When I hear the words “strong woman” the first lady that comes to mind is Kelly Valdez. She is one of the strongest if not THE strongest woman that I have personally met and she inspires me daily, reminding me that you can still lift heavy AF – no big deal but this woman can deadlift 350lbs and bench 190lbs – and still look feminine. Kelly is currently in the US Coast Guard; she is a Crossfit Level 1 coach and USPA Powerlifting coach. She plans on getting out of the Coast Guard in January and is going to school to be a lineman. Like I mentioned, she has been an inspiration of mine for a while so I’m very happy to share her story with you, and I hope that this can help you, especially if you are an active individual.
I feel like there are a million things we could talk to Kelly about, but first we are going to sit down with her to talk about how she fuels her body for her intense days, and how she has managed to stay so lean while lifting so heavy.
Can you describe your average day?
My typical day starts at 5:15AM. I wake up, get ready for the gym, eat breakfast, and drink coffee! At work we get from 6:30AM until 8:00AM to workout at the gym on base. I usually use this time to work on strength and do Romwod (a range of motion workout for the day). I typically squat 3 days a week and the other two days I do upper body. Then I go to work, which is normally physically demanding, which I love! I really enjoy having a job that requires me to be outdoors most of the day. During lunchtime I go home to spend a little time with my dog, Bella, then head back. When I get off work at 2:30PM I head straight to Crossfit Mile Zero. This training session will last about 2 hours; it consists of my Olympic lifting, metcons, and gymnastics skill work. Then I coach 3 classes and head home at about 8:00PM. The first thing I do when I get home is take Bella for a walk or run then make dinner and get ready for bed.
The weekends are usually a lot less busy! On Saturdays I normally get to the gym around 8:00AM and train till about 11:00AM. These training sessions are normally pretty exhausting! I’ll start with Olympic lifting, followed by some strength work, then a few metcons. After the gym I normally go to the pool and swim laps, then the rest of the day is spend relaxing with Bella. Sunday is my rest day. I don’t set any alarms; I just let my body wake up whenever it wants. Throughout the day I usually just do things around the house or go to the beach and relax but I always make sure to do Romwod!
Do you follow a specific nutritional regimen or have any restrictions? Why do you choose to eat the things that you do?
To be honest, sometimes I eat whatever I want! I usually stick to healthy options but occasionally I want a slice a pizza or a brownie so I’ll eat it. I do count my macros so when I do eat something “not so healthy” then it takes away a lot of other things I could be eating.
Do you have any morning or daily rituals?
When I first wake up in the morning all I want is food! I always wake up starving and I usually eat the same exact thing every morning just because it’s easy and I really like it. I have 1 whole egg, 2 egg whites, and an everything bagel thin with avocado. And of course a big cup of coffee!
What do you normally have for the following meals?
Since my day starts at 5:15AM I usually eat two breakfasts; one before my first gym session and the other after. I previously mentioned what my first breakfast is and my second breakfast is normally yogurt with fruit and granola or an acai bowl.
My lunch varies everyday but is normally about 4 oz of some kind of lean meat with rice and vegetables. Then right before my second training session I have second lunch; which is normally about 3 oz of meat but my carbs are higher (normally about 50g) and my fats are as low as possible (less then 7g). A sandwich is normally my “go to” because it’s easy to make and is easy to hit the macros I need.
My first dinner, which I have after I train, is about the same as my preworkout meal. Then a couple hours later I have my second dinner, which is normally a big salad with grilled chicken or fish.
Late night snack:
I normally don’t crave late night snacks but if I do I’ll drink an ICE drink. It’s just a carbonated water but they are super good and it distracts me from wanting to eat out of boredom. If I’m really craving sweets then Ill eat some Halo Top ice cream, chocolate chip cookie dough is my favorite! It may sound like I’m eating a lot but its really not that much. On days I train (everyday except Sunday) I consume about 2300 calories, 250g of carbs, 150g of protein, and 70g of fats. On days that I don’t train my carbs are cut down by 20%.
For supplements I only use Nutrex Research products. I currently take their creatine, multivitamin, and sometimes Ill have a protein shake instead of a meal after my workout or ill bake the protein powder into muffins or pancakes!
You mentioned that you dropped weight recently. What changes have you made that have led you to lose those lbs? Did you struggle during this time?
I use to weigh about 20lbs more then I do now. I was still training very hard every day but I wasn’t paying attention to what I ate at all. I started to make healthier choices and cut down on portion size. This helped me get down from 155lbs to about 148lbs but then I hit a wall. It felt like no matter what I did I just couldn’t drop any more weight. I cut down my carbs to almost nothing but then I had no energy so training was miserable! Even though I had lost 7lbs I still felt so uncomfortable in my own skin, which is such a terrible feeling. Some days I would get really depressed because I felt like I was working so hard in the gym but couldn’t reach the goal that I wanted. So that’s when I reached out to Javi at Freakin’ Nutrition. He wrote up a whole nutrition plan for me to follow and it worked! I thought he was crazy when he told me I had to eat 250g of carbs a day because that was way more then I had ever eaten! After about two weeks my energy was back to normal and I was down a few pounds; a couple weeks later I was down a few more pounds! My body weight right now is 134lbs and I don’t plan on dropping any more. I feel great throughout my day and during training and I’m finally confident in the way that my body looks.
How did you manage your energy levels/performance while losing weight? Do you have any tips for anyone looking to do the same?
The number one thing that helped me with energy is my carbs. Once my carbs increased so did my energy. I feel like most people get scared of carbs because they think they will make them fat but they wont if they are consumed at the right amount -- consuming them at the right time helps a lot as well. My breakfast consists of 15% of my daily carbs and my pre and post workout meals each consist of 25%. Also my morning coffee helps!
You have very long work hours sometimes. What do you do to manage stress? What do you do to avoid snacking? What about stress eating? Does that happen for you?
Yes I definitely get stressed sometimes. This last month has been pretty hard for me. My husband moved back to California to attend the Sheriff’s Academy so we have to be apart for a whole year. I also had to close on our new home and move everything on my own and everything that could have gone wrong did… But through all those stressful situations my training and nutrition were the things that I knew I could keep constant so it wasn’t a challenge for me.
Has your diet changed at all throughout your life?
Yes, definitely. I’ve always competed in some kind of sport, when I was really young I was a gymnast. Then from about age 16-19 I was an all-star cheerleader. At the time my diet just focused on being skinny (I only weighed 115lbs). When I found Crossfit at the age of 19 is when my nutrition really started to revolve around building power and strength.
Do you attribute any specific nutritional decisions to the fact that you have so much muscle definition?
Yes, the best decision I ever made was working with Javi. I’d like to say that I don’t care the way my body looks and I’m comfortable no matter what but that’s just not me. Being leaner has made me feel so much more confident in myself and that belief in myself has helped increase my performance significantly.
If you had to give people 3 nutrition tips that have helped you what would they be?
First tip would definitely be to eat Halo Top ice cream when you’re craving sweets! It’s so amazing and significantly better for you then normal ice cream! Second would be to find something to distract you form eating out of boredom. As I mentioned, I use ICE drinks but things such as lemon water or tea can be a great distraction from eating when bored. Lastly, I would recommend you find someone to help you with your specific nutrition goals. Don’t just find some crazy diet online that worked for one person because chances are it won’t work for everyone. Having a nutrition coach helps you not only know what to eat but it makes you accountable to someone other than yourself. I know that some nutrition coaches may be expensive, so I would recommend having them help you just for a couple months to get you off to a good start, then once you get the hang of counting your macros just continue on your own!
For more on Kelly's journey, be sure to follow her on IG at @KellyAlysssa