Samantha Stanford - Bikini Competitor

I began competing because I'd been lifting seriously and eating in a way to support performance, strength, and muscle hypertrophy for over two and half years and I was looking for an avenue to display the hard work that I'd put into my physique.

My food choices are mostly the same from off-season to pre-contest albeit some higher volume foods when dieting for higher satiety levels. I have a lot of whole foods in my diet like vegetables, egg whites, oatmeal, nuts etc. but I also have a huge sweet tooth so I use flexible dieting to keep it at bay. I eat chocolate or ice cream almost every day haha.
For me, I've found carb cycling to be the very best method of fat loss. It's easy to lose scale WEIGHT, but it's harder to lose FAT--especially when you start getting down to those low body fat levels, you have to get really smart about your methods of dieting. Meal timing, carb timing etc start becoming more useful tools to lose that extra bit of stubborn fat.

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In terms of muscle building, I simply stick to a very modest caloric surplus (+100-300kcal over maintenance) for 8-9 months post fatloss periods (that is, after reverse dieting up to a more "feasible" maintenance level of calories because of metabolic downregulation and sensitivity that occurs while dieting). I personally shoot for 0.8-1g protein per pound of body weight, and I have a pretty high carbohydrate diet (around 55-60% of my calories come from carbs) because my training is relatively intense and demands a high level of carbohydrates for optimal performance.

I haven't done an immense amount of preps, but I will say that certain carb cycles don't seem to be effective for me to make substantial fat loss progress. Last year I had great success with a 7 low carb/3 high carb cycle; however, this year that cycle did nothing for me so I had to switch to a 3 low/1 high approach this time around.

My training right now follows a concurrent training style. I'm training to do a half marathon in September but this is also considered my "improvement season" for bodybuilding so I'm trying to train for endurance and resistance adaptations simultaneously. My week of training consists of 5 lifting sessions lasting from an hour to an hour and a half, as well as 5 running sessions that can be anywhere from 1-10 miles depending on the goal of that particular session. I balance training with diet by simply eating around 50% of my carbohydrates split between pre and post training.

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Honestly, I had pretty low self-confidence before I started lifting. That was actually one of the reasons I got into it. I used to be a cross country runner and I felt scrawny and insecure and had some disordered eating. Over time I've gained so much confidence in myself in terms of mental and physical strength, tenacity, and my adoption of an extremely goal-oriented mindset. Lifting is like a metaphor for personal growth in my eyes; you're literally building yourself/your body up and can become a better, stronger version of yourself with it if you have the right mindset about it as well as the knowledge needed to progress. The personal growth that I've accumulated and continue to accumulate is ultimately why I love getting on stage. Getting on stage, to me is like reaching a mountain peak on a long hike. You look around and you can be like "Wow, I put in so much hard work, I can look at how far I've come and I'm proud of this." It's not about getting the affirmation of others for me, it's affirmation to ME that I can truly do anything that I set my mind to. I like to remind myself of that in various ways on the regular!

The absolute number one moment that's stood out for me since I started getting into competing is during my posing routine at Finals. It was my first show and when you're the only one on stage and all eyes are on you as you do your routine, it gives you chills. I seriously had chills on stage and I kept thinking "oh my god I'm in love with this" and I owned that one minute of stage time! It might seem insignificant but I felt so incredibly accomplished and like it was something I was meant to do when I was up there. I didn't care about how I placed, I went through the process for me--for my personal journey of self development. Competing is an avenue for me to develop as a person; I've learned a lot about myself on prep as well as when on stage.

Being an athlete definitely shapes my life to a large degree haha. It shapes my daily routines, as well as who I'm friends with, and who I date too. I'm not saying that I'll only date or be friends with someone who's an athlete haha, but they need to be able to understand and respect my drive for what I do. And a lot of the time, you relate the best to people who do the same things that you do, so naturally the people I'm closest to are very similar in the regard of their hobbies/lifestyle. I surround myself with people who bring me up and don't tear me down or keep me stagnant in my goals. I love ambitious and hard working people.

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My future plans, like I mentioned include that half marathon in September! Beyond that, I'm aiming to get my pro card when I'm in-season again next summer, and I'd like to do a national show thereafter. I'm dying to do one. My first taste of competing really set in motion my drive to continue and see how far I can take it. Along the way I'm doing some fitness modeling and I'm also participating in Will Grazione and Amanda Bucci's Fitness Online Coaching Academy program which I think is going to blow up, in a good way. I think it's going to change this industry in an extremely positive, impactful manner and I'm so excited that I can be a part of it and start coaching on my own thereafter.

Instagram- @sgraceliftsthings

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