[This post is one in a series about my fitness journey. Consider starting at the beginning.]
Having the best, most fastidious workouts won’t help if you aren’t putting the right things in your body to power those workouts. I would love to sit here and tell you that I meal-plan and meal-prep every week, never eat out, and have figured out the master formula for my food consumption. I would also be lying through my carb-filled teeth.
Workout drinks and protein shakes
I get up around 5a every morning and my day starts with a pre-workout shake. Specifically a scoop of Cellucor C4 original pre-workout powder (pink lemonade flavor) in water. I’ll admit that one of the best things about this for me is the caffeine — I’ve become rather dependent on it for waking me up in the morning after taking it regularly for quite a while. It often plays a little gymnastics on my empty stomach so I always need to wait a bit before leaving the house for the gym just in case it’s One Of Those mornings when a close proximity to the bathroom is advised.
I don’t eat anything before a workout beyond the shake. I’ve tried numerous times over the years to eat something prior and every time I get nauseous in the middle of my workout. A couple of times I’ve actually puked. An exception is that I’ve had good luck eating a Lara Bar fifteen minutes before a cardio run.
After my workout I drink a protein shake. For the past few years that’s been a Vega Sport Protein powder (chocolate flavor). When I first started taking supplemental protein it was whey based. When I finally admitted how lactose intolerant I’d become back in 2007 I changed over to soy- and egg-based protein powders. The egg-based protein didn’t last long for me because they all tasted vile. Sometime around 2013 I switched to a pea-protein which has been a really good choice.
I have another protein shake at 3p in the afternoon. This helps tide me over between my 11a lunch and my ~6:30p dinner. Sometimes I also have another one before bed if dinner was light on protein.
The only additional supplement that I take is vitamin D. That’s because I live in the northern latitudes and winter sucks without it.
For breakfast every morning I have homemade breakfast burritos. This is the only decent meal prep that I consistently do. On Sundays I make 5 egg and spinach burritos and warm them up in the microwave before work. This tides me over until my mid-morning snack. Before I became lactose intolerant I would have a cup of greek yogurt to get my day started. That was also a very quick, low-effort dose of protein in the mornings.
I work at a cushy desk job and have a fair amount of control over when I eat lunch. That’s good because around 11a I’m starving. Some of that is for being up at 5a and working out in the morning. Some of that is my body being in the habit of eating lunch at 11a start back when I worked for IBM and wanting to get a jump-start on the lunch rush.
I pack lunch into work almost every day. Usually it consists of a substantial turkey sandwich on multi-grain bread, an apple, and peanut butter to dip the apple into. Sometimes it’s leftovers from what we had the night before (pasta with red sauce, lentil salad, etc) or some mix of that and a sandwich. I try to avoid eating out because it’s expensive.
We usually have dinner around 6:30p. Daniel does almost all the cooking in our house so we eat whatever he puts together. Daniel is a vegetarian and we are both lactose intolerant, so we eat very very little cheese and have a largely meat-free household. Dinners vary but could be anything from Italian Field Roast Sausage and spinach in red sauce over whole-wheat pasta, black beans and greens from the garden over quinoa, homemade pesto (with basil from the garden!) and tofu over pasta, or something from Isa Chandra’s Isa Does It vegan cookbook. I eat whatever Daniel makes because who in their right mind would turn down having tasty food made for them every single night?
I pretty much eat constantly. I am not hypoglycemic (verified by my doctor) but I become a hangry bitch if I go too long without food. This is so notable that Daniel carries around granola bars in his pockets to poke me with if I seem irritable.
Accordingly, I snack throughout the day. Over the years what this looks like has varied but in the recent past it’s been granola bars of some sort, such as Kind Bars or Larabars. I go through at least 2 of these a day, generally around 10a and 1p. We’re always on the lookout at our local grocery store of when these are on sale for $1/bar and buy 5 dozen bars at a time.
At night before bed I’m often needing something. Often this is a bowl of Kashi cereal with unsweetened almond milk. Sometime’s it’s a spoonful of peanut butter or another protein shake.
Food in review
A typical food day, not including water, looks like this:
- 5a – Cellucor C4 original pre-workout shake
- 7p – Vega Sports Protein shake
- 8p – egg and spinach burrito
- 10p – Larabar
- 11p – turkey sandwich on multigrain bread with an apple and peanut butter
- 1p – Larabar
- 3p – Vega Sports Protein shake
- 6p – dinner
- 10p – Kashi cereal with unsweetened almond milk
I think most people would be surprised at how many hollow calories they end up consuming with what they drink. I never drink alcohol or coffee which probably saves me several hundred calories a week (and probably thousands of dollars a year). Not because I think these things are in any way bad or immoral, but because I’ve never acquired a taste for them.
I’m originally from the south, so I do have a sweet tooth and love coke (soda or pop for some of you). When I first started at IBM in 2000 where there was free soda in the fridge I had way too many sodas a day. Hundreds of calories of high-fructose corn syrup. I now shudder at the thought. Eventually I pared down to one soda a day. In the past few years I’ve whittled that down to one soda a week.
These days I have a water bottle on my desk that I refill several times a day from the tap. This keeps me well hydrated (sometimes too much) but it means I leave my desk and walk around a bit too. Best of all, it’s both free and free of calories.
I think it’s unreasonable to ask most people to stop drinking alcohol or totally give up their lattes. I do think it’s important that we realize how many calories we’re consuming in what we drink and think about how that either furthers our fitness goals or hinders them.
Food prep is my weakness
Meals and meal prep is, hands down, the weakest part of my fitness routine. Overall I eat pretty healthy, but I could and should be much better about food planning. I believe this is the thing that is preventing me from continuing to achieve my current fitness goals.
Scrawny to Brawny
For the longest time I could never seem to get above 150lbs no matter what I tried with workout or diet. One day in my late 20s I came across the book Scrawny to Brawny and realized just how many calories I needed to eat based on my (high) metabolism and let me tell you it was eye-opening. I followed that food diet for several months and was able to put on several pounds of muscle before I hit the next plateau.
As of this writing I’m sitting in at 160lbs and the heaviest I’ve ever been is 168lbs. It still takes a lot for me to put on weight. I’d love to see what 180lbs of muscle mass looks like on my frame, but that’s going to require some major changes in both my diet and my workouts.
Next post: An inconsistent, persistent journey