Recipe: Banana Bread Protein Pancakes for 2

One of the most popular posts on this blog is my protein pancakes using Kodiak Cakes pancake mix. Their protein mix (Powercakes) released in 2013, well before I created my recipe in 2015, but it was before I could find the mix anywhere near me. My recipe is one of the simplest recipes I have on this blog.

Their mixes have gone through some changes over the past few years, allowing them to continue to be balanced and provide more volume.

Kodiak Cakes Powercakes are a staple in our house because of how easy they are and with their recipe changes to their mix, I don’t find myself often needing to use my higher protein recipe.

However, there are times when we run out of mix or we’re not home, like this weekend, but we want pancakes.

As I mentioned the other day, there were a few things we were bringing from our fridge to JP’s parents fridge because we didn’t want to come home to throwing out food. A banana is one of those items I put in our food bag for the weekend.

This morning we woke up at 6:30 am without an alarm. This is sleeping in for us. We went to bed early last night after pizza date night. We had content bellies then, but this morning I could hear JP’s growling.

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He asked what was for breakfast and my first response was “I don’t know, eggs? What are you in the mood for?” His response was usual – “I don’t care.” It doesn’t really answer the question, but it doesn’t ignore it either.

So as always, I looked at my Pinterest boards to see if there was anything I had pinned that I’ve wanted to try and then I searched for something new when I didn’t see anything I wanted to make.

I knew I had a banana and that’s about all I knew. Here’s the recipe that inspired mine.

And here’s the journey of my banana.

What You’ll Need

  • a medium sized banana (mine weighed 126g)
  • 1 egg
  • ~1/3 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup of milk (I used 2% because that was what was in the fridge)
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 10g of protein powder (I used chocolate cupcake protein from PEScience)

Directions

1. In a medium bowl, combine a medium-sized banana and whole egg using. I used a whisk because the batter won’t be super thick, but may have banana chunks.

2. Add all-purpose flour leveled in measuring cup. I had started with a 1/4 cup and then went back to add an additional tablespoon. Using a full 1/3 cup would be completely appropriate.

3. Add a splash of vanilla. This is really about taste. You could also add some cinnamon if you wanted to as well.

4.  Add 1/4 tsp of baking powder.

5. While the banana is sweet, the pancake batter is really plain without a sweetener of some kind. I used a teaspoon of brown sugar, but you could use honey, maple syrup or an alternative like Splenda/Truvia. Just be mindful different kinds of sugar have different levels of sweetness so you may not need as much.

6. This step really is optional, but if it’s left out then these aren’t really protein-y pancakes. Protein powder. I used 10g, which is about 1/3 of a scoop of protein for PEScience. This adds about 4g of protein per serving, so 8g for all of the batter.

* For rough estimate, I divided the batter in half and called it good enough.

7. Heat a medium or large skillet to medium or medium/high heat. I used a little cooking spray on the pan, you don’t need a lot and depending on the pan you may not need to spray in between cakes. Pour batter to pre-heated skillet and cook on each side for just over a minute. This is relative to your pan and how it contains heat.

8. (optional) Top with chopped pecans or walnuts.

Nutrition for just the pancakes: 3.7F/35.3C/11.2P

 

❤ Cristina

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Recipe: Egg Stuffed Red Onion

Eggs and egg whites are a staple in our house. We eat them a ton of different ways, although it’s fair to say scrambles and omelettes are the easiest and most often form they’re consumed in.

AS we packed up to head to JP’s parents house for the weekend…and decided to bring a few things with us that we didn’t want to have to throw out when we returned, I found myself with two bowl-like pieces of red onion. The first thing I thought was “I could cook an egg in there.”

I’m pretty sure not many would think of that, but I did.

A few years ago, I shared a recipe for egg stuffed tomatoes – something I still make, but not as often. While that recipe is easy and a favorite of mine, it leaves you with soft almost fully cooked yolks. It also involved a bit more time and an oven.

What You’ll Need

  • red onion bowls or thick red onion rings
  • eggs – 1:1 egg per onion piece
  • cooking spray
  • shredded cheese (optional)

Directions

1. If you have a whole onion, cut thick slices about half an inch to an inch thick. Separate the rings and utilize the largest rings. If you have an end piece of an onion like I did, cut the bottom of the onion out like pictured below.

2. Using cooking spray, lightly coat a skillet and place onion rings or bowls in the pan. Cover with a lid for a minute or two so that steam can help soften the onions. Flip onions and recover for another minute.

3. Crack a whole egg in the middle of the onion bowl or ring. Allow for the bottom to cook before recovering pan with lid. You shouldn’t need any more cooking spray than the initial amount used in the beginning when the onion was added to the pan.

4. Uncover the pan after a minute to determine doneness. If you like your yolks runny, cooking may only take a minute or two. If you prefer a more cooked or soft yolk, allow egg to cook covered for about 3 or 4 minutes.

5. Garnish with shredded cheese. I choose mozzarella and used about half a serving per egg. This step is optional and so is the amount. If you like cheese or have more room for higher fat in your diet then go to town!

6. Plate a serve. We had our with fresh heirloom tomatoes and toast.

Notes: I wish I had Everything but the Bagel seasoning with me because I think those flavors would’ve been great with onion and the yolk. I choose red onions because I prefer the spicy flavor they have after cooking, but you could use any onion type. Just be mindful of cooking. I find that yellow onion cook down faster.

