Natasha Joseph - Bikini Competitor

My name is Natasha Joseph, I am employed as a Health Safety and Environmental Advisor in the Oil and Gas Industry. My company operates in 23 territories and I am required to travel as often as 2-3 weeks per month. Late nights and frequent business dinners combined with inadequate exercise started to take a toll on my body. Last year (2016) I decided to make a change.

I am very competitive and deadline oriented. I had tried the gym/personal training before with no results so I decided "competition" would be my new approach. In March 2016, I signed up with 5 of my colleagues for a fat loss challenge at my gym and at the end of 6 weeks I lost 5.5 lbs and 3.4% body fat. I was then encouraged by the trainers and my colleagues to enter the in-house bikini show, 4 weeks after fat loss challenge. The experience was very positive so I entered the National Bodybuilding Championships in Barbados...since then I have been hooked.


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Overall, my approach has been a lifestyle change. Off-season... well my trainer, Lyndon Belgrave (@belgravetime) and coach, Carl Moore, do not really believe in off-seasons. We think you should always stay fit, active and healthy. Therefore, when I am not competing I practice balanced nutrition (with reasonable/healthy snacking). Fruits and granola bars are my main snacks between competitions. I hit the gym 4-5 times per week with 1-2 hours of cardio at this stage.

As I am preparing for a competition (12 weeks out), I try to snack less often. I have found that frozen fruits are amazing for cravings (strawberries and pineapple). I estimate that I consume between 1800 - 1600 cals at the beginning of my prep. I have an idea of what my body needs and fuel it accordingly. My job is very demanding so if I need to eat more food to focus I compensate by training harder and longer. I typically eat steel cut oats, boiled eggs, egg white omelette, baked chicken breast or tilapia, sweet potato, steamed vegetables (carrots, butternut squash, Broccoli and christophene) and fruit.

I do not rely solely on calorie restrictions to loose weight/body fat when preparing for a competition. Training hard and challenging myself to lift heavier combined with balanced nutrition has paid dividends. I do not use protein shakes or pre-workouts. I really on whole foods for fuel. If I feel drained after a workout I immediately consume half a small gala apple or an effervescent vitamin C supplement. At the beginning of this year, another athlete who had not seen me for a while asked "what are you taking?" She was amazed at my muscle development in less than a year. My results are based on consistency, dedication and the support of the SUMMIT Pro Bodies Team (@summitprobodies)!

Between 6 to 8 weeks from a competition I start to cycle my carbs; 2 days low, one day high or a variation based on how my body feels. I generally do not track macros. During the last 2 weeks of competition, I modify my meal plan and mainly use broccoli and asparagus as my vegetables and minimal fruits. At this point my calories are between 1000 and 1200. At this stage, I am training sometimes 2 times per day and I do about 7 - 8 hours of cardio per week (2 hours on Sundays and one hour daily during the week). This is necessary to create the calorie deficit that I need to get lean. In April this year I tried a semi-raw vegan detox for 2 weeks. The meal plan included plant based proteins such as lentils, field peas, pumpkin soup, salads without dressing and raw/blanched vegetables, copious amounts of water and green tea. Meat, fish, dairy, nuts, processed foods, flour, sweeteners or sugar (including honey) were not allowed. The diet was not as challenging as I expected however, the weight loss was too rapid (7 lbs). My trainer was afraid I would lose muscle so I reverted to my initial meal plan.

I work with an amazing team, SUMMIT Pro Bodies in Barbados @summitprobodies. As athletes prepare for competition, we have posing sessions 3 to 4 times per week. The sessions include quarter turns (about 5 - 7 consecutive rounds). The repetition helps with conditioning and preparation for the stage experience. We also practice the Iand T walks. Mathew Pilgrim (Posing Coach/Suit Designer- IG: @netbajan or e-mail: mathew.o.pilgrim@gmail.com), is very patient and he allows each athlete to develop their own style while having fun. Matt always says the show is a chance for us to display our the result of our hard work (discipline and dedication).


