As some of you know, a couple weeks back I took a weekend trip to L.A. Like anyone traveling (especially around the holidays!) I experienced the usual concerns about being away from my routine, the possibility of falling off the wagon, and gaining unwanted body fat. However, after taking quite a few of these trips, I’ve learned that with a little bit of planning, you can stay on track almost anywhere you go. BYO
–Water Bottle: Don’t let yourself become dehydrated because airport water costs $6. Keep your bottle filled and bring it, wherever you go. For a best bet, bring one with a built in filter so you can refill anywhere. Check out this Brita Bottle.
–Snacks: You never know when you might be delayed. Don’t find yourself at the mercy of the Hudson News snack wall. My favorites are raw nuts, fresh fruit or Ostrim sticks/jerky. Beyond the airport, they are easy to toss in your bag for daily excursions.
–Supplements: Bring them and take them. Separate pills and powders into single servings using Ziplocs, Tupperware or a GoStak. If you know you won’t have access to fresh fruits and veggies, bring a greens powder and multivitamin to supplement your daily intake. These were a lifesaver for me while biking RAGBRAI this Summer, where the best salad in town could be found at Subway.
What to Wear
-Always pack workout clothes, shoes and a swimsuit, no matter where you are going. If you don’t have them, you won’t workout. Even if you don’t make it to an actual gym, you may still wear them for other activities. Also, Athleisure is a trend because Vogue says so.
Getting “Unplanned Exercise”
-Walk whenever possible. Bookmark spots you want to hit in advance so that you can easily see where you’d like to go and if walking is possible. I like to spend a little time on Yelp before I go anywhere. Mapping my “must see” spots ensures that I can hit more spots by walking between places that are relatively close. Sorry, Uber! Track your steps. If you don’t have a fitness tracker, use an app. My favorite for walking, running and biking is Charity Miles, which donates 25 cents to a charity of your choice for every mile you log.
-If traveling to a city research bike-sharing options. This can be a great way to get around and see things up close. Book an Airbnb that lists bike use or check the amenities of your hotel. I learned this tip while visiting the Hotel Monaco in Philly, which included “loaner bikes” under their amenities.
-Incorporate outdoor activities into your planning. Your body and wallet will thank you. See the photo of me and my friend atop the Hollywood Sign Hike.
Getting “Planned Exercise”
-Check out local studios for drop-in rates or join your family and friends at their favorite facility. This past year I lifted along side a friend at Industrial Strength in Portland and got my flow on at Yess Yoga in Minneapolis.
-Visit the local grocery store, co-ops or farmers markets for at least one or two meals a day. Erewhon in L.A. had a variety of clean prepared food options, as did The Wedge in Minneapolis.
-Plan your cheats and stick to that schedule. Being away from home doesn’t give you license to eat anything you want. Even if you aren’t tracking, get in your protein and veggies at every meal and try to eat your cheats during your meals nearest to activities. I suggest using Precision Nutrition’s Portion Control Guide because it requires nothing more than using your hand.
-Make sure you plan for at least one R&R activity, wherever you go. My faves include yoga/meditation, spa visits, beach/pool days or even an unplanned mid-day nap. This is important for your mood, health and quality of life.
I have been wanting to write about this for quite some time, but have always came up with excuses to hold off – I am a horrible writer, I ramble, I can’t tell the difference between 1st person and 3rd person – you get the idea.
I have always prided myself on being an open book about pretty much everything, and this particular part of my life has been all-consuming for the past 2 decades. I have had gut issues that cause me severe pain since I was 14 years old. I remember frequently laying on our brown corduroy couch where I would push from my ribcage down to my pelvic bone and you could hear “bubbles” popping, moving. It was the weirdest sensation (and one that I still encounter). I didn’t know what those “bubbles” were, but I knew that they hurt and that if I could move them around with the pressure of my hands, I would get a smidge of relief.
When I was 21 years old, I ended up in the Emergency room, still without answers as to why the pain would sometimes bring me to my knees. On that particular incident, I was folded over unable to stand up straight with such sharp pains that it was near impossible to get a deep breath. Doctors gave me fluids and sent me on my way.
