Fantastic Figure Athlete Melissa Fischer Talks To M&S
Major accomplishments in your sport:
- Overall winner NGA Windy City Classic Sept 2011 – Received NGA Pro Card.
- Overall winner and 35+ Masters NANBF Great Lakes Muscle Classic Oct 2011 – Received IFPA Pro Card.
What is your athletic background, and how did you get involved with fitness and weight training?
I’ve always been active and have enjoyed weightlifting and running. I took dance and ballet from the time I was 3, off and on until high school. I also participated in track, volleyball and softball through grade school and high school.
After having my three children, when my youngest was 2, my husband got deployed to Afghanistan with the Army. While I had been working out, I wasn’t as consistent as I had once been before having children. I was determined to get back on track to relieve stress and to make sure I had the energy needed to care for my kids on my own. Unfortunately, my two year old son had different plans and refused to go to the daycare at the gym.
Feeling defeated, I went into a slump and didn’t workout for 6 months. Needless to say, being at home on my own with 3 small kids, I felt exhausted and depressed. During that time I put on some weight and felt worse than I had in years.
One day I decided enough was enough. I headed back to the gym, and began working on shedding the weight. I also started running again and participated in my first half marathon. I was in great shape but was getting bored with my routine in the gym.
I hired a trainer to get some new training ideas. I also took his advice and started changing my eating habits. I began to log everything I ate, and started focusing on eating every 3 hours, and began closely watching my macros. I was amazed to see a huge difference in my body.
I was still doing the weight training, but running much less, and eating super clean. I was in awe at the way my body had had changed simply from more focused weight training, less cardio, and a clean diet. I developed muscles I never knew I had!
One day a friend stopped by to visit. She had been to a few competitions and after seeing how much I had changed, suggested I do one. I hadn’t even taken her seriously until I had a couple more people at my gym suggest it as well. I never thought I would put on a bathing suit and get up on a stage. Not only did I never think I could be in that kind of shape, but I never thought I’d have the confidence to do it at my age.
What do you love most about figure?
I love the hard work and mental focus that goes into preparing for a show. I also like setting a goal, and motivating myself to work towards it.
I also love meeting new people. I have met so many people with such inspirational stories. People who have overcome cancer, and debilitating car accidents to name a few. And I’ve stepped on stage with 60 year old women who don’t look a day over 40! THAT is inspiration.
What keeps you motivated?
I really motivate myself. I have always been that way. I get motivated by setting a goal for myself and working towards it. So stepping on that stage in the Spring, and knowing I’m giving it my all is my motivation. It comes from within. I love working hard which crosses over to my training.
Who were your heroes growing up and how did they help inspire you to get involved with figure?
I wouldn’t say I had any heroes growing up, but my parents are my role models for working hard, and staying fit. They have always weight trained, and have always been athletic and active. I remember lifting for the first time with my Dad and his friends in his buddy’s garage, and my mother running laps around the neighborhood before we were even awake in the mornings.
What are your future goals, dreams and plans?
My immediate goal is to place in the top three in my upcoming Pro shows in the Spring, in order to qualify for the Yorton cup. In addition to that I would like to get my personal trainer certification so I can help others achieve their health and fitness goals.
What does your current training and split look like, and what do you like most about it?
Currently I have a 3 to 4 day split.
I begin each session with compound movements like squats and deadlifts. I try to switch up my routine a lot and I incorporate supersets and drop sets. If I try an exercise and I don’t get a good feel for it, I don’t do it.
I have found that focusing on my form and really getting a good squeeze at the top of the exercise has helped me to see more definition. The only thing I don’t like about my routine are my off days. They drive me crazy.
How often do you perform cardio?
I always do my cardio after my weight training sessions. L am working with Team Wilson, and he currently has me doing two 15 minute sessions of HIIT, and two 15 minute sessions on MIIS each week. As it gets closer to my competitions, I will likely be doing more cardio. I love to run and I used to run 6 or 7 miles 3 to 4 times a week.
