Figuring Out What Works: My Nutrition Plan

I wrote on Friday about making your diet work for you instead of miserably slaving away to follow a diet just because you think you “should”. I mentioned that I have tried several different dietary styles over the past couple of years, a few for my own personal well being, and a few just so that I could provide some first hand commentary on the blog. Throughout this process, I’ve learned a lot about how my body responds to certain foods, how I feel with variances in food timing, and things that I just like and don’t like.

As I mentioned on Friday, this is not one set of hard and fast rules from one specific diet or plan. This is a mashup of foods and habits that make me feel by best, and also allow me to live my life without stressing too much about when and what I’m eating.

The basics of my personal plan are as follows*:

  • MOST of my daily intake comes from whole foods such as veggies, lean meats, cage free eggs, wild caught fish, nuts, some dairy and fruit. (And peanut butter. Because, let’s be real, I don’t go a day without the stuff). I eat a lot of salads (big, hearty salads), and dinner is usually a mix of meat/fish and veggies.
  • Keep bread products to once per day (if that much). Like I said, I don’t have negative symptoms related to gluten, but I do feel sluggish and get heartburn if I eat too much in the way of bread, grains, pasta, etc. If I have an english muffin for breakfast, lunch will be a salad and dinner will be a mix of veggies and meat. If I know I’m going out for dinner where there will be a delicious bread basket, I’ll skip the english muffin at breakfast. It’s all about balance, folks.
  • Include a significant source of protein at EVERY meal and most snacks. I have no carb-phobia, but a carb heavy meal with little protein will leave me crashing and hungry without a doubt. This is especially important for lunches — most of the time my lunch at work is a hearty salad (I’m not talking just lettuce here!) topped with a homemade turkey burger or grilled chicken. Rarely I’ll have just a piece of fruit as a snack if I’m not very hungry, but usually that will be paired with some nuts or nut butter to increase the protein and keep me full longer.
  • Intermittent Fasting on off days**. For the past few months I have been following a loose IF program on days that I don’t work out, and I’ve been loving it. It takes away the stress of following a strict timeline every single day, but also keeps me from snacking a ton on my off days. I’ll usually follow a 14-16 hour fast from the night before into the off day (say, if I eat dinner at 7 pm on Wednesday night, I won’t eat on Thursday until 11am). For the record, IF does not mean “skipping meals”. Even after a fast, I still get all my calories in for the day, just in a shorter period of time. For whatever reason, I really respond well to this, where I know some people do not. It’s all about knowing your body!
  • Carbs are not the enemy. Your body needs carbs, my body needs carbs. We all need carbs, just how much of them you need is entirely dependent on your activity levels and goals. If you go from sitting on your couch to sitting in your cubicle and back again in the course of a day, you probably want to eat fewer over all carbs. If you’re a highly active person or athlete, your body actually needs carbs to fuel all of that awesome activity. What type of carbs? I try to stick with grains such as rice (I eat both brown and white varieties), potatoes (more sweet potatoes but also white on occasion), fruit, and limited bread products. I strongly prefer sprouted grain bread such as Ezekial over other options, but if I’m out at a restaurant with some warm, freshly baked rolls, you better believe that I’m going to have some!
  • Time high-carb meals strategically. I try to eat my higher carb meals immediately pre and post workout, so that I can optimally time the influx of glycogen into my muscles. This is not a hard and fast rule that I stress over, just a general guideline that I follow. If I’m trying to lean out, I’ll follow this much more strictly.
  • Balance my indulgences. If someone brings me a delicious treat at work, I won’t also have dessert that night after dinner. I do occasionally go out to a delicious meal where I’ll enjoy both a drink and dessert (horrors!) but that is the exception, not the rule. Generally, an indulgence such as dessert or drinks is enjoyed on it’s own, without the others, and most importantly without any guilt.

The thing is, these are all things that I’ve found work wonderfully for me, and most are also things that I would recommend to people who are trying to clean up their diet. I would never tell people to avoid certain macronutrients or foods “just because”, as long as they are real, nutritious foods and not chemically processed crap. If you don’t have a negative reaction to gluten, there is no reason to eliminate it completely from your diet. Likewise, if you know that almonds give you a stomach ache, there is no reason to eat them just because someone told you that they are a health food! It can take a lot of work to figure out what works and what does not for your body, but in the end, the hard work is well worth it. Whether you respond well to IF or to another style of eating, it’s important to do what’s best for you and not what’s best for the people around you.

