Post Bulk Update

Currently, I still feeling stronger than before the bulk, but tired from all my work trips. And although I have indulged a bit during these work trips, I have maintained weight and size since I last spoke of my bulk. My digestion feels much better from the switch to more produce than grains. The focus on protein and carbs through fruits and vegetables has me not experiencing bloating so regularly.

I have also stepped up my cardio routine and am up to running 4 miles instead of 3 every weekend. I was getting in 5-7 miles per week when I last spoke to you and now it is 6-8 miles per week. In addition I am doing a circuit of HIIT once or twice per week with my strength training.

Now with the conferences I have been able to keep up with workout out and doing yoga, but I have been also able to get in a lot of walking which likely has helped with any extra calories consumed due to the snacks provided.

I feel like I am on a good track to maintain my strength even with all the unhealthy opportunities over the past 2 weeks. However, I am looking forward to returning home today and eating as gut friendly as possible for a while. This week I am planning to consume sauerkraut, tempeh, sourdough bread, kombucha and maybe yogurt. Plus, I am going to try to not eat outside my meal times.

Hope you had a great week!

Lesson Learned: Spring Slim Down Challenges Do Not Support Me

I have debated a post like this because I do not like to focus on appearance or size. Why? It causes me to have pretty negative thoughts, but slimming down is an important part for many folks to get healthy. I like to promote doing what makes you physically and mentally feel good. When I feel good, I like the way I look. So for me its all about feeling good. Getting to that state happens when I take care of and support myself.

Knowing what does not serve me

April typically kicks off all the challenges for Summer and media ploys toward looking your best in your swimwear. I loved participating in these until I made the connection that the language used by these challenges had me being unfairly negative and harsh toward myself when I did not meet “my goal”. A typically an unrealistic goal which was generated by the expressions from the challengers. I believe for many they can be a great way to kick start getting healthy, but I question how some of these events may be designed.

The wording specifically could be used to market products to you, while hindering you feeling good about the progress you have made. This is what I noticed in myself. I wanted all the stuff they were selling and the body they said I could have if I follow everything they instructed me to do, but then the statements made caused me to feel like the amount of progress made was not enough. So no more Summer body challenges for me. Lesson learned.

Coming off my bulk

If you do not know, bulking means that you eat more calories than you need to maintain your weight so that you gain weight. This weight gain can be in the form of both muscle and fat. I was bulking from November to February. The time of the year you typically eat more any way due to all the winter comfort foods and holiday get togethers, so I figured it to be the best time to bulk.

I am currently changing how I eat after my bulk during the Winter. I took about a month and a half to focus on eating when I felt hungry to halt any over eating habits I had developed during the bulk. I have definitely put on muscle, but also fat. I gained about 6-7 lb. during this time. I now want to stop gaining weight though to see how much muscle I have really put on. I notice I am stronger, but this was really the first time bulking so I am trying to learn what process works best for me to gain strength and hopefully maintain it without becoming over weight again.

I am taking a step back from all added sugars, as well as changing up the distribution of fat, carbs and protein. My calorie in-take will remain the same now that I am back to maintaining. I have seen in the past that when I focus on eating my carbs in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables, reduced the amount of fat by more frequently skipping out on fatty additions (mainly the fried foods, extra cheese, sauces, dressings, nut butters, etc.) and get out of the habit of consuming dessert, I see a more lean body. So to summarize, same amount of calories, but replacing the more frequent treats with high quality, real food.

I will plan to do an update in a month to let you know what I have learned from my first bulk and especially whether or not my strength was maintained. Hope you have a beautiful Earth Day!

Sugar: Best Time for Consumption Part 3

Since I can not consume coffee nor do I want to take energy supplements, foods with sugars can help me power through an intense workout. I plan my weekend workouts to be more intense and tend to be the first thing I do in the morning. Actually, first thing in the morning is typically when it is most convenient for me to do all of my workouts. So I plan out my meals to increase my glycogen stores to help me get through those rise and shine workouts.

