By Juan Rojas
How many times have you been following a diet while seeing amazing results and all of the sudden you are put in a social situation where foods that might not fit your current goals are put in front of you? How do you react?
Although you might be tempted, you know that people might know you are being strict with your meal plan and that others might view it bad upon you if you cheated on your diet. As much as we shouldn’t care what others think about us, deep down, the majority of us do; it is just part of being a human being. This might actually be something that helps you be stronger and not indulge in these foods. But what about when you are alone? When you might have already reached your fitness goal or when you are finally done your competition and you are face to face with that bag of chocolate, or that jar of peanut butter…alone. What will you do then?
This is something that many of you, clients of mine and even myself struggle with on a daily basis. I have dealt with eating disorders in the past and grew up all my life with a very unhealthy relationship with food. Although I thank bodybuilding immensely for showing me that food is primarily the fuel to our mind and body, I do acknowledge food is an experience. I do think it is important to find joy in things that taste good. I do think there is a time for everything though and there are times where you have to buckle down and not have these foods and there are times where you should enjoy them in moderation. The problem comes when we feel such an intense sensation for this food that we do not have that switch that says: “You have enjoyed enough, it is time to move on.” This is when we eat the entire box of cookies, the tub of ice cream, the jar of peanut butter etc. I am not going to lie to you and say I have not done this in the past because I have. I even had one moment of weakness on my last contest diet where I experienced an episode of low blood sugar and I thought having a little bit of peanut butter would make me feel better. I then proceeded with eating half a jar as I could not stop. This feeling of not being able to stop is not a fun one and although many people should consider seeing a medical professional about their issues with food many of us can control them with our own mental fortitude.
I have just finished my bodybuilding competition season 3 weeks ago. If you have never competed let me explain a few things going on in your body when you finish doing a physique show.
Being in this situation can definitely be mentally and physically challenging, but it all comes down to what you decide to do that dictates your success in being healthy and fit and turning into a slob. It is normal to get these feelings of temptation and wanting to indulge in a certain food from time to time. I am a big believer for the average person looking to get in shape or even the competitor in their offseason to indulge in a weekly refeed where we fit in their favorite foods. The problem comes when that refeed is used and the person A. Takes it to the extreme or B. Still finds they are letting their cravings beat them at times other than their refeeds. It is crucial to keep your body fat levels in check as the higher your body fat gets, the easier it is to pack on more. It also becomes much harder when you diet down to do a show or just plain look great.
As you can see in the picture above, I got way too out of shape in my off-season and I vowed to never allow this to happen again. Even if it is a coaches orders to keep gaining weight. I did not eat junk foods necessarily, I still ate a very natural good diet but I was just eating mass amounts of food my body did not need. Here are 5 tips that have worked very well for clients and for myself in order to stay on track mentally and physically on our fitness goals!
1. BE CREATIVE WITH ALTERNATIVES. You like having a hamburger and fries? Try making it at home with extra lean ground beef and making fries in the oven a few times a week. Do you enjoy having Reese’s peanut butter cups? Try mixing some all natural peanut butter with some stevia and cacao nibs. There is almost always a healthy alternative you can have that might not be 100% identical, but it will cure your craving and help you stay on track. As cravings are mostly in the mind, it is important that we do not live with this constant state of wanting a food so bad. You can always find a way to fit these foods into your meal plan. I wouldn’t necessarily say I believe in a total “If it fits your macros” approach, but if you find you are really craving a food and enjoy it, your meal plan can be adjusted to having it.
2. SCHEDULE REFEED MEALS. It is okay to go out once or twice a week (depending on your goals and metabolism) and enjoy a meal with family and friends that is not calculated and measured. But I find it important to keep this meal consistently scheduled in your week. If you live the week blindly and have your cheat meal whenever you crave it you teach your body to live without structure. Many can get away with this and still reach their fitness goals. But if you are like me, you might have to be stricter. Having a scheduled refeed meal allows you to look forward to it and know that if you are craving something right now, you just have to wait a few more days until you can enjoy it.
3. BEFORE HAVING SOMETHING OFF YOUR PLAN, ASKING YOURSELF: DOES MY BODY NEED THIS? When that cake was brought to the office because it was your co-workers birthday and now you know you will have some of it despite not being on your meal plan, ask yourself this. How will my body handle this physically and mentally? Does it truly need this in order to get to my goals or is this purely a mental craving? Most of the time truly asking yourself this will lead you to skipping out on the cake and having the delicious nutritious lunch you prepacked for work.
