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.
*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.
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:
Above, I mentioned complete protein. A complete protein has all of the essential amino acids in it.
Examples of complete proteins:
- egg whites
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:
- protein is a critical part of the adult diet
- protein needs are proportional to body weight; NOT energy intake
- adult protein utilization is a function of intake at individual meals
- 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.
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.
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.
It’s been about a month since I’ve written on here, but let’s be honest, that was a recipe – that’s not real writing.
I’ve said it before on Facebook more recently, but here as well – I write when I feel compelled. I write when I feel it’s the most beneficial to me. I feel like this is something I always write when I’m coming back after a hiatus of not writing as well. But sometimes I need the reminder of why I blog or why I don’t, and I think you do to.
This year has been all over the place. I think it started with adventure and a new high. A new direction, a path that I was excited to take and discover. I felt that I was going to learn more about myself and the biological world that I had barely scratched the surface of. I’m sure some of you sat there and thought, well damn her life’s a mess – I’m pretty sure I said that a few times from my living room floor.
Academically, I have pushed myself well out of my comfort zone. This pursuit started so I could better meet my clients needs. I had been asked many times to help with weightloss and meal planning, I had been asked to coach people to help them create a healthier lifestyle, but people were asking based on my experience alone. For me, that’s not enough. I don’t think you can just have an education, and I don’t think you can just have experience. You need to blend the two and be open minded to learn more and learn often.
I’ve taken some classes that are straightforward like anatomy and physiology, and I’ve taken some that are more fluid like nutrition and sociology.
With finals I started to feel slightly burnt out, but that’s normal after writing thousands of words, reading through dozens of studies, studying for hundreds of hours and filling up multiple notebooks. It doesn’t matter if you take one course or five courses – it’s brain power. Along with my classmates, I had been saying I was ready for this semester to be over, but I’m also so excited and ready for next semester.
My courses: medical microbiology, chemistry and epidemiology. Eleven credit hours. All in person. All night classes. There are going to be some long days because I still work three days a week in a doctor’s office. I will also be starting an internship.
I start an internship for my program that should last for at least half the year. It’ll total roughly 300 hours at least. it combines my love of health and education along with serving specific populations – in this case, children. I think if we start the conversation while their young and the parents are involved, then positive habits can be created and in a fun way that doesn’t make them seem so tedious and boring.
On the more personal end of things- yoga, lifting and running have helped me get back to feeling like I did before with my activity. I’m feeling good about the ratio of ass sitting to mobility. I’m physically feeling more comfortable in my skin and have been working on getting my strength back up. I know the upcoming semester will be a little more unique as far as scheduling because I will have some long days shifting from work to internship to class to coaching, but that’s part of goal development. At different times, some routines make sense and others don’t. I’ve gotten better at not fighting it, and going more with the flow.
Since October 1st, I’ve run 76.62 miles. Nothing ground breaking, but a lot more than I had been running earlier this year because it wasn’t necessary to my training and I didn’t feel it in my heart to do so.
Eating has been normal. Indulging in a lot of cocoa and some treats that are only available at this time of the year. However, I’m creating a balance. I’m making the decision to indulge versus mindlessly doing so or feeling guilty about it. Stress hasn’t felt out of control, aside from the standard academic stress – I’ve been meditating a little less than I was before, but I also don’t think that’s a bad thing. My meditations have also changed, which wasn’t something I was expecting.
It’s been three months since I’ve been off birth control and hormonally, I’ve noticed a lot of change. My anxiety is different, reactions to similar situations are a little different – I feel less wiped out and that has been the biggest change.
Sitting down writing this out is weird because in my head I think I want to share what my next steps are, but then part of me goes who cares? That’s the honest truth. I’ve always had both thoughts in my head, but the one always overpowered the other. I think about what is different, and I think I finally realized the answer.
I want to help people and that’s not a bad thing, but it also means that I forgot I can help someone indirectly by sharing my perspective.
On Facebook, I’ve started to share more about my interest in public health, my investment in organizations on campus, what I’m writing and talking about in class, but I’m going to start doing that here too. Writing has never been something I felt like I had to do, it wasn’t something that was an outlet for me. After talking with friends and doing a few too many videos on Facebook, I’ve been missing it.
My goal is to be more active in writing because I do enjoy it, but I need to protect it so that it doesn’t feel like an emotional burden. Some part of me also believes that there are people who click on my posts to actually read them, not just skim them to see if I’ve fallen on my face. So there’s that – the indirect way to help someone else.
