Articles

To the Women of Fitness

When I first started training, the gym floor looked like a men's locker room. Women just didn't lift in the co-ed area, that’s if they even worked out at all. Back then you couldn't compete in bikini because it wasn't a category, and #fitchicks didn’t exist because social media wasn't a thing yet. Before there were selfies, online fit challenges, food prep companies, and the only color leggings came in were black, my fitness journey started.

I've been at this game for awhile now, 14 years to be exact. It's been an incredible adventure to where I am today. Being able to travel the world and educate people at all levels about women's health, hormones and performance is something I will always be grateful for. Witnessing the growth of women in all areas of fitness has been absolutely amazing.

At the same time, I can't deny my fears for the current generation of iron sisters. It’s a wild world out there, filled with sex, drugs and reckless ignorance. Before more lives are negatively affected, relationships shattered, bodies devastated, minds broken, and futures altered, I truly wish more women would start to realize that -

You don't need to step on stage to gain muscle. 
You don't need to compete to harness strength. 
You don't need to starve yourself to lose body fat.
You don't need to spend your life savings on a coach.
You don't need to contest prep to make better lifestyle choices.
You don't need to blame prep either for your bad lifestyle choices.
You don't need to sexualize yourself to be seen or heard.
You don't need to wear your insecurities to gain confidence. 
You don't need to compare the 'old' you to prove change.
You don't need to have a perfect physique to be in the industry.
You don't need to pick the gym over family, friends and fun.
You don't need to sacrifice your health to transform your body.
You don't need to build anything but yourself.

Building a body requires you to build ALL of you, from cellular to social -and not just your booty. Focus on building your passion, purpose, future, and health. Build your love for the iron, respect for your body, and I promise you the rest will come.

 

The Eternal #FitMyth

 

Wake up fitfam, we've never been just about fitness.

 

Another day, another social media fitness celebrity exposed as being nothing more than a photo-shopped fraud. With every unmasking of a new fiternet’s detox tea-toting ‘30 days to a new you’ program pusher, it seems like people become more vocal about the lack of morals present in today’s booming fitness industry. But the reality is, we're just another new chapter in the never ending story of fitness quackery.

Truth be told, the selling of overpriced gimmicks by muscular profiteers is nothing new. Well-marketed quick fixes sold by charlatans and pseudo-scientific methods of muscle building are merely a persistent continuum of deception and delusion.

Don’t believe me?

Turn to the pages of history, and you’ll find countless examples of fit myths from the past being resold in contemporary culture. In fact, I was overwhelmed with what choices to pull as evidence to demonstrate the reselling of stupidity that exists in contemporary fitness culture.

Without further ado, welcome to the never ending story of fitness quackery. It’s just like in the 80’s classic film - except for here people continue to voluntarily leap into an abyss of lies and gimmicks thanks to the irresistible pull of the destructive fitness phenomenon.

 

Exhibit A: Centuries of Corseting Controversy.

Spanning over 400 years, the history of ‘waist training’ is long and tumultuous. Just open up Instagram and you’ll find anyone from fitness pros and D-list celebrities ‘praising’ the tummy-toning abilities of corset. From instruments of torture to a device used to control women and exploit their sexuality, wearers have been warned of corseting’s potential harm from the beginning.

Throughout the mid-1700s and 1800s, women wore corsets as a way to protect themselves from the potential harm of everyday life. During this period women were assumed to be the ‘weaker sex’ and that their bodies needed the additional support. Regardless of medical authorities associating corset use with women becoming physically harmed or disfigured, women continued to wear them. Talk about vanity insanity.

 Herrick Corset Ad, 1915.

Herrick Corset Ad, 1915.

 

By the turn of the 1900s an emphasis on female health was in vogue, and fitness helped to perpetuate the idea that without exercise a woman could not be beautiful… oh ‘strong is the new skinny’ discourse you are the bane of me! As a result, women were urged by tighten up their corsets, go on diets, and weight train in order for them to achieve the popular “hourglass” body ideal. To help women participate in exercise and sports… you know without passing out from a lack of oxygen due to overly tight corset, a new ‘healthier’ more comfortable flexible elastic sport corset was introduced in the 1920s.

 

During the next decade other fantastical products were paired with the corset for ‘optimum results’. For example, a 1930’s fitness publication titled ‘Stay Slim’ promoted women using herbal and iodine compresses to spot-reduce while wearing “very tight corsets in the daytime and an elastic belt around the stomach at night.” Even with mountains of evidence in support of exercise and diet as far better and healthier alternatives to achieving a ‘tight and tiny’ midsection, to this day women continue to squeeze into corsets in pursuit of quick-fixes and an unrealistic beauty ideal.

 Warner Bro's Health Corset, 1878.

Warner Bro's Health Corset, 1878.

Over the last five years or so, there has been a resurgence in corset use within the fitness industry – which, unfortunately was swallowed by popular culture without hesitation. From #fitchicks to pro bodybuilders, the Kardashians to middle-aged housewives, ‘waist training’ by way of corsets and other torture-devices are back with vengeance.

Keep in mind, it’s not all bad when it comes garments that tighten the torso. There are specific medical purposes where corsets are believed by some practitioners to have a profound effect on an individual’s quality of life, or as a clinical recovery tool. Not included in the therapeutic uses of a corset: (i) aide in creating big booty:waist ratio, (ii) become an illusionist.

corset5.gif

 

Exhibit B: Pills, Potions and Profits.

Flip open a magazine or scroll through your social media newsfeed, and you’ll probably find a wide arrange of products that can miraculously help you to achieve just about anything in weeks, with little effort, and with a hefty cost for both your bank account and body.

To say that dietary supplements have an extensive history is a bit of an understatement. Indeed, ergogenic aid use goes all the way back to the 6th century. Although athletes are often associated with the use of performance enhancing substances, at the turn of the 20th century everyday people were starting to use a wide array of crockery to cure just any body concern.

From monkey glands to bags of sugary sweets, oxygen elixirs to cocaine-brandy tablets, and even rat poison – for every ailment, there were brilliantly marketed quick fix ‘products’, that were backed by pseudo-science and supported by an “expert.”

One of my favorites from this era was a thyroid-based mail-order treatment for obesity sold by Frank J. Kellogg.

kellog.jpg

Like many obesity exploiters of this era, his weight reduction “anti-fat” tablets helped him to become a millionaire by claiming to cure ‘fat’ without diet or exercise. What set Kellogg apart was the admiration he earned for his business and self-promoting skills.

The “King of Anti-Fat” turned product into profit by taking advantage of his well-known last name (although not related to the famed family) and escaping investigation by the American Medical Association for years by labeling his obesity-remedy as a food product and not medication… sneaky, sneaky! As a result, Kellogg’s fame and fortune didn’t last long at all. In 1921 he was ordered to cease marketing and destroy his inventory after it was found that his anti-fat ingredients were dangerous and highly toxic.

MUS-FAPC1114_850.jpg

 

Unfortunately, there are still countless supplement companies who are following in Kellogg’s footsteps. Except for, their reach, tactics, and destruction are far greater than those used by former King of Anti-Fat. Today the industry is like the Wild West, with more bank robbers than sheriffs. To survive the heist, spend less money on delusional and dangerous products, and more time looking into specific ingredients from legitimate research resources.

 

Money vs. Morals?

Hidden amongst wooden weights, classic physiques and zubaz pants, inside the former days of fitness there are curious cures and expensive devices that are no different than those sold by today’s social media charlatans and swole-bodied swindlers. Fitness quackery isn’t anything new. It’s a bunch of old recycled remedies and repackaged gimmicks that have been paired with the right buzz word, praised by a pro or ‘expert’ and used to prey upon a very body-conscious and gullible #fitfam.

 

Will morals ever come before money?

Doubtful.

 

Just like those fantastical “before and after” pictures that bombard us every Tuesday, the industry will never actually transform. It will simply keep presenting an illusion of healthy bodies and a fit living façade, as it keeps yo-yoing along a continuum of deception and delusion. The never ending story of fitness quackery continues as it "is another story and shall be told another time."


What do you think. Can the #fitmyth ever be stopped? Or are we going to simply keep turning pages in the never ending story of fitness quackery.

 

                          

SARMs: Golden Goose or Sitting Duck?

SELECTIVE ANDROGEN RECEPTOR MODULATORS: 

A GOLDEN GOOSE OF GAINS, OR JUST ANOTHER SITTING DUCK FOR YOUR LIVER?

 

Have you ever heard the story of the golden goose?

It’s an old incredibly old fable, literally about a goose that one day lays a golden egg. Rather than waiting to see if the goose would lay more gold, it was killed by its impatient owner who wanted all of the riches immediately.

On the surface this may not seem like anything more than a foolish children’s tale, the tale of the golden goose serves as vivid reminder that ‘greed loses all by striving all to gain.’  You’d probably never guess, but there’s a similar story behind the mythical substance, known as SARMs.

