All I really want is a cup of coffee. Yet every time I drive into my local coffee shop (you know who you are) it's staring me in the face. A Peppermint Mocha, Eggnog, or Gingerbread Latte.
SOOOO good, but also enough sugar to put me into a coma.
But there's gotta be a way to get that holiday taste AND get some good nutrition in, right?
A few years our favorite protein supplement provider, Beverly International, put out some recipes they called "The 12 Mugs of Christmas", using their absolutely delicious "Ultimate Muscle Protein".
We decided it was time for an update, so we tweaked a couple of the recipes, gave an option to use one of their newest flavors - Graham Cracker, and compiled it into a full color downloadable .pdf you can have for absolutely free.
With a selection of both hot and cold drinks, coffee based and not, this recipe booklet is sure to please your taste buds this holiday season. Check out the names of these recipes:
A Baker's Dozen!
Not convinced, Mr. Scrooge?
Here's a sample of just one of these delicious recipes:
Candy Cane Delight
1 cup unsweetened Almond Milk
1 scoop UMP Chocolate
1 tbsp Sugar Free Peppermint Mocha Creamer
¼ tsp Peppermint extract
8-10 ice cubes
Blend all ingredients for 1 minute
Want to turn it into a hot drink? Substitute hot coffee for the almond milk and ditch the ice!
A tip from the head elf: Use a blender for your hot drinks too. It ensures the protein is fully mixed and adds a wonderful froth to the top!
Just enter your email below for your FREE instant download. Grab it before it goes away!
You don't want to miss this article by Josh Hillis, one of my friends in the fitness industry. He is an really cool guy, and offers some really important insights.
I saw a lot of myself in his article from back in the day when I had a very unhealthy relationship with food, and a very unhealthy body to prove it.
The take home for me is this:
It's about picking your battles.
I talk and write about it often. Fitness and lasting weight loss is a LONG game. One day is not going to make or break your long term results. Yet I too have been guilty of being "that guy" - trying to make every Thanksgiving dish the absolute healthiest version it could be, and making everybody else suffer along with me.
Mistake number one is focusing on Thanksgiving DAY, while ignoring the rest of November and December. Josh describes the behaviors of people like me, who failed at weight loss for so many years as missed opportunities. We "miss the opportunities to mindfully and intentionally enjoy more food with friends and family. Instead (we) eat more mindlessly at times when it doesn't really add much enjoyment to (our) lives"
Boom - hit me right between the eyes.
But he is exactly right. As my relationship with food has improved, the thing that allows me to maintain a 100 pound plus weight loss is what I do daily, not one or two days a year. So while you don't have to intentionally overeat on Thanksgiving day, relax just a little.
Mistake number two is too often focusing on everything around me that is going wrong, instead of continually practicing gratitude. Full disclosure: I am writing this article a day after I caused myself to have a horrible day (which never affects just me) by doing this very thing - focusing on everyone that was going wrong, irritated me, and ultimately I could not control. Yes, I can be really dumb.
For most of us gratitude does not come very naturally. We must continually PRACTICE. Recent studies have shown that expressions of gratitude can have profound and positive effects on our health, our moods, and our social life.
Robert A Emmons, Ph.D. at the University of California at Davis and Mike McCullough at the University of Miami randomly assigned participants to one of three tasks. Each week participants wrote a short passage in their journal. One group described five things they were grateful for the previous week, another group recorded five daily hassles that had aggravated them, and the last group was asked to list five circumstances that affected them, but were not told whether to focus on the positive or the negative, Ten weeks later, participants in the gratitude group felt better about their lives as a whole and were a full 25% happier than the hassled group. They reported fewer health complaints, and even exercised an average of 1.5 hours more.
Coach Nancy has written a very practical guide, "3 Simple Steps to Practicing Gratitude", which we have compiled into a short but beautiful e-book you can download and refer to.
Just like any other habit or skill, you gotta get in your reps.