*Like I said before, these are general guidelines that I follow, they are not hard and fast rules. I do not beat myself up if I enjoy carb heavy meals for both lunch and dinner — I just take it in stride and try to balance out a little more the next day. I do not obsess over the restaurant bread basket, but I will generally make a decision on which indulgence is more worth it to me (bread or dessert? wine or bread?) But let’s face it — sometimes I just end up getting all of the above, and that’s okay too as long as it’s not an every day occurrence.

**I just want to clear up any misgivings that people have about Intermittent Fasting. This does not equate to “skipping meals”, but rather timing food within a smaller window throughout the day. If I fast until 11 am, I’ll eat breakfast at that time, lunch around 2:00 or 3:00, and dinner generally around 7:00. I still consume enough calories throughout the day, I really just eliminate the mindless snacking since my meals are a little bit closer together. I really enjoy doing this a few days per week; I find it helps keep me in better control of my hunger and my ability to control my hunger rage.

Readers: What are some general rules that you try to follow with your diet? Have you ever tried Intermittent Fasting or variations on your food timing? Does any of this sound totally crazy to you? 

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A Day (or 2) of meals on IF

I’m so sorry that I’ve disappeared for a week! Actually, I was literally gone for a week, traveling for work in South Carolina. I didn’t get any writing done before I left, because silly old me thought that I’d have plenty of time to write while I was gone. But I should have known better, because I know how these trips go, and I know I never have enough energy at the end of the day to form a complete sentence, let alone write a blog post. Anyhow, I’m back, trying to adjust to daylight savings time, and also trying to readjust my food schedule.

Before I left, a few of my readers asked me to provide an example of some of my meals, specifically while following Intermittent Fasting. I guess people are very curious about what others eat, especially bloggers. If you are one of the few who requested a peak into my IF eating habits, here you go!

Like I’ve said before, while following Intermittent Fasting for a month, I was fasting from around 8 pm until 12 pm every day. I say “about” because the times did shift — sometimes it was 11 – 7, heck, sometimes I cut it a little short and went 8-11. For the most part, a 16 hour fasting window was followed every day, with a few days of longer fasting periods (17 hours) and a few days of shorter periods due to my work/training schedule (14-15 hours).

Nobody’s perfect, right?

Anyway, if following the LeanGains style exactly, my biggest meal should have been directly following a workout, with the rest of my calories tapering throughout the day. I tried to do this, but it didn’t always happen. Please forgive me, IF police.

The following are a couple of days of food, one a heavy lifting day and one not.

Lift Day:

Wake up: 6:30 am 1 cup coffee, 8 oz water with 1 scoop Greens Powder

Lift session: 9:30 am. 7 g BCAAs mixed w/16 oz water.

Meal 1: 11 am. Egg sandwich made with 2 eggs, 1 slice cheddar cheese on Ezekial English Muffin, Smoothie made with 1 C almond milk, 2 C spinach, 1 Banana, 1 scoop vanilla protein powder

12 pm: 1 C coffee

Meal 2: 4 pm – Yogurt bowl. Fage 2% Plain Greek yogurt, 1 tsp honey, 1/4 C raisins, 2 Tbs peanut butter, 1 Tbs almond slivers, dash cinnamon

(I’m not usually hungry by the time the second meal comes around, so this type of thing packs in a decent amount of calories without too much volume)

Meal 3: 7 pm – 1 C roasted broccoli, 1 grilled chicken breast, 3-4 eggplant ravioli in pesto sauce

Dessert : 8 pm – 2 dark chocolate/caramels from Trader Joes

Non-Lift Day:

Wake up: 6:30 am. 1 C coffee, 8 oz water with 1 scoop Greens Powder

Meal 1: 12 pm: Yogurt Bowl – Greek Yogurt, 2 Tbs peanut butter, 1 tsp Honey, dash Cinnamon, 1 Tbs almond slivers, 1/4 C raisins

Meal 2: 4 pm: Tuna salad (made with 1/2 Tbs mayo, 2 Tbs greek yogurt) over baby spinach, with carrots and bell peppers.  1 C Zucchini strips with 2 Tbs hummus.

