Renaissance Periodization and ALL the Food Math

Who loved math in high school?

Okay. I know that there are some of you that genuinely did, but I was not one of those people. I hated math. It didn’t come naturally to me. I had to work twice as hard to get a good grade and since high school I feel like I haven’t flexed any of those math muscles at all.

At least until I started doing Renaissance Periodization and doing literally ALL of the food math ever.

Let me rewind for a second and explain what I’m talking about. Renaissance Periodization, or RP, is a diet template (not a “diet” in the traditional sense, but diet like “the food you eat”) that is scientifically formulated to optimize nutrition and training.

Renaissance Periodization was founded with the understanding that science is the surest path to the truth, and in this field, to results. Our approach is the rigorous application of scientific principles to nutrition and training. Everything we do is built on a foundation of peer-reviewed literature and experimentally confirmed theory.

I’ve worked for a long time at making my body healthy and strong, but I know there is more I can do to be stronger and healthier. I’ve written before about my relationship with my body image and I’ve talked a lot about my philosophy on healthy eating. I generally do a pretty solid job of eating whole, nutritious foods, getting the right nutrients, and maintaining a healthy relationship with food in general. However, stepping on the scale showed me that I was still “overweight” (by BMI standards) and for as frequently as I work out and as healthy as I eat, I couldn’t seem to make that needle move even a little bit. I suspected my problem was, in fact, undereating.

I exercise 5-6 days a week, typically for 1-2 hours a day. Based on MyFitnessPal (where I was tracking my meals), I was only eating around 1800 calories a day. That is NOT enough, given my calorie output. However, I was in a food routine and it was hard for me to make myself eat more than that. Chronic undereating can really eff up your metabolism and ultimately tell your body to store fat because it thinks you need the energy.

That’s where RP comes in. A number of folks at our gym have used it to great success, and I’ve followed a bunch of athletes who also use it (olympic weightlifters and crossfitters). I thought that maybe following a template with a little more structure and expertise than I could offer myself may work a little better in my effort to lose some body fat and build strength. Clay, who has the opposite problem as me, wanted to use RP to do a muscle gain. We bit the bullet and each purchased our personalized templates.

According to RP:

Each diet offers the option to structure your meal timing for training days on which the training is done first thing in the morning and in every 3-4 hour interval later, all the way up to a late night session before bedtime. Non-training day diets come standard with every template.

Each fat-loss and muscle gain is designed to be run for approximately 3-6 months, with the programming to help you gain or lose anywhere between 5 and 25lbs in that 3-month span, depending on your body size, caloric expenditure, and goals.

The included maintenance diet (the base tab) that comes with both the cutting and massing plan can be run for as long as you want if your goals are to maintain your weight and improve your recovery and performance.

This is an example of the template I’ve been using

The best part about RP is the mentality. Yes, you are given a set of templates that dictate what your meals should be. However, the minds behind this business know that humans make choices and life happens and sometimes we fall off the wagon, sometimes we have life events we want to celebrate, and sometimes we mess up. There’s no penalty, there’s no guilt, they just say to get back on track tomorrow. That’s it. I love that way of thinking because I know that over the course of 12 weeks, I will be 99% compliant, but my birthday is next month, so is my anniversary. I want to celebrate both of those things and I will and I won’t worry or feel bad about it at all.

We started our respective templates at the beginning of the month and are currently in our fourth week. I’ve been doing SO much food math (lots of cross-multiplication) to determine the quantity of food I need to meet the required macronutrients per meal. So much math, that we’ve started to keep notebooks with our meals written out in grams and formulas that tell us what we need to make sure our meals are complete. Not to mention, our meal prep skills are ON POINT. Every Saturday, the fridge is packed to the brim with groceries, and every Sunday, those groceries are turned into 25 meals, neatly packed in tupperware.

So, yes. High school algebra has found a way back into my life. Much to my chagrin. But, this time, I’m happy to do it. I’ve seen small progress – which is appropriate given the time period I’ve been on the template – both on the scale and in the mirror, the latter being the more important of the two for me, honestly. I just want to feel confident in my body and know that I’m fueling it the best I can to achieve the goals I’ve set for myself.