I'd be grateful if you would download a copy here. 🙂
I want to take this opportunity to share gratitude.
To my wonderful wife Nancy, who keeps me around in spite of me.
To my kids still in the house; Andrew, KJ, and Amy, who didn't sign up to be kids of busy entrepreneurs, but who bring so much joy into my life.
To my "grown up kids" and their families; Tim, Deb and Lexi, and Jeff, Kimberley, Jack and Janie. I am proud of you and love and miss you.
To the incredible team at Get Fit NH; Meagan, Adam, Brian, Lars and Becky. Never mind can't do it without you - don't want to do it without you. You guys are the best.
To my coaches and friends in the industry, which are too numerous to name, but I'll give you a few; Nick, Kelly, Ryan, Dave, Tom, J-Mark, Anthony, Julie and Brad. To the gang in Watchtower. Thank-you for being there for me.
To my Get Fit NH family, what can I say? The incredible people who we get to coach every day, who we laugh and cry with, sweat with and struggle with. Thank-you. If you are reading this, you are part of that family too, so thank-you.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
So my 12-week experiment in plant-based eating is "over".
Or is it?
To catch up, you can read why I decided to embark on the experiment by reading "My Experiment In Plant Based Eating", and "What I have discovered so far about Plant-Based eating and Protein".
Let me fess up right up front. There were two occasions I chose to eat chicken and one occasion where I ate beef during the 12 weeks. All were a conscious choice when I was traveling on two separate business trips, and I was really struggling to get my minimum of 100 grams of protein for the day. That was 3 meals out of over 250. I am confident the results were not affected.
Overall I really enjoyed eating plant-based, no doubt about it. I made pretty much a 180 degree turnaround in my nutrition plan, going from a Ketogenic diet which consisted of high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrate to my plant-based version, which was much lower in fat and protein, and much higher in carbohydrate, which was a huge switch for me. I have been "carb-phobic" ever since my 100 pound plus weight loss. It seemed every time I tried to up my carb levels, my body fat would go up very fast as well. This experiment taught me something about that, more later.
I tracked all my food and macros using MyFitnessPal for the 12 weeks prior to the experiment and during the experiment. Here's the before and during.
12-Weeks Prior To Plant Based Experiment (per day)
12-Weeks During Plant Based Experiment (per day)
If you recall my goal was 100 grams of protein per day, and because of the change in protein source from animal to plant based, I found myself needing more calories to hit that goal. Another thing to note is that my overall consumption of fat went down, primarily because I wasn't eating the fat in animal protein. Besides that I was not consciously lowering my fat. More whole grains and legumes meant fiber went way up, and sugars as well. I did not eat hardly any fruit and did our 28-Day "Sugar Free Me" during the 12 weeks, so the fact sugar went up that much was interesting to me as well.
Before I share my blood test and body comp results, allow me to share some practical considerations as well as how I felt during the experiment.
Overall I spent a LOT more time in the kitchen. It is MUCH quicker to throw chicken on the grill than to figure out what I needed to do to hit my protein goal. Because another "rule" was to not rely on pre-packaged foods, I did a lot of food prep and cooking. Fortunately I love to cook, and as the weeks rolled by my skills improved and I got faster. I really enjoyed making some new dishes, trying some new foods, and getting reacquainted with my old friend whole grains. I am absolutely going to try to keep integrating more legumes, lentils, and even the occasional millet, quinoa and amaranth into my diet, and see how my body tolerates. I am going to experiment next with keeping my fat a little lower, my carbs a little higher, and seeing what happens to my body composition. Can I find a happy place so I can eat more carbs and not layer on the body fat? Time will tell.
