Mean People Suck.

Have you ever been called a “health freak” or a “gym rat?”  Or been out to eat with friends and afraid to order something healthy from the menu for fear of them making fun of you? Or been teased for wanting to go to the gym after work instead out to happy hour? Or for leaving a party early so you could go home and actually get some sleep? Or been given crap for saying no to dessert? (Ok, that last one rarely happens to me because I physically do not know how to say no to dessert.)

Well, you’re not alone. I used to let the negative comments get to me. In fact, one of the reasons that I started average2athlete with Kayte was because I didn’t want my friends to get annoyed when I posted anything health or fitness related to my personal social media accounts. How silly is that? Your friends should support you in your endeavors and passions, no matter what. And if they don’t, then they’re not your friends. And if they’re not your friends, then who gives a crap what they think?!

I’m not saying that you should become a totally boring person who never goes out and orders salads all the time. In fact, please DON’T become that person. You need some balance in your life.

What I am saying is that it drives me NUTS to think that people are holding back from making healthy decisions because they are afraid of being judged, especially by their friends.

Small minds

If you are one of the “haters” (I actually hate that word but am lacking a better one at the moment), please stop. Don’t discourage people from bettering themselves. Ok, maybe you don’t care about the gluten free dinner that Sarah made last night that fit her macros perfectly, or John’s Crossfit WOD from this morning where he completed a gazillion thrusters and pull-ups for time, or how many miles Rachel ran last night for her marathon training. Maybe it seems like they are bragging or showing off. Even if they are, who cares? They are taking steps towards healthy lives and in the end, that’s what really matters. Instead of being concerned about what they’re doing, you should be asking yourself, “what am I doing to better myself?”

In fact, I know first-hand how large a role social media can play in one’s fitness journey. It’s a great way to track progress, and unlike logging something in your own journal, it adds another level of accountability. It also lends itself to helpful tips and fosters healthy conversation. I am so grateful that Kayte and I took a chance in starting average2athlete, as it has allowed me to discover an entire network of like-minded people that want to share their fitness journeys, whether they are veterans or just getting started. The feedback that we have received on our blog and the people that we have been fortunate enough to connect with, just through Instagram alone, has been incredible. And knowing that today my workout might inspire one more person to get up and be active makes any criticism that I receive totally worth it.

My point: there are too many truly inspirational people out there to waste time on any of the negative ones. Let them continue to live in ignorance. Ignore their nasty or sarcastic comments. Keep doing your thing – becoming a stronger, healthier, better version of you. They’ll catch on eventually.

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The Skinny on Post-WOD Eats and the Truth about Protein Powders

I’ve found that there is a lot of confusion around protein powder and its role in fitness and nutrition, especially among women. Many think of protein powder as something only used by body builders and those who want to bulk up. Others might not necessarily be opposed, but have no idea what kind to buy or when to use it. I started drinking whey protein shakes post-workout about 6 months ago, and let me tell you, it has certainly made a difference for me both in recovery time as well as fat loss.

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But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, I want to start with a brief discussion on the role of nutrition and its timing in exercise recovery. As we all know, it’s very important to fuel your body post-workout, whether you’re participating in endurance or weight training activities. After we exercise, our bodies go into a catabolic – or “breakdown” – state. The glycogen stores in our muscles are depleted and muscle fibers are broken down. The meal that we eat immediately after exercising can play a large role in restoring energy, repairing muscles, shortening recovery times and even changing body composition.

However, the quality and timing of your post-workout meal is very important.

The Metabolic Window

It has been shown that in order to achieve maximum benefits from exercise, a meal should be eaten no longer than 30-45 minutes after exercise. For those who exercise several times a week, this is especially important for recovery, as it can result in a 4-10 hour recovery period, as opposed to 24-36 hours.

The Optimal Combination

So now that you know when you should eat, you may be wondering what you should eat. While this depends on the type of exercise that you’re doing, for the purposes of this post, I’m going to assume a mixture of cardio and weight training.

It is important to consume carbohydrates post-exercise, as they play a key role in restoring glycogen in the muscles. However, combining protein with carbs post-exercise boosts glycogen synthesis more than consuming carbs alone and helps to further promote muscle repair. Studies have shown that 0.25-0.5g of protein per pound of lean body mass post-exercise is sufficient. But keep in mind that this varies by person based on their goals and specific nutrition needs.

As a general rule of thumb, the ideal carbohydrate to protein ratio of a post workout meal is 2:1. Here’s a nice little calculator that can help you get an idea of what that translates to (scroll to the bottom).

So any type of carb is ok, right?

Chips

Wrong.