I’m not putting a schedule out there for writing, but my promise to myself is that I’m going to sit down more often. I have a few recipes in my drafts folder I’ve been meaning to finish as well. So that’s on my to do list during break.
I have a list of things I want to do over the break before the spring semester starts. There’s no penalty if things don’t get crossed off, but I have a wish list, but that’s for another conversation.
I write when I feel that I need to, so as you can tell it’s been a solid month since I’ve written, but I don’t think this is a bad thing. I’ve been finding outlets in running more, unpacking my apartment, hanging out by the pool and busting my ass with class. Side note – 8 more classes and the summer sessions are done. That by a lot faster than I imagined it would!
Anyway. I write when I feel inspired. I write when I feel like I need to brain dump. So let’s just jump in. I’m going to preface this post with I’ve made excuses for myself in the past, I’ve heard JP make excuses for himself as well. I have clients who make excuses too. EVERYONE builds walls and barriers that prevent them from being as great as possible in whatever it is they are seeking to accomplish. But, progress and the journey is about backing away from those excuses, tearing them down and pushing yourself to see what you can accomplish because it doesn’t matter what others tell you – if you don’t stop making excuses you’re never going to be successful.
At the beginning of the month, I got an email from Panera saying that as a reward member I was eligible for free bagels for the whole month. One bagel per day, no purchase necessary. Well, as you can imagine, goals have shifted since the spring and bagels fit into my plan pretty well, so, challenge accepted.
How many bagels can I eat in a month from Panera? Let’s find out.
I set some rules – I had to try them all once before I could go back for the same one again.
First up – Chocolate Chip. Not bad, but not my favorite.
Favorite bagel? Cinnamon Crunch. It’s covered in in cinnamon-y and sugar goodness, do I need to say more? Also, it’s perfect toasted and plain no need to add anything, which is perfect because it’s 82g of carbohydrates.
Anyway, here’s what I learned by eating as many free bagels as I could this month.
- I will willing eat 7 bagels in a month.
- Bagel sandwiches are most definitely in my top three for breakfast carbs, pancakes and waffles in first and second place, respectively.
- Free tastes better.
- Plain bagels are a waste of carbohydrates – so I didn’t even have one of those.
- If you want something bad enough, you make it work.
Let’s talk about #5.
I wanted a bagel, so I made it work into my day. I planned my other meals around my bagel and focused on lean protein, high volume fruits and vegetables. This allowed me the joy of consuming anywhere between 50 to 90g of carbohydrates in the bagel of my choice, while still eating enough volume to stay full and enough calories to be energized for the day.
I’ve had clients tell me that they don’t want to track their nutritional intake. Whether it’s specific grams of macro nutrients or calories (specific or broad tracking), they didn’t want to have to monitor it. Well, how do people think they got to where they are to begin with? How do you think I became over 240 pounds in college? It doesn’t just happen overnight. The only way to have fat loss is to be in a caloric deficit and the best way to do that is through daily diet. Abs are truly made in the kitchen and you can’t out work a poor diet.
I also believe if someone has never tracked, but wants to lose weight, it’ll do them some good to track for at least a short period of time and understand the difference between a portion they serve themselves and a serving size. How can they complain about no progress if they don’t know how their own behavior impacts them? It’s also heartbreaking when you realize how much peanut butter is in a serving versus what you believe should be the serving. Aside from being specific with consumption, I’ve had talks with people who don’t want plan the week’s meals in advanced because don’t want to eat the same thing every day. Trust me, I don’t blame them. But planning or prepping doesn’t mean you have to eat the same thing – that may be the easiest thing to do, but it’s not the only way. The real world isn’t a bubble. There are parties and holidays and you can’t always say no to a glass of wine or a burger at the BBQ, so why should a bubble be created to be successful?
The “right” path encompasses finding balance and having more good days than bad. It’s about a specific balance that is unique to an individual’s lifestyle. Planning ahead allows for the ability to make a change when something comes up last minute. It allows you to learn how to create a balance of food that fuels you and a cold beer with dinner. If they can’t learn that balance when seeking to live a healthier life, the struggle will continue even after the goals are met.
