Daily Fit Tip – 9/17/17 – Why the Microwave is Your Best Friend for Healthy Eating

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I see it all the time. Someone wants to “clean up” their diet and get serious about losing weight but doesn’t know how to cook. So what do they do? They buy a recipe book or meal plan with complex recipes involving 15 ingredients and 17 elaborate steps. They go out to the grocery store and buy dozens of expensive, fresh ingredients. They spend 30-45 minutes preparing their first meal from the meal plan and it tastes amazing. They feel good. This is going to work. Time to start their fitness journey!

A week later they are back to eating bowl after bowl of cereal and pizza rolls.

What happened? So often we believe that in order to be serious about health and nutrition we have to be amazing cooks who slave over meal prep. But are you really going to eat veggies everyday if you have to spend 45 minutes roasting them in the oven? This is where the microwave comes in. There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying a steamable bag of veggies and popping it in the microwave for 5 minutes.

The microwave can really be your best friend if you are trying to lose weight because consistency and sustainability are way more important than optimality. And what’s more consistent and sustainable than convenience? Are you really going to find the time to prep and cook raw chicken every week for the rest of your life? It’s perfectly ok to buy frozen precooked grilled chicken and pop it in the microwave for two minutes. Is this the cheapest or tastiest way to prepare chicken? Certainly not. But it’s sure damn convenient. And when you’re fighting the temptation to throw those pizza rolls in the microwave because you don’t feel like spending 45 minutes cooking your family dinner – allowing yourself the convenience of microwaving chicken, veggies, etc. is perfectly fine. 

Just remember, the perfect is the enemy of the good. It’s better to do something 80% optimally for ten years than to crash and burn over and over trying to do something 99% optimally.

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The Myth of Bland Chicken

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So often in the fitness world people talk about the “bodybuilder diet” which apparenty consists of broccoli, rice, and “bland chicken”. The emphasis is always on bland. As in, if you want to be maximally lean and ripped you need to sacrifice your taste buds to the god of gainz. The idea that bodybuilders are just forcing horrible tasting food down their gullets is repeated over and over. It feeds into the myth that to eat “clean” means to sacrifice flavor in favor of optimal health – that eating “clean” is a “sacrifice” that requires vast amounts of willpower. The “bland chicken” myth also makes it sound like seasonings are somehow not conducive to the goals of leanness, muscle gain, or health in general. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

There are two main problems with the “bland chicken” myth. First, most bland chicken is simply overcooked. Chicken has a narrow range of acceptable temperatures that are optimal in terms of texture. You want it to be around 160-165 degrees F. Too little and it’s undercooked – too much over that and the chewy texture translates into the perception of “blandness”. I don’t care how much seasoning you put on there if you have to chew it for 60 seconds to get it down you’re not going to enjoy it. Furthermore, keep in mind that if you take the chicken out of the oven at 165 degrees it’s going to keep cooking in its own juices for another 5 minutes bringing the temperature higher than 165 and thus out of the optimal texture range.

Second, most bland chicken is underseasoned. More specifically, most bland chicken is undersalted.

Why? Because of another pervasive myth in the fitness/health world: salt is bad and we need to limit our intake of salt. Very very few people have a legitimate medical condition that requires limiting salt intake. For everyone else, I would wager they are not consuming enough salt. Chicken is a low-fat meat (“lean protein”) and because of that missing fat, needs to be heavily seasoned with salt. Most people’s concept of “liberal salting” is just a small pinch. Naw. You need to smother your chicken in salt. Every available square inch of exposed surface needs to be salted. Your taste buds will thank you. Kosher salt is the best for sprinkling because it disperses evenly.

So next time you hear someone talking about “bland chicken” keep in mind that the only thing bland about chicken is your bland cooking method, either overcooking it or underseasoning it. Salt is your friend! Learn to love salt! Our brains were designed to crave salt and it is extremely tasty to normal humans. Use this to your advantage and turn boring, bland “clean” foods like veggies and chicken into delicious foods that are not a sacrifice to eat.

I want to add a bonus tip: if you want to get the protein-benefits of eating chicken but don’t want to deal with the hassle of cooking raw meat then I highly suggest the more expensive but super convenient option of buying frozen pre-cooked grilled chicken at your supermarket. Walmart and Aldi both have good options (I love the Aldi ones the most). Make sure it’s not breaded (just check the carb content – should be zero).

This week’s progress – May 19, 2017

This week has been really, surprisingly good. Almost too good?

Stats last Friday:
– 171 lbs

-BF% on Omron monitor: 22.7%

Stats this morning:

-164.8 lbs

-BF% on Omron monitor: 22%

That’s a pretty large difference. Not sure what the explanation is other than losing water weight since according to My Fitness Pal I should be losing only about 2 lbs of fat a week at 1540 calories a day. My sodium intake has been fluctuating a lot but otherwise my diet this week was super consistent – I chalk it up to the “whoosh effect“.

