Gina Cavaliero - Physique Competitor

Iíve dreamed of competing since being a little girl, even before womenís bodybuilding really even began. I had always worked out and lifted weights but was the classic get in shape and then gain weight and do it all over again. By late 2013, work stress, lack of sleep and exercise and a horrible diet had drastically impacted my health. I weighed nearly 160lbs at 5í0 tall and my blood pressure was soaring. I looked bad and felt terrible. Knowing I needed to make some drastic changes in my lifestyle, I resigned from the head of the board of a non-profit I had created and immediately joined the gym and changed my diet. The time I had dedicated to the nonprofit, I then dedicated to me.

By August of 2014, I had dropped 26lbs and my blood pressure was back within healthy, normal ranges. That is when a happenstance meeting at the gym set things in motion. I needed to do squats and asked a woman using the only squat rack in the gym if I could work in. She obliged and soon conversation ensued and I learned she was a trainer at the gym and also a bodybuilder. She soon commented that I had a nice shape and would do well bodybuilding. I left the gym excited and immediately discussed that I had met someone who could train me to compete. The reply was, ĎYouíve talked about being a bodybuilder and competing since the day I met you almost 20 years ago. Do it already!í That was all it took and within a couple days, I was training to compete.

A photo posted by Gina Cavaliero (@gcavlift) on

My off-season diet compared to my pre-contest diet is not drastically different in actual food choices but mostly in the quantities consumed. I eat clean, whole foods 99% of the time and always try to avoid processed foods. I believe this is essential to maximizing what our bodies can utilize effectively and convert into gains and also aid in fat burning and loss. Essentially though when comparing my bulking or off-season diet to pre-contest, I reduce or increase all three macros depending on the stage of the diet. For losing weight, I find that reducing carbs is very effective for my metabolism. I prefer to keep proteins high and fats moderate and the calorie composition varies as needed based on progress. I also ensure that I eat at least six times a day regardless of the season. Comparatively for off season, those carbs come back up and protein is increased and minimally about 1.6 times current bodyweight. I think itís important to note that both weight loss and gain is different for each individualís metabolism. I like to think of it as if everyone has their own Ďmetabolic fingerprintí and while we can use what works well for others, itís critical for us to learn and understand how different foods and quantities affect our bodies.

Diet plans that have failed my expectations were mostly severely low caloric diets but not necessarily because they failed to deliver desired results. My first couple competition experiences and the diets provided by coaches at the time were simply too low in caloric intake. While I say they indeed delivered desired results, which was fat loss and a lean physique, the residual effect is a potentially damaged metabolism due to the extended low calories and low carbs and risking results like post diet rebound, insulin sensitivity and more. So despite being effective at leaning out and reducing body fat, it unfortunately comes at a price. Ideally, our bodies not only need to grow in off-season but so does our metabolism and caloric intake so a safe cut can be accomplished that keeps caloric intakes in reasonable ranges while also coupled with the proper training regimen.

A photo posted by Gina Cavaliero (@gcavlift) on

My training program varies much like my diet does and will depend on whether in off-season or in contest prep. I do much of the same exercises or lifts however the rep range will vary extensively as will the training intensity. Off season I lift heavy and lower rep with varying levels of rests between sets. I also take up to two rest days per week in off season. Cardio varies as well and tapers off to a degree but I do some amount of cardio throughout my off season. While in contest prep, training is entirely different and is fast paced and intense. This protocol sees higher rep ranges, little to no rests between sets or super setted with some type of plyo or burst movement. Rest days are few and usually on an as need basis however cardio is generally 7days a week. Again, the amount varies depending on the stage of the prep. I use combinations of both Steady State and HIIT throughout preps but only Steady State in off-season.

Being self-confident about showing my physique and strutting on stage really came quite naturally for me. I used to suffer from intense stage fright until my career necessitated public speaking. After being thrust in front of 250 people on my second ever public event, I quickly became very comfortable on a stage. However speaking publicly and showing off your physique in something comparable to a very small bathing suit is quite a bit different! For me though, I instantly loved the thrill of the stage and posing and now equate it with my Ďhappy placeí. Itís almost impossible for me not to smile. I think when we are as committed as we bodybuilding athletes are and dedicate so much time and energy to our physiques, knowing we are bringing our best physique to stage then lends an incredible amount of self-confidence. Itís akin to ďI did this! Look at me!Ē

My most recent contest, the NPC Florida State Championships, was undeniably my best yet. Not only did I bring my peak physique yet to the stage, I felt great! The previous couple contests I came in either spilled over or very flat and also very depleted. However this last competition, with the help of an awesome friend, coach and fellow athlete, we dialed in the right amount of calories for peak week and the right carb load to bring a nice, full physique to the stage. I remember sitting in the hallway waiting to check in, eating protein and carbs and day dreaming about being on stage the next day. Prejudging went well and even though that is the component that matters or where judging occurs, I always look forward to Finals most and getting to perform my routine. At that point the hard work has been done, the judges have judged and itís time to just enjoy it. Just thinking about it makes me smile.

A photo posted by Gina Cavaliero (@gcavlift) on

As I enter another off-season, Iím focused on developing a couple areas that I want to improve and continuing to finesse the rest. Iím excited and anxious to compete again however Iím due for a long off-season and a period to recover, rebuild and build so it will likely by July of 2017 and Masters Nationals in Pittsburgh where I will compete again. There I hope to fulfill my dream of becoming a pro and then it will be on to the next goal and dream!

Contact info:
IG: @gcavlift

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