Fast-acting carbs such as fruits are great immediately after a workout because they restore glycogen levels immediately, which aids in recovery. Slow-acting carbs such as sweet potatoes and steel cut oats restore glycogen levels at a slower, steadier rate. A combination of the two is optimal, but not always achievable when trying to stay within the metabolic window. I usually eat a banana immediately after I workout to get something into my body, and then about an hour or so later, I’ll have part of a sweet potato.

Ok, so where does protein powder enter the picture?

If you’re like me and you workout in the morning before heading straight to work (after a shower, I hope), it’s easy for an hour or even two to go by between finishing your workout and actually eating a meal. This is obviously way outside the metabolic window. Protein drinks and shakes are a great way to immediately get some protein into your body post-workout so that you don’t miss the window.  They tend to be low in fat and calories and are easy to make and transport. You just throw a scoop or two of protein powder into your handy dandy blender bottle and add water. I usually eat a banana at the same time, or throw everything together in a blender to make a banana protein shake, which satisfies my carb:protein requirements.

Not all protein is created equal.

So what kind of protein should you buy? With all of the different products on the market, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed when walking into your local Vitamin Shoppe. I found this guide from Muffin Topless on buying protein powders to be very useful. Generally, you’ll want to look at the ingredient list and find one that does not contain excess sugar or harmful chemicals. You’ll also want to watch out for cheap filler ingredients, which may detract from the amount of protein you’re actually getting with each serving.

The most common types of protein include whey, casein and soy. I prefer whey, as it contains a higher level of amino acids and is digested and absorbed more rapidly, producing a higher rate of muscle protein synthesis at rest and after exercise.

Personally, I looooooooooove Protizyme Peanut Butter Cookie. Even mixed with water, it still tastes incredible. Blended with a banana and almond milk, you have yourself a peanut butter shake!

Protizyme

Whey is derived from milk, so if you’re lactose intolerant or have a milk allergy, soy protein is another option, although I’m not familiar enough on the topic to speak to it. There are also other sources such as pea and rice protein.

Hopefully this sheds some light on the stigma of protein powders, especially for you ladies out there! No need to be intimidated by protein shakes. Drink up!

Now I’m off to the gym for an ass-kicking followed by my own protein shake…

As always, comment if you have any questions!

Julia

Dining out and Getting back to Human

I love food. Especially eating out. And living in NYC, there are ENDLESS places that I want to try. Part of the reason that I eat clean most of the time is so that when I do choose to treat myself to a meal out, which usually happens about once or twice a week, I can order whatever I desire and not feel guilty about it. Let’s face it, I’ve never been the girl to go to a famous burger joint, and order a salad. That’s just boring.

That’s why I follow the 80/20 rule, for the most part. Eat 100% clean 80% of the time, and use the other 20% to treat myself. (Except during the a2a 25 day challenge, of course).

That being said, I also hate the feeling of leaving a restaurant feeling so full that you can’t even walk, or worse, having to put up with a stomach ache for the rest of the night. So lately, I’ve been trying to make some healthier choices. Or at least work on portion control…

One of the new places that I tried today was Hu’s Kitchen. Here’s what they’re all about:

We started with the question, “how should humans eat?” The more we studied and experimented, the more we came to understand that we are primitive bodies living in modern times, that getting back to a pre-industrial way of eating was the best thing we could do for our health. But we knew we wouldn’t be satisfied until we figured out how to make our food not just nutritionally superior but also genuinely delicious.

Seriously, why don’t more places like this exist? Everything is gluten free, grassfed, organic, and their prices were very reasonable! Still not convinced? Check out their pillars.

Today I went with two eggs over easy, sweet potato hash and grass fed bacon. Everything is cooked in coconut or olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. My meal even came with a biscuit made from veggies, flaxseed and olive oil – how cool is that?

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And I ate every last bite, obviously.

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I will definitely be going back once the a2a challenge has ended to check out their Jordy cakes, juices and sample some of their sweet treats! Check out ChekMark Eats review for more on Hu Kitchen.

Ok, back to the main event. Although for me eating out is a semi-rare occasion, I know that many people eat out much more often than I do, either because they don’t like to cook, they travel a lot, they have to take clients out for work, or they lead a way cooler life than I do. Regardless of the reason, we’ve had a few requests for tips on making healthier choices at restaurants, so I thought I’d give my two cents.

1. Play an active role in restaurant selection. If your friends are deciding where to go for brunch on Sunday, do some research yourself and suggest a few places where you know you can find something on the menu for you. If your suggestions get shot down, well hey, at least you tried.