Sugars are carbohydrates (carbs) and you need them to fuel your muscles. I have noticed that carbs in the morning help me feel more awake and ready to take on the day. I do try to limit the processed grain carbs I consume, but fruit and vegetables I will eat as much as will fill me up. On top of providing me carbs for energy, fruit and vegetables provide much of the micronutrients I need.

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St. Louis’ Finest Indeed! One of the things I ALWAYS indulge for when I visit my family, Ted Drewes. Now you can even get it at the airport!

Now, when I treat myself to dessert (more than just a piece of fruit), I will often line that up with a moderate to intense walk or run following immediately to burn off the energy. Especially since added sugars give me quite the rush and can make it challenging to sleep.

For instance, on Pi day (March 14th) this year I indulged in half a slice of pie some coworkers brought in around 2 PM and within 30 minutes could not focus on my work and felt SUPER jittery! I ended up going for a 2+ mile walk after work, which helped bring me down from my sugar high. My digestion was not in it’s best state, but at least I was not up all night.

Now it may sound like I should just start my day with dessert if I am going to have it, but that just makes me feel sick the whole day. I have also had folks tell me I NEED to be eating something before I workout, but I really do not have the time to eat something, wait for it to digest, get my workout in, cleaned up for the day and out the door on time for work.

Also, there are arguments both ways on the importance of breakfast first thing in the morning. Personally, I have found that not eating as soon as I wake up works well for my lifestyle. Let me clarify, I NEVER skip breakfast! I just do not eat it before my workout. Since I workout in the morning I need to refuel afterwards with something nutritious for my muscles to recover and grow. Even if I do not workout in the morning, I find myself feeling sluggish and irritable without breakfast until I get my lunch. #NotProductive

This is just another reminder to do what works best for you and what I have learned about how sugars effect my body.

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Fruit is one of the great ways to get in carbs 🙂

My Guide for Choosing a Protein Supplement

Protein powder and other supplements (bars, gummies, etc.), I had always thought were just for body builders, like the ones you see on Muscle & Fitness magazine. However, when I started running and working out in 2012 I had seriously sore muscles and felt fatigued all the time. My doctor recommended I take a protein supplement after my workouts to see if that would help. I just went to the store and purchased one of the most affordable protein powders, Muscle Milk.

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Then in 2015, I had to stop using Muscle Milk because the sweeteners they use were identified as triggers for my IBS. Since I am not big on wasting money I finished off what was left while I began to research a new option. I asked by asking myself the following guiding questions to aid my search:

  • How much do I want to spend per serving?
  • What ingredients or types of protein do I want to avoid?
  • How much protein do I want per serving? What kind of macro-nutrients do I expect my protein powder to have?
  • Do I care about the source of my protein powder?
  • Do I care what type of packaging it comes in?

You should really be asking yourself what you want from your protein powder! This will help you save space, time and money on having a bunch I products that do not meet your needs just sitting around the house. If you use protein powder and have been searching for the right one or you are looking to start using protein powder, know that there are SO MANY varieties out there and you can find something that works for you.

Here is how I followed this guide to find a protein powder I absolutely love, I was looking for the following:

  • I want to spend less than $1 per serving.
  • I want simple ingredients without sweeteners or flavoring so I could add it to a smoothie or food without it disrupting the taste much. I also wanted to avoid hemp protein due to an allergy.
  • I want it to have between 15-20g of protein and not much more than 100 calories per serving.
  • Not a requirement, but a plus, I want it to be locally sourced (made in the USA) and have recyclable packaging.
From this criteria I found: http://promixnutrition.com/ It has 20g of protein per 100 calorie serving, its 91 servings for $80, they have an unflavored version which has no sweeteners, they TRY to source it from grass-fed cows AND recyclable packaging! $80 is a lot to shell out all at once, but so far I find it so worth it. It tastes like powdered milk in my opinion, but I like that taste so it works for me. Now, they have changed their suggested serving size since I started using it, but it is the same product so I just measure out the 25 grams I had been consuming before.
Know that you do not NEED protein powder. I plan out my meals to have plenty of protein. I now only take protein supplements when I need to according to how I am eating. You should talk to your doctor to see if you really need more protein and if you can not adjust your diet enough to get that protein then consider getting some protein powder.
Do you use protein powder? If so, what kind(s) do you love? Comment below!

