Muscle & Strength Talks To Fitness Model Angela Das
What is your athletic background, and how did you get involved with figure?
I did a lot of different sports like gymnastics, ballet, swimming and soccer when I was a kid but fell out of it when I got older. I figured that because I was not overweight and still could land modeling jobs quite easily, that I didn’t need to work out so I didn’t make the time to pursue it. Then I had a spontaneous partial lung collapse and was diagnosed with the connective tissue disorder Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome.
I started to weight train in an attempt to alleviate any further complications with that diagnosis and fell in love with being active all over again. I loved that it made me feel normal again and able to do simple everyday things easier than before.
In terms of competing, I had always admired competitors but thought it was something unattainable. However, once I began weight training alongside my cardio and saw the changes, I decided to keep pushing. I think the thing that attracts me to competing is the discipline that it takes. And, at the end of the day, a toned physique looking back at you in the mirror is a nice boost to self esteem too.
What do you love most about figure and competing?
I love the empowerment aspect of it the most; competing has changed me not only physically, but mentally as well. I tended to put low limits on what I think I could do and got nervous when it came to pushing my boundaries. Competing has allowed me to show myself that I am capable of much more than I ever thought possible. Once I discovered that, I started believing that I could achieve even greater things in life in general.
What were the major milestones that gave you that “extra” motivation boost?
Starting out, the first major milestone was when I realized that in just one year I managed to look muscular at the same weight that I had previously looked flabby. Even though I have not placed yet for provincial levels I feel that each competition is just one step closer. Every competition is a milestone to show how much I improved each time. Immediately after I compete I want to get right back in the gym and work even harder for the next time.
What keeps you motivated?
I think there are several things that keep me motivated. One is that I want to keep pushing myself to achieve past the level I think I can go. In general I know I need to stay active if I want to keep healthy and strong despite any health complications. If I take more than two weeks off from working out I start to feel pretty crappy.
And finally I want to be a role model to others that both a toned physique and/or competing can be achieved naturally. I hear so many people look at magazines and people on stage and remark that the results are impossible and that all those people are “on stuff”. I want to prove that it’s not impossible; it just takes work.
What are your future goals, dreams and plans?
In terms of competing, if would be a dream to get my pro card so I will keep trying for that. In the rest of my life, I would love to continue with the theme of being naturally healthy and helping others. In September I will be going back to school to get my degree as a registered dietician. This additional degree plus my personal training certificate and my previous degree in psychology will help to form a base to teach others to break through what is holding them back from achieving their health goals.
I want to help people become self-empowered with their health instead of just treating with pills. There is much too much emphasize on medicating rather than taking responsibility for one’s own body. Ultimately it would be my dream to help shape future health policy so that our children have a healthier future to look forward to.
Do you supplement your weight training and cardio with any other physical activities?
Dragon boating is something I do consistently and really helps me to stay conditioned in the summertime. Our coach often has us do steady state rowing mixed in with high intensity so that with just one day a week I notice a physique difference. In general I’m always seeking out ways to burn calories in a new way.
I think it’s important in general to try different activities not only to keep your body guessing, but to keep you excited about being active. Being active doesn’t have to mean going to a gym, it can be as random as helping your neighbor lay sod for their new lawn. Get creative with it.
How often do you change your training routine, and do you periodize your training?
I would like to say that I am constantly changing my training in the sense that each week I try to go a little bit harder so that I don’t hit a plateau and get stuck. It is very easy to make the same exercise harder by just going slower, adding more weight, or changing the angle of it. The actual exercise routine itself I will tend to change up at the most four months between a heavy phase and a volume phase.
I like to change just to ensure that I gain the symmetry and size that I need to compete. However, technically as long as the routine is being pushed a little more each time, a person could stay on a routine for longer and still make gains.
What are your thoughts on fasted cardio?
I think fasted cardio is a controversial item. For myself I do cardio in the morning but I make sure that I take a BCAA or whey protein supplement first just to protect my muscle. That way my body is not in a catabolic state.
Which do you prefer, and why…steady state cardio or HIIT?
When I’m off season I prefer HIIT just because I can see the results immediately so I know it works for me, plus I have more energy to play around with. When I am cutting weight I try to stick to more steady state to trim fat without losing muscle. Plus when I start to lose energy near the competition, steady state is just more reasonable to do.
What are some of your best training tips for someone who wants to look good and get ripped?
There are two things I can say right off the bat to help get that conditioned look without competing. The first is to clean up your diet as best as possible because you can work your butt off in the gym but put it right back on with that donut later. This includes things like increasing your protein intake, eating only whole grains, lots of fruits and veggies, and lots of water.
The other is to try HIIT a couple times a week. Doing HIIT with at least some carbohydrates in your diet really helps to get a more hardened look because it primes your body to burn fat for longer without eating away at muscle.
What are some of the most common mistakes made when someone is trying to build muscle and/or get ripped?
I think there are two really common mistakes that many people make when trying to build muscle. The major mistake is not getting enough healthy calories in to feed that growing muscle properly. I like to think of muscles as seeds that need just the right conditions to grow. If you don’t give those seeds the right nutrients, they’ll never even sprout!
Another one is working a body part too much so that it cannot properly heal in between workouts. If that muscle group is still sore by the time you go to work it again, it means you need to give it a bit more rest time.
What are some of the biggest training mistakes you’ve made?
