March 31, 2016
After talking about Intermitting Fasting (IF) last week in our video, I just wanted to share with everyone some of the things I have learned about it and how I’m using it to get back to where I want to be, from a body image standpoint.
First off, this is not for everyone, and I would do your research to make sure this is right for you, we are not experts but just sharing with you what we have learned and what we do. If you have any questions or concerns, you should consult a medical professional. With that being said, here’s what I found, I love me some research! I started reading the pros and cons of IF and the health benefits, yes I said health benefits and a lot of the information I’m going to share is from the book “The Wild Diet” by Abel James. For those that are not familiar with Abel, he was one of the trainers on the ABC show, “My Diet is Better than Yours” that aired for four weeks in January 2016. Shaun T was the host of that show, so you know we had to watch. Shaun became friends with him and thought highly of him, so we were like, “Ok if Shaun likes him, he’s probably a smart guy.”
Abel talks a lot about fasting and IF in particular, I was immediately interested in his plan because it sounded like something I could do without starving myself and you get to eat MEAT!!!!! So far from his book I have learned a lot about food and ingredients in food, which can be a later blog post, but here’s what he says about fasting. He also warns that it is not for everyone, but if you want to try it, you should. Most people are trained to eat breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner and sometimes a bedtime snack. Abel teaches you how eating a “feast” at dinner, with dinner being your largest meal, and not eating again for 16 hours helps your body burn fat, build lean muscle and help you function better. So if you eat at 7 pm, you would not eat again until 11 am the next day, if you eat at 8 pm you would eat at 12 pm the next day, you get the point. In that 16 hours of “fasting” your body taps into growth hormones, which boost your metabolism, build muscle, and slows aging. You sleep through most of the 16 hours, so it makes it a little easier. It’s ok to have coffee in the morning but you’re supposed to watch what you put in your coffee, the added sugar and creamer are not doing you any favors. We use stevia and some research we found says you can use a little bit of creamer but not much. Abel recommends whole fat creamer or raw butter. Todd and I like the stevia or whole fat creamer (but again, not much!). Make lunch your first meal with fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts and healthy fats and then have your “feast” at dinner with protein, carbs and veggies and then fruit for dessert. Basically during the 8 hour period, you’re getting your 2-3 meals in for the day.
I have been fasting for the 16 hour period and the first few days were an adjustment. You have to listen to your body if your stomach is just growling, drink some water, but if you start to feel light-headed or dizzy, and brain fog sets in, then you might want to eat a small snack like fruit or nuts until you get used to fasting. If you have a bad sugar addiction, you may want to ween yourself off the sugar some before you start, or Abel says you could have a rough adjustment.
After the 16 hours is up and I’m in my “eating window”, I’ve been using the 21 Day Fix portion containers to plan out my meals and food categories, that way everything stays simple. I am not afraid to eat my carbs (2 yellow containers for me) at my evening “feast” because I will sleep better and it will give me the fuel to make it 16 hours until my next meal. We were always told, and I repeated to a lot of you, that you shouldn’t eat carbs (or your yellow containers) at dinner, well with IF, that’s not true. You need the carbs to get you through the next 16 hours. What we’ve found in Abel’s book is that your body actually burns what you ate for dinner the night before, in the morning the next day for energy. He says people always thing Breakfast is what gets you going, but he says “not true”. According to him, whatever you eat, your body doesn’t actually use for energy for 6-8 hours. So the breakfast you are eating now, isn’t burned off until later in the afternoon or end of the workday. The 16 hour fast, causes your body to use fat and what’s in storage for energy and uses the “feast” from the night before for energy.
I have also been working out during my 16 hour fast (usually in the morning) which helps drop fat as quick as possible, boost production, gain muscle and improve recovery. So you could try working out in the morning, cutting out breakfast and start with lunch and see what happens. Abel talks about how it’s good to eat your first meal right after you workout, so on days when I’m home, I try to workout later in the 16-hour window and then eat. I think Todd and I were both nervous about working out on an empty stomach and having the energy to do it, but so far it’s been great. You are allowed to use your pre-workout, so that helps!
So far, I am down 3 pounds, but most importantly my waist is getting smaller. If you watched the video, I did where I talk about my body image issues that’s where I struggle, in my mid-section and I already see results there. Todd and I both are, the bloating is gone and gone quickly. We’re very conscious of what we eat during our 8 hours, and yes we do have dessert sometimes, in fact, we pretty much do 85/15 or 90/10 during those 8 hours, and so far the results are good.
That’s it for today; we’ll keep posting and talking about this as we learn more and see more results. I’m also going to blog about what I’ve learned from Abel about food and what we’re now buying and not buying anymore.
March 30, 2016
If you’re a serious runner, you’ve likely seen The Jericho Mile, a 1979 Emmy-Award winning film about Larry Murphy — a Folsom State Prison inmate with a 3:52 mile and a shot at the Olympics. About three-quarters of the way through the movie — as Murphy contemplates his first big race in the cafeteria — another inmate gives him a bowl of melon and a bit of advice: “Fruit’s good for you, man, eat plenty of fruit.”