Creating a healthy lifestyle isn’t just about nutrition though, it’s also about being active and creating a plan that allows you to accomplish your goals while not shutting out other areas of your life. Everyone has a busy schedule – busy is relative. Maybe there’s some financial constraints. As a millennial, my time and money are precious and as someone who recently went back to school I understand the importance of both of these things, but if you want something bad enough – you figure it out. Planning ahead allows me to be more careful with my time and prevent burn out. Looking at my calendar for this upcoming week tells me that Monday is too busy and I will be exhausted by the time I can make it to the gym, so that day I should focus on better meal creation, but Tuesday is more flexible and I have time to be active.
Everyone has walls that prevent them from success, whether they are self-created or not. But if you want something bad enough out start to break those walls down or go around them. You stop making excuses and you make small changes. All goals are about finding something that fits the individual’s lifestyle, something that they can believe in, but at the same time, be a little uncomfortable and break out of their bubble to see change. If you want the bagel bad enough you will find a way to make it fit.
This post is to help those who have questions about flexible dieting and nutrition in general. Recently, more specifically since I started my reverse, which is going swimmingly by the way, I have had a lot of questions regarding the foods I consume.
I’ve talked about how flexible dieting works for me in my life. I’ve mentioned how during my competition season I hadn’t really eliminated many foods for my nutrition plan. The ones that I did were things that I truly had no control over the macros such as some pastries and sandwiches at a local bread company (this one killed me). Aside from these two things, I still ate what I wanted as long as it fit during the day and helped me reach my nutrition goals. I’ve also mentioned that I don’t like labeling foods as clean or dirty because I believe the negative connotation can create a poor relationship with food. Some don’t believe this and that’s 100% fine, but I also have binge eating disorder in my history so this is my philosophy.
So, some of the foods I like to enjoy happen to be “processed”. This word is tricky because many foods are processed, even if it’s only minimal. Let’s look at the FDA’s definition:
Processed Food: “Any food other than a raw agricultural commodity and includes any raw agricultural commodity that has been subject to processing, such as canning, cooking, freezing, dehydration, or milling.”
So really, if you buy frozen vegetables or fruit because they’re cheaper than fresh, but you know them to be just as healthy – you’re eating something processed. Also, please keep in mind, just because you buy a bag of frozen broccoli, doesn’t mean that’s the only thing in that bag. I have found that a few brands will add salt to preserve the vegetable;however, if it’s frozen there really shouldn’t be a need for salt in the bag.
Granted, an Oreo is more processed than a bag of frozen veggies, the definition is very broad. I love Greek yogurt, for me it truly helps promote good gut health. However, it’s also a processed food. If this word concerns you, you may want to look at your cart the next time you go to the store and rethink your grocery list.
Under the same chapter are other definitions, such as raw.
Raw: “raw agricultural commodity” means any food in its raw or natural state, including all fruits that are washed, colored, or otherwise treated in their unpeeled natural form prior to marketing.
So foods that have been treated with coloring can be still considered raw… interesting.
When looking at food labeling and how the FDA has enforce regulations on companies to ensure that consumers know what they are eating, it seems as though the FDA doesn’t necessarily have clear definitions or ever thought out their expectations for recent years. Food labels were introduced 20 years ago and in 2014 the FDA was looking to make a few changes, but there were a few issues that came up, such as the definition of natural.
“Although the FDA has not engaged in rulemaking to establish a formal definition for the term “natural,” we do have a longstanding policy concerning the use of “natural” in human food labeling. The FDA has considered the term “natural” to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food. However, this policy was not intended to address food production methods, such as the use of pesticides, nor did it explicitly address food processing or manufacturing methods, such as thermal technologies, pasteurization, or irradiation. The FDA also did not consider whether the term “natural” should describe any nutritional or other health benefit.”
So for the most part, your food may be natural, but the term doesn’t take into consideration anything that happens at the factory. What happens at the plant, stays at the plant. I guess I should be slightly concerned about the chicken I buy.
Along with natural, people like to shop “organic.” For me, I think this partly a waste of my money, especially if I’m going to wash and peel the skin of the food. I understand wanting something that you will be eating in whole like grapes to be organic, but if natural isn’t fully or clearly defined, what does organic mean?
The National Organic Program is under the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service. That took some effort to say. The role of the NOP is to develop regulations and provide guidance on organic standards such as labeling.
So what can farmer’s use on crops and still be considered organic? Well, in Title 7, Subtitle B, Chapter 1, Subchapter M, Part 205, Subpart G of the Code of Federal Regulations— aren’t you glad I hyperlinked that? Here you can find substances that are allowed and not allowed for organic crop production.