As I got older and finished my degree in Exercise Science, I wanted to learn more and more about the body, nutrition, and what ailment I could be dealing with. In 2011, I chose to try eating gluten and dairy free, which helped, but didn’t completely alleviate, my symptoms. In 2013, someone in my life was diagnosed with Chron’s disease and I decided that I was on a mission to finally figure out what on earth is wrong with me. Why can I feel ok one minute and be bloated to looking 5 months pregnant the next? Why would I have constipation that lasted days on end even though I ate clean, kept fiber where it should be, and stayed hydrated? Why do I have chronic inflammation and subcutaneous water retention that comes and goes as it pleases? Just . . . why?
So, in March 2014 I had a colonoscopy and endoscopy and was diagnosed with Celiac disease. This was a very odd diagnosis considering I had been 100% gluten free for years – even the doctor was baffled that I had obvious remnants in my system. Since gluten had already been removed, I asked the doctor what else could be causing me so much pain. I received the notorious answer . . . “IBS, here is a prescription for your constipation”. In my world, I call IBS “I Bull Shit”. I believe that there is always some underlying issue or stress or something that causes the symptoms and that no one should just roll over and accept them as normal.
In the summer of 2014, I began to work with a Functional Medicine Practitioner from the United Kingdom. We ran a stool test and found that I had SIBO (small intestinal bacteria overgrowth) which we eradicated with natural remedies. I also followed with an elimination diet where I ate a total of 10 different foods for 30 days. The first 2 weeks I felt amazing! And the second 2 weeks I was in pure agony, curled over in pain for most of it. It made no sense – how could I feel so great and then feel so awful without changing a single thing.
If you’re not sure how dramatic the changes can be, here you go.
The picture on the left is a bad day, the picture on the right is a good day. Could be hours apart, maybe a day or two.
In January 2015, my inflammation and weight gain went a bit haywire regardless of no change in my training or diet. So, in May 2015, I began working with an acupuncturist who decreased my training volume drastically, took out all vegetables, and had me eating over 70% of my diet as starchy carbs. Sure enough, I dropped the weight and started to feel a little better. This lasted for a few months until my gut started to hurt again and I stopped responding to the acupuncture and herbs. So, I began working with yet another doctor in December 2015.
Currently, I am working with both a local doctor and the one in the United Kingdom still searching for answers. It was recently confirmed that I have a large intestinal bacterial infection as well as a small intestine infection and was put on a 2 week course of antibiotics. Needless to say, I don’t feel any better and the doctor’s suspect that I did not eradicate the infections . . . and that is where I am today.
Why was this so important for me to share? I want my clients, my friends, my family, to know that I get it. I get what it feels like to fight what feels like a losing battle. I understand how hard it is to keep trying to find answers when all you want to do is give up. I know what 1 step forward, 2 steps back feels like. I wanted to tell me story so that others might have some hope to get up and keep fighting, keep looking for answers. I have to believe that there is healing and that this is not my destiny, and I hope that if you are dealing with your own struggles that you keep fighting too.
It’s easily one of the biggest battles you’ll face in your efforts to change the way you eat.
“How am I supposed to eat like this when I go out? I don’t want to just eat plain chicken at a restaurant. Should I just not go?”
Fortunately, it is absolutely possible to be social and still hold to your goals. Sure, you can’t throw yourself headlong into a basket of nachos every time you get an invitation to meet somebody for dinner, but you also don’t have to order “plain grilled chicken… no oil, no seasoning, no sauce, no fries, please strip away LITERALLY anything that will bring me pleasure and give me whatever is left. And an ice water. Hold the lemon. I’m on a diet.”
One easy thing to do before you go would be to check out the Healthy Dining Finder online to see if the restaurant you’re visiting has their information available. Since only larger restaurants are likely to have their nutrition information readily available, you won’t necessarily find every place you’d like to go, but it’s a good first start.
In addition, we recommend that you check out the PN Restaurant Eating Guide from our friends at Precision Nutrition. Even when you’re not able to be perfect, every restaurant is going to have food on its menu that runs along the spectrum from Worst to Best, and you just want to find things that sit as close to the Best end of the spectrum as you can. Bad is better than Worst, Better is better than Good… you get the idea.
