Archive for the ‘Nutrition’ Category

We’re well into Fall and you know what that means!  It’s slow cooker season.  I’m not kidding when I tell you that the slow cooker is a fit girl’s best friend.  I absolutely love that fact that I can throw some ingredients into it at some point during the morning, cover, and walk away.  When I get home from work, errands, picking up the kids, etc., dinner is there just waiting for me.  The time between picking the kids up from school and their bedtime is absolute chaos in my house.  Snacks, homework, dinner, showers, reading, dishes, and everything else that didn’t get done that day is crammed into a block of a few hours.  The last thing I want to worry about is having a lot of prep work for dinner.

Over the course of a few blogs, I’m going to share some of my favorite slow cooker recipes but I’ll start with one of the easiest and tastiest!  Slow cooker pulled pork.  Ok, who doesn’t love pulled pork??  If you answered “me”, stop reading and go seek help (J/K of course)!

Anyway, you need 3 ingredients…that’s it!

  • 1-2 extra lean pork tenderloins
  • Natural (no sugar added) applesauce
  • BBQ Sauce of your choice – read labels here because many brands are loaded with extra sugar.  You can even use one of those “no calorie” sauces like from Walden Farms (but, since I’m not prepping for anything at the moment, I prefer something a little thicker)

Spray your slow cooker with a light layer of cooking spray (I use Olive Oil Pam).  Place the pork in the center (for one) or next to each other with a small space between (for two).  Cover the pork with a layer of applesauce.  Layer the BBQ sauce over the applesauce carefully.  Cover and cook on low for about 6 hours.  Use a meat thermometer to make sure it’s fully cooked through.  Once the pork is done, you can remove it from the slow cooker and use a fork to shred it.  The beauty here is you can add as little or as much “sauce” as you want.  Make a sandwich or eat as is!

I’m including a “before” and “after” picture so that you can have a look.  Please, for the love of God, ignore the fact that the before picture looks like 2 large tu—….oh, nevermind…just keep the comments clean please 😉


Calories DO Count!

Posted: November 5, 2014 in Fitness, Nutrition
Tags: , ,

I had a conversation with an individual just the other day.  We were discussing nutrition and fat loss.  I asked her how many calories per day she was eating.  She had no idea.  Her answer was “Well, I’m really good.  I eat really healthy and I’ve just started gluten-free” (Insert head smack here).  My response was “Ok, but how MUCH food do you eat?  Do you have a general idea of how many calories you’re taking in?”.  *Crickets*  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this same conversation.

My point here is not to make fun of any particular dieting scheme.  I have nothing against gluten-free, dairy-free, Paleo, etc. etc. etc.  My personal philosophy is to not adhere to one particular “diet plan”.  I don’t believe there is a need to cut anything out unless you have an intolerance or sensitivity to it.  Putting that aside, my point is CALORIES DO COUNT!

I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but even if you eat too much healthy food, you are going to gain weight.  I used to be an incessant calorie counter – weighing, measuring, etc. down to the last gram.  It can certainly be a tedious task, but I do recommend it to people that have no idea about portion size.  I’m not saying that you need to do it forever, but at least for a few weeks until you get the hang of “eye-balling” proper portion size.  If you enjoy counting calories or tracking macros, go for it!  It certainly does work and it’s something I’ll do when I’m in contest prep mode.

Now, for the other side of things…how the heck do you know how much you’re burning while exercising?  You can’t go by the calorie count on machines when doing cardio because I have found that more often than not, they OVERestimate your calorie burn.  There are several formulas that you can look up to get an estimate but remember, it is just an estimate.  As for weight-training, calories burned of course are going to depend on your intensity, duration of workout, whether or not you’re doing circuit training, and several other factors.  Again, you can get an estimate by searching online.  Here’s what I do:  I’ve invested in a heart rate monitor (one with a chest strap for continuous monitoring).  This will be a bit more accurate for cardio exercise versus resistance training but I find that it works VERY well.  The chest strap can take a little getting used to but I think it’s worth it.  I know there are newer technologies out there that don’t require a chest strap, but I haven’t gotten the chance to test any of those out.

If you don’t have or want to use a heart rate monitor, you can get an estimate of your total calorie burn including exercise using this calculator:    Follow the plan for a few weeks and assess…losing weight?  Great!  Keep going…  Not losing weight?  That’s ok, you may need to re-adjust your calories, pay closer attention to your portion sizes, etc.

