Friday, October 28, 2011

5 in 5 Fall Challenge - Conclusion

Congratulations!  You're completing your final week in the "5 in 5" Metabolic Challenge.  You've established some new healthy habits or reinforced ones that have been slacking lately.

It's always good to track some sort of metrics but, truth be told, dramatic results in five weeks is unlikely.  Focus on the subjective factors, like how you stand a little taller, have a surplus of energy, and feel more confidant.  Consider these measurements one of many check points on the journey toward your goals. Take a set of post-measurements similar to the start of the program.  Record your results on the "5 in 5" log and compare.

Here are your post-measurements:

  1. Weigh yourself.  Try to do this at the same time of day as you did with pre-measurements.
  2. Measure your waist.  Line a tape measure up with your navel and measure the circumference.  Do this in front of a mirror to make sure the tape is even.  Pull it snug but not so tight that it indents your skin.
  3. Measure your hips.  Wrap the tape measure around the largest part of your lower body as you stand with feet hip-width apart.
  4. Write the progress you've made toward your goal.  Refer back to what you wrote originally.  How much closer have you become?  What specific actions or habits were the most beneficial?
  5. What are your next steps?  Now what?  We'll never reach an end point when it comes to our health, so think about what you plan to do next.

While we're on the subject, why not start this challenge over again?  No one went through it perfectly, myself included.   There's always room to improve.  Increase the weight in your strength training sessions.  Be more consistent with your protein intake.  Refuel after training with something more substantial.  Keep another log and compare it to your last effort.

Restarting it comes at a perfect time because, like it or not, the holidays are right around the corner.  This is the time when people fall off the wagon or give themselves a free pass that ends up lasting two months.  Why not set realistic goals and do something you're familiar with?  Work on perfecting the five habits then kick it into high gear with something new once the craziness is over. 

Here's a reminder of the 5 weeks:

Week 1: Eat Breakfast Daily
Week 2: Strength Train at Least Twice a Week
Week 3: Refuel After Training
Week 4: Do Two Metabolic Sessions
Week 5: Eat Protein at Every Meal

I hope you enjoyed this motivational program!  I'd love to hear any experiences, feedback, or questions you have about it.  Connect with me on Facebook and Twitter!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chicken, Spinach, & Feta Flat Bread Pizzas with a Balsamic Reduction

Last week I took a bye for tailgate recipes since I was on vacation.  Luckily, I had some yummy munchies while I was away that inspired some new ideas, one of which is these easy flat bread pizzas.  These can be eaten as a meal themselves or cut up in smaller bites as appetizers.  Either way, there's nutritional value from the spinach, protein from chicken, and a reduced amount of fat with feta.

Chicken, Spinach, & Feta Flat bread Pizzas with a Balsamic Reduction
  • 2 flat breads or tortillas (I used Flat Out whole wheat)
  • 1 lb chicken tenders
  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup roasted red peppers, diced (use jarred or make your own)
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp honey
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook on medium until done.  Cut into small, bite-sized pieces and set aside. 

Meanwhile, combine vinegar and honey in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until sauce thickens.

Lay flat breads on a baking sheet or pizza pan.  Brush each with olive oil, then layer with baby spinach.  Arrange chicken evenly over flat bread.  Top with roasted red peppers and feta.  Bake in oven 6 to 8 minutes, or until flat bread is crispy.  You may want to follow package baking instructions if you use a different type of crust.

When pizza is done, remove from oven and drizzle with vinegar and honey mixture.  Cut into strips or bite-sized pieces and serve!

*Not gonna lie, next time I will probably use a Boboli whole wheat pre-made crust instead.  The Flat Outs were a little dry with this combination, though I'm sure it'd be fine with a more substantial sauce.

We are...BCS ranked!