Here’s to 8 more weeks of food math!

Snaaaaaacks

Hey, I’m Ashley and I love food. This should not come as a surprise to anyone who knows me in real life, follows me on any type of social media, or if you have read any of my other posts.

Crunchy things are my weakness. Ice cream is my soulmate. Pizza is my best friend.

You get the picture, right?

How did the internet get this footage of me?

It’s so easy to sit on the couch and grab a bag of chips or popcorn and just munch away, not worried about portion size or calories. I’m guilty of it, even as I’ve been trying to be on this “healthy lifestyle”. I can often be found sneaky chips and crackers and other delicious things late at night knowing the only person I’m actually hiding from is myself. It’s ridiculous!

Lately I’ve been trying SO HARD to do better with my eating habits. It’s definitely working, but not without a little change in my thinking. This definitely includes snacks.

Instead of grabbing chips or something salty, I’ve been binging on fruits and veggies. Of course, sometimes you need a little bit more to go with those fruits and veggies…because that stuff gets boring real fast.

I’m obsessed with this little cuties. The amount of them I eat might be embarrassing if they weren’t so delicious.

I’ve been toying around with Greek yogurt (yuck) and have found that it’s tolerable when I put a lot of different stuff in it. It might sound crazy, and you’re probably thinking why don’t I just eat stuff I like? Well, I’m trying very hard to stick to my plan, so that means I need to get creative.

These three things and a dash of cinnamon…

…make for a delicious fruit dip!

 

Greek yogurt is a great breakfast food time. Of course, I like to mix in bananas, cocoa powder, and sometimes even a little natural sweetener because it isn’t something I can eat by itself. For veggies, I use the yogurt and a packet of ranch season to make a super light dip. So many things to do with it!

You might be able to guess by now that I also love dips of all kinds. Hummus and carrot sticks, crackers, or cucumbers is always filling… BUT, WAIT.

Did y’all know that chocolate hummus is a thing? Because it is and it ain’t half bad.

Get on this.

These are just a few things that I’m obsessed with right now. Also: mushy bananas because those are the best.

And coffee.

Is coffee a snack?

Anyway, if you have any tips or delicious treats you love, let me know! I’m always on the lookout for new things!

No Sugar Challenge Giveaway Winners

Our No Sugar Challenge wrapped up on Monday and so many of you participated! To say thanks, we’re announcing the winners of the giveaway.

Congrats to Jessica J., Krystal L., and Amanda G.! They’ll each get a bottle and a box of Tea Sport Keep Fit Green Tea to help keep up the great habits.

Personally speaking, the Challenge was great! For twenty-one days, I didn’t eat any chocolate, candy, or baked goods. For me, this is a big deal. Even my husband was impressed. I only had one serious moment of temptation, which I overcame like a champ.

The first eight days I didn’t have any sugar at all, and it was trying to say the least. After that, I limited myself to having one teaspoon of sugar in one cup of tea a day. I did this so I could remain married and not be kicked out of my parents’ house because I was getting…testy. Overall, this is a decrease in sugar intake of about 90%. I call that success!

The hardest things for me was feeling constantly hungry the first few days and I got tired of only drinking water. Oddly, that wasn’t a problem during the water challenge. What  learned is that I can live without scones and chocolate it’s not as hard or terrible as I thought. I think this will be the start of a less-sugar lifestyle!

 

Did you participate in the Challenge? How did it go for you? Are you doing other things that serve your health this new year? 

No Sugar Challenge Moment of Triumph!

It’s the last few days of the No Sugar Challenge, and earlier this week, I overcame a MASSIVE craving for everyone’s favorite, cake! Here’s how I did it.

How are you doing with the Challenge? What have been your major obstacle or setbacks? How have YOU overcome the hard things? Let’s life each other up through these last few Challenge days and ROCK. IT OUT.

 

 

No Sugar Challenge Check-In

I can’t believe it’s day 11, basically the halfway point, of our 21 day no sugar challenge! Let’s check in.

