Category Archives: Food

Less food… more life…?

Very interesting talk on caloric restriction in rhesus monkeys at the UAB Nutrition Obesity Research Center yesterday from Dr. Rozalyn Anderson, Ph.D. an Assistant Professor, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

I am super busy at the moment, I am not going to whinge, but I’m in those very exciting last 2 weeks of a grant submission, while trying to get at least one faculty job application off my desk per week, and maintain my papers submission (i.e. not piss off the co-workers whom will write my letters of reference). I refer you to Stella for a nicely scholarly and full discussion of the lecture. I’ll just give you a precis of my take home messages, focusing on the more surprising findings:

When rhesus monkeys were on 25% caloric restriction (without malnutriton) from their ad libitum weight maintenance diet:

*Death from all cause mortality was signficiantly reduced, after a period of ~10 years

*Death from age-related mortality was even more significantly reduced across the whole lifespan

*Almost all forms of senescence were significantly delayed. Interestingly Dr. Anderson really delved into depth here, showing for example how muscle fibres did not show age-related changes

*Fat mass was significantly reduced

*Despite caloric restriction: lean body mass did not decline

*Organ size did decline, but only as expected for a smaller animal

*Despite caloric restriction: basal metabolic rate did not drop. The CR monkeys only saw a drop in the amount of energy used to perform activities, i.e. they became more efficient

*The CR monkeys looked amazing to the naked eye. Their fur remained thick, and so luscious – I was amazed. They made the non-CR monkeys look like they had been rescued from a situation of neglect.

I was very interested in the discussion afterwards. Two points, specifically:

*Dr Anderson was asked whether the macronutrient that was restricted (fat / carb / protein) made a difference. She said that in the absence of malnutrition, and excluding some disease-specific effects, no. Her informal observations was if you were either ~25% under, or 25% over your caloric needs, it didn’t matter much what you ate. If you were under: your body would adapt and use everything. If you were over: you were going to cause yourself trouble whatever you were overeating. My personal experience with the latter backs this up (overeating protein as a ‘free’ food). It is just if you are somewhere in the middle; eating around your caloric needs, that macronutrient balance might make a difference.

I wonder if this could partially explain why some people can eat fast food endlessly, and remain metabolically well? These tend to be slimmer people, so I could guess they were eating less than their caloric needs: at this point, it doesn’t matter what they are eating. Then take individuals who eat around their caloric needs from junk food, and are suffering metabolic dysfunction: is it because they are in the ‘somewhere in between’ zone where what you eat matters? If you are going to always eat poorer quality food or fast food, do you need to calorically restrict to remain healthy? I don’t know – pure anecdotal speculation (it’s my blog. I’m allowed 🙂 )

*She didn’t recommend this for humans. Stella touches on this: she says the psychological harm from restricting herself outweighs any physical benefit. This was Dr. Anderson’s point: do you want to take away a glass of wine after a hard day? Something yummy to eat to look forward to? I don’t agree with these views. I think we have come so far from what is good for us, in terms of exercise and eating, that drastic measures are needed. My example: I need ~19000 calories to ‘maintain’ , given my lean body mass (I lift), and general activity level (possibly slightly more since I have been regularly practising HIIT, but let us be conservative). Throw in my daily activity, and I burn, on average, 2,200 calories a day. I currently eat 1,300 a day. It sounds  small, but I eat a large breakfast (oatmeal), a filling snack (Banana and PB or Larabar, sometimes apple and nutella.. mmmmm….), lunch (carbs, protein, veg, sometimes fruit), snack (fruit + nuts or veg and hummus) and dinner (protein, lots of veg, salad and a good whollop of MUFA e.g. 1/2 an avocado). I have energy for all my workouts (when I am not suffering allergies, but that doesn’t count 😉 ).  I am clearly building muscle. I am rarely hungry. It’s easy. I only exercise 20 mins – 1 hour 5 times a week. And I am on a 40% restriction. I can add in some wine, or a beer (I don’t like beer), or I can ‘eat out’ (with appropriate portion sizes), or I could have some cake or chocolate ontop of all this… and still be on 25% restriction or less. It is not that hard for me. I am not sure when we started touting that this sort of behaviour was so wildly out of the norm, or so crazy, or so hard to follow. And I am not sure that helps people who feel they want to follow a different dietary lifestyle, but find it daunting.

Just a thought. Just a thought from someone who recently put on 25 lbs 🙂 Take it with a pinch of salt and do respond honestly, but please don’t flame me 🙂

The seminar is likely to be posted here soon.

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DAMY weeks 3&4, training week 4 and a new oatmeal. Oh my!

Clearly, it has been too long since I wrote, as there is much to update. As this is fairly self-serving, I am sweetening the deal with a new ‘Oatmeal of Awesomeness‘ at the end. I betcha can’t wait.

