What’s for dinner?

How many times have you asked yourself, your spouse or your family that question? ¬†There are certainly weeks where that question comes up in our house!….and I get the same answer…”I don’t know”

My husband Kofi is a picky eater but by now I know well enough what he does and doesn’t like – though I have been able to talk him into eating a few things that prior to trying, he claimed he didn’t like ūüôā At the end of the day he¬†is pretty easy to please, for the most part he eats whatever I make as long as he knows what it is. (as an aside, I did try “tricking” him into eating bison and it didn’t go over so well, I wouldn’t recommend this technique in your marriage lol)

You would think that cooking for someone who is easy to please would make deciding what to cook for dinner easier, but I still struggle some days!

Unhealthy vs healthy food

I wanted to share a few of my strategies for simplifying that 5pm, “what’s for dinnner” dilemma.

1) Meal plan

This is by far the most effective strategy. ¬†When my schedule allows, and I do my best to make time for this, I spend about 45min-1hr on Sundays planning dinner for the week. ¬†Firstly, I take a look at our schedule – what’s going on, who’s home which nights, which days are the longest (in other words I won’t feel like doing much!), which days are shortest (more prep time on these days). ¬†Then I take a quick peek in the freezer, fridge and pantry to see what I have on hand. ¬†From there, I come up with 2-3 fail-safe recipes that we eat on a regular basis, double check the recipe ingredients and add anything I don’t have on hand to my grocery list. ¬†Next, I take a look either online or in my recipe books for 2-3 new recipes, I like looking online best because of the reviews, but I have come to realize that a few of the recipe books I own have more hits than misses for good dinners! ¬†I choose 2-3, check the ingredient list and add to my grocery list what I don’t have. ¬†VOILA!!!! ¬†Dinner ideas prepped, grocery list complete. ¬†These weeks are a breeze!

2) Keep frozen meat and veggies on hand

This is something I learned from my Mom, growing up in rural Alberta where grocery stores are open limited hours and are always a 10-15min drive minimum away, you need to have meat and veggies in the freezer! ¬†If I haven’t had time to meal plan on the weekend and we’re having a really busy week, the one thing I ALWAYS do is take meat out of the freezer in the morning. ¬†That way at the very least I have one thing ready to go when I get home. ¬†I realize I could pick up fresh meat on the way home, but I like to stock up on fresh meat when it’s on sale and freeze it in smaller packages at home ūüôā

In the summer it’s easy to bbq the meat and either grill or make a salad out of whatever veggies we have in the fridge. ¬†In the winter, I usually opt for a stir-fry or steamed veggies alongside whatever I took out that morning. ¬†It’s also easy enough to pick up veggies for a side dish or salad on the way home from work!

3) Have someone else do the cooking

For those days when you’re totally drained, take advantage of modern day conveniences! ¬†Most local groceries stores sell rotisserie chicken hot and ready to go. ¬†Pick up one of these babies, a bag of pre-chopped stir-fry veggies, pre-made salads, and/or bell peppers. ¬†Shred the chicken and make a stir-fry, chicken salad or chicken wraps (try lettuce wraps for a leaner choice!).

Pre-Workout Prep – Y’all ready for this?

I will never forget the first and only time I’ve ever thrown up and passed out due to exercise because it was such a strange and random experience. ¬†I was in the 3rd year of my Kinesiology degree in Calgary. ¬†At this stage in my school I was back at Mount Royal College completing the Athletic Therapy program for my major. ¬†In our “Clinical Rehabilitation” class we were studying¬†various cardio programs that could be implemented for people who wanted to maintain their fitness while rehabilitating their injuries.

As a little background, this year was probably the most stressful of my university days due to the demanding curriculum and practicum commitments. ¬†Classes, studying, clinical hours and working with varsity teams consumed days, evenings and weekends. ¬†Needless to say, my personal health was¬†not a top priority but I still managed to make time for a few workouts here and there…this was definitely a year of maintenance in the health and fitness department!

Back to class, 8am sharp we met at the gym with our lab partners (yes, in Kinesiology many of our “labs” were in the gym) ready to take each other through the paces. ¬†On the docket that day were sprints on the stationary bike. ¬†We were learning to challenge our anaerobic systems so the drill was short, only 10 minutes-ish, but during that 10 minutes we completed 10sec all-out sprints with 30sec recovery periods. ¬†Now you have to understand, in a class full of individuals who love physical activity, almost every activity is an unspoken competition. ¬†I think this is particularly true among girls… “Ohhhh, I think I’m only going to go about 80% today” ¬†HAH. Fooled you!!! I sprinted my brains out for this 10 minute¬†“lab” exercise. ¬†Anyhow, the drill wasn’t so bad but about 15 minutes afterward I suddenly felt a wave of nausea come over me. ¬†I cool-ly, “I’m feeling great” made my way over to the bathroom where the bagel I consumed about 30 minutes prior made a reappearance. ¬†Interestingly enough, after this I felt completely fine. ¬†First time that ever happened to me, I swear. ¬†But I felt fine after so I carried on, business as usual!