 

Originally developed as a 'big-pharma' ticket item since the late 1990’s, in recent years, selective androgen receptor modulator or SARMs have gained a cult-like following as the new magical-anabolic substance within the fitness industry. However, outlandish claims together with the exploitation of pharmaceutical patents, abuse of legal-loopholes, and booming black-market business, have the potential to destroy SARMs before they can even turn a legitimate profit or be used to treat some of the most vulnerable clinical populations.


What exactly are SARMs? Believe it or not, that’s not actually the simplest question to answer. For the purposes of this article we’ll be looking at a novel class of nonsteroidal selective androgen receptor modulators that fall under the popular umbrella-name of SARMs.
 

Before we go any further, let me clarify something about SARMs – they are drugs. They have medical, ethical and legal implications associated with them. Yet, many recreational users probably don’t have a clue what they are or how they work. To be honest, with so much misinformation about them out there, I can’t entirely blame them for that either.

Unlike many other popular-fitness articles about these drugs, you won’t get any advice on how to take SARMs here. Not only would that be totally unethical and illegal, but in my opinion, the trend of the blind leading the blind has only fueled the unsubstantiated worship of these compounds by bro-pharmacists and guru-prep coaches.

Don’t let the fact that until a couple years ago you could readily and legally purchase SARMs from various pseudo-supplement retailers, and often voluntarily be sold false claims about the effectiveness, safety or purity of these drugs.

As it stands today, there’s a lot still to be uncovered about the newest kid on the anabolic block. Indeed, SARMs are steroidal millennials. They haven’t even been a ‘thing’ for 20 years, yet have a reputation that far precedes the research, data and efficacy of these drugs.


With so much bad, incorrect and misleading information on SARMs, we’ve literally got to start at the very beginning. Let’s talk about androgens.

 

 

LAYING ANABOLIC GOLD

I’ll try to keep this as simple as possible, but in order to better understand how these drugs work it’s important to know a little about the biochemical properties and physiological processes of androgens and SARMs.

Even though they are dubbed ‘male’ hormones, each of us produce varying degrees of androgens naturally throughout the life course. They are complex molecules that act as ‘chemical messengers’ for numerous processes essential to bodily function. Made at different locations throughout the body including the ovaries or testies, adrenal glands and fat cells, androgens all share a 4-ringed cholesterol structure.

Regardless of the job at hand, many androgens act on - or send messages inside specific target cells known as “androgen receptors” or “AR”. As a member of the steroid receptor superfamily, the androgen receptor is an incredibly important target for numerous pharmaceutical interventions, including in, for example, cases androgen deficiency, osteoporosis, and muscle wasting. There are many drugs that interact with androgen receptors, and promote androgenic or anti-androgenic effects. These compounds are known as “androgen receptor ligands” and typically are thought of as either causing: (a) androgenic results (“agonists”); or (b) anti-androgenic results (“antagonists”).

 

Another way, and possibly simpler way to understand this process is by thinking of lock and key: only certain keys can unlock certain doors.

Here’s an example of what I mean. You have a house that has a front door, back door, side door, and a door that provides entrance to a basement suite. It’s likely that you would have a master key – a skeleton key of sorts that can open all four doors. This “key” represents substances like testosterone and other anabolic-androgenic steroids. These drugs “unlock” androgenic receptors, which results in various androgenic effects.

But, what happens if you want to provide limited entrance to your house only through the basement door?

Thanks to SARMs, you can now do that too.

 

The ability to only “unlock” some or selective androgen receptors is the main reason behind the development of SARMs. By doing so, researchers thought that it would be able to minimize undesirable side-effects normally associated with anabolic-androgenic steroids. At the same time, it was believed that by opening some ‘doors’ and not others would allow users to exploit desirable effects - aka. the gains. And, all it would take would be to swallow a pill or two, once a day. I’ll let you decide for yourself if maybe that sound a little to good to be true.

While it took a few decades, a lot of money and numerous failed experiments, by the late 1990’s pharmaceutical companies believed they finally had created the perfect oral-anabolic drug for use in clinical populations. To do so, they developed a nonsteroidal substance that could do the job of a steroid by acting on specific androgen receptor sites. It also had simply dosing, little side effects and all the anabolic benefits desired. Hopefully it goes without saying that this was no easy feat – and arguably came with some issues for both researchers and trial users.

How exactly do you create a substance that can act on androgen receptors and provide all the tuff’ with none of the fluff?

Completely change the way it looks.

 

Let’s go back to our house analogy. Is there a way to unlock a door without having the key? Sure, grab yourself a hair pin and pick the lock. Now, if you’ve ever tried picking a lock with a hair pin, you’ll know this is a skill that requires mastery. While it’s not impossible to do, you must have the right combinations to be successful.

Does a hair pin and a key look anything alike? Heck no.

Guess what?

Neither do steroids and SARMs.

As I mentioned above, as a steroid, androgens share a 4-ring cholesterol structure. Guess what? SARMs don’t. Just by nature of them being a nonsteroidal compound they can’t and don’t have this same signature structure. Instead, there are 8 different chemical structures or “scaffolds”, that make-up the SARMs family – and each family has a host of different SARMs nested within it. As a result, the total number of specific SARMs structures are endless.

Unlike steroids, SARMs shouldn't metabolize into DHT (dihydrotestosterone by 5-[alpha]-reductase) or aromatise to estrogen – which means there shouldn’t be the same side effects such a male patterned hair loss, or gynecomastia.

In theory, SARMs may sound like a pretty golden product to try… all gains and only glory. Think again. This goose needs a lot more time, before it can safely take flight.

 

 

THE DUCK TEST

Have you ever heard of the duck test? You know the one I mean … "if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck."

What happens if it doesn’t look like a duck?

What happens if we change one of the crucial identifying components? If it doesn’t look like a duck, but it swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, is it probably a duck? I’ll let you be the judge of that one.

The reason I bring this up, is that this premise underlines the popular opinion of SARMs safety.

If it looks like a steroid because of a specific 4-ring structure, works on an androgen receptor, and can promote muscle growth and strength, then it must be an anabolic steroid… and those come with some hefty side-effects. So, what happens if it doesn’t look like a steroid? There aren’t any side-effects, duh.

Just like that, we have the foundation for one of the biggest myths surrounding SARMs. That they are somehow ‘safe’ to use - a ‘healthy’ steroid alternative that doesn’t have any side-effects. Sure, SARMs many not ‘look’ structurally like steroids, but they still share a lot in common with anabolic steroids, including similar associated health risks.

 

Before I go any further I also want to make something else clear – contrary to what many in the industry are saying about SARMs, they are not “100% anabolic.” While a major selling point of these compounds is that they are drugs that can provide only the anabolic effects of anabolic-androgenic steroids, and that’s just not the case - at least not yet. Plus, many of the popular SARMs used within the industry still have androgenic components – thus, opening the door for androgenic side effects. And these go beyond potential visual changes, and suppression of testosterone and sperm development through suspending the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal axis.

SARMs have many of the same side-effects of oral anabolic steroids, including influencing a rapid breakdown to levels of HDL or high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol (the good stuff) and inflammation-induced rise in liver enzymes. While it’s possible these could be rectified by using an injectable form of SARMs, the reality is, that probably won’t be manufactured anytime soon. Keep in mind, these drugs were almost exclusively designed for oral use in therapeutic populations.

Many of negative sides of SARMs are exaggerated by supraphysiological dosages … you know, the “higher than suggested” standard doses used by athletes and bros alike.

Clinical studies on SARMs have only been done in vitro, isolated cells or in either animal studies (aka on rats) - or like many steroids, on the sick or old within clinical population settings. They have not been tested on healthy, young active males and females, and the doses within the research on SARMs are significantly lower than those required for performance enhancing effects. Even those lower doses have been seen to result in negative side-effects!

I think this is a good time to remind you that we’re dealing with the millennial anabolic. If after over 75 years we don’t know the full extent of AAS side effects, how do we know the health consequences of SARMs? We don’t.

We do not know the health consequences of SARMs.

Not only that, but by the time that we learn about a new SARM, it’s often already been re-configured by researchers. Currently pharmaceutical companies are testing “second-generation” non-steroidal SARMs (maybe even third by the time you read time) – leaving an entire flock of first-generation SARMs behind.

Why didn’t those ones go to clinical trial? Simple, they didn’t work like they were supposed too. Many first-gen SARMs had far too many risky side effects to ever get ‘stamp of approval’ required for their use.

No stamp = no approved used = no profit for drug companies.

And so, first gen-SARMs got scrapped by the pharmaceutical world. But you know what they say. One man’s trash, is another man’s treasure.

 

 

KILLING THE GOOSE

First-gen SARMs were found by researchers to dangerous and not actually effective, but that didn’t stop our industry’s serial snake-oil supplement gurus from manufacturing, propagating and making millions off sales. Unfortunately, this is one of many shortcomings associated with mainstream SARMs use.