This post is just a reminder…when in doubt, go back to the basics.  Calories in, calories out!  It does matter!  This may need to be another post but…don’t forget, you need to make sure you’re eating enough to support the amount of exercise you’re doing…sometimes the problem is the opposite, not eating enough!

I think it’s about time I got back to posting recipes.  I was in the mood for a little something with an Asian flair (again…lol) but I needed it to be lower in carbs (I’m currently cycling my carbs – see my previous post ) so that meant no rice for tonight.  I remembered a favorite appetizer when dining out and figured I’d put my healthier spin on it.  So, for tonight’s dinner, I made chicken lettuce wraps with peanut sauce.


I cooked in bulk so I’m guessing I made about 3 pounds of chicken altogether so you can certainly cut this recipe in half if you’re making a much smaller batch:


3 lb. Chicken Tenderloins cut into small pieces


1/8 cup Liquid Aminos or Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce

1/8 cup Roasted Garlic Flavored Rice Vinegar

1/8 cup Honey

1/8 cup Unsweetened Almond Milk (I was out of Coconut Milk but you can use that too)


1 TBSP Natural Peanut Butter (Creamy)

Truvia or Stevia to taste (I used approx 2 tsp) – just to take a little bit of the bitterness away from the rice vinegar.  Since this is a no-cook sauce, you can certainly taste and alter it prior to adding it to the chicken.


In a pan over medium heat, add 1 TBSP of Toasted Sesame Oil, chicken, black pepper, garlic, and ginger (I almost never measure these ingredients – I tend to sprinkle them on to taste).  Cook the chicken until it is done.

While the chicken is cooking, add the sauce ingredients to a measuring cup and mix thoroughly.  After mixing, add enough water to fill the measuring cup to the 1 cup mark.

When the chicken is done cooking, add the sauce and simmer until it reduces a bit (about 5-10 minutes).

Wash several large pieces of Romaine Lettuce and pat dry.  Place the chicken on top of the lettuce, wrap up, and enjoy!  Just make sure to have plenty of napkins ready – I don’t know about you, but I’m a total slob when I eat these!


Who doesn’t love a good cheat meal?  I know I do!  Although it can be something to look forward to when you’re in the middle of a diet or weight loss program, it can easily get you into a lot of trouble.  I hate to break it to you, but cheat meals aren’t necessary for everyone.  If you have quite a bit of weight to lose or if you’re coming off a “bulk”, “building phase”, or even maintenance, there really is no physiological reason for you to have a cheat meal.  But, in this stage of the game, there certainly is a mental benefit.  Starting a diet is hard…maintaining it is even harder.  Having a favorite meal to look forward to or a trip to a restaurant can certainly help you get through the diet grind.  A cheat meal or “reefed” can be much more important physiologically if you’ve been in a deficit for a long time or you’re extremely lean (but I’ll leave that for another blog).

Ok, so here’s the issue.  If you’ve spent all week with your diet on point, with a reasonable deficit, one tremendous meal can 100% erase your entire week…especially if you’re on the smaller side (sorry ladies).  I’ll admit, I hate counting calories but as I’ve said before, calories do count.  I’ve been trying to do a slow cut for a couple of weeks now.  My daily deficit is set around 300-400 calories, so my weekly deficit should be 2100-2800 calories if I do it right.  This should equate to just over 1/2 pound of weight loss per week (which is on the slower side, but I have found that I maintain much more lean mass when I aim for under 1 lb/week of weight loss).  So, what happens if I go out to eat with my family and have a cheat meal of 2 slices of pizza and 2 glasses of wine?  Depending on the pizza and the type of wine, that can add up to almost 1000 calories!  Subtract that from my weekly deficit and it has significantly slowed or even halted my fat loss…not good!

Here’s where planning can help out.  I recommend that you don’t necessarily look at your calories on a daily basis, but on a weekly basis.  This is where technology can be a huge help.  Websites and apps like My Fitness Pal or Lose It! can help you track your input.  You can look back over the course of the week and see how you did.  If you hit your goal everyday (meaning you didn’t go over or under your calorie/macro goal), I wouldn’t recommend having a cheat meal of 1000 calories.  On the other hand, if you’ve been slightly under your goal each day of the week, you have some “free” calories to play with.  For example, if I were under 100 calories each day of the week for 6 days in a row, I have about 600 extra calories to play with on a night out with my family.  So, I can either have the pizza OR the wine and still be on track for my estimated weekly weight loss.  Win!