And how did I feel? That's where the story turns, at least for me. For about 8 weeks I felt great. I was actually getting through my workouts better, most likely from the increase in carbs. My lifts were still going up, until they weren't. Somewhere between week 7 and 9 I hit a wall. I had been tracking all my lifts; reps, sets and load. All of a sudden weights that had gone up easy were not anymore. I got weaker in my bench press, squat and deadlift. Not a lot, but I just wasn't feeling it. I checked my sleep tracking, and it had not changed. The other thing is my Heart Rate Variability (HRV), which measures systemic stress, has gone down about 4.5%, which is not good, higher HRV scores are better. Again, interesting.
Below are my measurement and body comp results before and after.
Body Fat %
So what's my take home here? While I lost weight, that was mostly comprised of lean muscle mass. Not cool. At the age of 51 I have been fighting for every pound of muscle I can gain and/or keep. Would have eating more calories overall helped mitigate that? Perhaps. If anything, this experiment reinforced to me how horrible the scale is for measuring weight loss results. Losing 3 pounds of muscle for every 1 pound of fat loss is nothing but trouble in the long term. It is the perfect illustration of why yo-yo dieting occurs.
And now for my blood test results.
Is lower better?
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Some more interesting results here. As I would have suspected, my total cholesterol number is down. Most of us might think (and my plant based friends would be first in line) that would be a good thing. Maybe, maybe not. I discussed my results with my doctors office and his PA, and those comments are below.
As a note, both sets of test are considered within "normal ranges". What interests me here is that in spite of eating much less fat and nearly no animal protein, my Triglycerides went up and my lipid ratios went in the wrong direction. The tests also showed that systemic inflammation increased (C-Reactive Protein), and while my Hemoglobin A1c showed my average blood sugars stayed the same over the last 2 or 3 months, my fasting blood glucose on that Friday morning were significantly up. Again, interesting.
I wrote the following to my doctors office upon receiving my results and having them inquire if I had any questions:
"There are a couple. As you know I have been eating plant based for the last 12 weeks and I am going to be integrating animal protein back in. I am interested in your thoughts on the lipid panel. For some context, I felt great for about 8 weeks; my strength continued to increase, workouts benefits from added carbs. But after week 8 I hit a wall. Noticeable decrease in strength; I really struggled with heavy lifting. Body composition, which was stable, started to get worse as measured by our Fit3D scanner - indicated between 2 and 3 pounds of muscle loss during the 12 week period. Calories had actually increased by an average of about 400 a day, because I had to eat more volume to get to my goal of 100 calories of protein.
Back to the lipids. I know the total cholesterol has dropped significantly, but I don't necessarily think that is a good thing. Correct me if I'm wrong, but while the ratios remained relatively the same, the "bad markers" (Trigelycerides and VLDL-C) actually increased, which I find interesting since fat intake DRASTICALLY decreased. I was on a ketogenic diet (measured my breath and blood ketones - the works) before I started this experiment.
I would be interested in any feedback you and/or Dr. Osborne has. Thanks.
Her (Dr. Osborn's PA) response:
"I agree. I was thinking the same thing when I saw your lipid panel because I remembered your plant based diet change. I attribute the increase in your TG and LDL to the increased carbohydrates and higher glycemic index carbs (ie. fruit etc) I believe this is the same reason you had a decrease in strength and muscle mass. Fat is such a huge necessity for our diets because it fuels our brain and muscles. Obviously the goal of our office is for your body to burn fat not sugar (which you were doing previously on ketogenic diet) but now your body has reverted to burning sugar instead of fat. Energy, brain function and strength would be expected to decrease. I will let Dr. Osborn know the results of the experiment too, he will be fascinated to see more proof :)"
Full disclosure here. I go see Dr. Osborne because we are very like minded in how we approach nutrition and exercise. When I went to see him in September I told him about the experiment and asked him his thoughts. We discussed my "rules" and he was on board for the 12-week duration. I think he was just happy it was me and not him. 🙂
The Bottom Line, At Least For Me
In absolutely no way was I disappointed by this experiment. I have even more respect for plant based eaters who are really trying to make it work, who are spending time in the kitchen, and who don't rely on a bunch of vegetarian junk food. It is a LOT of work, no doubt. But just like any other new skill, it gets easier the more you practice.
