“Carbs & Kettlebells” by Janelle Pica

“Carbs & Kettlebells” by Janelle Pica

When April Blackford of Eat to Perform contacted me to write my testimonial of my experiences using “Met Flex”, I had to laugh. Laugh you may ask? Yes! I had to laugh because this is not the first time I was asked to write  about this particular subject on nutrition for athletic performance. The first time I wrote about proper eating for athletic performance was two years ago for the Balanced Bites blog.

Back then, I was just a tiny 120lbs. I was a kettlebell trainee looking forward to her first every entry level certification. My eyes were set on the Russian Kettlebell Challenge and, having gone through such an amazing journey with my health transformation.

I wanted pursue a career in fitness to help other people become healthier and stronger themselves. AT first, I thought my 120lb self was my normal “Set point” so to speak. I was convinced that this number was my normal weight for all of eternity and trust me, I did everything I could to maintain this number while training for my RKC level I certification. That was where my weight struggle began. I was not accustomed to adding on lean muscle at that time. My weight struggle was not a battle of the bulge, but rather a battle with my own muscle mass.

In my world, there are these things called “Weight classes” and if you are above a certain number, you have to lift heavier for your class. These classes are determined by the 100 rep, 5 minute snatch test. Back in 2012, a female at 123.5lbs and above had to use a 16kg kettlebell for the test. Below 123.5, it was a 12kg kettlebell for the test. 12kg equats to 26 pounds and 16kg equates to 36 pounds. It’s a 10 pound, very noticible hike. Now, Logic would tell you to just train to be stronger if you are on the cusp of these weight classes so you can pass your certifications. I cannot tell you how many people do the exact opposite, and back then, I was one of them.

I was handed a particularly demanding strength training program to prep me for RKC. Eating well and training hard meant that my body was adapting to the stressors of the heavy lifting. I jumped on the scale one morning and gasp! It said 125!!!! I was no longer me, or at least, that’s what I thought. I looked at myself in the mirror and couldn’t figure out why I looked the same but my weight was up. It would appear that I was just adding on muscle, which is perfectly NORMAL! But alas, these numbers were scaring me.  And I tried and tried and TRIED to stay close to 120 lbs for my weight class.  I was failing miserably because my body desperately wanted to grow. I threw up a prayer one night in desperation asking God to do something quick because I couldn’t stand cutting my weight anymore.

I really do believe in God you know, and I believe He really does answer prayers.

I woke up the next day to 7 text messages on my phone from my instructor friends stating that Dragon Door created a middle weight class using a 14kg kettlebell  (31 pounds). I had to get stronger, but at that point, a 5 pound hike was more manageable than a 10 pound hike up to 16kg. I trained for that 14kg test, began to eat better, and passed my certification for level 1.

But then. . .things got a little. . .freaky.

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The biggest “light bulb” moment I had when I first read MetFlex was understanding metabolic stress in response to caloric restriction and extreme exercise routines. For RKC level 1, I had put my body under extreme training demands without properly fueling my workouts. That resulted in a lot of terrible side effects such as extreme moodiness,  tanked energy reserves and poor athletic performance. My coach pulled me aside at one point to tell me, point blank, that I looked like death. My menstruation halted for a nice 5 months and it would not return until I hiked my weight up higher to 130lbs. Yup. At 5’3’’ I was weighing in at 130 lbs. And at that point, it was not a lean 130. The most difficult thing I had to admit to myself when I started up my training business in Pittsburgh was that I had completely overtrained myself and underrate for far too long.  I was still struggling with getting enough food in to train my clients, let a lone keep up with my own training. It was clear to me that in order to be a good coach to others, I needed to be a good coach to myself. Looking back at it all now, it makes absolutely no sense to me why I was trying to cut my weight. What was I afraid of? A number? A scale? A kettlebell? Was I afraid to get stronger? Was the world going to explode if I didn’t weigh in at 120 MF’ing pounds? I just don’t know.

Having admitted to myself that yes, I made a metabolic mistake, I decided to be proactive and do exactly what the people of Eat to Perform told me to do. I completely stopped training for an entire month. I hiked up my caloric intake and began eating a ton of carbs. Finally, after taking a month off, I slowly add exercise back into my regimen so my body could learn how to respond correctly to high volume training again. I didn’t want to do that at all. I knew that eating a ton and not exercising meant that I would actually GAIN MORE WEIGHT initially. But. . .. I decided to cast aside my fears and just do what I was told to do.  My body had simply had enough. It was time to rest and digest.

1 month after doing big carb loads my 5’3’’ self weighed in at 140lbs. My energy picked up and I finally was able to keep up with my clients at my facility. That’s when I knew I could start adding in my RKC level II training. Thumbs up! I was ready

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I hit the gym and started working on my level two prep after a month of just resting and eating. On my heaviest training days, I would be getting roughly 250 grams of carbs. My performance was through the roof month one, and it was actually kind of freaky the sorts of lifts I was getting. I hit a 32kg Turkish get up. A double 24kg military press. A 28kg single arm military press. That 16kg 5 minute snatch test? That thing I was SO WORRIED ABOUT? Done in 4 minutes and 35 seconds. My composition started to improve by eating MORE carbs. At the end of my first month, I was beginning to lean out.

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That’s me at 137 pounds looking way more defined than I ever was at 120.

More amazing things began to happen too as I increased my training. I started working on my weighted pull ups. I got my throat to the bar with a 20kg kettlebll around my waist and also got my chin to the bar with the 24kg kettlebell. I could do a bottoms up kettlebell press with a 20kg kettlebell and started to do my double 24kg presses for REPS. I was doing finger tip push ups on just my index fingers, nailed 10 strict, consecutive pull ups, and held an elbow lever on a box for 45 seconds. I had reached a level in my lifting that most MEN reach and well, I actually started to realize that my body preferred a higher weight to perform these sorts of lifts. And GASP! I WAS NOT GAINING BODY FAT!

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This is me now, at the end of my second month of Eat to Perform. This me, at 135lbs and an 18% body fat. I am the heaviest I have ever been in terms of my weight. I am also the most defined I have ever been in my life. Might I add, this is the STRONGEST I have ever been in my career, and I will not apologize for such feats of strength!

I have learned so much from MetFlex I cannot even put it into words. I have learned how to eat to keep up with demanding strength routines. I have learned how to cycle carbs within reason on training and non training days. I have learned that being freakishly strong is actually pretty damn awesome! Most importantly, I have learned that the mirror, not the scale, is the best indicator of your physique. There is no magic number that us strong women are to weigh in order to be healthy. We are not numbers. We are human beings. As human being we are meant to thrive, to train towards our peaks and let our bodies do their thing! Having learned this lesson in changing my own body composition, I can only hope that more strong women come out of their shell and love themselves for being so strong, so beautiful!

It’s ok to be a freak.

It’s ok to be strong.

You’ll be healthier for it.

Be you!

Now excuse me, I have to get back to my level II kettlebell training. And I will do it the RIGHT way this time.  There will be food. LOTS OF FOOD! No turning back now! 😉