Starting Over

My appetite has finally stabilized.  I’ve discovered that the dizziness I was getting when standing up was a magnesium deficiency, so now I have a real reason to take ZMA.

And so, I’m starting over.  My lifts are way down, so I’m working my way back up.  I don’t need the most basic beginner routine, because I can gain my earned strength back faster this time.  If I can complete a set of 5, I’ll move up in weight for the next set.  This has been working really well, so I plan to continue until I plateau, then switch back over to the Texas Method.  I did extremely well on the Texas Method before, so moving to it again makes a lot of sense for getting my squat back up.  (I can only currently squat 125lbs for 5, down from 205.)  I’m also concentrating on depth and good form, my squats had been getting a touch shallow when I peaked last year.

Despite some muscle spasms in my back today, I feel good.  Having to let lifting go for a few months was depressing.  I missed that outlet and and the help it’s given me with managing stress.  Now I’m back to lifting 2-4 times a week and eating moderate carbs, I’m feeling good 🙂


PCOS and Weight Loss

I’ve talked a little about my weight in the post My Story, but I wanted to talk a little more in-depth here about what I’ve found to work and not work.

This is not meant to be a weight loss blog, but being overweight is one of the hallmarks of PCOS.  Many of us need to eat far fewer calories than a BMR calculator will tell us, and sometimes that can drop into the unhealthy range.  It’s difficult to get the nutrients your body needs if you’re eating less than 1,200 calories a day.  If you’re a smaller person looking to lose a bit of weight with PCOS, the real number of calories you need to lose weight by dietary intake along might dip below 1,200 calories a day.

Powerlifting and PCOS

That lower BMR means it’s harder to gain muscle without gaining fat very quickly.  I gain fat quickly eating around 1,500 calories a day, which is enough for me to gain muscle at a pace I’m happy with, but also enough to make me gain 15lbs of fat in a month.  I was not able to lose that fat while maintaining my newfound strength.

The difficult issue here is finding that balance of enough calories to gain muscle, but not gain massive amounts of fat.  I have been unable to do this on my own.  I tried everything I could find, and I gave it a solid try for 5 years.  I’ve been unhappy with my progress, and didn’t realize why until a friend of mine referred to women with PCOS as hardgainers.  Yes, yes we are.  That’s exactly the problem, here.

Hardgainer is a term used to refer to a person who has difficulty building muscle.  People called hardgainers are usually slim men that don’t eat enough calories to build muscle at the rate they’d like, or at all.  Before that conversation, I’d never heard the term applied to a female, much less myself.  I’m a hardgainer because if I eat enough calories to be as strong as some of my female lifter friends, I’d end up morbidly obese.  While it is a stereotype that powerlifters can be very obese, not all of the strong powerlifters are.  It’s not my goal to be strong at all costs, I’d also like to be reasonably healthy.  Note here the difficulty, all the articles and blog posts by women who have slimmed down and improved their bodies through heavy lifting talk about eating over 1,800 calories a day, often over 2,000 calories a day.  That spells disaster when my maintenance BMR hovers around 1,200.  Again, I COULD do that.  I just wouldn’t be happy with myself or very healthy if I did so.

Losing the Weight

I’ve done a LOT of research on weight loss.  Intermittent fasting, carb cycling, carb backloading, low-carb, keto, gluten free, I’ve even tried two of Lyle McDonald’s diets.  I get tiny, tiny amounts of fat loss for vast amounts of work and depriving myself.

I don’t have it all figured out yet.  What I finally did recognize is that I needed help, which is why I’ve gone on Metformin.  It’s been two months now, and I’ve finally dropped below 200lbs again.  Unfortunately I’ve become weak and I haven’t been able to eat enough.  I get dizzy when I squat, to the point that I can only do 2 or 3 heavy squats at 135lbs and then I have to sit down and pop a glucose tab.  I don’t know the cause of this, but will be talking to my doctor about it when I go in next month.  I can’t compete like this, I can barely work out like this.  Anyway, enough about current frustrations.

The best results I’ve had so far while unmedicated were with workout based carb cycling.  I’d keep my carbs in the 30-100g/day range on off days.  On workout days, I’d eat some carbs about an hour before my workout, usually some fruit or hot cereal (I hate cold cereal) in addition to a protein shake with creatine and beta alanine in it.  If it wasn’t after 3pm, I’d have some caffeine and possibly a Bronkaid.  About halfway through the workout, I’d start sipping my post workout shake – alternating every other sip with water, usually finishing it off after the workout.  I felt healthy and strong during the workout, and then would have a nice filling meal shortly after, but very few carbs after that meal.  I gained strength slowly and steadily on this plan, without gaining fat.  Most of this was newb gains, but it worked reasonably well for a couple of years.

Plain keto used to work for fat loss, but it was very slow and I couldn’t lift without getting sick.  My body simply couldn’t handle it, though it’s possible yours could.  Lyle McDonald’s Rapid Fat Loss worked, but my lifts again went down.  16 hour intermittent fasting is a lifestyle for me.  I tend to be nauseated in the mornings, so I only eat breakfast when I need to work out in the morning.  I tried alternate day fasting last winter with mixed results.  I didn’t lose any weight on it, but found it to have positive effects on my appetite, self control, and cravings.  I’d suggest a 16-24 hour fast to anyone that can’t seem to get their hunger and cravings under control, just be sure to drink lots of water.  (Not a juice fast, an actual fast.)  Do NOT try to lift while fasted for more than 16 hours.  For goodness sake, do it on a rest day.