Snack 5 pm: Smoothie made with 1 C almond milk, 1 banana, 1 scoop vanilla protein powder, 2 C spinach

Meal 3: 7:30 pm: About 4 oz Salmon, 1 C “sweet potato dish” (made with sweet potatoes, bell peppers, zuchini, squash, all roasted together with EVOO and spices) 1/2 C roasted brussels sprouts

*All measurements here are estimates, I don’t measure out each portion of each meal. 

So there is a couple days for you. My food varies from day to day, so not every lift/non-lift day looks like this. Something I do tend to eat over and over are the yogurt bowls, though. I’m a breakfast lover, and love this combination of foods. I know I should be eating more lean protein/veggies, but the greek yogurt/pb/raisin combo makes me happy! I didn’t want to totally cut out breakfast foods just because I’m following IF, so this is my compromise.  I always try to make a point to include a good amount of veggies with at least 2 meals, and I try to vary them often. Spinach is a staple for me, but I also like to include a lot of broccoli, carrots, zuchinni, kale, brussels sprouts, and beets. Looking at the two days above, I see that I definitely did not get enough veggies on the lift day, and that is where the green smoothie and greens powder come into play.  It’s not perfect, but hey, who is?

While I was away this past week, I was at the mercy of other people’s eating schedules, so IF just did not happen. I didn’t want to be that girl that makes everything more difficult for everyone else. I also ended up eating a lot more sugar and bread products than I normally eat, which made a huge (negative) impact on how my body felt, even just after 1 week. It’s amazing how just a few days of poor eating choices can really make you feel like total crap! (You know you’ve eaten too much sugar lately when the thought of something sweet just makes your stomach turn). I never thought I would say this, but I am really excited to get back to my IF schedule, as well as getting back to my usual food choices. I have a feeling water, veggies, and greens will be my best friends this week.

Happy Monday everyone!

1 Month of Intermittent Fasting

I can’t believe I’m already at the end of my 4 weeks of Intermittent Fasting. For those of you who are new here, you can read my previous posts about this here, here, and here to find out more.  For those that are all caught up, let’s move on!

I can’t believe it’s been 4 weeks for two reasons:

1. I actually survived. Before I started this experiment, I thought I might die from not eating for 16 hours each day. Not eat from 8pm until noon? Are you crazy?  It turns out, it has actually been surprisingly awesome, and although I haven’t been perfect, I have found it relatively easy to do.

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2. The 4 weeks flew by. I really thought I’d be counting down the days until I could eat on a “normal” schedule again, when in reality, I don’t have any desire to go back to the way I used to do things (eat immediately upon waking, with frequent snacks during the day). 

The following are my major findings for the past 4 weeks:

Physical Findings: 

Strictly looking at the numbers, I have not lost any body weight (which is ok by me, and if you’ll recall, was not one of my goals for this process). Unfortunately, I am traveling for work this week and was unable to test my body fat percentage before I left. However, I do feel leaner, although any change in body fat in 4 weeks is probably very very small. It also could be just a decrease in abdominal bloating that I’m noticing, but overall I’ve felt better in my clothes than I did a month ago.  I honestly think that if I kept this plan up for another couple months, I could be well on my way to my desired BF%.

Going beyond those very basic numbers, I have noticed a whole range of other physical changes during the past month.

– Gastrointestinal changes – I have dealt with many GI symptoms for the past several years without ever having an official diagnosis. Throughout the past four weeks, I have generally felt the best I have in years in terms of GI symptoms. Save for a couple rough days due to questionable food/drink choices, I’ve felt excellent in this department. I’ve had almost no bloating/discomfort for an entire month now, which is pretty incredible. Now, I’m really not sure whether this has to do with my eating schedule, or due to the fact that I’ve cut out most of my snacking (ie, Luna bars and things similar to that). My inclination is towards the latter, but I really don’t know.  Either way, I’m not complaining!

– Sleep Changes – I’ve been needing a ton of sleep lately, not feeling rested without 8-9 hours per night. I’m not sure if this is connected to IF at all, or if it’s just due to increased stress at work. I also didn’t get a good nights sleep for about 4 nights after my finger ordeal last Sunday, so that’s a bummer.

– Energy Levels – Besides this past week with very little sleep, my energy levels have been so much better during the day than normal. I haven’t been hitting that mid afternoon slump, and I’m assuming it’s because of the fact that I’m not on an insulin rollercoaster from eating  all day long.

food comaThis tends to be me around 2 pm on a normal schedule.