This isn’t to make you completely crazy with numbers…but do try to have a decent estimate if you don’t keep track.  If you know you’ve been under your goal (or if you managed to squeeze in extra workouts during the week), it’s probably safe to say you can give yourself a reasonable treat!

With all the buzz about the latest fitness and nutrition trends and each one promising the best/fastest/easiest results, how do we go about figuring it all out.  There are so many eating “camps” out there, how do we choose what is right for us?  IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros or Flexible Dieting), IF (Intermittent Fasting), and the good old CE (Clean Eating) are just some of the big ones I come across all the time.  Which one do I promote?  All of them…

Our lives are difficult enough without throwing extra “rules” into the mix.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not bashing any program.  I’m just into simplifying things.  Do I track my macros?  More or less, yes.  Do I eat foods (or non-foods in some cases) that are considered unhealthy?  You bet I do!  Are 95+% of my meals considered “clean”?  Absolutely!  Have I skipped breakfast to save my calories for the end of the night (knowing that I had an event that was certain to include foods I don’t normally eat)?  Definitely… (Disclaimer:  I pay much closer attention to my numbers during the weeks of contest prep).

The best plan for obtaining proper nutrition is the one (or ones) that you can comfortably stick to and that will fit into your lifestyle.  I’ve read the information and grasp all the concepts of these plans, but I will not freak out if my macros are a tad bit off for the day (if they are reasonably close and my caloric intake is reasonably close to what my plan is, I’m happy).  I won’t necessarily wait until the clock reads 11:00 on the dot to eat my first meal.  If I’m starving at 10:31, I’m going to eat knowing that if I wait too much longer, I’m more likely to eat way more than I originally planned.  Yet, I always take into consideration the QUALITY and QUANTITY of my food.  Yes, calories DO matter.  If you eat too much clean food, you’re going to gain weight.  If you eat nothing but processed food but your calories are lower than you expend, you’re going to lose weight (Though I can’t guarantee that you will look or feel great).

Find what works for you!  If you need the structure of eating every 2-3 hours, go ahead!  If you want to practice IF so that you can have larger meals, do it!  I’ve probably tried a little bit of every plan and I will use bits and pieces from each one of them on any given day.  The vast majority of my meals are healthy whole foods and yours should be too.  Just remember not to get too caught up in all the “rules”.

Well, I’m tired of 2 things:  I’m tired of winter and all this snow and I’m tired of my winter “fluff”!  Although I don’t have any specific competition plans yet, I’m at that point where it is time to shift gears.  I love being able to eat a ton of food and I love feeling super strong in the gym.  What I DON’T love is not fitting into my clothes…now don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t consider myself “fat” by any means but it’s time to drop a bit of fluff in preparation for the warmer months (I think they’re coming, I hope they’re coming).

I’m going to document my journey for several reasons:  To keep me accountable, to fill you guys in on what my personal fat loss plans look like and how they can change from week to week/month to month, and to remind myself on tough days why I “do what I do”.

So, here goes.  I will call today my official start:  Day 1.  So, what do I do on Day 1?  Nothing too different than I do any other day except build a small calorie deficit into my plan and work a bit of cardio in.  So, today, I am being a bit more conscious of certain food choices, I won’t always “eat when I’m hungry”, and I will drop about 200-300 calories from my daily plan.  That’s about it; nothing too exciting and nothing too drastic.  Although it isn’t necessary to eat a certain number of meals, I like to eat more frequent meals when I’m trying to lose fat.  I won’t cut any food groups, I won’t drastically drop my carbs, and I won’t do more than 20-30 minutes of cardio at a time.  I’ll follow a plan for about 2 weeks before making any major changes…my rule of thumb, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

I’m starting this journey at 130 pounds.  I don’t generally weigh myself or do body-fat measurements during my “building season”.  I just concentrate on my strength, how I look in the mirror, and how I am feeling overall.  I will take more measurements this week so that I have some starting numbers.