The propaganda surrounding SARMs are plentiful. Much of it is nothing more than a myth – it holds small fragment of reality, and a whole lot of bs.  

For example, SARMs do build muscle. I can’t deny that. In some of the early studies on first-gen SARMs, there were ‘modest gains’ in lean mass – 1.0 to 1.5kg over the course of 4 to 6 weeks. Here’s the kicker – studies on injectable testosterone resulted in 5 to 7kg of lean mass gains over the same period. Plus, the modest SARMs gains came with nasty side effects!

 

If you’re familiar with SARMs you’ve probably noticed that many of them have code names, usually being made from a combination of letters followed by numbers. The reason for this is rather simple. SARMs are patented products that have not been approved for use, and are either still in – or never made it out of trial phases. They are experimental drugs that have not been offered for commercial sale by legitimate companies. Nevertheless, this hasn’t stopped the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) or recent law changes from tightening the iron anti-doping grip on the sale and use of SARMs.

In early 2008, SARMs were added to WADA’s prohibited list, becoming one of the many substances banned for use in athletic competition. Mainstream use continued to fly under the radar. But in May 2016 that would come to an end when the FDA reportedly explored complaints of specific SARMs being marketed and sold by supplement companies.

Basically, a pharmaceutical company caught wind that one of the drugs they had been studying in clinical drug trials for nearly a decade was being reproduced by sport supplements companies and marketed to the masses. Under the guise of calling this drug a “dietary supplement”, these companies almost got away with it too! Obviously, there’s more than one legal issue here. One of these include that under US federal law, dietary supplements can’t include a substance being investigated as a new drug. Which as you’ve just read, many SARMs most definitely are!

 

There’s also been recent (and growing numbers of) reports discussing SARMs being found in various products that they shouldn’t have been included in… buyers beware: tainted supplements do exist!

As I mentioned earlier, SARMs are patented – that means any company manufacturing them without the consent of the founding pharmaceutical, is doing so illegally. While it’s recorded that at least one pharmaceutical company has begun sending cease-and-desist letters to stop the illegal manufacturing of a specific SARM, there remains numerous other SARMs still readily available for purchase.

 

How did supplement companies get away with selling SARMs illegally for so long?

Through the lovely legal loophole known as “research chemicals.” Discussing it is out of the scope of this article, but I’ll say this – at this time, SARMs are not available for resale under any circumstances in both United States and Canada. Yes, Canada too… contrary to popular belief SARMs are not licensed or permitted for medical or therapeutic use in here either. If you doubt this, just take a look at the numerous cases against athletes who have been caught using SARMs through the Sport Dispute Resolution Center of Canada.

There are also major questions being raised about the purity of SARMs currently being sold. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Those backyard black market labs who make dirty gear, are now also in the SARMs game too. Underground SARMs tested by academic researchers found that instead of containing a pharmaceutical-grade drug as claimed, the products were more like a D.I.Y. disaster – containing at least 15% impurities.

So, what does all this mean? Although SARMs can’t be legally defined as ‘anabolic steroids’ (since they don’t have structurally resemble testosterone), that doesn’t mean they are free game.

 

Thought to be the “future of androgen therapy,” SARMs were truly believed to be an alternative to steroids – a Utopian drug that would revolutionize the pharmacological world. It’s been nearly 20 years since their inception, and there has yet to be an approved drug in this category yet. Few have been close, and while there are a few hopefuls currently in trial stages, at this point in time the golden egg hasn’t had time to hatch. Ultimately, the golden goose of gains hasn’t even been laid yet.

Thankfully, this hasn’t killed the SARM dream yet. Researchers are continuing to reconfigure molecular structures at an astronomical pace, and the newest generation of drugs may be available for clinical use within the next few years. Presently, both the side-effects and suspicious claims are alive and causing a lot of potential harm for the future of these drugs.

For now, it looks like SARMs may be nothing more than a sitting duck.

 

 

 

© Victoria Felkar. All rights reserved. For informational purposes only, not to be construed as legal or medical advice.

 

 

The Enigma of Anabolics for Her

 

Women & Steroids:
Ignorance & the Enigma of Anabolics for Her.

Lately I've found myself disgusted with the sheer amount of overly simplistic and dangerous discussions of female anabolic-androgen steroid (AAS) use. By no means is this an easy area to unpack. Quite frankly, it's an enigma, and in order to host a responsible conversation requires a lot more than just reciting 'scientific data' like it's gospel.

To begin to understand this massively intricate topic takes challenging certain personal beliefs like biological difference between the sexes, typical “masculine” or “feminine” characteristics, and knowledge about the body itself. It involves understanding physiology, biomedicine, the endocrine system, hormones, and of course androgens specifically, while not forgetting to mix in ‘personalized medicine’ – a method emphasizing evaluation and programming based on the individual and their uniquely dynamic characteristics. It demands a grasp of the physical and chemical properties of AAS, and basic clinical pharmacology of the effects of specific compounds is also essential.

Most critical of all, there needs to be context. Who exactly are we talking about? What other health and performance variables must be considered? What additional factors - whether internal or external to that particular individual's body must be explored? What drugs were used, for how long, and what source are they from? In this conversation, context is everything. 

As an academic researcher I am writing this not as scare tactic. In fact, I’m very critical of, and often appalled by, pseudo-scientific, unethical, and propaganda-like scholarly publications preaching the ‘evils’ of steroid use without citing relevant studies to back such claims. Nothing irks me more than reading information, hearing conversations, and seeing firsthand the damaging results of uneducated and ill-informed bro-pharmacists. I recognize fully the dangerous influence of Dr. Juice – the contest prep cocktail isn’t just a concern for females but all AAS users, but to say it simply – the body is complicated. 

 

Often I see athletes getting so focused on the ‘outside’, that what is happening on the inside gets ignored. At the crux of most sport is the desire to perform, and not just 'good enough' but to excel. To take your body to a new limit - whether it's an achievement of strength, speed or physical appearance. It's ok to want to win. It's ok to push the limits. But we have to start appreciating that by doing so, we alter and modified how well our internal systems can function. No matter how much 'science' or 'evidence' is involved during the process, many times the extent of this is unbeknownst until it's too late.

 

Fem chem.

While AAS are a class of drugs often containing synthetic testosterone, we all have this steroidal hormone flowing naturally in our bodies. Of course there are large variations in natural (endogenous) levels of testosterone. Since we are talking about women, I want to mention a hugely important point – whether genetic or due to other causes, some females have high levels of androgens. Indeed, androgen excess is the most common endocrine disorder in women of reproductive age.

Women naturally produce sex steroids in various parts of their body – primarily the adrenal glands and ovaries. Other tissues such as fat and skin can also assist in converting weak androgens to stronger ones. Furthermore, some women with excess androgens may have excess levels of circulating insulin (insulin resistance), which has a massive effect on metabolic function, and can manifest in a wide range of symptoms including weight gain and lethargy. High androgens are also a common marker for an endocrine disorder called 'Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome' (PCOS) (as I've discussed before, this is a misunderstanding panacea). While it may come with a list of sub-characteristics and manifestations, little is known about 'PCOS' in “fit” women. Currently there is a limited study exploring how AAS may interact with 'PCOS', metabolic function, or influence the body’s ability to create and use androgens naturally.

Why am I spewing this medical mumbo jumbo? All of this is hugely important to remember when discussing women and steroids for a number of reasons including the fact for whatever reason people seem to think the female body lacks any amount of androgens to begin with. Furthermore, there appears to be a lack of regard for the variance in natural levels of androgens, and the different ways in which women can metabolize these steroids. I told you, it's complicated. But guess what? All of this gets even more complex when you add in our abysmal knowledge of athlete steroid use in general.

 

Bro Knowledge

For over 50 years AAS have been a cluster of controversy and panic, which unfortunately has limited academically sound and clinically applicable information on these drugs. The studies that do get discussed within the industry often pertain to the use of AAS within medical populations, or are concerned with self-administration by males – neither can be translated for female use! So where do you go then to learn about women and steroids? Internet forums of course! And if that doesn’t work, hire a prep coach. If those thoughts crossed your mind, even for a second, please give yourself a very hard smack, as that assumption couldn’t be more wrong and dangerous.

Let's break a few things down –

Your prep coach is not a researcher and Internet forums are not medical textbooks. Many times the information isn’t even on the specific compound you are looking to better understand because (surprise) anabolic steroids are sold on the BLACK MARKET. They are unregulated and not controlled for purity or strength. Thus, there is a high chance they have been cross-contaminated. Please note that a little sticker saying “pharmaceutical grade” means absolutely nothing. For men this is important, but for women it is absolutely crucial. Although health risks exist with any AAS, there are certain properties associated with specific compounds that may pose less of a risk for some women (please note the absolute lack of any generalizing statement within this comment).

The effects of female hormone manipulation are murky. Even if you determine a particular steroid is acceptable for personal use, you’ll be lucky to get your hands on a bottle actually containing the desired drug. And this matters! You should know what you are taking as all AAS are not the same!