Nutrition for just the egg stuffed red onion: ~7F/4C/9P

 

❤ Cristina

Day 145, Movie Quote 12: “I didn’t know pizza places made motors.”

 
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It’s been feeling like vacation all week even though it’s not vacation at all.

I guess that’s the magic of going from a busy schedule to a less busy schedule.

This week I’ve gone to work and fieldwork – which is more like volunteering now since I’m not required to finish out the initial hours. I’ve gone to the gym and I’ve run twice. Granted the runs were only a mile each, but I had time to get dressed and lace up.

I’ve been in bed around 9 each night, which really makes a difference in my day.

While I have a summer class, I enjoy the reading and it’s all writing assignments. I love torture, I love writing assignments.

This three day weekend is actually going to feel like a vacation even though I’m bringing some reading along with me. I can’t remember the last time a weekend felt like a vacation.

While JP’s parents are out at the Cape we’re taking over the house.

He’s going to work on building the motorcyle and some other car projects. I’m going to work on two assignments I have for class.

We’re bringing some fancy clothes because we may go out for date night near the water, but we may also grill.

The only food decisions we’ve committed to so far are:

  • Bringing the rest of the raw broccoli that’s in our fridge so it doesn’t go bad
  • Bringing some protein bars because we plan on going to the gym and running over the weekend and his parents don’t eat snacks like we do
  • Go out to a new cafe of some kind

I know it sounds silly to say that you’re planning to be spontaneous, but I’ve planned a few things so that I can be spontaneous and feel good about those choices. Honestly, having a plan of some kind even if it’s not perfect makes me feel better.

Like, I’m planning to get my homework assignments done on Saturday mid-morning while he works on the cars so that we can do whatever we want in the afternoon together without me feeling like I should be stuck in front of my computer. I’m planning on finishing my writing so that I don’t think about initial submission next week – I can just work on finalization.

Saturday also starts the fifth week of my lifting program and since I’ve been trying to be more consistent I do plan on working out over the weekend when I have some time to myself. I.e. while JP is playing with the cars.

A few weeks ago I mentioned on Facebook that I restarted PH3. I’ve done the program before and I like the structure, however, I have changed up some of the hypertrophy. I’ve made sure to continue to target the muscle groups and have similar movements, but sometimes I want to do good mornings and stiff leg deadlifts over leg curls – so I’m letting myself that flexibility.

The program is divided into four segments. The first segment is four weeks long and I finished that yesterday with AMRAP to determine new maxes.

I feel really good about what I accomplished in the past four weeks. It was different than what the past eight or nine months have been like so it was like a reintroduction to routine and structured lifting.

I was appropriately sore at times and feeling like I could do more other times.

My old 1RM for my back squat was at 205, but since I haven’t lifted in this way in a long time, I decreased the number to 190 so I could work within percentages of it. I knew that 190 would be very difficult to hit, but I also knew if I tried to just restart completely and go to 100 I would do myself a disservice by not pushing hard enough. The heaviest percentage lifted so far has been 87.5% which was 165 pounds. That day it felt good. It didn’t feel heavy. But when I did testing yesterday 160 pounds felt slightly heavy and I could feel myself leaning forward too much.

Each day is unique and there are so many factors that impact your workout. I got six reps for 160 pounds which calculated a 1RM of 185 – so close to the guesstimate that I made of 190.

My bench sucked, but my bench isn’t something I’m concerned about. I’m more concerned with the mobility and flexibility in my shoulders. My range of motion isn’t very good in my left shoulder and that’s something I’m working on.

My deadlift improved the most. I’ve been focusing on a flatter back, pulling up without overextending my lower back. I’ve played with tempo a little bit too, but nothing crazy. My old 1RM was 155 and after yesterday’s lift it was calculated at 165.

I’m excited to work within that.

Maybe it feels like vacation because everything feels calm. Everything feels like it’s finding its place. When timing is right, it feels right.

To fill some of extra free time, we started watching the Fast and Furious series again… a movie each night. We actually have two copies of the series because we each own the movies.

JP has also been walking around quoting Paul Walker as Brian O’Connor. I’ve been asking a million car questions. 

Our talks have shifted from chemistry to political science and the U.S. constitution – I think we’re both going to learn a lot these next six weeks while I take U.S. Government.

We’ve talked about houses. We’ve talked about cars. We’ve talked about vacations and parties and the next 5K.

This is magic.

The balance of being busy with work – inside and outside of the house, being active and having some time to make last minute decisions is the kind of balance I’ve been striving for.

I don’t feel defeated or like the list is never going to get done.

I feel good about eating frozen pizza on a Thursday at 8 pm after a run. #thingsIneverthoughtIwouldsay

I’m ready for everything else. I’m ready for what’s next.

❤ Cristina

Recipe: Shredded Steak Tostadas

As warmer weather is approaching, we’re shifting how often we use the oven. It doesn’t matter if you have air conditioning, the oven turned on in the late spring and summer makes for a really warm kitchen. We cook a lot of things stove top, use our George Foreman or go outside and grill.

For this recipe, all you need is pots and pans and some tongs.

