It’s Pumpkin Season!

Though it’s still 90 degrees here in central Missouri, September is almost over and the season of “pumpkin everything” is upon us. I personally love pumpkin; from pumpkin spiced coffee to old-fashion pumpkin pie, and everything in between. There are many ways to add pumpkin into your everyday meals, keeping it clean and healthy.

I add pumpkin pie spice along with stevia to my oats, or 1/3 cup pumpkin puree, using a little less almond milk than normal. Pumpkin seeds are great, too! After we carve them at my house, I wash the seeds and toast them at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, until golden, then sprinkle them with cinnamon and stevia right after the come out of the oven, so good! Here is one of my favorite recipes incorporating pumpkin, enjoy!

Banana Pumpkin Protein Muffins

2 ripe bananas

1 cup pumpkin puree

4 egg whites

1 tbsp evoo

1 ¾ cups oat bran

2 scoops protein powder (I used chocolate)

½ cup stevia

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp sea salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

20 almonds, chopped


Combine all dry ingredients in small bowl

Combine all wet ingredients in medium bowl

Add dry to wet and mix with spatula until completely combined

Spray muffin pan with non-stick spray

Fill each mold ¾ of the way full

Top with chopped nuts

Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees


What’s the Deal with Competing?

Competing has been a part of my life the past couple of years and I am currently 9 weeks out from my next NPC figure competition and wanted to share with you my thoughts on the sport and my reasons for doing it. Though very important to me, competing is something that by no means defines who I am as a person, but is rather an extra activity conducive to my passion and love for fitness.

There are many stigmas out there regarding competitive bodybuilding and fitness athletes. Things from coach and/or self-induced “metabolic damage” (that is a popular term today), or that competing is something that is an all-consuming process and those who do it sacrifice their families, their finances and overall mental and physical well-being. I’ve also heard that competitors tend to use competitions as their way of staying in shape, using continuous shows as a way of keeping “on track” with their overall fitness, which is not, in itself, a healthy outlook to have on fitness, in my opinion. Additionally, I am sure you’ve heard that finding a “balance” is central to a healthy and enjoyable prep, and with this I cannot agree more.

All of what I mentioned is true…there are certainly competitive athletes out there guilty of these behaviors; however, I do not think it is the standard for the whole of those who compete. I think it is fair to say that whatever the topic may be, the worst of it, the downside, is always quick to get highlighted and brought to a forefront. There are many men and women who compete who do it for the personal achievements and satisfaction it brings them, and for what challenges the process presents; they do it because it is FUN. I am one of those people.

Don’t get me wrong, it is not ALWAYS fun, there are absolutely days where I am exhausted and the last thing I want to do is even put my gym clothes on. I have days that I either want to eat everything in sight, or not eat at all. There are days when things just do not go as planned…kids get sick, husbands have to work late, your babysitter cancels, or the gym is closed by the time you actually can go. These things happen and you simply have to adjust your plan and deal with it.

Now, the good days when training for a competition far outweigh the bad. Finding a reasonable balance between contest prep and the rest of your daily life is key and I feel that those who can find that balance are the ones who enjoy the process the most, and are the most successful. No doubt, the majority of competitors have obligations outside the sport just like everyone else; families, jobs, school, ect.

Though competing does require increased personal efforts and attention (and can be quite expensive), it forces me to become that much more organized and focused in all areas of my life. Competing is important, but it is a hobby, it is a side note. It is something I do in addition to caring for my family, training my clients and finishing my bachelors. It is significant, but does not take precedence.