2. Stalk the menu before you go. If you check out the menu ahead of time, you’ll be able to select something healthy and be less likely to make an impulsive, unhealthy decision at the restaurant.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for modifications. You might feel awkward for the two seconds that you’re asking your waiter what type of oil they cook their vegetables in, but your stomach will be happier later.  If you’re trying to eat gluten free, order your sandwich or burger without the bun rather than having it sit on your plate staring you in the face while you try not to eat it. If the chicken in the dish that you want is fried, ask if they can substitute grilled. If your dish comes with fries, ask for a side salad instead. There are tons of tiny modifications that can make the unhealthiest of meals clean!

4. Split meals. Ask your friend if they want to share something with you. Not only will you feel less guilty later after not polishing off an entire plate of french toast by yourself, your wallet will thank you too.

5. Order a salad to start. This will help fill you up before your meal arrives and also keeps you from munching on the bread in the middle of the table.

6. Choose a main dish with protein and veggies. These tend to be less processed with less hidden ingredients.

7. Stop eating when you’re full. You don’t have to clean your plate! You can take the rest home with you. Or in most cases, there is someone else at the table that will be willing to clean your plate for you.

8. ENJOY! Yes, it’s important to eat healthy. And yes, we all feel better when we do. But sometimes you just have to indulge. There are just too many foods out there to eat protein and veggies 100% of the time. Life is too short, live a little!

Finally, moving away from restaurants and back to cooking your own food, I’m going to walk you through my meal prep from last week to show you my lunch that was a2a challenge approved.

Julia’s Power Lunch

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– Sauteed kale – grease skillet with olive or coconut oil, add kale, sautee until starts to turn brown and crispy

– Roasted sweet potatoes – cut sweet potato into cubes, toss in olive oil, place on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes

– Roasted portobello mushrooms (from NomNom Paleo)

– Grape tomatoes (raw)

– Turkey meatballs – Combine 1/2 diced onion with 1 lb of lean ground turkey, roll into balls and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes or until thoroughly cooked

I portioned everything out into 4 tupperware containers and ate them for lunch Tuesday-Friday. As a “dressing” I used a very ripe avocado that I could mash up and stir into the mix.

Enjoy your week everyone!

– Julia

a2a 25 Day Challenge!

Yes, we know what you’re thinking. We haaaaaaaate the word diet. In fact, you may often hear us preaching, “It’s a lifestyle, not a diet,” whenever people speak of such things.

However, sometimes you just need a little motivation to get your booty in gear.

Enter the Whole 30 Challenge, “a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, calm systemic inflammation and put an end to unhealthy cravings, habits and relationships with food.

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This is not a juice cleanse nor is this some crazy diet that forces you to eat cabbage soup for every meal. It’s simply eliminating any of the foods that could be having a negative impact on your health or fitness. Even if you think you eat healthy already, sometimes you don’t even realize that certain foods are making you feel tired, giving you headaches or causing digestive problems until you strip them from your diet completely.

Well, we have decided to do our own challenge, which will last 25 days instead of 30 (because we’re not going to pretend for one second that anyone would stick to this over Memorial Day weekend), and we’re inviting you to join us. Want to start “eating clean” but don’t know where to start? Well, here’s your chance! Feel like you’ve been going a little overboard with the “cheats”? Time to hit the reset button!

The challenge will begin on Monday, April 29th and continue through Wednesday, May 23rd. The rules are simple. Eat real food. Lots of veggies. Lots of protein. Fruits. Healthy fats. Nothing processed. No toxins. No inflammatory foods.

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More specifically, here is what you can eat:

LOTS of vegetables

Meat – beef, chicken, turkey, ham, etc.

Seafood

Fruits

Fats from oils, nuts and seeds (almond butter is allowed if it’s made from RAW almonds only!)

Legumes that are allowed – green beans, sugar snap peas and snow peas

Clarified butter or ghee

Vinegar – white, balsamic, apple cider, red wine and white (just make sure there is no added sugar!)

And here is what you CANNOT eat:

No added sugar of any kind, real or fake. For realz, none.

No processed foods.

No alcohol (I know, we’re crying over here too.)

No grains. This includes wheat, rye, barley, millet, oats, corn, rice, sprouted grains, quinoa, bran germ, starch, etc.

No legumes. This includes all beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, peanutbutter and all forms of soy (soy sauce, miso, tofu, tempeh, edamame, etc.)

No dairy. Yes, this means black coffee.

No white potatoes (sweet potatoes are ok!)

No “paleo” treats. This means no pancakes!

Now you’re thinking to yourself, “WTF am I supposed to eat? No bread?! NO PEANUT BUTTER?!?!”

Well, there are a million online resources where people have documented their Whole 30 meals. One of our favorites is Nom Nom Paleo, who documented her meals each day while completing the challenge.