When I first started working out I did not eat properly so that set me back quite a bit in progress. Once I changed to clean up my diet, I saw results right away. Perhaps the other would be that I neglected warming up before my weights a while ago and I injured my chest on the first set of reps I did. I was sore for about two weeks and I learned my lesson to never neglect warm up again.
Do you have any gym, muscle building or fitness pet peeves?
When people drop dumbbells deliberately after a set! I figure if they are strong enough to lift the weight for a set then they are strong enough to set it down properly. Also if I see someone not put their weights back, which is just common courtesy. No one likes to trip on someone else’s dumbbells.
What does your post-workout nutrition and supplementation look like?
I usually workout later at night, so I have a casein protein shake with an apple or cashews, depending on if I’m offseason or not.
How do you prepare meals? Do you cook daily or cook for the week?
I must admit I am quite lazy when it comes to cooking, so I like the smallest amount of preparation possible. I guess that works as a bonus because that means I don’t really add anything to my foods. Usually I will just eat my vegetables raw and grill my meats just before I eat them.
My other meals don’t need prepping as they are things like nuts and fruits. Because I have a little trouble eating chicken in particular, I have to prep it fresh each day just to be able to eat it. One never knows what foods will become unpalatable until you have to eat them every day.
Do you believe recomping is possible (gaining muscle while losing fat), and if so, is it as difficult as most people think it is?
Even though I have been told that it is not possible, I have gained size while cutting for competition. However, I think everything has to be spot on for this to happen.
What are thoughts cycles of bulking and cutting for non-competitors who want to look good?
Many principles that competitors use can be used also for non-competitors, especially when it comes to the goal of looking good. Competitors are aiming for a conditioned and symmetrical look which can make anybody look good. An everyday person could do just lighter versions of a bulk and cut cycle just to get to the size and conditioning that they want.
Using these principles would give someone more direct control over what they want to look like and they can just go as hard or light as they want to go. The great thing is that it is all about how much or how little work you want to put into it. I have seen many people in the gym who look like competitors but have never competed. When talking with them they have mentioned small cutting and bulking cycles as well.
What are your favorite cheat meals and foods?
For my first few competitions, I used to crave simple sugars for my cheats so anything from chocolate to Chinese food. However, now my favorite cheat is whole wheat Hawaiian pizza. Sometimes I can easily polish off an entire large pizza by myself!
What are your thoughts of niche diet approaches like the Paleo Diet, Adkins Diet, Keto Runs, the Warrior Diet, Intermittent Fasting, etc.?
I think everything is dependent on the individual person because everyone’s body is different. I find that keto Runs work great for me but I know several others that it doesn’t work for at all. To find what works best for your particular metabolism, it really is just trial and error. Ultimately, however, it is worth trying as long as it is not a diet that is deficient of needed nutrients for an extended period of time. There are always other options to try without causing your body damage.
What are some of your favorite supplements and why?
I think by far my most favorite supplement would have to be Aminocore. It is a BCAA formula that I take throughout both my bulking and cutting cycles. Not only does it taste awesome but helps me to keep all the muscle I worked so hard to build.
Another favorite is glutamine as it helps speed up my recovery time between workouts even when I’m training in high volumes. Both of these supplements I think are essential to natural athletes even if they don’t compete.
How important is nutrient timing for performance and/or building muscle?
I think it’s extremely important to properly time your nutrient intake due; there are certain windows of time that your body needs it and will absorb them easier which can make a noticeable difference. What you see an athlete doing in the gym is only the tip of the iceberg of what it takes to build the physique you see.
Workout music – What’s on your playlist?
I definitely like to workout with my iPod, be it for weight training or cardio. I like anything upbeat with a fairly fast tempo so I can really pump myself up for a good set or go that extra few minutes on the elliptical. I tend to stick to hip hop, dance and techno.
What are some of your favorite motivational quotes?
- Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.
- No one said this was going to be easy; if it was, everyone would be doing it.
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?
I think the first thing is to think about why you want to compete. Each person competes for their own reasons and it helps to have a strong reason to keep you motivated when it gets really tough. Next is to get some help. Training and dieting for competition is a very unique thing and it helps immensely to get help from experts in the field.
Another tip is to not have too high of expectations going into the competition. Each show will be different every time depending on whom you are on stage with so the best way to be competitive is just to bring your personal best to stage. And the final tip is to be proud of your accomplishment regardless of the outcome. It takes a lot of work to get that point and that deserves celebration!
What attracts you to the natural side of sports and competition?
I have always been a strong believer in presenting myself to the public as true to form as possible, a kind of “what you see is what you get”. Competing naturally allows me to feel that much more proud of what I have accomplished.
I can look in the mirror each day and know that what I see is 100% all me. Plus society today people are more focused on bigger, better, faster. Being a natural athlete forces a person to slow right down and take the time to get that well conditioned physique.
Favorite activities and hobbies you enjoy when away from the gym?
For the last three years I have been on a dragon boating team and absolutely love it. It is an amazing workout and super fun. I’m always just waiting for the ice on the river to melt so we can get back on that water!
I also own a photography business on the side. Editing photos is really quite relaxing and I can often spend hours working on just a few pictures. I’m always up and doing something different and trying new things.
Funniest thing you’ve seen at the gym recently?
Everyone has their own way of training and I fully support that of course. However there is one individual who is just a little extra unique and can be found flapping around like a bird and swimming through air across the gym.
The first time I encountered him I could barely finish my workout because I could not stop laughing. Now I have learned to avoid him altogether just so I can concentrate on my workouts.