As we’re getting back into our routine of having dinner together again since the semester is over, I’ve been trying to incorporate meals that take a little longer or utilize entrees that may have a little assembly. I don’t need to rush dinner or have it in a Tupperware anymore, so this is a perfect opportunity to use corn tortillas.

I’ve made BBQ chicken tostadas before and since I had shaved steak I looked to see if there was a recipe that would be similar that I could check out.

Here’s what my Pinterest search looked like.

Pinterest steak tostada

So I skimmed through a few recipes and then decided to throw my own thing together.

What You’ll Need

  • Vegetables to saute (whatever you like, onions and peppers are perfect with this)
    • Red onion
    • White onion
    • Tomatoes
    • Bell Pepper
    • Mushrooms
  • 8 ounces shaved steak (I used Trader Joe’s because it’s lean and reasonably priced)
  • Jerk seasoning
  • 4 corn tortillas (I used Goya)
  • ~1/4 cup of plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • ~2T Mozzarella cheese
  • Cooking spray

Directions

1. Wash and chop vegetables into small pieces. They don’t need to be minced, but should be close to bite size.

2. Spray a medium sized pot with cooking spray and add vegetables. Put on medium heat. Stir occasionally as vegetables sweat.

3. In a separate pan, add shaved steak and seasoning blend. I used Jerk seasoning, but you could use something smokey or spicy for this recipe. Put on medium heat so you don’t burn the meat.

4. In a small pan, spray cooking spray or use a little bit of olive oil (with a paper towel) to lightly coat the bottom. Put on high heat to get pan to temperature, then decrease heat to medium/medium-high. Place a corn tortilla until you see air pockets form and the bottom side of the tortilla is browned. This should take a few minutes if the pan isn’t warmed up yet, then flip and let second side to brown. Repeat this for all corn tortillas. You may need to spray or wipe olive oil in between tortillas.

5. For plating, place a corn tortilla on a plate and spread plain Greek yogurt, I used a spoonful. Since this recipe makes two, I used half the steak for both tortillas, then added vegetables followed by shredded mozzarella cheese. Many recipes called for mozzarella, but you could use cheddar or a blend – whatever you prefer.

Nutritional estimates: ~350 calories, 11F/36C/32P

As always, nutrition will change based on brands and cuts of meat. If you use a different cut of meat, it may has more fat and therefore more calories. If you use more or less vegetables, etc.

If you want to check out the recipe that had inspired my BBQ chicken tostadas a while back, here it is!

❤ Cristina

Wellness Refocused Education: Vitamins Part 1

When you hear the word supplements what do you think of first? Do you think of fish oil? Do you think of a multi-vitamin? Do think of protein powder? Do you think of steroids?

For the beginning few months of last year when I went back to school, I worked at Vitamin Shoppe. This gave me the opportunity to be around everything from apple cider vinegar to protein powder to BCAAs to fish oil to probiotics. Vitamin Shoppe is a really well rounded store if you’re looking for something to help fill in the gaps.

The store is divided into two sections.

When you walk through the front door, the left hand side was what you could consider lifestyle health. It had all of the vitamins and minerals, it had digestive aids like probiotics and enzymes. It also had greens powders and gender-specific care.

On the right hand side was where the sports nutrition lived. It was protein powder, fat burners, energy drinks, BCAAs, pre-workout products.

The middle of the store is where the tea, protein bars, beauty products lived.

While it was retail, Vitamin Shoppe doesn’t provide commission, so you can have an authentic conversion with customers about what their goals are and what they’re looking to buy to match those goals. They provided us with a lot of education about the products we were selling including information from studies published from the NIH for additional research. At the same time, I was just starting my health science courses and was reading everything I could about vitamins and minerals and how they cause specific functions in the body to occur. Timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

You could see the wheels turning as a customer decided which side of the store they needed. In some cases, we would have to introduce them to the other side of the store.

For many who trained hard, they typically went to the right, but every now and then we would get them to go to the left.

For a better conversation, there will be a few posts about supplementation.

We’re going to start with the left side of the store with vitamins.

First, there are 13 vitamins considered essential, just like essential amino acids, this means that the body must consume these through diet because it can only make a small amount of none at all (Thompson & Manore, 2015). If you have variety in your diet and have healthy functioning organ systems, you’re probably consuming enough of all of these vitamins through dietary means.

Individuals that have malabsorption disorders such as celiac disease are more likely to have deficiencies because of ability to absorb dietary fat. Individuals who also consume too little fat could be at risk as well. For better assistance to determine deficiencies, talk to you doctor and have a conversation about getting blood work done.

There are two kinds of vitamins:

  1. Fat soluble
    1. Vitamins A, D, E and K
  2. Water soluble
    1. Vitamin C and all B-vitamins

These two categories determines how a vitamin is absorbed, stored and then removed from the body.

Fat soluble vitamins need dietary fat to assist with transport and absorption (Thompson & Manore, 2015). They are also stored in adipose tissue (fat tissue), which means we don’t need to consume these every day. Since they can be stored in the body, consuming more than what is utilized can lead to toxicity. This occurs much more often when utilizing supplements, food rarely leads to toxic levels of fat soluble vitamins.

Toxicity of fat soluble vitamins can lead to a number of symptoms. The symptoms below don’t occur as a reaction for every fat soluble vitamin, but is a list of symptoms of all fat soluble vitamins.