We’ll also be posting our meals on Instagram (@average2athlete), and we’d love to see yours as well! Simply mupload your pictures to Instagram and tag #a2achallenge.

Ok, so you’re no longer afraid of starving, but now you’re thinking, “But it’s May and there are going to be so many fun happy hours I’m going to miss!”

 Unfortunately, there is NEVER going to be a good time to do something like this. There will ALWAYS be an excuse. It’s only 25 days. 25 DAYS! That’s seriously nothing. You got this.

And don’t worry, there are things that we’re going to miss too…

Julia sad

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Ok, enough embarrassing photos. Just join is. Pleeeeease? Misery loves company?

Oh, and we should probably also mention that this is NOT an excuse to stop eating altogether. That is absolutely not the point and please do not destroy your metabolism because you’d rather starve than eat your veggies. Enjoy this and eat up, knowing that everything you put in our mouth is GOOD for you!

Finally, we encourage you to take pictures of yourself (and calculate your body composition, if possible) before and after completing the challenge. However, during the challenge, just focus on eating right and think about how you feel. Trust us, if you stick to the plan, the physical results will come!

Questions? Let us know in the comments.

Good luck everyone!

~Julia and Kayte

Julia’s Quick and Dirty Guide to Clean Eating…and Stuffed Bell Peppers!

“You are what you eat.” “Abs are made in the kitchen.” “You can’t out-train a bad diet.”

You’ve all heard it in one form or another. And it’s true, unless you have an amazing metabolism (in which case I’m super jealous of you), you’re not going to reap the full benefits of your exercise program without eating well along with it. Plus, we like our bodies, right? So why not be nice to them and give them things that will make them happy?

So what does this mean? What should you eat? Should you eat less? More? High protein? Low carbs? No fat? With all of the diets and products out there, it’s no wonder everyone is confused…who wouldn’t be?

Well, in this post, I’m going to tell you what I eat. I’m not a nutritionist and I’m not saying that everyone should do as I do, but this is what works for me. And guess what, I feel good AND I enjoy what I’m eating. Isn’t that what really matters?

But before I get down to business, I have something VERY IMPORTANT to share. Ok, not really. I just needed an excuse to embarrass my friends by posting these pictures that I received via text on Saturday.


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Oh, yeah. That happened. Oh, and I’m supposed to be very clear about the fact that they are making fun of people who take “gym selfies.” Because apparently that makes this acceptable.

What’s a “gym selfie?” You know, those people who should be working out but instead are too busy taking pictures of themselves in the mirror. Still don’t know what I’m talking about? Well don’t worry, I took one of my own.

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 Not laughing yet? How about  now?

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Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I can focus on the real subject of this post, which was…oh yes, eating. Ok, here goes. Apologies in advance for a lengthy post. If you’re just looking for the recipe, I’ve buried it all the way at the bottom so just keep scrolling.

I’m going to list a few (relatively) simple rules of thumb that guide my eating habits. I will probably link out to other articles, especially as it regards to more “scientific” subject matter, because I do not have a science background and would probably only confuse you (and myself) more.

Eat REAL food. What does this mean? Try to avoid anything that is processed. How can you tell if it’s processed? Well, first off, if you see a commercial for it on TV, it’s probably not natural. Check the ingredients. Is there a long list of things that you don’t understand? Is sugar an ingredient? If the answer to these questions is yes, then it’s most likely processed. Real foods include fruits, veggies, meats, poultry, fish, eggs, etc. Basically, if you stick to the perimeter of the  grocery store when you do your shopping, you’ll be able to avoid the processed things. I realize you can’t do this 100% of the time, but if you do it 80% of the time, you’ll notice a huge difference in how you feel. I promise.

Don’t fear the fat. This could be an entire post on it’s own. People think that in order to lose fat they need to eat fat free foods. This is simply not true. Fat plays several important roles in our diet from making us feel full to improving our mental states and energy levels. Fat is especially important if you’re on a low carb diet, because while protein will help to build muscle, your body needs something to run on for fuel! If you’re interested in reading more about this issue, I would recommend reading this.

Grain or no grain? Avoiding grains, particularly gluten, seems to be an emerging trend, and some may wonder whether or not they should jump on the gluten-free bandwagon. Basically, gluten causes an inflammatory response in the body, even in those who do not have Celiac disease One of my favorite bloggers, the Petite Athleat, gives a great breakdown of the benefits of not eating gluten as well as a breakdown of the alternatives to wheat flour – almond vs. coconut – here. Well, I decided to give the whole gluten free diet a whirl and have been avoiding gluten, for the most part, for the past 3 months, and I can say I’ve never felt better. My digestive issues have gone away (that alone is enough for me to never eat wheat again), I have more energy and fewer cravings and as an added bonus, I’ve leaned out a bit. 

