Advertisements

Finding the balance of physical and mental health through adventures and fitness

Tag Archives: protein

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.

Advertisements

I love food and as someone who was formerly obese, I do understand what that love can do physically. However, emotionally, I also know what it can mean for someone to completely change their lifestyle and make extreme changes. I used to believe that you had to always say ‘no’ to see change. When I started competing and “macro counting” I learned that it didn’t have to be that way.

I know that sounds weird, since many competitors follow strict meals plans and often say no more than yes during season. But through macro counting I learned that balance could be created if I paid attention to what I was eating versus eliminating food groups. Emotionally I felt like I could participate with this approach over other eating styles and approaches.

There are foods that do absolutely nothing for you nutritionally, like soda and potato chips. I don’t care if it’s “organic cane sugar” in your soda, it’s not helping. But a huge aspect of food is enjoyment. I enjoy alcohol every now and then. I enjoy donuts and sweets, but I try to enjoy them in moderation. I’m not always perfect, but in this moment, that’s ok.

Cheesecake was a dessert that I always thought of as luxurious and difficult to make. When I was in college I made the mistake of not incorporating dairy into my daily diet like it had been while I was growing up. My consumption went from a gallon of milk a week to maybe a glass a week, if ever. I still ate cheese, but not as much as I had previously. My junior year I developed a lactose intolerance and a lot of foods went out the window including soft ice cream, sour cream, homemade whipped cream and cheesecake.

Some things were worth the stomach ache, but other things  – not so much.

Over the past few years, I’ve incorporated a digestive enzyme into my routine to help with digestion. I’ve also slowly added some dairy back into my diet and I know my threshold – cheesecake will probably never been something I will get to enjoy sickness free. This is not to say that adding foods into your diet will cure allergies, an allergy is an immune response, which is different than an intolerance. Everyone is different and adding small amounts to your daily consumption may be harmful. Talk to your doctor if you’re really seeking to make changes of this nature.

So recently when my sweet tooth was kicking in and I knew I needed protein because dinner plans later were going to be carbohydrate heavy, I turned to one thing that never disappoints – pro-yo. Better than drinking my shake is eating it.

For me, pro-yo is plain yogurt with protein powder mixed in. It’s just adding to the protein content the yogurt naturally has, but gives it some flavor too. I wanted something a little more, but I didn’t want to make it complicated. I’ve made no bake and baked protein cheesecake before, so I knew I had simple ingredients so I figured I could play around and see where I end up.

Frozen Pro-Yo Squares for 2

What You’ll Need

  • 3 Graham crackers (any flavor)
  • 150g Plain Greek yogurt (I used 2% Fage)
  • 20g of whey casein blend protein (I used Quest Salted Caramel)
  • water

Directions

  1. In a baking pan or tray, lay out 3 sheets of graham crackers. I used a brownie pan, but anything with side would work.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, combine Greek yogurt and protein powder with 1 tablespoon of water until smooth. You can use any fat percentage of yogurt, it’s based on preference. The protein powder should be a blend of whey and casein because it’s thicker than whey isolate and will set differently.
  3. Pour and spread yogurt mixture on top of graham crackers as evenly as possible. I used tapped the pan on the counter so it would level out a little bit, but it doesn’t need to be perfect.
  4. Optional: sprinkle mini chocolate chips or nuts on top.
  5. Place in freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes and then serve. If you leave in the freezer for more than an hour these will be rock hard and that is the down fall.

Optional if you don’t want in a bar form:

  1. Skip original step 1 and go straight to step 2 – Mix Pro-Yo in a bowl.
  2. Top with your favorite toppings – crushed graham crackers, mini chocolate chips, pretzels, etc.
  3. Place in freezer for 5 to 10 minutes to set like frozen yogurt.

Estimated nutrition for half a pan of Frozen Pro-Yo Squares without toppings: ~4F/22C/18P

 

 


I owe you this recipe. A few weeks ago I went on a chicken salad kick, mostly because I love dill and this was an easy way to get in some protein without a ton of carbohydrates. I don’t like to put food into categories – I want to eat what I want when I want it, so chicken salad and tuna salad are often snacks in this house.

Like most of you, the weekends are for grocery shopping and meals are a moshposh until that happens. So we were looking at all the parts that we had in the fridge and tried to figure out what we could do with them – that’s where the cinnamon raisin bread in this recipe came into play.

Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad for Two

What You’ll Need

  • 8 ounces of cooked chicken breast, cubed
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used 2% Fage)
  • 2 tablespoons walnuts
  • 1/3 cup grapes, chopped
  • 4 slices of bread (I used Pepperidge Farm cinnamon raisin)
  • 1 teaspoon of dill weed
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Oven or toaster oven

Directions

1.In a medium sized mixing bowl mix cooked, cubed chicken, Greek yogurt and dill weed. I had seasoned my chicken when I baked it, but it can be plain as well. Mix thoroughly.

 

2.Mix in chopped grapes. I quartered our grapes because they were large, but whatever size you prefer. Depending on the size of the bread or if you choose a wrap may not need to quarter them.

 

3.Mix in walnut pieces. I put my walnuts in a bag and used a meat tenderizer to break them into smaller pieces. I’ve found that using a knife can be a long process and dangerous if your knife isn’t sharp enough. If you have walnut or pecan pieces already you can skip this step.

IMG_0574

4.(Optional) Toast your bread! For a hearty sandwich, I find that they can fall apart if there’s a lot in the middle, so toasting helps prevent this. I put my toast in the toaster oven for 2 minutes at 300 degrees. You may not need to toast for this long, again, it’s preference.

5.Add half of the mixture onto your toast and serve!

Nutrition for 1 serving: 372 calories, 10F/39.5C/37P

  • Fats decrease without or with less nuts
  • Carbohydrates change depending on bread/grain type
  • Protein changes depending on amount of chicken


It wasn’t until after college that I ate seafood other than canned tuna as tuna salad. However, it wasn’t until a former student of mine and I met for sushi a few years ago that I started to really get adventurous with my seafood. There are still things I don’t like such as lobster – I know, blasphemous to many who are from New England. I had a bad batch of scallops that made me sick so I stay away from those too.

We will make seafood dishes every now and then, but as many people say financial barriers can make it hard to make healthier choices and that’s a huge reason why we limit the diversity in the seafood we have at home. When shrimp go on sale we will buy them and same with salmon burgers, fresh white fish and squid, but canned tuna is probably always going to be my go-to lean protein because it is more reasonably priced.

To help prevent meal burn out I try to keep diversity in my meal planning, but sometimes you can only have chicken so many ways before you decide it’s not what you want for lunch. Last week, while I was trying to figure out what I wanted for lunch that wasn’t chicken, I decide I could go for tuna, but I didn’t want a tuna sandwich or a tuna melt. I’ve had salmon burgers at a few restaurants in the area, not steaks, but a formed patty with spices and binding ingredients. I figured I could probably make a tuna burger if I looked hard enough.

tuna burger blog post

 

What You’ll Need

  • 1 can of tuna
  • 1 egg
  • 2T of flour
  • 1 tsp of seasoning blend of choice
  • Baking sheet
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Prep your baking sheet with a little cooking spray. You could also use olive oil.
  3. Drain a can of tuna and add to a small bowl. Break up tuna into smaller chunks.
  4. Add an egg and flour to tuna. Mix well. You may want to add the flour a little bit at a time so that it doesn’t poof out of the bowl.
  5. Add seasoning blend to tuna mixture. If you want want to use a seasoning blend, you can add salt, pepper and individual spices to your taste.
  6. Once mixed, take a flat spatula and move mixture to the middle of the bowl forming a circle. Slowly dump mixture to baking sheet and shape to a circular patty about half an inch thick. You can make one patty or two 2 ounce patties.
  7. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes. Patty will be crispy on the outside and cooked through on the inside.

I served mine on top of lettuce with onions, tomatoes and sriracha mayo. You can serve it on a bun or in a salad. There’s a place in town that makes an excellent broccoli slaw.

Well, damn, Now I’m hungry.

Macros for a 4 ounce patty: 4.5f | 10c | 28p

❤ Cristina

 

 


What happens when I find things in the pantry I forget I had? I start skimming through Pinterest so I can make it a fun consumable and get it out of the pantry. Today’s adventure was with a can of pumpkin puree. In the fall I always have a can on hand and I won’t lie I was surprised when I found a can today. After going through some pins, I got an idea of the basis for a protein bite or protein ball, let’s be real though, 5g of protein doesn’t make something a protein snack. It does, however, support the well rounded nutrition in a snack, but I just can’t call it a protein ball.

So with a can of pumpkin, some protein and a canister of oats I made some magic in the kitchen.

