Prepping for a Week of Clean Eating + MAD Cardio Sweats

There are few things I love more than organization, strategic planning, and food, so The Whole Damn Thing: real food, real health challenge is lighting up my little inner light as 2014 closes out.  And lets be honest, when paired with my next great love, fitness & sweats, 2015 is already welcoming me in.

Last week I had some amazing sweats, both scheduled and somewhat spontaneous, which I imagine will be the same for this week, but here’s what I’ve got planned:

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Even though we’re not kicking off the lifestyle/challenge until Sunday night at The Whole Damn Potluck, I’ll be posting some prep tips, grocery lists, and starter recipes right here over the next few days. So, if you’re feeling so inclined (my liver just raised it’s hand), kick start a little early and come to the potluck as a 3 day seasoned veteran of food prep and sugar detox.

This of course happened this week for Christmas Round II with my parents, obviously since it’s my favorite meal to make and eat – Paleo Thai Chicken Stir Fry (w/almond butter sauce).

fuel sweat grow: paleo almond butter stir fry

It’s been on here more times than I can count (if I don’t have it twice a month my life feels empty) so check it out and give it a whirl.  My one piece of advice for a novice — less nut-buttery, more coconut milky, and an extra grind of salt will do the trick.

fuel sweat grow: paleo dinner thai chicken stir-fry

For all of my Charlottesville folks hitting up the Challenge with us, make sure you also join the group/forum for recipe and tip sharing — it’s open to non-MAD folks as well, you just need to join to see the content!

That’s it for now — more to come tomorrow to help you clear everything out and re-stock with the good stuff, but for now, it’s time for this girl to catch some z’s before kicking off cardio week in MADville at 6am with all the sexy people of course.  See you there.

fuel sweat grow: MADabolic Cville Cardio Week

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By the Grace of Coffee, this MAD week is ON

I know that there are 7 full days in a week, but somehow it always seems to be Sunday night.

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That was the thought that led off this post when I started it late Sunday.  Now it’s late Tuesday, proving two things: another couple of days have slipped past, each closer to Sunday’s return, and I’m constantly up, working, organizing, and writing late at night.  C’est la vie, I suppose, because if I’ve learned anything in the last 30 odd (literally) years of my life, it’s that I function best when in constant motion…as long as I’ve got some sense of organization and structure bracing my schedule.

Which of course leads us to food.  When things are crazy, but still functional, it’s usually a sign that I’ve made time for grocery shopping and cleared some therapy time in the kitchen.  I’ve been in the habit lately of hitting two grocery spots for different items: trader joe’s for produce and the general staples (coconut milk, coconut oil, almond butter, etc) and Whole Foods for the rest (avocados, meat, eggs).  It’s 100% a cost thing for making the two stops, because that’s obviously the only thing that can trump the convenience of Whole Foods, but the difference is substantial.  That’s not to say, however, that I don’t still impulse buy at Whole Foods.  It happens all the time, lately with my new favorite salad add-on: microgreens.

fuel sweat grow: sunflower and basil microgreens

I’m a sampler.  If you offer me a sample and it looks like something I would possibly eat (greens, soup, chili…anything but fish) I’m going to try it.  A year or so ago that habit led me to discover Keswick Gourmet, which has since become a favorite cooking staple; so obviously I’m a target market of sorts.  Last week as I walked into Whole Foods there was a sample table with these microgreens (sunflower and basil) dressed with light olive oil and sea salt.  Um, yes please (I bought two).  I played around a little with it for dinner, added some almonds, and ultimately mixed it in with romaine, some cucumbers, and other ever-loving salad add-ons.

On the stovetop I sautéed 2lbs of ground beef with onion (in coconut oil) and mixed the zoodles/spiralized zucchini right in there to soften slightly and soak up all the flavor. There’s a chance this might be my new favorite quickie meal….but I could just be caught up in the moment.

fuel sweat grow: ground beef zoodlesThe full meal looked like this and was arguably just as good as lunch leftovers, so again, if you have time to make more than you can eat, do it.  You’ll be thankful later.

fuel sweat grow: micro green salad and ground beef zoodles

This was exactly the right way (for me) to start the week, a structural component that has contributed to a pretty packed and productive week –  so far.  The other main contributor has been getting myself up (by the grace of coffee) for the 6 or 7am classes at MAD three mornings a week so I can relax and work without a deadline or a super packed end of the day.  It has been everything.

So, what have we learned here?  Coffee + early morning MADness + all the sunflower basil microgreens you can handle = an amazing start to a grey winter week.