Mic drop. If only Murphy had listened.
Odds are you’ve been ignoring the same advice your entire life. Your mom nagged you about eating your broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Your doctor advises you to “eat the rainbow.” And you likely have at least one vegan friend who wants to convert you — or at the very least replace some of the meat in your largely carnivorous diet with plants. Even Michelle Obama got in on the act, imploring you and every other American to eat more fruits and veggies. And like Murphy (and most other Americans), odds are you don’t listen: Only 1 in 10 people in the United States eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, according to a recent report from the CDC.
That’s a problem. “If you’re not eating at least two servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables per day, you’re not building ‘foundational health,’ which is key for preventing disease and supporting athletic performance,” says Susan Kleiner, PhD, R.D., author of The Powerfood Nutrition Plan. If she had her way, you’d eat eight servings.
While nutritionists have long known about the athletic advantages of increasing protein intake, they’re only just beginning to comprehend the fitness benefits of eating more phytonutrients — bioactive (i.e., body-boosting) compounds found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and other “phyto” (plant) foods. You’ve likely heard about the most popular ones, including resveratrol, lycopene, and even curcumin. But more than 5,000 others have been identified in the more than 150,000 known edible plants, and many scientists estimate that the bulk of phytonutrients — and their benefits — have yet to be discovered.
“One of the most exciting benefits of phytonutrients is their strong antioxidant potential, disarming free radicals that wreak havoc in the body,” says Kleiner. “But it’s also bigger than that—scientists are learning that some phytonutrients seem go deep into the genetic matrix, turning on and off genes that protect us from disease development.”
That potential of phytonutrients to bolster the immune system is hugely important for athletes, who often run themselves down through overtraining. “One of the biggest things that holds athletes back is getting sick, and research shows that some phytonutrients can act as prebiotics, stimulating the growth of bacteria in your gut, thus helping to boost immunity,” says Kleiner.
Polyphenols — found in abundance in green tea — are among them, according to Japanese researchers. In their study, they found that green tea not only acted as a prebiotic, but also altered the balance of intestinal flora, inhibiting the growth of “bad” bacteria (e.g., Clostridium difficile, C. perfringens, and Streptococcus pyogenes), and promoting the growth of “good bacteria,” like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.
But perhaps the greatest benefit of phytonutrients — especially as far as athletes are concerned — is their ability to fight exercise-induced inflammation. “The nature of training is to tear the body down, and the body is extraordinary in its ability to repair and rebuild its tissues to become stronger,” says Kleiner. “But part of that process involves an inflammatory response — inflammatory cells rush to the damaged tissue, heat it up, and begin repairing it.”
If you’ve ever felt sore a couple of days after a tough workout (a phenomenon known as delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS), you’ve felt the inflammatory process at work. A little inflammation is a good thing — it helps your muscles adapt to the demands of training (and you to become more powerful). “But if you don’t have enough anti-inflammatory factors in your body, the inflammation process can proceed unchecked, which can delay recovery,” says Kleiner.
Two phytonutrients have proven particularly efficient at checking this type of inflammation: Pomegranate (which you’ll find in Beachbody Performance Recharge) and tart cherry (which is one of the key ingredients in Beachbody Performance Recover). In a study at the University of Texas, participants who drank pomegranate juice experienced 25 percent less soreness two hours after working out than the placebo group. They were also 10 percent stronger two days later. Similar pain-fighting and inflammation-reducing results were reported for tart cherry extract in a study at Winona State University.
The list of potential benefits from phytonutrients grows almost monthly as new studies are published. “Researchers are even starting to find that certain phytonutrients can boost mental focus and recovery, which are huge for athletes during a race or toward the end of a workout,” says Kleiner.
Consuming resveratrol (found in red wine and chocolate), for example, can enhance memory retention and neural communication, according a recent study in The Journal of Neuroscience. Ditto for flavonoids (found in countless fruits and veggies, as well as green tea), which also exhibit neuroprotective properties, according to research at the University of Reading, in England. “In all likelihood, every single plant has benefits — both for general health and athletic performance,” says Kleiner.
Fortunately, you don’t have to eat every single plant to reap the benefits; you just have to eat a variety of them, according to Kleiner. “And by variety, I mean not only among food groups, but also within food groups,” she says. In other words, while you might love bananas, Amaranth, and Swiss chard, don’t just eat bananas, Amaranth, and Swiss chard. Becoming stuck in a dietary routine is just as detrimental as getting stuck in training rut.
“Every day, I would like you to have one serving from the citrus family, one serving from the berry family, and one serving from at least one other,” says Kleiner. An apricot or a slice of cantaloupe perhaps? Both contain carotenoids — phytonutrients that exhibit antioxidant-like properties.