I really enjoyed experimenting with a wide variety of recipes, veggie combos, and foods that were new to me. No, I really never had eaten millet before. And there are some veggie "burger" recipes out there that are really good. Angela Liddon's "Oh She Glows" cookbooks are a must for any kitchen, plant based or not. Cooking with vegetable broth instead of water is a game changer. And I absolutely love taking black beans from the bag, soaking them overnight, and then slow cooking in my cast iron pot with onion, garlic and a bay leaf. My mouth is watering just writing about it. You will NEVER eat canned beans again once you try it.
So what am I going to do moving forward?
I have already started adding some animal protein back into my diet. A little fish on Sunday was a good start. I have had one meal of pork chop, and a little bit of beef tonight. I ate plant based on the days in between. I am going to stay away from dairy, as I learned to make some really good almond milk, and dairy and I don't get along anyway. I didn't feel so great anytime I ate wheat, so I'll lay low on that one as well. As I said before, I'll keep the fat a bit lower, play with how much carb I eat, and see what happens.
There really is no "one size fits all" plan. We all have different preferences, tolerances, and convictions. I didn't do this little experiment to prove anybody right or wrong, or make anyone happy or mad. I really just wanted to see what would happen if I really stayed committed to eating plant based the best I knew how, so I could better coach the plant based eaters that come to me for help.
My body is my experiment, the gym and kitchen are my laboratories, and as long as I am not dirt napping, the experiment won't end!
Love to hear your thoughts.
So we have good news and bad new…
The bad news.... We will no longer be ordering the Best Bar Ever. Unfortunately, Best Bar Ever was bought out by new owners who are changing how Best Bars are being made. We take a lot of pride trying to bring everyone the best supplements and bars we can find! The new Best Bars have basically been turned into sugar bars like the “Protein” bars you find at a gas station.
The good news! We have been doing some research and we have brought RXBars into both the Concord and Epsom locations! We are very excited to have these bars in for you to try and hopefully love! We love RXBars because when you pick it up the ingredients are listed right on the front of the package so you know what you are putting into your body! Plus, these bars are dairy and gluten free which is a great choice for anyone with allergies and gives you a difference from the dales bars.
We have ordered every flavor we could get out hands on! So the RXBars waiting for you to come try!
We are selling them 1 for $3 and 2 for $5!
We hope you like these bars just as much as we do!
Wait, is that real?
I mean vegetables are healthy, right?
Well yes they are, but that doesn't mean everything a plant-based eater eats IS. Nobody would argue that the Vegan food in the picture to the right is. (well maybe, someone, but not many)
Peruse the vegetarian section of your grocery store, and you will find just as much sugar laden, preservative heavy, highly processed food as anywhere else.
Just because you are eating less (or no) animal based products doesn't mean you are automatically eating healthier.
Take a look at the label of that veggie burger, or meat-free breakfast sandwich, or egg-free dairy free dessert. Not pretty.
Now that is less of a criticism of those products, as poor as they are, but really of human nature. We are really good at ignoring what we don't want to see.
I bought some vegetarian/vegan cookbooks with some really great recipes, and for the most part I really like them. BUT there seems to be absolutely no filter in the plant-based world when it comes to sugar. Just because you are using Maple Syrup, or Honey, or Brown Rice Syrup doesn't mean you have carte blanche to use as much as you want. Your body is still going to have a blood sugar response. In fact as a borderline type 2 diabetic who is has increased his carbohydrate load, I have to be MORE sensitive to the sugar response. My rule is to automatically cut sweeteners in recipes by half. At this point I can't even tell.
This also isn't a criticism of plant-based eating, per se. I have always maintained that a plant-based eater who is really doing it "right" is one of the most dedicated, conscious eaters out there. I am 4 1/2 weeks into my plant-based eating experiment, and I have spent more time in the kitchen in that time than the previous 4 or 5 months combined.
