How I Stay In Shape These Days


Image shot by Tim Sevard in October of this year.

Since many people have been asking me about how I have been keeping in shape these days, I decided to devote a blog post to the subject. Though I am retired from competing, and am no longer bodybuilding stage-ready, I model frequently, and I also hold myself to very high standards when it comes to body conditioning. The most important factor in staying lean year round is FOOD, so I make sure to eat clean about 95% of the time. I consume about 100 to 120 grams of protein daily, all from whole foods rather than protein powders, and I drink plenty of water throughout the day. I limit my consumption of sugar and avoid processed foods.

Supplements are also an important part of my daily life. Most of the supplements I take have been in my daily regimen for many years, and I rarely miss a day’s dose. They are what I rely on to keep my body healthy at the cellular level. My goal is to maintain my health without ingesting prescription medications. In fact, the only prescription substance in my regimen is bioidentical progesterone cream.

I continue to challenge my body with frequent exercise, and still rely mostly on weight training for the bulk of my exercise. However, I incorporated aerial classes into my regular routine a couple of years ago for an extra challenge. At one point, I had been taking aerial classes 3 to 4 days per week, but my body was screaming out in agony. After a visit with my orthopedist, we discovered that I had arthritis in both elbows and my neck, and numerous issues in my shoulders, so I decided to back off from the intense aerial schedule I was following. These days, I only take a lyra class once every couple of weeks.

I have also been attending kundalini yoga classes on average of one day per week, and I love the unique physical, mental, and spiritual challenges which they present. Though kundalini yoga is a highly meditative form of yoga, the movements (called kriyas) are INTENSE, and I must often take breaks during these movements. I highly recommend this form of yoga for anyone who wants an intensely spiritual experience.

As for weight training, I train an average of six days per week when I am in town. I have adjusted my weight training to support aerial arts movements like straddle mounts, single knee hangs, pullovers and splits, and work my posterior chain (back, glutes, hams) more vigorously than my anterior chain. I usually follow a split consisting of three leg days and three upper body days which are further split (eg, back/arms, delts, chest/abs). I have also been changing the exercises, rep ranges, and lifting styles on a weekly basis to keep myself challenged. It’s definitely worked, because I am getting delayed onset muscle soreness from almost every workout.

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Hot Logic Mini Review…These Make GREAT Holiday Gifts!

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My Experience With Food Intolerance

Before I began competing in 2009, I could pretty much eat whatever I wanted without any digestive or reactive consequence. All that changed by the time I earned my IFBB Pro Card in 2013, when I developed a number of food intolerances which forced me to change the way I ate and what I consumed. It was so bizarre for me to mount reactions to healthy foods which had never caused an issue in the past. During one particular contest prep regimen, I began to notice that every single time I ate broccoli, I would get severe abdominal cramps and a headache which persisted for an entire day (now they last for 3-5 days if I am stupid enough to eat even one small floret). I honestly believe that the extreme and repetitive meal plans which I consumed while competing were major factors in the development of my food intolerance issues.

I retired from competing in June of 2014, yet I developed even more food issues. I noticed that other foods were aggravating my gut, my skin, my head and my mood, so I decided to eliminate them. In January of 2015, I had an ALCAT food intolerance test, and discovered that broccoli on the list of offending foods for me. I also had SEVERE gluten intolerance, as well as intolerance to coconut, flaxseed, mangoes, casein, blueberries, and a number of other foods which are considered healthy. In an effort to allow my body to calm down, I eliminated every food which I had any intolerance to (there were about 30 foods) for close to a year. To this day, I am very careful about the foods which my body rejects, and keep my exposure to a minimum.

I will allow myself to have blueberries, coconut, mango, lobster, cashews, bison, and spinach on rare occasion, and have noticed no reactions. However, I mount strong reactions to other foods and food combinations. For example, within two consecutive days of eating flaxseed, I develop one or two deep, painful, cystic pimples on my face which will not resolve until I stop eating flaxseed. When I eat gluten, I become irritable and emotional, I get headaches, my belly aches, and I don’t sleep well. Of course I didn’t know that this was the case until I did an elimination diet and gradually began feeling better, then tried eating gluten after many months of avoiding it. Every time I ingest gluten containing foods, I notice symptoms which can be mild or severe depending on the food and the quantity eaten. Pizza is VERY dangerous for me now, so if I am faced with the prospect of eating the cheesy, gluten filled meal, I have to take a Glutagest (which breaks down gluten in the food eaten) if I want to avoid the ugly consequences of allowing gluten to enter my body. The combination of pizza and wine is even worse. I might as well forget about functioning like a normal person for a couple of days if I dare to consume this food and drink duo.

