This article was first seen on the Huffington Post. For this installment, we are joined by Samantha Dawn Smitchko.
Let’s start off with a general introduction. How would you describe yourself, what are you all about and how did you get involved in health and fitness?
I guess I would describe myself as a realist. I am all about sustainable health and fitness in regards to training and diet. My mom was a bodybuilder in the 80’s so I always looked up to her and found lifting very cool.
I never lifted in high school, but the summer before I started college in 2010 I took a vow to get into shape and start training. The first day of class I walked into the gym and never looked back! My first semester I lost 15lbs.
Where does your motivation come from?
My motivation comes from my followers and the people I follow! Everyone on social media pushing me and supporting me really lights a fire inside of me. I also look up to some of the big name competitors out there; people like Alicia Coates, Nicole Wilkins and Candice Keene. On days when I am feeling unmotivated to go to the gym, all I have to do is scroll through my Instagram feed and that motivates me like crazy.
As you decided to make a career out of your passion – what were your biggest stumbling blocks along the way?
I honestly never expected to become an IFBB Figure Pro. I never in a million years thought it would happen to me. Once I became pro, I found it extremely difficult to step on stage with the pro level caliber of competition. Sure you can be great on an amateur level, but then once you get up to the pro level it is a whole different ball game! This is something I never anticipated.
What’s your perspective on the importance of self-care?
I think self care is important, but many are under a misconception about self-care. Self-care isn’t insanely strict eating and training 7 days a week. Self-care is all about living a balanced life where you eat healthy and train, but still live a life allowing you some freedom. Being extremely rigid is no way to live life enjoyably!
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about women lifting weight?
The main misconception is the whole “bulky” thing. All women believe if they start lifting, especially heavy, that they will “bulk up”. It is extremely difficult to become “bulky” as a woman! Look at the bikini competitors – they weight train all year and still maintain an extremely feminine, slender body. There is most certainly no bulk to them!
Many young women who want to lose weight believe that not eating is the way to do it, without realizing the consequences of that kind of behavior.
Why do you think this is and what’s your perspective on educating society on healthy nutrition habits?
I believe society has beaten the notion of calorie restriction into women’s brains. Many magazines and online information says to limit caloric intake and count calories to lose fat. This is extremely dangerous because before long, you are eating next to nothing on a daily basis, but you still don’t look the way you want to look. This is because your metabolic rate has slowed so much that even if you eat only 1,000 calories per day you’re not going to lose any more weight! This leaves women not only unhappy with their appearance, but also feeling terribly sluggish and mentally drained.
Weight training along with SLIGHT caloric restriction will get you way more results. This is because building muscle will give you a much more toned appearance but will also burn more calories and help you lose more fat than just extreme caloric restriction. It is also much safer because you are depriving your body of nutrients it needs!
What are the most unexpected lessons you’ve learned on your health and fitness journey this far?
1. Everyone is different.
My first coach had me eating way too many calories and I wasn’t losing any fat for my first competition. This amount of calories had worked for my coach, but it wasn’t working for me. I was starting to think something was wrong with me that I couldn’t lose weight eating the same number of calories my coach was consuming to get shredded for her first show. Then over time, I realized that everyone requires something different! I require fewer calories than some people in order to lose fat, and there’s nothing wrong with that! To that same token, some people require more. It’s all about finding what works for you as an individual whether it’s training or nutrition.
2. Don’t blindly follow people.
If you have a coach and their program is making you feel terrible, don’t assume that that is just the way it has to be to reach your fitness goals. You should feel great all the time!
3. Consistency is key.
Yes, I’m sure everyone hears this all the time, but it is absolutely true. After my first competition, I went on this terrible spree of binging on weekends and dieting hard during the week. This is completely counterintuitive and will not lead to making any progress whatsoever. Once I started being consistent with my diet on a daily basis, I finally made some awesome progress!
What do you do to maintain balance in your life?
It is extremely hard to maintain balance in this sport. A lot of times, I get so caught up and get way to extreme with my diet/exercise/career, so every once in awhile I have to pull myself back into reality and go do something fun strictly for myself.
Honestly, my boyfriend has been awesome at helping me maintain balance. He makes me get out of my own head and go do something with him when he can see when I am stressing out or I am getting way too intense.
How do you stay productive?
I’m the kind of person that naturally can’t sit still. I absolutely can’t sit down and relax, because I’m constantly thinking about things I could be doing. I keep my family on their toes with all my crazy business ideas. I look at all of the things I want in life, and I won’t stop until I get them- that’s what keeps me moving.
If you could only choose one thing, what would you tell your younger self?
I promise it gets better!
Can you give a breakdown of your current diet, training and supplementation regimen and the thinking behind it?
Currently I am in the offseason, meaning I’m not dieting too strict and I’m eating more calories than when I am cutting for a show. My calories are essentially at maintenance and I’m actually working with Layne Norton to correct and repair my metabolism this off season.
Competing wreaks havoc on my metabolism, so I’m grateful to have him help me with this. Eating a maintenance/above maintenance calorie level helps to induce muscle growth so I can make some major progress this offseason.
I am also being extremely consistent with my diet this offseason, meaning no extreme “cheat meals”. This is a new approach in comparison to what I’ve done in the past off seasons. The thought process behind this is to not only repair my metabolism, but help build muscle. Thus far I’ve noticed a huge difference in progress!
I make sure I eat adequate protein, i.e. at least 1g of protein/lb of bodyweight and I supplement with amino acids between meals.
What are your biggest life goals for the year?
My biggest life goals are to marry my boyfriend Jon, buy a house with him, and to place top 5 at one of the 2 competitions I will be competing in. I haven’t done well on the pro level thus far, so finishing top 5 is definitely the next goal in my competition career! I also have a new business idea im hoping to set into motion this year- but we will see 😉
Where can people go to learn more about you online?