Friday, October 21, 2011

"5 in 5" Week 5: Eat Protein At Every Meal

Hope you're having fun with the metabolic sessions in Week 4!  Keep striving for two sessions per week along with eating breakfast daily, two strength training sessions, and refueling after each training.  
Your best body is not something that can be achieved by hitting the gym a few times a week.   It is a 24/7 effort, which is why this last week encompasses a little more time.   For Week 5, you will eat a source of protein at every meal.
Protein is the building block of muscle.  Remember that we are actually breaking muscle down during the training sessions and adequate amounts of fuel need to be present for the rebuilding process to occur.  For the amount of weekly training sessions you are doing, you need to consume it steadily to support your efforts.  
Shoot for a decent source with at least 80 percent of your meals.   If you eat six smaller meals a day, roughly one meal per day could be noncompliant.   If you're a three square meals a day type of person, four per week could go without protein.     
I know that seems like a tall order.   And it is because protein is lacking in most people's diets. Just look around next time you're out in public.   You know the saying "you are what you eat"?  Refined carbohydrates and processed foods are abundant in the average American's diet and it's reflected in our disease state and fluffy appearances.   Imagine what we'd look like if ate more lean protein instead.  Your ideal body should come to mind.  
Here are some examples of protein sources to incorporate into your meals:
  • Poultry - look for white, skinless varieties
  • Lean meats - cuts ending in "loin" are generally lower in fat
  • Fish and seafood - shrimp, salmon, shellfish, etc.
  • Eggs - even the yolks, which contain certain types of protein that isn't found elsewhere
  • Beans - lentils, black, navy, kidney, etc.   A great option of vegetarians.
  • Dairy - try for low or nonfat versions. It offers less protein than meats, but still a good option.
  • Nuts - natural nut butters, unsalted nuts, etc.   Though the majority of their nutritional content is from healthy fats, they still contain some protein.
  • Protein powders - casein, whey, soy, etc.   This supplement is a convenient way to add more protein. Vegetarians can choose soy varieties.   Those sensitive to dairy should avoid casein and whey. 
Below is an example of how to include a protein source at every meal:
6:00am    Two pieces of whole wheat toast with 2 tbsp natural peanut butter
10:00am    Apple and one piece of low-fat string cheese
12:00pm    Mixed greens salad with grilled chicken breast topped with olive oil and balsamic vinegar 
3:00pm    Smoothie made with ice, skim milk, protein powder, and fruit of choice 
6:00pm    Broiled fish, steamed broccoli, and a side salad 
8:00pm    Greek yogurt topped with chopped walnuts
There you have it.  Put this final week together with what you've been practicing so far.  Next week we'll wrap up with post-measurements and talk about what's next.  Have a great week!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Do You Train or Workout?

If I asked "Did you train or did you workout today?" you might say "Yeah, I hit the gym" or "Got my 5 mile run in first thing this morning".  Except, I'm asking two distinct questions.  Did you train today or did you workout? 

Working out is bouncing up and down on the elliptical while watching tv or talking on your cell phone.  It's "doing the machines" or "arm's day".  It's getting it in whenever your schedule opens up once a week or a couple times a month.  Maybe you feel better afterwards.  Maybe you don't want to admit that gym membership was a waste of money.  You do it because you know you should.  While something is better than nothing, there are ways to be more efficient.

Training implies a purpose.  Each effort is a mindful, progressive step towards a goal.  That goal is clear and specific like completing your first 5k, reaching and maintaining your ideal body fat percentage, or setting a personal record on a certain lift.  Those who train know what they want to accomplish and by when.  They have a fire inside them that never goes out.  Training sessions are always top priority, free of distractions, and nothing less than maximal effort. 

So, do you train or do you workout?  Training is a succession of sessions that slowly build upon one another to get closer and closer to the desired end result.  Working out is a bunch of isolated incidents lacking cohesiveness.  It's like throwing a handful of darts all at once and hoping one hits the bulls eye.    

I used work out all the time.  Yet, all the experts in my field I admire and respect are always training for something like a figure competition, a power lifting meet, or a triathlon.  Since working in the fitness industry, I've never had the desire to train for an event and even if I did, I didn't know what.  At times I doubted myself as if it made me less "fitness professional-y" than those I looked up to. 

It wasn't until recently that I realize I DO train and for something far more important than any competition out there.  I train to keep my spine healthy.  I train so I can bend, twist, and move pain-free.  I train so some day I won't be laying face down on a surgical with my back cut open, spine exposed, as surgeons fuse metal rods to my spine.  And I train so some day when my husband and I want to start a family, pregnancy won't collapse my spine any further.  Now that I know what I train for, my sessions are fueled by a whole new level of dedication and tenacity.

What are you training for? 

Friday, October 14, 2011

"5 in 5" Week 4: Do Two Metabolic Sessions a Week

In Week 3 you built the habit of refueling with a balance of carbohydrates and protein after each strength training session.  This week, you'll add a different type of training to your routine which also requires a post-training snack.

Your goal for Week 4 is to do two metabolic sessions each week.  There is more detailed information, including sample workouts, on my Training Page.  Alternating sets of strength exercises, Tabatas, short or negative rest periods, circuits, etc. are all characteristic of metabolic acceleration training.  

