All posts by Tara Ebejer

Do You Know These Synonyms for Sugar??


Check your food labels for these words. They are all a form of sugar and are carbohydrates.

Sucrose                               Hydrolyzed Starch           Sugar Beets

Fructose                              Invert Sugar                       High-Fructose Corn Sweetener

Glucose                               Corn Syrup                          Maple Sugar

Maltose                               Honey                                   Molasses

Dextrose                             Cane Sugar

Maltodextrin                     Agave Nectar

Do you know the dangers of chronic high-sugar diets?

We should all avoid adding sugar during food preparation. Reviewing the last 5 days of my own food journal I see that my total sugar intake ranges between 45-65 grams. I did not add any sugar – this is mostly from vegetables and fruit and natural sugars in whole foods. The typical American consumes 34 teaspoons of sugar or 136g per day. I don’t actually mean eating teaspoons of sugar but sugars in bread, bagels, cereal, dried fruit, juices, etc.

Chronic high sugar intake can reduce the body’s ability to handle carbohydrates which reduces insulin sensitivity. This leads to excess fat gain and an eventual consequence of poor carbohydrate tolerance is borderline or full-blown diabetes.

High amounts of sugar in the blood, caused by chronic high-sugar intake can cause binding of sugar molecules to blood proteins. This is called GLYCATION. Glycation has been linked to the following:

Premature aging


Altered Vision, cataracts, retinopathy


Vascular disease

Erectile dysfunction

Kidney disease

Joint pain and arthritis

So WHAT should we do?  Get your 8 – 12 servings of vegetables and fruit daily, do not eat processed food instead fresh whole foods, check labels and enjoy treats in moderation. We can all enjoy an ice-cream in the summer – it is all about moderation and finding that happy & healthy balance.

5 Simple Steps to HELP AVOID INJURY

team mantra 2013

An injury to an athlete or your client can cause a wide range of emotions including denial, anger and depression.  They may also feel fear and anxiety about losing those gains and feel like they have lost their identity. Unfortunately not all injuries can be avoided but we can take simple actions to help avoid what we can. Listed below are my simple suggestions:

1. WARM-UP PROPERLY! By warm-up I do not mean hop on a cardio machine for 5 minutes, step off and then swing your arms and legs around in funky windmill movements (I see this so often in the gym). I believe you need to start with stationary mobility (ball release and foam roll), followed by dynamic flexibility and then activation. Taking the time to warm-up before EACH workout could save you from weeks of lay-off due to an injury. Make sure you are foam rolling properly – work on specific tight areas and hold the foam roller on trigger points for about 20 seconds. Fast rolling over your body will not relieve the knots. YES, it will bring blood flow to the area but you want the knots to release to get those muscles to their optimal lengths. Remember LENGTH-TENSION RELATIONSHIPS which refers to the length at which a muscle can produce the greatest force. My warm-ups usually take about 15 minutes. Detailed below is what a leg day warm-up looks like:

a)Ball release – Use a small ball to stretch and mobilize the soft tissue and the joints of the foot. Slowly roll the ball back and forth between the toes and the heel. Followed by hamstring pin & stretch technique with a softball.

b)Foam rolling – I roll my gluteal area, I-T band, lateral quad and lateral hamstring, thoracic spine and lats.

c) Stationary mobility – spinal rotation, roll backs, kneeling hamstring stretch with foot rotations & FABER stretch. I am moving during these mobility exercises but they are all done on my mat.

d) Dynamic flexibility – spider mans with rotations, pigeon stretch, down dogs, walking calf, walking lunges with rotation, lateral lunges for adductors. All done moving across the floor.

e) Activation – clamshells with band and bridges or leg lifts, planks, etc.

NOW I am ready to squat and deadlift!!

2. VOLUME – Have a plan and do not over train. I see people training for 2 hours at a time – this is not necessary. Have a proper training program for the week and look at total volume. Remember you don’t have to do every single exercise to make the gains – be wise!

3. DELOAD WEEKS – I’ve mentioned the importance of deloads weeks in a previous post. Look under my training updates from the post dated 1/20/14 for further information! Deload weeks are a MUST and should be scheduled into your training routine.

4. SLEEP & REST – I make sure I get to bed early and aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night. I also rest daily by either having a nap or just rest with my feet up for 20 minutes. I listen to my body and when it needs a nap, I take one! Not only does adequate rest helps prevent injuries, but experts say that well-rested athletes are able to train harder and more effectively, getting more out of training sessions. Rest is an important part of proper training and can make you stronger!