  • fatigue
  • bone and joint pain
  • birth defects
  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • liver damage
  • blurred vision
  • hair loss
  • skin disorders
  • hypercalcemia

Deficiency of fat soluble vitamins can lead to a number of symptoms. The symptoms below don’t occur as a reaction for every fat soluble vitamin, but is a list of symptoms of all fat soluble vitamins.

  • night blindness
  • impaired growth
  • impaired immunity
  • impaired reproductive function
  • osteomalacia or osteoporosis in adults
  • rickets in children
  • impairment of nerve, muscle and immune function
  • impaired blood clotting

Water soluble vitamins can be found in a larger variety of foods than fat soluble vitamins and are easily absorbed through the intestinal tract directly into the blood stream (Thompson & Manore, 2015). Our bodies don’t store water soluble vitamins, any excess is excreted in our urine after filtration from the kidneys. Since water soluble vitamins are removed through urine output it can be difficult to reach toxicity levels. It’s not impossible, but it’s not likely – at least through dietary consumption.

Toxicity of water soluble vitamins can lead to a number of symptoms. The symptoms below don’t occur as a reaction for every water soluble vitamin, but is a list of symptoms of all water soluble vitamins.

  • flushing
  • liver damage
  • blurred vision
  • glucose intolerance
  • nerve damage
  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • nosebleeds
  • increased kidney stone formation

Deficiency of water soluble vitamins can lead to a number of symptoms. The symptoms below don’t occur as a reaction for every water soluble vitamin, but is a list of symptoms of all water soluble vitamins.

  • fatigue
  • decreased memory
  • confusion
  • muscle weakness
  • anemia
  • swollen mouth and/or throat
  • pellagra
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • tingling and numbness of extremities
  • neural tube defects in a developing fetus
  • depression
  • fractures and bone pain
  • nerve damage

Some of the symptoms for both fat soluble and water soluble vitamins could be mistaken for other illnesses, but again to determine toxicity or deficiency for you as an individual, talk to your doctor.

This post is about fat soluble vitamins. We’ll get to water soluble a bit later, but now you know that there are two kinds of vitamins and what vitamins are categorized where.

fat soluble

So we have an idea of what fat soluble means, what is their purpose?

Fat soluble vitamins play an important role in specialized functions in the body by assisting complex systems.

Vitamin A is has multiple uses in the body, but Vitamin A isn’t just one compound. You may have heard of retinol, retinal or retinoic acid – these are different forms of it.

It’s required for eye functions. It assists our eyes in the ability to adjust to light changes, it also protects color vision.

During cellular development Vitamin A helps with cell differentiation, meaning it helps cells change their composition so they can each have different functions like hair growth or body growth.

In the reproductive system, Vitamin A helps with the production of sperm in men and fertilization in women as well as fetal development during pregnancy.

Vitamin A is important to the immune system (Stephensen, 2001). It assists innate immunity (the kind your born with) by allowing for the development of mucosal barriers and allow cells to work properly. In adaptive immunity it plays a role in developing T helper cells and B cell. A example of adaptive immunity would be developing antibodies after chicken pox exposure – you weren’t born with the chicken pox or the immune cells, but you adapted to the infection and developed them.

Vitamin D is best known for assisting with calcium absorption and helping keep bones strong. It also assists calcium with muscle contraction by allowing calcium to flow into muscle cells. If calcium levels are too low, normal contraction and relaxation can be inhibited with can lead to both skeletal muscle and cardiac muscle issues (Thompson & Manore, 2015). Vitamin D can help with the reduction of inflammation.

We can obtain Vitamin D when sunlight triggers synthesis in our skin (Office of Dietary Supplements, 2018). Individuals who live in regions that experience more darkness may not obtain enough through sunlight, but can obtain Vitamin D through food and if necessary through supplementation – but we’ll get to supplementation later.

Vitamin E is a name for a group of compounds with antioxidant properties.  Antioxidants protect cells from the effects of free radicals, which can lead to the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer (Office of Dietary Supplements, 2018). A free radical is an uncharged molecule and is highly reactive (Timberlake, 2018). Free radicals can be introduced to the body from the environment such as air pollution or ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

Vitamin E also works in the immune system and impacts T helper cells.

Vitamin K is less known, but not any less important. Similar to Vitamin E, Vitamin K is a name for a group of compounds that assist the body with blood clotting and bone metabolism (bone remodeling and growth). Healthy functioning individuals don’t typically need to worry about Vitamin K. However, individuals who take anticoagulants or have bleeding disorders will have Vitamin K levels assessed regularly to determine the need for supplementation.

The amount of Vitamin K recommended is so small that most diets in the United States meet minimum needs through diet (Office of Dietary Supplements, 2018). Vitamin K isn’t typically used in supplement form like other vitamins because the need is so small. In the case of individuals who have disorders that prevent proper absorption, a doctor may recommend a specific dosage.

Supplementation?

So, while deficiency and toxicity aren’t common, they can happen.

Toxicity is most common through supplementation, which is why it’s important to be careful when deciding to add a fat soluble supplement to your routine. While it may seem silly to consult your doctor on something of this nature, a quick phone call could assist with preliminary direction. Proper blood work will be able to assist in guiding the conversation.