Sessions are typically quick - from as little as ten minutes to upwards of 40 minutes.  Don't mistake quick for easy, though.  You should be working at a vigorous intensity level.  Vigorous means there's quite a noticable increase in your breathing and heart rate.  If someone stopped by to chat in the middle of your session, you'd barely be able to get a word or two out for a response.  And if you do, it may not even sound like english...that's how hard you should be pushing yourself.   

Now that we have a mix of strength and metabolic training in our weekly routine, here's a couple ideas of what a week might look like:

  • Sun - rest
  • Mon - strength
  • Tues - metabolic
  • Wed - rest
  • Thurs - strength
  • Fri - metabolic
  • Sat - rest

  • Sun - rest
  • Mon - strength
  • Tues - metabolic
  • Wed - strength
  • Thurs - rest
  • Fri - strength
  • Sat - metabolic
Remember to avoid strength training the same muscle groups on consecutive days.  I recommend taking a rest day after two or three consective days of vigorous training.  But, don't take"rest" so literally.  You can go for a hike, play a round of golf, stretch out in a yoga class, or whatever else you enjoy.  Our bodies are built to move, so let them!

We're almost there!  Your weekly routine should now include eating a healthy breakfast daily, strength training at least twice a week, metabolic training two times a week, and refueling after each training session. 

For our final week, we'll discuss incorporating more protein into our diets to further support our efforts.

Be sure to "like" my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter.  Tell me if you try any metabolic workouts on my Training Page!

Have a great week!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Football Party Taco Bar

It's no secret my husband and I LOVE Mexican food.  It typically makes a weekly appearance in our dinners, we frequent the best Mexican restaurant in our area, and we visit the country on a yearly basis to get our fix.  So, of course, it's a staple in our tailgate menus as well.

A taco bar is a great idea for your next football party, especially if you're the host.  Simmer the meat in the slow cooker all day, chop up the toppings ahead of time, and then let your guests assemble it themselves so you won't miss a single play!  Plus, the freshness of the ingredients provide a ton of flavor AND health benefits.  

I decided to switch things up this week and go with pork tacos.  Since it's a leaner cut, I used a pork tenderloin.  It was approximately one pound which could serve about 4 people (maybe even less if you love Mexican as much as we do).  You can buy taco seasoning at the store to save time, however I made my own to cut down on the sodium content.

Slow Cooker Pork Tacos
  • 1 lb pork tenderloin
  • 1 cup chicken stock, low sodium
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder
Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Combine all spices and whisk with olive oil.  Coat pork tenderloin in the oil/spice mixture.  Brown the meat on all sides, then place in slow cooker.  Add chicken stock to the skillet to deglaze the pan.  Be sure to scrape up any brown bits for added flavor.  Then pour chicken stock into slow cooker with pork (I also added whatever oil/spice mixture was left to the slow cooker).  Cook on low for 6 hours or until meat easily pulls apart.  You can shred the meat and easily serve it right from the slow cooker. 

I cut the tenderloin into two pieces so it would fit in my slow cooker more easily.

The toppings are the fun part!  Get creative with your choices and prepare them ahead of time so they are ready to go when your guests are hungry.  I served with (clockwise starting at the top left) shredded lettuce, lime wedges, chopped avocado, fat free sour cream,  jalapenos, chopped green onion, diced red onion, diced tomatoes, low-fat shredded cheese, and chopped cilantro.

Heat up some whole wheat tortillas when you're ready to serve.


My husband said these were some of my best and insists that avocado is now non-negotiable for every future taco night.  Can't argue with that.

Penn State is now 5-1, still doesn't have a starting QB (Team McGloin!), and there's rumors swirling of Urban Meyer as the successor to JoePa.  Should be an interesting season!

We are...PENN STATE!