On the veggie side, Kleiner recommends daily servings from the cruciferous family (broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts), allium family (onions, garlic, leeks), and the leafy greens (lettuce, kale, arugula). “Generally speaking, the more deeply or more brightly colored the fruit or vegetable is, the more potent its phytochemical content,” says Kleiner. And don’t forget whole grains. Quinoa, for example, is packed with quercetin and kaempferol, flavonoids have been shown to act like antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.
In short, your mom, doctor, and vegan friend were right — you should eat a greater number and variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. “And whenever possible, skip pills for whole foods,” says Kleiner. “There’s a lot we have yet to discover about phytonutrients, but one thing we do know is that they’re more potent when they work synergistically with other nutrients in foods than when they’re taken [and working] alone.”
March 29, 2016
You put in the hours, pumping iron, logging miles, sweating buckets, overhauling your diet, and (most important) staying consistent. And the results speak for themselves — every time you look in the mirror, a leaner, more athletic person stares back at you. You’ve even bought yourself a new wardrobe. So now what?
Some people will keep going, perhaps taking up triathlons, joining a hoops league, or training for the CrossFit Games. But others will want to take their foot off the gas and appreciate what they’ve accomplished. The key is not to leave it off for too long — 2 weeks of inactivity is all it takes to notice significant declines in strength and cardiovascular fitness, according to a recent study in the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine. Indeed, the body is incredibly efficient at adapting to whatever demands (or lack thereof) are placed on it.
So now that you’ve crossed the finish line, how can you keep from backpedaling and losing what you’ve built? Just follow these simple steps.
Cut Back Gradually
Smart training plans (like those available on Beachbody On Demand) can allow you to work out 5 or 6 days a week with no ill effects (read: overtraining). But once you reach your strength and endurance goals, you can reduce your workout frequency without losing your hard earned gains, according to a study at the University of Alabama. The researchers found that adults aged 20 to 35 who worked out just one day a week not only saw no loss of muscle but continued to gain it (albeit at a greatly reduced rate). Our recommendation: Start by reducing your workout frequency by a third, then a half, and so on until you find the minimal effective dose that’s right for you.
Keep It Intense
Even a single set of a strength-training exercise can produce hypertrophy (i.e., muscle growth), according to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. So if your goal is to hold on to what you have, one or two sets per move per workout should do the trick. The key is to keep them challenging; you should always feel like you stopped two reps short of failure. Take a similar approach with cardio. In a recent study in the journal Physiological Reports, a team of British researchers found that a single, intense, 20-minute interval workout every five days allowed participants to maintain levels of cardiovascular fitness built through much higher frequency training programs.
Dial In Your Diet
Here’s the one category where you might have to be more diligent than you were before you reached your goal. As you cut back on your workouts, you’re going to start burning fewer calories. To avoid the fate of the ex-athlete who balloons 50 pounds when he hangs up his cleats, tighten up your diet as you reduce your training time. “On the days you don’t work out, cut 300 to 500 calories from your diet,” says Dr. Jade Teta, founder of The Metabolic Effect, a fitness and nutrition coaching service focused on maximizing results with minimal effort. “Ideally, those calories should come from starchy carbs and sources of empty calories [i.e., junk food] rather than from protein or veggies,” says Teta.
These general guidelines are just that: General guidelines. Though lower frequency, more intense workouts seem to work for most people looking to maintain their fitness gains, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution. “It’s going to be different for everyone,” says Teta. So be a detective: Monitor your strength, weight, definition, and overall sense of well-being as you tweak your exercise and eating habits, and be ready to adjust everything up or down accordingly.
March 11, 2016
Avoid the SCALE!!!! Now I know that’s easier said than done. But I’m seeing a lot of our Customers and Challengers getting hung up on what the scale says. They are becoming almost obsessed with the number! This is why I don’t want you to do that.
If your clothes are getting looser, if you FEEL BETTER, if you’re measuring inches and those inches are going down, BUT the scale isn’t moving, IT’S OK! Everybody will remind you of the fact that muscle weighs more than fat, and that’s true. Your body will respond differently to different workouts, another reason to change it up and do different things and then come back to something you like from time to time. Shaun talked about this at Shauntervention in the UK, when you hit a plateau, you need to change it up.
ANOTHER IMPORTANT thing to remember WOMEN!!! Men lose weight faster than women. When Shaun ran his first Insanity Test Group, in the first 30 days the guys were dropping weight like crazy, and the women weren’t. In some cases the women didn’t lose any weight at all in the first 30 days, this is where people quit, because they think it’s not working. Then the next 30 days, the women started dropping, and the men started to slowdown in weight-loss. It’s normal for some people not to see results as fast as others. What you will find (and a lady in the UK said this on our most recent Podcast “Shauntervention UK” which comes out this Thursday) is that she wanted to quit after 30 days because her scale didn’t move, but she didn’t! If you listen to it, you’ll hear her say that she lost a lot of weight in the second 30 days and was glad she didn’t quit. Everybody’s body is different.
