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Successful Food Planning - Short Trip

Last week I was traveling through Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the northern lower peninsula, living in my vehicle for three nights. About 25 hours of driving ensued, along with several hours of sitting. Exercise consisted of two workouts in gyms, some light walking in flat Boyne City and hilly Petoskey, and a couple of trips from my parked vehicle into Walmart in the middle of each night to use the bathroom!

In other words, to maintain my bodyweight, not to get instant-fat, I had to plan. With two days of no workouts possible, and all that driving, coupled with the non-food choices available to me much of the time (other than Marquette and Petoskey and Midland), I needed to be smart and proactive. Nothing could be left to chance, and I never could trust myself to be driving along in the night, hungry and tired, seeing a bit lit Wendy's sign rolling into view. No temptations!

To steal from the great Hunter S. Thompson, "when the going gets tough, the weird turn pro!"  Before I left I created two big meal shakes in the blender - the usual line-up of protein powder, strawberries, blueberries, kale, almonds, coconut flakes. In a frying pan I cooked four hamburger patties. When they were done, in the same pan I sauteed a hell of a lot of broccoli - asparagus - red pepper - mushrooms - kale - broccoli slaw - kalmata olives - sundried tomatoes. A big pan full. I made white rice. In meal-sized containers I put nearly two cups of vegetables, and one burger patty. Blam, four more meals ready to go.

Yes, I ate them cold, in the Element, parked wherever I was when I got hungry. With rice and fruit when I felt like it.

I added to my stash three Best Bar Evers, and four of the new protein bars Costco sells that are basically imitation Quest bars. Same nutritional profile, almost the same great flavor. Not quite, but for less than a buck each, a case found itself into my shopping cart a couple of weeks ago.

Oh yeah, I also washed and trimmed a couple of pounds of strawberries, and a bunch of blueberries. They came along for the ride, too.

All this went into a full-sized cooler with a bag of ice. There, no temptations caused by neon roadside advertisements, trying to lure me in. No crackers were eaten, no chips were wolfed down, no candy. Yeah, a couple of White Monsters were downed, but one can only drink so much coffee while behind the wheel that long!

Coffee, fortunately, is available everywhere. And I took a case of bottles of water, selling for unbelievably little money at Costco.

Other than one meal from the natural foods co-op in Petoskey, and lunch out with my father at Bob Evans, this was my food for the trip. After each workout I enjoyed a shake with Progenex More Muscle protein - Carbolyze - BCAA - creatine, but that's merely standard procedure for me. One night with my dad I enjoyed a glass of wine; that was the only alcohol. 

Four days, hours behind the wheel, an absence of Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, two non-workout days, and I didn't gain an ounce of bodyweight.

No excuses! If I can do this, so can you. Don't sabotage your goals, throw away your workouts, by using travel as an excuse to mindlessly over-eat.


Ups and Downs - Still Learning - Losing Bodyfat

It’s been an interesting two weeks. Twelve weeks into detailed monitoring of my food and drink, cutting way back on what turned out to be dramatic amounts of fat consumption, my bodyweight had gone below my temporary target of 175#. For a day.

During those three months I was eating less per meal, having decided after all these years of throwing down food like a bodybuilder and powerlifter, that the extreme calories weren’t necessary, and in my life today (older and lighter and more CrossFit-oriented), getting in my way, if I truly wanted to be leaner. Success, right?

What harm could there be in taking a couple of weeks off from such disciplined eating and drinking? It’s summertime in Wisconsin, after all. I had a day of SummerFest (festival and concert), a day in Door County (beach), and a couple days in Wisconsin Dells. No workouts these occasions, and a couple of beers or glasses of wine each day. And french fries. And the white bread buns the burgers came in. Oh, let’s not forget the big bowl of ice cream one night. And some shockingly high-fat blue corn chips. Gee, there was even half a damn good pizza in there one afternoon. I could go on...