Workouts:  My biggest findings related to my workouts were that BCAAs were, in fact, essential for a quality fasted lift. By the time I was lifting, I was generally 13-14 hours into my fast. On days when I forgot or plain just didn’t take my BCAAs, my lifts and conditioning sessions suffered. My strength only decreased slightly on these days, but I also felt shaky, dizzy, and short of breath very easily. It was not pleasant. On days when I took my BCAAs though, I was able to lift just fine, even hitting a max deadlift of 185 for a single 2 weeks ago.  Takeaway? BCAAs helped my fasted lifts a lot, despite the fact that they taste like death.

Mental/Emotional Findings:  Like I said, when I started this, I anticipated being miserable and hating every second of it, especially at first. Being someone who used to eat first thing upon waking and graze all day, I wasn’t sure how I could tolerate the daily fasts. At first, it was a little bit difficult to not eat in the morning. However, after about 10 days, I started to enjoy it, and found a sort of peace with not eating in the morning. I know that sounds weird, but it’s the only way I know how to explain it. Instead of starting my day immediately with food, and literally thinking about food and hunger all day, I was able to focus on other things in the mornings, which led to less thinking about food for the rest of the day.

In fact, just the other day, the morning after my finger incident, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. I woke up and said “I’m going to eat breakfast this morning!” thinking that it would be comforting (yes, I am an emotional eater for sure!). But when I went to go prepare breakfast, I realized that I didn’t actually want it, and that I knew I would feel better during the day if I held off eating for a few hours. Overcoming emotional eating with IF? I’ll take it. 

The one thing that was a little tough was the serious sugar cravings I had for the first two weeks. I’m not sure if this is normal during the beginning of an IF protocol, or if my body was just rebounding from my decreased sugar intake (due to decreased snacking).

Will I continue this after the experiment ends? I think I absolutely will incorporate this into my normal routine once I’m done with the whole experiment. I love the way I’ve felt while doing this, and like I said above, this regimen has really brought me to peace with food and realizing my actual hunger cues (not psychological hunger cues). I don’t think though, that I’d be able to follow this strictly for the rest of my life (nor would I want to). More than likely, I’ll end up following a schedule where I do at least 3-4 days with fasts each week, but giving myself flexibility when I need it (or just plain need a break).

**Note: For success during my fasting times, hydration was key. I’m really bad at keeping myself hydrated some times, and symptoms of dehydration were seriously magnified while fasting. To be successful with this, I really believe that you have to work very hard to maintain proper hydration, especially during the fasting periods, or they really do feel like pure torture.

Would I recommend this to others? 

I would definitely recommend this nutritional style to others, but only those with a very strong nutritional foundation in place. This is not for people who are going to fast, and then pig out on bags of chips and popcorn. This style of eating takes a very good understanding of nutritional needs, macronutrients, energy needs, etc.  I would not recommend this to someone who is looking for a crash diet or easy fix. I would also be extremely hesitant to recommend this to those with a history of disordered eating (whether it be restrictive or binge eating). I can imagine that it would be very easy for someone to turn this into an extremely restrictive and dangerous diet if those tendencies were present. There were even a few days where I had to force myself to eat more at the end of the day after realizing I had only taken in about 1200 calories that day. (Not enough for someone my size). Likewise, those prone to binge cycles may have a lot of difficulty with control on this type of diet.

What’s Next?

If you recall, my nutritional experiment called for IF, followed by 4 weeks of Carb Back Loading (CBL), followed by 4 weeks of Paleo. Unfortunately, with the recent finger episode, I am not yet allowed to lift heavy (and might not be able to for another few weeks).  CBL is a plan that is designed for people who are training hard and lifting heavy, so it would be pointless for me to try that now and expect any significant results. I think what I’ll do is continue with IF for the next 2-3 weeks until I can get back into my training regimen, since I like it so much, and move on once I can start training again. This week is a little hiccup in the whole plan because I’m traveling with the Lacrosse team that I work with, and our schedule would make it very difficult for me to keep up with a strict IF. So while I’m here, I’m back on a “normal” eating schedule, which I don’t mind temporarily. So back to IF next week, and I’ll update you all when I’m moving into the CBL phase!

I know I originally said I would include a sample day of eats for me on IF for you all, but then this post got really long. Would anyone still be interested or should I just skip that idea all together? 