DAMY weeks 3&4

So.. DAMY weeks 3 and 4. These have been HARD! Week 3 I could not understand why I was feeling hungrier… why I really needed a late night snack… then along came TOTM. So, that would explain it, then. It made me flake out on one workout. Week 4 was hard for a different reason: I received some extremely sad news early on, which threw me a bit of a curve ball. Then, I got bitten by a fire ant and discovered I am extremely, anaphylatically allergic to such things. Even just one bite. 2 steroid shots (one not being enough, apparently), a Benadryl shot, several steroid tablets and an additional bottle of Benadryl later we can safely say: Ants: 1 Lekki:0. I HATE steroids. Yes, they let me live (which is indeed a benefit), but they also make me grumpy, paranoid and mess with my appetite and sleep (up the former, drop the latter. Boo). They also utterly inhibit my ability to repair from sports (just at a time when I need sports to chill me out).

Then work went crazy with my K99 score coming back ‘on the border of funding’ (the right side of the border for last year – but who knows what this year will be?). It was so anti-climactical, and disappointing, and frustrating and exhausting. So… it has been wonderful to be on DAMY (surprisingly). I have had 2 weeks of healthy, tasty meals planned and prepared that I have got to eat without thinking about them. No stress. I have also (due to a dip in sports – see below) been able to focus on the journey to a healthy body and mind, and look long-term, rather than focus on every day, and every minutiae. Huzzah!

So, those stats. Starting / after 2 weeks / after 4 weeks:
Weight: 143.5 lbs. / 138.5 / 135.5

Chest: 38 / 37 ” / 37 ”

Waist: 30″ / 29″ / 28″

Hips: 38″ / 37″ / 37″

So, I lost 3 lbs in the last two week, for a grant total of 8 lbs in 4 weeks and am very happy. I am much more toned and looking forward to starting on weeks 5-8 (phase 2).

Training for Tough Mudder – week 4.

Hmmmm…. in terms of achieving my goals, this was an utter disaster! With exhaustion, hospital visits, inhibited recovery and all the goal of: “To just do it and not stress about it” – i.e. follow the plan. Yeah. Well, plan and actuality went like this:

Thursday:  DAMY weights A, 45 min kickboxing – DONE!

Friday – DAMY HIIT on the track (yuck) – Changed. Dropped due to TOTM exhaustion

Saturday – Steady state (5K, running for Diabetes) and DAMY weights B – DONE

Sunday – REST (double yuck) – Changed due to dropping Friday. Did a trail run: 1.5 miles uphill, jog back down. Stretch. Repeat. Took me about an hour and half (!)

Monday: Steady state cardio (5K run if knees OK, dreaded elliptical if not) + weights (workout C) – Changed Dropped due to allergy! Too many shots, too much need to recover. Like Friday, I sat on my lazy butt! I actually did this Tuesday.

Tues: DAMY interval training with bodyweight exercises – Changed, as was doing Monday’s workout. I did this Wednesday.

Weds: REST – changed as I was doing Tuesday’s workout.

So, I did not stick to the plan at all! And it has knocked my week 5 training plan out, as I tried to workout on Thursday, but dearly needed a rest. Hmmm. Actually, an accumulation of all the above: I seriously need some rest for body and mind. Tough Mudder is 4 months away: I have some wriggle room. As long as I keep my long runs up, I should not lose too much fitness. That being said, here is my

Week 5 plan:

Thursday:  DAMY weights A, (DONE!)

Friday – REST (yuck) –

Saturday – Steady state 6 mile jog

Sunday – Steady state cross train (30 min trail run; 2 hour hike); weights DAMY B

Monday: 30 min interval run; Weights DAMY D (legs)

Tues: REST

Weds: Steady state (4 miles); DAMY C.

This is not ideal, as it misses out a lot of my HIIT. But, I think I have to sacrifice that for r ‘n’ r and hope it makes me come back stronger. Next week we have my first trail run 🙂

A new Oatmeal.

Mmmmm…. this is so good. Definitely worth listening to that one giant moan for 🙂

Apple crisp Oatmeal:

1/2 sharp green apple (like granny smith)
1/2 cup oats
1 1/2 cups Water
1/2 scoop Vanilla protein powder (I use ON casein creamy vanilla)
cinnamon to taste
1/2 tsp all spice
toasted pecans

Bring water to the boil. Stir in oats. Grate in apple and stir. Stir in cinnamon to taste and all spice. Let cook for 4 minutes, stirring all the while. When cooked, stir in protein powder and add water to desired consistency. Top with walnuts. Enjoy the deliciousness. It tastes really like the artificially flavoured versions, but is pretty ‘clean’. The apple adds a nice texture too.

