A PLANT -BASED REPORT

After the recent buzz around plant-based diets, I decided to give it a go and see if I could stay within the confines of my current nutritional goals.

My dietary approach is eating clean foods with a proper macro balance. I strive to hit 8-10 servings of veggies and fruit daily, drink at least 1/2 my bodyweight in oz of water, and keep added sugar below 25g/day, additionally I’m dairy free.

For the past 3 months I’ve been in a reverse diet, working on kickstarting my metabolism after a period of time under-eating and overtraining (oops!).  My current macro goals are 125 g protein, 180g carb, and  65g fat which equals about 1800 calories. FYI. I’m still in reversal mode with a goal to get maintenance up to 2200-2300 calories.

LESSONS LEARNED EATING PLANT-BASED

PROS

1.  Vegan food can be tasty AF. Each vegan recipe I made was delish, thank you @thugkitchen

2. I never craved the taste or texture of meat

3. I felt satisfied after every meal

4. Energy levels during workouts stayed high as my carb intake was high

CONS

1. Hitting daily protein goals was v difficult. High protein plant-based options such as beans, lentils, nuts and seeds come packed with high levels of carbs and fats respectively. In order to get remotely close to my protein goal, I was seeing my carbs hit +250g, fats +100g and still only seeing protein at 70-95g. This shot my daily calories up to around 2300, something I was not comfortable with in this stage of my reverse diet. 

I tried opting for soy based protein choices such as tofu and tempeh, but like the beans, found that they made me feel super bloated.

2. Post workout recovery majorly suffered. I was beyond sore all day every day for two weeks without making any changes to programming. I owe this a reduced protein intake.

3. I ended up eating LESS veggies per day as I was so damn full from all the beans and fats.

4. I ate more processed foods than before, i.e. crackers, pastas, vegan cream cheese, and vegan scones (SO GOOD!)

5. To follow a plant based diet, you’ve got some serious prep-time for meals, especially if you’re trying to avoid processed foods.

6. No matter how full I felt after a meal, I was  hungry an hour later.

This was purely a personal experience and definitely not a long enough trial to determine lasting physical effects to body. I myself felt fluffy and bloated consistently, perhaps that would change after a period of time. 

I’ve always advocated a well balanced diet that prioritizes eating plenty of veggies and fruits, which could be considered a plant-based diet. Instead of going full vegan and potentially suffer from protein deficiencies, simply opting for a few meals a week that are meat-free could be a nice compromise. 

Another lasting lesson was the major learning curve that comes with changing a diet. Trying to navigate the grocery store for plant-based options and learning how to prep tofu was overwhelming. As a nutrition coach, this gave me great insight as to how my clients must feel when learning how to change their diet. This was a humbling experience that has given me a deeper level of understanding the challenges they face.

All in all, it was an interesting learning experience. Vegan doesn’t work for me, but I respect those who rock it.

All things on hydration

On average, the human body is made up of 60% water which means staying properly hydrated in kind of a big deal. Hydration is crucial to staying healthy and maintaining the function of every system in your body, including your heart, brain, and muscles. Fluids carry nutrients to your cells and flush toxins from your body.

Additionally, drinking enough fluids help to:

  • Improve physical performance
  • Help you to lose weight
  • Boost your mood
  • Boost your brainpower
  • Prevent headaches
  • Protect against disease

So how much water is enough for you? A good rule of thumb is to drink 1/2 your bodyweight in oz of water every day.

As with most generalities, this rule will vary individually based on internal and external factors. Because our bodies are constantly losing water through sweat, urine, breath, and bowel movements, we need to learn how to properly adjust our intakes. Water goals may increase based on our activity levels, environment, overall health, and if one is pregnant or breastfeeding.

Activity

Exercising or engaging in activity that makes you sweat will require increased water intake. For the majority of us, we should be engaging in physical activity on a daily basis, which means we should be upping the ante daily. Add an extra glass of water before, during, and after activity to replace fluid loss (roughly 24-32 extra oz of H20.)

Pro Tip: Consider adding electrolytes to this extra drink to help with muscle recovery and repair.

Environment

With the pleasure of living in the great state of Texas, the majority of us will be sweating more over the summer months. Take this into account as you become more aware of your water intake. Other environments that contribute to water loss are areas high in altitude.

Overall Health

Your body loses fluids when you have a fever, vomiting or diarrhea. If you’ve been feeling under the weather, drink more water or follow a doctor’s recommendation to drink oral rehydration solutions. Other conditions that might require increased fluid intake include bladder and urinary tract infections.

