Feature Athlete: Kaiya Bryant

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hirteen-year old, Kaiya Bryant, became the fourth female in history to medal at the International Weightlifting Federation’s Youth World Championships when she took home silver and bronze medals in Las Vegas on March 9, 2019.  Kaiya’s performance was especially impressive because she was the youngest lifter in her session, and the Youth World Championships was her first international competition.  

Kaiya, who trains with Coach Kerri Goodrich at Performance Initiatives in Savannah, Georgia, shares some insights into her life:

Q: When did you begin weightlifting?

I started when I was 9 years old.

Q: What brought you into the sport?

Coach Kerri was my brother’s gym coach at school.  She asked my brother if he wanted to join her after school program and lift weights. My brother signed up, and I signed up along with him.

Q: What is your favorite part about training?

I like to hang out with my friends doing something I love.  I also know that people look up to me, which motivates me to work hard and do my best.

Q: You recently won a silver medal in the C&J and a bronze in total at the YWC.  Tell me about that experience.

During the competition, I was very nervous.  It was my first international competition, and I was the youngest person in my session.  I didn’t know how I would do.  I thought I would just have a fun experience.  I did not expect to take home any medals.  

After my openers, I felt more confident.  I realized that I was doing well in the competition and even had a chance to medal.  Afterwards, I felt very proud of myself.  I was able to bring home medals and represent the United States at the same time. 

Q: What is your favorite thing to do outside of weightlifting?

I like to play basketball. 

Q: What did you do to pick yourself up when you are discouraged in weightlifting?

Sometimes when I am not hitting the weights I want to hit in training, I just sit by myself and give myself a pep talk.  I remind myself that I can always hit the weight another day.  

Q: What is the best advice you have ever received regarding weightlifting?

At Youth Worlds, I received a red light from the center referee for one of my lifts.  I was not feeling great about it.  One of the side referees came up to me after the session, though, and encouraged me.  She told me that I was a great athlete with a big future and that she hoped to see me at the Olympic Games someday.  That was very encouraging to me.

Q: What does Coach Kerri tell you to motivate you?

Coach Kerri tries to build my confidence by having little talks with me.  Sometimes, though, when she knows I can do something but I don’t have the confidence, she will load my bar for me.  She will tell me that I am lifting a lighter weight, but I’m actually lifting a heavier weight.  I lift the weight, and then she tells me how much I lifted.  It builds my confidence.

Q: What are your goals for the future?

I want to continue to work hard.  I would also like to qualify for Junior Worlds in 2020 and someday become an Olympian.

Maximizing Your Insulin Response

“Carbohydrate” has become a dirty word in recent years due to the popularity of high-protein diets like the Paleo Diet and the Keto Diet.  These diets strive to maximize the body’s fat burning abilities by keeping insulin levels low and forcing the body to use fat as fuel.  

Unfortunately, these high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets do not maximize a weightlifter’s muscle building potential.  Consider these facts–

Anabolic hormones stimulate muscle growth and development. 

The body has three primary anabolic hormones:

  • Testosterone
  • Growth Hormone
  • Insulin  

Insulin is required to build muscle.  

USA Weightlifting’s sports dietitian, Meagan O’Connor explains:

Insulin helps to maintain blood glucose within a normal range. As you consume carbohydrates, they are broken down into glucose for energy into the bloodstream. When glucose levels rise, insulin is then secreted to help store glucose in the muscles, liver, and fat cells. So, insulin is an anabolic hormone (promotes building) of muscles. 

Insulin is even more anabolic than growth hormone, so diets that suppress the body’s insulin response hinder the body’s ability to create and maintain muscle mass.  

The body is very sensitive to insulin during and just after intense physical activity, especially weight training.  

A weightlifter can maximize this phenomenon by consuming fast-acting glucose forms during and just after lifting weights.  

USA Weightlifting’s sports dietitian, Meagan O’Connor explains:

Since weightlifting is using the stored glucose in our muscles for energy, it is important to consume fast-acting glucose forms (such as a sports drink or a granola bar made with refined grains). These break down faster in our bodies to get into the bloodstream and secrete the insulin to then rebuild and repair the muscles.

Fast-acting glucose forms are simply foods that are high on the glycemic index (GI). High GI foods are fast-digesting carbohydrates that enter the bloodstream quickly causing insulin to spike.

High GI foods Include:

  • Sugar
  • Candy
  • Sports Drinks
  • Soda
  • White Bread
  • Instant Oatmeal
  • Sugary Cereals
  • White Rice
  • Pasta
  • White Potatoes
  • Pretzels 
  • Rice Cakes 
  • Popcorn

A weightlifter can maximize muscle building and repair by consuming high GI foods during and just after training.

Caution: More is Not Better.  Inducing an insulin spike during and just after weightlifting boosts your body’s muscle building and repair potential.  However, eating high GI foods throughout the entire day is not beneficial.  High GI foods spike insulin. When the body has high levels of insulin, it will not burn fat.  It will simply use the carbohydrates available as fuel and store any excess in the muscles and fat cells.

Give your body a chance to burn fat by limiting your high GI foods to during and just after your workouts.  Through the rest of the day, strive to eat low GI foods, which will digest more slowly and not create a large insulin spike.

Photo Credit: Matthew Bjerre

References: 

  1. Ishii, Tomofusa, et al. “Resistance training improves insulin sensitivity in NIDDM subjects without altering maximal oxygen uptake.” Diabetes care21.8 (1998): 1353-1355.
  2. DC, Clay Hyght. “The Insulin Advantage.” T NATION, www.t-nation.com/diet-fat-loss/insulin-advantage.
  3. “Glycemic Index and Diabetes.” American Diabetes Association, www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/understanding-carbohydrates/glycemic-index-and-diabetes.html.
  4. “What Are Anabolic Hormones?15+ Ways To Boost It for Muscle Growth.” Total Shape, totalshape.com/supplements/how-to-boost-your-anabolic-hormones/.