4. PREPARING YOUR MEALS AHEAD OF TIME. One of my favorite bodybuilders ever says: “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.” I find most of the time clients get off track when they do not meal prep in advanced and try to eat on the fly. This often happens because they did not prioritize and schedule in time to prepare their daily meals. If you have your meals prepared it is much harder to allow a meal to go bad and spend more money eating out than it is to just have your prepared meal ready to go. Restaurants do not care about your fitness goals or about how nutritious the food is for you. All they care about is making a delicious tasting meal so your taste buds can drive you right back there again!
5. IF YOU DO DECIDE TO CHEAT. STOP AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, REMIND YOURSELF OF AN INSTANCE WHERE YOU FELT MENTALLY CRAPPY CHEATING AND MOVE ON. Cheating on your meal plan by having that slice of cake is a much different scenario than having half the cake and since you are already off plan you decided to go get an extra-large pizza as well. We have all done it. I like to remind myself of a situation where I know I was at a low and cheating on my diet and how the food did not make me feel any better. Instead, it made me feel worse than I did before having it! This really helps me stay strong in difficult times. I think of a specific instance where I ate that half a jar of peanut butter, I tried to vomit (WHICH IS NOT THE RIGHT ANSWER AT ALL) as I was only a week out from my show and I ended up having a 3 day headache, burst a blood vessel in my eye, and found myself depressed for days. I had a moment of weakness and although you may feel demotivated and defeated it is important to pick yourself back up and move on. Mistakes happen and you cannot change the past but you can definitely make the future.
Staying on track of your nutrition program no matter what your goal may be will be the key to your health and success in your fitness goals. Please feel free to message me the things that you find help you stay on track and if there is anything I can do for you please never hesitate to contact me as I want to help you out if I can! If you find that you are needing help to reach your fitness goals you can also become a part of our coaching program by applying RIGHT HERE.
By Juan Rojas
Sounds gimmicky? Yes! Is it a lie? NO, will you get the same results? 99% of you won’t. Why? Because it is not true tissue lost. Then what is it? THE POWER OF WATER!
Walking by the grocery store we see headlines of magazines claiming these outrageous diets or workouts will make you shed more than 1-2 lbs. a week. For the average person, losing more than 1-1.5% of your body weight continuously per week can be detrimental. Not only does it come with a whole lot of physical issues but mental issues as well. So, why and how did I manage to loose so much weight in just 4 days and is this safe to do or healthy?
As many of you know, I recently competed in 2 back to back shows a week apart and had the time of my life. I love bodybuilding and I see it as one of the greatest pursuits of my life. What I love most about my personal bodybuilding journey is when people come up to me and tell me how sometimes an action I do might have inspired them to be their best self, or to make a proper decision that guides them towards health and fitness. This means the world to me and nothing can replace this feeling.
In order to get ready for a show a few things must occur. One of the most agonizing things is cutting your water. The reason why bodybuilders cut their water can be for 2 purposes:
I typically cut my water to very small sips as the show gets closer and I ended up weighing in at about 192 for my first show. The first show was a 2 day show so the dehydration lasts a lot longer which can be mentally challenging to endure. In order to carb up I got to eat lot of delicious foods that were high in both carbs, fats and sodium by using a method my former coach Skip Hill uses called Skiploading. You can see some of the foods I got to enjoy for my carb ups below!
After the show it is time to re-hydrate quickly for health reasons; but your body is very smart. Due to the fact you had drastically restricted water, a hormone called aldosterone rises dramatically which will make you retain even more water when you come back to re-hydrating. Some people will retain more than others, but in the past my ankles have looked like marshmallows! Another factor that determines how much water you will retain is the amount of carbs and sodium you are having. The last few weeks before the show I was on a very reduced carbohydrate diet and once I carbed up for the show and enjoyed Saturday and Sunday to eat whatever I wanted my body retained water like crazy. I purposely did want my muscles to be really full of glycogen (stored intramuscular carbohydrates and water) as I had a photo shoot on Monday and I did not want to flatten out too much by the time the next show came around 1 week later.
The photo shoot was a success on Monday but as you can see from the picture, I am not as defined as I was a few days prior. I weighed in at around 209 fasted in the morning. People ask “But as a bodybuilder don’t you want to look as big as possible on stage, why don’t you go in looking huge?” As a bodybuilder you have to find that nice balance between size, symmetry and conditioning (or muscle definition). Usually conditioning always beats the other 2. I would rather come in 99% full and be super conditioned than 101% full and look big but slightly blurry.