5. SUPPLEMENTS & NUTRITION – Proper nutrition can affect your performance and there is plenty of well-researched and documented facts to prove it. However there is little research on whether or not your diet can prevent injuries. I believe proper nutrition can help you recover, therefore reducing your risk for injury. I plan my macros for the day around my workouts to make sure I have the fuel I need before my workouts and the proper fuels afterward to recover. I also take BCAA’S and creatine when I am in show prep. A well fueled, rested and properly trained body will continue to run at peak performance!



Motivational Quotes


Tara & Michelle June 2011 post workout – BEFORE I started training for my 1st bodybuilding competition.  I think I still look like a runner here!!!!

My good friend and client is moving to Iowa at the end of this month. During my 1st show prep (2012) she would text me weekly motivational quotes. When you are hungry and low on carbs, these gestures mean a lot! I am so glad that I kept them on file and can now share them as they are motivational for everyone, not just competitors. The last 2 are my favorite – I will miss Michelle’s witty sense of humor!


“Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.” Gail Devers

“Obstacles are things a person sees when he takes his eyes off his goal.” E. Joseph Cossman

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” George Eliot

“Be miserable or motivate yourself. Whatever needs to be done, it’s always your choice.” Wayne Dyer

“Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul.” Douglas MacArthur

“The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

“Before you put on a frown, make absolutely sure there are no smiles available.” Jim Beggs

“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.”   Henry David Thoreau

“Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough”.   Og Mandino

“There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.” Ella Wheeler Wilcox

“Belief creates the actual fact.” William James

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” Thomas Jefferson

“God doesn’t require that you succeed, only that you try.” Mother Theresa

“Life can be pulled by goals just as surely as it can be pushed by drives.” Victor Frankl

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein

“Follow your honest convictions and stay strong.” William Thackeray


“If you lose those measly 8 pounds you will never have to worry that your thighs are the only ones clapping for you on stage. “ Michelle Parra

Training Update 2/19/2015


It has been awhile since I’ve updated information on my website – life has been busy. First, I was busy getting ready for the holidays, then my dad became ill (he is much better now) which had us traveling unexpectedly to Canada, and then I got injured.

At the completion of my competition season I set some specific goals to work towards during 2015. Unfortunately those plans have been put on hold while I recover from this injury. I had surgery on my right knee on February 11th and am recovering well. I tore a piece of my medial meniscus off and it was stuck on my lateral side. Dr. Sparks found the piece exactly where I felt it and did some extra trimming and cleaning up while he was in there. I am already walking around 80% of the time without a crutch and am able to ride the bike – yahoo!

I believe in setting goals and think it is a great motivation tool but you also always have to be prepared for life to get in the way. My mind set has changed; those lifting goals have been put on the back burner for now and my focus is to be healthy and to be able to just squat body weight. I will confess that I’ve had moments of wanting to cry but then I think about people battling cancer, mental illnesses, and other diseases and disabilities and stop feeling sorry for myself. This can be difficult for athletes but being flexible and allowing for goals to change must be expected.

I’ve made the decision to not compete in 2015. At first I felt some pressure to compete again but I need the mental and physical break. This will be a good opportunity for me to become more comfortable in the off-season. I competed 3 seasons back to back so I was always on a time-line with diet, macros, etc. Now that I am taking the entire year off I feel like I need to learn to be comfortable in my own skin and eat and live as a normal human being. I think only competitors can truly understand what that statement means. To be stage ready means being extremely lean, this is not a livable lifestyle. When I am on stage my weight is 115-120 and off season I should be at 130-135. That extra weight is necessary but it is hard to adjust to seeing and feeling.

I am on a mini-cut for the next 6 weeks. Since I am not moving and lifting as much I am need to reduce my calories. Remember, it is all about calories in vs. calories out. So even though I am not competing, it feels like I am on show prep calories but only for 6 weeks vs 6 months!!

One of my friends had a cancer scare recently. It reminded me how fast your life can change. Training is a huge part of my life but we cannot forget the other important parts like spending time with family and friends!


It is time again for MARCH MADNESS…….

march 2012march 2013                                 March Madness 2012                                         March Madness 2013


March Madness 2014

Every year my clients participate in my MARCH MADNESS CHALLENGE so I thought I would share the idea again for you to try and/or share with your own clients.   It is hard to believe that March is just around the corner.