Pregnant/Breastfeeding

Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding need additional fluids to stay hydrated. The Office on Women’s Health recommends that pregnant women drink about 10 cups (2.4 liters/80 oz) of fluids daily and women who breast-feed consume about 13 cups (3.1 liters/105oz) of fluids a day.

How to tell if you’re getting enough

Unfortunately, 75% of Americans suffer from chronic dehydration and don’t even realize it! If you suffer from any of the following symptoms, you may be struggling with mild to moderate dehydration. 

  • Feeling thirsty, dry mouth
  • Tired, sleepy, midday fatigue
  • Urine is low volume and more yellowish than normal.
  • Trouble concentrating, foggy headspace, anxious, irritable
  • Headache
  • Dry skin.
  • Dizziness

Take control, drink a glass of water (or two!) and see if your symptoms improve.

What about electrolytes?

Preventing dehydration is not just about drinking enough water, but also about your body’s electrolyte balance. Electrolytes are certain minerals (i.e., calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium, sodium ions) essential to human health. These essential minerals are found in our food and cannot be substituted by any other nutrient in the diet. 

Electrolytes regulate the flow of water in and out of cells and spark nerve impulses. Without them, we could not move, think, or live. Watch this surprisingly entertaining video for more info! 

We most commonly lose electrolytes during bouts of sickness and sweaty workouts (ever tasted salt on your skin after sweating?) To prevent further dehydration, we can replace these lost electrolytes. Don’t go reaching for a Gatorade just yet, sadly these drinks are full of artificial colors and loaded with sugar.

Replacing lost electrolytes is as easy as maintaining a balanced diet and drinking enough water throughout the day and around activity and through supplementation.

My favorite method is to simply add a dash of Himalayan Pink salt to a cup of coconut water after a workout. A more flavorful method is adding a Nuun tablet to a glass of water.

All in all, water is the essence of life. Invest in a big reusable water bottle, preferably a non-plastic option such as Hydro Flask, and carry that baby with you everywhere you go!


All Things On Alcohol

Alcohol and I have quite the love hate relationship. I love it for the social dynamics it offers and the reprieve it can provide after a stressful day. On the flip side, I hate it for the mental and physical disruption it also can cause.

I have tried eliminating alcohol out of my life entirely, which proves to be personally difficult. When I abstain, I become a recluse as I avoid most social situations. As a social person, this doesn’t work well for my headspace.

Additionally, the minute I tell myself I am not going to drink, I feel restricted and my desire to drink becomes stronger and more often. Once I “cave” and have a drink, I spend the rest of the day tormenting myself with guilt and shame for making my body a toxic wasteland and ruining my sobriety.

Where’s the health and wellness in that?

After much deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that drinking or not drinking does not need to be the determining factor to weather or not I myself, can lead a healthy lifestyle. As with anything we consume and the passions we follow, the key to ultimate health and wellness is BALANCE.

Keep in mind, we’re all very different. Some folks can handle a few drinks and some simply can’t. Knowing who you are allows for you to make the best decision for your well-being.

Whether or not to drink should be a decision made based on you, your lifestyle, and your particular goals.

If you do decide that you’re going to partake in the libations, there are a few things you can do in preparation to maintain your health and wellness.

THE NEED TO KNOWS ON ALCOHOL

When alcohol is present, your body’s main priority is metabolizing said alcohol. It will hold off on digesting any protein, fat, or carb until all the alcohol is processed. If you are going to eat while drinking, keep food quality high. You’d much rather have have your body store chicken and veggies over a honey butter chicken biscuit (yummm.)

Alcohol can effect our hormones by lowering testosterone which can negatively impact our ability to build muscle. Depending on your goals, skipping the booze maybe best if trying to build muscle and get shredded.

We can think of alcohol as the opposite of fiber whereas it slows down our metabolism and interrupts our bodies normal processes.

Finally, expect to see some scale fluctuations due to alcohol being a diuretic. For example, you may be lighter right after drinking due to it’s dehydration effect, however as your body works toward homeostasis, you may retain water for a few days after, reflecting in a higher weight.

PREP FOR THE NIGHT OUT

  • Get in a a good workout so your metabolism is active
  • Set a limit to your consumption before you head out
  • Keep daily food intake protein/veggie-heavy
  • Count alcohol calories toward your daily carb goal
  • Skip beer, sugary mixers, and pre-made drinks like frozen margs (sad face)
  • Stick with soda mixers and add fresh lemon or lime to your drink. The citrus helps your body become more insulin sensitive.
  • Drink water in between drinks.
  • Prepare for late night snacking with high protein/veggie healthy options.

