, though I have experienced plenty of trial and errors. If there’s anything I can take away from what I have with My Champ is the tremendous amount of mutual respect we have for one another. That is so key- I now realize that was lacking in my past. I’m not here to throw ex-boyfriends under the bus, it definitely goes both ways: it’s give and take. There were times that I was either too proud or didn’t actually respect the person I was dating; there were times where I felt like I was being put down so I couldn’t continue to grow.

In love, there should be no competition as there is no ‘winner’. You are on the same team, in my eyes. You are there to challenge one another, to make each other better. Believe in their dreams as much as they do themselves. If that’s hard to accept or wrap your head around, take a look inside as to why that is. It may have nothing to do with them; maybe it’s some reservations you have on your own. Being able to look at your significant other with a sense of pride is the ultimate. You’re as good as the company you keep.

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Proud as can be xo

 

Best-Ever Quattro Pancakes

Out of all the clean recipes I make and eat, the protein pancake is by far my most favorite. Breakfast is usually my most calorie-dense meal as I like to feel satiated for the day ahead. Everyone’s different: some like to eat a little lighter and save their heavier meals for later, or to cater around their training. Since I don’t have a set schedule, I do typically have to adjust certain meals. But my day usually goes one of two ways: I’m either working that day, and have about 4 hours between breakfast and my next meal or- I’m not working that day/or I am later that day so therefore I am training that morning. Both scenarios involve having a quality meal first thing. Savvy? 😉

I got the inspiration for this particular recipe from ‘Muscle and Fitness Hers’ magazine, where they had listed the recipe for ‘Protein House Pancakes’. The Protein House is a restaurant located in South Vegas, owned by IFBB pro Figure athlete Larissa Reis. All the items on the menu are clean, healthy, flavorful, and you guessed it- protein PACKED. If you’re a fitness enthusiast and are wanting a super enjoyable health-food experience I HIGHLY recommend you seek out Larissa’s joint if you’re ever in Vegas. It’s awesome!!

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A meal fit for a Champion

I made a couple of additions and made these with (of course) Magnum Nutraceuticals’ Quattro Protein. Quattro is great to cook with as the isolated blends of protein with the small inclusion of flax make for a nice consistency, and works well at higher temperatures. This recipe is My Champ’s FAVORITE: that is, when he makes the time to sit down for breakfast 😉 I guarantee this recipe will win your entire family over!! You won’t believe these are good for you… seriously. Enjoy!

 

Best-Ever Quattro Pancakes

Ingredients

1 scoop Magnum Quattro Protein Powder in Vanilla Ice Cream/Half Baked Cookies n Cream flavor

1 medium, ripe banana

1/2 cup quick oats

1 cup liquid egg whites

1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese

2 tbsp ground flax seed

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

Cinnamon, nutmeg- to taste (optional)

Directions

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  1. Preheat large pan/griddle at medium-high heat.
  2. Blend all ingredients in a blender/food processor until batter is smooth.
  3. Pour batter on to pan; flip pancakes once ‘bubbling’ forms on top, or the undersides are golden (approx 3-4 mins, depending on the heat of your pan)
  4. Serve! Sometimes I top mine with a natural nut butter, but there’s so much deliciousness in these- a simple syrup does the trick (sugar-free syrup 😉 ).

*Recipe yields 2 servings

**Macros (per serving): 335 calories; 4.2 g F; 32.2 g C; 40.5 g P; 5.5 g fibre

My 5 Favorite Moves for Sculpting Beautiful Legs (and Glutes!)

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When I first started competing in fitness, one of the very first areas my coach and I focused on was legs. Being just shy of 5’9″, I had my work cut out for me. Typically those that are on the more ‘petite’ side (a nice way of saying short 😉 ) tend to put on muscle a little more easily as their muscle bellies have shorter distances between the insertion points on their limbs. I was put through some BRUTAL leg workouts over the years. By brutal I mean ears popping, almost to the point of puking, having aching sore muscles for up to three days after the workout. My mission is not for others to necessarily experience the same, but my point is that it was NOT easy! I have learned over the years which exercises where the most detrimental in building my legs into what they are today (surprise, squats isn’t one of them). I have listed my five all-time favorite moves that were game-changers for me in creating great legs. You may even be able to perform a few of these in the comfort of your own home! Enjoy 🙂

My Top 5 Moves

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1) Bulgarian Split Squats

Areas worked: quads, hamstrings, glutes

Standing in front of a bench/raised surface, extend one leg back placing that foot on top of the bench; you should be able to stand tall with front leg slightly bent. With your weight supported on the front leg, lower yourself until your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Ensure your front knee does not extend over your front toe. Keeping your posture straight, drive your weight through your front heel, raising yourself into starting position. Repeat for 10-15 reps, each leg. If you can perform this comfortably for 15 reps with your body weight, challenge yourself by adding weights in each hand.

2) Reverse lunges (with a stepper)

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Areas worked: quads, hamstrings, glutes

Using either an aerobics stepper/raised surface (that will safely support your weight) start by standing on the stepper. Keeping your posture upright, extend one leg back as far as it will reach; front leg remains on the stepper. With your weight supported on the front leg, lower yourself until the front thigh is parallel to the floor. Driving your weight through your front heel, raise yourself back up and return rear leg to stepper: that is one rep. Repeat for 10-15 reps, each leg. Having hands on both hips tends to help for balance. Add weights to increase difficulty.

3) Single-leg press

Areas worked: quads, glutes, hamstrings

This applies to those that have access to gym equipment. Seat yourself in leg press machine as you would. Start by positioning both feet in a neutral position: feet should be about hip-width apart, toes pointed slightly outward. I like to place my feet a little higher on the platform as I find this really helps  engage the glute muscles. Release the brake on the machine, and lower the platform; ensure your knee does not extend over your toe; knee should be lowering toward your shoulder. Lower as deep as you can: depending on the placement of your footing. Driving the weight through your heel, raise the platform to starting position. Repeat for 10-15 reps, each leg. Try this with just the platform to start, then add weight accordingly.

4) Step-ups

Areas worked: quads, glutes, hamstrings

Start by selecting a bench/raised surface at height that you’re comfortable with (thigh should be parallel with the floor when you step). Standing behind the bench, step with one leg onto bench. Driving your weight through the front heel, raise yourself to stand on top of the bench; drive the opposite leg up towards your chest. Lower the other leg down off the bench. Repeat 10-15 reps, each leg. If you can perform 15 comfortably with your body weight, add weights to increase difficulty.

5) Leg Curls on Balance Ball

Areas Worked: hamstrings, glutes

This applies to those with access to a balance ball. Start by laying on the floor, with your legs up on the balance ball; heels should be on the centre-top of the ball. Raising your hips, support by placing hands to your sides on the floor. With your weight on your shoulder blades and your heels, drive/’curl’ the ball with your heels toward your glutes. Keeping your hips raised, return the ball into starting position. Repeat 12-15 reps. If you can perform 15 reps easily, increase the difficulty by using one leg. Perform 10-15 reps each leg.

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Confidence is the sexiest thing a girl can wear 😉