Ultimate Diet 2.0 was a huge amount of effort for very little fat loss.  I believe this is related to the way my body handles sugar.  Cheat mode doesn’t make me gain weight, but I also don’t lose any on it.


I hate most forms of cardio.  I love swimming, but don’t have the ability to do it on a regular basis right now.  Cardio can help you burn fat, no question.  Doing SOMETHING every day or almost every day will help get your calories down while still allowing you to eat within a healthy range.

The easiest answer is walking.  The hardest answer is HIIT.  I’ve done both, and both work, so does the in-between stuff like jogging and biking.

How about you?

Are there any other PCOS lifters out there?  What worked for you?  What didn’t work?  Any kind of heavy lifting experience will do, weightlifting is just as valid to this discussion as powerlifting is.

Dizzy Squats

My blood sugar and pressure drop when I squat.  It was so bad when I first went on Metformin that I’d get black edges to my vision when I squatted down to feed my cat.

Because of this, I pretty much cut squats out for the last couple of months.  I would sometimes try a pistol squat or two, sometimes a few front squats, but I always had this fear that I’d pass out and didn’t want a lot of weight on my back if I did.

I’ve finally decided that I’m done with this wussing out and am attempting to find ways to stay conscious while squatting.

My current standby, that I know works, is to pop glucose tabs between heavy sets.  I know this isn’t good for me, and I know it’s not really addressing the problem.  It is what I’m using to rescue me so that I can keep on going.

A paramedic suggested peanut butter pre workout, supposedly it stays with you better than sugar does.  I don’t have any, so I tried almond butter.  It helps, but not enough to keep me from needing the glucose tabs.

I know that salt raises your blood pressure, so I added some to my almond butter this morning.  I then added some to my electrolyte-fizzy-tab water.  The salt sank to the bottom, so it tasted fine at first and then horrible as I started to empty the cup.  I got the blackness edged vision after 2 squats at 135lbs, so clearly none of this was enough.  I popped a glucose tab, and was fine for my next 2 sets, then another tab got me through two more.  (They were all sets of 2 and 3 – I clearly need to do this more often.)

I had this problem before I went on Metformin, but it’s much worse now than it used to be. I refuse to stop squatting, I’m just concerned that I’m losing so much strength – I want to be able to keep competing and wasn’t all that strong compared to my weight before this happened.


Decided to try pause squats today.  Had to deload quite a bit, they’re difficult.  I ended up with the bar on the safeties a couple of times, but I don’t think that’s a problem.

  • Squat: 45×5-85×5-115×3-135×5
  • Pause Squat: 115x3x3x3-125×3
  • Bench Press: 45×5-55×5-65×5-105×4-110×2-105×3 – 2 negatives at 110
  • Cable tricep pulldowns: 27.5x6x6

I went 3 minutes on the Concept 2 rower and got 650m.

Tuesday Workout

Feeling achy after yesterday.  In addition to my workout, I went out walking with a friend and covered several miles, my calves are extremely tight and one of my knees is sore.  No squatting today.

Worked out with a friend today.  She showed up after my hip thrusts, so most of the remaining weights were me doing some volume with what she had on the bar.  I made her shrug!  I think she likes it, even though she pretended she didn’t.

  • Overhead Press: 45×10-55×5-65×5-75x3x2
  • Smith Machine Hip Thrusts: 10/10×10/10×10/10
  • Romanian Deadlift: 115×10-135x10x10x10
  • Barbell Shrugs: 135x3x10x10-225x6x4
  • Overhead Press: 45x10x6-50×4

50×4?  Yup, shoulders are trashed.  Maybe not such a great idea after shrugs, I just wanted to make sure I was getting enough overhead work in.

Tomorrow’s the 4th, time to not work out and eat lots of grilled yummies 🙂

Monday Workout

I didn’t get the chance to post this yesterday, so here it is now.

I was extremely sore from my Saturday workout, mostly in my quads, upper arms, shoulders, and a little in the upper back.  I started light and worked my way back up gradually.

  • Squats: 65×5-85×5
  • Bench Press: 45×10-55×10-65×10-85×7-95×6-105×3-115x1x1
  • Dumbbell Snatch: 30×10/10×10/10 (Left arm/Right arm)
  • Preacher curl machine: 25x10x10 (I needed a break and wanted to sit down.)

I tried Tabata front squats again, this time with a 20lb curl bar.  This weight was MUCH better, I got through it with less trouble than I expected to, still using the 10seconds squat 20seconds rest ratio.  I’m going to keep the weight at 20 and see what happens when I switch the ratios next time.


Dan John was NOT kidding about the aftermath of Tabata front squats.  My quads are sore, my hip flexor area is sore, my arms, shoulders, and upper back are sore.  And I didn’t even do them right, nor did I finish the complete time!!!

I think I have a new favorite thing to try when I’ve got too much energy on my hands 🙂

Someone suggested trying it with a kettlebell.  I’ve got 1 20lb kettlebell, so I can try that when I start doing cardio at home.  I’m thinking one hand for one set, then switch for the next.

Speaking of which, I need to find the funds for a new kettlebell.  I’m up to almost 200 swings in a set with this one, and it’s getting boring.  I think I need a 45lb one, that was the most comfortable dumbbell to swing yesterday.  I went to Sports Authority the other day, they seem to have been letting their kettlebell stock dwindle.  I’d played with a 35 and a 50 because that’s all they had over 5lbs – the 50 was too heavy.  I couldn’t get it to crest properly.

To combat my soreness, I’m foam rolling, taking fish oil, and going easy on the dairy for today to help cut down on inflammation.  I’m going light on sweets this week in the expectation of pigging out on the 4th, so no banana for me.