Cutting back on my cardio has been one of the most difficult parts of my training. I also used to do my runs first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. I have learned since working with Cliff Wilson from Team Wilson that contrary to popular beliefs, training on an empty stomach is a recipe for muscle loss.
Do you supplement your weight training and cardio with any other physical activities?
At least once a week I do a full body, high intensity plyometrics class. Mike Neuman with Impact Fitness in Bradley, IL, runs this class and it’s a full body, butt kicking, exhausting workout. We do a series of high intensity circuits for about 30 minutes.
Incorporating this class helps me mix up my cardio, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s exhausting. So you know you’ve gotten an awesome workout.
What are your thoughts on fasted cardio?
I used to do fasted cardio almost every time I ran. Since working with Cliff Wilson, I never do fasted cardio. He has taught me that although eating before cardio will lead to more stored carbs being used as energy, it has also been proven that it does not matter if calories burned come from stored fat or stored carbs.
The fat loss results will still be the same. Eating before cardio will increase performance and in turn lead to more calories being burned. It also will lead to spared liver glycogen which will prevent muscle tissue from being used for energy.
Which do you prefer, and why…steady state cardio or HIIT?
If I can’t go for a long run outdoors, then I prefer HIIT. I am not a fan of moving slowly. It’s just not in my nature. If I can only run or do cardio for 15-20 minutes I usually do it indoors. So when I do, I’d rather hit it hard.
In addition, it just makes sense if you’re going to do cardio to do HIIT. You can burn more calories in a shorter amount of time, while boosting your fat loss without losing muscle mass.
What are some of your best training tips for someone who just wants to look good and ripped, but doesn’t want to compete?
The first rule is diet. If you want to get ripped, you have to eat clean. You can workout everyday, lift hard and heavy, but until you begin eating clean, you’re not going to see results.
Before I even thought about competing I began closely watching my macros. I logged my carbs/fats/proteins at each meal, and I began drinking 1½ gallons of water every day. I ate every 3 to 3½ hours. I did not set out to compete. I just made these changes in my lifestyle and I was amazed at how I looked after a couple months.
I also cut back on my cardio, and started focusing more on my form while weight lifting.
What are your favorite 5 muscle building exercises and why?
Squats and deadlifts. They work your whole body. And they just take a lot of power to perform. I hadn’t done squats in a long time prior to training for my show, and they made a huge difference in my legs. The same with deadlifts. My focus has been bringing up my back during my offseason. I think I’ve made some good gains, and deadlifts have been one of the key components.
I also like chin-ups, weighted tricep dips, and hammer curls.
Do you have any gym, muscle building or fitness pet peeves?
People who scream profanities in the gym while they’re lifting.
What are your best tips for getting ripped and shredded abs?
Diet, diet, diet. And weighted exercises.
What advanced training techniques work well for you?
What does your post-workout nutrition and supplementation look like?
Before and after each workout I take a combination of protein and carbs in my training shakes. I also use creatine, glutamine, and BCAAs. I also take fish oil, a multivitamin, and vitamin D.
What does your off-season bulking (eating) plan look like?
I just went through my first off-season bulking phase. I left it all up to Cliff with Team Wilson. I gained about ten to fifteen pounds, and I’m slowly beginning to lean out. He slowly raised my carbs and fats and had me doing minimal cardio. I was able to eat whatever I wanted within my macros, and whenever I wanted.
In recent weeks I was up to 300 carbs a day. I worked in pizza, ice cream, and pancakes! That off-season is essential for sanity purposes. By doing these things, it will make my metabolism more sensitive to the food and cardio the closer I get to contest time.
How do you prepare meals? Do you cook daily or cook for the week?
I’m currently in the very early cutting stages, so right now I’m still eating quite a few carbs. I’m cooking daily now but once my diet becomes more strict I will cook up most of my chicken and sweet potatoes once a week to have for the week.
