What 1 Year of Training Strongman Looks Like plus Carb Cycling and Stacy’s Mocha Protein Smoothie Recipe

featured image strong post

This time a year ago I declared I wanted to be strong. And I’ve certainly accomplished that goal! In fact, in less than one year I’ve trained hard enough to believe I may be able to earn a ticket to Nationals by competing in two upcoming contests this summer, where I’ll have a chance if I place top 3 in either contest. I’ve surpassed all my goals, found family in my strong team and overall found a new passion. I’ve even got a big strong project coming for you soon!

Over the year I wrote a few posts that you may remember or read if you haven’t yet: I Want to Be Strong, I Am Strong, I Am NOVA’s Strongest Woman, 50 Tips to Get Seriously Strong, and Building Emotional Strength through Strongman. But more than that, this year I actually became a strongman athlete, a teammate, a competitor – being completely new to me, it has been quite an exciting journey.

Unfortunately after March I had to take it a bit slow. I’ve continued my training, but at a much reduced rate. Why? Well, I had to write and finish Real Life Paleo! But, now that the book is turned in I’m back to training hard and often. Next weekend I plan to compete at Commonwealth Games in Roanoke, VA on July 26th and then again at the NoVA Summer Showdown August 23rd.

Alright, to the fun stuff…

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane with lots of pictures and videos, shall we? (sorry, but I’ve warned you about these ubiquitously photo-heavy posts before!)

In March I competed in and won the title of NOVA’s Strongest Woman, Heavyweight Novice – this was my first competitive athletic event, ever.

Team NOVA at Capital Classic on PaleoParents

Then I supported a lot of the same women and NOVA Strongmen at the Capital Classic Strongman competition, where 4 out of 5 of our strong team took home trophies!

RVA Alpha Strongman with PaleoParents RVA Alpha Summer Showdown on PaleoParents

I also spectated for Richmond’s RVA Alpha Strongman Showdown where several men from our gym competed and also took trophies! Then we all went and ate, ’cause that’s what strong people like to do…

Team NOVA at Star Spangled on PaleoParentsThe Boys at Star Spangled on PaleoParents

Over the 4th of July I went and cheered on my strong sisters, Nicole and Vivian for the Brute Strength Gym’s Star Spangled Strongman competition. Viv took first place (again) and Nicole did awesome in her first open division competition! Since this was in my hometown of Virginia Beach, even the boys came to spectate ♥

Stacy Lifts at Brute on PaleoParents

While at Brute I got my lifting on, too! (click here for that video) And now I’m prepping for my upcoming competitions by accomplishing my long-time Strong(wo)man goal of pulling and lifting vehicles! I’ve really only been training for this upcoming competition for a couple of weeks, but I’m feeling strong and prepared and ready to crush it!

I’m sensing a theme here… NOVA Strong is a fantastic team of supportive, dedicated athletes with awesome coaching and programming by Mike Lusby. This is why when we show up at competitions, we take home bling!

Over the year I learned:

Mike & Stacy at NOVA Strong on PaleoParents Strong Team at NOVA Strong on PaleoParents

None of this is possible without a good coach and friends with whom you enjoy working out.

GNO at NOVA on PaleoParents

Strongman even makes awesome Girls Night Outs!

Strong Woman Problems on PaleoParentsStrongWoman Problems on PaleoParents

Button-up shirts (even ones a size too big) and jeans don’t like upper back and leg muscles.

Stacy's Shoulders on PaleoParents

I like my shoulders. Despite the fact that they don’t fit into any shirts that aren’t polyester or spandex.

A Scale is Not Your Friend on PaleoParents

You cannot measure your progress by a number on the scale. Many inches have been lost and gained, all in the right places. The scale, after tormenting me with increased weight, has been officially thrown out!

 Recovery on PaleoParentsRecovery with PaleoParents

Ice baths and Kinseology Tape are good for something and not just something to make athletes look cool. The tape comes from Airrosti, which is a soft tissue version of chiropractic. It has done wonders on a knee injury from 2013 that has been inflamed since and the physical therapy movements have helped my body learn how to engage different muscle groups properly – helping with overall strength and balance!