So what’s allowed?
Algicide, disinfectants and sanitizer including ethanol alcohol and isopropanol – I know those are some long words and I’m pretty sure that I can’t even pronounce them even if I tried, but essentially, as long as you’re not contaminating the crops, soil or water, these can be used and the food can still be listed as organic.
Continuing the list: Chlorine materials for pre-harvest like calcium hypochlorite, chlorine dioxide and sodium hypochlorite. As long as the the levels in the water that is sent to the irrigation systems don’t exceed a specific level, disinfectant can be used under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The list goes on and on to add herbicides and hydrogen peroxide. So really, what is organic? What would it mean to not use these products on large numbers of crops? Growing cucumbers in your side garden is one thing, it’s another to have acres of veggies that have a greater potential to be damaged by insects and disease.
Like I said, I really don’t buy organic and from the skimming through some of the regulations, it doesn’t seem like it matters a whole lot that I don’t.
I know there are some other ethical issues that others follow much more closely than I do, but the purpose of highlighting this information is to show that the terms processed, natural, raw and organic are more like marketing terms to push or influence consumer to purchase certain items. My choice to eat a variety of foods including those that man believe to be of poor nutritional value, hasn’t hindered my weightloss or health in anyway. I believe this is because of the balance I try to create by consuming vegetables and meats along with my cupcakes and cookies. There are so many eating styles and everyone’s body is different. Learning about the different styles and the science behind them may create more understanding rather than elaborate skepticism and questioning.
To celebrate the ending of prep, I went to brunch on Sunday with my boyfriend and got the most amazing pancakes ever – Blueberry Pecan and Mascarpone. I went with a large stack because YOLO and I ate the whole stack – no regrets!
I did get egg whites on the side because protein is necessary. Since we had brunch a little later than we normally brunch, we didn’t eat a late lunch or an afternoon snack. We actually took a nap when we got back home from Boston, woke up and went to the gym and then came home to make dinner. We had a pretty lean dinner – chicken and veggies, this is pretty standard for us. It balanced out the carbs from the morning, but we also like chicken and veggies. We did try a new gelato. Full fat and all. But we stuck to the serving size and enjoyed it. I was mindful of what I was eating and logged/estimated to the best of my ability. I had asked Alaina to give me some loose macros so I would have a guide and I didn’t really go over them. I used this day kind of as a refeed day, and then jumped right into my new macros on Monday to start my reverse diet.
For those of you who don’t know, a reverse diet is when you intentionally add nutrition back into your daily eating plan slowly. Many competitors do this after a show or full season of shows. It’s important that you increase slowly so that you don’t gain fat or gain weight back too fast. Everyone’s body is different and can handle different amount of nutrition at a time. This is an important step after season because stage weight isn’t always the healthiest to maintain year-round. Even those who are naturally lean shouldn’t be at stage weight all the time. Reverse dieting helps you get back to maintenance, which in some cases may be higher than where you were when you started your cut. Many think this is bro-science, but it actually makes a lot of sense scientifically if implemented correctly. There’s a number of reasons to conduct a reverse diet; while my macros never hit below 1,400 calories during prep, they were low for me. So this is something to help bring me back up to a sustainable number of macro nutrients.
This is the first time I’ve ever done a reverse diet. As you know, I’ve been losing weight for over four years so this concept is completely foreign to me. But unlike my refeeds, I’m really excited about the process of reversing and eventually maintaining my weight. This is a huge change for me and another opportunity to learning and research so I can take on the next part of my journey.
Alaina has been pretty amazing with designing my macro nutrition goals so that I was never hungry; always content, but so that I was at a point where my progress was going to be steady through prep. I knew that I would be in good hands working with her for my reverse. For the first week, we decreased my protein by 5g to keep our numbers with 1g of protein per pound I weight. We hadn’t decreased my macros for the last few weeks of prep and my protein was a little higher. This kept me full, but it’s now appropriate to adjust it. We also increased my carbohydrates by 13g. I know for some this doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you think in terms of food, this is caramel rice cake or half a banana.
When I weighed in yesterday, I was still at my show weight even with the increased in macros. This was exciting for me because it means I’m adjusting to the increase in food and my body should be able to handle more nutrition than when I started my cut.