And a stunning lack of movement, much less exercise. I came into this past week quite sore; I’d worked a great deal of hours in the gym for the previous two weeks, and trained my entire body to failure, three times each of those weeks. So six full-body workouts all done slowly, in HIT style, using computer-driven, piston-utilizing machines causing my eccentric movements to be as intense and difficult as the concentric. Plus, a couple of trips to CrossFit each week, just to top off the pain.

I thought I was ready to ease up on paying close attention to what I put into my body, relax, and not wig out when I gained a couple of pounds.

Hah! Last night I realized I’d run out of patience with the lack of discipline and care I was giving to what went into my mouth. I knew I’d gained weight. Didn’t feel sharp. Resolved to know I’d enjoyed these summer excursions, but wanted to maintain my awareness that it all wasn’t as great as I’d thought it would be. 

I enjoy feeling lean and active. After this little hiatus I didn’t feel that way any longer. This morning on the scale I was surprised, but not shocked. Give or take time-of-day fluctuation, I gained eight or nine pounds in two weeks!

Beginning Tuesday morning I was back on track. Breakfast was a half cup of vegetables, four eggs, and one sausage. All mixed together into a scramble. After my morning workout I enjoyed a Progenex Recovery shake (two scoops), plus one scoop Carbolyze, a handful of strawberrries, and a half scoop Fiberlyze. My next meal before going to work at the gym will be a big hamburger patty and more vegetables. Last meal tonight will be another shake, this time two scoops whey protein, some berries and fiber, but no added carbs.

I’ve maintained my good-old vegetable-meat-little bit of rice or potato meal plan the last four days. At least one meal daily comes from the Blend-Tec:  protein powder, water, fiber, berries, and a serving of powdered carb if it’s immediately post-workout. Wine one night, but no alcohol other than that. 

This morning I was 179.5 on the scale. To say my body snaps back quickly is an understatement. Let’s credit this to a years-long base of feeding myself real food, regular intense exercise, and a working metabolism. I’m getting my workouts in, a combo of CrossFit or traditional strength training.


What did I learn from these two weeks?


Wine doesn’t taste as good as it used to. 

Eating too much at one time immediately feels wrong. My appetite and brain just don’t want to over-eat any more.

I remember why I basically stopped drinking beer years ago. It makes me feel bloated and full, then hungry for crap. And the alcohol tricks me into thinking whatever food cravings just popped into my head are a fine idea!

The weird, unhealthy vegetable and crapola-oils used in restaurants seem to have a significant effect in how my body metabolizes food, and what it does with the calories I consume. I fear there is nutritional fuckery going on with these mystery oils. 

Everyone eats too much food at a sitting. I did for years, even when I was convincing myself I needed (and deserved!), these super-size-me servings of food. Most snacks are unnecessary. Listening to my body and only eating when I’m actually hungry, or when I’m timing my meals around my workouts, is what makes sense to me. 

I stopped eating at night. Enjoy a good dinner, then be done. If you go to bed a bit hungry, so what? Suck it up, get some sleep, and feel even leaner and more energetic for the next day’s workout, and for life itself. Breakfast is so great in the morning, when I go to bed a bit hungry. Be strong.

Eat sauteed/cooked vegetables at least twice each day. Three times is better. By definition, getting these vegetables into you with meat will keep you full, and calm those little voices calling for the box of Triscuits in the cupboard. 

Drink more water, spread throughout your day. No, you don’t drink as much as you think you do.

Consume more protein. Most people think they take in enough, but most likely they don’t. Nearly every client I’ve had, for many years, eats much less protein than they anticipate they do, and most underestimate it’s importance. Whether you are a strength athlete or enjoy 50k runs, your body needs and wants protein. Every time you eat.

Move around more. Run for a couple of miles. Do you really think that little bit of metabolic work is going to drain muscle from your physique? Why do you think that? It will not, and in fact will probably enhance your fitness and other workouts.

This is all lifestyle, folks. Not a diet plan. Life is more enjoyable a little lighter, a little leaner, healthier and fitter.