Convenience v. Efficiency: A Food + Fitness Story

I’ve been a little off-target over the past two weeks with planning my food and getting into any sort of consistent sweat routine.  It’s not historically in my nature to take long breaks from working out, but over the last year I’ve developed a (much) more balanced approach to letting go of structure when the stress of trying to force fitness in any given day is greater than the benefit.  I’m not sure if it’s a product of ‘growing up’ or just ‘getting old,’ but it’s a real need a couple times a year to slow down and I’m always so thankful when I allow myself to let it go.

Part of creating that balance has also been efficiency.  Convenience is something our whole world seems to be driven by these days, but somehow efficiency sometimes gets lost in the mix.  They’re not the same thing, in fact, they’re grossly different.

It’s the appeal of convenience that leads so many of us to drive-thrus, to processed foods and sugar addictions.  It’s what keeps us on the continuous (proverbial and literal) treadmill for years without seeing any significant change or improvement to our bodies or lives —  and in fact, it usually has the adverse effect.  Efficiency is completely different. It’s the ironic counter to convenience; it’s the most effective way to reach a goal or see a result, and without it, I would never accomplish anything.

So, let me talk clean to you for a second…  [clean + efficient meets food + fitness].

The most important part of eating clean (for me, in my crazy life) is preparation, and packaging.  When I cook it’s never for one meal – I’ll happily live off of leftovers for a week of work lunches and on-the-go dinners.   Example: on Sunday morning I made breakfast for my Charlotte family – 18 eggs worth of breakfast.

fuel sweat grow: steak and eggsZucchini, leftover chimichurri marinated skirt steak (a YUM from Fresh Market), and 18 full fledged eggs.

fuel sweat grow: egg scramble #paleo breakfast

I’m terrible about giving myself enough time for breakfast during the week, but I love breakfast on weekends, so having these leftovers is such a huge thing for me.

Sunday afternoon I followed right up with a bulk-cooking marathon to get ready for a week in the office with my favorite Thai Chicken Stir-fry (with spaghetti squash).

fuel sweat grow: thai chicken stir fry

fuel sweat grow: thai chicken stir fry

To compliment (and balance out the days) this salad came to be — and is always a consistent favorite of mine. It’s definitely more of a summer salad, but it was 80 degrees in Charlotte this weekend, so I’m going to give it a seasonal pass.

fuel sweat grow: fall summer salad

Efficiency is also what I look for in my workouts.  Well, that, and a little escape once in a while.  I still run when I’m feeling inspired — its one of the most freeing actions, and sometimes the only time I have to be in my own head.  I still crave yoga + stretching because it feeds my body and soul.  And I still love sweating for the sake of sweating, when that’s what I need, but for my actual fitness, strength, and total body change, I go for efficiency – and that’s the theme of the week.  So here’s how I’m hoping to balance it:

Monday: Run + new playlist

Tuesday: Carolina Barre + Core: 30/30 Cardio Barre

Wednesday: MADabolic

Thursday: Walk with a friend + Run/body weight circuit

Friday: MADabolic

Saturday: MADabolic

Sunday: a day of REST (or maybe a hike with the 4-leggers)

And the reality is….if somewhere in there life gets a little too jammed and my sanity depends on a little lunch time yoga or childs pose in my office, then so be it.  Sometimes being effective is just about being still.

Prepping for the Week + The Whole 30 Challenge

There are some weekends that stand out from the rest, and this weekend was one of them.  Fall is in full swing in Charlottesville, and things in MADville are getting crazier by the day.  A full social, sweat, and food recap of the weekend is in order, but I need to take a day or two to get myself in order and honestly just recover from what feels like a week of constantly being on the go.

While this week is another over-full week of work and life (in a good way), the most exciting for me is a client-driven restart on the food front.  Some of our clients signed themselves up for the Whole 30 challenge from Whole 9 and are starting tomorrow.  Hearing this was awesome not just because I have a group to motivate and recipe share with me, but also because it’s such a huge part of the lifestyle and health change we continue to love seeing slowly take over this community.

Since I was out for most of the weekend and didn’t have a kitchen at my disposal to prep meals, I’m a little behind, but I’ve committed to getting my life together tomorrow to walk (or eat, really) side by side with this group as they start this 30 day push.  That being said, here are a few of my favorite / must-have ingredients, recipes, and just generally amazing food to lead off week 1.

fuel sweat grow: Whole 30 Grocery list

STANDARD Grocery List:

– Chicken (skinless, boneless, thighs or breasts)
– ground beef (or turkey / chicken)
– applegate farms chicken sausage
– yellow & purple onion
– zucchini / yellow squash
– red/orange/yellow bell peppers
– mushrooms
– cauliflower (2 heads – I ❤ it)
– celery
– carrots
– spaghetti squash
– avocados (MANY)
– asparagus
– (local) Keswick Gourmet Marinara Sauce (the only one WF sells that does not  have added sugars…and it’s local, so that’s a bonus)
– kale
– romaine
– cucumbers
– broccoli slaw (only at Trader Joe’s)
– blueberries
– green apples (usually 6, but if i’m making the streusel recipe about a dozen+)
– bananas
– strawberries
– lemons / limes
– almond butter
– coconut oil (for cooking)
– olive oil (for salads only)
– coconut milk (light)
– eggs (I buy 2-3 dozen at a time….but I’m also usually feeding Dar)
– plantain chips (only at Trader Joes — NOT to be confused with banana chips)
– almonds (whole and slivered)
– sunflower seeds
– fresh ground almond butter (if it’s not ground fresh, check the ingredients to ensure it’s just almonds and doesn’t have added sugar or chemicals)
This isn’t totally exhaustive, but for the most part every recipe that I make that is an ‘everyday’ recipe includes these ingredients.  Every once in a while I’ll really branch out, but only if I’m making a new/special recipe.  These staple items will still be stocked in the fridge.   The MOST important part of staying sane during the first week or two as you quit sugar and adapt back to real food is to HAVE food available.  This is not a starvation diet — you NEED to eat, so make sure you have good clean food available and prepped to keep your energy up and balanced.
fuel sweat grow: grocery list and meal prep
The easiest thing to do is to make a big dinner on Sunday night (or any night really) with several sides and spend some extra time chopping things up (like zucchini or celery, etc) to have ready for cooking or snacks.  I’ll usually roast a spaghetti squash or two on Sunday while I have time so it’s ready in the fridge for quick meal assembly since my week nights (and days) are usually much tighter on time.
Here are a few favorite meals that can all be made with the food on the grocery list above, and save amazingly well (read: amazing leftovers and quick grab-and-go options).
  • [Lunch / Dinner] Thai Chicken Stir-Fry is probably my favorite rainy-day or winter meal, but it’s still awesome in the summer with cauliflower rice OR over spaghetti squash. There are no exact measurements, but the feedback we’ve come up with is that adding a little more coconut milk for a thinner sauce is better than a really thick one.
  • [Lunch / Dinner] Spaghetti Squash Bolognese.  It keeps AMAZINGLY well as leftovers, so this is a great one to make in excess and pack up for lunches during the week.
So, to our Whole 30 first-timers getting ready to give up all of their ‘favorite foods’ tomorrow…. congratulations, you’re about to know what it feels like to be fueled with the best stuff on earth – REAL food.  It will change your life.
For other general ideas, search salads, vitamix (for smoothies) or dinner, or check out the eats or fuel categories on the blog.

 

Grocery List, Breakfast Favorite + Monday Things

From the moment I opened my eyes this morning I could just feel the monday-ness looming in the air.  I had the classic weekend where I had more to get done than I could have ever reasonably accomplished, and it was actually a struggle for me to admit defeat at 10pm on sunday night to allow myself a good night sleep.

It was totally worth it.  The still-unpacked box that was abandoned in the corner is still staring at me, but I don’t care.  I’m prioritizing me this week – my sanity, my health, and my own piece of mind.

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I committed to an 80/20 style 28toLife program with Sarah and Georgi, good friends and trainers from MADabolic, and it started today.  Over the past year I’ve gotten pretty used to cooking according to Cristina’s preferred plan and can make a meal out of just about anything at this point — as long as there are groceries stocked.  That’s one of the challenges — making sure that there is good, fresh food, constantly stocked in the fridge.   Meat, fruit, vegetables, and a few other critical essentials to allow for spontaneous meal creation.   The point is not to feel hungry and deprived — it’s to change what you’re using to fuel your body and teaching it to run on good quality food.

Depending on what your preferred tastes and meals are, you might want to meal plan ahead of time and buy groceries a little more frequently than usual, or, you might want to go all-out on Sundays in preparation for the week.  Totally your call.  I do a little of both, but I would say that I do have a staple MUST-HAVE-THESE-THINGS at all times list:

Basics:

  • Coconut Oil
  • Coconut Milk (canned from Trader Joes)
  • Sesame Oil
  • Almond Butter (Fresh ground from Whole Foods if you can)
  • Sea Salt
  • Cinnamon
  • Pure Vanilla Extract
  • Chili Powder

Meat:

  • Chicken Breast
  • Ground Beef
  • Flank Steak (get a big one so you can take advantage of extra)
  • Chicken Sausage ( Applegate Farms)

Fruit & Vegetables:

  • Zucchini
  • Yellow Squash
  • Cauliflower
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Lettuce / Kale
  • Cucumbers
  • Avocado (MANY)
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli Slaw
  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Bananas
  • Lemons

Additional staples:

  • Whole and/or slivered Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Sunflower Seeds

It looks like a huge list — and it is, but for the most part you can ALWAYS find these things in my fridge, and they are the best and most versatile basics I’ve found.  There are certainly other things I like to pick up at times — beets, arugula, and spinach included, but usually only when they’re planned in a specific meal.