Different AAS elicit different anabolic and androgen responses- anabolic induced changes to rates of muscle growth AND androgenic responses such as acne, hirsutism (abnormal hair growth), and reproductive dysfunction. These vary from drug to drug, and are often described in the form of a ratio. For example, synthetic testosterone has an anabolic to androgenic ratio of 1:1. This is the one and only time you’ll read a specific compound name in this article. Why? There’s a sickening sense of “protection” associated with specific drugs due to this ratio. An assumed safety net has been cast over certain drugs deemed “ok” for female consumption simply because they have lower androgenic activity. This notion is not only irresponsible and foolish, but it’s created a lack of critical thinking and laziness around female anabolic use. It amazes me that someone will prep for months BUT won’t put in the time and effort to truly understand the drugs they are putting into their body, and the influence on their health. While there’s little assistance from medical sciences on anabolic steroids, education is not impossible.

 

I'm not getting off my soap-box yet. Please know, I’m all for personal choice. I completely respect an individual’s decision to build their body as they please, but regarding AAS, there is a responsibility to fully understand risks, rewards, and long-term consequences of usage. Who you are today may not reflect who you want to be tomorrow. While you may want to be the next Ms. Olympia, life changes - your health changes. If you really want to learn more about steroids for the female users start with the basics. Understand basic human physiology. Work with a health care practitioner to track your sex hormones and menstruation patterns, and know the interaction of these on the endocrine system. There is some work out there on women and steroid use - however, there is a lot of room for improvement... variables not controlled for or even mentioned, problematic methodologies, and just all around bad science. 

 

Ignorance & bad science

So no, women and steroids is not a topic that you can simply search on the Internet or ask a random bro about. As I mentioned above, unfortunately it's also one that recently some of the industry's "most educated" have completely dropped the ball on - spewing off preconceived notions and unsubstantiated information without any critical reflection of the impact that their words have on the health of others.

To be honest, I get sick to my stomach when I think about the far reaching consequences of the conversations happening on social media about women and steroid use. I'm not just talking about female AAS use either, but steroids and other pharmaceuticals used in hormone manipulation in all forms: androgens, peptides, selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs), anti-estrogens, oral contraceptives, hormonal IUDs, hormone replacement therapies -  oral, injectable, implants, patches, creams, sprays, and powders.

 

Do I know everything there is to know about female hormone manipulation? Hell no. By no means do I see myself as an authority on this topic. Even with my doctoral research being on women and steroids - the use of AAS and oral contraceptives by female athletes, and all the time I have spent specializing in this area and working directly with female athletes, doctors and other professionals, I am no expert. 

Guess what? When it comes to women and steroids, I'm not afraid to admit that there is a lot that I don't know. Now that I've probably lost the confidence of a few by admitting this, I'll tell you something that I do know about this topic: I don't know because we don't know. We don't know because there is a complete lack of study, critical conversation and personal dialogue - not only as it relates to female hormone manipulation, but women's health issues as a whole. Especially, information from a female perspective, which when it comes to these topics isn't important - it's essential.

 

As a result, it's vital to get good, reputable and contextual information out there. It's crucial to host conversations about women and steroids openly and without bias. But, there is a warning that should come with doing this - 

Words have power.

When you have power, words become the divine

 

Be careful what you put out to the world because the publication of inaccurate or misleading data is no different than the ignorance you seek to destroy. Ignorance is not bliss - it is dangerous. Ignorance disguised as scientific knowledge has infinite power. It is an incurable disease that spreads like wildfire, and puts the health and safety of women in serious danger.

It's time to start respecting that anabolics for her is an enigma. You are not an expert on this topic because no one is an expert. Maybe once you do that, we can actually start helping women.

 

 

Ps. I am working relentlessly to be able to start sharing more of my research on women and steroids with you. After the recent events online, it's clear that right now - more than ever it's needed. 


Copy the link, share and help spread the word.
victoriafelkar.com/library/womenandsteroids

 

 

VF Vault: Kettlebell Interview

From the VF Vault

“The kettlebell has a long and complex history that ultimately parallels the embodied practices of weightlifting itself. You have multiple origins, names, figures, and ways to lift the object itself,” she says. “War, global politics, globalization, the multicultural climate of North America. There are so many factors that have influenced the rise of not only physical culture, but weightlifting, all the way down to the kettlebell itself.”

 

Back in 2016, a really awesome Auzzy writer for barbend.com named Nick English reached out to me to help him with a piece on the history of the kettlebell. 

A phone call and few hours later, an ongoing research project that I had been working on since 2013 transformed into a really great interview. As Nick said within the article, "the problem with kettlebell history is that surprisingly few people care" - however I do and apparently numerous others do as well. This article gained huge traction and the feedback was great.

See for yourself, you may be surprised with how interesting the history of the kettlebell actually is.

 

Kettlebell History Goes Back Much Further Than Russia
https://barbend.com/kettlebell-history/

 

 

Health Advocacy

Work files? Not exactly... 

Work? Not exactly.

You're probably thinking, what's reflective about a giant stack of paper?

I get it. It's a little odd for an article that's supposed to be reflective.

Here's the thing. That's not work.

What you see is all of my medical files from 2008 onward, neatly organized and ready to go for when or if I have new meeting with doctors and specialists.

It's been a hell of a long road and I've learned so much along the way about medicine, health and hormones. But, possibly just as important, I've learned how to 'play' the system.

Now, I don't like to generalize at all. The world is a unique and beautiful place, but if there is one thing that I can share with others regarding my experiences it is this.

Pretend like every doctors appointment is a job interview.

NEVER assume that they have your file or have taken the time to read it. You have to make them care. Come prepared. You have to show them that you are serious about your #health and that you are doing the necessary steps to get better.

You have to be your own advocate. I always type a list of time-lined symptoms, medications & supplements (type, dose, duration), current diet and training program, and QUESTIONS for them. It may sound trivial but this has proven to be SO crucial in my many years in the system. It allows me to keep calm, focused and ensure that I don't forget anything.

My personal background, education and research, as well as having a mother who is deeply embedded in the medical system as a hospital administrator/nurse practitioner/nursing school instructor has lead me to these insights.

Research shows that when people take an ACTIVE role in their care, they have a greater sense of satisfaction - and yet, research also shows that many patients don't speak up for themselves or communicate effectively with doctors. 

By sharing my story I hope that I can help others navigate the sometimes long and unpredictable journey back to health. 

 

With love & gratitude,

Victoria Felkar

 

 

 

 

When bodybuilding is your passion, not your life.

From the VF Vault. 

competition blog.jpg

June 24, 2014,


Time to chat about something that recently has been grinding my gears. No one puts this baby in the corner.

Bodybuilding is my passion, hobby and escape but it is NOT my life. I love to create, sculpt and mold myself into the body that I PERSONALLY please. Does this make me any less of a bodybuilder? Hell no. Simply put, I am NOT a competitive bodybuilder. Last time I checked each meal I eat, every cardio session completed and weight lifted is a part of a collective journey of building-my-body.

I have been a pupil of physique artistry and athletics since age 16. I have had amazing opportunities, learned from many bright, successful people in the industry - combined with my Kinesiology degree and other certifications I am guided both educationally and experientially in this journey. For that I am truly blessed.

I have had my setbacks. I have overcome bulimia and anorexia, and continue to work with the lingering effects of failed adrenals, hypothyroidism and a little autoimmune disease called celiacs. I have battled depression and will always be challenged by my other crazies. Those experiences have helped me become the "bodybuilder" I am today. They are written on my physique, both internally & externally - in doing so they have made me continually rethink my goals and redefine the bodybuilder that I want to be.

I have had the opportunity to work with many amazing athletes, and live vicariously through those who I have helped reach the stage. The relationships I build with them are always built on trust and fostered by respect. I continue to learn and grow with each and every one of them. 

Now to the point of this long rant. Does the fact that I am NOT a competitive bodybuilder make me any less of a "coach"? In my personal and professional opinion the answer is crystal clear. 


For the first time I've revealed what's hidden under my sweaty men's large t-shirts as proof to those that have questioned my abilities and success as a bodybuilder.

This is the life I love. Bodybuilding is my art, not my sport. Lifting weights is my passion, not my sport. I acknowledge and respect all those who may differ in my philosophies and pedagogy - if we all had the same ideas the industry would be rather bland.

In my opinion, bodybuilding isn't just about building bodies. It is about building a lifestyle. It is about building relationships, ideas, passions and knowledge, because I think we all know that how we look on the outside is only a small fraction of who we really are. 

Many years ago I made a commitment to myself to always dream for more, believe in myself and work to inspire others. If I have done anything by showing my backside on social media I sincerely hope that I have done just that. 

Dream, believe and inspire. Never let anyone define who you are and what your passions are.

 

With love & gratitude, 

Victoria Felkar

 

 

The 'Secondary' Side Effects of Steroids.