Alcohol can be totally fun or totally destructive. It’s up to you on how you want your relationship with alcohol to look like. Start by asking yourself why you want to drink, what are your goals, and how do you react under the influence. Your ultimate decision should be only around the enhancement of your life.

All things on sugar

The World Health Organization currently recommends that daily added sugar intake should be no more than 25g for women (6 teaspoons) and 38g for men (9 teaspoons.) Seems totally reasonable, right?

Unfortunately, the majority of folks following a typical North American diet are crushing on average 136 g of sugar per day. That’s equivalent to 34 teaspoons DAILY!  (Insert jaw drop here)

Why is sugar so bad?

Let’s start by stating that sugar and furthermore, carbohydrates are not evil. Our bodies require carbs and sugar molecules to function. The issue arises when we have a constant supply of sugar to the bloodstream.

When we eat sugar, it is quickly absorbed into our bloodstream. To bring down our blood sugar, the body releases insulin, a hormone that shuttles the sugar molecules from our blood into our cells for energy. However, our cells can take in only so much sugar before they are full. Any excess sugar molecules that cannot be shuttled into the cells are then stored as fat or left lingering in the bloodstream.

A chronic high-sugar diet is dangerous as it wreaks havoc on our body in the following ways:

  • Reduces our ability to handle carbs
  • Reduces insulin sensitivity
  • Increases insulin response to meals
  • Promotes excess fat gain due to high insulin levels (love handles & upper back)
  • Causes borderline or full-blown diabetes
  • High levels of sugar molecules can bind to blood protein which can cause premature aging, cancer, altered vision, Alzheimer’s, vascular disease, erectile dysfunction, kidney disease, and joint pain / Arthritis.

To make matters worse, studies have shown that sugar can be more addicting than cocaine as it stimulates the brain’s reward centers even more robustly than the drug itself. So even when we know we shouldn’t eat that sugary piece of cake, our bodies tell us we need it.

How are sugar intakes so high?

Most folks wouldn’t consider themselves to be sugar addicts. They don’t add sugar in their coffee, they don’t drink soda, they opt for salads for lunch, and save desserts for special occasions. So how could they possibly reach daily sugar intakes upwards of 100+ grams?

One of the main factors for our extreme sugar consumption is our unknowingness of which products contain added sugar. By simply eating a cup of flavored yogurt topped with granola for breakfast and a few tablespoons of BBQ sauce at lunch, one can easily hit their daily quota.

Common foods and their sugar content.

FoodSugar Content
2 slices of white bread3 teaspoons
1 bowl of cereal 4-5 teaspoons
1 bagel4-5 teaspoons
½ cup dried fruit4 teaspoons
½ fruit juice3-4 teaspoons
1 can of soda9 teaspoons
1 cup of chocolate milk6 teaspoons
1 bowl of ice cream23 teaspoons
1 packet of light balsamic vinaigrette2-3 teaspoons
2 tablespoons of Ketchup2 teaspoons
1 tall caramel frappe from Starbucks12 teaspoons
1 serving of strawberry Yoplait yogurt4-5 teaspoons

Condiments and processed foods are notorious for containing high levels of sugar. We must become more mindful of sugar consumption by reading the labels and recognizing all different names for sugar.

Keep in mind, sugar is sugar. So even if it’s “organic” or from natural sources, it will still absorb quickly in the bloodstream and cause an insulin reaction.


The many names of sugar.

SucroseFructose
GlucoseMaltose
DextroseMaltodextrin
Hydrolyzed starchInvert sugar
Corn syrupHoney
Cane SugarAgave Nectar
Sugar BeetsHigh-fructose corn syrup
Maple SugarMolasses

What about artificial sweeteners?

You may believe that artificial sweeteners are a “healthy” choice considering their lack of calorie content. However, even though the overall calorie count may be lower there are other major concerns that deem these sweeteners “unhealthy”.

Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugars that are chemically designed to stimulate our taste receptors. They are much more potent than regular sugar so it only takes a little sweetener to deliver a big taste. One of the major concerns here is that our taste receptors can actually become desensitized when consuming artificial sweeteners. This means that healthier food options that once tasted sweet like fruits, no longer provide the same flavor, and that less “sweet” food like vegetables become intolerable. The end result becomes a diet that craves processed, non-nutritious foods over whole, nutrient-dense foods.  