On another note, there are many approaches to preparing for a contest in terms of nutrition and physical training; there is no one method that will work for everyone. I often read competitors rants about how they think clean eating and daily cardio is outrageous and how their techniques work equally as well and make for an easier or more enjoyable prep. Well, that is great! They have found a process that works for them! I know many people, competitors and those simply living a fit and healthy lifestyle, that enjoy natural, staple foods and HIIT sessions; I know others who swear by the “IIFYM” (if it fits your macros) approach….I know others who opt for intermittent fasting and cringe at the thought of eating every 2-3 hours…all are okay! Finding what works best for you will take experimenting, and what may have worked well for one prep, or for the last six months of your training, may not work for the next, and that’s when you must change your game plan. Whether you are getting ready for the stage or just love weightlifting, finding what works for you is what matters; it’s about what makes YOU feel good.

What I love most about competing is that it takes my commitment to fitness to an entirely new level! Living healthy and fit IS my lifestyle and is one that reflects positively in all aspects of my life. Competing allows me to set new goals and raise the bar higher. With each competition my aim is to make improvements and present a better physique than the last. The work required to prepare for a show offers new challenges that work to make me a better ME. I honestly believe the mantra, “you are your best competition”.

Yes, we all want to win a competition, I have never met anyone who goes in wanting to lose, however, regardless of placing, as long as you can look back on your prep having given it your all, then you’ve succeeded. I reinforce this to my clients all of the time. When you have set a goal for yourself, whatever it may be, it is important to give it your very best effort, day in and day out, without sacrificing responsibilities that are above your goal. Everyone’s “balance” will be different and your approach to achieving that balance will depend upon your lifestyle and goals. Finding equilibrium is not always easy but it is achievable and can make training for a competition a fun and gratifying experience, while learning a lot about yourself in the process. Find what works best for you and be proud of what you have accomplished!

Please feel free to share you thoughts, I’d love to know what you guys think!


Can Meal Planning Help You Reach Your Goals?

Hello Everyone! I am very excited to be writing my first article for HardCore Physique! I love having the opportunity to share with you my fitness lifestyle and the knowledge and information I’ve gained through my experience. I am learning and progressing everyday, and hope I can help and inspire others on their own journey! Nutrition is a very important component to overall health and fitness and I’d like to share my view on the importance of meal planning and preparation.

When I first began learning about the fitness lifestyle and the world of competing, I remember reading about how many of the fitness names I admired pre-made their food. This concept was completely foreign to me…I had never even though about making food days ahead of time or even freezing it for use weeks later, and I’ll admit, I was turned off to the idea. I was weight training and doing cardio consistently, but seeing menial changes in my body. No surprise…I was eating whatever and whenever, and it was not until I gave meal planning a shot that I began seeing the progress I wanted.

So now, every Sunday my husband and I spend the morning preparing our meals for the week. It takes about three hours for us to get everything cooked and packaged, which is not too bad considering we make about 50-60 meals. Everything gets weighed or measured and placed into Ziploc baggies and put in the freezer. I pull out a day’s worth of my frozen food the night before I need it and let it thaw in the refrigerator. I have found this method to be simple and easy, and I don’t have to worry about making food 5 times per day!

Because I prefer basic, staple foods, the meals I cook typically consist of chicken, ground beef and turkey, steak, sweep potatoes, brown rice, broccoli, green beans and peas. I have also found that keeping my diet simple makes food prep easier and cheaper! More often than not, I eat every 2-3 hours, which helps keep me feeling full aside from keeping my blood sugars stabilized.


Aside from food prep being time effective, the prior planning helps keep me on track when it comes to eating the foods I need to be eating. I can take my meals with me anywhere to avoid making an unhealthy choice. Coolers are a great way to carry your food, and if you don’t have a microwave, well, you can always eat it cold J

But most importantly, the effort put in to preparing food in advance had been the key factor in helping to change my physique. Proper nutrition and consistency in diet is the absolute most important factor of my “trifecta” of fitness; weight training, cardio and nutrition. Sure, there are times when I don’t get all my meals in, and I definitely have “cheat” meals weekly, but keeping just 80% on track can bring your progress to the next level.

If you don’t already, I encourage you to give this a chance to see what it can do for you in reaching your fitness goals! Thanks for reading!

Sarah Serna