Booty shorts squat

Skip the Booty Shorts

I was scrolling through Facebook today and came across an article called “Training Tips for Beginners.” I click on most of these links; I’m a beginner and can use all the tips I can get. Maybe I’ve been reading too many of these articles, because before I even got to the content, I devised Tip #1 in my head. It went:

Skip the booty shorts. You have to squat to earn those booty shorts.

Ahh, the post-holiday hangover! I don’t even know where that came from, as everyone at Rocktown (particularly those wearing booty shorts) appears fit as fiddles to me. (And for the record, I am not personally considering wearing booty shorts). But that’s what the post-holiday hangover does to my brain.

This new year, I’m focusing on behavior-based goals instead of outcome-based goals. This shift in my approach coincided nicely with a recent episode of Barbell Shrugged. They had some great tips for goal and resolution setting. I wanted to focus on things I can control, and I can control my behavior. I can’t necessarily control the outcomes. For example, I can control how many times I set foot in the gym per week. I can’t control whether or not I lose a set number of pounds by setting foot in said gym.

One of my goals is to up my workouts from 3 times per week to 4. The extra workout will most likely be Crossfit, though I would still like to get back into swimming and wouldn’t mind if one workout was swimming.

Another goal is to get off the extreme-calorie-deficit dieting bandwagon. To do that, I’ve joined a 2-month challenge at Eat to Perform. (Late registration ends Jan 15, 2015, if you’re interested in joining). There are essentially 2 parts to the approach to eating a la ETP:

1. You have to fuel your workouts. No cutting calories on workout days. You eat all of the calories your body needs that day.

2. Instead of counting calories, you count macronutrients (or “macros”) – protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

The intended result is muscle gain and fat loss… slow, steady fat loss. You create your calorie deficit (and thus weight loss) by cutting calories from carbs on rest days, and for those with a lot of fat to lose, they recommend 3 to 4 rest days per week. By keeping your protein up, your body has the amino acids it needs to perform muscle repair during those rest days. Like they say – you don’t build muscle when you’re lifting. You build it when you’re recovering from lifting.

Squirrel Rest Day

The Eat to Perform calculator (with some tweaking from the coaches) recommends that I shoot for:

Workout days: 150g protein, 250g carbs, 90g fat (2,410 calories)

Rest days: 150g protein, 125g carbs, 90g fat (1,910 calories)

For someone that has lived under the assumption that weight loss requires a 1,200 calorie per day diet, even rest days are a whole lot of food! ETP throws quite a few of the typical calorie-deficit-dieting “rules” out the window. No foods are off limits, though clean eating is encouraged. The whole “no snacks after dinner” concept is moot, to the point that ETP even recommends a pre-bed snack – not just any snack, but protein and slow-digesting carbs. I was so shocked to be encouraged to eat before bed that I did some googling around, and sure enough, there are many reputable sources citing muscle recovery benefits and decreased inflammation due to well chosen bedtime snacks. I don’t know if this particular source is reputable, but it summarizes what I’ve found elsewhere quite nicely: The Truth About Eating Before Bed.

We’re six days into the new year, and I’m doing pretty good at hitting my macros every day. I could be eating a whole lot cleaner, but I’m taking this all one step at a time. I could overhaul everything in a day and crash and burn in 3 weeks like most of my “resolutions,” or I can try a slow, steady approach and see if I can make some of these changes permanent.

The hardest part for me is getting variety in my diet – because I really don’t mind eating the same things day after day. I’ve had a smoothie for breakfast nearly every day for the last decade. It’s just easy and I’m too sleepy to cook in the morning. My stomach doesn’t really like food first thing in the a.m. but I’m almost always hungry first thing, so a smoothie does the trick. For a while I was in a great habit of having salads for lunch, but I fell out of that habit and am now fighting to get it back. But I’ve gone years on end eating PB&J for lunch, every day, day in and day out. For the past couple years, my go-to lunch or dinner has been a Jimmy John’s #6, no tomato, add sauce. It’s so extreme that the crew at my local JJ’s has my sandwich ready to go before I even make it through the door from the parking lot. I could eat that sandwich every day for the rest of my life and probably never get sick of it.

It would definitely be healthier for me to introduce more variety into my daily diet, but for now, I’m focusing on hitting my macros and ditching all of the junk except the Jimmy John’s. I’m allowing myself the option to have JJ’s on workout days, because it fits into my macros. It’s not the best choice, but considering that’s really my only major vice, it’s not the worst thing I could be doing.

To hit my protein, my lazy eating (let’s call it, habitual one-track-minded eating) results in a lot of protein shakes – which I actually like (see previous smoothie comments). It’s also probably not the most healthy way to be getting my protein, but at least I’m mixing up different kinds of protein powders – some whey for post-workout shakes, some plant-based for mealtime shakes. I spent as much money this week diversifying my protein powder collection as I did shopping for produce and groceries. At least the protein powders will last longer!