Friday, October 7, 2011

"5 in 5" Week 3: Refuel After Training

Week 2  of the "5 in 5" Fall Challenge was all about completing at least two strength training sessions per week.  Have I mentioned that strength training actually breaks muscle down?  No?  Well, it does.  The benefits come when we allow for an adequate recovery.  This consists of two things: refueling with proper nutrition and getting plenty of rest (both in the amount of sleep we get and in the rest time between training sessions).
Your goal for Week 3 is to refuel after each training session.  This will help reduce muscle breakdown and actually help build lean mass, turning you into a calorie burning machine.  Want to recover faster?  Hate feeling sore for days afterward?  Post-training nutrition is your ticket.
Your body needs to refuel most within the first hour after training.  If that's not possible, remember something is always better than nothing.  Choose something with a combination of carbohydrates and protein, preferably in a 2:1 ratio.  Examples of carbohydrates are fruits, starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, or complex carbohydrates like whole grains.  You could easily make a post-workout smoothie with milk, whey protein powder, fruit, and ice.  Or a major meal, like lunch or dinner, afterwards would also count.  Here are some examples of protein sources:
  • Poultry
  • Lean meat
  • Fish and seafood
  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Dairy
  • Nuts
I prefer a whey protein shake because it gets into my system faster.  At home, I'll blend together a cup of almond or skim milk, a scoop of chocolate whey powder, and a heaping handful of frozen raspberries.  When on the go, I'll mix a scoop of whey with water and snack on a piece of fruit and/or some whole grain crackers. 
Make sure your efforts with strength training aren't going to waste and fuel up after each session for Week 3.  Continue eating a healthy breakfast daily and getting at least two strength training session for the week as well.  Hold yourself accountable and track your activity in the "5 in 5" log.

Be sure to "like" my
Facebook page and follow me on Twitter.  I want to hear about any delicious post-training drinks you come up with!
Next week we'll talk about metabolic acceleration training - something sure to kick your results into high gear. Have a great week!

Amanda's Fall Flavored Chili

Nothing says "football" more than chili and luckily, it's also a quick and healthy meal.  My version has the standard meat and beans for plenty of protein and fiber.  To give it more of a fall feel, I increased the vegetable content by adding butternut squash.  Always abundant this time of year, butternut squash is a great source of fiber, potassium, and vitamin B6.  It is also known to contain carotenoids, which protect against heart disease, and several anti-oxidants, which can fight off some cancers and inflammation. 

Oh yeah, there's a bottle of Octoberfest beer in my recipe.  What's more fall than that?

Amanda's Fall-Flavored Chili
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1.5 cups butternut squash, diced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with juice (14.5 oz)
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 chipolte pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped (omit if you don't want the heat)
  • 1 cup beef broth (fat free, low sodium)
  • 1 bottle Octoberfest beer
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp chili powder
  • 1.5 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in a pot.  Add onion and garlic and saute until soft.  Add ground turkey and cook until browned.  Next add tomatoes with juice, tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, oregano, bay leaves, and salt and pepper.  Stir well.  Add beans and chipolte pepper.  Then, pour beer and beef stock.  Add extra stock if solid ingredients aren't covered.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for a half hour allowing chili to thicken.

Top with low-fat shredded cheese, fat-free sour cream, and a squeeze of lime juice.  Enjoy!

Go Penn State!!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sandbag Circuits

My sandbag has been my new best friend lately.  It takes up a small amount of space, is super versatile, and can kick your butt at any given second.  Plus, something about slugging around a ton of sand just makes you feel badass.  Ok, maybe not a ton of sand.  Thirty pounds is more like it, but you get the idea.

This metabolic session has three circuits using a 40:20 second work to rest ratio.  You will complete 12 total rounds of each circuit.  Cycle through exercises 1-3 trying to complete as many quality repetitions as you can in 40 seconds, followed by 20 seconds of rest before moving on to the next exercise.  

For example, in Circuit A start by completing as many burpees as you can in 40 seconds, rest for 20 seconds, then do as many bent rows as you can for 40 seconds.  Rest for 20 seconds, do 40 seconds of squats, and rest for another 20 seconds.  Repeat that sequence three more times, which will total 12 minutes.  Rest for 2 minutes between each circuit.  The total session time should be 40 minutes, including rest periods.

A.   40:20 - 12 rounds - 12 minutes
  1. Burpees
  2. Bent Row with sandbag
  3. Squat with sandbag
Rest for 2 minutes

B.   40:20 - 12 rounds - 12 minutes
  1. Jump Rope
  2. "T" Push-Up
  3. Alternating Rotational Lunge with sandbag
Rest for 2 minutes

C.   40:20 - 12 rounds - 12 minutes
  1. Split Jumps
  2. Clean with sandbag
  3. Single-Leg Deadlift with sandbag
Completing all three circuits is a challenge.  If you're a beginner, start with one circuit per session.  Add the second and eventually the third when you feel more comfortable.  Also consider using bodyweight or a lighter sandbag to start.  Always be sure to warm up properly before beginning. 

Good luck!