Stacy Lifts 225lb Stone on PaleoParents Stacy Pushes a Giant Truck on Paleo Parents

My back is strong. I mean, my quads are crazy. But my back, it’s where I do very well in events for the sport. I’ve learned the combination of the two strengths (legs and back) make moving events like lifting this 225lb stone, farmer’s (speed) walking with 225lbs in each hand (450lbs total), walking with a 450lb yoke on my back, pulling vehicles, lifting cars and pushing trucks, my best events. (click the links for videos)

AIP Works on PaleoParents

I’m no longer intolerant to a lot of foods I used to be after years on a modified paleo autoimmune protocol (outlined in The Paleo Approach, our review is here). I’ve been able to successfully reintroduce eggs, high quality dairy, moderate amounts of nuts, coffee, chocolate, and even some nightshades! It’s a good thing, because I’ve been eating a lot of eggs lately in order to get enough protein in!

Strong Woman Fuel at PaleoParentsStrong Woman Fuel on PaleoParents

And last but not least, it take a lot of food to fuel a strong woman… in fact, quite a number of you have been asking about how I have been fueling lately so I thought I’d address it head on.

I’ve also included a recipe for my favorite dairy-free Mocha Protein Smoothie , since another thing I learned is that protein within the first 30 minutes of waking up helps jump start my metabolism, regulate my appetite, and curbs cravings. Not to mention, protein helps boost my strength over the long-haul! Unfortunately eating a full meal high in protein first thing in the morning doesn’t digest well for me (I’m sensitive since I don’t have a gallbladder), so this smoothie has become my new go-to for every morning.

Stacy's Protein Smoothie at PaleoParents Stacy's Protein Smoothie on PaleoParents


Dairy-Free Mocha Protein Smoothie

Yield: 1 serving



  1. Blend everything together and enjoy within 30 minutes of waking!

Plans to further improve? (aka Carb Cycling)

Once upon a time I could decide to do some self-experiments and then let you guys know how it worked out. Then I started an Instagram account, and now all of you know what I’m doing before I have a chance to even test it out for myself! So while I intended to write a post about my paleo carb-cycling experiments after I’d had a chance to actually test it out, I thought I’d write the post on what I’m working my way through in order to answer all the questions I’m getting.

Here’s the run down – I’m following the fit carb cycling program outlined in Choose to Lose by Chris Powell. I’ve been very open and honest about the fact that I haven’t been focused on losing fat over the last year because I wanted my body to focus on gaining strength. However, Chris’s plan is the first I’ve seen that could work for me to do both and not upset my digestive track or hormones. Since most plans for weightloss would be high fat/low carb (my body doesn’t do well on that), require counting of every macro and/or openly say that muscle loss is expected, I wasn’t interested in any of them. However, I like that Chris’s intention is to maintain or improve strength and muscle while also targeting the metabolism to burn fat.

Carb Cycling on PaleoParents Image from ChrisPowell.com for the Fit Carb Cycle Program

The plan is essentially summarized as follows, but I highly recommend you check out his site and get the book, because I am not a medical professional or the person that devised this plan and I’ve only been doing it a week!

  • Drink 1 gallon of water every day (this keeps you full so your meals are satisfying when smaller)
  • Protein at every meal (I aim for no less than 20g per meal and 150-200g for the day total)
  • Eat your first meal of every day to include carbs and protein within the first 30 minutes of waking up
  • Eat all foods during 5 smaller meals a day, every 3 hours apart (I have a timer on my phone for 7:15am, 10:15am, 1:15pm, 4:15pm, 7:15pm)
  • Eat high carb and low fat on your training days
  • Eat low carb and higher fat on your rest days
  • No sweeteners, except fruit or stevia (except treat meals)
  • One “reward day” or 3 “treat meals” are allowed for the full week cycle and only on high-carb days – that means if I want to eat fat and carbs in the same meal, it’s a treat! No more Lara Bars, yuca fries, or coconut milk ice cream y’all! [sad face]