We already struggle with Body Image issues, why add to it with a number on a scale. I finally got to the point where I had to walk away from the scale, I would work my butt off with an Asylum workout, for example, think “surely my body fat dropped a tenth of a percent!!!” (I have one of those scales that measures it) and I would get on there, and it would go up a tenth of a percent! I would be like “What the F***!”. LOL, I laugh because I think back to how dumb I must have looked but at the time I was so obsessed with the numbers.
Am I saying don’t weigh yourself ever? No. I’m just saying don’t weigh every day and turn it into a daily obsession, because what will happen is you will get a high off the losses and a low off the gains. Go by the inches; guys – watch the inches grow in your arms as you build muscle, ladies – watch the inches go down on your arms as you lose the fat around your triceps. Both men and women, watch the inches around your waist and go by the way your clothes fit. It’s a much healthier approach to feeling like you are accomplishing something without it becoming an obsession.
Remember this is coming from a former “fat guy”, I get it, I got it…and so will you.
March 7, 2016
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a sugar junkie. I probably got this trait from my dad, who can make half a pan of brownies disappear in a day. I can devour a pack of sour candies in 30 minutes flat, or pop 10 Hershey’s Kisses into my mouth without batting an eye. I love healthy and nutritious foods and eat a salad almost every day for lunch, but my self-control is non-existent when it comes to baked goods, candy, and ice cream.
Unfortunately, a tendency to over-indulge in sugar can lead to health issues, so at the beginning of the new year, I decided to really embrace a healthy lifestyle and ditch sugar for a week. Hey, anyone can go a week without sugar, right? But Beachbody’s Senior Director of Nutrition Content, Denis Faye, immediately (and, I should point out, enthusiastically) increased my sugar timeout to three weeks. I regretted ever mentioning the idea. Regardless, I let him explain how to rid a life of the joys of sugar and I drafted a set of rules to follow over the course of those three weeks.
Here’s how I, a hopeless sugar addict, gave up added sugar — and how you can do it, too.
No added sugar, no artificial sweeteners, and no alcohol.
First, I had to figure out what in my diet had to go. For three weeks I wouldn’t add honey to my overnight oats, I would make my own salad dressing instead of buying it from the store, and I would drink plain black coffee for an afternoon pick-me-up instead of a handful of chocolate chips. I swapped out my vanilla almond milk for the unsweetened version, and I chose plain Greek yogurt instead of a flavored kind. My options to satisfy my sweet tooth began and ended with fruit. What joy, muttered my inner chocoholic.
In addition to added sugar, artificial sweeteners also went on the no-eat list. “You don’t absorb artificial sweeteners the same as natural sugar, and they don’t have any calories, but they’re weird chemicals and they put your palate off.” explained Faye.
Many experts don’t count Stevia as an artificial sweetener given it comes from a natural source. “That’s sound logic,” Faye added, “but if you’re trying to ‘reboot’ your taste buds, you might as well skip it too.” I was interested to see if my sweet tooth would change by not eating added or artificial sugar, so I opted to remove all forms of sweetener for this experiment.
And finally, alcohol. A moderate amount of red wine is permitted in The Sugar Detoxplan, thanks to the fact it contains the antioxidant resveratrol. But it does contain a lot of sugar and it lowers your inhibitions, which meant it would make it that much harder for me to resist a sugary snack. It looked like I’d have to find another way to consume my grapes.
Of course, just because I was giving up added sugar for a few weeks didn’t mean I had to walk away from it forever. “Sugar can be useful at times, particularly if you’re an endurance athlete trying to manage glycogen,” Faye said. “Also, it can be an ingredient in perfectly healthy recipes. The key is moderation.” Since moderation is clearly what I lack when it comes to sugar, I decided it was best to start from zero — which is exactly what I set out to do.
The first week was incredible. The second week I wanted to quit. And, the third week I questioned everything about life.
After reading The Sugar Detox and the 10-Day Detox Diet, I decided to go cold turkey starting January 1. Unfortunately, I just had baked 40 cupcakes for an eight-person New Year’s Eve party. So, on Day 1 of my three weeks without sugar, I was surrounded with about two dozen cupcakes. Not a great way to start. Since January 1 was a Friday, I adjusted my plan begin on Monday. Because all good diets start at the beginning of the week, right?
Some people claim to gain a heap of energy when they wean themselves off sugar. I was not one of those people. I did experience a more even energy level, void of extreme highs and subsequent crashes, which is the normal rollercoaster I ride when I eat all the sugar I please. This made me feel great during the first week, but after the honeymoon phase, my cravings took over my brain. This was partially due to the fact that I was extremely tired, and it was difficult to fight off my desire for cookies and also the temptation to fall asleep at my desk. I had to make a conscious effort to choose plain black coffee instead of a pack of peach rings. It was harder to plan out all my meals, but I did it anyway. Otherwise, I’d be scrambling to find something without a sugary sauce from the food trucks lurking outside.