*For the month of March you need to exercise 6 days a week allowing one day of complete rest. Exercises can include your days lifting, training with a trainer, taking a class, going for walks, skating, skiing, swimming, etc. If you already work out 6 days a week then challenge yourself each workout – add a set, up the weight or add that one extra hard rep (you can always do one more rep).

*keep track of your workouts and progress.

*EXTRA BONUS – set a goal and work towards it for the month.  Example, lose 2-3 pounds, try to set a new PR or work up to a set mileage goal for rowing or running.


*My clients who participate purchase a small gift – this can be anything – something funny, journal, workout socks, spa goodies, books, gift certificates, etc. They bring the gifts in wrapped during the 1st week of March. I hold the gifts.

*at the beginning of April we have a TEAM WORKOUT.

*I bring the wrapped gifts to the TEAM WORKOUT and participants get to pick from the gift basket as a reward for their hard work during MARCH MADNESS.


*round up your family and friends.

*have FUN – buddy up and work together.

*set some goals and aim for success!!

This year I am holding an extra challenge.  Each participant is keeping track of how many burpees they can do during the month of March.  The winner receives a free training session with me.  You could set a goal for a certain number and then reward yourself with a massage or some other reward you would enjoy.

Good luck!


Heart Rate Zones and Bluetooth GADGET

heart rate monitor

While I was training a client today, we got to play with a new gadget that she received for Christmas – we all love gadgets right! She received the Polar H7 Heart Rate Sensor – it is a Bluetooth heart rate strap that sends the information to her iPhone so no more clunky watches are needed. She received the strap and then downloaded the free app onto her phone. What I really liked about this gadget was that I could easily see her heart rate and calories burned on her phone while she was exercising. The strap also had a great range, we used the entire fitness floor and it never lost signal.

Heart rate monitors are a device which tracks your heart rate as you exercise and should be used to gauge your training. They are no longer just for the hardcore athlete or runner but can benefit everyone.

Benefits of wearing a heart rate monitor:

  • Lose weight effectively – weight loss cannot be done without proper nutrition and exercise. To lose weight you need to raise your heart rate as much as 80% of your maximum heart rate for at least 30 minutes. Using a monitor can track your progress.
  • Measure your effort and make sure you are really working as hard as you THINK you are – you can make sure you are getting into the appropriate heart rate zones. They could help put the fire back into your program if you see your heart rate doesn’t really get that high or your workouts weren’t as long as you thought!
  • Track progress and recovery – the more fit you become the quicker you can recover and longer you can maintain a higher working heart rate.
  • Look for signs of overtraining – higher resting heart rate and not recovering as quickly might be a sign that you need to take an extra day off.
  • Keep track of actual calories burned and your workouts – the apps you download keep track of it all – I am a numbers girl so I like to see the information.
  • Great way to link the mind and the heart!

To help you calculate what your heart rates should be, I’ve included a sample of Cardio Guidelines that I give to my new clients.

Keep in mind – you do NOT have to be on a piece of cardio equipment to achieve these goals.  Today my client did strength work like squats, pull-ups, etc.  It was fun to watch the heart rate climb during squats!! She was able to get into all 3 of the targeted heart rate zones and burned close to 500 calories during our session.  Plus strength training builds muscle which burns more fat even while at rest. I could go on and on but that is for another post.

 Cardio Guidelines

 Your target heart rate


(220-age) x 65%        (220-age) x 80%                   (220-age) x 86%

(220-age) x 75%        (220-age) x 85%                   (220-age) x 90%

Zone 1                           Zone 2                                        Zone 3                         


ZONE 1 – 65%-75% Max. Heart Rate

Conditioning Phase:  30 – 45 minutes per session.

This includes a 5 min. warm-up before reaching target heart rate each workout.

Once you’ve achieved this conditioning phase then ZONE 1 should always be used as warm up zone.

ZONE 2 – 80%-85% Max. Heart Rate

Aerobic Phase

Training in anaerobic ZONE 3 – 86%-90% Max. Heart Rate

Interval Training:

5 min. warm-up

5 min. @ ZONE 2

60 – 90 seconds @ ZONE 3

REPEAT UNTIL REACHED 30 – 45 minutes

After you’ve been conditioned thru these phases you can alternate between zone 2 and zone 3 training.




