Sunday, April 13, 2014

Boring Consistency Leading to My FIRST Dead Hang Pull Up

Soccer snacks, kicking it
old-skool.
Good people! What. Is. UP?! Over the last two weeks, the weather broke into deliriously uplifting springtime temperatures. I heard the collective sigh of my fellow midAtlantic parents, "Ahhhhhhhhhh!!" as the children regained school and activity routines.

Among our routines that kicked back off was spring soccer season. I love my 7 year old daughter's coach because he goes through the effort every season to ask parents to bring healthy snacks. While he does not get overly specific on what is not healthy, he encourages fruit and water as a starting point. YEAH! On average, his requests result in considerably less junky halftime and post-game snacks for our team. We brought last Saturday's snacks - grapes and sliced oranges. True story. I saw it on Pinterest.



The carpet was old anyway. NBD.

And oh, yes. Our basement kind of mini-flooded, just enough to dampen most of the carpet. Weeks of snow dumping followed by a week of almost continuous rain will do that when your sump pump suddenly quits for about 2 hours. Part of the thrills of living in a vintage home, and by vintage I mean: built in the late 1980s.

I found myself exceedingly grateful to be physically strong those few days we spent grunting and sweating 50 lb. rolls of carpet up our stairs. FUNCTIONAL. FITNESS. BABY. SCHWING!





I've been doing a bit of spring organizing, too. My baking supplies cabinet was totally overrun by various bags of open alternative flours. Let me ask you if this sounds familiar:

    Flour THIS!
  • Almond flour
  • Coconut flour
  • Cashew flour
  • Hazlenut flour
  • Buckwheat flour
  • Rice flour
  • Teff flour
  • All purpose gluten free flour
  • Nuts
  • Chocolate chips
  • Shredded unsweetened coconut

They were in complete rebellion. I finally picked up some inexpensive, tall sealable containers and mini chip clips and managed to contain most of them.

This is me, doing a
simple track stretch in an
empty speech therapist
reception area.
Other than little items like basement flooding and flour organizing, I have been boringly consistent.

What do I mean by "boringly consistent"? I mean, managing to take care of myself, even around my responsibilities.

Going to CrossFit. Refueling my body responsibly. Mobilizing. Sleeping. Going to hot yoga.

Keeping those little subroutines running in my software makes all the other big tasks in our lives - like lining up my 4 year old daughter's Individiualized Education Program (IEP) and getting her to preschool, speech therapy, and occupational therapy sessions - much more manageable. Put on your oxygen mask so you can put on your kiddos' oxygen masks.

Boringly consisten oven-baked
eggs with baby kale.



I have been in the Eat to Perform 90 day challenge since January, in part to regain ground lost during the holiday season and being snowed in for, oh, 234 weeks in a row. (True story.) You may recall that last fall I had a really good experience combining paleo parameters of the Whole Life Challenge with the carb timing parameters of Eat to Perform.







Boringly consistent post CrossFit
breakfast: leftover
chicken breast and leftover soft
baked sweet potato.
This time, for the official Eat to Perform online challenge, I had no Whole Life Challenge parameters, so I had a lot more leeway to dabble with grey area foods. I also discovered that those grey area foods - I'm talking about deli meat, premade rice pudding, etc. - while fulfilling my macros, were holding me back in terms of feeling my best. SHOCKER, RIGHT?! I also was not feeling magical on the numbers initially generated by the Eat to Perform intake calculator (whereas last fall when dabbling with the ETP timing principles only I naturally ate less in general).

Luckily, the ETP staff are super gracious and responsive. I used the ETP forum to ask specific questions about my intake levels related to my body fat, weight, age, gender, etc., and I received in turn customized advice.

Boringly consistent soft baked
sweet potato and leftover kebab beef.
Post-workout breakfast.
Also a speech therapist
parking lot breakfast.
I also decided to relegate grey area foods to more of an "emergency status" and return to the boringly consistent (there is that phrase again) active athlete's paleo template.

What does that look like? It means whole food meats, eggs, and fish. It means eating pumpkin and sweet potatoes and occasional white rice. It means more vegetables than you ever thought you could hold.

It means making tons and tons of food at a time so that when you are doing hairpin turnaround between early morning CrossFit and driving your 4 year old to speech therapy and school, you have those already made options ready to eat in the car while you wait for the speech therapy session to finish.

Boringly consistent emergency
speech therapist
parking lot breakfast.
No junk deli meat
and canned pumpkin.
And...it means that if the best post-workout option you have that morning is no junk ham and canned pumpkin, instead of getting all perfectionistic and beating yourself up about making a meal on a whole pack of deli meat, you go to town getting in your breakfast and move on with your day. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, people.