The Secondary Side Effects of Steroids: Sex, Gender and the ‘Unnatural’ Female Sporting Body

IN PROCESS

For over half a century controversy has swirled around the use of anabolic androgen steroids (AAS) by athletes and bodybuilders. They have received significant media and political attention though both the academic and clinical literature are sparse. Robert Goldman’s Death in the Locker Room (1984) helped to create and perpetuate hysteria and panic surrounding steroids, especially their use by women. Focusing on what he calls, “The New Unisex – Female Athletes Turning Male,” Goldman describes anabolic steroids as exclusively “masculine hormones,” and suggests that women who take them are ‘unnatural’, resulting in a ‘bastardization of the female form.’ Goldman is not alone in his concern for the female use of anabolic steroids. The little research that surrounds women and steroids tends to endorse powerful cultural norms about a ‘natural’ and ‘normal’ female sporting body. Often, discussions of female athlete steroid use echo long standing beliefs about the appropriate appearance, health and abilities of the female sporting body.

This project will examine why there has been so little attention to female steroid use and discuss the underlying assumptions on which biological determinism, sex, gender, and the ‘natural’ body have been built into the steroid discourse. As Nelly Oudshroon pointed out, ideas regarding the function of hormones, and the terminology surrounding these chemical messengers have embodied rigid cultural ideas about sex, gender, and the body. Although hormones, including synthetic hormones, do not possess an inherent sex or gender, the debate over anabolic-androgen steroids use in sports continues to distinguish anatomical and physiological differences in the ‘male’ and ‘female’ sporting body.

Despite recent scholarship on gender verification, sex testing and the female athletic body that challenge dominant ideas about ‘normal’ levels of ‘natural’ endogenous androgen levels in female athletes, little research has addressed exogenous androgens, women and AAS use in sport, or the gendering of synthetic sex hormones. Furthermore, although there is a growing body of critical literature on anabolic steroids, the gendering of synthetic sex hormones has not gained the same level of critical inquiry as other aspects of the topic, such as the reframing the philosophical debates of ‘fairness’, debating doping-control measures, or the unsubstantiated physiological and/or psychological ‘risks’ associated with male athlete use.

Drawing upon historical and contemporary medical and popular literature, this project will explore the interplay around the construction of biological sex, gender and hormones, with misrepresentations and myths about the use of steroids by female athletes. It aims to address the current ‘science’ of steroids as it relates to the sporting female body, and show how presumptions about what a ‘natural’ and ‘normal’ female should look like underscores much of the discourse around women’s use of AAS.

 

Want to learn more? Contact me for details. 

The Iron Bar

 

Winner of the International Society for the History of Physical Education and Sport Essay & Junior Scholar Award; Published in STADION – International Journal of the History of Sport; Master Thesis.


The Iron Bar: The Modern History of Prison Physical Culture and the Ban on Correctional Weightlifting.
 

From representations of prison physical culture in movies and televisions shows, mainstream workout regimes, exercise programs, even exercise names such as the “prisoner squat” – muscles and strength building exercises have become associated with the prisoner’s body in various, and often negative ways. Rarely mentioned are discussions about appropriate or health promoting sport and daily recreation programs for prisoners or inmate involvement in prison organized and self-guided bodyweight exercise programs or calisthenics routines. Popular culture tends to show prisoner’s bodybuilding with heavy barbells and dumbbells though in fact there has been a federal weightlifting ban on such activities in the United States since the early 1990’s.

Utilizing a Foucauldian perspective, the aim of this research study was to explore the modern history of prison physical culture to better understand how popular perceptions of the muscular inmate body - embedded within the disciplines of criminology and penology - influence opportunities for physical activity in correctional facilities. I focused on the recent correctional weightlifting ban enacted in the United States to gain insight into the potential influence of body typing theories, specifically somatotyping (suggesting a link between criminality and muscular physiques), on the construction of contemporary prison physical culture. Working from a critical socio-historical perspective, I worked to add to the limited knowledge of prison physical culture, research on types of physical activity available in correctional facilities and the corporeal experience of those confined to prison.

Overall very little information exists to illuminate general attitudes toward prison physical culture and measure opportunities for physical activity in correctional facilities. The following research questions will guide my study: (1) How have historical perceptions of the muscular criminal body influenced penal policy? (2) In particular, what have been the influences of body profiling and somatotyping on the role of weightlifting in prisons? Insights into these questions will allow me to better understand the reasoning behind the enactment of the 1994 weightlifting ban placed on prison physical culture within the United States. In particular, I will use one particular case study, San Quentin Correctional Facility to estimate the effects of this weightlifting ban on contemporary prison physical culture.

Although it is not known exactly when the practice of weightlifting was tolerated in American corrections, other forms of physical practice can be traced to the beginning of the modern penal movement of the 18th century. An example of a physical technique in this period of “penal enlightenment” was the “tread-wheel” developed by Sir William Cubitt in 1818 and was used to rehabilitate inmates through hard physical labor and solitary confinement (Shayt, 1989).

During the mid 1800’s American prisons underwent many shifts in correctional practice, including the introduction of recreational sports into some prisons (McKelvey, 1968). Described as fundamental in the new era of corrections, Elmira Reformatory in New York opened in 1876 as one of the first adult “reformatories” for offenders, and for years lead the American reformatory system in the application of modern theories of criminology (Smith, 1988), and use of innovative physical practices as “methods of reform” (Pisciotta, 1983).

While “prison athletics … presaged a new era in prison discipline” (McKelvey, 1968, p.229), organized sports programs did not become a feature in the adult penitentiary system until the early 20th century. During this time there have been significant changes in penal ideology in the United States, however far too little is known about the history, development and present day prison physical culture. As a result of high rates of incarceration and recidivism, beginning in the mid 1980’s and early 1990’s a shift in correctional philosophy and ideas of improvement resulted in a new penal focus for American corrections. Higher value was placed on punishment, denouncement and incapacitation as opposed to the more traditional correctional goals of rehabilitation. Coupled with the enormous growth in the prison population at the time, and the public fervor for the “get tough on crime” rhetoric (Tepperman, 2011), many states began to limit inmate privileges and activities – in particular, prison weightlifting (Hanser, 2012).

To date, very few researchers have discussed prison weightlifting, or addressed those influences which lead to the weightlifting ban. It has been regarded by some scholars as a result of a societal “moral panic” and a product of harsh punitive penal reform (Pawelko & Anderson, 2011); while other research speculates that the ban can be attributed to the popular media’s construction and representation of weightlifting and prisons (Tepperman, 2011). Tepperman (2011) asserts that central to the ban was an “ethos of panic” regarding weightlifting’s ability to construct physically larger, more powerful and aggressive inmates (Wagner, McBride & Crouse, 1997). The impact of this language and the encompassing ideologies regarding the “super breed” of muscular criminals (Foster, 1995) can thus be seen to be integral to the prison weightlifting ban (Tepperman, 2011). 

It is important to note that ideas regarding the muscular inmate body are not simply a creation of the “No Frills movement” and the prison weightlifting ban – they can be found deep within the field of criminology, and in many respects, these perceptions echo ideas of body typing and biocriminality. Since the 18th century there has been inquiry into the relationship between body type and criminality, specifically addressing the idea that criminals typically embody a mesomorphic or muscular physique. Scholars note the importance of examining the historical origins of the various viewpoints within constitutional theory and body typing “to understand the origins, acceptance, and maintenance of criminological ideas” (Rafter, 2007, p. 805), however little research has investigated the influence of criminological ideas on penal policy, prison physical culture and inmates’ opportunities for physical activity.

Without a better understanding of prison physical culture and the identification of important influencing ideologies there remains an absence of context regarding the socio-historical and institutional conditions that govern particular forms of physical activity in correctional facilities. As a result the proposed research will add a socio-historical perspective of physical practices in prison to enhance our limited knowledge of prison physical culture and highlight those factors which have impacted opportunities for physical activity including the weightlifting ban within the United States.

 

Excerpt From: Felkar, V. (2016). “The Iron Bar. The Modern History of Prison Physical Culture and the Correctional Weightlifting Ban”. Stadion 40 (2014): 19-37.

 

 

 

See my Thesis:
https://open.library.ubc.ca/cIRcle/collections/ubctheses/24/items/1.0135657

 

Want to learn more? Contact me for details. 

 

Built Both Ways – The Paradox of Muscularity

How can a muscular body be both feared and revered within popular culture at the same time?

Project Overview:

The issue of the relationships among muscularity, body type and criminal behaviour has long intrigued scholars. Criminologists, psychologists, physical educators and the health profession more broadly have enquired into the relationship between body type and criminality, specifically addressing the links between criminal behaviour and a “mesomorphic” or muscular physique (Rafter, 2007; Vertinsky, 2007; Walby & Carrier, 2010; Wright & Miller, 1998). Although early biological theories of crime, such as body profiling, in particular William Sheldon’s somatotyping categories (Sheldon, 1954), have undergone extensive scientific scrutiny and subsequent critique, they continue to persist within contemporary culture. Why has criminology and body typology constructed the muscular body as deviant? What are the implications for linking criminal behaviour to muscularity? What other fields propagate somatotyping’s mesomorphic-delinquency correlation?  