Mexican Egg Bake

egg bake

Calories              168

Protein                 24

Carbs                    12

Fat                          2

Ingredients & Directions:

*cook one bag of Alexia brand Hash Browns then set aside (YES the entire bag)

*cook 10 oz. extra lean ground turkey –when cooked add 20g low sodium taco seasoning then set aside


*spray large baking pan with olive oil

*place 3 cups of baby spinach on bottom of pan

*in large bowl mix 4 cups of egg whites, 2 whole eggs, 3 TBSP coconut flour, and any spices you like (I use Mole Spice). Mix well then pour over spinach

*spread cooked ground turkey over eggs

*spread cooked hash browns on top


Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes

CUT into 8 servings

Top with ¼ cup salsa

IF your macros allow – top with cheese and or avocado

This recipe was inspired by my fellow food loving friend, Angie Betz.



Mexican Spaghetti Squash Dinner

spag mexican

Calories              303

Protein                 38

Carbs                    30

Fat                          2

Ingredients & Directions:

Slice spaghetti squash in half and scoop out seeds

Place face down in baking dish or on pan and bake uncovered for 45 minutes at 375

While squash is in oven, cook ground turkey – I added some garlic and pepper – set aside when done

Remove squash from oven and scoop it out – turn oven to broil

In bowl mix the following together:

¾ cup diced tomatoes

5 oz cooked ground turkey

300 grams of spaghetti squash

20 grams of low sodium taco seasoning

AFTER ingredients are mixed together, place back into empty ½ of squash and broil for 5-10 minutes until top is crispy

If your macros allow – add some cheese!!


Training Update 12/1/2014

week 1 post season

My competition season is over and I am about 10 days into my off-season training & recovery diet.

I had a really successful competition season and I am VERY pleased with my placements. This was the toughest and largest group of competitors I’ve ever been up against and it was a true honor to be amongst them. However I am walking away with more than my wins or placements. I met many great people, spent face to face time with my coach, set new PR’s under the guidance of my trainer and had the best prep season yet. Being on stage and placing is only part of the journey. Learning how to train, eat, make this a lifestyle and participate in life outside of bodybuilding while in prep and dieting is difficult. This season I made progress in all these areas.

The quotes below help summarize it all.

“You are never really playing an opponent. You are playing yourself, your own highest standards, and when you reach your limit, that is real joy”. Arthur Ashe

This quote was sent to me by my good friend, Julie Christian and is a reflection of what competing means to me. It is not about competing against or beating other athletes but about being better for yourself each time. No matter what those improvements are; competing at your best level at that moment is the real joy. I believe I brought a better version of Tara to the stage this year; more mass, leaner and a better competitor by being able to enjoy it more and show more support and admiration towards other athletes.

“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation”. Arthur Ashe

I will admit self-doubt creeps into my thoughts before I get on stage, especially during pump up time when everyone around me is pumping up and looking amazing. I worry that I am not good enough, big enough or competitive enough. I am happy to say that these thoughts were not as prevalent this year. I felt more confident and had a different mind-set. I admired the athletes around me and was confident knowing I was as prepared as I could be thanks to the support of my coach, trainer and of course, Paul.

“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome”. Arthur Ashe

I’ve come to learn that bodybuilding is a journey and a year round lifestyle. When you step off the stage and competition season is over, you are still on the journey. You still have to track macros and train. It is important to find a coach who can help you make this journey livable. I am happy with how I handled this last prep-season. I was way more social and said YES to more social events compared to the last few preps. I attended weddings, parties, bbq’s, traveled a lot, ate out in restaurants and guess what, I survived. I stuck to the training plan, enjoyed time with my family and friends, had 4 great competition weekends and enjoyed every moment of it.

My goals for 2015 have been set – I want some new PR’s in the gym:

Deadlift                 345#

Back squat          285# (Anthony thinks 300 – we will see)

Front squat         230#

Bench press       175#

Overhead press   100#

Learn muscle-ups

Of course, I want MORE MASS (don’t we all) on this body and after seeing me on stage we know what needs extra attention. My team (Eric, Anthony and Paul) has devised a plan and as always I appreciate their support!!

My recovery diet is going well – slowly increasing the carbs and fat depending on how the scale reacts and how my body looks. Cardio will slowly decrease and Eric thinks by Christmas will be ZERO!!!!!