This morning’s breakfast was straight out of my critical ingredient handbook, and was the perfect way to start off this Monday.

Fuel Sweat Grow: Egg Scramble
Saute broccoli slaw, zucchini, and yellow squash in coconut oil
Add chicken & Eggs
Add chicken & Eggs
The finished, and delicious, product.
The finished, and delicious, product.

Lunch was a salad with chicken from a little spot next to my office, accompanied by about 10 huge cups of water that were strategically consumed to help me prepare for (hot) yoga at Y2 tonight — more on yoga tomorrow.

Dinner tonight was grilled chicken, cucumber, avocado, and sea salt seasoning all chopped and mixed together for a chunky chicken salad.  It was super quick to make since I had some chicken already cooked and awaiting it’s destiny in the fridge.

And that marks the end of this super long monday.

Goodnight.

 

A Little of This, A Little of That

So, on monday I made a rookie mistake.  I planned and cooked one of my favorite meals, and even brought out the good camera to capture the whole thing.  What I failed to do was make sure the memory card was actually in the camera.  So, sorry folks, no pictures.

That being said, here’s what was on the menu (and the grill):

  • 2lbs of whole food’s skirt steak (a great option when they’re out of flank.  and flat iron.)
  • grilled asparagus, and zucchini
  • romaine based salad with avocado, cucumber, walnuts, and tomato

The food was delicious, and the presentation was majestic, sorry you can’t see what it looked like.  What I can show you is the hasty leftover salad that I put together on Tuesday afternoon during my ‘working lunch.’

leftovers

Don’t let the lack of frills fool you, in the moment it tasted like the best thing I had ever eaten.

leftover lunch

It has been a more than beautiful week this week, so in the spirit of enjoying that I took some work outside with me after lunch to get a little extra vitamin D, and to (hopefully) also bring a stop to Bug’s incessant requests to go in and out  of the house.  It worked surprisingly well and once I was stationed outside she decided that her only option was to stay outside and be quietly miserable.  bug outside

I did the 7am bootcamp yesterday with the group while Dar coached which was awesome.

30:30 (4 rounds)

  • Box Jumps / rest
  • Push ups / Plank
  • Kettlebell swings / squat hold
  • star jumps
  • Breakdancers

So, to better explain the bullet points, the workout was 4 rounds of 1 minute rounds split into 30 second segments.  For box jumps it was 30 seconds on, then 30 seconds off (rest!), but for the push ups and KB swings, they both had active rests with planks and squat holds, respectively.

In the most surprising turn of events, one of my group partners, Uday, turned to me after round 1 and said ‘lets do 45/15 on the full rest sections.  Now, I’m not sure if he was having a particularly good morning, or just trying to compete with his wife (the amazing Anita of Maliha Creations ) that did the same workout in the 6am bootcamp, but we made the switch and I definitely felt it immediately.  The only other change I made was holding a 12kg kettlebell for a goblet squat hold.

I managed to get my act back together at dinner, so here are a few food scenes from what was an awesome rainy day meal.

Roasted cauliflower on the grill, seasoned with salt.

roasted cauliflower

The ‘main course’ and future lunches was a mix of onions, ground beef (local!), zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, and red peppers.  It was all just seasoned lightly with sea salt, but had an amazing flavor thanks to the beef.

beef. it's what's for dinner.

On the (other) side was a sweet little tomato and avocado salad, seasoned with salt, balsamic, and a tiny bit of olive oil.

tomato avocado

This meal had a 20 minute turnaround, and provided leftovers for the next two days.  I’m huge on having leftovers on hand to grab and go, or quickly eat sometime between breakfast and an afternoon snack (some might call that meal lunch…).  It really helps to put it in serving sized containers so it’s easy to organize and take with you.

I spent most of this week working on stuff for Fight Gone MAD, from social media, to retail ordering, and a million details in between.  We’re getting closer and closer to announcing both of the actual locations, and I could not be more excited.  I love the spaces we found, our builder is a rock star, and the designs all look amazing.

work

Anyone ready for the grand opening party?  I am.  Seriously, that’s one of the things on my to-do list, probably one of the least important, and I have a million little notes on what it’s going to look like.  I did a little professional reflection this week, and on my personal blog, and am just so excited for everything that we’ve got going on right now, and that I’ve got going on, despite the million directions I feel like I’m constantly going in.  This is the good stuff – it’s the beginning – and the beginning of something awesome.