A study published in 2015 examining adverse effects of supplementation found that supplements in general were the cause of over 23,000 emergency room visits per year (Geller, Shehab et al). The study was conducted over a 10-year period and researchers “defined “dietary supplements” as herbal or complementary products, and vitamin or amino acid micronutrients.”

A large concern with supplementation is toxicity, but quality of product and claims should also be on your radar.

Poor quality could lead to adverse effects and false claims can encourage individuals take products they don’t actually need. Supplements also are more likely to have a higher chance to interacting with prescription medications.

You will notice that labels on supplements ranging from vitamins and minerals to protein will say “these statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.” At the top of the latest consumer report on dietary supplements from the FDA, you will find the statement “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have the authority to review dietary supplement products for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed.”

I think this approach protects the FDA and doesn’t fully look out for the consumer. They do have marketing regulations, which sets a baseline, but it also shows the holes and what companies are able to get away with too.

According to the NIH, it is the responsibility of manufacturers to have evidence of label claims, but they don’t need to provide them to the FDA prior to products going to market. Once on the market, these products will be monitored. A good example of product monitoring, while not vitamins – the protein claims for the Lenny and Larry Complete Cookies were found to be false. The cookies had varied amounts of protein, mostly under the claims. This led to the reformulation of the cookies. While this is an example of a food item, it’s also used for protein supplementation and can be found in health stores.

What foods can they be found in?

All of the these vitamins can be found through a diverse diet and since they can be stored in fatty tissue they don’t necessarily need to be consumed daily. Below are a few examples of foods that have these vitamins – it’s possible that you’re getting enough of them already.

fat vitamins

But what if my app tells me to?

Something to be mindful of – tracking applications. For those who track their food with a phone application like My Fitness Pal, be mindful of the information those applications report to you. The daily values (DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet and don’t always self-adjust to the calorie goals for individuals. Since there can be variance in the foods found in the database, they might not be 100% accurate. Lastly, deficiency and toxicity may happen over time, so if you believe you’re low or high with consumption of a vitamin one day, you may balance it out another day. Don’t supplement just because “My Fitness Pal told you to.” It’s a helpful tool for macronutrients, fiber and sodium, but I don’t believe the vitamin and other mineral amounts need to be monitored with it unless stated by a doctor.

While vitamins don’t work to provide you energy, they assist in the hundreds of reactions to keep you going allowing macronutrients to be broken down and utilized effectively.

Next time, we’ll talk about water soluble vitamins, what they do and where they can be found.

 

❤ Cristina

 

References

Geller, M.D., A. I., Shehab, Pharm D., MPH, N., Weidle, Pharm. D., N. J., & Lovegrove, MPH, M. C. (2015). Emergency Department Visits for Adverse Events Related to Dietary Supplements. The New England Journal of Medicine, 373:1531-1540.

Office of Dietary Supplements. (2018, March 2). Strengthening Knowledge and Understanding of Dietary Supplements. Retrieved from Naational Institutes of Health: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminK-HealthProfessional/

Office of Dietary Supplements. (2018, March 2). Strengthening Knowledge and Understanding of Dietary Supplements. Retrieved from National Institues of Health: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/

Office of Dietary Supplements. (2018, March 2). Strengthening Knowledge and Understanding of Dietary Supplments. Retrieved from National Institutes of Health: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/#h7

Stephensen, C. (2001). Vitamin A, infection, and immune function. Annual Review of Nutrition, 21:167-92.

Thompson, J., & Manore, M. (2015). Nutrition: An Applied Approach. San Francisco: Pearson Education.

Timberlake, Karen. (2018). Chemistry: An introduction to general, organic and biological chemistry. New York: Pearson.

U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2017). Dietary Supplements. Washington, DC: FDA.

Day 132 and Day 133, Movie Quote 11: “You Have to Take the Tradition, and Decorate It Your Way.”

I’m starting this on Day 132.

I’m also watching TV shows and movies that JP doesn’t enjoy as much as me, like Sex and the City. I’ve seen every episode at least twice. I own the movies. I have the books – yes, they’re books too, that’s how the show started. This is my idea of relaxing on a Saturday night.

big_goif_douche

So this year… So far, we’ve celebrated his birthday, my birthday. I’ve made it through the spring semester and finals. I’ve logged about 160 hours of fieldwork. I’ve interviewed for jobs. I’ve napped less than I wanted to and had more late nights than I’ve had in years.

On Day 1 I apologized for Monday’s being held to a high standard and I wrote about my hopes for the year.  I quoted Titanic and recapped 2017. I put my foot forward by saying what I wanted to happen in 2018.

Now this list is really a list of reactions I hoped would occur because of my behaviors.

There are some things that have happened, but not how I planned like my activity level. I said I wanted to be consistent with my activity because I knew I would be sitting more this semester. I was consistent by doing something mobile like going for a walk most days and attempting to plan out some lifting. I fit yoga in where it made sense and as of Day 132, I’ve had a new gym membership for two full weeks in which I’ve gone five times each week. However, I thought I would’ve done more towards my strength,  but really that’s a goal that has no timeline and I’m getting the opportunity to work on it now.

I wanted to keep up with my running, but it didn’t happen, not even one bit. I felt that I didn’t have the time. However, there’s a lot of year left and we have been talking about running another organized race this summer, so I do know that I will get my butt in gear and get some miles in soon.