Macros: 38%P / 41%F / 21% C

Average daily sugar intake: 27g

I have also been really good at hitting my caloric number daily. I strive for 1540 exactly instead of 1000 one day and 2000 the next day. I feel like the more consistent I am at hitting 1540 the better my results. But if I go over on work-out days it’s not a big deal because I know I am burning a good amount of calories. I am not eating back any of my calories burnt from exercise.

My lifts in the gym have been pretty good. Numbers:

Squat: 175×5

Bench: 95×5

Deadlift: 175 x 5

These are all improvements over last week.

Overall my energy is good. I use intermittent fasting to control my satiety i.e. if I compress my eating window mainly to the afternoon/evening 1540 calories with my macros leaves me usually feeling stuffed by the time I go to bed. The only time I’m hungry is when I’m fasting the morning but that’s to be expected. It’s amazing what chicken breast and veggies can do to satiate you – a 99g chicken breast fillet is 100 calories yet leaves me really satisfied especially if I have it with some ranch. Add in 150 calories of veggies in microwaveable steam-fresh bags and that’s a great meal to satisfy me. In contrast, my gf ate a 750 calorie mini-pizza yesterday but afterwards told me she was still hungry (not implying my gf is unhealthy – far from it – she just isn’t as strict with her diet as me because she has different aesthetic goals atm).

My fitness and nutrition regime – April 2017

Right now my goal is to lose body fat (BF%) while either keeping my muscle mass the same or slightly growing it. At 5’10 my current weight is ~173 lbs and BF% ~25%. My waist at its widest is around 38 inches.

I am going to attempt to eat relatively low carb high protein 6 days a week and have a “cheat-day” on Saturday. I’m shooting for at least 150g of protein a day. My maintenance is probably around ~2500kcal and I’m cutting at around 1800kcal. On the cheat day I don’t count calories. Otherwise I’m counting with My Fitness Pal and strictly weighing everything out. No guessing. No estimating. If I can’t weigh it or calculate precisely, I don’t eat it (except on cheat day).

I’m lifting weights probably 4 times a week with a primary focus on legs and glutes. I squat pretty much every time I go to the gym. I’m still discovering my maxes. So far my PR for squat in my new hormonal configuration is 170. It’s hard to gain on a cut though. I’m hoping the carb cycling will help with gains and bring me closer to a recomp than a true cut.

I’m also spending a lot of time doing low intensity cardio on my at-home exercise bike. I have also recently discovered kettlebell swings and have incorporated them into my workout days. I’m contemplating doing a light set of 25lbs kettlebell swings daily for metabolism and recomp purposes but not sure if that would interfere with my recovery. I’ve seen different opinions about daily kettlebell swings depending on your goals and fitness level.

I would love to lose about 20 lbs of fat from my stomach area, increase my legs and glutes in size, and lower my BF% to reveal abs better. I have no idea what my body will look like once this mini-transformation is over. But I’m excited. I will be posting before and after pictures once I am happy with my progress, probably in like 3 months.

My aspirations for being a personal trainer are pushing me harder to get in the best shape of my life – who would want to work with a personal trainer who cannot even transform themselves? If you cannot even transform yourself where all decisions are 100% in your control – how can you expect others to want you to transform them as well? The probably is I have no guarantee my methods are going to work. Hopefully I will be able to adjust as needed as I progress. I will keep this blog updated.

New Beginnings

I’ve been blogging about philosophy, psychology, and gender for a long time and I figured it was time for me to start a health and fitness blog. The reason I am creating a whole new blog for this is that it can be difficult to talk about these things in modern day America. There is a tremendous amount of collective social anxiety surrounding health, obesity, and fitness. There is so much information out there, much of it garbage, that it can be difficult to sort through the BS and find reliable facts and science relating to something so incredibly complex as human health. There is also increasing awareness of the dangers and negatives of diet culture and how that impacts people, especially women and young girls.

With all the intense pressure of the diet culture, talking about weight, health, and fitness can be socially touchy. Many people don’t want to discuss uncomfortable truths and face the reality of their decisions and lifestyle.

But I believe firmly that while it is pointless to be insensitive and cruel the growing rates of obesity necessitate an evidence-based approach to tackling our nation’s health problems. I believe that there are too many half-truths and oversimplications out there. For example, calories: do they matter? Should we count them? Is “calories in, calories out” true? Everyone seems to have their own opinion. This blog will hopefully sort fact from faction as well as grapple with the tough philosophical problems these issues raise such as: what does it mean to live a good life? Is being healthy an essential part of the good life?

In addition to covering the science and philosophy of fitness, this blog will also be a diary of my own fitness journey as I work to achieve my own fitness and body composition goals.