In general, I am back in the happy momentum I enjoyed last fall at the end of the Whole Life Challenge. Paleo foods in sufficient quantity (including carbs) to sustain muscle mass and activity levels. Starchy carbs around workouts. Meat, eggs, and veggies any time else.








Boringly consistent spaghetti squash
and sausage scramble.
In addition to my Eat to Perform/paleo template, with some focused guidance, I have added some homework around my regular CrossFit workouts. I continue with my beloved hot yoga. To chip away at my mile time, I've been running single 800m sprints often as part of my pre-CrossFit-workout warmup. I've been doing pullup negatives and progressions like crazy, almost daily. Small, regular sets of plank, pushup, and squat drills.

Boringly consistent prebed snack
of salmon, beets, sweet potatoes.
I have definitely noticed an improvement in my body composition and performance. While leaning out more has happened and I've noticed increased muscle definition, I've also become much faster at climbing the 20' rope at CrossFit. My 800m run time has gone from 4:20 down to about 3:45 -- so I have hope that soon my mile time will be under 8 minutes.

And finally: on Friday, I did my first ever pullup. It was a dead hang, too. It's hard to describe how immensely gratifying that feeling was. If any of you reading ever had to suffer the indignities of the presidential fitness test, then you know exactly what I mean. As an athletically inept overweight kid, I never stood a chance of doing a pull up. Gaining a pullup was an affirmation of what I've long hoped: your past does not dictate your future. In fact, in all likelihood, you can steer your destiny more than you might have ever believed.
Boringly consistent chicken
and spaghetti squash dinner.

I wore a tank top from my brother's
NYC CrossFit box doing the pullup.
I may never wear another top to CrossFit;
it is my official lucky tank. ;)
Thanks, Bro!










Boringly consistent sauerkraut,
chicken, chard, carrots.

Boringly consistent
Mediterranean scramble.







Sunday, February 16, 2014

Snow-Airbrushing, the Endless Cavalcade of Snow Days, and a Stomach Bug that Wouldn't Quit

Greetings, fellow captives of Winter 2014.

If you live anywhere in the mid-Atlantic all the way down through Florida, you are all too aware of the...*ahem*...variant weather patterns we are experiencing this season. Since the start of 2014, our county has had exactly one intact week of school - by which I mean one week without cancellations due to snow, ice, extreme cold, and so on.

I'd love to direct you to the pictures on the right - of travel-sized spray bottles filled with food-coloring-tinted water.

"Oh!" I could coo in a Pinterest-friendly soundbite, "Those dreary winter days trapped inside because of the snow could become so much brighter with this simple art project!"

And, this is a fun project to try out. My mom (an art teacher) was the one who originally sent my brother and I out into the snow with colored water to paint the wintry canvas more than 20 years ago...

---- Aaaaaaand, cut! ------- 
(Where the Pinterest-friendly "life is perfection" content stops. Feel free to gear up your kids for the snow-airbrushing.)

But here is the added truth of the matter.

I'm going a little bit crazy.

I'm a major introvert, and I really depend on:

  • Predictable routines
  • Planned kid-free times that I can more efficiently grocery shop, cook, work out, etc. Right now, this is 3 mornings per week while my youngest is in preschool.
  • Doses of quiet in my week (including, yes, mainly those 3 golden mornings) when I can let my frazzled mind rest in stillness
So, I am going - I will use the technical term here - guano crazy. The colored water was a last holdout in my admittedly small arsenal of snow day tricks, and it genuinely occupied my oldest, well, for about an hour.

Why is my arsenal of snow day tricks so small? Because typically, I don't need more than 2-3 days' worth of gambits in a given winter. We've blown way past that by now. Punxsutawney Phil (who did indeed see his shadow) may not be aware that he's made it on my hit list.

To complicate the cabin fever, our entire family got hit by a stomach bug last week. Luckily, our girls bounced back within about 12 hours. My husband and I were each worthless for about 36 hours, however. It took lots of sleeping, and some kombucha and full fat yoghurt to pull me out of that awful illness. By the time we had fully recovered, a foot of snow had fallen on the DC metro area. Two more days of school, cancelled.

In other words, two days of being housebound followed by two more days of being housebound. If anybody needs me, I'll be curled in the fetal position in the corner, eye twitch activated, rocking and mutter-humming to myself U2's, "Beautiful Day".


~

Are you trying to survive an erratic schedule owing to weather and illness? What are YOU doing to keep yourself healthy and sane when you feel like you're stuck in Groundhog Day?




Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Spiced Paleo Raisinets - Sugar Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Paleo and Primal Challenge Friendly

Last fall, when I was doing the Whole Life Challenge with my CrossFit box, my good friend was suffering some major chocolate cravings about halfway through the 8 week long challenge. We were permitted unsweetened chocolate at our chosen level (intermediate) of the challenge, so as a "hang in there" gesture, I came up with these.


These are paleo-friendly raisinets, and if you are involved in a challenge that permits their ingredients, they are little tasty nuggets of, "Phew, OK, I can do this."

Here's the dealeo:

Spiced Paleo Raisinets
Makes at least 32 servings at 1/2 oz. each

Ingredients:
1 large round canister of raisins (3.5 cups' worth)
100g finely chopped Scharffen Berger unsweetened chocolate (or unsweetened high quality chocolate of choice)
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
Generous dash of cayenne

Did I mention how much
I LOVE the ingredient list
on this bad boy?

Directions:

Place chopped chocolate in a large oven-safe dish and set in a warm oven (around 200 degrees, not too hot so the chocolate won't scald). Pour the entire canister of raisins into a large gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Add the salt and spices and shake well until raisin clumps are broken up and each raisin is evenly coated in a fine dusting of the salt and spices.

Pull the chocolate out of the oven. Dump spice-dusted raisins into melted chocolate and stir thoroughly until each raisin has a light coating of chocolate. Spread the chocolate-coated spiced raisins out on wax paper to cool.

~~

Epilogue:

These are really yummy. I mean REALLY yummy. If you have any appreciation for dark chocolate and especially "zippy" dark chocolate as complimented with warming winter spices, they will do. it. for. you. They do it for me so much, in fact, that I could easily blow through a whole batch in a matter of a couple of days without much thought.

For that reason, I love the little 1 ounce lidded plastic cups that you can find at many stores these days. For me, they aid in portion consciousness and help me to keep my runaway raisin snacking tendencies in check. Since I chose to log my food intake for athletic performance and fat loss purposes, I calculated that 18 g of these (a bit over half an ounce)  comes in at 63 calories, mostly carbs. Here you can see how I have made several half ounce portions in these cups. It's my DIY challenge-friendly answer to 100-calorie snacks that are sold these days, and a decent way to scratch a chocolate craving itch without swan diving off of the wagon.

Bonus: sharing the raisinets with your friends who are also eating conscientiously will definitely boost some spirits!


~

What snacks are you making these days that helps you to keep on track three weeks into the new year?

Screaming January Deals on Amazon, Nearly ~40% off Gluten Free Groceries and Paleo-Friendly Finds

About 10 days before the end of the month, my husband and I scroll through our Amazon Subscribe and Save subscriptions list. We usually pare down the list, often for items we added previously on a one-time deal. Then, we have the fun of shopping for temporary monthly coupon deals on Amazon that we couldn't find elsewhere. We are often able to combine up to 3 different discounts on Amazon to get the best deal possible, shipped free to our door.

Here are some things we scored this week in our shopping for the February 1 Subscribe and Save delivery. We bought $62.61 worth of items for $38.39 (a 39% overall discount).
  • Zico coconut water - I picked up 12 x 14 oz. bottles of Zico for $15.57 (retail before discounts was $25.31, so 38.5% discount). $1.29 per bottle is a bargain compared to the $2.50+ per bottle I usually see in grocery stores. The same 20% off coupon applies to different Zico sizes and flavors, too, so you can shop for your preferred Zico. I like the plastic bottles because they make sipping some before and after a workout easier without worrying about spilling.

     
  • Pistachios. I picked up a pound of them combining the $3 coupon with Subscribe and Save to get a price of $6.34 (almost 45% off the $11.49 price).

     
  • Garden of Life organic gluten free sprouted brown rice protein powder - As I mentioned in a recent protein-themed post, most of my protein intake is from organically and naturally raised animals, but I do use protein powders, particularly in cases where it means I would not otherwise get enough protein owing to time constraints or other circumstances. Because I try to refuel conscientiously to allow my muscles to recover, I would rather get some good quality protein powder after a workout if my alternative is not eating any protein! As vegetable-based protein powders go, Garden of Life looks like a solid choice. I am trying this for the first time as it is 33% cheaper per gram of protein than my usual protein powder choice. I got a $25.81 jar for $16.48, a 36% discount off the Amazon price.
     
There are many other Amazon grocery coupons, including a list of coupon deals that can be used to purchase gluten free foods. (Be careful, though, some coupons in the gluten free deals take you to lists of products for that brand, some of which are gluten free and some of which are not.)

Here is how to combine the limited-time January coupons with Subscribe and Save to maximize your discounts:

  • Make sure your coupon is clipped for the specific size/flavor of item you've chosen! Coupons will be for a percentage off or for dollars ($) off. You can clip the coupon on the coupon products page OR on the page of the item itself.
      