Drink more water. I’m sure you’ve heard this one before. It’s very important to stay hydrated. This will help keep you full, give you that youthful glow you try so desperately to achieve through bronzer and blush, keep your muscle energized and mostly importantly, keep you “regular.” Need I say more? For those stuck behind a desk like me, I recommend keeping a glass of water at your desk and getting up to refill each time it’s empty. This also serves as a reminder to get up and stretch your legs every once and a while.

Limit your alcohol intake. We all know that excessive alcohol consumption leads to weight gain. Remember the Freshman 15? Yeah. Obviously, if you’re trying to lose weight, cutting out alcohol altogether would maximize your results. But we’re all human and after a long week, we need a drink. Or two. Or three… If we’re going to drink, why not choose something that has some health benefits? I actually stumbled upon a useful article the other day that outlines the health benefits (or lack of benefits) of each type of alcohol. All I can say is, bring on the red wine and whisky.

So now you’re thinking, that’s great and all, but what do I eat?!

Well, your grocery cart might look something like this.

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Ok, so what do I do with all this food? Won’t it go bad? Don’t you spend a lot of money on groceries? Have no fear! I have a solution!

Prep your meals in advance. This is crucial if you don’t want to waste food and money. I usually do my grocery shopping and prepare my lunches for the week on Sundays. I’ll cook all of the fresh food that I buy (because there’s nothing worse than wasting food), and then portion everything out into tupperware containers. Voila, 5 days of lunch! It can get a little boring eating the same thing every day, but I try to include a variety of veggies/proteins and change up the “dressings” that I use – alternating between avocado, hummus and salsa – to keep my taste buds happy.

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Freeze food. If you are afaid that something will go bad, just pop it in the freezer! No food wasted!

Portion out your snacks. This is a great way to avoid eating that entire container of mango that you bought in one sitting.

Trader Joe’s is a godsend. I don’t know how it is in other parts of the country, but if it weren’t for TJs, I would be seriously broke. Their prices are absolutely unbeatable.

Get creative. There are TONS of easy recipes out there that you can make with just a few simple ingredients! Google is your friend people, use it. 

People often ask what I eat in a typical day. While food and nutrient intake is dependent on a million different factors (body mass index, basal metabolic rate, body composition, allergens) as well as your goals – do you want to lose fat, build muscle, maintain – here is what an average weekday of eating looks like for me. Keep in mind that I workout at 6:30am every morning (crossfit or HIIT) and then sit at a desk from 9am-6pm each day before walking the mile home to my apartment.

5:30am Pre-workout pancake + cup of coffee
8:00am Post-workout protein shake (1 banana, 1 scoop whey protein powder, unsweetened vanilla almond milk/water)
9:30am 2 hard boiled eggs, 1/2 small sweet potato, 2 slices Applegate Farms turkey
11:00am String cheese
1:30pm Bowl of assorted roasted veggies (brussel sprouts, carrots, mushrooms) on bed of spinach or kale, 5 roasted sweet potato “chips”, 4 turkey meatballs (I make mine without the oats), topped with hummus/avocado/salsa
4:00pm Apple with almond butter
7:30pm Scrambled eggs with spinach, tomatoes, bacon, mushrooms and goat cheese or pancakes topped with Greek yogurt and blueberries

And finallyyyyyyyy, a recipe!

Last Friday, I had a couple of friends over and we made stuffed bell peppers for dinner. They were absolutely amazing so I thought I would share this delicious recipe with you.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

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You will need:

3 large red bell peppers

Filling:

1 lb lean ground turkey

1 small onion, chopped

1 cup spinach leaves

1 cup mushrooms, chopped

Sauce:

2 tbsp tomato paste

1/2 cup tomato sauce

1 tbsp stone ground mustard

Splash of vinegar (white or balsamic both work)

Seasonings of choice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut bell peppers in half, lengthwise, and discard seeds and membranes. Wrap in foil, place on baking sheet or in casserole dish and bake for 15 minutes.

While the peppers are baking, cook ground turkey in skillet until browned. Remove from skillet and sautee onion, mushrooms and spinach in olive oil. Once veggies are cooked, combine with turkey. Mix sauce ingredients together in a small bowl, then add to turkey/veggie mixture. Remove peppers from oven and stuff.

Place stuffed peppers back in oven and bake for 10-15 minutes.

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Enjoy!

I hope this was somewhat helpful. As always, let me know if you have any questions/comments/concerns!

Until next time,

Julia