Carrot cake oatmeal

Cake-taste for breakfast

A new oatmeal. This is not so good post-running as it doesn’t have the casein protein that helps keep me full, and I thought could help fat loss if ingested after exercise., but now I find this unsubstantiated in the literature. Anyway, this oatmeal was created when I woke up on Saturday and really wanted to go to iHop for pancakes for breakfast, but am trying to stickk to my ‘only eating out twice a week’ rule. I wanted something decadent, and healthy. It did well.

1/2 cup pre cooked oats oats in water
1/2 cup milk – I used 1%
1 cup grated carrot (10 baby carrots)
1/4 cup egg whites (makes it creamier)
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp all spice
Sweetenerof your choice – e.g. 1 tbsp sugar / brown sugar OR agave OR 1 tsp splenda

Fill the pan with the oats and carrot, but sort of half and half so the carrot is on one side and the oats on the other (as above)
Pour the milk on the carrots
Simmer over a low heat for 5 mins (don’t worry if the ingredients mix a bit)
Take off the heat and stir in the rest of the ingredients
When well mixed return to the heat and cook until the egg white is thoroughly cooked

Optional toppings: pecans; flax seed (my choice); cottage cheese blended with sweetener and cinnamon

More appealing in taste than sight.

Indulge, guilt free 🙂 (Disclaimer: food should not come with guilt blah blah blah).

266 calories – 3.8g fat / 42.3g carbs / 14.75g protein

Chicken Provençal and Zucchini pancakes

Chicken Provencale. So tasty I ate most of it before I took the picture...

OK, 2 recipes for you. One quick and easy, the other… not so much. So, my new stickk.com resolution only allows me to eat out twice a week. Meaning quick and easy dinners are necessary for when I get back from the gym and 7.45 and still have to take Walter for a pee. Thus, I developed:

Chicken Provençal

Ingredients (serves 2):

2 chicken breasts
1 small chopped onion
1 can canellini beans
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
2 sticks celery
1 can chopped tomatoes
handful torn basil
2 chopped garlic cloves
pinch of savory

Literally just throw it all in the slow cooker and put it on low for 7 hours. Go to work, workout, and come home to the most amazing smell 🙂 This is also great for Meatless Monday without the chicken – very filling.

The next one is not such a quick and easy ‘throw together’

Veggie pancakes

Ingredients

Basic pancake mix:
2 large eggs
1/3 cup low-fat milk
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Veggies; I used:
Kernels from 1 ear sweet corn (about 3/4 cup)
1 zucchini, grated (about 1 cup)
1/3 cup chopped onion
Zest of 1 lemon

oil for frying

Put all the basic pancake mix ingredients in a bowl beat with an electric whisk. Stir in the veggies. Heat the oil in a pan. Fry like small pancakes over a medium heat, flipping 1/2 way through. Serve as a side:

Wes' with his steak; I had mine with salmon as I am trying to cut down on red meat.

Not amazing, but a different way to get your veggies in. Tastes great with sour cream / Greek yoghurt on the side, and kept well in the fridge making a tasty snack.

Thank you to Whole Foods for the recipe

Meatless Monday

OK, so the Master Cleanse was an utter disaster (although it did lead to my buddy emailing me asking how my colon was). Predictable, some people might say. But, none the less, I went into it with good intentions. To

(1) Clean out my body

(2) Precipitate a general cleaning up of my diet (less alcohol, more fruit and veg, less red meat,  more variety, less restaurant food as mine is always of the over processed cheaper take out variety and despite my best intentions I plow into the accompanying chips)

and

(3) sort out my general exhaustion and tiredness.

So, to this end, I have developed some new rules, to help me stick to them. I even joined Stickk.com. Stickk a website where you pledge to stick to a goal and every week that you don’t, your money goes to a cause of your choice. You can choose a friend, a charity, or if you really want to motivate yourself an ‘anti-charity’ of your choice; so every week I fail, ManYoo football club gets 10 of my princely dollars (NOT happening). Stickk is awesome – join it and friend me if you like. So, my ‘guidelines are’:

-No more than 2 meals from restaurants / take-outs per week

-No diet coke in the week

And

-2 ‘meatless’ days per week. As I was inspired by this Johns Hopkins health initiative I call it Meatless Monday, even though it doesn’t actually have to be a Monday. So here, is the results of my first ‘meatless Monday’, which was actually a Wednesday. I ate:

Breakfast: scrambled egg white, watermelon and a peach.