The second half of the class was in the exercise studio where we stood in a group watching our prof give instructions. ¬†Suddenly I started seeing stars and felt wobbly so I just put my hand on the shoulder of a friend standing next to me when all of a sudden BAM.. lights out! ¬†I don’t think I was out for long and lucky for me the only thing truly wounded was my pride ūüôā

tired runner

At the time I’m thinking what the heck??? This never happens to me and it felt so random! ¬†But here’s the thing, was it really random? Could it have been prevented?

Enter the REAL physiology lesson of the day – fuel your workouts! Today’s lesson specifically dives into the details of why your body needs this fuel, preceded by a clear example of what can happen if you don’t give your body what it needs to exercise efficiently! ¬†Here are a few reasons why my body reacted the way it did that day:

1) Insufficient time between eating and exercising:

I chose a high fiber bagel that morning and scarfed it down 30 minutes before rushing to class. ¬†Though they are¬†not a bad choice, high fiber foods are not ideal pre-workout (less than 60 minutes prior to exercise) snacks¬†because your body takes a long time to digest them. ¬†They’re going to sit in your stomach for longer than say, a piece of fruit or a glass of juice, which are considered simple carbohydrates and very easy to digest. ¬† My tummy was hard at work trying to process the carbohydrates in that bagel, but it just didn’t have enough time! ¬†By the time I had hopped on the bike to start my sprints there was a sudden demand for blood flow to my muscles so they could receive the nutrients they needed to perform, taking away from the blood flow sent to help with digestion. ¬†So where did this leave my bagel? Lonely and half-digested in the pit of my stomach. ¬†Post-workout my body was in recovery mode, working hard to clear the lactate and hydrogen that were causing an acidic state in my body. ¬†Digesting food was no longer at the top of my body’s priority list – no energy to digest the bagel meant my body needed to get rid of it ASAP!

2) Low blood sugar:

By the time you wake up in the morning, your body has been fasting for as long as you’ve been sleeping – for most people that’s at least 6-8 hours. ¬†To say your energy stores are depleted would be an understatement. ¬†My blood sugars were low when I arrived to class as my digestive system was still working hard at getting the energy from my bagel into my blood stream. ¬†The main fuel source for short-burst anaerobic exercise is carbohydrate, something my body was severly lacking prior to that workout. ¬†So I was starting my workout running on empty, a problem in itself that aggravated another issue:

3) High cortisol levels:

Cortisol is a hormone released when your body is under stress (physical or emotional)¬†and too much of this stress causes your body to break down amino acids (protein!)¬†and convert them to carbohydrate, it’s a catabolic hormone. ¬†Under the stress of school and more acutely, the stress of the sprinting, my cortisol levels were likely rampant. ¬†The result? Cortisol was breaking down the protein in my muscles, desperate to synthesize fuel to restore the catabolic state I had suddenly created. ¬†I had my body running at full steam doing everything it could to bring me back to a resting state but I just didn’t have enough in me, sending me crashing, literally!

This is a bit of an extreme case, but every now and again we find ourselves in varying levels of this¬†situation! ¬†Maybe you’re not throwing up or passing out per se, but your body might be working overtime, depleting your energy stores and sending you into survival mode. A stressful week at work or at home, combined with lack of sleep, sends you to the gym to give ‘er guns in hopes of reducing that stress. ¬†If your body is improperly fueled and run down like mine was, you’re going to send it crashing. ¬†This is why pre-workout nutrition, proper rest and stress management are so important not only to our general health, but also to achieving the results we’re hoping for when we exercise!

Here are your take-aways to FEEL your BEST in any workout:

1) Rest up!  Especially the night before a workout you know is going to be pushing your upper limits.

2) Fuel up! Ensure you have something to eat prior to working out. ¬†If you’re working out early in the morning with little time between eating and exercise, choose simple carbohydrates like fruit, blended juices or smoothies. These foods are easy for your body to digest quickly and will provide you with the fuel you need. If you are working out later during the day, aim for a pre-workout meal 2-3 hours before working out including a serving of veggies, a serving of protein, a serving of carbohydrate and a small serving of healthy fat.