From growing fears about the dangers of muscular prisoners to the enduring stigmatization encountered by female bodybuilders (Shilling & Bunsell, 2009), there remains an open “disdain for the culture of muscle” (Darkes, 2000). At the same time, there is a growing admiration for a muscular appearance and accompanied athletic excellence. This “muscular ideal” and the drive for muscularity in men is well-documented in Western culture (Thompson & Cafri, 2007). In addition to the traditional norms of masculinity that associate the male gender role with a muscular physique (Helgeson, 1994; Mussap, 2008), male and female athletes operate within a context that requires heightened levels of muscularity to achieve sporting excellence and for functional performance-based purposes, such as increased athletic performance and decreased risk of injury (Steinfeldt, Carter, Benton, & Steinfeldt, 2011). How did the dominant and largely negative narratives around the muscular body in contemporary culture develop and what ramifications do they have for those who pursue muscle? Why are there conflicting messages around the pursuit of muscularity in contemporary culture? How are these messages understood and addressed in competitive sport, the recreation and fitness industry, and physical culture?  

Through the perpetuation of somatotyping and the mesomorphic-delinquency correlation, criminology has continued to construct, promote and re-produce knowledge of what a “delinquent” body is. Rafter (2007) argues that in order to “understand the origins, acceptance and maintenance of criminological [theories]” (p. 825) an analytical framework that includes social histories is fundamental. As a result, the proposed research intends to add a historical perspective to enhance our limited knowledge of muscular profiling and highlight the development, impact and influences of criminology’s construction of the muscular body as deviant. The aim of this study is to explore the ways in which criminology and body typology have constructed and reinforced knowledge of the muscular body, and the impact of these beliefs in contemporary thought and practice.

Want to learn more? Contact me for details. 

 

References

Darkes, J. (2009). Muscular Profiling – Is Muscularity Evidence of a Crime? Retrieved from http://thinksteroids.com/articles/muscle-profiling-steroids/

Helgeson, V. S. (1994). Prototypes and dimensions of masculinity and femininity. Sex Roles, 31, 653– 682.

Mussap, A. J. (2008). Masculine gender role stress and the pursuit of muscularity. International Journal of Men’s Health, 7(1), 72-89.

Rafter, N. H. (2008). The criminal brain: Understanding biological theories of crime. New York: New York University Press

Rafter, N. H. (2007). Somatotyping, antimodernism, and the production of criminological knowledge. Criminology, 45(4), 805-833.

Sheldon, W. H. (1954). Atlas of men: A guide for somatotyping the adult male at all ages. New York: Harper & Brothers.

Shilling, C., & Bunsell, T. (2009). The female bodybuilder as a gender outlaw. Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise, 1(2), 141-59.

Steinfeldt, J. A., Carter, H., Benton, E., & Steinfeldt, M. C. (2011). Muscularity beliefs of female college student-athletes. Sex Roles, 64, 543–554.

Thompson, K. J., Cafri, G. (Eds.). (2007). The muscular ideal: Psychosocial, social, and medical perspectives. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association

Vertinsky, P. (1990). The eternally wounded women. Women, doctors, and exercise in the late nineteenth century. New York: Manchester University Press.

Vertinsky, P. (2007). Physique as destiny: William H. Sheldon, Barbara Honeyman Heath and the struggle for hegemony in the science of somatotyping. Canadian Bulletin of Medical History = Bulletin Canadien d'Histoire De La Médecine, 24(2), 291-316.

Walby, K., & Carrier, N. (2010). The rise of biocriminology: Capturing observable bodily economies of ‘criminal man’. Criminology & Criminal Justice, 10(3), 261-285.

Wright, R. A., & Miller, J. M. (1998). Taboo until today? The coverage of biological arguments in criminology textbooks, 1961 to 1970 and 1987 to 1996. Journal of Criminal Justice, 26(1), 1-19.

 

Machine Modification & Basic Booty Finisher

Because size matters.

Still haven't found any takers for getting a booster seat made, but let me tell you - the double or triple folded mat mod is an essential part of my training toolbox. Something so simple truly makes a world of difference when you're 5'1. 

As the industry cliche says - "train for your goals, no matter how big or small they may be" ... but let's face it, who's the one training? YOU! Who's goals are they? YOURS! You can't move forward towards your goals without first learning to train for YOUR BODY!

At the end of the day, no matter what training plan you bought, who wrote it or how good they promise the results will be by the end, if the machine don't fit, you've got to modify it! 

Plus, if your my size and don't fit in a leg press, there's no way to fully maximize the power of a focused fire-starting booty finisher.

Here's are the rules for a VF classic deadly lower body finisher: 

1. Start with a deadly high volume ham and  glute workout ... then find yourself a good ol'cable leg press

2. For the load, use + / - 10lbs your body weight. Place your feet mid-platform close-ish stance and work the FULL range of motion EACH and EVERY

3. The goal is continuous motion until you can't anymore ... avoid lock out!!!! When you get sloppy or can't take the burn, PAUSE for a maximum of 15sec ONLY!!! You can take as many 15sec breathers as you need to but the trick is to try to get all 100 reps in by the 3min mark. Even if you don't make it... KEEP GOING strong

4. Hobble-wobble out of the gym with the most stupid glorious glute pump. 

Let me know how it goes! 

Cinnamon Coconut Covered Almonds.

One of my simple, favourite sweet treats for a high fat day.

1oz raw almonds (around 23)
1 tsp. virgin coconut oil melted
A dash of cinnamon, pinch of sea salt and sprinkle of powdered Stevia (use a cup-for-cup brand such as Stevia in the Raw)

Melt coconut oil in a small dish. Add in almonds and mix. Add powered ingredients ensuring almonds are coated. Throw in freezer for 15mins or until coconut oil has hardened. Break up the almonds with a spoon & enjoy! 

(223.5cal; F19.5g, C6g, P6g)

A VF Kitchen Secret: Cube Life

Nut butter, portion control & ice cube trays.

Did you know that 1 tablespoon is equal to 1 cube in a basic ice cube tray?

This discovery helped me with my day-to-day eating on the go and also has been a brilliant solution for nut or seed butter portion control 101 ... we all know how easy 1 tbsp can turn into 1/2 cup when eyeballed and measured with our stomachs. 

Here's what I do. Add a bit of melted coconut oil to my softened nut butter (for me it's sunflower seed).

Why?

Coconut oil is solid at room temp and condenses quickly at lower temperature, which allows for the cubes to be stored in the fridge as solid squares and not gooey messes. I like to add in some cinnamon and maple extract, then portion and stick in the the freezer for a bit to harden. Pop out the cubes and store in the fridge.

There you have it - an easy grab and go fat serving without the mess, fuss and no chance to deviate! 

Building Gratitude

The Gensis of #thankfulTuesday

For as long as I can remember I have have tried to take time everyday to reflect and find gratitude for the ‘little’ things in life. I'm not sure why, but on April 24th, 2014 I was compelled to share my thoughts with anyone who wanted to read them. 

Regardless of where I've been in the world, what deadlines I've had, or challenges ahead - I've taken time each Tuesday to share a message of personal gratitude. 

There have been days where I've had to choke back tears while writing my post, and others where I went over the social media word count by 1000. I will say this, spreading 'thanks' in either of these situations, has been and will be more powerful than I think I will ever fully understand. 

The feedback I have received over the years from these posts has been truly amazing, humbling, and special. When I first started my mini-mission, I would have never thought that one little post each week could have as much impact on my life, or the lives of others.  

So why do I do it? Why do I ask myself each Tuesday to share the answer to the question,  what are you thankful for? It's simple, really. 

Working, training, launching a personal training company, going to school full time, keeping relationships, being a present daughter and sister, and trying to figure out my health issues took it's toll on me. Midway through my undergrad degree, I fell into 'the grind'. I fell so deep and hard that I forgot to stop, breathe and be grateful for the world around me.

Both of my worlds - the academic and industry abyss - are fast-paced, dog-eat-dog kind of deals. I let them swallow me up. Spit me out. And swallow me up again a few more times, before I realized what I had done. In and among the deadlines, long hours and pursuit of perfectionism, I had surrendered any sense of gratitude for the very things that kept me grounded, the one that would help me grow, or just 'be.' 

Fast forward, and here we are. Over 3.5 years later, and gratitude has become my tool, teaching, blessing, coping strategy, motivator, method, and meditation.

It's my road map for this crazy beautiful journey I am on. It's the vessel for my passion, and my compass for when the seas around me get rough. It's the Polaroid I use to capture the brilliance unfolding around me, and the fuel for my purpose. 