Weight Steady - Bodyfat Down - Even Less Wine!

Another week of fairly careful eating and experimentation is in the books. Turns out I weighed a bit more than I thought. When I thought I was in the 179-181 range, the true number was in the 183-184 area. Who would have thought an old scale, one I moved all over the house to use, would be innacurate?

Solution:  new scale! Accurate, featuring a larger, easier-to-read display. And it's kept in one place. Over the course of this week my bodyweight has slowly, consistently gone down. I've been 181 for a few days now. What's even more interesting is my body fat is clearly diminishing.

How is this happening? Very low carb, basically, with moderate fat and logical protein levels. Most days I'm using no more than two tablespoons of coconut oil all day; this is a big change from the last few years of gobs of coconut oil daily. In my shakes, a couple tablespoons in each pan of food, butter in my coffee, sometimes butter and coconut oil in the vegetables. 

My protein level remains fairly constant, in the 175-195 range. If I ate more meals daily I'd jack the protein up a bit. Some days the fat is higher; I grilled brats last weekend and had some left over, so a few times this week I've cut up brat into little pieces with kitchen scissors, adding it to scrambled eggs/vegetables. Nice change of pace for my taste buds.

Some days this week I splurged with starchy carbs, and added a half cup of either white rice or potatoes to my pre-and post-workout meals. If I was heading for CrossFit I added the half cup of potatoes or rice both before and after. If my workout was weight-training bodybuilding-style, no carbs before the gym.

But overall I've been lowering carbs. Today is a good example of how the week and been playing out. Breakfast was a chicken breast cut into pieces, in a pan with a half tablespoon coconut oil, and a cup of mixed vegetables (my sauteed mix - the usual). The next meal was a shake, consisting of two scoops of whey protein, a half scoop of FiberLyze, and a quarter cup of berries.

Early afternoon found me eating three chicken meat sticks from my local butcher, Jacob's Meat Market. In a pan with another half tablespoon of coconut oil was more vegetables, a cut-up brat, and three scrambled eggs. That was pre-workout.

CrossFit tonight was intense, enjoyable, with plenty of barbell movement. My kind of workout. Immediate post-workout, in the car driving home, was a shake of Progenex Amplitude (creatine peptides), Progenex More Muscle (two scoops), a scoop of Gaspari BCAA, and 36 delightful grams of Species' CarboLyze. This delicious carb mixes readily and tastes great in a shake. The CarboLyze are my only non-vegetable carbs today, other than the small amount in the berries earlier in the day.

Dinner was simple and tasty:  another chicken breast, cut into the same pan as this morning, with the identical amount of coconut oil. Another cup of vegetables, a sprinkle of sliced jalapeno peppers for bite. Warm thoroughly. In a bowl, add a big whopping amount of guacamole! Probably a half cup, mixed in. Awesome!

And no wine. I've thought about wine all day, have gone all week without, and decided tonight would go by ok without any. I know, for years I've told clients a glass or so in the evening was fine. Hell, I've written it a dozen times, and do believe it to be so. But there's no getting around the science, showing that alcohol disrupts the metabolizing of food, and increases body fat storage. It is what it is. So, one day at a time, while I'm experimenting with myself (turns out physically and emotionally), I'll cut out wine, as much as I love it, when possible. Thanks, Mike Doehla and Anne Hoffman, for the example and inspiration.

Here's my plan:  wine tomorrow night! Get my weight down as close to 175 as possible, without losing muscle (I think I've been successful so far), hopefully within two weeks, and remain at 175 for a week or two. Then:  ketogenic dieting!


Still Losing Weight - Lessons Learned

It’s been a couple of weeks since I used My Fitness Pal to log my food consumption. Primarily because I spent nearly a week out of town, some of it driving for up to 17 hours at a stretch. Secondarily, I’ve maintained my basic calorie levels and macro-nutrient proportions, with a couple of interesting exceptions, and my weight has continued to slowly drop. 