What You’ll Need

  • 120g or 1.5 cups of oats
  • 264g of canned pumpkin
  • 1 scoop of protein – I used a sample of Sun Warrior vanilla vegan protein
  • 30g of 1/4 cup of unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 3T of Splenda
  • 2tsp of vanilla extract
  • a few dashes of cinnamon

Directions

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, weigh out your oats.
  2. In the same bowl, weigh out your canned pumpkin. I added pumpkin a little at a time until the oats were sticking together.
  3. Mix in Splenda, cinnamon and vanilla extract. I added cinnamon a little at a time until I got the taste I wanted. At this point it tastes like an unsweetened pumpkin pie mix.
  4. Add in protein powder. As I’m using up the pantry, I used a sample of vegan protein powder. You can use any protein powder. A basic flavor may be best like cinnamon roll, vanilla or snickerdoodle. I don’t think there would be an issue using whey, casein or a blend. *If you find that the casein or blend protein makes the mix hard to combine, add a tablespoon or water or two.
  5. Using your hands, mix in coconut flakes.
  6. When thoroughly combined roll into a ball and divide into your preferred servings. I wanted to keep the macros under 30g of carbohydrates per serving, so I made 5 equal larger portions.
  7. After weighing out the total serving fell free to make into small pieces. Each larger portion made 4 pumpkin and oat bites.
  8. Chill to keep fresh. Because these are a no bake, minimally additive food, please keep in mine that they may mold if kept too long.

Of course before I could chill the container, JP felt the need to take one to try – a row of 4 was a serving. I put pumpkin spice peanut butter on mine, but you could have them plain or with a different nut butter. JP and I agreed they tastes like an unsweetened version of pumpkin pie. Cinnamon and vanilla was subtle, but tasty.

Macros per serving without peanut butter: 5.9F/22.4C/7.6P

I hope you enjoy!

❤ Cristina


Let’s talk sweet tooth.

I think most of us can agree that there are some things you hate passing up on, but at the same time you wish there was an alternative. I feel this way about doughnuts and cupcakes, but I won’t lie those are sacred and I will never try to find a replacement.

When I started flexible dieting the idea of protein cheesecake was one of the most glorious concepts ever. I’ve tried different recipes,  one or two maybe posted on this blog, but as I’ve evolved in my knowledge of flexible dieting and exhausted myself in the kitchen, I realized some things can’t be completely left out just to make something healthy taste like the real thing.

Right now I’m talking about fat.

Last week, I played with a new protein powder I bought on sale – mocha cappuccino from Optimum Nutrition. It’s a whey isolate, which is different than a blend. It’s thinner for one, but it also doesn’t add fluffy or thickness like a casein blend does when mixed with other things.

To make cheesecake no- bake I couldn’t use whole eggs, but I knew I needed to keep fat somewhere otherwise the texture would be spongey and while I can tolerate that, I don’t want to if I don’t have to. This is something I’ve dealt with when making other recipes, but I’m over that nonsense. Either it needs to have some fat to be smooth or I don’t want it.

My fat source was light cream cheese, enough fat to have flavor and texture, but less than normal so that my macros wouldn’t be blown out of the water.

What happened in the kitchen was magical and I felt kind of silly for not trying to find a no-bake recipe sooner. So here it is. Play with it and let me know your thoughts!

What You’ll Need

  • 8 ounces of cream cheese – I used the store brand’s light cream cheese
  • Vanilla extract to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Splenda – or any sweetener
  • 46g of egg whites/3 tablespoons of egg whites
  • 2 scoops of protein powder – I used whey isolate
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt – I used 0% to bring the overall fat content down
  • Keebler graham cracker crust pieces

Directions

  1. In a mixing bowl, add cream cheese. Put in the microwave to soften. Heat for 20-30 seconds at a time. I needed about a minute and 20 seconds.
  2. With a hand blender, mix the cream cheese until smooth. Add yogurt and blend. You don’t need to use 0%, but if you’re trying to keep the total fat content down then it’s highly suggested.
  3. When thoroughly mixed add vanilla extract. I used 2 teaspoons, but this is completely on preference. Blend until smooth.
  4. Add in egg whites and 1 tablespoon of Splenda. At this point it should taste like cheesecake, this is the basic form.
  5. Pick your protein and add it slowly while blending with the hand mixer and scraping the sides as needed. I used a whey isolate, using a casein blend may make it thicker – if that’s the case a little almond milk or water may help with consistency.
  6. Since I track my macros very closely I weighed the total batter and then divided by the amount of servings I wanted. For this I wanted 4. These macros are slightly rough, but it’s really the best way to be as accurate as possible.
  7. I divided the filling into 4 mason jars for easy storage and travel. I let them sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours before consuming.
  8. I topped the cheesecake filling with 1 tablespoon of crushed graham cracker from Keebler. You could also use the mini pie shells Keebler makes or Goldfish grahams.

Macros for just the filling: 9.6F/5.8C/15.5P – nutrition may vary depending on protein and cream cheese used.