My Thoughts on Intermittent Fasting

Well I’ve been officially doing Intermittent Fasting for about 12 days now. Two full work weeks have passed, and I have to admit, I’m really liking it so far.

And surprisingly, I don’t say that sarcastically.

(For those of you who don’t know what I’m referring to, you can read these two posts here and here to find out more about IF and how/why I’m doing this).

I’ve been documenting like a mad woman, and  have a few observations so far. Some of these are things that have surprised me and some that I expected. So in no particular order, here are my thoughts on IF so far:

  • IF is essentially an exercise in meditation. Ok, this may not be accurate, because I don’t meditate (even though I know I should). But really, the first several hours of each day, from waking around 6:30 until 11 or 12, I’ve been really training my mind to not focus on the hunger. I’m not going to starve, I know I’ll be totally fine and that I’ll be eating in a few hours, but sometimes it takes some serious mental energy to not stare at the clock and daydream about peanut butter and cookies.
  • I eat less overall (not on purpose). I did not start this with the intention of it being a “diet” or trying to restrict my calories in any significant way. What I have found, though, is that I have decreased my caloric intake simply because I’m not hungry between meals. Ever. Eating 3 normal sized meals within the span of 8 hours (and sometimes 7), doesn’t leave much time in between meals, and so my usual mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks have all but disappeared. This has probably decreased my daily intake by about 300+ calories.  I’m hardly ever hungry by the time my second meal time rolls around, and am really just eating because I know I should. Last night I had to basically force feed myself my 3rd meal, because I had to eat it a little bit earlier than scheduled (due to work). That wasn’t the most comfortable thing, but it wasn’t the worst thing in the world either.
  • Morning hunger really isn’t that bad. I used to think that I always woke up hungry and that I had to eat as soon as I woke up. Now I realize that yes, sometimes I do wake up feeling hungry, but that feeling generally passes within a half hour. I’ll have a cup of coffee and generally be good until my first meal which is always either at 11 or 12, depending on my training time.
  • Hunger pangs do pass, except for when they don’t. Most of the time when I’ve gotten really hungry during the morning or evening after my last meal, the feeling has passed within about a half hour, which is totally manageable. I’ve also learned that keeping myself busy is an excellent way to ignore these, which has meant that cleaning has been happening in the mornings when I’m feeling especially hungry. Again, not the end of the world. But there have been two days over the past two weeks where the hunger pangs didn’t go away, and that was pure torture. A few days ago, I even made a point to leave for work early, so that I could walk around downtown to keep myself busy. For some reason, that ended up being my hungriest day, and by the time I got to work, I was in a very bad place. I even had to tell people not to talk to me until I ate something (and I meant it 100%. Luckily most of them know what I’m doing with this experiment). That was the only really difficult morning I’ve had though.

eat_all_the_foodsThis is how I felt that day.

  • Training fasted isn’t all that bad, except for when it is. For the most part, my strength when training fasted has been completely fine; I’ve even increased in a couple lifts over the past couple of weeks (moving my split squat up to 105 lb from 95, and inching closer and closer to 100 lb on my bench!). And generally when lifting, I don’t notice a difference in how I feel. There have been a couple of conditioning days though, where a) my legs felt like total bricks and b) I’ve gotten extremely light headed and short of breath very quickly.  These have been torture and make me feel like I’ve been smoking 3 packs a day for 5 years. Yuck. Granted, the first of these was in the first few days of this program, so I was clearly still adjusting big time. And I did finally have a good conditioning session on Wednesday, so maybe I’m past that now. We’ll see next week.

There we have it. These are my observations about IF so far. I’ll be doing this for at least another two weeks, and will then update you all with full disclosure. I’ll give you a sample meal plan from a regular day, talk about any body composition changes that may or may not happen (nothing has changed yet…but it’s only been 2 weeks. Let’s be realistic).

Would you consider trying Intermittent Fasting? Do you always wake up hungry or do you skip breakfast naturally?

Have a wonderful weekend everyone, and don’t forget to visit (and like) my new Facebook Page!

Getting Started With Intermittent Fasting

Today’s the day, my friends.

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Today’s the day that I begin my 4 weeks of Intermittent Fasting. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can read this post from a couple weeks ago where I described the nutritional experiment that I’m beginning.