Monday I was back on my regular low carbohydrate diet and as I reintroduced my cardio and training I quickly shed the water weight again. As the next show was quickly approaching I implemented a few different strategies that I feel would make me look better than the previous week and voila! I do feel I looked slightly fuller and sharper than the week prior. I weighed in at 190 or 2 lbs. lighter but by the time I hit the stage I was a lot fuller, dryer and heavier than the week before!
Now that the shows are over and I am back to a lower to moderate carbohydrate diet and a regular water intake. My normal weight is hovering at around 197-202 lbs. throughout the week. This is my starting off-season weight and I plan to make some really heavy duty muscle gains over the next few months. I want for all of those who pay so much attention to the scale to base their progress to see that weight can rapidly fluctuate and it does not mean lasting weight loss or weight gain. I have fallen into this trap too of chasing the scale, the best indicator for progress will me the mirror and measurements. Pay close attention to how your body is reacting by comparing pictures or if you have an accurate way to measure body fat by using that.
When you see magazine ads that have outrageous claims, they may have been true but these results are not lasting and oftentimes manipulated. If you want true fat loss, better health and more muscle I recommend all my clients lose no more than 1-1.5% of their body weight a week. This is why it is so important to have somebody helping you out who is knowledgeable as they will optimize everything and make your journey a lot easier! If any of you need help with their training or nutrition please never hesitate to reach out as I would love to help you out in any way I can!
By Juan Rojas
So I just finished 2 shows back to back. I had my eyes set on these shows for 2 years now and I cannot believe it is all over. Now it is time to continue improving and add a LARGE amount of muscle mass to compete with the big boys next time. The last 2 years have been fundamental in my bodybuilding career in the sense that it was the first time that I have been able to learn to understand my body and listen to it. Especially in the last 6 months I have learned to determine what my body needs (not wants), and how my body reacts to certain things. The portion of my preparation was about 6 months of hard, hard training and laser like focus. In this time frame I used a lot of supplements, did not have a wide selection of foods to interchange in my daily diet and I can definitely say it was one of the most stressful, busiest periods of my life. I have made some life changes in the last few weeks that have contributed to much less stress (quitting my full time day job and fully focusing on coaching clients; although I am still working as a nutritionist for a very successful gym a few times a week). Now I have gone from sleeping 4-6 hours a night to a solid 7-8 hours a night. After those 2 show weekends I also happened to eat a lot of very tasty foods but that are unfortunately very highly processed, acidic and that can cause a ton of inflammation in the body. The last 6 months compounded with years of being on a high protein diet and the use of many sports supplements really helped me make my decision to do a detox/cleanse.
Now before we go any further, I am not recommending you guys out there do this, this is just something personal that I feel will really benefit my body. Everybody is different and everybody’s body is different. I also want to say I am not doing an extreme juice cleanse or anything of the sort. Most cleanses involve you starving yourself, fasting for very long hours, have very little to no protein, and can be very low in fiber. This is not what I am doing at all. Many argue that you do not need to cleanse and detox your body as our major organs are made to do so, they act like filters in order to keep us healthy. I 100% AGREE WITH THE FACT THAT OUR MAJOR ORGANS ARE MADE TO DO THIS! That is why I wrote in the title “sort of.” Although I eat very healthy whole foods 95% of the time, being a competitive bodybuilder does put a heavy amount of stress on your organs through the sheer amount of food we eat. What I am more doing is having a small period(21 days) where I am looking to minimize the stress on my major organs by following certain principles and taking supplements that help regenerate the cells in these organs, that promote alkalinity in the body and that help fight inflammation in the body.
These major principles were created by one of the world’s top bodybuilding coaches named Dave Palumbo (The detox was created by him and I am following it to a tee as it is made exactly for a bodybuilder looking to give their body a slight break):
-You fast for 12 hours and eat for 12 hours (Which isn’t that hard if you do fasted cardio).
-4 meals a day of 40 grams of carbs, 40 grams of protein and 8 grams of fat are added in 3 of those meals.
-I am only eating chicken breast and/or white fish as my main protein sources.
-I am only eating brown rice or sweet potatoes as my main carb sources.
-I am using macadamia nut oil and olive oil as my main fat sources.