The goods news is I really am enjoying eating this way. My body fat is down a little, my strength is still there (Set a PR in the bench press yesterday) and I am eating foods that I had largely removed from my nutrition plan, such as beans and some whole grains. As well as avoiding all meat and dairy, I have not yet eaten any Tofu (not a favorite) or rice. My goal, as always, is to eat the most nutrient-dense food I can. In other words, for every bite, I want to pack in all the nutritional goodness I can!
As always, love to see some discussion below!
See you soon.
In the discovery phase of my plant-based eating experiment, one of the things I was most curious about (and still am) is protein.
I was especially curious about looking into some of the more commonly cited sources of plant-based protein. Ever heard "Quinoa is a great source of plant protein"? I've heard that a bunch of times, but never really dug in deep on it.
Below is a chart I made that outlines how much protein is in a variety of plant-based foods. I tend to view the quality not only by the amino acid profile, but also on the protein to carbohydrate ratio. In other words, how many carbs am I am eating in relation to how much protein I am getting? For me, like for many, it matters in terms of blood sugar control and a tendency to gain fat when I eat more carbs.
Do any of these surprise you like they surprised me? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.
P.S. You can also download your own .pdf copy by clicking here.
This post originally appeared on the Get Fit NH Family Facebook page.
So apparently I have caused a bit of a hullabaloo with my experiment into Plant-Based eating. If it gets all of us thinking, then that is an awesome thing!
For those of who know me well, this adventure probably seems WAY out of character for an avowed meat eater. But it's really not that strange. I have been on a decade and a half vision quest for better health and fitness AND to do what it takes to help others on their quest. During that time I have experimented with all sorts of different ways of eating.
That being said, I have been an avowed skeptic of plant-based eating for a number of reasons. Chief among them was the fact that most people I talked to ate as much junk food as the rest of the population. Highly processed fake burgers, carbohydrates and sugar out the wazoo, and little regard for adequate protein.
But more and more I am getting questions about plant-based, and since I have no experience ever eating that way, I could not relate to the struggles. So I am setting out to change that. I have my blood work done every three months, the last time on Friday August 4th. So this will be a three month experiment into primarily plant-based eating. At the end I will have my blood tested again and evaluate the results.
Briefly here are the "rules" I have set for myself:
No animal based protein save 2 eggs a day. No dairy, no meat, no fish. Stay on exactly the same eating pattern and calorie level as I was on my previous plan, and adjust according to what happens to my body comp as measured by the Fit3D.
My body comp goals are the same. Increase lean mass and stay around 10% bodyfat. Eat no highly processed foods, limit sugar, etc. Get a minimum of 100 grams of protein per day. I am allowing myself 1 plant-based protein supplement a day, as my routine has been to have 1 whey protein shake a day.
This is not meant to be any kind of "statement". While I respect those who eat plant-based for ethical and environmental reasons, that is not my purpose.
What I want to find out is this:
What will be the measurable results of eating a whole food plant-based diet?
Is it possible to get enough protein to maintain and build muscle mass while still keeping carbohydrate levels to a manageable level?
What will it do to my blood sugars to up my carbohydrate load?
How about my cholesterol, etc?
I have invested countless hours of research into investigating the science (and psuedo-science) around plant-based eating. I have come up with a list of higher protein choices, and foods I am choosing to stay away from, for instance Tofu. I have purchased 3 cookbooks and already modifying the recipes in order to lower or eliminate the added sugars (just because it's plant based doesn't mean it's good for you).
I am still in the process of adapting to this new way of eating, as I am only 10 days in. I am experiencing more hunger than I was before; I suspect that is because the amount of fat I am eating has needed to decrease as the carbs increase. This is all information and part of the data collection process. And I am just one guy, my results may not be typical. But I promise to keep this an honest experiment.