I am looking forward to 2015 and to see where this journey takes me next.

“We do not remember days, we remember moments”. Cesare Pavese





Tara’s Holiday Survival Tips


I cannot believe how fast this holiday season has approached. I guess I’ve been a bit busy with 4 competitions, traveling and now WOW here are the holidays. I want to share my survival tips with you to help you have a healthy and happy holiday season.

Holidays should be considered a time for celebration with family and friends. Unfortunately, they have become synonymous for eating an abundance of fattening foods. It’s almost as if we’ve come to accept that we are going to put on 10 pounds during each holiday season. Celebration doesn’t have to mean gluttonous eating or deprivation for that matter. It’s time to bring the focus back to the purpose of the holiday. Enjoy your friends and family, the time off and the traditions of the holidays. The key is to go into the holidays with a plan! Below are 12 tips to help you create a plan to succeed during this holiday season.

1) Be ACCOUNTABLE for what you are eating. I know if I have to log the food into my food journal it will keep me honest. It may surprise you how quickly those calories can add up!! So to help, know what types of foods will be offered and what you are going to choose to eat. Let’s face it; in general, you know what types of foods are on the Christmas, Hanukkah, and Party dinner tables. Plan ahead of time!

2) Don’t go to the table telling people you’re “eating healthy this holiday season”. There’s no need to bring attention to your food choices. People will feel that you are not enjoying yourself or that they should feel guilty about what they are eating. You’re more likely to have success if you keep it low-key.

3) Fill your plate heavily with vegetables, fruits and lower fat foods. Start your eating with these foods and then eat your favorites. This way you won’t be so hungry for the calorically dense foods. Besides, your relatives and the people around you are only going to draw attention to your food choices if you have an empty plate or are picking at food. This way, you are eating! Your plate is full and you are enjoying the foods you’ve chosen. No one should feel sorry for you, including you!

4) Don’t say yes to all that is before you. You don’t need to pick at every gift basket that’s left at your desk or eat your way through the holiday buffets. Choose wisely and carefully. Many food gifts that I receive will go into the freezer and I will enjoy them over time – NOT all at once.

5) If you’re cooking, try not to nibble throughout the day. All those little bites add up.

6) If you’re cooking, try some new lighter recipes. Use high quality, fresh ingredients and the foods will taste great. You just don’t want to tell your guests that they’re lighter until after they’ve already enjoyed it. We’re predetermined to think that healthy food can’t be good.

7) If you’re not cooking, offer to bring a dish. Bring something that you know you can fill up on without the guilt. I love to make a roasted veggie salad. It is easy – roast up a big pan of veggies in the oven with a bit of olive oil (I spray it one) and garlic. When its cooled put over a bed of lettuce. Homemade cranberry sauce makes a great dressing.

8) Moderate your drinking at the holidays because it most often leads to the worst choices. Alcohol will slow down your metabolism and your good judgment. Try a wine spritzer instead of champagne. Or just try to limit yourself so you can enjoy your holiday fully! Remember alcohol is a carb – I prefer to eat my carbs vs drink them.

9) Have a healthy snack before you go to a holiday meal. Don’t go to a party on an empty stomach when you get to the party and you’re already satisfied, you’re less likely to eat as a reaction to hunger.

10) Get your exercise and maintain your workout schedule. Plan a family walk after meals. My family and I always go for a walk after Christmas dinner, it is a fun way to see the neighborhood lights and decorations. When you take care of yourself regularly with exercise, your desire for unhealthy foods tends to decrease. But remember you cannot out-exercise a bad diet. Do NOT go and do 2 hours of cardio to off-set a bad day of eating. Life HAPPENS and one day of bad eating will not make you fat, just like one day of dieting will not make you skinny.

11) If at first you don’t succeed, don’t throw in the towel. Most of us tend to eat out of control after we give in to that initial temptation. Don’t assume that because you ate a piece of cake that you now have to try every type of pie on the table. Accept your choice and then move on. Do not allow that one treat to cause a binge.

12) Control Stress – We often eat as a result of stress or emotions. The holiday season can be a tiring, stressful time. Make sure to take time for relaxation and exercise so that you’re not prone to eating for stress management.

I hope these tips will help you survive the 2014 Holiday Season!

Enjoy your time with your family and friends.

Have a safe and happy Holiday Season!!