Despite my exhausted willpower, I survived the second week, and, surprisingly, entered the homestretch of this treacherous experiment with a new kind of motivation. I had yet to give up, and I had proven to myself that I could actually do this thing! Although my sweet tooth still wouldn’t grant me a reprieve in the final week, I had tamed it. Overnight oats sweetened only by blueberries tasted like a treat. Water infused with watermelon sustained me through a rough afternoon. Was I really turning into one of those people who found fulfillment in eating nature’s candy? I felt good about eating clean food, I was happy with how my body looked, and I was thrilled that I wasn’t experiencing post-candy crashes. Huh.
The Physical Changes
Simply by removing sugar from my diet, I lost three pounds in three weeks. That might not sound remarkable, but my weight has been extremely consistent for the past five years, and I was astonished to see different numbers on the scale. I also had visible absfor three weeks. Three weeks without sugar meant three weeks of a flat, defined stomach. Dare I say I loved that more than a cookie?
One physical effect I was anticipating was a change in my complexion. I had been warned that my face might break out when it was freed from the confines of sugar (the whole, “it has to get worse before it gets better” deal). Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Instead, my skin actually got less oily.
The first weekend after the sugar ban was lifted, I ate everything. Fries smothered in ketchup, greasy Chinese takeout, waffles, mimosas, and more. I loved it…until I experienced a mountainous sugar crash and my face broke out. Within 36 hours of eating sugar again, my face had gone from clear and clean to oily, breakout central.
As I was assessing my complexion, I had an epiphany. What if I could enjoy sweets in moderation? A novel idea, right? As much as I missed eating whatever I pleased, I hated the bloated, groggy feeling that came with over-indulging in sugary foods, not to mention the giant zit that decided to call my chin home. I also realized that I really didn’t enjoy eating every kind of sweet. I didn’t care for cheap chocolate or the processed store-bought cookies anymore. My taste buds really had become more discerning.
After three weeks without sugar, I had lost weight, gained energy, and refined my palate. I also spent significantly less money on food and drinks. I guess that’s what happens when you pass on wine and chocolate-covered candies. Am I going to continue on this sugar-free crusade? Absolutely not. But I am going to continue some of the habits I created. I like my homemade salad dressings, I now prefer a cup of black coffee in the afternoon to chocolate, and fruit for dessert doesn’t sound as blasphemous as it once did. I don’t think I could permanently say goodbye to my beloved chocolate cupcakes, but I’ve gained a much better understanding of moderation and quality.
Want to try to giving up sugar? Here are my tips, inspired by what I learned through the experience.
Purge your kitchen, home, and workspace of sugar before you begin. I learned this the hard way with those cupcakes. But over that weekend, I got rid of anything that could (and would) tempt me during my three sugar-free weeks. This proved to be themost important act of defense. If it wasn’t there, I wasn’t going to eat it.
Get a support system, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s a lot harder to cheat on your diet when your friends throw you shade when you reach for something sweet. A good support system can strengthen your willpower when you feel it dwindling. Even if you think your friends won’t take your commitment seriously, give them a chance before writing them off. By the end of my three weeks, my friends, family, and coworkers were genuinely interested in how I was doing with my no-sugar diet. (Yes, even my brownie-loving dad.) They wanted to know what foods I was and was not eating, and what physical and mental changes I was experiencing. It became an educational experience for everyone.
Set a time frame. Knowing I only had to hold out on eating sugar for three weeks made the task attainable and gave me a definitive finish line.
Learn what sugar is. This seems obvious, but sugar hides under a lot of names. My first trip to the grocery store was twice as long as usual because I looked at every single label, and looked up every single ingredient I didn’t know. This thing called ‘dextrose’ in my favorite hummus? Sugar. The rice that’s used to make sushi? It has sugar in it. Knowing what to look for, and knowing what products tend to have sugar in them can save a lot of time and confusion.
It was also challenging to eat out, since I couldn’t look at an ingredient list for every menu item. Did the hamburger buns have sugar in them? Maybe. What exactly is in that special sauce? No idea. Instead of becoming a hermit for three weeks, I maintained a normal social schedule and challenged myself to find sugar-free items on the menu. My go-to option became a burger or chicken sandwich, minus the bun, and a salad. As for the dressing situation, I asked for balsamic vinaigrette on the side. Most balsamic vinaigrettes don’t have sugar, but I used it sparingly to make the damage as minimal as possible in case it did.
Prep yourself for success. Make sure you always have sugar-free foods on the ready. One weekend, my friends and I went skiing and they brought chips and Pop-Tarts for the trip. I was hungry and irritable for the whole drive because there wasn’t anything I could eat. Had I brought my own snacks, it would have been a non-issue.