  • Chose the "Subscribe and Save" option instead of the "Add to Cart" single purchase option. You can cancel your Subscribe and Save subscription at any time.
      
  • If you have at least 5 Subscribe and Save subscriptions for the month of February, then your total discount off all items on your subscription list will be 20% off.
      
  • Verify before clicking the final subscribe confirmation that you are receiving BOTH your coupon discount and your maximum Subscribe and Save discount.
Are you snagging any Amazon coupon + Subscribe and Save deals on nonperishables? What is your favorite bargain?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Paleo-Friendly Breakfast in Your Stockings on Christmas Morning

I am starting to collect our stocking stuffers for Christmas this year. My goal is to layer little toys and fun items with some breakfast-y items so that my husband and I can slowly sip our coffee while we all nibble on the beginnings of breakfast as the stockings' contents are being unwrapped. Lots of nonperishable paleo-friendly items are going to show up to 'sustain' us until the excitement ebbs a little and I can cook some heartier fare.

If you have Amazon Prime (free 2 day shipping) or not - but are willing to pay for 2 day shipping - today is the last stretch of time that you can order stocking stuffers and have them arrive before Christmas. Here is a sneak peek into our stockings' "breakfast-y" contents.
~

Are YOU slipping something to kick off breakfast into your family's stockings this year? What are you going to pick?



~
This post contains Amazon.com affiliate links. Shopping Amazon through this link results in a tiny percentage of the purchase price being given to Primal Kitchen, at no added cost to you, so thank you for supporting Primal Kitchen!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Primal Kitchen Recipes Featured in the Paleo Cookbook for Dummies

I am exceptionally proud to have been a part of the creation of the Paleo Cookbook for Dummies.

Dr. Kellyann Petrucci was responsible for the book coming to life. In her words:

  • Includes an overview of the Paleo-diet shopping list and pantry-stocking tips, along with kid-friendly Paleo recipes.

    ~
  • Dozens of answers to such questions as “Should you eat dairy? Can you drink alcohol?” and more, along with diet testimonials.

    ~
  • Information on how the Paleo diet, which reverses disease naturally, improves autoimmune issues, skin challenges, sleep patterns and fitness levels. Shares how it boosts energy levels and helps celiacs who follow a gluten-free lifestyle/anti-inflammatory diet.

    ~

    With more than 100 Whole9 approved recipes (
    whole9life.com) and contributions from top Paleo lifestyle and food experts like Mark Sissson (MarksDailyApple.com), Melissa Joulwan (TheClothesMaketheGirl.com) Michelle Tam (NomNomPaleo), Arsy Vartanian (RubiesandRadishes.com), George Bryant (CivilizedCavemanCooking.com), Nick Massie (PaleoNick.com), Jason Crouch (PaleoPot.com), Audrey Olson (PrimalKitchen.Blogspot.com) and raw foodie, Alissa Cohen (AlissaCohen.com).    

You will find many Primal Kitchen recipe favorites in the kids' recipe section. I am very pleased that many of my contributed recipes qualified for the high standard of Dallas and Melissa Hartwig's Whole9 approval.

The Paleo Cookbook for Dummies is a beautifully done collaborative effort that offers lots of tips on paleo living. I happily recommend it to paleo newbies and longtimers alike!

Primal Kitchen Featured on the PaleoHacks Podcast

I had a blast recently as a guest with PaleoHacks podcast host Clark Danger on the PaleoHacks podcast. We covered a whole lot of ground in our time talking, but a consistent theme was the day to day business of keeping a paleo-leaning lifestyle chugging along in step with family life.



Monday, December 2, 2013

How to Set Up a "Drive-Thru" Paleo-Leaning Christmas Cookie Exchange

Hominahominahomina... :)
Yesterday, I tweeted:
...and this is true! It takes a lot of time and resources to come up with new recipes, especially analogs of popular holiday treats. Of course, I couldn't blog treats that I hadn't tasted and re-tasted...but that often results in me indulging a little too much. I would rather focus on keeping my diet reasonable for the next three weeks through all of the holiday school events, shopping, wrapping, and other holiday errands.

This year I am taking the hard work out of paleo-fied treats and doing what I did last year: organizing a "drive-thru" "paleo-ish" cookie exchange with friends at my CrossFit box. I thought I'd blog a bit about how we organize this event so that if you desired, you could create your own version.

