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Carb Cycling: The good, the bad, the ugly

My take on the first week of carb cycling plus an apple pie protein powder muffin recipe

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I have been MIA for a while now. I just can’t seem to find the time to write. Which is terrible because it’s something I really enjoy. I have finally started to take my diet seriously. I’m going to the beach Memorial Day weekend, which is like 45 days away, and Peru in June/July (74 days away) so I’ve got this goal in my head that I’m going to be the skinniest me I can be by June so that I look amazing in my pictures. With that goal in mind I set out to find something I could do that would essentially jump start my weight loss and create better habits.

I decided to try carb cycling. This decision was based solely on a quiz I took on Facebook from a sponsored ad by HIITBURN. I found out that I’m an endomorph, defined as,

The endomorphic body type is the complete opposite of an ectomorph. This individual will usually be larger in appearance with heavier fat accumulation and little muscle definition. They find it hard to drop the weight even though they try several diets or workout programs.

This of course was sort of earth shattering yet not surprising. I have in my lifetime tried everything to lose weight and while I’ve had the occasional successes, they never seem to last. I’m not convinced carb cycling will last either, but I’m trying it regardless in an attempt to drop some weight, have some success, feel a bit better about myself, and thus continue the struggle so that by June I am Peru ready. I wound up buying a 3-1-2-1 program from HIITBURN for $17.99. They tried to sell me a whole bunch of other shit I didn’t want, but in the end I got my packet and started planning. The process took me about 2 weeks to begin. First, I had to read the packets, then I had to prep some meals, then I had to experiment with food and MFP.

I started my pre-carb cycle on a Monday, failed miserably when I realized at the end of the day I had eaten 120 grams of carbs. Tried again Tuesday and did better, staying around 50 grams. Talked to a friend who told me that anything under 50 is good, and tried again Wednesday, this time staying well below 50 grams. By Sunday, the day I was supposed to start, I felt I was ready to go and already had 3-4 low carb days under my belt and had lost almost 5 pounds. I figured if I started on Sunday, I would have a high carb day Wednesday and a flex (cheat) day Saturday. It seemed like a good plan of attack and I was ready to go. With week one in the books here are a few things I’ve learned about carb cycling that may help you if you decide to try it….


The Good: 
It really does work. In about a week and a half I lost around 6 pounds and an inch. Every morning I got on the scale and I was just a little bit lighter. It was super exciting. For someone who rarely sees the scale move and who struggles to accept that “it’s not all about the number”, while desperately wishing that number would move, this was AMAZING. I felt successful. I felt empowered. I felt like I was accomplishing something. I felt hopeful.

It’s not all that difficult once you have a plan. I actually find this easier than eating macros. The reason is because it’s not so much about balancing as just making choices to either eat it or not eat it. Knowing I have to stay under a certain number of carbs, while getting a certain amount of protein and fat made my choices for me. It was also nice to be able to eat certain foods that were once “off limits” to me while focusing only on macros. For example, cheese is back on the menu, which if you know me, you know that makes me extremely happy. I was also able to eat my Tessamae dressings again because on a low carb day I am supposed to eat high fat, so that was also a win!

It has taught me to be really conscious of what I am eating. I never really cared as long as the macros were good at the end of the day, I wasn’t a “good macro for every meal” person. Now I can tell you all about the foods I eat. It’s also made me very strategic in my eating. I know that I can have half a Quest bar on cardio days so I can take some ignite right before BBC. But I know if I do that I have to be careful with what I serve for dinner. It’s taken my meal planning up a notch.


The Bad:
While some foods are now back in my diet, it also manages to limit what you can eat quite a bit. For someone who loves food and loves to cook this has been a struggle. My experiment week was all about finding out what I could and could not eat in a day. I discovered that I could eat a lot of meat, but not a lot of veggies, and no fruit, yogurt, or Quest or Lara bars. Basically anything sweet went bye-bye and this left some serious cravings in it’s wake. There is no amount of cheese and meat you can eat that will ever take the place of the sweet, sweet taste of sugary goodness that can only be found in fruit and dark chocolate.