Together, we’ve enjoyed more than just Mules, but maybe a little more than we should’ve.

I’ve said yes a lot more than I have in a long time, my writing is becoming more consistent since I don’t have papers to write, and I’m trying new things like golfing – JP wants to teach me proper form.

I’ve learned so much this semester and so much in 132 days. I never thought I would love microbiology or that I would be actually be good at it. Chemistry reinforced my belief that the body is super weird and interesting. I’ve worked on a grant, edited video footage and learned how to write a subtitle file – not as hard as I thought it would be. I’ve learned to analyze research more effectively including determining what makes a study valid or thorough.

On Day 131, final grades were posted and I’m proud to say that while I have one class left, I am graduating on Day 138 with highest honors. Some classes are hard regardless of where you go and what I accomplished in my health science courses is exactly what I sought out to do last January – obtain more knowledge in the health sciences to be better at research and to assist many populations of client I could meet.

I want to help as many people as I can, but it has to make sense. I need to meet them where they are and help them grow.

The work I did in my public health courses broadened my view of health and while I started the program with the objective to be a better health coach, I’m leaving the program with a new path to serve my community in a macro-way.

It’s Day 133 and I’ve gotten so much done today. I feel like I can take on anything this week.

I will say that it has been so weird without classes and homework the past few days. It’s almost as though I don’t know what to do with my time…until I remember the projects I’m working on and other things around the apartment I’ve neglected from finals week. Maybe it’s just weird having time to do things I believe are fun like write and read books that aren’t assigned.

While I’m eager to take on a new career in public health, I’m not leaving coaching anytime soon. I’m excited to have more time to work one-on-one and help others see their potential.

I’ve partnered with a former client on a new goal. We’re taking a year to prepare for her first bikini competition next April. She’s 55 and a powerhouse. She’s feisty and ready to take it up a notch. We’re starting slow because then time is on her side. We can make small changes that will lead to bigger ones. We can focus on strength and developing muscle before becoming concerned about fat loss. There’s a year for changes to be made.

Hearing and seeing a change like this in a client fires me up. It fires me up because she is saying she can do more, she can push harder, she can allow herself to do something few do.

When my clients declare their goals such as “be more active in other ways like biking, hiking and walking” or “maintain the level of health and wellness that makes me feel great while teaching my kids to do the same” I can’t do anything, but cheer. Their declarations are about the life THEY want to lead. While some goals may be similar, motivations are so different.

I can’t wait to see more people take the first steps towards goals they never thought they deserved to think about. The more I see them taking steps forward, the more it encourages me to continue my journey too, where it may take me.

The next few weeks are going to fly by and I really hope I can hold onto them.

Graduation is on Day 138.

JP and I have a date morning on Day 139, followed by an end-of-spring celebration with some of my friends from school.

Day 140 we have a birthday party for a friend at a winery, some time after that we have a friend moving home back to our state.

There’s work and fieldwork and interviews and Memorial Day and a conference.

There’s 18 days left in May and I’m sitting here like I wanted to graduate, but holy crap that was fast!

As I’m thinking back to what I wrote on Day 1 and what hasn’t been accomplished yet this year, it has me thinking I should start planning our first hike of warm weather season and we need to pick a date for our next run so we can train a little bit. So these two things I would like to accomplish soon or at least have a plan in place to do so.

I’m excited and relieved to be back in the gym working out the way that I enjoy. While I loved what I learned in school, it was a huge culture shock and I believe that I finally will have “my life back” so that I can be as active as I enjoy and can lead the best life I can.

We keep joking that I get to be an adult again. That’s how it feels.

I am a work in progress and I hope that never stops. I’m cheers-ing to the new work week.

To graduation.

To always learning.

To always encouraging others to do the same.

❤ Cristina

 

 

 

Wellness Refocused Education: Protein and Amino Acids

We’ve talked about fats and carbohydrates (part 1 and part 2) already, but what about protein?

Like the other macronutrients, protein can be misunderstood.

Like dietary fat, I’ve heard from people including trainers that protein can make you fat if you consume too much. Let’s be clear – too many calories can lead to fat gain, not necessarily any one specific macronutrient. However, with that in mind, we need to be thoughtful about what is paired together with protein as well as how protein is utilized in the body. Is eating a whole egg really a problem, or is it that many people won’t just eat one or two yolks, but will pair the meal with buttered toast, multiple pieces of fatty bacon and top it all with salt? While these components may not always be the “healthiest” choice, individually they can be fine in moderation, but together – it’s like a league of villains, or can be if they are consumed too often.

Ok, so what is protein?

Chemically, protein is a polypeptide of 50 or more amino acids that have biological activity. Protein is found in our DNA, which means it is found in our muscle mass, blood, bones and skin. “They function in metabolism, immunity, fluid balance, and nutrient transport, and in certain circumstance they can provide energy (Timberlake, Karen, 2018).”

Nutritionally, we know that one gram of protein has four calories associated with it. We know that protein needs are lower in comparison to carbohydrates and fats because the body utilizes carbohydrates as a first line of energy followed by fat (Thompson & Manore, 2015). This doesn’t mean that protein isn’t important. Dietary protein helps us conduct daily business. It helps the body to function without depleting protein found in the body (i.e. muscle mass).

But, you can consume too much protein and we will get to that, but first some background.

