Jennifer Sammartino - IFPA Physique Pro

Jennifer: I am a 40 year old mother of 4, ages 5 to 21. After my 4th child was born, I became a “stay at home” mom. It didn’t take long for me to develop poor eating habits (and on the run eating). It was around Christmas, 2011 that someone had made a “joke” about my weight. It hit hard, and I decided that I needed to get on track.

I joined weight watchers, learned how to read labels and pay attention to what I was eating. After a couple of months, I decided I would join a gym. It didn’t take long before I began noticing drastic changes. It was sometime in July, 2011, that a woman approached me and asked if I had ever considered competing. Right away, I said no. Then I began thinking about it….and doing some research. By the next week I was on my way. My very first prep diet was completely new to me. A coach guided me and I listened. I competed in the “fitness” class in 2012. I did well, placing 6th.

That following April I decided I would try and diet myself and try my hand at figure. I placed 5th and fell in love. Four months following this show, I lost my brother unexpectedly. It was then that I found it difficult to walk into the gym, let alone think of competing. This was our common bond. He was a personal trainer and my go to guy for tips and training ideas. For 4 weeks I had let it all go. Not caring what I was eating, or how often I would get into the gym. Until I met a coach and team that I somehow just “clicked” with. Nick Navas of Rockstar Gym, had me come to the gym….suit and heels in hand. I was reluctant to put on either! But I did. He saw something….and pegged me to compete in the figure class….just 19 days later.

Knowing that this is what my brother would have expected of me, I agreed. Days on end of early cardio before the kids awoke…lunch break gym sessions, night time sessions. I did everything I could do, and less than three weeks later, I was a new IFPA Figure Pro. Five months after that, I tried my hand at physique, (because honestly, I felt my body fit better in that class). I fell in love with even more and earned my IFPA Pro card.

I am still tweaking my off season diet. As I have competed 7 times in 12 months, I have not yet had a good bulking season. However, From November 2012 to February 2013 I did what I could to put on muscle. Trying to keep it clean throughout the day, and consuming about 2000 calories with a macro ratio of around 50/25/25. Sticking with mostly chicken, ground turkey and egg white as my protein, sweet potato and brown rice as my carbs of choice and any green vegetable.

That said, I NEVER restricted myself if I wanted something - no matter what. My max weight hit 126lbs, which was close to 20lbs over stage weight. I wasn’t concerned at all. I was able to increase my weights drastically which meant I had to be putting on muscle.

When prep time came, I reduced my calories to about 1200 give or take. It was then that I realized my short off season proved successful . Particularly in my shoulders which I had aimed to improve. During prep, I choose to keep the same diet every day. Five meals, evenly spaced. No deviating. It works for me. I am able to cut in less than a month, retain the muscle I have by keeping protein high and fats low, and carb cycling/ My macros are about 60/20/20 during this phase, and until such time that I find this no longer works for me, I will continue.

I get most of my protein from fish and egg whites, chicken is secondary and I try and have red meat once a week. Carbs are generally sweet potato or brown rice during prep and I get my fats mostly from almond butter, almonds And one yolk a day.

As far as supplementation, I use P4P Whey Isolate. It's low in calories, no carbs and no fats. And if I am absolutely starving, I feel comfortable using this as a filler. I take BCAA’s regularly throughout the day and Kre-Alkalyn. Other than that, I haven’t really jumped on to the supplement wagon. I keep this regiment year round.

When it comes to training, I basically keep to training on a 6 day split. However, what I have found most effective for me and what I would like my physique to look like, is to train certain body parts on their own time….Lats, Abs, and Hamstrings get their own time slot. I will used my lunch break at work to get this done because it only takes about a half hour. Some of my favorite exercises are the ones that you normally wouldn’t find anyone doing as part of their normal training routine. I have come up with variations of certain exercises that better suit me. I have severe arthritis in my left shoulder, and a herniated disc….sometimes making the “normal” training more painful or difficult. The only thing that changes as far as my nutrition during bulking and cutting is the amount of carbs I will eat on say, back day and leg day. Because I am trying to grow. During the cutting phase, I know my main goal is to maintain and not lose strength. So my training is not as intense with the less calories.

As far as cardio goes, it is NOT my favorite thing to do! Luckily, I don’t have to do it during off season, and only do a small amount during contest prep. I am fortunate (at least for now) that I drop weight and body fat fairly quickly. It’s the main reason that I have somehow acquired the nickname “SKELETOR”. Twenty to Thirty minutes a day, six days a week during prep…max. I usually chose the stairmill or stepper. Half the days fasted.

This is certainly not an easy “hobby” to maintain. Being a single mom of 4 children, have 2 jobs, and sometimes have to do crazy things to get my training in. Crack of dawn workouts, lunchtime fit-ins, post work training. Sometimes three times a day. That said, I would not have it any other way. I enjoy using social media to inspire others, and show them it CAN be done if you want it. I also pride myself in making public the good AND bad parts of all of it. How success and failures are part of the deal. Also showing that it is possible to win and lose with the same grace. That there is no shame in hard work and dedication.

This is a game… A sport…and it’s not for the weak of heart. We strive for optimal physical appearance and it is far more difficult to achieve than most know. You need to love it more than you love anything else. Being in a relationship with another competitor is also important. We can train together, cook together, and we understand when the other is having a “tough” day. It’s definitely not easy for the partner of a competitor.

It is important for me to keep perspective. At the end of the day, when I am gone, the amount of trophys and titles I have in physique competing will mean nothing. I will get older, and my body will get weaker. It is far more important that people to remember me as a good person, mother, and role model…and that’s the woman I ultimately strive to be.

I will compete at least one more time this year, and most likely take a full year off to put on some size…and possibly enter the bodybuilding arena one day! (I say this after every show…but I may mean it this time) I have begun coaching girls in both bikini and figure and love that as well. So far, each girl has placed, and I pride myself in helping them realize their potential and fall in love with the process.

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Jennifer Sammartino

Jennifer Sammartino