For the past 2 weeks I’ve been documenting my normal weight fluctuations as well as body composition. I’ve also been documenting how I’ve been feeling throughout the day, sleep patterns, etc. so that I know my base line before I start all this.  Granted, for a full week of that I was sick as a dog, but I don’t think that had much of an effect on my normal weight fluctuations and such. So now that I have some numbers documented to compare to, it’s time to get started with the fun! As I said in the original experiment post, I’ll be starting with Intermittent Fasting. I promised that I’d elaborate a little bit more on this when the time came, and that time is now.

What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)? 

IF is used to describe a style of eating in which you alternate prolonged periods of fasting with shorter periods of eating. In reality, we all utilize some form of IF, because technically we fast when we sleep at night. However, the research behind IF suggests that health benefits may be realized when the fasting period is prolonged, from anywhere from 16-24 hours. I am not going to get into all of the science behind it in this post, but there is research out there that suggests that IF may help to increase life expectancy, regulate blood glucose, regulate blood lipids, and help to maintain a desirable body weight/composition.  The research is limited, but I’m willing to work with it for now.

There are many different protocols for IF. There are those who follow extended fasts, going a full 24 hours 1 – 2 days per week, and those that alternate 36 hour fasts with 12 hours of “regular” eating (now that just sounds like pure torture). There are those who use a 20/4 ratio, fasting for 20 hours and eating all of their calories within a 4 hour window (also torture, no?). The protocol that I will be following is the Leangains style, which incorporates a 16 hour fasting window with an 8 hour feeding window (only very mild torture).

How Will I Do This?

I will most likely be fasting from 8 pm until noon on most days, but will have to give myself a little bit of wiggle room due to my ever-changing work schedule. The times may shift 1-2 hours either way (7pm – 11am, for instance), but I am really going to try my hardest to stick to the 16/8 schedule.

There are some rules here though. I can’t just go all CHEESEBURGER!!!!! for 8 hours (although I wish I could. Love me a burger.) Following a Leangains style of eating incorporates the following: carb cycling, eating mostly whole, minimally processed and unprocessed foods, and eating your largest meal directly after training. This could get tricky with my schedule.

*Important Note – I will still be getting all of my normal calories in each day, just in a shortened time frame. This is not a way to drastically cut calories from my diet. 

If you wanted to do this as well, you could choose to eat early in the morning, and have your fasting start late afternoon (essentially skipping dinner instead of breakfast) but I have a feeling that would not work out great for me personally.  Based on my work and training schedule, the night-into-morning fast seems to make the most sense for me. Who knows though, that could change!

Following this schedule will also help me to make the transition into Carb Back Loading more easily in a months time, but I’ll go into more detail on that later.

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What Challenges am I going to face with IF?

This is most definitely going to be a very challenging thing for me at first, of that I’m sure. I’m a snacker; I hate feeling hungry, and tend to have a very bad reaction to it (shaky hands, nausea, inability to think straight, irritability, etc.), but part of me thinks that this is something that can be controlled.  I think that the first week or 2 will be extremely challenging, but hopefully after that my body will settle in.

I think my biggest challenge of all is going to be training fasted. I train almost exclusively in the mornings, and I’ve only done so without breakfast a couple of times in my life. It will be interesting to see how my body responds, and most likely I’ll be experimenting with some BCAAs (branched chain amino-acids) pre-workout, as I’ve read that these can help with energy when training in a fasted state.

The final challenge that I will probably encounter will be in my social life. I’m often out after 8 pm, and will find myself munching away on things, even when I’m not particularly hungry. I can attack this in 2 ways: I can either shift my fasting window on those days, or I can practice some self control and just keep my hands away from the snacks. We’ll see how this goes!

What am I looking forward to?

I would say the biggest thing that I’m looking forward to with IF is learning the difference between physical and psychological hunger. I’m interested in learning more about my own personal hunger cues, and how my body will respond to such a strict schedule.

If you are curious about IF, and would like to try it yourself or just learn more about it, I recommend that you start with this awesome (free) downloadable PDF from Dr. John Berardi, the mastermind behind Precision Nutrition.  There are tons of great resources out there, but this is an excellent overview!

And with that, here we go! I’ll keep you updated as the weeks go on, so you can either share in my misery or hear about what I’m loving about IF.  Hopefully it’s the latter.

Do you have any questions about IF? Have you ever tried this style of eating? Do you think you would be able to manage skipping breakfast? What do you think your biggest challenge would be with this program?