The first week was…rough. My cravings for baked goods was strong and persistent, but somehow I managed to not cry. I don’t know how, but I did it!

I was also STARVING the first week. SO. HUNGRY. Out of hunger, I did break down on Monday and get a bacon cheeseburger because the idea of another salad in winter chilled me to the bone.

I’m still living at my parent’s, waiting for my house to be built (another *challenge* I frequently cry over), and I forgot to tell my mom that I’m doing the sugar challenge. She went grocery shopping, as she does, (wonderful soul), and brought home allllll my favorite things. Like Plain Goldfish (yes, I’m 6), and Nutella, and Ice cream. She also brought home salad and fruit and all kinds of things I can eat, so yay, I’m not starving!!

The best thing that I’ve noticed is that my taste buds are starting to reset. I ate some strawberries the other day and they really did taste like candy. I was great. And seeing, or in this case, experiencing, a noticeable difference like that was encouraging. Eating more fruit will help me get over my cravings, so that’s the plan for the rest of the challenge.

 

Up until Tuesday of this week if you had asked me how I was doing with the no sugar challenge, I would have answered with “Fine, dandy, couldn’t be better!”

And then, I fell hard on the ice (while being a responsible human and taking out the recycling).

We’re big fans of BibRave orange!

As such, my life has been a bit of a slip sliding disaster. On Tuesday night, after I got my cast, I demanded ice cream.
Yesterday I went back to smarter decisions and skipped the cookies that were offered to me. I’m an emotional eater and this has definitely put A BIG OL’ WRENCH in the works. I have more to say but as I am typing this one-handed, I’ll just stop here.

Oh sugar.

I think I’m somewhere along Meri’s line with this. I’ve been doing well, until I found the Christmas chocolate in the pantry yesterday and the PMS whispered in my ear “you NEED this.”
It was right. I needed it.
But, beyond the small snack of chocolate here and there, stepping back from the sweets has been pretty a-okay. I’m fortunate to eat pretty healthy most of the time anyways, and aside from the sneaky chocolate in the pantry, there isn’t any junk in our house to speak of. It’s pretty easy to avoid sugar when you don’t have any crap food around.
We’ll just keep chugging along… only a couple weeks to go!
It’s not to late to join our challenge and giveaway! Click here to enter.
How are you doing with the challenge? Only 10 days left, tell us all about your struggles and triumphs! 

21 Day No Sugar Challenge

Today, we’re kicking off our 21 No Sugar Challenge! I decided to do this for myself when I discovered my glucose levels were wonky after my annual routine blood work. Diabetes doesn’t run in my family, but my addiction to baked goods is likely to blame. I knew it was time to cut back on the processed sugar, and I knew the best way for me personally to do that was to go cold turkey. I’m not doing any sort of program, I’m just going to do my absolute best to cut sugar from my diet for the next 21 days.

Tears are being shed for all the future donuts I will not eat.

I know this is going to be super hard for me. But I also know this is crucial for my health. I’m 41, and it’s now or never to kick my sugar addiction.

Here’s my strategy:

  • Continue drinking more water to help flush my system (thanks, Hydration Challenge!)
  • Drink more hot herbal and green teas that don’t need sweetener
  • Chew sugar free gum when I get a craving
  • Eat more fruit
  • Cut white sugar and white flour food items

Here’s what I hope to gain by day 22:

  • A shift in my taste buds toward less sugar cravings
  • More stamina instead of the crash and burn from glucose energy
  • Overall feeling of increased health and wellness
  • A new perspective on diet
  • Lots of yummy new recipes!

This ain’t gonna be easy, folks. I expect there will be tears. Especially when my severe PMS cravings kick in. Some of the challenges I’m expecting are:

  • Not having my morning tea routine
  • Not eating chocolate in any form
  • Not having scones with my tea
  • Making sure I carefully read all labels

Speaking of Labels…

I know what I’m getting into, and I know my body. I quit smoking thirteen years ago, and to this day that was the hardest thing ever. After years of trying to quit with everything from medications, patches, and gum to sunflower seeds, toothpicks, and learning to knit, I learned that the only thing I really need is motivation and determination. I’ve never been so motivated to change my eating habits as I am now.