The best case is that I find out there IS a "right way" to eat plant-based, get enough nutrients, and positively effect both blood work and body composition. That would make it one more arrow in my nutrition coaching quiver. Questions? Ask Coach Nancy (that seems to be what you are doing now, as I am big and scary) 🙂 (and yes, that was a joke)
No, that is not a typo! We have a FREE challenge to anyone willing to step up to the plate and as you may have guessed it is all about VEGETABLES!
You may be thinking, "I already eat my veggies" or "Yuck, I am passing on this one." This is a GIANT accountability opportunity as well as an opportunity to add 28 more recipes to your toolbox! That's right- 28 new recipes. This 28 day challenge will highlight 28 veggies. Each day you will receive the veggie, the health benefit, what is looks like and how to prepare it. Each day is a brand new veggie with a brand new recipes - sweet!
At the end of the challenge all 28 new recipes will conveniently be compiled and available to download and print for your very own cook book!
Oh and let us not forget...a challenge is not a true challenge without accountability, right? Since all of this is conveniently done with Coach Catalyst (formally known as Habit Catalyst) with your daily veggie education you will also get the accountability question, "Did you eat servings (fists) of veggies yesterday?" This daily accountability will encourage you to pile on the veggies which will help you to look and feel better - win!
This challenge does not cost you a dime. All we ask is that you take the time to explore the vegetable world and step out of your comfort zone. Try something new and share your new vegetable tales with us on the Get Fit NH Family Page!
If you accept the challenge and wish to make a positive change then here are the key dates you need to know!
Sign up: Today. The cut off is Friday July 21st...DON'T DELAY!
Start date: Monday July 31, 2017
End date: Sunday August 27, 2017
Today I want to share with you my Pro Coach experience. Pro Coach is our nutrition coaching portal which is coached by the one and only Coach Nancy. Today I want to share with you how Pro Coach has completely changed my way of eating and helped me achieve some consistent results.
Focusing on one habit at a time. This has been HUGE! You don’t have to do any of the thinking with the habits. Pro Coach sets you a new habit to focus on every 3 weeks. This has been a game changer for me. I have never been more tuned in when I am eating than I am now. Habits like eating until your 80% full/leaving food on your plate. Slowing down when I eat. These are small habits that have changed the way I eat.
Another HUGE benefit to Pro Coach is how engaging it is. You write your own “Owner’s Manual.” You discover where your weaknesses are and help yourself overcome those obstacles. The best part is that your coach (Nancy) is reading your responses and helping you dig even deeper and take another step toward success. The feedback alone from my coach has been so valuable and life changing. It is okay to have a bad day and it is a place to check in and measure your progress.
This is a lifelong version of the Sizzling Summer Slimdown (S3.) It puts nutrition in front of you every single day. It provides a short lesson about where your focused habit is and has you check yes or no daily on your habit. On top of all of that, bi-weekly you share your results and it measures your progress over time. I have been doing Pro Coach since April and as of two weeks ago these were my results (be transparent, right?).
This program is worth it. I am talking to you not only as coach, but also as a human being who struggles with nutrition and needs accountability to stay on track.
There is nothing fresher, tastier, and yes even more friendly to the environment than having local produce grown by local farmers. For those of us who don't have the time or talent to grow our own veggies, getting involved in a CSA is like gold! (CSA= Community Supported Agriculture)
This is where it gets exciting, Get Fit NH is sponsoring a pickup place for Brookford Farm's CSA. You will be able to pickup your veggies at Get Fit NH in Concord. Last summer we did this and it was fantastic. For those of you out in Epsom, Coach Nancy will bring your food to the Epsom gym for pickup there as well. I would say that's perfect for everyone!
Brookford Farms has an easy registration process. They have different packages to fit your family's needs. While registering simply check the box for Get Fit NH Concord as your pick up place. Your veggies start arriving on June 5th, 2017 to October 22rd, 2017.
You can register using this link: Brookford Farm CSA Online Registration
If you need help, please contact Jodi at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-742-4084.
Don't wait til the last minute to sign up!