My bodyweight yesterday was 179.5#. I don’t believe that in my adult life a scale has shown me numbers under 180#. Not sure. I’ve reportedly been an adult for a long time, and it could have happened in the mid-1980s for a while. 

The “goal” I set for myself is 175#; it’s really an arbitrary number, but beginning a couple of months ago at 195#, it seems reasonable. So far I don’t believe I’ve lost appreciable muscle mass. At the very least, nearly all the 16 or so pounds gone is body fat. When I arrive at 175#, in another week or two (I’m intentionally slowing down), my plan is to remain there for a couple of weeks, hopefully encouraging my system to stabilize. Working through all this slowly helps my metabolism remain cranked up. I think.

Top-end strength is down. My back squat is definitely decreased, though I’m not attempting any max-effort reps. What would be the point? Metabolic workouts at CrossFit remain taxing and tough, but I’m clearly moving more quickly. My motor is running a bit hotter.

Running and cycling are definitely easier. My waist is 32” if not a bit less. Clothes don’t fit, and a belt is necessary with everything I wear.

Here’s the big lesson, reinforced daily. I’ve been eating too much food! Good food, sure, healthy fats, real food, but too damn much of it. All these years thinking I could jam all the quality fat I wanted into myself, have been shown (in my case, at this time in my life), to have been adding unwanted body fat. 

My protein levels have been steady at one gram per pound of bodyweight, or a bit more. Carb levels vary, but they aren’t too high. Many days my carbohydrate intake is in the 50-70 grams level, and much of it’s vegetables (sauteed in coconut oil). The remainder of my carbs are sweet potatoes, white rice, Build and CarboLyze. Most days I consume no bread, no crackers, no nuts, almost no cheese, and certainly no sweets.

Exceptions for me are rare, but I enjoy them on social occasions. Driving from Asheville, North Carolina, last week, passing a Waffle House at every exit, I finally succumbed and pulled into one. The pecan waffle was as great as I wanted it to be (watching Anthony Bourdain discover Waffle House this season on his TV show spurred me through their door). Scattered hashbrowns weren’t terrific, but not bad. Scrambled eggs were fine; the coffee was sub-par. But who goes to Waffle House for the coffee? I was entranced by the employees, the customers (some of whom were barefoot), and the overall ambience. I may never go back, though.

Keep working out. I got to a gym every day I was visiting Asheville. I also drank some marvelous beer each night (there seem to be breweries on every block), but it had no effect on my weight. Could be due to the constant walking up and down hills that Asheville is built on. Perhaps it was the tough, long daily workouts at Summit CrossFit. Or maybe it’s that I don’t drink too many of them!

Eat less food. Make every calorie count. Cut your fat intake way down (all of it should be quality saturated fat (lard, grass-fed butter, coconut oil, olive oil). Work out as hard and as often as you can. Keep your protein at one gram per pound of bodyweight, or more, daily. Drink a gallon of water. Do not snack! Meat, vegetables, rice, potatoes, repeat. Eat your meals, take in those intra-and post-workout shakes, but relax about thinking you must eat constantly to be lean and muscular and fit.

When I get closer to my ketogenic diet phase, I’ll write about my experiences with keto, my plan, and the secret weapons I'm going to be experimenting with.


8 Hours of Torture (Fun?) on the Bike Today

Rather spontaneously, I entered a Century Bike Ride this morning, the Backdraft Bike Tour. Sure, they have 25, 50 and 75 mile options, but are those for me? Nope, said my ego, egged on by long-ago memories of my bike racing years and the level of cardio fitness that accompanied that time. Forget about the fact that yesterday I put myself through a decent WOD at CrossFit Green Bay, then stayed after for a back squat session. Let's not even raise the little issue that I've only been on a bike three times this spring, after virtually not riding the previous two summers (meniscus tear, etc.).