Here's the short version of how to sketch out your cookie exchange invite:

  1. Who are your bakers? (In my case, mainly CrossFit friends)
  2. What are your baking parameters? Classic paleo? Primal (paleo + dairy)? Or, the loosey-goosey "paleo-ish"? Whatever they are, pick parameters that fit your group of bakers. The looser the rules, the larger your group of willing participants is likely to be. In our case, we defined "paleo-ish" as anything without wheat, soybean oil, or canola oil. Even so, almost all of our recipes qualified as primal, many as classic paleo, perhaps with the addition of sugar.
  3. What are your dropoff/pickup dates? We made our exchange "drive-thru" because it took a lot of the pressure of making room for one more holiday party off of people's minds...all they had to determine was whether they could bake cookies, drop them off, and pick them up. In our case this year, folks can drop off on Wednseday night (December 18th) through Thursday morning (December 19th), and pick up Thursday night through Friday (December 20th).
  4. How many bakers are attending? You'll need to set an early RSVP date, because the number of cookies everyone brings is determined by the total number of participants.
Get your invitation going - send it to your bakers with the baking parameters, dropoff/pickup dates, and an RSVP date.


Once your bakers have RSVP'ed, here are your next considerations:
  1. How many cookies shall each participant bring? In our exchange, we shot for about half a dozen of each kind per person. (Remember that everyone will be bringing those delicious cookies home to families, so 6 cookies of one kind is not outlandish when you consider it may mean everybody gets to try one of each kind!) It is wise to overshoot just a bit. For example, if you have 10 people exchanging, instead of having everyone bring 5 dozen, assign everybody coming to bring 6 or more dozen. This way the overall number of cookies won't plummet because of the inevitable handful of participants who are bound to drop out from illness or unforeseen circumstances.
  2. What type of cookies are they bringing? Leave a spot on your invite (in our case we use Facebook invites with posts) asking for folks to post a comment identifying what types of treats they are bringing. This is a good way to avoid ending up with 11 variations of one kind of cookie.
  3. Ask that those with illness excuse themselves from the event. You signed up to exchange cookies, not germs. Ask that all participants bow out of baking/distributing cookies if feeling under the weather (or in a house with sick folks) to minimize the spread of germs. You can also promise sick folks that some extra cookies will go into boxes brought to them so they don't miss out.
  4. Find an inexpensive source of packaging. In my case, last year, I bought very large holiday gift boxes - the kind to package shirts or jackets, for 2/$1 at the dollar store. I picked up enough boxes for the participants and simply asked that all those bringing cookies to also bring a couple of quarters to leave with their dropped off cookies. I also lined the boxes with sheets of wax paper before we distributed the cookies.
  5. Ask for elves to come help organize the goods. In our case, after the Thursday morning cookie dropoffs end, the elves (aka volunteers) show up and help distribute the cookies into assortments between boxes. You'll probably end up with more volunteers than you'd expect! Good chance for quality control - after distributing the cookies into boxes, the elves can sample the wares a little bit and enjoy some festive drinks if desired. In our case, it took less than an hour to get the cookies organized.
  6. Leave the boxes available for pickup, and go home with your own box and enjoy those cookies!
My recipe for these sun butter buckeyes that I brought last year can be seen here.

Do you have plans for a paleo-leaning Christmas cookie exchange this year?
What are those plans looking like so far?


~




Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lunchbox #195



Here is an example of one of my younger daughter's lunches. Here you see:
  • Organic pumpkin puree
  • Sliced papaya
  • Cooked grassfed local ground beef in larger meatball-y chunks
  • White rice (our "safe starch"), which was cooked alongside the beef (I like cooking them together in the same pan because then the rice absorbs the grassfed beef fat that adds needed calories to my littlest's meals!)
For more recent coverage on how we tinker with my youngest's diet to support her behavior and developmental gains, read here


~

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Making Room for Protein, Economically and Logistically

A lot of my active friends have talked to me about having trouble getting adequate amounts of protein in their diets. Boy, I can relate! Since I try and get around 130+ grams of protein in my daily diet to sustain my body's lean mass, I have often found myself realizing at the end of the day that I'm only about halfway to my target. Here are some ways that help to keep my protein intake easier to maintain.

Familiarity with Protein Quantity/Serving Sizes

Although tracking food by food logging is not for everyone, I find that the more I track (I use fatsecret.com), the better I am at estimating my protein intake and pacing it well throughout the day. I'm less apt to get to 6 pm and realize I've under-eaten my protein for the day if my brain is "current" on how much protein is in the servings I eat regularly.

One of my favorite indulgent "zero prep" high protein meals: smoked salmon, sprinkled with dill. Kimchi on the side!