Try it out and let me know how it goes! What protein do you think you would want to try using for your filling?

❤ Cristina

Save


This week was pretty great. I know as the days and weeks add up I’ve been saying that they’ve been getting better, but let’s be honest some of those weeks had shitty days. This week hasn’t had one bad day. I know that’s so optimistic it’s almost adorable. But it’s true.

On Monday, JP went to work and I went to the gym. He had Starbucks for breakfast and I made myself pancakes. Pancake Mondays are what is right with the world.He did his usual on the way to work thing and I did my usual post-work out thing. We didn’t eat together and I didn’t see him until dinner time. We didn’t text all day – something that is 100% unusual for us. But when dinner came, we could actually say “Babe, how was your day?”

You see, when he was in Indiana we would text all day and night. Around bedtime we would get on Facetime and then fall asleep that way. I know, we’re crazy and thankfully there’s wifi. It was a “we live long distance, but are still dependent on each other in some kind of way” relationship. During work hours, we would sometimes switch to GChat because of poor cell phone reception. We were long distance for two years and I’ve already told you the story about the tree. If you don’t remember it, check out this Instagram post. Anyway, there’s a lot of stuff we’ve never had the chance to do, like spontaneous date night or vacation.

JP moved home at one of the best and worst times because everything came crashing down, and while he definitely added to it and I’m going to get to that, I don’t know what would’ve happened if he wasn’t home.

So this week was great because JP was gone. Because while I was so excited to have him home, I was dealing with everything else and we never had an opportunity to adjust to each other. Yes, he was home for about seven weeks during my recovery, but the us we where then, is different than the us we are now. You see, he moved home and was hit from all sides. After driving 16 hours, we had a family party to go to, where I heard multiple family members ask him how it felt to be unemployed. I’m not saying they meant harm, but what I am saying, is some people can fit both feet in their mouths. He had already been putting pressure on himself to find a job and then that happened, they piled on the pressure unknowingly. I know I added some too because we just couldn’t live the lifestyle he wanted on my salary.

As we were dealing with this, I was dealing with my own problems and while he knew what was going on, I don’t think either of us realized the extent of the damage everything was causing. From this to my car accident, to not having a car for about a week to medical leave – we have been by each other constantly. I wish I was kidding. I’ve told him he’s needy and boy he fucking is. I lay in bed and he immediately cuddles on me, it’s cute until you can’t handle the touching. And sometimes, with my anxiety, I can’t be touched. It makes me more upset – he doesn’t understand this. We would be playing cards at the bistro table and he would ask if I wanted to cuddle and I would blatantly tell him “no, I’m already out of bed and I don’t want to get back in bed.”

His need to help me was turning into suffocation.

On Monday when JP asked me how my day was, I said it was really good. He asked why and I was honest. I told him it was because for the first time in a few weeks I was able to get up and workout and then come home and relax. I was able to make breakfast and show, but then I could get back in bed and write or watch TV. I was able to go to a new to me coffee house and not have to worry if JP wanted to come or not. I just got in the car and went. I didn’t have to be concerned if he was interested. I looked at him and said, “I think you can go to the car show on Saturday alone with your friends. I don’t want to go, I’ll find something else to do.” He asked how come. I explained that before he had moved home going to the car show meant that I lost hours with him. Since he’s here I don’t feel like I need to follow him around. He said “you mean we can have separate lives?”

Yep, that’s what I’m saying.

So the last piece of this puzzle of feeling torn down I think was taken care of this week when JP went to work. I know that sounds terrible, but the past few weeks we really were smothering each other and now we finally can learn how to live together as a couple. That’s scary and weird and crazy, but we haven’t really had the opportunity to do that. We kept saving each other, supporting each other when we felt down. But we haven’t been able to just live with each other, enjoy each others’ company and just be together. This week we got to do that.

Tonight we’re going out for date night and we’re dressing up. We never get to do this.