I basically have resigned myself to eating the same week over and over again for the length of this program. The lack of variety is slowly killing me and I’m getting sick of cheese, which I never thought would be possible, but there are only so many recipes one can make that involve meat with a side of meat.


The Ugly:
Carbs are in everything… I MEAN  ERRY’THING…
1 oz of English cucumber…1 carb…
2 cups of Romaine lettuce…3 carbs…
1 oz of mushrooms…1 carb…
1 serving of Alexa Parmesan Peas…16 grams of carbs…
Even the supplements I take have carbs in them. The gum I chew the hell out of to combat my cravings has carbs in it. And they add up, quickly. If I have a salad for lunch, I have to eat an all meat dinner. It’s infuriating and has led to many conversations with myself that go something like this, “4 grams of carbs in a packet of Truvia, F&#$ YOU TRUVIA!!!”… *drinks coffee black*

You get really tired sometimes and feel “fuzzy around the edges”. I don’t know how else to describe it. I think my brain must have run on carbs and on days when I don’t have them I feel all fuzzy and blurred and am pretty sure I’m not functioning on all cylinders. The first week it wasn’t so bad. I didn’t have the stamina I usually have at BBC but I got through the workouts without dying. The second week, I sat down on the couch on Monday before BBC and fell asleep, sitting up, I woke up at 5:31 and missed both afternoon classes. I’m also really hungry by Friday and not in the mood to eat anything, while simultaneously craving everything.

Carbs = Fiber…fiber makes you poo. You can figure out the rest of the equation. If you decide to carb cycle I highly suggest taking a fiber supplement (the bastards have carbs in them) and a probiotic (I use Align) to balance out the lack of fiber (and therefore poo) in your low carb lifestyle. Just trust me on this one…


I’m on Day 2 of Week 2 so we’ll see how that goes. I sort of epically failed at my flex day on Saturday and it rolled into Sunday because I didn’t have much energy or motivation to leave the couch. So I’m really rolling into Day 1 of Week 2, but am determined to get back on the horse and make it work. I didn’t meal prep yesterday but the week before I experimented with some apple pie protein powder muffins that aren’t too shabby so I’ll attach the recipe below for you.

Apple Pie Protein Powder Muffins

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½ c + 2 tbsp coconut flour Preheat oven to 425 degrees and spray muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray. (This recipe makes 10 muffins everything I do it)

Whisk together the coconut flour, PP, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

1 scoop Dymatize ISO 100 Cinnamon Bun PP
1 scoop Dymatize ISO 100 Gourmet Vanilla PP
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted and cooled Mix together the coconut oil, egg whites, and vanilla extract. Mix in the yogurt and stir until the mixture is smooth.
2 large egg whites, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ c nonfat Greek Yogurt (I used Dannon light and fit vanilla)
½ c + 2 tbsp cashew milk Alternate between adding the coconut flour mixture and the cashew milk to the yogurt, oil, and egg mixture. Beginning and ending with the flour. It’s best to do this in equal parts, I usually do 3 flours and 2 milks. Stir until just mixed. Let the batter rest for about ten minutes.
1 c freshly grated apples (peeled first) Gently fold in the grated apples and put the mixture evenly into the muffin tins.

Bake for 8 minutes at 425. Without opening the oven door turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for another 10-15 minutes. They are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the muffin tins on a rack.

Ringing in the New Year

My take on a paleo buffalo chicken casserole

HNY everyone! It’s been awhile and for that I apologize. Thus far 2017 has been a bit of a shit show and I’m still trying to get my bearings. Between a lingering illness (just go away already), a sick cat, and a poor little adopted cat we had to give up I’m pretty much ready for 2018! That being said this will not be the blog that addresses resolutions or raising my bar, that will come, but enough is enough and it’s time to get on with it so here I am. Plus Jen is waiting for the buffalo chicken casserole recipe so I need to get my tuchas in gear.

For the menu this week I stuck to some tried and true favorites because it was easy and because I needed some comfort food in my life. I’ve included links to the recipes I borrowed below.