In chemistry, protein is called a polypeptide, which a chain of amino acids.

Amino acids are called building blocks because they are single units that bond together to make protein.

There are 20 amino acids found in our bodies (Timberlake, Karen, 2018). We can make 11 of them, but there’s another nine that we need to get with our diet. Amino acids that must be consumed are called essential amino acids. They’re essential because without them our bodies can’t make other proteins for other body functions like neurotransmitters. The 11 amino acids we can make are called nonessential amino acids.

  1. Alanine
  2. Arginine
  3. Asparagine
  4. Aspartate
  5. Cysteine
  6. Glutamate
  7. Glutamine
  8. Glycine
  9. Histidine*
  10. Isoleucine*
  11. Leucine*
  12. Lysine*
  13. Methionine*
  14. Phenylalanine*
  15. Proline
  16. Serine
  17. Threonine*
  18. Tryptophan*
  19. Tyrosine
  20. Valine*

*essential amino acids

I’m sure many of you have heard of BCAA’s or branched chain amino acids. You’ve probably seen them in the store in a pill or powdered form. Simply, these are specific amino acids that have a branch. They can assist in decreasing protein synthesis, which means they can help prevent muscle breakdown and losses, however, there isn’t much research the proves this to be true or consistent (Wolfe, 2017). There are three BCAA’s out of the nine essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine.

I’ve heard people say that amino acids are inferior to protein. You can’t confused BCAA’s with all amino acids. I would say that drinking or consuming a BCAA if you recognize deficits or holes in your nutrition can be helpful, however, I would recommend that you eat a complete protein rather than drink amino acids or a protein shake. But – remember, it’s also about preference too – drinking BCAA’s won’t hurt you and some people just like protein shakes. I’ve tried BCAA’s, but I never noticed a difference and that could be because of dietary diversity even when in a caloric deficit.

Moving on.

So an amino acid is equal to a single unit, protein is equal to many units of amino acids. As you can imagine, there are many combinations of amino acids and the combination determines the function of the protein in our bodies.

Here are some things in our bodies made up of amino acids:

  • endorphins
  • hemoglobin
  • collagen
  • insulin
  • enzymes
  • muscle

Above, I mentioned complete protein. A complete protein has all of the essential amino acids in it.

Examples of complete proteins:

  • egg whites
  • meat
  • poultry
  • fish
  • milk

An incomplete protein lacks one or more essential amino acids.

Examples of incomplete proteins:

  • corn – missing lysine and tryptophan
  • beans – missing methionine and tryptophan
  • almonds and walnuts – missing lysine and tryptophan
  • peas and peanuts – missing methionine
  •  wheat, rice and oats – missing lysine

Dietary protein helps us build our bodies (Thompson & Manore, 2015). Our bodies are resilient and function smartly. When protein is broken down in the body, the amino acids are recycled into new proteins. Like mentioned above, protein helps with hormone balance, fluid and electrolyte balance, repairs our bodies and helps us grow, but as an energy source our needs are pretty low. This is due in part because we recycle amino acids because our bodies don’t have a “specialized storage form” of protein.

So how much should you eat?

At one point, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) suggested .8g per kilogram body weight per day for both inactive and active individuals. However, more research has shown that individuals who are active may need more. The ranges should vary based on a number of factors such as gender, age, size, but also the kind of activity you do, which is where I slightly disagree with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. A 2009 review of these guidelines determined the following concepts:

  1. protein is a critical part of the adult diet
  2. protein needs are proportional to body weight; NOT energy intake
  3. adult protein utilization is a function of intake at individual meals
  4. most adults benefit from protein intakes above the minimum RDA

They examined current perceptions about protein as well as benefits to treat and prevent obesity since 35.7% of U.S. adults were considered obese and 16.9% of U.S. children and adolescents were obese at the time of the review. The most recent NHANES data from 2013-2014 shows that 38% of adults are obese with 19% of children and adolescents being obese. A major flaw pointed out by this review highlighted the proportion of protein to carbohydrates and fats may be adequate with high energy consumption, but that as “total daily energy intake is often below 1400 kcal/day” when individuals seek to lose weight it could be potentially harmful to limit protein needs to the RDA as a loss in lean muscle mass could result (Layman, 2009).

In 2011, a study looking at required and optimal amounts of dietary protein for athletes found that while the RDA was .8g per kilogram, it was would be appropriate for athletes, both endurance (distance runners) and strength (bodybuilding and weightlifting) to consume between 1.6 to 2.25 times the RDA or 1.2g to 1.8g per kilogram (Phillips & Van Loon, 2011). The study also suggested that protein consumption between 1.8 to 2.0 per kilogram could be helpful depending on caloric deficit for the preservation of lean muscle mass.

Now, remember this study looked at protein consumption for very active people.

If you’re sedentary, there’s no reason to consume as much as an athlete. If you are active, you may also need to consider how much potential lean muscle mass you have. If you’re overweight or obese, your protein needs may be less.

I formerly had a client who was consuming 1g per pound she weighed and it was over 200g of protein because a former coach had recommended it. She had an equal amount of protein to carbohydrates, which is a common calculation, but necessary.

A 1:1 ratio of protein to weight in pounds is a common suggestion and it’s one that I utilized when I first started tracking macros, but as I started looking at my specific goals and needs, I realized what I was consuming wasn’t helping me and I redistributed my nutrient goals.