-Only dark leafy and cruciferous vegetables are eaten.
-No dairy, no red meat, no eggs, no stimulants (including caffeine), no alcohol or any sports supplements AT ALL (including protein powder), no sugary fruits and no wheat are used.
-Only supplements I am taking are made to promote lowering inflammation and improving health. Things like Ubiquinol, Curcumin, a probiotic, fiber, vitamin D, an Omega 3 supplement, a greens supplement, a liver cleanse and I am also running a herbal 30 day over the counter cleanse that helps flush out extra toxins.
-ALTHOUGH THE DIET DOES NOT STATE THIS, I am allowing myself one cheat meal a week. Could I get through 21 days without a cheat meal? Yes. But I also understand that if I overly restrict myself, especially post show by not even allowing myself 1 meal a week, I am opening up a door that may lead to binging in the future.
Although it may sound quite difficult and like not a lot of food, coming off a contest prep diet this is actually slightly higher calories than what I was having so it is not bad at all in that sense. In terms of energy levels it is not bad either. Again, coming off a contest prep you are a zombie for the last few weeks so I feel better overall just from not doing so much cardio and training. It is tough to not have even some BCAA’s that help sweeten up your day or a protein shake with some fruit but it is not the end of the world. I am experiencing much better sleep and fantastic bowel movements. My goal with this cleanse is to have more energy at the end and have my body primed for a state of maximum muscle growth right after. I want my organs to be functioning at 100% and my body to absorb the extra protein and supplements when I add them to maximize their value potential and my potential. I am realistic in knowing that over the next 3-4 weeks I will not be putting on a ton of muscle due to a lower calorie and protein intake. I also know that supplements can help a lot and without taking any I will not be progressing as much. But I see it as taking 1 step back to take 3 steps forward.
In terms of training over the next 4 weeks I am doing a strength phase. It has been a very long time since I have focused on doing straight sets of as low as 2-4 reps while focusing on the major barbell movements. I am focusing on heavy deadlifts, bench presses, squats and overhead presses. It is a 4 day a week Push, Pull, Legs routine. I think it is important doing a strength phase even if you are a bodybuilder at least 1-2 times a year. It is always good to shock the body with a different stimulus and focusing on strength and moving a weight as fast as possible can help in the long run. I am still doing 5 sessions a week of 45 minutes of cardio as I was doing 10 sessions a week the last few weeks of prep. It is important to knock it down gradually and I plan on brining this down to hopefully 2-3 30 minute sessions a week over the next 4 -5 weeks. I am very susceptible to gaining fat and I know that if I dramatically decrease my cardio from 10 sessions of 60 minutes a week to 2-3 sessions of 30 minutes I will put on fat and water weight like hippo in a buffet.
I won’t lie and say I am excited for the next 4 weeks. I just want to get them over with as I feel like I am not progressing; but I know that health is #1 and that I am priming my body to reach my goals. My main goal this offseason is to bring up my entire upper body and be able to be one of the best bodybuilders in Canada in the next 2 years. Right now my legs are far beyond my upper body. I have some major plans for my offseason beginning with doing a John Meadows program focused on higher frequency and bringing up your upper body. I really look up to John Meadows and it was so amazing meeting him a few weeks ago. This specific program involves things I have never done before that I am excited to see how they work for me!
This mixed with perhaps getting some guidance from different coaches I have been chatting with has me excited to see what the future holds. One thing I know is certain, I will never give up on this bodybuilding dream of mine and on the quest to inspire other to be their best. This competition season was very character building. I did not place as well as I wanted to, overall I did not make the progress I completely wanted to in the offseason either. Maybe I had unrealistic expectations, maybe I just didn’t quite nail what worked best for me, maybe I should have listened more to my body etc. But I cannot dwell on the past and I must make the future! At least now I know what things do not and DO work for me. I have decided to take this as something positive and I see it as gasoline to add to my fire of how passionate I am to sculpt my physique. Bodybuilding is a never ending quest of determining what works best for your body. But we learn from all our experiences and I have chosen to see it as an opportunity to grow and motivate me to be able to become the absolute best I can be!
With the pursuit of achieving the best possible physique and helping hundreds of clients do the same, Juan Rojas has dedicated his life to finding the best strategies for transforming human bodies. Constant research, trial and error and continous education in the exercise physiology and nutrition field, Juan Rojas thrives off finding the most efficient ways to transform your body and live a happier and healthier lifestyle.