Finally, the biggest concern is the true lack of knowledge on the long-term effect that these chemicals can have on our body. Studies have already shown that “daily consumption of diet drinks was associated with a 36% greater risk for metabolic syndrome and a 67% increased risk for type 2 diabetes.”

By becoming more aware of our consumption patterns, we can drastically reduce our sugar consumption and increase our wellbeing. It takes a little time to get the hang of it, but with a little practice and mindfulness, it’s possible.

All things on Veggies

Your grandma was really on to something when she’d tell you to eat your veggies. Vegetables and fruits contain loads of micronutrients, phytonutrients, antioxidants, and fiber which pack a powerful punch.

For example, veggies and fruits help the body:

  • Prevent malnutrition and deficiencies (vitamins & minerals)
  • Reduce risk for cancer, diabetes, and heart disease (phytonutrients)
  • Reduce free-radical damage (antioxidants)
  • Balance dietary acids from proteins and grains (alkaline quality) which also reduces osteoporosis risk
  • Improve blood sugar control, reduces appetite, increases digestive health (fiber)
HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH

To gain the most benefit, your goal should be to consume 8-12 servings of veggies and fruit daily. If you are not currently crushing the veggie game, it’s best to start with 4-6 servings a day for a week, then increase a serving per week until reaching your ultimate daily goal. 

A serving size is considered to be:

  • 1 cup raw leafy greens
  • ½ c chopped veggie or fruit
  • 85 g (get a food scale!)
  • 1 medium sized fruit

Fruits are great sources of fiber, antioxidants and micronutrients, however they also contain high levels of sugar. If you’re interested in fat loss, you will want to eat more veggies than fruit, keeping a ratio of 5:1. If you’re interested in muscle gain or to support performance, you may have a 3:1 veggie to fruit ratio.

Hitting your veggie goal can seem a bit overwhelming at first, especially if you aren’t accustomed to so many greens. To ensure you hit your veggie goal, aim to include at least 2 servings per meal.

Check out this daily example

  • 1 cup of diced green and red peppers +  1 handful spinach with breakfast omelette (3 servings)
  • ½ cup berries with morning snack (1 serving)
  • 1 cup spinach, ½ c tomato, ½ medium avocado with lunch salad (2.5 servings)
  • 190 grams (approx 1 cup) chopped celery and cucumbers with PM snack (2 servings)
  • 1 cup chopped brussels sprouts with dinner (2 servings)

Notice any uncomfortable gas or bloating with your increase of veggie intake? That is pretty normal while your body adjusts to the increase of fiber. Try steaming your veggies to ease discomfort. If that doesn’t help, notice which veggies cause more bloating and try replacing them for other options.

PREPERATION AND CONSUMPTION

When deciding how to prepare your veggies, you’ve got tons of options. You can eat them raw, steamed, roasted (MY FAVORITE), stir-fried, and sautéed.

Juicing and smoothies can also be a source for veggies, however it’s best to to stick with whole food options.

Why?

When juiced, all the fiber from the fruit and veg is removed. This means that the sugars from fruits and veg will hit your bloodstream immediately since there is no fiber to slow down their digestion. A spike in blood-sugar will then result in an insulin reaction, something we aim to limit. 

Smoothies are a better option because they include the whole fruit and veg (fiber included.) However, keep in mind when we blend our food, we remove the need to chew and speed up the digestion process. The issue then becomes a possible shorter period of satiation (feeling full), making us hungry sooner.

Additionally, by blending the food the nutrients are more bioavailable. Our bodies are able to absorb more of the fruit and veg macronutrients which also means we absorb more calories from the same amount of food.

If choosing a smoothie source, opt to have it alongside a whole food to help keep you feeling fuller longer.

SUPPLEMENTATION

Finally, you may supplement your veggie intake with a vegetable powder. This is a great option  if you have limited access to fresh veggies, for travel days, or when you’ve realized you haven’t hit your daily servings.

THE PERFECT ROASTED VEG

  • Preheat oven to 400
  • Rinse and trim veggies
  • Cover with 1 T olive or avocado oil
  • Sprinkle with pink salt and pepper to liking
  • Roast for 15 min, stirring halfway
  • Broil for 3 min to crisp.
  • Veggies should be vibrant in color and al dente

GREEN DRINK SMOOTHIE

  • 3 ice cubes
  • ½ c almond milk
  • 1 c leafy greens (spinach or kale)
  • 1 stalk celery
  • ¼ cucumber
  • ½ medium avocado
  • ½ fresh squeezed lemon
  • ½ T fresh ginger
  • Optional: add MTC oil, seeds, protein powders