I’ve told him about all of this, so writing this isn’t a surprise in this house, but it doesn’t make it easier to say or easier to read. This has been hard on both of us and still is. This is the first week I’ve felt more like myself, but I also recognize that I’m starting to get tired quickly and need to relax during the day. Yesterday, after I got out the apartment for dessert and lattes, I felt exhausted, but knew that if I went home I would just nap in the middle of the day and that would impact my night… so I kept myself out and went to Target to pick up a few things. Surprisingly, I didn’t go overboard with all the things pumpkin, but I did get a few things that were necessary… new colored pencils for example. I may have also had some fun in the dressing room…

Therapy

So many people have asked me how I’ve gotten over mental health issues, but if you’ve been paying attention, I haven’t. I’m working through them every day. I’ve been journaling on my own. I’ve been keeping myself busy and trying to get out so I don’t feel confined within my apartment. Just because I don’t have meetings every day doesn’t mean I should stay shut away. I’m also going to therapy and working with someone who specializes in trauma and disorders that are an extension of trauma. It’s the same therapist that I saw this summer about body dysmorphia – which turns out is just a coping mechanism for my anxiety. Most of his clients have PTSD and other disorders that are connected, like me with anxiety and binge eating disorder. I’m clinically diagnosed. These aren’t terms you through around lightly. These aren’t terms that you joke about. There’s a difference between over eating and binging. There’s a difference between indulging and binging. Yes, you can eat a little too much when indulging, but looking down at the bowl and realizing you ate all the popcorn versus binging the popcorn intentionally. There’s a difference in mentality. When I’m going through a binge episode I’m hunting. That’s how I feel. I feel like I’m searching for what I’m looking for without truly knowing what I’m looking for. I know it when I’m eating it because I then feel satisfied.

This week we talked about the adventures I was going on. I mentioned JP starting his new job and how relieved I felt. We talked about some of the triggers that started this whole ordeal and the original events the created those triggers… childhood. Some things you just can’t truly escape. I felt good during the session and after I felt like we accomplished what I wanted to, so until next session.

That gym life

My workouts this week were really good. I started the PH3 program by Layne Norton that is on bodybuilding.com. You can find the program here. It’s a new lifting structure for me and focuses on strength. I was skeptical at first because the first few days don’t seem like a lot, but as more volume was added throughout the week I started to feel myself really pushing through the workouts. I’m working the muscles differently than I’m used to, so this week was the first time in a while that I was sore, but in a good way. My shoulder after Sunday was pretty sore from benching… something I don’t do often or heavy or really like doing at all, but as the week continued it definitely got easier and my shoulder became less sore the day after the lift. Since I’m trying something new I figure this was a perfect time for new gloves… mine are falling apart. Literally ripped at the seams. I also bought a lifting belt because I feel as I want to get heavier in my lifts, I want the support. I don’t want to rely solely on it, but I feel like it may help prevent my form from weakening as I increase. One thing I did that the program doesn’t really do is to make sure I’m hitting my steps by walking on the treadmill for about 15 to 20 minutes after my lift. While lifting works the body, you’re not moving a lot, walking on the treadmill after my lift let’s me stretch out (sometimes I do long stride lunges), but I can still hit my step goal for the day without exerting too much energy or over working my muscles. So one week down, three more to go with this lifting phase.

Sunday’s lift Big 3

Tuesday’s lift lower body emphasis

Wednesday’s active rest day

Friday’s lift – lower body emphasis

Checking in

This morning I checked in and I was down .6 pounds from last week and I’m really happy about that. I feel like chemically, my stress levels are going down and settling so cortisol is going down. Most people don’t realize that stress increases cortisol, which prevents other processes in the body to occur and weight gain can occur or weightloss can stall. This paired with the binges resulted in a dramatic weight gain in a short period of time. I’m happy to say that I’ve lost 5.4 of the 10 pounds that I did gain through binges.

Physically, I’m feeling better. I mentioned earlier in the week that the gain was pulling at my abdomen around my scar. I was pulled so tight in surgery so bloating can be painful and well, that also means that kind of weight gain can be too. So 136 – I was 126 about a month ago, is a lot for my body. Today I was 130.6 and that feels pretty good. I’m hoping to keep my fluctuation between 128 and 130.

Mentally, I’m getting comfortable with this weight and how my body is looking since developing a range of macros to stay within. The range allows me to have some wiggle room in case I want to eat more one day, but I don’t want to eat as much another day. I’m loosely tracking and below are some of the things I ate this week that weren’t easily trackable, but still allowed me to loose .6 pounds.

Monday’s coffee shop adventure at Sweets and Java in Holden: butterbeer latte + chocolate chip cookie

Wednesday’s coffee shop adventure at Crema Cafe in Cambridge: black coffee + cashew butterscotch cookie

Wednesday’s dinner at Boston Burger Company in Cambridge: half a  Vermonster – apples, onions, bacon, maple mayo and cheddar

Wednesday’s dinner at Boston Burger Company in Cambridge: half a King burger – bacon, cinnamon sugar banana and peanut butter

Thursday’s adventure to Birchtree Bread Company in Worcester: black coffee + white chocolate cranberry cookie

Thursday’s dessert split with JP: jumbo peanut butter cup from Lolli and Pops

Friday’s adventure to Bean Counter in Worcester: pumpkin, chocolate and marshmallow latte + chocolate raspberry tart

Friday’s dinner at Nu Cafe in Worcester: Southwest Salad with chicken, no tortilla chips and dressing on the side

Yeah I know, here I’m like let’s balance out our weight, and then I’m like ooh latte’s and cookies. But for me, being able to fit these into my daily life and still loose or maintain or whatever the goal at the time is truly is balance for me. Tomorrow was a little more indulgent than normal, latte and tart, but both were excellent and there were no regrets.