And remember – even if you can’t find something on the menu that’s prepared specifically the way you’d like, 99 times out of 100, all you have to do is ask. After all, if they have the food in house, there’s very seldom any reason that they can’t make a special combination just for you. Just remember to be polite about it… eating well doesn’t require a dramatic performance when it’s time to give your order.
I am sure “Surviving the Holidays” is probably the #1 searched thing on google at this time of year. Luckily you don’t have to spend time sifting through all the other stuff out there, you have me! So, let’s get right to it, shall we?
Step 1: This is not feast or famine. I read a book recently called “It’s Not About the Broccoli” about how to teach your children good eating habits and one of the concepts was to teach your child to be a good taster (you can buy it here if you want. Don’t expect your child to clear the plate with a new food, just have them be comfortable tasting it. The same is true of adults. Tasting a food still lets you enjoy mom’s homemade cookies and the moist pumpkin bread that only comes around this time of year, but doesn’t require you to eat an entire pan of cookies or the whole loaf of bread.
Step 2: Eat slowly. The food is not going to run away on you, so take your time eating and enjoying it. The majority of people who find that they overeat do so because they eat quickly. Slow it down, savor it, chat with friends and socialize between bites.
Step 3: Mindset is HUGE. If you expect to gain 10 pounds over the holidays, then you probably will simply because you tell yourself “Well, it’s inevitable, so I might as well scarf it down and enjoy it”. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but it is not inevitable. Be smart, just as you would throughout the rest of the year. If you know you are going to a holiday party tonight, then plan on eating more protein and greens during the day in anticipation. We talk about balance all year long, what makes the holidays any different?
Step 4: Enjoy yourself. This is a special time of year to enjoy time with family and friends, so give yourself some grace. Our children had a request this year – “Mom, can you and dad stay home this Christmas and not go to the gym to workout”. Yes, even we fall into the trap of We can’t miss a day at the gym! You know what? Family is more important and experiences are more important than extra training or 1 missed workout. Get over it, move on, and know that the gym will be there another day.
With the bulk of AST members falling into the “busy professional” category, whether it be sales rep, CEO, accountant, stay-at-home mom, and many others, the biggest constant is always stress management. While working on lowering the amount of stress you’re exposed to should be important, there are certain stresses that aren’t practical to eliminate – a newborn who’s only sleeping for an hour at a time, a long commute on Lake Shore Drive every day, mandatory overtime to meet project deadlines – it’s not always an option to completely rid yourself of the stresses in your life.
But one thing that we do know can help is to use different tools to help buffer your body’s stress response – getting an environment where a stress that used to feel like a 10 out of 10 now only feels like a 7 or an 8 (or less, in a perfect world). Less adrenaline, less anxiety, less disrupted sleep… all things that when left unadressed can impact your efforts to get in shape and improve your health.
1 – Get Better (and MORE) Sleep
There are a few things at play with this one here – some that you can control, and some you can’t. The obvious one here is, you just stay up too late. Not for any real, time-sensitive reason, but maybe because you have been coming home from work and binge-watching old episodes of Who’s the Boss well into the evening hours. The answer isn’t very complicated, just GO TO BED ALREADY. Seriously.
Besides, Angela is the boss. Everybody knows that already.
If you want to do everything you can to improve your sleep quality, you may want to look into the 10-3-2-1-0 approach to your sleep routine:
10 hours before bed – no more caffeine
3 hours before bed – no more food
2 hours before bed – no more work
1 hour before bed – no more screen time (computers, cell phones, TV’s)
0 – the number of times you’ll likely hit the snooze button
Even installing applications like f.lux on your computers can help, as it reduces the blue light glow from your screen and drops the intensity of the light coming from your screen to mimic the rise and fall of the sun. Mobile options like Twilight are also available for Android and iPhones and work the same way.
2 – Meditation
You may not be able to crank out an hour of yoga or tai chi every day (although if you can, go for it), but you can certainly spare 10 minutes of your time that you might currently be using for Facebookery or Netflix binges, and replace it with guided meditation and deep breathing exercise. The Headspace app takes you through an ongoing… program? I guess that’s an appropriate thing to call it… and as you work your way through and improve your proficiency, new tools are introduced to keep you challenged along the way.
You can do it at any time of the day, but the most popular usage seems to be first thing in the morning or at bedtime. If you’re an anxious sleeper (your body is exhausted but your brain is working overtime) then placing it at bedtime may have the most bang for your buck.