Monday Steak with Trader Joe’s Garlic Coffee rub, sweet potato, and broccoli
Tuesday Fajita chicken with peppers and onions, quinoa with green chilis, black beans, and roasted corn
Wednesday Buffalo Chicken Casserole from paleomg.com
Thursday Sweet Potato Bahn Mi bowls from paleomg.com
Friday Mongolian Beef from fedandfit.com, brown rice, Szechuan broccoli
Saturday Beef Stew
Sunday Chili

With the exception of Friday, we ate pretty well this week. The coffee rub from Trader Joe’s was surprisingly delicious. If you are a meat eater I highly suggest you check out this rub, it was the perfect combination of sweet and savory. I said after almost every bite, “damn this stuff is good”. I’m really trying to find an excuse to have steak again this week so I can eat it one more time.

img_3692Dinner Tuesday was similar to something I featured in my first blog. The quinoa was the exact same, except I added some roasted corn from Trader Joe’s just because I had it and I could. The chicken and veggies were loaded with the Wildtree seasonings, chipotle lime, carne asada, and adobo, as well as some lime juice. I just threw it all in a pan with some avocado oil and voila, dinner.

The Bahn Mi bowl from http://www.paleomg.com is seriously one of my most favorite dishes. I could eat it daily. I’ve stopped using the white sweet potatoes, just because I can’t find them anywhere but Lowe’s and I don’t live near one, but the orange ones taste just as good in my opinion. One day I’ll feature this recipe, because it’s divine and complicated and I modify the hell out of it, but not today, today we are going to focus on another favorite of mine, the buffalo chicken casserole.

1 spaghetti squash I slice mine in half, take the seeds out, and turn it upside on a baking sheet and bake at 400 for about 30 minutes, until it’s soft to the touch on the outside. When it’s done I take it out and let it cool so I don’t burn the hell out of my fingers when removing the threads. Once cooled I remove the threads and transfer them to a 9×13 baking dish.
1 tsp Ghee Heat the ghee in a pan, add the chopped carrots, peppers, onions, celery, and garlic and sauté until the onion is tender.
6 oz baby carrots
1 cup red bell pepper
½ cup onion
2 stalks celery
3 tsp minced garlic
1 lbs ground chicken Add the chicken and ranch seasoning to the pan and cook until no pink remains.
1/3 package ranch seasoning
1 cup hot sauce Add the hot sauce, mayo, and cottage cheese and mix thoroughly.

 

After this is done mix the ingredients in the pan into the spaghetti squash noodles in the baking dish.

1 tbsp Mayo
¼ cup low fat cottage cheese
¾ cup egg whites Add the egg whites to the pan and mix until you can’t see them. Pop it in the oven and bake at 350 for an hour until it is set.

The original recipe calls for a Dutch oven or an 8×8 pan. I found that I had too much food for an 8×8 and used the 9×13. Based on the size of the pan I wrote this up in MFP as 12 image-1servings and usually eat two servings at dinner. I topped it with some Bolthouse Farms blue cheese yogurt dressing and green onion. The macros are pictured here, too bad I can’t eat this daily, I’d never have to worry about having good macros again!!!

The upcoming weeks are going to be interesting. I was planning on “raising my bar” this Monday, but like I said above, SHIT SHOW. The new plan is to start this Monday and just hang on for dear life while we’re in Vegas for 5 days. I’m also supposed to start the Whole 30 the Monday after Vegas, my boss and coworker are also doing it so I’ll have that support and I asked T if he was interested. I figured he’d say no, as he loves beer, but he agreed and even sent me an email this am that said, “I’m drinking my coffee black today in preparation for this cult diet you are making me do”. My plan is to take the recipes I know and love and modify them again so that they meet the Whole 30 “rules”. I also plan on blogging about it, so be prepared for an angry and sugarfree Leanne in the upcoming weeks. I am already having nightmares about not having my dark chocolate fix at night.

A tip before I go and stare longingly out the window waiting for snow, I realized this Sunday while meal prepping that egg frittatas are a perfect way to use up old, leftover veggies in the fridge. This Sunday I had some spinach and mushrooms that were looking a little “sad”, not quite bad enough to be tossed out but not good enough I’d eat them in a salad with them looking at me, so instead of tossing them in the trash, I tossed them in my frittata. Problem solved, money saved, and breakfast made.