Sugar: What I Learned and What I Believe Part 1

When I was first told to avoid added sugar, especially the heavily processed sweeteners, there were 2 main thoughts that ran through my head, “NO CUPCAKES!” and “How am I really suppose to follow that? I do not have control over ingredients in food.” It was challenging to process the rest of what my doctor was telling me after that, luckily she gave me quite a bit of reading material and I was able to email her with questions. Of course, I became stunned even further when I learned all the different names for sugar that you can find on ingredients lists… O_O

So much needed to change for me to obtain a higher quality life and I was determined to make it happen. I had definitely developed a heavy sweet tooth since the first year of graduate school, but to be honest I always had a sweet tooth. I loved cake and I still love cake. I had become a frequent customer of gourmet cupcake shops and everyone close to me knew I was obsessed with cupcakes. I receive cards and gifts with a cupcake themes to them for every occasion. Why cupcakes? I find that they are the perfect serving size with the potential for the most delightful balance between cake and frosting. 🙂

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I digress, I had already been trying to cut back on sweets at the time I visited the doctor since more family members were being diagnosed with diabetes recently. However, I had developed this strange routine of not eating ice cream, candy or baked goods for 7 days and then ALL THE TREATS in one day. Not the best method. I was itching for something sweet after every meal still and avoided social gatherings because of the desserts. I felt like I had an addiction, but I had always believe that it was more something in your life or lack of education that caused you to eat poorly. Not that those do not play a role.

In the process of reading each ingredient label and finally coming to terms with letting go of foods I had come to depend on, I noticed there are people with strong opinions about sugar. Not just the processed sugars added to food, but even a piece of fruit. Out of curiosity, I followed these point of views and began to question why is sugar in everything?

Then, I watched That Sugar Film and I began to question even more. Why are governments so entangled with our food suppliers? Why are there so many words for sugar with the same source or even when it is the exact same product? Why do foods with honey in the title have cane sugar higher on their ingredient lists? Why do they modify maple syrup with other sweeteners? Why do so many savory, salty products have added sugars in their ingredients? Why would folks want sweetened nut milk if they had been drinking unsweetened dairy milk? I feared that food corporations had the worst for us in mind just to make money. Do they know what their products are doing to people? Do they really add sugar to keep people coming back for more? Not to mention, it has been proven that artificial sweeteners, thought to help you lose weight, actually increase your appetite. It was a lot to take in.

I needed to focus on what my body needed though because a change starts with you. You have the power to change the demand for foods you require to be happy and healthy. I  was amazed when I first requested certain produce, types of meat and other whole foods at my local grocery. They actually listened and brought in some things I requested! 🙂 It restored some faith in the system for me. By the way, I see nothing wrong with the sugars that naturally exist in produce and other whole foods.

In the end, I believe the large food producers and most of our government officials do not have our interests in mind. They are in this to make money. Taste is important to them, but nutrition clearly is not. I feel like we need to take actions into our own hands whether by making our own food again, informal nutrition education, demand higher quality products at our grocery stores or more accessible nutrition labels on all food. Additionally, it may seem like certain foods are the devil if you have digestive issues, but keep in mind that it is not an issue for everyone and it could more be the misuse of the product by our food suppliers that makes it villainous.

What I Eat

There is clearly an obsession with what people eat because all over social media people are sharing what they eat. I even did a “What I Ate Wednesday” on Instagram while I was working toward eating to relieve my digestive issues. People want to know what others are eating, it can be inspiring.

My Diet

To start, when I say diet I’m not talking about that thing people do temporarily to lose weight. Diet is how you eat regularly all the time. So here is how I eat 80-95% of the time.