And yes, I know I just suggested ditching electronics for an hour before bed, but I’m willing to make an exception here if you can’t get it in early enough. It’s better than trolling your roommate on Twitter, anyway.
Let me get this little disclaimer out of the way first – there isn’t a supplement in the world that will allow you to drop endless amounts of stresses onto your system. Relaxitor (I call dibs on that name, by the way) won’t fix your lack of sleep, the gallon of Red Bull you drink every day, the poor planning that leaves you sprinting out the door late for work every morning… BUT… there are things that can help boost your body’s defenses against chronic stress loads that aren’t necessarily within your control.
Rhodiola rosea – I’m going to save us all time by just directly citing the benefits from Thorne Research:
“Rhodiola rosea has been extensively studied in Russia and Scandinavian countries for over 35 years and is categorized as an adaptogen because of its ability to increase resistance to chemical, biological, and physical stressors.* Rhodiola has been found to inhibit stress-induced depletion of important brain neurotransmitters.* The adaptogenic properties of Rhodiola are attributed primarily to this ability to influence the levels and activity of neurotransmitters and the amino acids that mimic the effect of opiates in the brain, such as the beta-endorphins.* Because it is an adaptogen, Rhodiola has the potential to normalize neurotransmitters in the central nervous system without causing drowsiness or fatigue. In other words, it helps maintain normal levels of brain chemicals but, when they are already normal, Rhodiola will not further affect them.*
Russian studies suggest a positive role for Rhodiola in situations characterized by a decline in work performance, poor appetite, sleep disturbances, irritability, and fatigue.* Studies have found improved mental performance in physicians on night duty who were supplemented with Rhodiola.* Medical students given Rhodiola during exam periods reported improved concentration and performance, as well as enhanced well-being, improved sleep, and greater mood stability.*
In addition to aiding sleep, Rhodiola can enhance mood and decrease occasional episodes of worry and nervousness, allowing for more efficient functioning under stressful conditions.*”
Rhodiola tends to work well as an almost “catch-all” type of stress supplement as it has benefits in improving a wide array of stress reactions.
Suggested Use: 300-400mg per day, in divided doses
Relora (Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense) – once again, I may as well turn it over to Thorne’s summary of benefits for their version of Relora:
“Individuals who are occasionally anxious, feel stressed, or eat when stressed can have trouble maintaining their optimal weight.
Relora Plus is a proprietary blend of plant extracts from Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense (two major botanicals used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 1,500 years) along with a mix of B-vitamins, including active forms of B2, B6, B12, and folate.
Studies have demonstrated that the plant extracts in Relora Plus help to lower morning cortisol (a marker of adrenal stress), increase salivary DHEA, manage stress-related eating, and help manage body weight.* Study participants felt significantly more relaxed, less anxious, and better in control of their mood and stress-related eating habits.* The B-vitamins in Relora Plus are nutritional cofactors in the creation of neurotransmitters and have been shown to support mood.*”
Suggested Use: 500mg per dose, taken 2-3 times daily
One quick note on stress supplements – a common prescription for them is to take them toward the end of the day, or after training or some other stressful event. However, if you’re already doing a poor job of handling stress, waiting until after things have already started to accumulate before addressing it is like waiting until the dam has already broken before you try to fix it, instead of making improvements so that it never breaks in the first place.
Most people will benefit the most by dividing their intake into more than one dose and taking it throughout the day, with at least one early-day dose so that you can buffer the effect of stressful events as they happen. For the two supplements listed above, the recommendation here at AST is:
Thorne Rhodiola Rosea – 1 cap (100mg), taken 3x/day (although I may do 2 caps earlier in the day if I’m trying to get to 400mg when stress is HIGH)
Thorne Relora Plus – 2 caps (500mg), taken 2-3x/day (again, on the high side when stress isn’t being tolerated well)
Supplementation is never a magic fix, but when done in conjunction with other efforts, including nutrition and lifestyle changes, it can be extremely valuable.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
So, we’re located in Chicago, about a half mile from Wrigley Field. And in case you haven’t set foot near a TV, a radio, Facebook, Twitter, a Goodyear blimp, or a still-drunk-but-soon-to-be-hungover stranger dressed head to toe in blue and red yet this morning, the Cubs just won the World Series, in a Game 7 with more twists and turns than your average M. Night Shyamalan movie and three decades of Days of Our Lives reruns combined. I haven’t checked yet but I have low expectations on our 5am session attendance rate this morning.