Class because I still have that going on

I got my grades for class this week and I got a 100% on my quiz, homework and discussion. My grades slightly slipped when all of this started, but I was honest with my professor about what was going on and she said if I needed extensions to let her know. I told her I didn’t need that, but I wanted her to know that the quality in my work wasn’t normal and I wanted her to know why.

I’m excited for the upcoming week. It’s week two of the lifting program. JP is at work and I’m figuring out my adventures.We have a wedding next weekend and the rehearsal dinner on Friday. I’m hopeful it’ll be a good week all around like this week was, but if not every day is perfect, it won’t be the end of the world.

We’re watching movies and lounging in the living room until it’s time to get ready for date night. So I’ll talk to you guys later.

❤ Cristina


I was told by a commenter on Instagram that I should try Bounce Energy Balls as a protein bite/bar. I won’t lie, I was a little skeptical at first because I want to make sure that my protein is going to fill me up and keep me full for longer than 15 minutes. The Bounce Energy Ball is about the size of a ping-pong ball, so at first glance I wasn’t too sure. However, if it says it’s a good flavor I will probably be enticed to buy it. 

I found coconut macadamia protein bliss in cacao mint protein bomb, with names like those I really couldn’t pass them up.

Tonight as I was making dinner I had some room in my macros for a snack, so I dug through the pantry to find something new that I hadn’t tried before. I came across the coconut macadamia protein bless ball and figured why not. 


So again, at first glance you’re not so sure how good this ball will be, and mine wasn’t exactly a ball (see picture above). Though, the amount of coconut that cover this ball definitely intrigued me because I love coconut everything. 

This ball tastes is as if a KIND Bar and a coconut macaroon decided to get it on at a party and made little bouncing balls. It’s chewy like a KIND Bar, but the shredded coconut gives it something extra. 


I found these at Vitamin Shoppe and I haven’t looked for them anywhere else. I definitely recommend to anyone who has no idea about protein snacks or treats to find them and give them a whirl. I also recommend buying individual bars whenever possible so you can try different flavors of bars. You never know which bar you will live or hate and it would be a waste to invest in a box of something you won’t eat. 

I can’t wait to try the cacao mint protein bomb next! Has anyone found any ther flavors of these before that I should search for? 

❤️ Cristina 


Being on prep you need to be creative with your ,even if you follow flexible dieting because it can’t be all Oreos and ice cream all the time. I eat a lot of yogurt, specifically Greek yogurt, even outside of prep because it’s a great source of protein and it’s one of the few dairy products that agrees with my stomach. It’s also flexible enough and can work as a dessert.

In college, I developed a sensitivity to dairy – I was tested and it wasn’t a full blown intolerance, but I’ve identified things that make my stomach very upset such as soft serve ice cream, milk and cheesecake. The last one kills me because if you’ve ever been to Cheesecake Factory you know that those are so hard to resist. There are so many possibilities of flavors and styles and now I miss out, but not quite.

A lot of people make protein yogurt or a protein pudding because it has a taste and texture like dessert. This is something I do often and depending on my macros I’ll add granola or fruit to it to round it out and make it more filling.

A few weeks ago, I found mini graham cracker pie crusts at the store and I thought it would be interesting to see how a pro-yo pie would be. My favorite pro-yo to make has cinnamon swirl whey in it and when made with a few other ingredients, it tastes just like cheesecake.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • vanilla extract
  • water
  • plain Greek yogurt: 5.3 ounce container or 150g
  • Splenda
  • 1/2 scoop flavored whey – the kind and brand will change your macros
  • mini graham cracker pie crust
  • Optional items: sprinkles, oreos, whip cream

 