3) Lighten up! Make time for rest and rejuvenation throughout the day, this is quiet time for your body to slow down. It doesn’t have to be a long rest, even taking 5 minutes away from your desk, computer, cell phone, television, or whatever you’re doing can make an impact on your stress levels and cortisol release. ¬†Think simple things like stepping outside for a breath of fresh air, read a few pages in a book, mediate, look out the window, anything that takes you into la-la land and away from your current situation. ¬†You’ll be amazed at how refreshed you feel going back to whatever you’re doing.

Here’s to a week of keeping your food down and staying vertical at the gym!!! ūüôā

 

 

 

 

How to Stop Dreading Exercise and Start Loving it

Woman running
One of my good friends is a new Mom – at least I consider her to be so.¬† She’s got an almost 3 year old and an 8 month old.¬† She’s always been super active but with the challenge of chasing after two kids, keeping up with housework and making meals she has found this past year to be quite challenging when it came to her own personal health. ¬†(are you relating to her story yet??) Needless to say, she found herself hanging onto post-baby weight a lot longer than she wanted to and had lost track of her better nutrition habits.¬† In my opinion, my friend is beautiful inside and out, but we all know that feeling of not being able to fit into our clothes, feeling sluggish and run-down.¬† No one likes it, and no matter how you may appear to others, I believe that you have to be comfortable in your own skin and you need to feel good to be the best version of yourself!

 

So back to my friend, she decided to sign up for the fitness challenge going on at her local gym to help hold her accountable.¬† The contest is a point system based on how many classes you attend at the gym, before/after photos and of course weight/measurements. So far she’s doing fantastic and has lost 6lbs in just a few weeks!¬† I’ve been checking in on her on a weekly basis as I provided her with a few workouts and a basic meal plan to follow. This week I received really interesting feedback…

 

When I asked how her workouts were going she said she was doing really well but she had had a recent revelation.¬† When she looked at some of the other contestants, for whatever reason she decided that she wouldn’t come close to contending as a winner.¬† A little disheartening only a few weeks in, wouldn’t you agree?¬† Her chances, I would argue, are certainly debatable but that’s a discussion for another time ūüôā ¬†The important note here is her thought process, it went something like this:

 

“since I realized I’m not nearly good enough to win (the contest), I need to do things that are good for ME, not good for winning the contest”

 

So what did she do:

 

“I ‘gave up’ some points by not doing a boot camp and just ran.¬† But the run was so good for my soul, I was in a great mood after and I ran for an hour straight!”

 

WOW.¬† You can just hear she is beaming in her messages.¬† As an additional note, my girlfriend has always loved running, so just because the running doesn’t earn her as many ‘points’ should she really say no to a run that she’s in the mood for and do the class instead? The answer seems simple enough right?

 

How many of you actually enjoy working out?  Like really, truly, enjoy a good sweat?  I know we all groan and complain about how tough class can be or how sore we are the next day, but think deep down, do you actually enjoy the feeling of challenging your body?

 

I know this must sound strange coming from your ‘boot camp’ instructor…skipping boot camp???¬† But my message is this, you should ENJOY your workouts and it’s important to find what type of workouts bring you enjoyment!¬† Why spend the time exercising if it’s not something enjoyable or fun?¬† I know it’s not going to be fun every time (burpees anyone?) but for the most part, there should be something enjoyable about your workout that feeds your soul.¬† This is part of your ‘you’ time!¬† We all lead very busy lives, but our lives are meant to be lived abundantly ūüôā

 

All things considered, keep in mind that variety is still important and your week of workouts needs to include cardio, strength and flexibility.¬† However, remember to make time for the workouts that you do love, especially on the days when you’re not feeling as motivated to get moving….on those days, stick to your faves!

 

So my challenge to you this week, is to take a few minutes to figure out and write down a few things:

 

1) What do you love about exercise? (I know there’s something!)
2) What gets you truly excited about completing a circuit/workout/class (it can even be the coffee date afterward!)
3) If you could pick one physical activity that you feel completely invigorated after, what would that be? (think outside the box on this one)
4) Why do YOU exercise, why is exercise important to you? (hint: not why it’s good for you, search a little deeper than that)

 

Write all these down and keep them somewhere nearby, these things are your MOTIVATION for working out.¬† These are your “WHY’S” for wanting to achieve your goals.

 

So here’s to a great week of workouts…and enjoying the sweat it brings!