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An example of the training splits I use:

Mondays- Shoulders and Biceps Tuesday- Back and Chest Wednesday- Legs, Abs and Cardio Thursday- Shoulders and Chest Friday- Back and Triceps Saturday- Legs and Abs Sunday- Cardio, Abs and Glutes

NB: I listen to my body and adjust as needed, so the split is flexible. As I get closer to show date I increase the cardio sessions (max. 1 hour per day, 2 hours on Sundays).

I generally do a combination of Low Intensity Steady State Cardio (1 or 2 hour session) or a Medium Intensity and High Intensity session for (30-45 minutes). I find playing music that you like is an amazing way to get through a cardio session. Bluetooth headsets are a must! My favourite Cardio music includes Soca and Reggae (Machel Montano and Alkaline respectively are my "go to artists")

My experience as an athlete has been very positive. When I decided to compete I started by doing research online to ensure I was adequately prepared. I also talked to other athletes and they were very encouraging and open. Kara-lynn Belle was one such person, she is now my training partner and my friend. Going to Santo Domigo to represent Barbados at the Central American and Caribbean Championships (CAC) 2016 was a competition that stood out in my mind. The flights were delayed for 1 day due to a tropical storm, then team was traveling for about 18 hours. This caused use to miss the allotted time for measure/weigh-in. This was a very stressful and tiring experience however, the officials were very accommodating and as soon as we arrived at the hotel they took the measurements and weights of the team members.

The night of the competition, I was pumped on adrenaline. Everything was new and very exciting and the energy was palatable. When I started to get nervous, my amazing roommate Tamesha Lewis (IFBB Pro) was able to keep me focused. My height category had 16 amazing women from the Caribbean and Central America. In the Prejudging I made the second call out. The competition in my height category was "tight" (as we say in Barbados), the overall winner came from my height category and I placed 8th. I think this was an incredible achievement especially since I was only training for 5 months. On the day of the finals I was well rested and my conditioning was had improved significantly. I was asked by the then President of the Barbados Amateur Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation, Dr. Andrew Forde, to represent the Barbados Team at the flag ceremony, this was an honour and a privilege for me. The highlight of the Finals though was watching my roommate Tamesha her earn a Pro-card in Figure!

I am currently doing a Masters Degree in Business Administration (specialising in Leadership and Innovation) at Edinburgh Napier. Managing my studies, frequent work related travels and training has caused me to be disciplined and organised. My meal prep for the week is done on Sundays and I organise my work and gym clothes for the entire week on Sundays as well. I have two gym bags (morning and evening session).

On business travels I prepare and package my meals using an Oster Portable Steamer and a Precision Engineered Meal Prep Bag (includes 6 containers and and ice pack). When I am at home (even on weekends) meal planning is in part of my daily program.


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Competing has helped me to be better able to cope with stressful and difficult situations. I recently had to work long hours in trying conditions in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. I believe the level of structure and organisation I have honed as an athlete were applied in this situation and enhanced my ability to effectively function on my company's regional crisis response team.

I am about to start an accelerated 6 week program on October 1, 2017 November 14, 2017. I was not selected to represent Barbados at the CAC in Mexico this year, however my incredible partner/manager/nutritionist/personal chef/psychiatrist and number one fan (Andrew Porte) surprised me with a vacation to Mexico on the Ubersoca Cruise November 16-20, 2017. I am looking forward to that so I need to look my best.

I have completed all of my course work and I am focusing on my thesis for now so I am unofficially retired from competing for the time-being. I modelled and did photoshoots for Carnival (Crop Over). The bands I worked with were Aura (@aura_experience) and EV Entertainment (@eventertainment); the experience was enjoyable. I am interested in modelling and I can be contacted on Instagram @ms.hse or e-mail tash_2005@hotmail.com.

I have made incremental improvements during the last 15 months I have been training as a Bikini Athlete. My favourite athlete and inspiration is Shanique Grant her body is a work of art. I thoroughly enjoy the Sport and i am looking forward to seeing her at Olympia in 2018. I would like to encourage athletes to stay healthy, positive and have fun!!!

Special mention must be made Rosalind Vanderpool (IFBB Pro), my friends co-workers, gym-mates and last but not least Shirley Garnes (IFBB Pro) and the amazing team at the Hilton Fitness by Precor Gym. I could not have achieved this level of success with without the help of everyone.

Regards,
Natasha Joseph


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