Directions

  1. In a bowl, scoop your yogurt out of the container. I buy the individual yogurt cups when I make this so it’s easy to measure. I also use fat free yogurt, but you can also use 2% if you need the fat macros.
  2. Add 3 tablespoons of water to the yogurt and mix slowly. This will thin it out and make it easier to add the whey later.
  3. Once the yogurt and water are mixed out completely, add a teaspoon or two of vanilla extra. This is more to your own taste. You don’t need a lot, but I like a little more vanilla than most.
  4. Add in whey. This is completely up to you on the flavor and the amount. When I made this a few weeks ago I used 7g of chocolate chip cookie dough whey because it was the last of the container – I added a little more vanilla. Tonight when I made this recipe, I used half a scoop of cinnamon swirl. So if you want more protein then add a little more whey, but remember to add a little more water because it’ll be really thick otherwise.
  5. This is the part I usually taste the mixture and decide if and how much Splenda I need to add. Half to one teaspoon is usually enough.
  6. You can either choose to mix in other things like sprinkles or a crushed up Oreo if you want to, but if you don’t, just scoop some of the mix into the pie crust. Not all of the mixture will fit, but that’s why you have a spoon.
  7. Set in the fridge for about 30 minutes to an hour. I usually make this the afternoon I know I want it for dessert.

The macros for the basic recipe are: 5.3F/20.5C/28.5.

Below are some photos of a variation I made adding in half an Oreo and using the other half as a decoration.

My friend gave me this because I “had”to try the flavor, but she knew I didn’t want a box in the house

 



 


 

❤ Cristina


Let’s not pretend that being healthy while traveling is easy. We all know there are many challenges we face. If we’re flying the questions you may ask yourself are: can I bring food into the airport? What restaurants are in my terminal? What snacks are served on the plane? Will I be able to drink enough water during the day?

If you’re driving the questions can be different because yes you can have your own food packed, but is it easy to eat your meal while driving? Is that safe? Will you eat a hot meal cold? How often will you stop to use the bathroom if you’re drinking enough water? Will that add a lot of time to travel?

Also, planning to be healthy on travel is a pain in the ass. Let’s be honest.

Once you’re at your destination there’s a longer list of questions. Will I have access to a gym? Do I have time for a gym? What food is available to me?

I love lists. I love spreadsheets and I’m a planner. I’m organized because it helps me stay on track, not just in my healthy life, but my work life too. I’m in week 9 of prep and I had to take a 3 day trip to Washington DC during week 7. I have a lot more flexibility than most in my work travel because I do say where I’m traveling to and where I’m staying. So let’s start there.

How am I traveling?

Living in Massachusetts I knew I only had the option to fly to DC, so that meant I needed to look at my flights and determine what my eating schedule would be as well as what I would want to eat for the day, including in the airport and on the plane.

As long as your food is solid, it will most likely get through security. You can’t bring water or liquids in, but you can bring in an empty bottle – I brought in a blender bottle since I had packed a protein shake for later in the day while navigating the airport. As a pancake lover, I decided that since my flight was over brunch-ish time, protein pancakes were the way to go. I could make them in muffin form, they’re solid and they travel well. This would be my part of my airport meal. I also packed half a nut butter sandwich because again, solid and portable, but the carbs and protein from the nut butter keep me full for longer, which can make it easier to stick to your plan and not snack throughout the day, like when the stewardess hands you a bag of pretzels. You can also say no to the in flight snack.

 

Bella with a peanut butter pie protein bar on the flight.

Since TSA is a little tricky, I had given myself some extra time before my flight. At home I had looked to see what would be in my terminal – a Starbucks, the love of my coffee life. I had a black coffee with my lunch and I filled up my blender bottle with water I had purchased.

Now it was time to sit back and relax until my flight boarded.

Where am I staying while I travel?

Figuring out the hotel can a pain in the butt because it’s really about your schedule and what you want to accomplish. It’s also about affordability. I’m a fundraiser and I knew where my meetings were going to be, so I looked at hotels that were kind of in the middle. After I found one that fit my budget, I started looking through their site. Having a gym on location is important to me because regardless of how busy my day is, I will get up and make time for my workout. I could tell they had a lot of equipment, but I decided to call and ask the front desk about the facility. Most places don’t mind if you do this, not everyone will be knowledgeable, but they’ll try their best. This hotel had the best gym I had ever seen and I will probably continue to stay there when I travel to DC.

A girl has to eat, what’s going to be on my plate?

Since I knew most of my meals would be out at restaurants, I wasn’t concerned if there was a fridge in the room that I would have access to. If that was a concern I would do the same thing I did with the gym and ask if there is a fridge guests can use for free in their room. Most of the time there’s little space, but you can use the fridge – helpful if you bring yogurt or small snacks with you.

Just two girls with their protein shakes!

Since I was gone for a few days, I knew I would have to check a bag, this meant that I would also have some space to pack snacks. Snacks are important to me because they help me get to the next large meal, they also help supplement what I can’t get while on travel such as protein. Here’s what I packed for my trip.