I agree that the whole gluten-free trend has gotten a little out of hand, but I also strongly believe that there are many people walking around with gluten intolerance and other food intolerances who have no idea that the foods they are consuming are affecting their health and well-being. I have personally benefitted from going gluten free and avoiding foods my body rejects, and have been rewarded with more luminous skin, thicker hair, better digestion, better overall mood and energy, and much better sleep.

If you suspect that you have food intolerance, try eliminating the suspect food to see if it makes a difference. Trust your body’s signals. And if you want to get a food intolerance test, check out ALCAT.com and Everlywell.com for the kits they offer.

Do You Have Food Intolerance?

What Is Food Intolerance?

Have you ever noticed that when you eat a certain food, such as tuna, blueberries, avocado, asparagus or broccoli, that you get extremely bloated to the point that you are extremely uncomfortable? Since the foods I mentioned are celebrated for their many nutritional benefits, it might not occur to you that you most likely have an intolerance to that food. Up to 80% of the U.S. population has some form of food intolerance.

Most people are aware of food allergies, but food intolerance is a different phenomenon which can have a tremendous effect on a person’s quality of life. Food allergies appear quite suddenly, from seconds to minutes after ingestion of the offending food, and can be life-threatening, whereas food intolerance is a more gradual process (taking hours to a couple of days for symptoms to emerge), not life-threatening, and may only occur after a large amount of the food is eaten. Food allergies and food intolerance can both cause similar symptoms, such as abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea, but food intolerance is notorious for causing bloating, heartburn, irritability, headaches and general malaise. The most common food allergy triggers are peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, soy, wheat, milk and eggs, while the foods most commonly associated with food intolerance are dairy products, gluten-containing grains, eggs, citrus, beans, cabbage, and broccoli.

People who are allergic to certain foods know that even a small amount of the food can trigger an allergic response, and the response occurs every single time the person is exposed. The immune system reacts to the food by causing a release of IgE antibodies, which then cause a release of histamines and cytokines designed to attack the offending agent. Sometimes the entire body is affected by this response, and symptoms such as shortness of breath, hives, rash, or a sudden drop in blood pressure can occur. Food intolerance, in contrast, is more insidious, and may only occur if a large amount of the triggering food is eaten or if it is consumed frequently. Trigger foods will cause a rise in IgA, IgG, and IgM antibodies, causing the body to mount a delayed reaction which is characterized by mostly gastrointestinal symptoms, but which can cause other symptoms as well. Regardless of how the body reacts, the discomfort caused by poor digestion of the food can be enough to make the sufferer miserable.

Why does food intolerance occur? There are several explanations. One cause is enzyme deficiency. All enzymes are specific to one type of molecule, such as lipases which break down fats. Sometimes an individual can be deficient or completely lacking in a very specific enzyme which is required for digestion of a particular food. A common example is found in lactose intolerant individuals who do not have enough lactase to break down the milk sugars into their constituent parts for absorption in the intestine. The lactose cannot be broken down so it sits in the intestine, causing bloating, spasm and diarrhea when it sits in the digestive tract. Approximately 25% of the U.S. population suffers from lactose intolerance, which amounts to a lot of bloated bellies from the consumption of dairy products.

Another common type of food intolerance is to gluten. Gluten is highly resistant to digestion as it is, and in some individuals, the gluten cannot be broken down at all. The problem with gluten is that it is found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt and kamut, so avoiding gluten can be challenging to say the least. Approximately 1% of the U.S. population has celiac disease, while about 15% have gluten intolerance. Regardless of whether someone has celiac disease or gluten intolerance, ALL gluten must be avoided. However, if there are occasions in which completely avoiding gluten is impossible, digestive enzymes, specifically DPP-IV, can help individuals to digest meals containing gluten.