If I know I won’t be home to eat I will pack and prepare my meals in advance and take them with me. My typical meals include chicken or tuna, green beans or spinach, and sweet potatoes or brown rice. When I’m craving something bad I’ll make Jamie Eason’s protein bars. They’re like chocolate brownies!
What are your favorite cheat meals and foods?
Birthday cake and frosting! I also love sushi, and appetizers…chips and dips are a big weakness.
What are your thoughts of niche diet approaches like the Paleo Diet, Adkins Diet, Keto Runs, the Warrior Diet, Intermittent Fasting, etc.?
I think until you commit to eating clean foods 90% of the time, and balancing your carb/fat/protein intake, is the only way to go. Eventually this way of eating has to be come a lifestyle change. You can’t “diet” and expect to look good for the rest of your life. You have to commit to changing the way you eat, and stick with those changes.
Eating clean for a few months while you lose 10 pounds is great, but you can’t go back to eating the way you did before, or you’ll just look the way you did before. It’s pretty simple.
How important is carb cycling when trying to cut fat and retain muscle?
I think they are very important. I notice faster weight loss when I carb cycle. It really speeds up my metabolism. Once my metabolism gets running, I end up dropping weight after my high carb days. I haven’t had high carb days during my bulking phase and I’m anxious to ad them back in while I start to lean out.
What does your current supplementation plan look like?
With breakfast I take creatine, fish oil, a multivitamin, and vitamin D. After my workout I take another multivitamin, and fish oil as well. I’ll have a protein shake before and after my workouts with creatine, glutamine, and BCAAs. I also drank a gallon of water with 15g of BCAAs everyday as well.
What are some of your favorite supplements and why?
I love Optimum Nutrition chocolate peanut butter casein. When dieting it’s what I look forward to for my bedtime snack!! I also use Xtend BCAAs and Primaforce Glutaform and Creaform.
What are your favorite meals and foods?
I love white cheddar rice cakes with laughing cow cheese. It’s like eating chips and dip! I also love Mexican themed meals. Clean fajitas, tacos with lean ground turkey and corn tortillas with avocado and Greek yogurt. I love sweet potatoes, and oatmeal, Greek yogurt and almonds. I sprinkle them with cinnamon and stevia.
I have to cook for my family so I try to incorporate meals they will like and eat and that I can eat with them as well. Turkey meat loaf, pasta with turkey sausage, BBQ chicken, sirloin roasts. I just try to read my labels, use lean meats, and incorporate a lot of vegetables.
How important is nutrient timing for performance and/or building muscle?
On training days the timing of my meals is very strict. I have a training shake immediately before and after my workout, and I have my pre and post training meals 1½ to 2 hours within my workout as well. On training days, the majority of my calories are around my training.
Workout music – Don’t care, or MP3 player?
Music is essential. Anything fast and upbeat. Flo-rida, Black Eyed Peas, Maroon 5, The Black Keys and Pitbull are a few on my IPod right now.
What are some of your favorite motivational quotes?
“Be confident. Too many days are wasted comparing ourselves to others and wishing to be something we aren’t. Everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses, and it is only when you accept everything you are – and aren’t – that you will truly succeed.”
“The more you know who you are and what you want, the less you let things upset you” – Bob Harris from Lost in Translation.
If someone wants to connect with you, where can you be found?
Do you have any tips for someone who is looking to compete in your sport?
Don’t be afraid to reach out to other competitors. Everyone is happy to help. Surround yourself with people who support you and your goals. It makes your training easier knowing you have people around you who understand what you’re going through.
What attracts you to the natural side of sports and competition?
Anyone can use drugs to increase strength and alter the way the look. To me it’s the easy way out. With natural bodybuilding, you are at the mercy of working with what God gave you. To me that is what is admirable, and inspirational about natural bodybuilding.
People dedicate years trying to perfect their physique. It requires patience, determination, dedication, and hard work.
Favorite activities and hobbies you enjoy when away from the gym?
Spending time with my family, being outdoors, gardening, reading, cooking.
Movies and TV shows you’ve enjoyed recently?
Bridesmaids. I was crying.