You see, gratitude is so much more than a formula for personal success, self-help fad, or cult movement. When you are genuinely thankful, it is simply a way of life.

My wish for ... or maybe it's a actually a challenge to anyone reading this is to take time and reflect the simplest and most life-giving things around you.

Stop. Breathe. Be thankful.

Trust me. Life can and will get crazy sometimes. It is cruel and unforgiving, but there really is something to be said about time to ask yourself 5 words in order to wake up and see how beautiful life really is. Try it. Ask yourself, what are you thankful for? Don't think too hard about your answer, just throw down whatever the first thing that comes to mind is.

Today I am thankful for -

My loved ones, my body and health. I am thankful for me - and not just on Tuesdays but each and every day.

I am thankful for the gift of life, because no matter how wild it may be at times, this in itself is the most beautiful thing of all.

 

With love & gratitude, 

Victoria Felkar

 

P.s. If you dare to join me on this adventure, don't forget to hashtag #thankfulTuesday

 

 

How Muscle Became Bad.

Maybe being muscular isn’t all it’s built up to be.

 

You’ve been mugged.

Late one night under the cover of darkness you found yourself blindly cowering at hands of an attacker. You didn’t see the guy who attacked you but the police still call you in to view a line-up of possible suspects. From right to left your eyes scan over 4 men. Too old … too skinny … too short ... eureka! Standing in front of you is a complete monster with arms so big that they could burst through his shirt at any second. Even without ever laying eyes on your mugger, you don’t have a single doubt in your mind that this jacked-up animal is him. That’s the criminal who attacked you.

Although the above is simply a fictional story it represents a powerful and inescapable stereotype that for decades has haunted those with muscles.

Got muscle? Welcome to a lifetime of typecasting as a violent, mentally-ill, unintelligent, steroid using criminal – and if you’re a female then you can add the fact that somehow you’ve suddenly grown balls and have dreams of becoming a man.

But how can this be? We’ve all got muscle to some extend or another. So, why is a muscular body ridiculed, criminalized and condemned? Since when did muscle become bad?

To answer this we must to turn back the clock to the late-1800s. Here in the shadows of a time known for many great discoveries, is the start of a long and disturbing history that continues to promote what a criminal body looks like.   

Emerging as a product of Darwinism, the field of criminology started as a way to help society identify and get rid of anyone that they perceived to be ‘bad’. For example, in Italy a physician and psychiatrist named Cesare Lombroso began to make claims that all criminals had similar physical features. How could a crooked nose and anchor tattoo on the arm of a sailor automatically condemn a man as criminal?

Such ideas quickly found their way across the Atlantic and with America’s growing prison system more theories of what it meant to look like a criminal erupted. Here’s when muscle first got added into the mix.  

By the turn of the 19th century the notion of muscular Christianity gained popularity throughout the United States - which linked muscle building to improving morality. This movement inspired prison officials at New York’s Elmira Reformatory to use physical activity and sport as a way to fight the physical decay that had become associated with criminality. That’s right, being muscular was thought to make a man less criminal.

The support for men to build muscular bodies continued into the turn of the 20th century. A growing sport movement was taking Western nations by storm and event such as the first modern Olympics of 1896 helped to show the world what being physical fit could do for a man’s body and mind. Clear boundaries of how much muscle was socially tolerable was set by the same field that has brought to us the science of body composition testing – the field of anthropometry.

For the average man some muscle and strength was desired … but if you went too far … got too big and too strong then you were literally forced to run off and join the circus. As traveling performers, strongmen and women helped to build popular opinion of the muscular body – often one of curiosity and mystery. Muscle had now been made into another sideshow act of the Freak show.                                   

The arrival of Prussian strongman and founder of bodybuilding, Eugen Sandow to the United States further developed public interest in a heavily muscled physique. Sandow’s vaudeville acts were closely followed by the launch of Bernarr MacFadden Physical Culture magazine in 1899. Headed by the motto “Weakness is a crimedon't be a criminal!” the magazine revealed to the average man all the fitness and diet strategies needed to develop a mainstream muscular physique.

And so another element is added into the muscular myth. Too much muscle will turn you into a one-man circus freak show … but too little muscle makes you a criminal.

Even after the horrific Nazi eugenics movement defined the muscular male body as god-like there was little judgement against muscle within popular culture – that was until in the 1950’s the father of somatotyping, William Sheldon, suddenly defined muscle as bad.

Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, his work was a melting pot of pseudo-science, power struggles and dirty money. To say it nicely, Sheldon was a bit of a crock – and unfortunately a very resilient one.

Here’s what Sheldon preached. All male bodies can fit into 3 basic body types – endomorph, mesomorph and ectomorph - an idea that many of us in the fitness industry know well.

BUT here’s something most don’t know about somatotyping theory. Sheldon specifically promoted that men with muscular mesomorphic bodies are more prone to criminal activity, violence and aggressive acts.  

Exploring the merits of body typing theory is beyond the scope of this article. It’s one that we can have another day, but regardless of if you agree with the disillusion of somatotyping or not there is one very important take away message here.

Sheldon’s work and those who followed in his theoretical footprints have created an incredibly stigmatizing message about the muscular body:

Muscularity = Deviance.

Muscularity = Aggression.

Deviance + Aggression = Criminality.

It would be easy for me to end the story there but unfortunately there is a lot more to this dangerous equation. And so we continue in the 1970s. Thanks to Arnold Schwarzenegger something really interesting happen that would for better or worse rebuilt muscles reputation.

In bodybuilding circles Arnold and Pumping Iron have been regarded for bringing bodybuilding into the mainstream but they did much more than just that – they helped to change what it meant to look like a man… muscles! Suddenly muscle became the standard for American manhood. That’s right muscularity = masculinity.

Size now mattered when it came to muscle, and it was nowhere more apparent than in the media. By the early 1980s the hard-bodied action star dominated the silver screen and made a place for heavily-muscled bodies within popular culture. Pair this with an enormous in spike in films suddenly showing jacked-up inmates pumping iron in the pen and we can start to see a highly visible - yet completely false - representation of exactly what Sheldon’s research stated… the big bad bodies of muscular criminals.  

Back behind the gates of academia, researchers continued to pump-out studies focusing on how muscularity was responsible for criminal behaviour. As if being muscular wasn’t bad enough, during the early 90s researchers had started to explore the relationship of testosterone to criminal behaviour. One study went as far to state a “well-established relationship” between testosterone’s effects on the brain and body build – but get this. The researchers state that testosterone only enhances upper body muscle. Unfortunately, this particular study became the media’s go-to source to try to explain everyday acts of criminal behaviour.

Fast forward to today. Where does having a muscular physique get you in 2015? For both men and women this remains a conversation full of complex contradictions.

While there continues to be an open disrespect for bodybuilding and the culture of muscle it represents, there is also a sense of admiration and respect for those who have average or “good” levels of muscularity.

Rigid social norms require men to have some muscle in order to be considered masculine, and it is necessary for female and male athletes to have heightened levels of musculature in order to achieve sporting excellence.

Furthermore, when female muscle serves a functional purpose such as when a Xfit athlete flings her body over a chin up bar in a convulsing motion society seems to be a-ok with her shredded six-pack but when this same body is posed on stage in front double bicep wearing a sparkly bikini her body suddenly becomes grotesque and “manly.”

Don’t forget about the absolutely absurd pathologization of muscle as a mental illness, such as Dr. Harrison Pope’s psychological diagnosis of “muscle dysmorphia” or bigeroxia. Pope and his colleagues have such strong ideas on what is are ‘appropriate’ levels of muscle and the wrongful desire to work out that they have created a mathematical formula (the Fat Free Mass Index) to determine the level of musculature a person can achieve without anabolic steroid use. How’s that for science!

And if it wasn’t complex enough, the condemnation of muscle has morphed into an all-out war against performance enhancing agents and the ridiculous automatic vilification of anabolic steroids and those who use them. Regardless of their rich and vast cultural history, the discussion of anabolic steroids revolves around a combination of legal, ethical and medical arguments that steroid use is unfair, unethical, medically dangerous but above all criminal.

Furthermore, most popular discourse around anabolic steroid use pertains to only one user, and one user alone – the muscular male. This is nowhere more clearly exemplified than in Sweden’s recent law changes which now allow police officers to search, arrest, and conduct mandatory drug testing based “anabolic steroids physical characteristics” such as “puffy and bloated body” and “swaying walk.”

How do the police get away with blatant acts of stereotyping in the 21st century? It’s a little something the legal system calls “probable cause” based on a person’s physical appearance. Like skin color or ethnic background, muscularity should not provide the grounds for violating someone’s basic human rights and personal privacy.

Let’s get something straight here.

Muscle itself is neutral in biology.

It is neither male or female – nor is it wicked, immoral or evil. Having varying degrees of muscularity does not produce more or less intelligence, aggression, mental illness or criminal behaviour.