Bring it on down to Breakfastville…

Includes my egg frittata recipes…

Sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of the SNL Christmas specials and they’ve featured JT’s “bring it on down to whateverville” pretty heavily so that stuff is stuck in my brain…

omletteville

I’m having a hard time engaging in meal prep and planning today. I usually do all of my planning on Sunday morning. Then I head to the store and spend Sunday in the kitchen while Tony screams at the Steelers in the living room. Today is just not my day though. The Steelers are playing like they enjoy losing and this constant changing weather is playing havoc with my sinuses. So basically I’m just a huge grumpapotamus at the moment.

The menu for this week is pretty simple. We leave Friday am to head to PA so I only have to plan dinner for Sunday through Thursday and I’m keeping it pretty simple. Tonight we’re having pot roast and exculpatory potatoes (scalloped potatoes…it’s a long story) for Tony’s birthday dinner. Because of that I thought I’d focus on what I eat for breakfast everyday since that doesn’t change that often and probably won’t be my focus when writing these.

Monday Breakfast 1 Piece Simply Balanced Sprouted Grain Bread
1 slice egg white, sausage, mushroom, onion frittata
1/2 slice of laughing cow white cheddar  OR
0.4 oz of Thai fusion goat cheese from Publix
2 cups coffee
½ cup of cashew milk
1 scoop of Dymatize ISO 100 Cinnamon Bun Protein Powder
Lunch C&I Luncheon
Dinner Spaghetti and meatballs
Tuesday Breakfast Same
Lunch 1 Elli Quark
1/2 cup of Daisy low fat cottage cheese
1/2 cup of pineapple
1/2 cup of cucumber salad
1/2 cup of green chili quinoa and black beans
1 grilled chicken breast
Dinner Roasted chicken with thyme gravy (Pg. 118) and green bean almandine (Pg. 212) from Against All Grain
Wednesday Breakfast Same
Lunch Same
Dinner One pot Thai Quinoa Bowl – with salt and wit (I am making this again this week because I want to try something with the recipe and make some serious modifications, I’ll share the final adjusted, better macro recipe later this week after I toy with it.)
Thursday Breakfast Same
Lunch Same
Dinner Easy Shredded beef from Paleomg.com

Honestly, I’ve never been much of a breakfast eater. I’m not a morning person and doing anything productive before noon is usually not very high on the old priorities list. That being said, I have come to firmly believe that a filling, balanced, and delicious breakfast is key when it comes to losing weight and maintaining a healthy diet. If I skip breakfast, and I do because I suck at mornings, my entire day is trashed. I am so hungry by lunch that I eat my lunch and snacks in one sitting and usually before noon. Then I wind up scavenging (this is my bad habit I plan on dropping week 4 of RTB) before BBC and again while making dinner because I’m HANGRY. Breakfast has seriously helped me control my afternoon fridge prowling and my during dinner prep nibbling. If I had any wisdom to share with you this funky Sunday it would be this, MAKE TIME FOR BREAKFAST.

Because I don’t do mornings I prepare everything I possibly can Sunday and lay out all of my clothes, I also pack my lunch the night before, that way I can just roll out in the morning. My go-to breakfast food is a frittata. I really have Jen Elden to thank for this. She shared a pic of one she made and I was hooked. Prior to making frittatas I did egg white muffins and froze them. But I found thawed in the microwave egg white muffins disgusting and not something I could enjoy every morning. I was basically forcing myself to eat them and gagging them down daily. I don’t freeze my frittatas and because it only makes four slices I don’t feel like I’m tempting the fates with food that has spoiled.

breakfast.jpg

1 ½ cup Liquid Egg Whites I use these because it’s easier. Today I didn’t have any egg whites and had already visited the store so I use real eggs and separate them. It took me 6 large eggs to make about 1 ¼ cup of egg whites.
1 large egg You can leave this out if you want
¼ cup cashew milk I like adding this because it makes it a bit fluffier. But French chefs will tell you, milk doesn’t belong in an omelet.
4 oz Jennie-o Lean turkey sausage (I add fennel, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder to this) This is where you can get really creative. The potential for different types of flavors is infinite. Some varieties I like are:

Zucchini, onion, and mushroom
Spinach, tomato, and feta
Canadian Bacon, red bell pepper, jalapeño, and taco seasoning
Sausage, green pepper, and onion
Sausage, jalapeño, mushroom, and onion

4 or 5 mushrooms
¼ cup chopped onions
Pepper, Salt, Garlic Powder
Preheat oven to 350. Cook sausage, adding fennel, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder. Add onions and mushrooms to pan. While sausage is browning, pour egg whites into a measuring cup, add whole egg, ‘milk’, seasonings and whisk until frothy. When sausage is done cooking add whisked eggs to the pan. Cook on stove top for a few minutes and then transfer to oven. Each one cooks differently for me so I just keep a close on eye on it and when the center is set I know it’s done.

nutrionI cook these in a 6 inch cast iron skillet I inherited from Tony’s mum. I pack 1/4 of the frittata for breakfast daily and on the fifth day eat an egg white patty from Good Food Made Simple that I buy at Harris Teeter. I eat my frittata on a piece of sprouted grain bread that I toast and either a laughing cow or goat cheese I spread on the toast. This meal is complimented with a protein powder coffee. I use Dymatize ISO 100 Cinnamon Bun and 1/2 cup of cashew milk to make the protein coffee. But I have heard that AfterBurn is also delicious in coffee. The nutritional information for the frittata is pictured on the right.

I hope you found some of this helpful. In the time it took to write it the Steelers managed to pull out a win over the Bengals and two people I have close contact with have texted me to tell me they have the flu. I guess I have to take the good with the bad. Have a great week and get those workouts in!!

A quick note about EZ bread. There are several options out there for you. My preference is the Target Simply Balanced brand. I’m including a breakdown of the three main brands we typically use at BBC below so you can see how they compare to each other. They are all pretty similar but when you are trying to nail those macros sometimes 1 or 2 grams of carbs can make a difference between perfect and almost there.

Ezekiel Bread (34 g) 80 calories
.5 g fat
15 carbs
4 g protein
Target Simply Balanced Sprouted Grain Bread (28 g) 60 calories
0 g fat
10 carbs
3 g protein
Trader Joe’s Sprouted Grain Bread (28 g) 70 calories
0 g fat
16 carbs
3 g protein

The Inaugural Blog…let’s see where this takes us…

This weeks featured recipe is a grilled, tequila marinated chicken with a green chili black bean quinoa.

Well, arm twisted…I was only mildly serious when I said, “I’ll write a weekly blog with recipes…” but then I thought, why not, it’s not like you have anything else to do. (No, seriously, when I’m up at 3 am staring at the ceiling this will be a welcome reprieve…) So here we are. I’ll be honest I have no clue where this will go or what it will contain. I have ideas. SO. MANY. IDEAS. But I’m like that. Lots and lots of (great?) ideas. The problem is, I completely and utterly lack motivation so I never act on any of them. That being said, I’ll do my best to not let you down if you happen to be one of the five or so people I figure will follow and read this.

Since this is the first blog I’m going to keep it pretty simple. Plus I’m SUPER sore from this week’s workouts (what the heck was up with Monday and Tuesday???) so holding my arms up for too long to type is difficult.

With the holidays looming and an upcoming trip to Sin City for a dear friends wedding I’m trying to be good…as good as possible with my food intake. This week is sort of a bust for me because we have Christmas Party numero dos Friday night and Tony’s birthday is Monday, so we have reservations at Gianni’s Saturday night. I’d like to say I’ll eat a salad and abstain, but I don’t like to lie. On account of all the festivities I only had to meal prep for Sunday – Thursday (usually I plan for Sunday – Saturday).