And it would be really easy for me to call up anybody who missed their workout this morning and give them a hard time for choosing to stay out late drinking and partying. After all, I’m their trainer, so why shouldn’t I expect anything less than perfect attendance from my clients? And a hangover? Surely you would have had just as much fun had you been drinking diet A&W and eaten tilapia and Brussels sprouts out of a Tupperware container at 12am?
Except this wasn’t just a regular Wednesday night in Chicago, and I would be shocked if the reason anybody missed their workout this morning was because they stayed up too late drinking Leinenkugel and watching reruns of Grey’s Anatomy. It was capping off a once in a lifetime experience for literally everybody. I don’t know that there is anybody in Chicago who was alive the last time this happened.
And if any of my clients had a few too many drinks, stayed up too late, maybe had to go to the hospital from 2nd degree fireworks burns… I don’t care. I’m happy for them, because in the end if I asked them “was it worth it?”, I can’t see any answer except “yes.” Because life doesn’t revolve around your body fat percentage or your MyFitnessPal consistency, and sometimes all of that day to day health stuff has to take a backseat to more important things.
It’s not unlike the advice I’ve given to clients who are planning their wedding, and want to “run the menu” by me to see if it meets my approval. “But it’s your wedding… why would you care what I think? It’s just one day and it only happens once.” And like I told another client of ours earlier this week, you may as well celebrate the Cubs in the World Series while it’s happening, because even if they go back again in a year or two, the shine is off of the apple. And not unlike a wedding, it’s just not the same the second time around.
So please… if you are trying to decide whether you made the right choice in neglecting your diet and training program, ask yourself “was it worth it?” And if you can answer “yes,” than who really cares?
And if you happen to be dealing with an epic hangover this morning, you may want to contact these guys:
Mobile IV hangover treatment. I highly suggest you book now because 100,000 other Cubs fans are probably calling them.
Sorry for the lack of a column lately- we overhauled our website in August and postponed adding any new content until we got everything imported and updated just to make sure nothing got lost in the shuffle. Then Christine and I took our first vacation together (kid-free!) since our honeymoon… 10 years ago. We didn’t work much.
Maybe we’ll drop an extra one this month to make up for it!
This month is a low-carb meal. We just launched our Back to School transformation challenge at AST a few weeks ago, so we have over 25 competitors trying to figure out how to make food taste good without adding the words “and fries” to the end of all of their meals. This was my first time prepping cod this way and it turned out fantastically, and the prep time was super-short.
Baked Lemon Herb Cod
2lbs wild-caught cod fillets
juice from 1 lemon (or 2tbsp lemon juice)
1tbsp olive oil
1tbsp minced garlic
1tsp dried thyme
1tsp smoked paprika
1tsp sea salt
1tsp black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pat the cod fillets dry with a paper towel and drizzle the lemon juice over top. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a small dish and mix together, then spoon small amounts (maybe 1/2tsp or so) onto each piece of cod and use the back of a spoon or your fingertips to spread it onto the top of each piece.
Bake for around 15 minutes or until cooked all the way through.
For sides, I went super low-tech and did sauteed spinach and saurkraut.
Preheat a small skillet at medium heat. Put a dab of olive oil or cooking spray on the skillet. Once it’s heated, throw a handful or two of spinach in and mix often with a wooden spoon, until it starts to wilt down. You can add some salt and pepper, maybe a squirt of lime juice, but you don’t need anything fancy with spinach.
Go to the grocery store. Buy a jar of sauerkraut. You can get some great stuff in the refrigerated section but the off-the-shelf kind doesn’t have to be terrible either. Ingredients should be cabbage and salt. No vinegar, no sugar. Turn the lid counter-clockwise to open. Put some on your plate. You can saute it in the same skillet you used for the spinach if you’re feeling fancy.
It should be 20 minutes or less from start to finish – you’ve got time to kill while the cod bakes and sauteing spinach and sauerkraut isn’t exactly a time-consuming process.