The list of substances which people may have an intolerance to doesn’t stop there. Some individuals cannot break down phenols, including salicylates, due to insufficient amounts of xylanase, and suffer from behavioral and learning disorders, including ADHD and autism. Some individuals are unable to break down disaccharides, an intolerance which is closely linked to irritable bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, Candida overgrowth and autism. As if all that wasn’t enough to worry about, there are chemical substances in foods which can spark intolerance, such as caffeine, aflatoxins in undercooked beans, amines in cheeses, artificial colorings and flavorings, preservatives, sweeteners, emulsifiers, nitrates, MSG, sulfites and salicylates. Salicylate intolerance can cause a susceptible individual to react to large amounts of salicylate-containing foods, particularly citrus fruits, teas, mint flavoring, berries and processed foods with flavor additives.

The digestive tract regularly takes the brunt of foods, medications, hormones, and chemical additives which can interfere with repair of the gut lining, causing increased intestinal permeability which is more commonly known as leaky gut. Leaky gut is characterized by the loosening of tight junctions between the cells which line the gut, thus allowing food molecules to pass through. These free floating food molecules are viewed by the immune system as a threat and will mount an immune response which manifests as the signs and symptoms of food intolerance. Think of all that food sitting in the gut, undigested. Pretty unnerving, huh?

How To Diagnose Food Intolerance

Diagnosing food intolerance can be extremely difficult since the signs and symptoms often mimic those of food allergy. One method of ferreting out which foods are involved in a food intolerance is keeping a food diary in which all foods eaten are recorded, along with symptoms and their time of onset. After suspected trigger foods have been determined, an exclusion diet can be implemented, in which those foods are removed from the diet for weeks to months. If the symptoms disappear during the exclusion phase, potential trigger foods can be re-introduced after this phase is completed in order to determine which substances are problematic. If the food intolerance is mild, a small amount of the food will not trigger symptoms, and in many cases may still be consumed, especially if enzymes are taken to aid in digestion. Essentially, many people can return to foods which they were mildly or even moderately intolerant of after avoiding it for a period of time.

Blood testing is considered the most reliable and comprehensive form of testing for food intolerance, but there are only a few laboratories which specialize in this type of test. ALCAT, Pinnertest.com and HEMOCODE Food Intolerance System are laboratories which offer food intolerance testing via serum analysis, with ALCAT considered the largest food intolerance testing group in the U.S. We offer ALCAT testing at the facility where I work (Urban Med) because it is considered the gold standard method for laboratory identification of non-IgG-mediated reactions to foods, chemicals, and environmental triggers. Some insurance plans will cover part or all of the expense of the testing, so it is always worth inquiring about insurance coverage, especially since these panels run from $675 to $850. Here’s the thing: though the testing is pricey, it is very specific. In addition, you get a detailed rotation diet for reintroduction of the foods which you have intolerance to after you have eliminated them for the recommended period (3 months for moderate intolerant foods, 6 months for severe intolerant foods).

No Olympia For Me This Year

Fun times from Olympia 2011 with Anca and Farinaz

For the past seven years, I have attended Olympia every year and have always enjoyed the whole experience. This year, however, I will not be attending since the main sports supplement company I work with, SWAT Fuel, will not have a presence there this time around. What is strange for me is that I am not bothered by the fact that I won’t be rubbing elbows with the fitness and bodybuilding icons I have come to know over the years. In some sense I am actually relieved that I will get a break this year, since I have been traveling more this year and could use a staycation.

For those of you who are wondering what event I will be at next, please come by and say hi at the Ferrigno Legacy on November 18th and 19th. I will be at the Flexpo, handing out samples of SWAT Fuel’s 9mm+P, which is a combination preworkout/endurance/thermogenic formula unlike anything else on the market!

For more information and tickets to the Ferrigno Legacy, please visit: https://www.ferrignolegacy.com/

Jerry Frederick Of Ironman Magazine Fame

While at Joe Wheatley’s Muscle Beach event on Labor Day, I had the pleasant surprise of seeing Jerry Frederick, whom I hadn’t seen in several years. He was sitting under the main canopy, with his ever-present breakaway reading glasses around his neck. I was just tickled to see him. For those of you in the bodybuilding world, you know that this man had worked for Ironman Magazine as one of their staff photographers for several decades. He has always had a strong passion for the world of competitive bodybuilding, and has gone out of his way to create content with athletes such as myself to use for features within the publication.

Jerry and I chatted for several minutes, and he was full of smiles and that sweet, gentle demeanor which makes him so loveable. I was saddened to hear that he has a neuromuscular disorder which could be Parkinson’s but which hasn’t been definitively diagnosed yet. Hopefully Jerry will be placed on a treatment plan which halts the progression of the disorder.