My argument was that I'm a consistent CrossFit athlete, train traditionally with weights a couple of other times weekly, have been doing a bit of running, and am down to a near-record 181 adult pouns of bodyweight. This reminds me of a few years ago, when I ran the entire Fox Cities Marathon, all 26.2 damn ugly concrete miles, with only a few 3-mile runs and Tough Mudder under my belt as training. Again, the conceit that CrossFit makes us prepared for anything. Of course, I would have helped myself if I'd purchased real running shoes, and those burpees at each mile marker...

What could go wrong? 

Well, crazy winds could be the staple of today's weather. I'm talking constant, turn-a-corner-stop-moving winds. On a course consistently exposed to the weather, with many hills.

Took me eight hours! That's right, eight freakin' hours in the saddle. My quads are dead; my left glute feels like someone smacked me with a 2x4. In a long life of cycling, including years of racing both road and mountain, today was as difficult as anything I've done on the bike. Yeah, I'm older now, I get it, but my nutrition is fine-tuned and I feel great. This is a tough course.

The small-town fire departments who hosted and organized and ran this Backdraft Bike Tour did it all right. Rest stops had plentiful food, lots of water, and big jugs of Skratch Labs hydration mix. I was pleased to see this great cycling (probably any endurance sport) supplement on hand. Never having used Skratch Labs powders until this spring's cycling season I'm impressed and already consider it critical to my cycling. As I ramp up my running I'm going to be adding it to my water bottles for longer runs.

Today's Backdraft Bike Tour featured the best signage I've seen, ever, for a century ride. Any time there might be a question in a rider's mind about which way to go, boom, signs were present. When the course turned, two signs were there. Impossible to get lost.

Nutrition played a big role for me, of course. Early this morning I scrambled four eggs, gobbled that down with coffee. While driving the 20 minutes to the start, I ate 1 1/2 Lara Bars (three little sample bars). With me in my fanny pack (that's right, I'm bringing them back), I had several more sample Lara Bars, two packets of Progenex Force, three packets of Progenex More Muscle (whey protein), two packets of Progenex Build (sweet potato powder), and a hell of a lot of Skratch Labs.

One water bottle on my bike was always protein/water. The other was water/Skratch/and sometimes Force. Over the course of the eight hours I refilled both bottles three times, consuming substantial extra Skratch (I was just dumping it wildly into the bottles - remember, I was doing this outside). If a little is good, more should be great, right? I used both packets of Progenex Force, both of the Build, and two of the protein packets. I had a constant flow of BCAA, protein, and carbs at all times. Remember, I was cycling at a high level of intensity for eight hours!

Little of the food at the rest stops appealed to me. Once I had a banana. At another stop I gobbled a quarter of a bagel, smeared with Jiffy peanut butter. Kinda gross, I know, but I needed calories! A local bakery had created a dense bar filled with honey, peanut butter, cranberries and other fruit, called a Trek Bar, and I had one at a stop, but for a while it felt like a rock in my gut. No issues, but I decided it wasn't a good thing for me today.

By the end of the ride, I was shot. It was difficult to get un-clipped and off the bike. The finish line had pasta, ugly spaghetti sauce (it may have been sitting there for hours), applesauce, baked broccoli, and some other things. I'm guessing the food set-up was better earlier in the afternoon when the 600 or so 25-50-75 mile rides finished. I chowed on two plates of plain pasta, a bunch of applesauce, two bottles of water, and when I felt better, hit the road the home.

Tonight I enjoyed a couple cups of mixed vegetables, a cup of rice, and two hamburger patties, all mixed together and heated with a bit of salsa on top. Now I need to get to bed early tonight.  Oh yeah, I almost forgot! I took an ice bath when I got home. I hate 'em, but they are great at making a difference in recovery. And do I need that.

I feel strongly that the combination of my general all-around fitness, my ability to efficiently ride a road bike, meant that my positive nutrition gave me the ability to perform like this for eight hours. I'm looking forward to this event next spring. Let's hope the wind gods take the day off!

@progenex, @skratchlabs