So, the hard part has been figuring out how to eat higher carb on paleo, since the book recommends grains and beans as the substantial part of carbs. It does allow for fruit (although recommends fruit with skin since it encourages fiber with veggies and fruit consumed), which has been a nice addition to my diet and frankly I think I needed more Vitamin C anyway. But the rest of the items just aren’t a possibility for me, so I used the Practical Paleo Dense Carb Guide and have been researching ways to prepare them without butter, sausage and other delicious fats! Certainly, I’m missing my lard right now… but, I promised I’d give this 3-6 weeks, so I’m sticking to my guns!

My paleo-fied versions of Chris’s plan include adding a few grey-area foods that my body tolerates, including low fat Greek yogurt and white rice. There’s just no way I could eat only sweet potato for all these high carb meals on all these training days… I’d turn orange! We make rice with broth to add nutrients and Greek yogurt is a nutrient-rich probiotic so I feel good about that as an added food. I think my biggest concerns are 1) making sure I’m getting in some fat with every meal in order to properly absorb the nutrients while sticking to his outlined low fat requirements for high carb days, and 2) not throwing off my Omega 3/6 ratios with too much lean protein like chicken and only being able to eat organ meats on non-training days. So, how do I do it?

Typical Training Day – Low Fat, High Carb Day:

  • Meal 1: Mocha Protein Smoothie (below)
  • Meal 2: Soup with homemade (not pork) bone broth with a protein (beef heart or chicken usually) and starchy vegetables (potatoes, butternut squash) and maybe rice if there was some leftover from dinner
  • Meal 3: Salad with starchy vegetables (beets, carrots) and protein (usually canned wild tuna), a fruit if wanted with Tessemae’s vinegar (no oil) no fat dressing
  • Meal 4: Greek yogurt with fruit or another protein smoothie
  • Meal 5 (PWO): Meat, starch and vegetable – like steak, plantain and broccoli, or chicken, rice and sauteed greens, or swordfish steak, asparagus and sweet potato

Typical Rest Day – Higher Fat, Low Carb Day:

  • Meal 1: Mocha Protein Smoothie (below)
  • Meal 2: Soup with pork broth, a protein (any kind!) and non-starchy vegetables (like greens, zucchini, mushrooms, onions)
  • Meal 3: Salad with protein (any kind!) and non-starchy vegetables (like celery, mushrooms, avocado) with Tessemae’s or any mayo/oil-based salad dressing (or make homemade tuna or chicken salad with mayo as the dressing)
  • Meal 4: Greek yogurt with berries, a protein smoothie without the banana, Chicken Liver Mousse, nuts and hard boiled eggs, or something with protein and fat that isn’t too heavy pre-workout
  • Meal 5: Meat and non-starchy vegetable – like chicken wings/thighs or salmon with asparagus and salad, steak with mushrooms & onions and kale

I’m documenting all of this on Instagram (as best I can) so that I can do a recap next month, if you’re interested. If you’re considering doing this, PLEASE read the book and don’t just take my layman’s simplified summary. Also, I created a ‘GAINZ’ board on pinterest to capture more paleo recipe ideas that are naturally higher carb and low fat, so feel free to check those out! You’ll notice there is NO sweeteners in any of my meals, except fruit or a “treat” meal/day.

So far I’ve seen my performance in the gym be able to be sustained after a week of doing it, but no difference in measurements for weightloss are expected for 3-6 weeks. So, that’s when I’ll update you all on how it’s going!

Feeling like you want to join in the strong fun?

Recently there’s been some awesome information on the web on how to get started into Strongman, I love seeing the sport gain momentum and interest! If you’re interested in finding a gym near you, check out the Strongman Map to locate one. If you don’t have one near you, check out Jen Sinkler’s 6 week program (especially if you’re a woman!).

And last but not least, if you’re in Virginia, join us for the NOVA Introduction to Strongman Workshop this Saturday July 19th, 2014 or any time posted on the NOVA Strong class list here!

Strongman Intro Class Event


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