A Nutrition Experiment

First of all, I want to wish everyone a very happy Martin Luther King Day. I hope at the very least, that everyone takes a moment to appreciate the amazing things that MLK did in the name of racial equality in the US, and also to appreciate the very long road we still have in front of us on that front.

Second of all, don’t forget about my giveaway! It will close tomorrow (Tuesday) night at 9 pm, and you really don’t want to miss out on a chance to try some delicious GoodOnYa Bars for free! Check out this post for the details on how to enter.

Now… Remember back in my New Years post a couple weeks ago when I hinted at a nutrition experiment that would be coming up? Well here we gooo…

There are countless nutritional guidelines out there; most of which are touted by “experts” who claim that their program is the best. While I am a strong proponent of following a resistance training program combined with eating mostly whole, un-processed and minimally-processed foods, I understand that many of these programs are a little bit more structured than that. Is there a certain time that you should be eating certain foods? Are there food groups that you should eliminate? Are there certain times during the day when you shouldn’t be eating at all? And how does all of this correspond with strength training and other exercise programs?

Lost and Confused Signpost

There are so many questions, many of which have answers that are backed up by research, but many that have answers based on anecdotal evidence at best.

This is why I’ll be conducting my own nutrition “experiment”. I put experiment in quotations, because this will not be a strict scientific process. This will be a personal period of experimentation, in order to find out if there is a program/plan out there that works well for me and my body. Will the results of my experiment be applicable to you and your goals? Maybe, with a little tweaking, but probably not 100%. You see, everyone is different when it comes to nutrition, weight loss, food intolerances, hormonal balances, etc. So to say that one specific program will work for everyone is unrealistic. But what I will do is share my results and ideas, so that you can choose to try these things for yourself (or not).

What will my experiment involve?

I will be following 3 of the more prominent nutritional styles that I have seen in the fitness world lately. These are Intermittent Fasting (IF), Carb-Back Loading, and Paleo. I will be following each of these nutritional protocols for at least 4 weeks, but will extend one or all of them if I find that I enjoy the progress I am making.  I am giving each of them 4 weeks in order to get myself over the misery that often accompanies the start of a new diet or nutritional plan, in order to really experience how they make me feel. I do realize that 4 weeks is not generally long enough to see immense changes in body composition, and that is the reason why each program is getting at least 4 weeks. Long enough to see if it’s working, and also long enough to see if I absolutely hate it. I’m not a believer in torturing yourself all in the name of “health”, so if one of these programs is making me miserable after 4 weeks, sorry, it’s out.

What are my goals? 

I have a few goals, and I’m sure I’ll come up with more as I begin each program, but here’s what I’ve got for now:

1. Lose about 4% of body fat. I’ve been sitting at about 24% for a while now, and I just want to lean down a little bit. I would love to be able to sit at about 20%, but I just haven’t been able to be disciplined enough to get there yet. This may happen during this experiment, but it may not, depending on how well I tolerate each program. If it doesn’t happen, I’ll simply go back to what works best, and go from there when it’s all said and done.  And for those of you who are thinking “but 20 % isn’t even that low!”, it is pretty lean for a female, and I’m not trying to get down to competitor level leanness here. Just feel better in my own skin.

2. Contol my hunger, instead of hunger controlling me. I’m one of those people who has a horrible reaction to hunger. I get cranky, stressed, and just plain out bitchy. I know that most of my reaction to hunger is mental, and I need to be able to learn that hunger is not always a bad thing. Transient hunger can be helpful, and learning how to deal with it instead of always reaching for the closest snack will help me to reach  my goals. No, I’m not talking about starving myself, but realizing that feeling hunger for a few hours is not going to be the end of the world is something that I need.

hungryorbored

3. Experience these nutritional programs so that I can offer advice or thoughts about them, and actually know what I’m talking about. I’ve said before on here that I don’t follow a Paleo style of eating, but honestly, I’ve never tried it. Maybe I’ll love it, who knows until I try though, right?

Source: 9gag.com via Stephanie on Pinterest

What do I expect?

I expect a lot of things; most of which I’ll go over when I first begin each specific program. Each one will bring it’s own challenges, and hopefully it’s own rewards. I don’t expect to love all of them, but I do expect to find some new insight into the worlds of each of these programs. I expect to lose some body fat, but I’m not sure how much until I actually get started. I expect to have some days where I’m a total raging bitch (I apologize ahead of time), especially when I first start IF. (More on that soon).