I shared on my instagram a lot of the foods that I was consuming this week. Similar to my prep, I was able to eat out as well as eat meals I prepped at home. Throughout the week my boyfriend and I managed to cross off a few restaurants we’ve been wanting to try. We live long distance and it’s a pain in the butt because the list is forever growing, but we were able to make some good choices and have fun while he was home.
On Wednesday, we checked out Wahlburgers in Hingham. It’s the original location and it’s a burger joint, which only makes sense for them. They have a few sides that aren’t fried, but not many. As I was looking at the menu I noticed that the burgers they offer are pretty large, mostly 1/3 and 1/2 pound burgers. However, the kids menu offers a 3 ounce burger. I called to see if adults could order off the kids menu and to ask what the lean to fat ratio was for the meat they use. I was told “yes, anyone can order off the kids menu.” I was also told they use the standard 80/20 lean to fat ratio for ground beef. A quick google search told me that for 3 ounces there is 15F 0C and 22P in a serving.
Knowing what my macros are it was a no brainer to get a kids burger. This way I could eat it in true form with a bun and all. Instead of fries I got an entree mixed greens salad, which was high in volume and helped keep me full. Taking all parts of the meal into consideration I could estimate the macros and still accomplish my eating goals for the day.
On Friday, we went out to breakfast for bagels at a locally owned place that my boyfriend used to frequent in his college days. I had never been there before even though I live down the road and have lived here for four years. I know I’m ashamed too. Just like with Wahlburgers, I checked out the menu and found that they had cinnamon raisin bagels – my favorite. They also make the cream cheese there. They had a maple raisin cream cheese and I won’t lie I was sold when I saw it. I didn’t even consider another cream cheese. To find the nutritional value estimates I looked at a few chain places like Dunkin Donuts as well as brands you find in the store like Thomas’s Bagels. I took an average of what I had found and determined the macros I would use for the bagel. I did the same with the cream cheese. I usually get dressings on the side and I figured I could do the same with the cream cheese so I could portion it out myself. They actually serve it in a 2 ounce cup with is 4 tablespoons or 2 servings of cream cheese. So this was a lot easier to figure out than I thought it would be.
Alaina and I agreed that my reverse for the first week was extremely successful. I enjoyed everything I was eating. I never felt like I was having to choose one food over another. It’s the same philosophy I had during prep – it’s not never, it’s just not right now. We were able to have a lot of fun and going out for date night meant a lot. Since I’m not on prep, I was able to bring alcohol back into my daily diet. I had decided to do a dry prep because I wanted to make sure I was eating enough and not wasting my nutrition on liquids. I count alcohol and I believe that anyone serious about tracking should. For macro counting, there are a few ways to track alcohol. I deduct carbohydrates when the nutritional value isn’t provided.
For beer, many will scan into My Fitness Pal or you can easily search the number of carbs in a Pale Ale. However, for liquor, carbohydrates are converted during the distilling process. They still have “energy” or calories, so to find the macros I take the calories and divide by 4 – 1g of carbs is 4 calories. Some people deduct from fat. I prefer not to do that because peanut butter. Something like bourbon doesn’t reflect carbs because of the distilling process, however, Bulleit Bourbon has 109 calories for 1.5 ounces so for this I can determine that I need to keep 21g of carbohydrates aside for this.
Determining the carbohydrates in liquor helps me decide how I want to have a drink; is it something I want to mix or have neat. Bourbon is something I drink neat, so I don’t need to be concerned with added carbohydrates than what is determined from a serving. During a reverse it’ll be easier to fit alcohol in, but it’s not something I usually splurge on anyway. We like to do more pairings and had actually set a aside a few bottles of beer we really wanted to try post-prep.
Since this first week was so successful we’re increasing my fat by 5g and my carbohydrates again by 10g. My protein is at an appropriate level for my body weight so that will not be increasing anymore. I’m interested to see how my body handles the food this week.
As far as my workouts go, I’m still lifting six days a week. I have three days of cardio and it doesn’t exceed an hour and 20 minutes. This week my cardio is staying the same as last week. My lifts are relatively the same. We did change a few exercise sets to alternate with high and low rep weeks because I found myself exhausted after an upper body day this week and that’s not the point of my workouts, especially now. I think being a little tired is fine, but not exhausted. I’m also not cutting anymore so I want to make sure that my workouts are appropriate.