When I got the news that I needed to change my diet, I looked for recipes and lifestyles that I could just follow (such as Paleo, Vegan, Mediterranean, South Beach, etc.) until I got a hang of cooking outside of my normal ways. Clean Eating seemed to fit the best, but there are a few things I have to sub (the use of cane sugar and too much oil) for my IBS issues. I make much of my food from scratch, so this has been easy for me to follow.

On top of clean eating, I eat mostly plant-based or like a semi-vegetarian/flexitarian. Meat is expensive (adding $1+ per serving) and most of it is produced in a way that has a negative impact on our environment. This not only saves me money and helps the environment, but seems to be gentle on my digestive system. I aim to keep meat consumption for when I go out to eat or family gatherings.

To summarize:

  • I eat foods as close to their natural state as possible; whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes, lean meat and seafood, etc.
  • I avoid processed foods (boxed/pre-packaged foods, things with more than one ingredient, ingredients I do not know what they are, preservatives, and added sugar).
  • I focus on eating whole health fat (avocados, coconuts, olives, nuts, seeds, etc.) without consuming too much added oils since that causes IBS issues for me.
  • I drink mostly water, decaffeinated herbal tea and a glass of milk each day.
  • I try to eat vegetarian at least 75% of the time, in other words meat only once a day.

What I Ate This Week: August 14th – 21th

Note: I did not specially select what week to do this post, I just picked a date and wrote up what I ate. Also, I did not include any of my recipes since it would have made this a CRAZY long post. Let me know if you would be interested in seeing some of my full recipes and maybe I’ll start posting those one day during the week. I link any recipes I used from external sources, however.

Sunday, August 14th

I had a friend in town and we were trying to eat light this day after doing a local food tour the previous day.

Breakfast: 2 peach zucchini oat bran muffins with 1 cup unsweetened soy milk and an herbal tea

Lunch: 2 cups veggies, 2 falafels, 2 T hummus, 1 cup watermelon, 2 coconut date balls

Snack: 2 T peanut butter, 1 coconut date ball

Dinner: 1/2 an order of vegan nachos, 1/2 an order of sesame kale rice bowl with tempeh

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Monday, August 15th

Breakfast: 2 peach zucchini oat bran muffins with 1 cup unsweetened soy milk

AM Snack: 7 Trader Joe’s Mini tacos

Lunch: leftover sesame kale rice bowl with tempeh, 2 cups watermelon

PM Snack: tortilla chips and black bean salsa

Dinner: spicy avocado salad (greens, corn, tomato, red onion, black beans and spicy avocado dressing)

Tuesday – Friday, August 16th – 20th

I typically prepare multiple servings of the same dish to eat throughout the week. I personally do not get bored of the same food. It saves a lot of money and time to eat the same dish all week, especially when you are feeding only one or two people.

For breakfast: savory breakfast quinoa (quinoa with steamed kale, sautéed zucchini, a runny egg and avocado)

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AM snack: a packet of beef jerky, on sale at Costco this month.

Lunch: 2 cups of watermelon or cantaloupe chunks and 2 slices of a Bison Brat pizza (whole wheat crust, tomato sauce, bison brat (my mother left this gem behind from her visit), white cheddar, red onion, red bell pepper, sauerkraut and mustard)

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PM Snack: 1 1/2 cups of veggies with about 2 T hummus, I basically just cut up a ton of veggies throw them in a bag to eat from all week.

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Dinner: spicy avocado salad

Evening Snack: homemade mango puree pop

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On Wednesday, I did go to an event in the evening, for dinner I had a SoyBoy veggie dog with mustard and sauerkraut on a poppyseed bun along with bites of everything folks brought to share (hummus and herb bread, chips and salsa, Bollywood popcorn, and dill pickle chips).

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Saturday, August 21st

Breakfast: unflavored grass-fed whey protein powder mixed in coconut water, french toast

Lunch: leftover cheese sticks, curtesy of my roommate, dipped in my leftover homemade tomato sauce

Snack: watermelon float with homemade vegan ice cream

Dinner: Mediterranean quinoa bowl (quinoa, eggplant, summer squash, red onion and lemon tahini dressing) – this will be my lunch for the next week