Why, oh why, can’t I thrive on green smoothies, protein shakes, grilled cheese sandwiches, PB&J, and Jimmy John’s? Oh how I wish.

But, baby steps. And with my baby-steps approach, so far, so good. I don’t feel deprived (and actually have trouble eating enough food on rest days). Workouts for the new year have been good. I added 10# to my back squat and 20# to my front squat maxes. Today was the first time I did consecutive days of Crossfit workouts that included strength segments, and while I was sore heading in today (and was sore heading out!), I feel pretty good. (I can’t lie, though – I’m glad tomorrow is a rest day!)

So that’s how I’m kicking off 2015… sans booty shorts. How about you?

Stealth Ninja Vegetable Experiment: Beets

Here we go – Phase Two of the Stealth Ninja Vegetable Experiment. Before you dive into Phase Two, check out the first phase, where I chopped, steamed, roasted, and pureed all of the vegetables that will be used in this experiment.

Now that I’ve got a fridge and freezer full of pureed vegetables, it’s time to try cooking something with them!

The first recipe I will try takes advantage of pureed beets. Beets are new to me – I’ve never eaten them before, so they’re officially New Food #10 that I’ve tried in 2010. I certainly didn’t expect to hit this New Year’s Resolution within the first month of the new year! That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying new foods, though.

I chose to use the beets first because there aren’t many recipes in the Deceptively Delicious cookbook that I wanted to try that use beets. This recipe could optionally use pureed spinach, sweet potatoes, or broccoli.

Cut up chicken breastFirst up in this cooking adventure: cut up a chicken breast into chunks. This, too, is new to me (and almost earns an Adventures in Chopping designation!) I’ve never cut up a raw chicken breast before. I’m not much of a fan of handling raw meat. It makes me think of where it comes from, and being an animal lover, I’ve always had a bit of a hard time reconciling my love of animals with my enjoyment in eating meat. Ignorance is bliss, I suppose (though I do feel better about my meat choices since switching to eating organic meats. At least this chicken wasn’t a genetically modified FrankenChicken).

I got out my One Big Knife and sliced up the chicken breast. (The recipe calls for a pound of chicken breasts, but I only had 1 thawed, so I went with that).

Next, I mixed up the bread crumb mixture. Wow, it smelled delicious!

Bread crumb mixture

Then came the pureed beets mixed with egg. This would be the dip that would hold the bread crumbs on the chicken nuggets. Stealth Ninja Beets

Chicken Nuggets, beforeOne by one, I dipped the chicken pieces into the stealth ninja beet mixture, then coated each one with bread crumbs and it aside. When they were ready to go, I heated up the skillet.

I cooked the nuggets 3 minutes on one side and 4 minutes on the other. I may have needed to go a little longer over slightly lower heat, as my breading was starting to burn. They smelled great, though! Chicken nuggets, cooking

At long last, all of the chicken nuggets were cooked, and it was time to give these puppies a day in court.

Chicken nuggets, afterThe obvious thing here is, well, they’re red. I can just imagine a picky eater shunning these nuggets because they look weird. I’m guessing that the best bet, color-wise, would be to make these with pureed sweet potatoes instead, to get the closest match possible to the color of the chicken and breading. (Green nuggets from broccoli or spinach would look equally weird, I suspect).

However, this isn’t about looks so much as it is about taste – at least for me, as I’m getting pretty used to eating funny colored things that happen to taste good.

So, I sat down with my funny looking chicken nuggets and a cup of ranch dressing, and…

Chicken nuggets, ready for dipping

Nom nom nom!

They were mighty, mighty good! No sign of beets in the flavor. I could eat these chicken nuggets all day long! So, despite having eaten beets tonight, I still could not tell you what they taste like – and that’s A-OK with me!

In conclusion, the first Stealth Ninja Vegetable Experiment, Beets Edition, was a success.

What stealth ninja vegetable will I try next? *dun-dun-duuuuuuuun!* You’ll have to wait and see!

[recipe-show recipe=chicken-nuggets-with-stealth-ninja-beets]

Welcome to Epic Organic!

Hello, and welcome to Epic Organic! I’ll be your host, and I am Shelly. As I write this, I’m a 35 year old Chicago native (brr!) living in the southwest suburbs.

I began 2010 with a few resolutions. Continue eating natural and organic whenever possible. Try 10 new foods this year. Learn to cook.

I recently realized the foods I bought off the shelves of my local supermarket and ate every day weren’t what I had assumed them to be – in fact, some weren’t actually foods at all, but more like chemical concoctions made to resemble food. As I dove deeper into researching the US food industry and food labels and ingredients, I discovered frightening facts about genetic engineering, hormones, antibiotics, cloning, and other things that, quite frankly, don’t sound like they should be anywhere near my food.