I know for some people being in the gym that many days is tough. It’s not realistic for everyone, but for me it’s my alone time. It’s the time of the day when I know my only focus is me. So this schedule works for me.
I have a few work lunches this week; one where I don’t have any control over what’s provided and another where I do. Throughout my prep I handled work events very well so I have no concerns about these during my reverse. It might be a little easier with the increase!
Below are some other photos from the week. It’s weird to see how the body adapts and changes, but I don’t mind being a walking science experiment.
Talk to you soon!
Saturday I got the shock of being a size 4. While most people would probably say “be happy, be excited, or who cares” mentally for me it was a lot. I’m officially smaller than I was when I started my freshman year of college. I also weigh more and as we all know, the more muscle gain the less the scale matters because composition changes so much regardless of weight when lifting is involved.
Yesterday, JP and I were talking about beach trips for the summer and I asked what he thought about me wearing a bikini out in public. Aside from competition, I haven’t worn a bikini in public since high school. Just a quick recap: I graduated from high school in 2007, started gaining weight drastically at the end of 2008 and my highest weight was in 2011 at 240+ pounds and a size 24.
Wearing a bikini to the beach is kind of a big deal because it’s more than 3 minutes on stage.
He asked me “does Cristina feel comfortable wearing a bikini in public?” I thought about it and said “I think so.” The truth is, I have no idea. I joke with him about my loose skin. If I pull my stomach to make the loose skin flat, my navel moves almost 3″ up and there are stretch marks; which bother me less than they did in the beginning, but sometimes make me roll my eyes.
During Week 2 of BBG I took a photo of myself in the bikini I’ll be wearing this summer. It’s the practice suit I had for my show last fall. It fits pretty well and I like it a lot, but it’s still an adjust from throwing a shirt on and some shorts and jumping in a pool. I took a photo last night the end of Week 7 of BBG in the same suit. I’m pretty pleased with the results between the two photos and there’s been more progress than I thought. I mentioned in a previous post that I’m under 150 pounds and it was a huge achievement, so of course I need to expect a solid change because I have lost about 6 pounds doing Kayla.
I went hiking today for the holiday instead of resistance training, I’ll fit that in tomorrow and we’re officially in Week 8 out of 12 for the first round. I’m looking forward to see what happens, but I also know I need see what maintenance will look like. I flex diet and macro count my food, but cutting macros are different than maintenance macros. I know it’ll be an adjustment when I change it up, right now it’s crazy to think I might actually be close to the weightloss part of my journey. A little over 3 years and it might finally be here.
Kind of relieved. Kind of freaked out because I never thought about the transition from losing to maintaining. Mostly excited.
I hope everyone else is having a great Memorial Day. I loved the long weekend and today was a great day for a hike and later were having some treats we don’t typically keep in the house 🙂 here are some photos from our hike!
An onlooker actually intervenes and suggests that the words being exchanged are really harsh. So if it’s mean to say to someone else, why is it okay for us to say to ourselves?
There are days that I stand in the mirror and I’m like “yes, badass” and there are other days when I look in the mirror and just feel disappointed. I work out about 6 days week. I track my meals and eat according to my goals. I focus on nutrition, not calorie counting. I try to be positive because I know where I was, but many days that’s a struggle.
Personally, I fear that I will gain all the weight I have lost back. At a size 6, I know I can lose a little bit more fat even though I constantly hear about how thin I am. After all, I know what lies under my clothes. My biggest fear is that all the hard work that I have put in the past few years will be a waste. Somehow, I rationalize that being mean to myself or being negative will force me to work harder. In all reality, I think it just makes the pressure build up.
I know gaining back all the weight wouldn’t happen. I know I wouldn’t actually let that happen. I’m smarter with my workouts and my eating now. I know about nutrition, and I have more knowledge than I did when I first started this journey. However, there are times that I want that burger WITH the bun or that double scoop of ice cream with ALL the toppings.
Why is it so hard to not be so negative or hard on myself? Why is it hard for women in general to not beat themselves up? I don’t have the answer, but check out the video and ponder this for yourself.
I was going through the news feed this morning and I saw a post that mentioned Larabar. I’ve heard about these before, but I’m also against bars usually. Most have processed sugar and chemicals you can’t pronounce, but I checked out their Web site and they look pretty clean. The flavors look pretty awesome too. I’m calling on the audience, what have you heard about Larabar? Do you have another bar that you prefer?