I've been exploiting the warm weather as much as possible by doing tons of grilled meals lately – besides making it easier to prep large quantities of food, be serious: doesn't everything taste a little better when it comes off of the grill?
Dry-Rubbed BBQ Chicken Breast
I know, I know, another chicken breast recipe. But this one is quite a bit different from last month, and honestly, it never hurts to be well-equipped with options when it comes to making chicken breast. This one is a bit more barbeque-influenced than last month's was and goes in a pretty different direction taste-wise.
3lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast (we use frozen Perdue chicken breast from Costco because they're a bit thinner and cook better on the grill than thick pieces, but you could easily use thick breast and just butterfly it before you put the dry rub on)
1tbsp sea salt
1tbsp garlic powder
1tbsp onion powder
1tsp dried thyme
1tsp rubbed sage
1tsp smoked paprika
1tsp black pepper
As usual, I just added all of the dry ingredients into a small Pyrex dish and mixed it by putting the lid on and shaking it. I used paper towels to pat all of the chicken dry, then put them in a big glass dish and added about 1 1/2 tbsp of the seasoning mix and mixed it with my hands until everything was covered well. I let it sit while I heated up the grill (I do 5 minutes on high heat). Then I dropped the heat down to medium and did 5-6 minutes per side on the chicken breast, then let it rest for a good 10 minutes on a cutting board before trying to cut it. Don't cut it right away or you'll let all of the juice run out of it and you'll just end up with dry chicken. Use a food thermometer if you're not confident it's cooked through all the way and it should temp at 165 degrees.
Cinnamon (Extra) Sweet Potatoes
Fair warning – we'll make up 5 or 6 sweet potatoes like this in our house and it will last maybe two days. It's awesome
5 sweet potatoes, sliced or cubed
1 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin coconut oil
1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1tsp sea salt
1 pinch of stevia powder (or 2-3 packets of Truvia)
1tsp sea salt
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut off the ends of the sweet potatoes and then cut into either 1/4" slices, or wedges. If you want to do wedges and don't know how, I'm going to give you the same eloquent instructions I did last month:
How to Wedge Potatoes
Cut your potato in half, then cut that in half, then cut that in half. Boom, WEDGED.
Melt coconut oil in a small dish, then add the cinnamon, stevia and salt and mix. You can coat your sweet potatoes one of two ways:
Put your sweet potato wedges in a large bowl and pour the seasoning mix over top, then mix and coat with your hands. Then transfer to a baking sheet (we've begun putting a sheet of parchment paper on the baking sheet first lately as it keeps the bottoms from burning and it speeds up the cleanup when you're done)
Be lazy like I am and skip the bowl all together. I just throw the slices onto the parchment paper as I'm slicing them and then pour the mix over that once I'm done, and mix with my hands.
There isn't a lot of oil called for, but it's enough to help basically bind the dry spices to the sweet potatoes and help everything cook a little faster and easier. I'm not a big fan of a lot of oil on these as it takes away from the cinnamon/stevia combo too much.
Roast at 400 degrees for an hour. If you're somebody who likes your sweet potatoes on the crispier side, you can turn them about halfway through. They should pierce with a fork without being mushy (which they shouldn't be if you didn't go overboard on the oil).
Asparagus is one of those veggies that 1) always tastes better on the grill, and 2) doesn't handle a lot of seasonings well. Here is what I did:
Break the bottom stem off of each asparagus spear – if it's not past its prime you should be able to snap the bottom 2-3" off without needing any utensils. In a large bowl or dish, put in all of your asparagus, and add 1-2tsp of olive oil depending on how much asparagus – I did 2 bunches and used 1tsp per bunch. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper but don't go nuts – you want just a bit of extra flavor but don't drown it in salt.
Lay it all out on the grill and use medium heat for about 5 minutes, turning frequently (with tongs unless you're feeling like gambling with your fingertips).
It’s summertime, and everybody wants to have a more developed midsection. Nutrition is half the battle there, and the quality of your training rounds out the rest. See some of the most common mistakes we see people making with their ab training, and how to fix them quickly and easily!
Welcome to the first installment of a new feature you'll find on allstrengthtraining.com, where we'll be giving you the recipes and cooking instructions for meals that Christine and I use ourselves.