Getting enough sleep is also really important. When my energy was drained, so was my willpower. It was exhausting to fight off my cravings when I was also fighting to stay awake. And that’s when I needed to…
Know how to cheat. If I were perfect, I would have gone three weeks without added sugar, artificial sweetener, or alcohol. Shockingly, I am not. I had a few bites of dark chocolate one night and a few glasses of wine another evening. I also indulged in Shakeology a few times, even though it does have some stevia in it. But I chose my cheats carefully. I ate dark chocolate because it was allowed in week three of The Sugar Detox, and studies have shown that dark chocolate can be good for your health. My chocolate craving was satisfied much faster than usual, so I really didn’t eat that much of it. Shakeology tasted amazing, as per usual, but I noticed that it was pretty sweet compared to the other foods I was eating. As for the wine, I did feel quite giddy after just one glass. This indulgence didn’t dramatically change the course of my no-sugar diet, but it definitely could have. No matter how much you drink, alcohol impairs your judgment. And when you’re already craving that chocolate chip cookie, a glass wine might convince you that it’s okay to eat one. Or two. And a scoop of ice cream.
Finally, fruit is your best friend. Really. As a devoted sugar consumer, I laughed when people told me that fruit was satisfying dessert. One year my family gave me a birthday cake with fruit and a cool whip topping instead of a heap of buttercream and I thought it was a joke. I was thankful for the effort and graciously enjoyed it, but I absolutelyfollowed it up with a chocolate bar. So when I had to substitute my desserts for fruit, I thought it would be the end of me…but I was wrong. When fruit is the only sweet thing you eat, it tastes really sweet. I couldn’t believe it. But watermelon and fresh berries became my candy during those three weeks, and I would gladly make them my after-dinner meal again.
March 4, 2016
If you’re not a meal planner, consider adding up how much time you spend each week cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the fly, running to the grocery store for ingredients, or going through the drive-thru when you feel like you don’t have the time or energy to cook. More than likely, that will add up to an hour a day. On the other hand, you could spend 90 minutes (or less) meal prepping one afternoon and save hours during the week. Hours that could be spent working out, playing with your kids, spending time with friends and family, or doing anything else you love to do!
It is entirely possible to meal prep for five days in 90 minute or less, but you do have to be organized. The guide and grocery list below will help. The menu is geared towards those at the 1200-1500 calorie level, but can be adjusted if you’re eating at a higher level. Just double the amount of protein or vegetables in some of the meals, or supplement with ready-to-eat snacks like sliced turkey breast, raw veggies, and whole grain crackers to meet your container requirements.
So, do those dishes (it’s easier to cook quickly in a clean kitchen), purchase all of the ingredients in the grocery list that follows, and set out everything non-perishable on the table or counter. If you stay focused, and move quickly from task to task, you might be able to complete this meal prep in less than 90 minutes. It took me just over an hour.
Psst – looking for the containers below? You can get them here.
This Week’s Meal Prep Menu:
- Breakfast: Spinach, Tomato, and Quinoa Breakfast Casserole with an apple or orange
- Shakeology Snack: Shakeology with 1 cup frozen strawberries or peaches and 1 tsp. nut butter
- Lunch (M/W/F): Tuna and White Bean Salad with Chimichurri Sauce
- Lunch (T/Th): Turkey Salad with Lentils and Bell Pepper
- Dinner (M/W/F): Spaghetti Squash with Turkey, Basil, and Roasted Tomatoes
- Dinner (T/Th): Spiced Ground Turkey with Cauliflower
- Snacks: 20 pistachios or hummus and lettuce
Here’s what your meal prep for the week will look like when you’re done.
Spinach, Tomato, and Quinoa Breakfast Casserole and an apple or orange
(2½ cups quinoa, 4 cups spinach, 1 cup tomatoes, ¾ cup cottage cheese, 8 eggs divided into five servings = 1 red, 1 green, 1 purple, 1 yellow)
Shakeology with 1 cup frozen strawberries or peaches and 1 tsp. nut butter (1 red, 1 purple, 1 tsp.)
M/W/F: ¼ cup hummus with 2 lettuce leaves (1 blue)
T/Th: 20 whole pistachios (1 blue)
M/W/F: Tuna and White Bean Salad with Chimichurri Sauce
(1 can tuna, ½ cup white beans with quick chimichurri sauce over arugula = 1 red, 1 green, 1 yellow, 1 orange)
T/Th: Turkey Salad with Lentils and Bell Pepper
(1 cup spinach, 3 oz. sliced turkey breast, ½ cup lentils, ¼ red bell pepper, and 2 Tbsp. sunflower seeds with balsamic vinegar = 1 red, 1 green, 1 yellow, 1 orange)
M/W/F: Spaghetti Squash with Turkey, Basil and Roasted Tomatoes
(¾ cup spaghetti squash with 4 oz. turkey, garlic, oregano, ½ cup roasted tomatoes, and basil = 1 red, 1 green, 1 tsp.)