Pacing Protein Throughout the Day

One thing that I have found useful is to break up my protein requirements into chunks and to have a running list of options in my head. As an example, I usually try to shoot for at least 30 grams of protein per meal, though this often goes higher on high activity days or just after a hard workout. Overall, though, 30 is my "magic number" because it is a doable quantity of food that I can easily estimate.

What are some examples of about 30 grams of protein? Here are some of my top choices. As you can see, I still try to economize even while selecting higher quality proteins.
  • 4 large eggs (28g) - We get organic eggs for $3.99 at our warehouse club, BJ's
  • 3 small organic chicken drumsticks (30g) - We buy these at $1.99/lb. at Wegmans or Trader Joe's
  • 4 oz. Wild Planet tuna (32g) - We buy this at BJ's because of the unbeatable price there, less than $4 per double-sized can
  • 8 slices of Citterio prosciutto (28g) - Ingredients: pork, salt. That's it! We've also found our best price for this locally at BJ's, $8.99/lb.
  • 4 oz. of steak (28g) - We buy grassfed beef in bulk from our local farmers at around $3/lb.
Higher Protein Snacks

Higher protein snacks aren't just useful in terms of me reaching my target intake; they keep me fuller, for longer, and help to combat cravings. Since I get at least 30g of protein with most of my meals, my 1-2 snacks a day typically make up another 30-40g total. Here are some snack ideas I've relied on lately to round out my protein intake for the day:
  • Full fat greek yogurt, 1 cup mixed with a dash of stevia and frozen berries (20g)
  • Nut butters, protein content depends on nut (around 2-4 g/tablespoon), delicious mixed with leftover chicken and seasoning for a Thai-inspired chicken salad
  • Boiled eggs (7g per egg), I find them delicious straight up or with salt
  • Chia seeds (2g per tablespoon, good in combo with other high protein items)
  • Bacon (2g/slice of the type I buy), very portable once cooked
  • Smoked salmon, this is my "L'Oreal" protein that I buy maybe once a month for a very special treat. The best price I've found on no-iffy-additives Atlantic salmon is (you guessed it!) at BJ's, around $16-17/lb.
  • Beans (yes, not classically paleo, at $0.99/can for organic certified gluten free ones at Wegmans, I do eat them on occasion, at 14-20g protein/cup)
Creating Your Customized "No Excuses" Options

Nothing can kill good intentions faster than opening my fridge and having nothing there ready to go when I'm already "hangry". Having ready-to-go options that work for me personally means I can't rely on "there's nothing to eat" excuses. Here are my fallback strategies:
  • Ready-to-eat pantry protein. Jerkies, canned tuna, nut butters.
  • Boiled eggs. They aren't über-gourmet but they've bridged many a gap for me between mealtimes.
  • Cooking WODs. Cooking as much as possible in one go. It is not uncommon for me to dedicate the better part of my Sunday afternoon to cooking up a huge quantity of animal protein in the oven or crock pot so that I can start my week with a fridge full of leftover protein.
  • Protein powder. I began playing with protein powder a little bit throughout August. I was pleasantly surprised by how my body handled Plant Fusion, enough that for a few weeks became my pre-hot-yoga protein of choice in combination with a banana, because the protein/carbs combo kept me fueled and chugging along through my 90 minute hot yoga classes without the digestion-intensive heavy stomach feeling that having, say, a steak beforehand would produce instead. (Still, I generally prioritize whole food proteins over protein powders whenever it seems workable.)
My ultimate "no excuse" home protein fix when the above aren't options is to microwave broth (I can hear purists out there wailing in despair) until piping hot, then pour 3-4 raw scrambled eggs into the broth while stirring. The eggs cook on contact with the broth, making egg drop soup, and I can get in almost a whole meal's worth of protein on the go, even putting it in a travel mug if I need to.

~

What strategies do you use to make sure that you're getting enough protein to fuel your active lifestyle?

~



This post contains an Amazon.com affiliate link. Shopping Amazon through this link results in a tiny percentage of the purchase price being given to Primal Kitchen, at no added cost to you, so thank you for supporting Primal Kitchen!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Final Tally, Whole Life Challenge Ends

If you've followed my recent posts, you know that I spent the last 8 weeks participating with my CrossFit box in the Whole Life Challenge. If you want to read all three parts, here they are:
Today we had our final workout to measure performance gains during the Whole Life Challenge - the final day of comparing our "before/after" stats as improved over 8 weeks. Here are mine:
  • My score for the WLC-recommended 11 minute performance baseline workout increased by 10.9%, a respectable gain in speed and reps.
  • According to the measurements of our nutrition coach, I lost 4" off my waist and 1" off my hips.
  • My score for compliance with WLC guidelines was also high, averaging somewhere around 10.6/11 points available daily. (Points were added up based on nutrition, working out, mobility, supplementation, and other lifestyle factors like sleep and hydration.)
Based on these three variables, I was declared the overall winner of our box's event! I was stunned to see how much sleeker and more athletic my fellow participants were looking today after their 8 weeks of hard work.