Are you motivated too? No matter what your fitness goal is for 2018, it can benefit from eating less sugar. I’d LOVE to have you join me on this journey. It’s free. I’m not selling anything, it’s all about accountability and commiseration. It’s going to be hard and challenging, but fun and oh so worth it. There will be a giveaway at the end, too, and we all love winning stuff! So come along with me on this sugarless trip, and tell me what you’re motivated to change in 2018. Together, we can do it!

To join the challenge, enter our giveaway by clicking the picture above or here and interact with us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. I’m here to support you as you chase your goals, so TELL ME ALL ABOUT THEM. Let’s do this!

#SugarScoot Sugar Detox & Water Intake Challenge Update

The good news is, I don’t have diabetes. The bad news is my glucose levels are still wonky. It’s time to up my clean eating game by cutting sugar and drinking more water. Are you in?

Recipe Box: Thai Red Curry

Shortly after our wedding, Clay and I decided that we wanted to change our diet. Again. Not entirely surprising, if you know us at all (I write about food a lot)… but this shift was definitely bigger than any we’d done before.

We’d been watching Food Inc., which we’d both previously seen, and it reignited our concerns about factory farms and agribuiness’ negative impact on the environment. Since ultimately we vote with our dollar, we decided to try being vegetarian – choosing not to buy meat, and really looking into where our food comes from.

This shift has been really eye opening all around. Since we also pay pretty close attention to our macronutrients to ensure that we are still getting the appropriate amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates, we’ve had to really consider carefully the types of vegetarian food we depend on. Turns out it isn’t as difficult as you might think to get plenty of protein with vegetarian food sources. We end up eating a lot of tempeh, tofu, and tofurky sausages to help us hit our numbers – and truth be told, everything is super versatile and very tasty.

We still try to eat pretty clean: no added sugars, lots of vegetables, very little processed food. While now we eat a lot more carbohydrates than previously, I’ve found – and I think Clay would say the same – that my body appreciates a more carb-heavy diet. I find myself with more energy, which is vital to fueling my workouts. I also find myself feeling lighter. Figuratively, if not literally. Being vegetarian has allowed me to eat much more intuitively, which has allowed me to feel significantly less stressed about food. I still track everything in My Fitness Pal and eat clean, but I also allow myself to enjoy cookies or Halo Top or pancakes. Consequently, my body feels good and so does my mind. This works for me – and while it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it certainly fulfills my desire to have a positive impact on the planet as well as a healthy lifestyle.

Three cheers for finding peace with food.

One of our favorite go-to recipes while on this vegetarian venture has been Thai Red Curry from Cookie and Kate.

This recipe is super easy (we modify it a bit to cut out the sugar and the rice (sometimes we make it and sometimes we don’t). To make the prep easier, we’ll often split up the tasks: Clay will cut all the veggies beforehand so when it’s time to make dinner, all I have to do is assemble the pieces. We also add tofu to bump up the protein content, and it’s super delicious.

Give it a try!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 ¼ cups brown jasmine rice or long-grain brown rice, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • Pinch of salt, more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger (about a 1-inch nub of ginger)
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin 2-inch long strips
  • 1 yellow, orange or green bell pepper, sliced into thin 2-inch long strips
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal into ¼-inch thick rounds (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
  • 1 can (14 ounces) regular coconut milk
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 ½ cups packed thinly sliced kale (tough ribs removed first), preferably the Tuscan/lacinato/dinosaur variety
  • 1 ½ teaspoons coconut sugar or turbinado (raw) sugar or brown sugar (we don’t do this)
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce (we use coconut aminos)
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar or fresh lime juice
  • Garnishes/sides: handful of chopped fresh basil or cilantro, optional red pepper flakes, optional sriracha or chili garlic sauce