Snack List:

    • 3 Quest protein shakes
    • 2 servings of Amino Energy aminos
    • 2 Oh Yeah ONE protein bars
    • a bag of Goldfish Grahams – vanilla cupcake flavor
    • a bag of Boom Chicapop Kettle corn
    • a bag of snyders pretzels

a blender bottle

*  also pictured: FlapJacked protein pancake muffins and half a CashewFit on whole wheat cinnamon raisin sandwich

 

It sounds like a random assortment, but bear with me, because it’s actually quite strategic.

This trip had been planned weeks in advance, which meant aside from planning my snacks, I had time to look over the menus for restaurants I would be going to and planning what I would pick from those menus. Some restaurants can be hard because nutritional information isn’t available, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make good decisions when you’re eating out. On Wednesday (the day I landed), I had dinner over happy hour and thankfully the restaurant is a global chain, which means they are regulated to provide nutritional information on their menu. This made happy hour the easiest meal I was having with a donor on this trip. I also was able to enjoy orange glazed sriracha chicken because it fit.

On the Thursday I was in town, I had breakfast on my own, two coffee meetings, a lunch and a dinner. For breakfast I had researched and found a Starbucks near my hotel, perfect for my own morning coffee and I knew they had some healthier options for a meal. I don’t usually eat at Starbucks – those little calorie signs freak me out, but I had posted on IG and got some great feedback from those who do eat there. I got the spinach and feta egg white wrap. Old Cristina or fat Cristina as I call her sometimes, would’ve appreciated the fact that the wrap tasted like a hot pocket. it was really kind of awesome and it kept me full until my mid-morning meeting.

IMG_2618

spinach and feta egg white wrap = classy hot pocket

Instead of diving into every meal and every decision I made, here’s the spreadsheet I made when I was planning this trip. I shared this with my coach because it helped us figure out if I would be eating enough on the trip – definitely a fear of mine because I want to leave room for some of those restaurant treats, but under-eating is just as bad as over-eating.

IMG_3640

I know this looks ridiculous and to some it’s intimidating, but my current goals are different than someone who wants to be just healthy. I used GoogleSpreadsheets to create this, which allowed my coach to update it if she wanted to. On Thursday because 2 meals were hard to fully track you notice there’s a discrepancy in the macros, but trust me they were consumed :]

Will I actually get in a good workout? What if I don’t have time?

This piece truly is up to you. DC is a walking city and I knew I would have a ton of miles on my shoes, but I’m also in competition prep. It’s a very different goal than someone just wanting to make better decisions when on vacation or on work travel. For me, getting my workout in was necessary. In my daily life, I get up at 435/450 – that’s when my alarms go off – for the gym. I also go to bed around 9 pm every night to accomplish this task. Since I had control over my work schedule while in DC, I was able  to be in bed around 9/930 every night, so keeping up with my early morning routine was a piece of cake. In fact, it was easier because all I had to do was go to the 2nd floor for the facility in the building – I save 15 minutes of driving!

Like I mentioned before, this facility was THE BEST I HAVE EVER SEEN IN A HOTEL. I only had to change one exercise on Thursday – bicep curl machine to bicep curls with dumbbells.For my HIIT circuits, I used 2 different bikini body guide or BBG workouts because the only cardio equipment available were treadmills and ellipticals.

Look at all that equipment!

When I came home from DC, I was exhausted according to my Fitbit, I had walked over 50K steps in the 2 days I was actually in the city. I felt good about the decisions I had made with my eating, I also felt good about my workouts. So I wasn’t completely surprised when I checked in and had lost a full pound that week.

Planning can be stressful. Being organized can be hard. My advice would be to write down your goals of your trip and plan according to them. If you want to be healthier, but not perfect – because we’re not, maybe it’s not having bread at the table when you go out. Maybe you have dessert one night, but not two nights in a row. Maybe you are careful about breakfast, but have some fun at dinner. I will encourage you to look at menus before heading out to a new place. I would also encourage you to call ahead at the risk of sounding crazy, trust me they get crazier questions than “how many ounces is the salmon?”

I have an overnight trip to New Jersey this coming Sunday into Monday and then I head to Florida for 5 days for work the following week. I have called the hotels and they all have gym facilities on site.I have also checked about amenities and they have fridges and microwaves so I’ll be able to pick up yogurt or make a microwave protein muffin. I’m exciting to see how I do while I travel. I’m currently 8 weeks out and I’m loving my progress, but I know as the stage day gets closer the struggle may become harder.

Stay strong my friends!

❤ Cristina