According to the WLC workout, my performance improved nicely. The rest of the story behind my weight loss progress comes when paying a closer attention to how I organized my food intake (while still eating foods permitted by my chosen level of difficulty - intermediate - in the WLC).

I ate according to Eat to Perform principles. I ate according to caloric needs for my build, my lean body mass, and my activity levels. On more active days, I ate more calories. In anticipation of hard workouts first thing in the morning, I front loaded lots of whole food carbs. What does this look like in practice, for me, a 176 lb. female whose lean body mass varies between about 125 and 139 lb?
Definitely not starving.
Watch the carb grams over time!
(Numbers are estimated only for
my own ballparking, and not definitive.)
  • I tried to keep my protein around 130 g/day or higher on average.
  • Higher activity days (say, CrossFit WOD and hot yoga on one day) saw carb intakes over 200+ g/day. Read Halfway Point: Whole Life Challenge + Eat to Perform Principles for details on the types and quantities of carbs I was cycling in, in general.
  • Low activity days saw much lower carb intake, with fats stepping in as the preferred fuel over carbs.
  • My calorie intake generally ranged from 1800 - 3000 calories per day, depending on activity levels. 
I went from 185 lb. to 176.2 lb. (8.8 lb. loss) in 8 weeks, a modest average weight loss pace of 1.1 lb./week. How do I perceive that this was a productive (i.e., not lean mass decline) weight loss? I have several indicators. The first is my performance gains. Here are the performance gains I experienced in the last 8 weeks of doing the Whole Life Challenge with Eat to Perform principles:
  • As mentioned above, my score for the WLC-recommended 11 minute performance baseline workout increased by 10.9%, a respectable gain in speed and reps.
  • I reached a deadlift 1 rep max personal record of 280 lb., a 25 lb. gain over my last deadlift PR of 255.
  • I reached a deadlift 3 rep "tap and go" max personal record of 245 lb.
  • I achieved my first toes to bar EVER during the challenge, and within days begun to learn stringing them together.
  • A 112# atlas stone lift - which I have only done one other time once, a year ago, before a back injury that had me on temporary CrossFit hiatus. Along with the deadlift PR, this signifies to me a return to my original strength (only now leaner!).
  • Did "Diane" (a benchmark CrossFit workout) with 185 lb. deadlifts - the prescribed weight for women.
  • Got my first freestanding headstand in yoga, and a few half second crow poses.
  • Maintained a 3 minute, 15 second plank in hot yoga during our instructor's "plank challenge". Her challenge included permission to shift back and forth from forearms to palms, so it wasn't a static plank, but it represents to me a huge increase in core strength overall.
The second indicator that I have of a decent (fat-loss-dominated) weight loss is I have gotten smaller as a side effect of concentrating on performance.
  • I've lost inches all over my body.
  • I received nearly daily comments from different fellow CrossFitters - especially toward the end of the challenge - about me looking leaner.
  • For the first time in seven and a half years, toward the end of the challenge, I found myself able to wear pants that I have not worn since when I became pregnant with my oldest daughter in 2006. Some moms get into their prepregnancy jeans inside of a few weeks postpartum. I joke that my 7.5 years postpartum jeans timeline is "above average".
Interestingly, the same pants I wore prekids at 159 lb., I can fit into at 176 lb. That speaks volumes to me about the difference between muscle and fat that I carried then and now. I am definitely in the best shape of my life - way better at 30 than in my teens or 20s. CrossFit and paleo-style eating have now taken me from near 220 lb. (and over 40% body fat) to mid-20s percentage body fat at 176 lb. I can't think of any other way I would have managed to achieve that kind of lifestyle/physique overhaul other than by eating clean, lifting heavy, calisthenics, and interval training!

I can say that I am a wholehearted convert to the calorie/carb cycling model set forth by Eat to Perform. It agrees with my physiology and activity levels, and I fully intend to continue using the same model in the future.

My next task is having my body fat assessed by our nutrition challenge coordinator, to see if I met my goal of reducing my body fat percentage to 24%. I can't wait to find out!

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Are you doing any nutrition challenges or tinkering this fall? What strategies have produced the best results for you?


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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Halfway Point, Whole Life Challenge + Eat to Perform Principles

Later this week, I'll pass the halfway point of the 8 week long Whole Life Challenge. In my pre-challenge post, I talked about the ways I'd be performance/biohacking in order to work smarter this time around to maximize my results with minimal sense of restriction.