The Menu

Sunday – One pot quinoa Thai chicken from withsaltandwit.com
Monday – Beef Bulgogi with cauliflower rice from paleomg.com
Tuesday – Crock pot dill chicken with veggies from Wildtree
Wednesday – Beef and broccoli cashew stir fry from paleomg.com
Thursday – Chicken Tokillya with peppers and onions and a green chili quinoa

You should know, I modify most of the recipes I steal and I’m working on how to add them to this blog, without each blog growing to 5000 words. I’m thinking I’ll do pages of some sort, or just separate blogs or something…just consider us still in beta for now…The greatest issue I have with most paleo recipes is the high amount of fat found in them. I have decided that paleo ain’t afraid of fat and therefore uses it, in my opinion, in excess. Most of the modifications I make cut the fat WAAAAAAAYYYY down and amend them enough that they work with the BBC suggested macro settings in MFP. I’m usually pretty successful at this but not always. I think you can follow me on MFP and see the recipes in there, although not all of them are in there…again, I’m still in beta…

The winner this week was definitely tonight’s dinner. It was so tasty and SO filling. That’s one of my biggest struggles. I can eat healthy, I just can’t eat the proper proportions. I feel like that kid in Role Models who says he’s going to run a train on the chicken tenders and just NOM NOM NOM…

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Anyway, tonight I grilled (in the cold) 4 chicken breasts and served them with some limey peppers and onions and green chili quinoa and black beans. I also ate a chicken bullion cube, but I don’t want to talk about that. Like I said, this recipe was really good and I didn’t feel like I needed to stand in front of the fridge and eat random stuff I find in there. This recipe is my own, but like most things, whatever you can think of, someone else most likely already has. In this case, I found that mine is sort of a mix of paleomg.com, Emeril Lagasse, and some Allrecipes.com listings. I made the marinade Thursday night and let them chillax in the fridge just soaking up the goodness until they hit the grill tonight. I usually try to marinate most of my food for at least 24 hours, even though T keeps telling me it’s just overkill, to which I respond, “do you want to cook dinner?” So far I’m still the only one in the kitchen.

The recipe for tonight’s meal is below. If you make it, I’d love to hear from you. I also welcome feedback, comments, etc. If this is going to happen it’s going to have to be a team effort. Remember, I’m not a self-motivator…so if you want to read about what I’m eating, you have to keep me accountable or I’ll just go back to posting pics to my Instagram account!

Chicken Tokillya with limey peppers and onions

Marinade:
4 chicken breasts (I use Perdue perfect portions or the Food Lion organic portioned chicken breasts typically)
2 jalapeño peppers (seeded and chopped)
2 Tbsp minced garlic (I buy the big tubs of pre-minced garlic cause I’m L-A-Z-Y)
2 Tbsp EVOO
2 ounces tequila (I used the Jose Cuervo I had in the cabinet)
Zest of one lime (zest before juicing)
2 limes juiced
3 Tbsp honey (little trick, do the oil first, then the honey, this will keep it from sticking to the spoon which is hella annoying)
1 tsp salt
1 heaping tsp of dried oregano
1 tsp of garlic powder
½ heaping tsp of chili powder
½ heaping tsp of smoked paprika
½ tsp of cumin
½ cup of fresh cilantro minced
¼ cup of green onions chopped

Marinate for at least 30 minutes, up to 24 hours. Then grill or cook in a grill pan.

Limey Peppers and Onions:
½ red bell pepper chopped
½ green bell pepper chopped
¼ red onion chopped
1 jalapeño chopped
1-2 tsp of ghee
2 Tbsp of lime juice
salt and pepper to taste
Chopped cilantro

Heat the ghee in a pan on medium heat. Add peppers and onions to pan, salt and pepper, and cook until soft and showing some signs of char or browning. When done, add lime juice and cilantro and mix. Serve on top of the chicken.

tequila-chicken

Green Chili Quinoa with Black Beans:
2 cups water
2 chicken bullion cubes (you could also use 2 cups chicken stock which is a healthier option, but I didn’t have any ok?)
1 cup quinoa
1 tin roasted green chiles
1 can black beans
(the quinoa, green chiles, and black beans are all from Trader Joe’s and organic)
Add, to your taste preferences,
Cumin
Oregano
Adobo Powder (this is my new obsession…I have both the Wildtree adobo and the Goya brand, Wildtree is most likely the healthier option)

Bring the water, bullion, quinoa and green chiles to a boil. Turn to low heat and simmer covered until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy. Add the black beans, stir and heat through.

EAT THAT STUFF!!!!