Up today is a relatively simple combination of grilled chicken breast, roasted red potatoes, and steamed broccoli. Doesn't sound like much, but one of the biggest takeaways we hope you get from this feature is that eating healthy, performance- and physique-friendly meals doesn't have to be complicated.
Ok, here we go!
Cafe Mocha Grilled Chicken Breast
Chicken breast can be a challenging dish to keep interesting, because even some of the best seasonings can get a little bit stale if you use them all the time. I was looking for something new and remembered that the combination of coffee and cacao had come up in a steak dry rub that we had tried a while back, and it was fantastic. I couldn't find the original recipe so I dialed up my friend Google to see what I could find, made a couple of small changes, and came up with this:
3lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast (we use frozen Perdue chicken breast from Costco because they're a bit thinner and cook better on the grill than thick pieces, but you could easily use thick breast and just butterfly it before you put the dry rub on)
3tbsp coffee grounds
1tbsp raw cacao powder (we have Nativas in our cupboard but any 100% cacao will do)
2 packets of Truvia (we were out of pure stevia powder but a pinch of it would work just as well)
1tsp cayenne pepper
I just added all of the dry ingredients into a small Pyrex dish and mixed it by putting the lid on and shaking it. I used paper towels to pat all of the chicken dry, then put them in a big glass dish and added about 1 1/2 tbsp of the seasoning mix and mixed it with my hands until everything was covered well. I let it sit while I heated up the grill (I do 5 minutes on high heat). Then I dropped the heat down to medium and did 5-6 minutes per side on the chicken breast, then let it rest for a good 10 minutes on a cutting board before trying to cut it. Don't cut it right away or you'll let all of the juice run out of it and you'll just end up with dry chicken. Use a food thermometer if you're not confident it's cooked through all the way and it should temp at 165 degrees.
Parsley Roasted Red Potatoes
This has been my go-to for potatoes of any color for a while now. Pretty sure that my inspiration for using parsley as the base herb for the seasoning was from the time I spent in high school working at a buffet restaurant where they had sliced parsley potatoes as one of their sides. Granted, I don't soak them in a tub of butter/lard/margarine/whatever they were using but the 16-year-old version of me remembers them being awesome and I was never wrong about anything when I was 16.
As a note, you may notice that most of the recipes use pretty big batch sizes because we go through a ton of food at our house. You can scale these up or down pretty easily if it's just for you, or if you aren't looking to get 10 meals out of a single dish.
5lbs red potatoes (or Russett, or yellow, or purple, or whatever color floats your boat)
1 1/2 tbsp grass-fed butter or extra-virgin coconut oil
2tbsp dried parsley
1tsp dried basil (optional but I like the combo of this with the parsley)
1tsp garlic powder
1tsp sea salt
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut your potatoes into wedges – cut your potato in half, then cut that in half, then cut that in half. Boom, WEDGED.
Melt your butter or coconut oil in a small dish, then add the dry spices and mix. You can coat your potatoes one of two ways:
Put your potato wedges in a large bowl and pour the seasoning mix over top, then mix and coat with your hands. Then transfer to a baking sheet (we've begun putting a sheet of parchment paper on the baking sheet first lately as it keeps the bottoms from burning and it speeds up the cleanup when you're done)
Be lazy like I am and skip the bowl all together. I just throw the potatoes onto the parchment paper as I'm slicing them and then pour the mix over that once I'm done, and mix with my hands.
Roast at 400 degrees for an hour (less if you're not doing 5lbs of potatoes, but they should pierce easily with a fork).
Not going to lie – we do mostly frozen broccoli from Costco because it's a) cheaper, and b) I hate trimming fresh broccoli.
Put a sauce pan on medium high heat on your stove top and let it heat for a minute or two before you add the broccoli. NOTE: if you're doing fresh broccoli, add a little bit of water to the bottom of the dish, just enough so that the bottom of the pan is coated with water (1/8" maybe? Just don't drown your broccoli). Get the water to start bubbling before you add the broccoli.
You can add whatever spices you want, but this is what I used:
2lbs frozen broccoli
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp sage
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Put a lid on the pan and steam it until it pierces with a fork but don't let it get soggy. Somewhere around the 8-10 minute mark seems to work the best but it depends on how much you're making and how hot your stove top's burners are.
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