With the exception of my husband and I binge-watching Breaking Bad (and thus losing some sleep) these last couple of weeks, my strategies so far have been pretty well executed. Last week I joined some ladies for a one hour hike through a local state park. I am Crossfitting 3-4 times per week and hot yoga-ing 3-4 times per week.

I am also eating crazy amounts of food. Way, way more carbs than I've ever eaten in previous challenges. Favoring starchy carbs over fruit because of their superiority as a muscle-building option. The nights before heavy training days (lots of weights, or maybe a CrossFit WOD and a hot yoga class on the same day), I carb up.

What has that night-before carbing-up looked like? Well, one night recently, I knew we were doing deadlift one rep maxes the next morning. I had just done an 8 p.m. hot yoga class. Whereas I'd normally have eaten little or nothing between then and the next morning, I ate some chicken and TWO entire sweet potatoes. And...I hit a new PR at 280 lb. of my deadlift! My previous 1 rep PR was 255, so it not only was a PR, it was a big one. Suddenly a 300 lb. deadlift does not seem out of the realm of possibility. Another carbing-up night I mixed cooked buckwheat groats (these are allowed at the level I've chosen on the WLC) with egg whites, water, a banana, and 4 chopped dates. CARB CRAZY. But I set a new 3 rep tap'n'go max for my deadlift, at 245 lb. x 3!

One day's worth of carbs. (Kidding!)
The whole time I have been tracking and logging my food, making sure my protein is adequate, and that my carbs are suitably high depending on my level of activity. If I am on a rest day with no workout the next day, as per Eat to Perform's suggestions, I go much lower carb, relying heavily on protein and fat for my fuel. If I do work out the next day, then I stay low carb all day long on the rest day, until evening, when I carb up in preparation for my 6 a.m. WOD.

I am targeting 130-150 g of protein every day on average. My carbs start around 100g/day, and on calorie spike/"carb up" days, my carbs can go as high as 200+g, all from whole, gluten free foods that are permitted on my WLC level. My calories range from 1600 to 3000 daily, depending on activity levels.
Prosciutto chips with half a sweet potato,
mashed. That's how my snacks are rolling
lately!

I recently weighed myself. I am officially down 6 lb. from the start of the challenge. At 4 weeks in, 6 lb. down, and setting PRs while holding decent metcon performances, I am thrilled with my progress...and can't  truly believe that I'm making that kind of progress while still eating the amount of carbs I'm eating! Not only that, I can really see some differences -- our hot yoga class room has wall-to-wall mirrors, and sometimes while holding a pose I notice a muscle pop out that I have never in my life observed on myself! It doesn't mean I still don't have trouble spots where I'd like to lose more body fat, but I am excited to see new definition in my arms, shoulders, and thighs that has never been there before.

This is a fellow challenger's supplies brought
to her hotel so that she could stay on track!
What perseverance! MY HERO!
Just as exciting for me is observing my fellow challengers' progress. Some challengers are not rookies, but instead are taking great strides to keep themselves on track while travelling, shuttling kids to soccer games, and just tackling life in general. Others are dialing in their nutrition seriously for the first time ever, and are making new connections every day as to how their food intake and quality impacts their performances, their waistlines, and their energy levels. So fun seeing their epiphanies lock into place! I cannot wait to see the unveiling of the winner...there are definitely a few frontrunners who have made dazzling progress in the first 4 weeks alone, and I celebrate what they could continue to do in the second half of the challenge!



Have you ever experimented with upping your carbs and calories in a bid to rev your metabolism, boost performance, and improve body composition? What was your experience like?


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Monday, September 23, 2013

Lunchbox #194


Today, my first-grader's lunch featured (clockwise):
  • Organic grapes
  • A Clementine
  • Mixed fresh veggies with homemade paleo ranch for dipping
  • A single serve pouch of guacamole
  • A prosciutto egg cup with peas baked in.

My first grader is suddenly particular about not enjoying the texture of baked egg yolks, so I kept the yolk out of her egg cup here...but what she does not know is that the paleo ranch she enjoys so much has egg yolk! ;-)

The great thing about the egg cups is that they are very versatile for quick meal solutions. I had three myself this morning for my breakfast!



Monday, September 16, 2013

Lunchbox #193

 
Back to the grind! Here is one of my 6 year old's recent lunches. She has (clockwise from upper left):
  • Leftover organic pork ribs, sliced off the bone into bites
  • Organic baby carrots
  • A leftover slow roasted organic sweet potato cold from the fridge
  • A Wholly Guacamole single-serve pack
  • A square of dark chocolate
  • An organic apple

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