In its most pure form, muscle is simply a grouping of muscle fiber cells surrounded by some connective tissue - yet, overtime society has and continues to constructed particular meanings and definitions of what it means to be muscular ... we have made muscle bad.

Simply put, being muscular isn’t all that it is built-up to be.

 

 

Originally Published: Feature, Muscle Insider Magazine, 24: Aug/Sept 2015

 

 

Clearing Up Clenbuterol

A Dopers Delight or Misused Stimulant?

Following the Olympics in 1992, a new breed of stimulant gained global recognition. Hailed as the “dopers delight”, this anti-asthma medication was special. Not only could it be used as a stimulant but many believed it could also enhance muscle growth. Only 4 years earlier, steroid guru Dan Duchaine introduced the bodybuilding world to this same drug - which to this day remains one of our sports most misunderstood and misused compounds: Clenbuterol Hydrochloride.

Targeting specific receptor sites in the body’s sympathetic nervous system (SNS), Clen is a selective beta-2 sympathomimetic… wait, a what?

A car backfires and subconsciously you jump off your couch - this is an automatic physiological response initiated by our SNS in response to a perceived threat. Known as fight-or-flight, this response is the result of the release of a hormone called norepinephrine (NE). To work, NE has to bind and activate a specific receptor in your body called a beta-2 receptor. Think of this like a lock and key. Only one key (NE) can both fit (bind) and unlock (activate) one lock (beta-2 receptor).

This is where Clen comes in. Clen acts as a “fake” key that can unlock only some beta-2 receptors (why it’s called “selective”).  

Although its labeled use is an anti-asthma medication, Clen is able to unlock fat and muscle tissue cells throughout the body. Like other beta-2 agonists, clen is a “thermogenic” = Clen-sweats. This is caused by an increase in body temperature and metabolic rate, as well as its ability to directly target fat cell breakdown of triglycerides to free fatty acids is what makes Clen such as popular “fat loss” drug.

Its anabolic capabilities however are still up for debate. Although since the early 90s bros have been using clen as a part of post-cycle therapy or as an alternative to steroids to get “lean-gains”, there remains no human research (animal studies only) that provide evidence to support an increase in lean muscle mass as a result of clen. Regardless, Clen has become a stable drug for many athletes both inside and out of bodybuilding. While Clen-shreds may sound enticing, they certainly don’t come without controversy and concern. It doesn’t matter how Clen gets into your body – inhaled, pill or liquid form, or injected, remember this: Clen is dangerous.

Keep in mind that clen is different than other beta-2 agonists or stimulants based off: specificity, potency, and duration of effect. This makes for steady, strong blood levels of Clen, which often are easy to achieve with just a single or twice-daily dose (thanks to its 35-hour half-life). After a few weeks (usually 4-6 weeks) the body’s beta-2 receptors slowly stop responding due to a process called “down regulation” … simply put, they stop responding and require rest (aka. stop the drug).

However, like other performance enhancers, Clen is great at turning users into complete idiots by tempting them with magical everlasting results. What follows is the “more is better, longer is better” complex.       

From developing a psychological dependency based off ill-informed perceptions that Clen can be used long term, to the fact that users gauge the effectiveness of the drug based off the presence initial side effects such as shaky hands, insomnia, sweating and nausea – it appears that we have a growing Clenhead epidemic on our hands.  

Yes, initial side effects should dissipate after a few days and this does NOT mean that the drug has stopped working, so please stop boosting the dose to supersonic levels and somehow believe that stacking it with other stimulants will results in “better results” and not a cardiac arrest. Wake up and education yourself on drug dependency and the long term effects of Clen that happen even after beta-2 receptors stop “responding.”

Not only that, due to its strength, long half-life, and perceived effectiveness, there is such thing as Clen toxicity – which is why in Canada it’s not available for human use even with a prescription, and within veterinary practice has dramatically declined over the past few years.

Clen has never been made available for human or animal use in the US, and within sport clen it is completely banned regardless of the fact that some countries around the world (Bulgaria, Russia and China) continuing to prescribe it as a therapeutic drug. (… cough cough, the IOC wonders why there has been an increase of athletes with “asthma”).

Since the mid-90’s, it’s even illegal to use Clen to bulk-up livestock. Not only were the animals questionable, but those who ate Clen’d meat suffered symptoms of Clen overdose, such as fever, vomiting and diarrhea. Just an FYI to athletes who travel - be mindful that not all countries have banned its use in livestock. Anti-doping agencies have reported a number of cases where athletes tested positive for Clen after eating contaminated meat … or at least that’s what the athlete told officials after being caught Clen-handed.

Regardless of the fact that Clen is pretty much illegal for ALL consumption, it continues to be widely available on the black market and used for performance enhancement. From the consumption of cocaine in 18th century, amphetamine use during cold-war and now to today’s Clenheads – even though athletes have been using stimulants for centuries it doesn’t make it safe or smart. 

 

Originally Published: Insider Controversy, Muscle Insider Magazine, 29: June/July 2016

 

Protein YamOatie Waffles

Wet Ingredients:
20oz yams, cooked & mashed
3 tbsp Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
2.5 tbsp All-Natural Egg Replacer pre-mixed with 5 tbsp cold water
2 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract (alcohol-free)
2 tsp Pure Maple Extract

Dry Ingredients:
14 scoops @truenutrition Vanilla Birthday Cake Cold-Filtration Whey Isolate or a Dairy Free protein option
1.75 cup Gluten Free Oat Bran (blended into flour - I use a coffee grinder) 
1 tsp baking powder + 1 tsp baking soda
Dash of sea salt
1.5 tbsp cinnamon
3 packages of Pure Via Stevia

Using a food processor or mixer pre-blend the yams to make sure they are lump-free. Add in rest of "wet" ingredients and blend. Add in "dry" ingredients and blend until just mixed (to reduce making bubbles!). Should be a lava-like consistency. 

Once waffle iron is pre-heated (I use setting 3 on mine - not too hot) spray with coconut oil or olive oil cooking spray. Pour 1/2 cup of batter into iron and cook until done.

Makes x11 classic-sized waffles.


Each full waffle = 39g PRO / 32g CHO / 7g FAT (347 calories)

 

More than a body.

For over 6 years, I struggled with how to be more than a body, while working in the industry that builds them.

It prevented me from getting information out into the world, and stopped me from being able to do good. Unfortunately, I allowed the social norms that I fight so hard within my work to break me, crippling the ability to engage, advocate, and create positive action through education. But, not anymore.

I'm no longer going to hide behind my articles, stay locked in lecture halls or in the shadows of backstage. Slowly but surely, I’m building the foundation needed to share my ideas, knowledge, research and passions. In the age of personal branding, social media and visual culture, this meant that I had to get in front of a camera. So, I did it my way.

Thanks to Rommel Ramirez, the images and experience was better than I could have ever hoped for. 

 

No tan, no prep, no diet or protocol were needed. I did my own make-up as I do on most mornings and attempted to conceal my bad skin. My hair was dirty and roots were showing. I was awkward, had no idea how to pose, and couldn’t wait to be home, in my pajamas and writing. But that's all exactly how it should have been, because that's who I am

How can I be more than a body, while being apart of the industry that builds them? For better or worse, followers lost or gained, challenges faced and questions asked, I will be me.

 

With love & gratitude,

Victoria Felkar


p.s. Don’t let the 15lb dumbbells fool you. Strength isn’t always measured by numbers. 

 

Photos by Rommel Ramirez
http://ramirezcreative.com/
IG: @ramirez.creative.photography
FB: @ramirezcreative26

 

 

Booty for Thought

Time to dish out some#bootyforthought with some of MY fundamentals for how I train hams and glutes.

Key being these are my PERSONAL philosophies and practices that have been developed over time from both experience and knowledge. I've spent a lot of time in the trenches and in lecture halls, and have had the ability to work with some amazing mentors over the years. The way that I program, and thus my training is tailored for MY body, MY goals and MY health.

Lower body training has always been my favourite, as nothing is as comforting as a good hard leg workout. Seriously my mantra used to be "when life gives you lemons, train legs." And so I did, trying old school bodybuilding plans and powerlifting phases, along with just about every program that made theoretical and logical sense to me. Over the years I've come to see a good workout like a well written story - there is a beginning, a middle (with a 'climax' at some point) that then should flow into the end. These 3 elements are always there, they are a constant but how each are programmed depends on many different variables.

There could be a slow start with a lot of activation exercises and warm-up sets, maybe the climax occurs early in the middle with an epic set of pyramid squats or a few pre-fatigue sets, and then to end there could be a grand finale or "finisher" that will leave a lasting impression. Just like in a good story there are different characters or key concepts that are incorporated throughout the workout - such as the way a set is executed (ie. intensity, timing, tension, weight, ROM) or the order that the exercises are done (ie. exercise sequencing or pairing based off a specific goal).

Make no mistake, these are NOT random, there is always intention and rationale for where they are used, how they are used and why they are used.