How is this all going to go down?

I have a little bit of a process planned out.

First, I’m going to take 2 weeks to really focus on me, my eating habits, training habits, sleeping habits, moods, and so on. I’m going to be a documenting freak, carrying around a journal and taking notes on what I’m eating, when I’m training, how I’m feeling at different parts of the day, energy levels, weight, BF %, and sleep habits. This will be my baseline.

From there, I’m going to start with Intermittent Fasting, and we’ll talk more about this when I get there. After at least 4 weeks with IF, I’m going to transition into Carb-Backoading for at least 4 weeks as well. I plan on finishing out the experiment with at least 4 weeks of strict Paleo eating, and then, well, the future is up in the air.

I’ll keep you all updated as I start each one, and then probably once or twice throughout each 4 week period. Don’t worry, this wont turn into a blog thats all about IF, or CBL, or Paleo, but I will let you know how I’m progressing. I’ll report back with weight and BF% after each trial, as well as challenges, rewards, and thoughts on each one as a whole.

Maybe I’ll love one of these and go back to it. Maybe I’ll hate all of them and go back to the way I do things now. Maybe I’ll want to try one or two of them again, with some small tweaks in order to fit my life better. Who knows! That’s the beauty of an experiment: Who the F knows what is going to happen.

So here we go! Do any of you follow any of these nutritional styles? Have you heard of them all before? Is anyone interested in trying any of these with me? 

Don’t forget about the giveaway

My Food Philosophy

If you read a lot of fitness and nutrition blogs, you’ve probably been hearing a lot about a few things: IF (Intermittent Fasting), Paleo, Clean Eating, among other things. I do not follow IF, if only because I’m a ravenous beast in the morning when I don’t eat breakfast. Paleo doesn’t appeal to me for a number of reasons. But just because I don’t follow these practices, doesn’t mean that I think they are wrong, I just think that they might not be the best for me.

My food philosophy has little to do with strict rules and guidelines, and more to do with treating yourself well.

My very loosely followed guidelines are something like this:

  • Eat REAL foods whenever possible. Vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, real butter(!), fruits, etc. When you’re eating real, unprocessed foods, your body is better able to process and absorb the nutrients that it needs.
  • Even when snacking on “bad” foods, eat real foods!* What is a Dorito anyway? What is that color? If you want to eat some scrumptious snack foods, then by all means go ahead. But try to at least eat something that is made from just a few real-food ingredients. My general rule is that if there are things on the ingredient list that you A) can’t identify, and B) can’t pronounce, then it’s probably not real food. Stay away! *Note: I’m a firm believer that there are actually no “Bad” foods. Just try to keep this kind of stuff to a minimum, and you’ll probably want it less anyway. See below.
  • Eat more of the good stuff, and you’ll crave the fake stuff less. See, when I was in my early 20s, I ate all the convenience foods I could find. If it was frozen and made with some sort of cheese product, I was probably eating it. And it showed. And I craved it every day. Now that I eat much cleaner, even looking at that type of food in the grocery store makes my mouth go dry and my stomach turn a little bit. Stop eating non-food crap, and you’ll stop craving non-food crap!
  • Appreciate quality over quantity. Real butter. Gourmet cheeses. Eat a candy bar. Are you satisfied? Probably not. Now eat a square of high quality, gourmet dark chocolate. Are you satisfied now? Most likely.  Higher quality foods will satisfy you more than overly processed foods every time.
  • Eat some fat. Peanut butter is my lifeline, and eggs are good for you! Try having a little bit of full fat, high quality cheese, and you’ll probably be 10 times more satisfied than eating 5 pieces of low-fat cheese. Not only does quality make a difference, but fat is satiating and including a moderate amount in your diet will help you to stay more satisfied than gorging yourself with any non-fat processed replacement.

So there you go. These are my loosely followed food “rules”. I say loosely, because I believe that there is room for just about anything in everyone’s diet, within reason.  I am by no means the perfect eater, and I fall prey to sweets and snacks just like the rest of the world. But I understand that deprivation leads to self-control chaos, and indulging every once in a while helps to keep me sane and happy. Besides, what is a world without cupcakes and self-serve Fro-Yo?

Mixx Frozen Yogurt in Boston, MA. My Kryptonite.

What did I miss? What are Your food rules?