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, we do eat them on occasion, at 14-20g protein/cup. For more on the concept of "paleo + legumes" check out these legume blog posts by ancestral health leaders Stephan Guynet and Chris Kresser.) 
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?


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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!


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

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