T/Th: Spiced Ground Turkey with Cauliflower
(4 oz. spiced ground turkey with garlic, oregano, cumin, chili powder, cilantro, ¼ red bell pepper, 1 cup roasted cauliflower = 1 red, 1 green, 1 tsp.)
Here’s how to make all of this in 90 minutes or less:
1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Spray two baking sheets with nonstick spray.
2. Cut 1 cup of cauliflower into florets. Toss in a bowl with 2 tsp. olive oil to coat. Cut the spaghetti squash in half, rub the flesh of each half with 1 tsp. olive oil. Cut 1 red pepper in half and remove the seeds; set the other half aside.
3. Place cauliflower florets and 1 red pepper half on a baking sheet. Place the spaghetti squash (cut-side up) and 1 cup cherry tomatoes on another baking sheet. Spray red pepper and tomatoes lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Season vegetables on both baking sheets with salt and pepper. Place both sheets in the oven and let them roast.
4. After 15 minutes, remove the baking sheets. Remove the tomatoes from one and the bell pepper from the other. Set the tomatoes and bell pepper aside to cool. Stir the cauliflower and return cauliflower and spaghetti squash to oven. Cook until tender when pierced with a fork, about 15-25 minutes. Remove baking sheets from oven and place on a rack to cool. Leave oven on.
5. While the vegetables are roasting, cook 1 cup dry quinoa with 2 cups water on the stovetop or in a rice cooker. When cooked, set aside. (Need tips on how to make perfect quinoa? Watch this video.)
6. Finely chop 3 garlic cloves. Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add 2 tsp. olive oil and the chopped garlic; cook, stirring constantly for one minute. Add 20 oz. ground turkey, using a wooden spoon or spatula to break into smaller pieces. Cook the turkey until it is no longer pink, approximately 6 minutes. Season with 2 tsp. oregano, and add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
7. Drain the three cans of tuna and place the tuna into a medium bowl. Drain and rinse the white beans. Add the beans to the medium bowl. Add 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, as much cilantro as you want, and crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper to taste. Fill three food containers with 1 cup arugula. Top arugula with tuna mixture, dividing evenly between the containers. Seal containers and place in refrigerator.
8. Fill two food containers with 1 cup spinach. Top each portion of spinach with 3 oz. sliced turkey breast, ¼ chopped raw bell pepper, and 2 Tbsp. sunflower seeds. (Drizzle with good balsamic vinegar just before serving.) Seal containers and place in fridge.
9. Spray a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with nonstick spray; set aside. Heat a large pan over medium-high heat. Add four cups spinach and cook until just wilted, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. In a large bowl, combine spinach, 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes, 2½ cups cooked quinoa, 8 eggs, ¾ cup cottage cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour quinoa mixture into baking dish, bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool, then cover with foil and place in fridge. See the full recipe for this dish here.
10. Using a spoon, scrape out the flesh of the spaghetti squash. Divide squash between three food containers, adding about ¾ cup to each. Top each portion of squash with ¾ cup ground turkey mixture, basil, and ⅓ of the roasted tomatoes. Seal containers and place in fridge.
11. Chop the roasted bell pepper. Season remaining ground turkey mixture with 1 tsp. cumin and 1 tsp. chili powder. Add the bell pepper and as much cilantro as you want. Divide mixture evenly between two food containers. Add 1 cup roasted cauliflower to each container. Seal containers and place in fridge.
12. Prepare three small containers with ¼ cup hummus and 2 large lettuce leaves. Count out 2 servings each of 20 pistachios.
13. Sit back and celebrate the fact that you’ve prepped all your food for the week in just 90 minutes or less!
2 cups cherry tomatoes
6 cups spinach
1 medium red bell pepper
1 head romaine or butter lettuce
3 cups arugula
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch fresh basil
1 head garlic
1 spaghetti squash (about 2–3 lbs.)
1 small head cauliflower or 1 bag cauliflower florets
3 small apples
2 medium oranges
1 bag frozen strawberries
1 bag frozen peaches
1 cup quinoa
4 Tbsp. sunflower seeds
Dry and Canned Goods
1 jar all-natural nut butter
1 can white beans
1 can cooked lentils
6 oz. lowfat cottage cheese (or ricotta)
6 oz. nitrate-free, low sodium deli sliced turkey
3 cans light tuna, packed in water, no salt added
4 oz. lowfat Greek yogurt
20 oz. ground turkey
Crushed red pepper
Red wine vinegar (or sherry vinegar)
March 4, 2016
Soldiers do them. Yogis do them. Even lizards do them (seriously, Google “lizards doing push-ups”). And if you want a strong, athletic body — and a powerful upper half — you should do them, too. We’re talking about push-ups — the classic, do-anywhere muscle builder you probably first encountered in grade school PE class. But unlike training wheels and T-ball, you don’t ever really outgrow the push-up. “No matter how strong or fit you are, there’s always a way to get more out of this perennially effective move,” says Nick Tumminello, owner of Performance U in Fort Lauderdale, and author of Strength Training for Fat Loss. Perfect your form with his seven tips, then try Tumminello’s favorite variations to multiply the move’s total-body benefits.