Lunch: Ratatouille with chickpeas:

Ratatouille

Ratatouille

Ratatouille Recipe

1 eggplant / aubergine [see how multilingual I have become]

1 winter squash / zucchini / courgette

1 red onion

1 green pepper

2 cans crushed tomato

olive oil

2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped

fresh rosemary, dried savory & oregano

Method:

Roughly chop all your veg

Lightly saute them in a deep bottomed saucepan with the olive oil and chopped garlic

Add 2 cans of tomatoes, then half fill one of the cans with water and add the water to the pan

Add the herbs

Simmer on a  very low heat for 2 hours.

Done. The great thing is that you can keep the ratatouille for ages, and it is very versatile. I added 1/3 can of chickpeas and that was my lunch.

Snack:

A load of my generous office mate Stella’s cherries and an organic lolly.

Dinner:

Pasta topping

I sauteed some mushrooms and chickpeas in Ragu canned sauce and garlic, and threw it on some spaghetti squash. Dessert: Chobani 0%  and berries. Late night: 2 squares of Escazu chipotle chili & vanilla 74% cocoa chocolate.

Exercise for the day: 1 zumba class, 1 salsa class.

And there it is: the first menu for a meatless Monday 🙂 I was surprised, I wasn’t hungry and felt great.

Atkins pancakes

OK, clearly I am going through some kind of pancakes obsession. I do that… lock into certain foods, want to eat them for ages, and then completely go off them and don’t want them near me for weeks. Fickle. Anyway, now I am on Atkins Induction I perfected my Atkins pancake recipe… it is so good. It is very different from the protein pancakes – those are sweet and really like a dessert. These are savoury, much like a slightly less fluffy wholemeal buttermilk pancake.

Ingredients:

1 whole egg (optional: add an extra egg white if you want more protein)

2 tbsp flax meal (I use golden, whether you do this or not is just a personal taste preference)

.3 cup unsweetened almond breeze (optional: use cream instead, this is too heavy for me)

1 tsp baking powder

1 packet splenda (optional: add a tsp vanilla, this will take away the more savory taste)

Blend, and fry. Serve with your usual breakfast fixings, here bacon and a splash of sugar free syrup. For extra brownie points, fry them in leftover bacon grease (thanks Clio for the tip). NB: I cut these out of one large pancake using a glass rim. I found the mixture a little too runny to make individual ones.

I know y’all hate Atkins, but I don’t think these are too unhealthy; the fat is mostly omega 3 and there is lots of fiber (so watch out if you eat them too often – don’t forget to drink water 😉 ).

Nutrition (pancakes only): calories: 159; Fat: 11.32g; protein: 10.6g; carbs: 5.55g; fiber: 4.3g (net carbs: 1.2).

Fat: 64%; Protein: 22%; Carbs: 14%

Fat-kins here I come

OK, had a mini meltdown when I saw some photos of me in a bikini. By “mini” I do of course mean refusing to let anyone see them, running out of the room and crying about it the next day. Sad as it is, I don’t want to be a ‘chunky bride’. There, I said it and admitted it. But it is OK, Wes has talked some sense into me – he has pointed out that I have very little body fat, but I do have an awful lot of muscle. If you are doing 120 squats & deadlifts and bench pressing 100, you are going to bulk up. Which I like. But the problem is, when you throw a little bit of junk food on top of that the muscle tone sort of smoothes out, and you just look ‘chunky’. He pointed out that I look like what I am – a female body builder in the ‘off season’. It’s not a bad thing, but it doesn’t feel like ‘me’. And my proportions are slightly ridiculous. So after a wee bit of crying, I need – no, WANT – to shed some bulk (fat) and not build my muscles for a little while. I guess it would be a sort of ‘cutting’ regime. The best way that I know for *me* to do this, without going crazy low calories / getting too obsessive / falling into to the yo-yo dieting trap is to do Atkins. And drop the heavy lifting (just do light strength training twice a week + plyos) in favour of more (ergh) cardio. Not excessive – just more jogging / longer bike rides. My goal is to lose ~6/7 lbs before June 4th, and not lose too much muscle. I will drop some, sure, but I want to build up my type IIb fibres for some more tone to it, and less bulk.

 

The plan is:

-Induction Atkins for 12 days; then I will probably move up the ‘rungs’ quite quickly

-1-2 weeks of no strength training – 3 jogs (~3.4 miles) per week, 2 dance classes, one kickboxing class (can’t do my classes this week as I have a conference – boo).

-Then to add in strength training, but go lower weight, higher rep and do full body workouts rather than killing one muscle group per week. By the time I add this in, I should be adding in some carbs to my diet, as I will be moving up the rungs, so I shouldn’t get too tired.

 

In the meantime I am trying to keep my nails and suchlike looking nice, so I don’t focus on feeling like a heifer.

So, here it goes. Of course, I will have to blog my progress and meal plans – that what makes it fun for me 🙂