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Spinach for Popeye, Spinach for Me

On the way home from the gym late this evening, I noticed a beautiful full moon. And it occurred to me that strange things always seem to happen when a full moon is out: the JMU kiddos (go Dukes!) always tend to party a little harder, my dogs always seem to be a bit more restless, sirens tend to wail all night long (I hear them right now), and I always seem to feel a little bit more “puffy and bloated” than usual.

Ok, I’m totally making up that last one, but I promise the rest are true. While I’d like to convince myself that the pull of the Earth’s tides in correspondence with the full moon are also pulling my fat cells into overdrive, I’m pretty sure my feelings of “softness” are coming from a little too much indulgence over the Thanksgiving holiday. Not to mention that I did not end up working out as hard as normal/or as I had planned. No worries…a little time off is great for rest and muscle building, and bloat happens to the best of us. Good news is that it’s an easy fix. If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you know I eat really low carb six days of the week, and pick one day a week to have a little carb splurge. And by little, I mean I eat everything in sight. ;) It works well to replenish glycogen stores that are depleted during the week. Some people employ this same theory–called carb back-loading–except they splurge five to six days per week and eat low carb for one or two. The catch with back-loading is making sure that you lift very very heavy every day that you splurge. Also, the splurges are controlled to a small degree: you don’t eat carbs all day, just after training: You deplete glycogen during the day, lift ridiculously heavy in the evening, and then refuel at night. But I love back-loading for the one reason that it works around the holidays. I wanted to eat carbs for three days and I actually ate them for four. My five foot tall frame probably indulged a bit more than I should have and I didn’t do much lifting. Thus, I think I might have softened my look a bit. I won’t lie, I’m not perfect. I splurge on sweets–I love them–but I know I can also practice what I preach and fix the damage. So that’s what I’m going to do.

I thought I’d post my “fix-it plan” just in case anyone else might be looking for a few low-carb meal ideas that are easy to stick to and not too bad for taste. One of the ways to shed a little fat is to deplete glycogen stores by eating ultra low carb. The best way to do this is for an extended period of time. I typically refuel once per week to aid in muscle growth, but for a quick fix and a great way to re-start my plan, I’ll simply extend my six days to ten so that I’m prepping my body for fat loss. Would you dare to eat ultra low carb (30 grams or less) for ten full days? I’m planning on throwing a Thanksgiving/Christmas meal (I call it my Thanks-Mas dinner) on the 15th so I might even extend my low-carbness til then. Can I hold out for 17 days? And who dares to take this challenge with me?

What do I do? Steph’s Typical Low-Carb Day:

  • I skip breakfast but I drink probably 20 ounces or more of black coffee. Why skip breakfast? If you haven’t read the latest on skipping breakfast for fat loss, read it here: Skipping Breakfast. You can also find more information by clicking here: Dangerously Hardcore, as well as here: Carb-Backloading.
  • For lunch I think I’m going to switch back to an old standby: spinach, tuna, and almonds. I know, it’s incredibly boring but it works. Spinach is FULL of vitamins, fiber, minerals, etc. And just look at Popeye! Hello muscles! ;) And tuna is PACKED with protein. Usually over 26+ grams for a can. I get my good fats from almonds but my downfall is eating too many. I’ll be sure to count out a small handful to pack in my lunch. I think 14 almonds equals about 100 calories. Apple cider vinegar is what I use to pour over my spinach and tuna and plain mustard adds all the flavor I need. I know it’s nothing crazy, but I’m not about packing a crazy different lunch every day that takes hours of prep time. I mean, it’s 11:40 right now and I’d really like to get at least six hours of sleep tonight. Less, if I decide to do some intervals in the morning. (Is that still likely at this point?)
  • As a snack and pre-workout energy boost, I’ve created a shake that I ADORE. Call me crazy but again, it’s super simple: 1 cup plain (30 calorie and sugar free) almond milk, 1 scoop vanilla whey protein, and 1 scoop of Amazing Grass Supergreens (chocolate flavored). I love this concoction. It’s packed with vitamins and minerals, high in protein, low in sugar and carbs. This shake, coupled with a cup of coffee, is usually all the energy boost I need for a stellar workout.
  • For dinner, I used to struggle with this one. I’m at my HUNGRIEST at night. But lately I’ve found a meal that’s quick to prepare, tasty, and even filling too. I buy ground turkey, cook it up with low sodium taco seasoning, and have a heaping helping over top a steamer bag of veggies. I top the whole thing with medium (I like a kick!) organic salsa, and I try to cut back on the cheese when my will power holds strong. This is a great dish, and I had no idea how well taco meat mixes with brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and spinach. (I alternate between these veggies because they’re my favorite, super good for me, and when I like something I stick with it. I don’t change things very often.)
  • Some days (like today) I’m so busy I can get by with just this. Others, I need a little more. My go-to snacks for eating low carb are cottage cheese (I could eat cottage cheese three times a day if I let myself) and hard boiled eggs (dipped in a spicy sauce of some sort–usually mustard.) Again, neither are exciting but both are simple, quick, great for on the go, and high in protein, low in carbs.
While this will make up the bulk of my diet, there are a few REALLY important elements that I need to add–and too often forget about during a busy day. These are super important (did I just say that twice?!) and I–as well as all of us–need to remember these tips!
  • Get SLEEP! Ugh, I never get enough sleep. I’m running a website that’s brand new, working a full time job, and teaching gym classes on the side. Oh and WORKING OUT! Let’s not forget keeping a somewhat neat house, preparing for the holidays, taking care of three animals….sleep is the last thing on my to-do list, and the first thing to get neglected. (It’s now 11:51).
  • drink WATER. Most of my bodybuilding companions are pounding a gallon by the time they even get to the gym. Some days I do really well and some days I don’t. My goal is to get at least 96 oz. That’s about three water bottles for me. (A gallon is about 120 ounces.) Today I think I’ve had 64 plus 20 ounces coffee (I know, that doesn’t count), and some pumpkin spice hot tea. (I know, that doesn’t count either.) So I really need to step it up and make sure I hit my goal.
  • Take my VITAMINS. I’ve experimented with so many supplements and vitamins over the years that it’s a miracle I’ve narrowed down my list to my favorite go-to items: A multivitamin, fish oil, and glucosamine are probably my most important. I sometimes add D3 and a B complex if I can remember those, too. Now if I can just figure out a way to remember to take all of these each day, life would already be better.
  • Drink a POST WORKOUT SHAKE. Ok, this one isn’t that hard to remember, but I need to be better about it. Some days I just rush home from the gym and start dinner. I think I would actually eat less if I made myself a protein shake first. My shakes are also very simple: whey, ice, water, leucine (an amino acid) and some unsweetened cocoa powder. Simple. Effective. DO IT.
Workout Goals:
I workout every day, but it doesn’t mean I can’t set new goals for myself. Just yesterday I talked to one of my bodybuilder friends and he gave me about ten different exercise ideas to add to my routine. I spent about an hour or more today just reformatting my plan to squeeze in as much in as possible. I’m also DETERMINED to wake up at least 30 minutes earlier each day (it’s now midnight) so that I can do some fasted cardio. One of these days I want to do an article on the benefits of fasted cardio, but until then, just know it’s great for aiding in fat loss, and it’s in my plan. I also want to add more HIIT to my lifting plans…incorporate maybe 10-15 minutes of HIIT each day as my warm up to lifting. Making myself do HIIT more often will definitely help me see results.
If I can employ all these ideas and tips into my day, I know I’ll be well on my way to a leaner, fitter, tighter, ME. And isn’t that what we’re all here to find? I don’t just want to be STRONG, I want to be a FIGURE: a figure of success, a figure of power, and a figure of great, toned, well-developed muscles. Who’s in? Who’s accepting the STRONG FIGURE challenge?
Let us know! What’s your go-to meal? Give us some inspiration or some fun recipes in the comments section below.
Like this post?  Visit me over at Strong Figure. When it comes to health and fitness, this site is my baby.
PS: It’s now 12:20 and I’m officially off to bed. I’ll proofread in the morning. (After cardio?!)

Featured Image by SweetOnVeg

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“A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.” ― Roald Dahl.
I’ve been writing my whole life. I know nothing more, nothing different. My earliest writing memory was a poem that I wrote in the sixth grade, “The Story.” I knew at 13 years old that I loved to write, and I haven’t stopped writing since. Currently I write for blogs, for businesses, for professionals, and for my own soul. My passion is my pleasure, and I love the written word. Thank you for stopping by my site and for taking a tour of my small little world. I hope that you find all that you never knew you needed. Read More About Me

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