While this client was very active and participated in weightlifting multiple times a week this 1:1 ratio of protein was inappropriate for her because it wasn’t taking into consideration lean mass, but instead overall mass. It also left her feeling bloated, hungry and often with disproportionate nutrients to be satisfied.

So what can happen if you consume too much protein?

There are a few health conditions that have raised concerns, but they may not impact everyone – there’s also some contradictory research and you need to figure out what side of the fence you’re on.

Concerns around heart disease and high protein consumption also involve high amounts of saturated fat found in animal products (Thompson & Manore, 2015).”. High saturated fat levels have been know to increase blood cholesterol levels and increase risk for heart disease. However, a moderate protein diet that is low in saturated fat can be good for the heart. Again, this is correlation, not necessarily causation.

Another concern is that excess protein found in the urine due to kidney impairment. “As a consequence, eating too much protein results in the removal and excretion of the nitrogen in the urine and the use of the remaining components for energy (Thompson & Manore, 2015).”

When protein is found in the urine it’s called proteinuria. As part of the body’s fitration system, kidneys remove waste from your blood, but allow nutrients like protein to return to the bloodstream to be recycled through the body. Protein in your urine can be a sign of impaired kidney function. It’s important to note there is no evidence that more protein causes kidney disease in healthy people that aren’t susceptible to the disease, however, more water should be consumed to flush out the kidneys because of protein metabolism (Thompson & Manore, 2015).

Bloating is also possible if “too much” protein is consumed in one meal and your body doesn’t produce enough enzymes to assist in digestion. Chemical protein digestion occurs in the small intestine as a result from the enzyme pepsin. “Too much” is relative. I get bloated if I have more than 40g of protein in a meal. Depending on planning I can prevent too much consumption, but that’s not always the case.

Like mentioned above, athlete and highly active individuals may need more than the RDA, but the average person may not need as much. Much recent research I found that examines the impacts of high protein consumption utilizes athletic bodies in high resistance training settings, which isn’t necessarily a sample that will provide data that can be used for recommendations for an inactive or lightly active person.

resistence training and protein

The data is still interesting, but may not be helpful to the average person.

When I did find research articles discussing higher protein needs in obese individuals, I found many studies designed diet plans for participants with sub-1000 kcal/day. This is an extreme diet that may not typically be suggested for one to conduct without being monitored. An example of this extreme design is a study published in 2015 that examined normal protein intake versus high protein intake as well as carbohydrate reduction to determine success in weight loss and maintenance. Researchers assigned adult participants to 800 kcal/day for eight weeks and once participants had an 11 kg loss they randomly assigned them to a new plan with varying protein intake for six months. They found that individuals with higher protein intake were able to adhere to the plan, which not only resulted body fat losses, less inflammation and better blood lipid panels, but also were capable of maintaining losses. Researchers also suggested that less restrictive approaches also lead to higher adherence (Astrup, Raben, & Geiker, 2015).

Again, interesting, but this is an extreme that hopefully many won’t use or need.

What about if you eat too little?

While we don’t need as much protein for energy as many believe, we do need dietary protein to assist in building our bodies like mentioned above. Without dietary protein, our bodies breakdown stored protein i.e. muscle to be utilized to assist in daily functions such as creating amino acids. A true deficit of protein can result in a greater number of infections if the body is unable to produce enough antibodies. A true deficit occurs over time and in extreme circumstances; however, can be more likely if an individual is in a large caloric deficit.

So, easy question-  what food sources have protein in them?

 

Obviously meat is an excellent protein source, but there’s more than meat. Legumes like lentils, black beans and green peas as well as nuts have protein in them too. While oatmeal is a well-known grain, it also has about 5g of protein per half cup serving. Dairy, while also another carbohydrate source, is also an excellent source of protein and the mineral calcium – if you’re not lactose intolerant!

Vegetables that have protein in them that I recommend to clients who are trying to balance out density and volume in their eating include broccoli, Brussels sprouts and asparagus.

Like the other macronutrients, protein can be flexible within reason. Considering multiple factors to determine a specific plan for you will be key. It might take trial and error, it may also take some adjustments, but give yourself time.

Your nutrition should be specific to you and your goals. It should take all of you into consideration like have you approached menopause or had a hysterectomy? Hormones play a huge role in overall nutritional needs. What’s your sleep like? Are you on medications? What’s your stress like? Are you sitting more or less than before?

I know many of these questions can seem silly when posed, but they are important.

The body is a weird organism, just when we think we have it figured it out, it changes on us.

References:

Layman, D. K. (2009). Dietary Guidelines should reflect new understandings about adult protein needs. Nutrition and Metabolism, 6-12.

Phillips, S., & Van Loon, L. (2011). Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. Journal of Sports Science, 29-38.

Thompson, J., & Manore, M. (2015). Nutrition: An Applied Approach. San Francisco: Pearson Education.

Timberlake, Karen. (2018). Amino Acids, Proteins and Enzymes. In K. Timberlake, Chemistry: An introduction to general, organic, and biological chemistry (pp. 548-583). New York: Pearson.

Wolfe, R. R. (2017). Branched-chain amino acids and muscle protein synthesis in humans: myth or reality? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14-30.