Keep off Your Knees
If you find the classic push-up too hard, don’t drop to your knees. Why? Because knee push-ups won’t help you learn the correct movement pattern or strengthen all of the muscles you’ll need to perform a full push-up. In short, doing knee push-ups will help you get better at doing knee push-ups, and little else. Instead, perform “incline push-ups” with your hands on an elevated surface, such as a bench, step, or sturdy box, says Tumminello. The more elevated it is, easier the push-ups will be. Once you can do 15 reps at a given height, drop six inches, working your way down until your hands are on the floor.
Tuck Your Elbows
“Most people do push-ups with their elbows out wide, so their upper arms form a 90-degree angle with their shoulders,” says Tumminello. Instead, tuck your elbows, so they form a 45-degree angle with your torso as you lower your body toward the ground. Viewed from above, you’ll look less like a “T” than an arrow, with your head forming the projectile’s tip. “It’s safer because it takes some of the stress off your ligaments of your shoulders,” says Tumminello. “But it’s also harder because that stress is transferred to your muscles.” The result: happier joints and stronger muscles.
Spread Your Hands
For optimal power transfer into the floor, keep your hands slightly wider than shoulder width. “Using narrow a grip forces your elbows to flare outward excessively and strain your joints,” says Tumminello, adding that he’s not a fan of the ever-popular “diamond push-up,” in which you place your hands close together with your thumbs and index fingers touching, for precisely that reason. Another common mistake: Positioning your hands on the floor with your fingers pointing forward, or even slightly inward. Instead, turn your hands so that your fingers point slightly outwards. “It’s a more natural position for your wrists and shoulders,” says Tumminello.
Shift Your Focus
For optimal body alignment in the push-up position, visualize pushing the floor away from you rather than the other way around. This mental image — think of pushing a stalled car — signals your lower back to find its slight, natural arch and your abs to “brace” more firmly, says Tumminello. That last part is key — keeping your abs braced (imagine you’re about to be punched in the gut) will help keep your body straight from head to heels. The result: Proper mechanics and better efficiency as you perform the move.
Progress The Right Way
Once you can bang out 15 classic push-ups with perfect form, you’ve earned the right to mix things up with more challenging variations of the move. Here are four of Tumminello’s favorites.
Break Dancer Push-Up
Benefit: This dynamic, total body exercise ups the ante on the classic push-up by increasing the challenge to your legs, core, and coordination.
How to do it: Assume a push-up position — feet together, core braced, body straight from head to heels, hands in line with and slightly wider than your shoulders, and fingers turned slightly outward. Lower your body to with in a few inches of the floor. As you push back up, pick your left hand off the floor, rotate your body up to your left, and touch your right knee to your left elbow. Return to the starting position. Repeat, this time rotating up to your right and touching your right elbow to your left knee. “Rotate your entire body up,” says Tuminello. “Don’t twist your torso or roll your hips before your shoulders.”
Benefit: Boulder shoulders.
How to do it: Assume a push-up position, and lower your chest to within a few inches of the floor. As you push up, push back, bending your knees and moving your butt toward your heels. Return to the starting position and repeat. “A few reps of these and your shoulders will be on fire,” says Tumminello. Once you can do 15 perfect reps, try the move with your feet elevated on a bench.
Benefits: In addition to targeting your chest and shoulders, it nails your core. “Every muscle in your torso has to work hard to prevent rotation during this move,” says Tumminello. “It’s also a good progression for who ultimately want to master the one-arm push-up.”
How to do it: Assume a push-up position with your left hand on the floor and your right hand on an 8-inch high aerobic step or box. Lower your chest to within a few inches of the step or box, and then push back up, raising your left hand off the floor and locking your right arm at the top of the move. (Don’t rotate your torso — your body should remain straight with your shoulders parallel to the floor for the entire move.) Return to the starting position. Do 5 reps, switch hands, and repeat.
Benefits: Bragging rights and greater athleticism. “The single-arm push-up is not only exponentially harder than the classic version, but it also has greater carryover to sports,” says Tumminello. “The shoulder of your working arm has to work with your opposite hip — just as it does when you throw, punch, or sprint.”
How to do it: Assume a push-up position with your feet spread wide, your right hand on the floor, and your left hand behind your back. Keeping your right elbow close to your torso and over your wrist, bend your right arm and rotate your right shoulder towards the floor. As you come back up, rotate your right shoulder back towards the ceiling. Keep the body straight and your torso stiff the entire time. “Forget bench presses,” says Tumminello. “To me, the single-arm push-up is the king of upper body pushing exercises.”