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. To cook the rice, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the rinsed rice and continue boiling for 30 minutes, reducing heat as necessary to prevent overflow. Remove from heat, drain the rice and return the rice to pot. Cover and let the rice rest for 10 minutes or longer, until you’re ready to serve. Just before serving, season the rice to taste with salt and fluff it with a fork.
  2. To make the curry, warm a large skillet with deep sides over medium heat. Once it’s hot, add the oil. Add the onion and a sprinkle of salt and cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened and is turning translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, while stirring continuously.
  3. Add the bell peppers and carrots. Cook until the bell peppers are fork-tender, 3 to 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the curry paste and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the coconut milk, water, kale and sugar, and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the peppers, carrots and kale have softened to your liking, about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Remove the pot from the heat and season with tamari and rice vinegar. Add salt (I added ¼ teaspoon for optimal flavor), to taste. If the curry needs a little more punch, add ½ teaspoon more tamari, or for more acidity, add ½ teaspoon more rice vinegar. Divide rice and curry into bowls and garnish with chopped cilantro and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, if you’d like. If you love spicy curries, serve with sriracha or chili garlic sauce on the side.

Feed Your Face: Thrive Market and Eating Evolved

Raise your hand if you like food.

*raises hand*

Now, raise your hand if you like food delivered to your door?

*Hand still raised*

Keep that hand up if you like that delivered food to actually save you money AND benefit other people?

*Both hands in the air*

Well, my friends, have I got something for you.

For the past year or so, I have been a member of Thrive Market, an online grocer of sorts, and I’m a little bit in love.

Thrive Market is a membership community that uses the power of direct buying to deliver the world’s best healthy food and natural products to our members at wholesale prices, and to sponsor free memberships for low-income American families.

Thrive is great because it gives me easy access to a lot of the typically more expensive paleo ingredients that I use in a lot of my cooking. AND Thrive not only ensures that the consumer pays less than retail, they also provide healthy food to low-income families. How great is that.

Here’s how their model works:

It’s seriously so great. I place an order probably once every two weeks, stocking up on baking ingredients like coconut flour, maple sugar, almond flour, or condiments like Sir Kensington’s Special Sauce (I’m obsessed with this right now) and snacks that are sometimes harder to find in my local grocery store. I save a few pennies on my purchase (yay for me!) and I feel good about how my dollar is giving back (yay community!).

Which leads me to my next rave this week: I generally follow a flexible dieting plan (not an official program, I just track my macros and food myself in MyFitnessPal). The flexible part of this plan is that I can still treat myself so long as at the end of the day, my macro profile remains balanced. Granted, I don’t take this to mean that I should go balls out on donuts or cookies all the time, but there are definitely days where based on what I’ve prepared and planned to eat, I can have some kind of treat.

A lot of times, I want that treat to be ice cream. But lately, I’ve been treating myself with Eating Evolved chocolate. Eating Evolved explains:

We have a guiding principle that influences every decision we make — Chocolate: It’s Food, Not Candy. When chocolate is done right, it’s a delicious, antioxidant-rich superfood — a far cry from the commoditized, sugar-filled milk chocolate candies that line supermarket shelves. It is this principle that also drives our simple mission, which is to be the go-to chocolate for health conscious consumers. We know what it’s like to have nothing suitable on the market, and we work hard to solve that problem every day.

It’s Food, Not Candy. DUDE. That’s like… probably one of the most profound things ever said about chocolate. Which makes me super happy, because there are few things in this world that I love more than chocolate. Like, maybe two things. Clay and cheese. But even cheese is a toss-up.

All of Eating Evolved’s products are gluten free, dairy free, soy free, refined sugar free and they are paleo and vegan, which is totally rad if you’re looking for a treat that is compliant with some kind of dietary plan.

They have a number of delicious snacks, but my favorite by far are their coconut butter cups. These dark chocolate cups filled with coconut butter are to dieeeee for. My favorite flavor is probably the caramel & sea salt, closely followed by the classic… but mint is right up there, too. I usually get a few packets of these with my Thrive Market order, toss them in my freezer, and bust one out for an after gym snack.

I can’t recommend Thrive or Eating Evolved enough. Big ups to both of these companies for fueling my workouts and my life – deliciously!