My supplement stack will also change at this point.  For now, I have recently added Top Secret Nutrition’s Probiotic Weight Loss product twice a day.  2 things I’ve noticed right off the bat with taking this product:  a moderate suppression of my appetite and overall less bloating.  I will keep you updated on all my supplements, training, and diet changes as I progress.

Ready, set, go!

Hey guys and girls…well, the mad baker is at it again.  Last week I made some protein brownies using Top Secret Nutrition’s 100% Whey in Chocolate and they were pretty good.  But, I felt the need to tweak the recipe just a bit to get them a little more moist.  So, I gave it another go tonight and think I came up with one that was pretty darn good.  So, here goes:


  • 1/2 cup oat flour (you can grind up oatmeal – just make sure you measure AFTER grinding)
  • 3 scoops Top Secret Nutrition 100% Whey, chocolate
  • 3 TBSP Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup stevia, splenda, or truvia (I used truvia in my recipe)
  • 4 oz unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1/4 cup liquid egg whites
  • 1/8 cup Walden Farms Zero Sugar/Zero Calorie chocolate syrup

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9 x 9 baking pan with Pam baking spray.

Combine all dry ingredients first, then add wet ingredients and mix well.  Add the batter to the pan and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes until done (toothpick or knife comes out clean).  Check first around 20 minutes and then every 2 minutes after…do not overcook!  Cool for about 10 minutes, cut into 9 even squares (or 9 ridiculously uneven squares if you’re me) and enjoy!

Here is the nutritional breakdown per brownie:

  • Calories:  101 (darn that single calorie!)
  • Protein: 12 grams
  • Carbs: 8 grams (only 2 sugar/2 fiber)
  • Fat:  3 grams

Optional:  add crushed walnuts or anything else your heart desires (just don’t forget to add those calories in if you’re keeping track).  Hope you enjoy them!


Posted: February 5, 2014 in Fitness, Nutrition
Tags: , ,

It’s about that time again…cutting season.  Spring is approaching (Dear God I hope so because I don’t think I can stand any more single digit temperatures or any more snow!).  Ok, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I’m going to write a little post on my thoughts about carb-cycling for any of you that are interested…wink, wink (you know who you are! ;-))

Carb-cycling:  What is it?  Who is it for?  How do I implement it?

Carb-cycling at the basic level is rotating your carb intake each day to include low carb, moderate carb, and high carb days.  Just like any other meal plan, there are countless ways to do it.  You can have 5 low carb days and 2 high carb days or 2 low, 3 medium, and 2 high carb days…and so on…At this stage, I’m usually consuming 6 meals per day but you can use this with any meal frequency plan.  This type of “zig-zag” carbohydrate intake helps to fuel your system, aid in fat loss, and help preserve muscle.  I’m not going to get into the scientific aspect of it (you can google it and read all the details you want).  My purpose is to share my insight on when and how to use this approach (and how I’ve successfully used it in the past).

So, who is it for and how do I do it?  I personally think that carb-cycling is the most beneficial when used to break a plateau in a fat-loss program or for the final few weeks of contest dieting.  This is where I found the most benefit.  Anyone can use it at any time, but I like to “save” it when I need a little kick-start to my fat loss program.  As I’ve said before, slow and steady wins the race when it comes to fat loss.  I personally believe that one should follow a balanced program of adequate protein, carbs, and fat as long as it is working for you (even if it is slower than you like!).  If you think you have quite a bit of fat to lose, wait to add carb-cycling.  If you’re near your goal and need a jump-start, give it a go.

The dreaded plateau…yes, we’ve all been there.  You’re doing everything right:  not missing your workouts, nutrition is on point, you’re getting adequate rest, and using smart supplementation.  Instead of adding ridiculous amounts of cardio or dropping calories too low, here is where I’ll start to implement a carb-cycling approach.  I prefer the 2 low, 3 moderate, and 2 high carb days when starting out.  I will generally reserve the higher carb days for intense training days (legs or back) and try to keep my carb intake higher around my training times (before and after my workouts).  Again, this is IN GENERAL!  I have eaten carbs at different times (eeek…even before bed!) – you have to find what is going to fit your training schedule and lifestyle (i.e.  if you train later in the afternoon or at night, eating carbs late at night is completely fine IMHO).

Is there a specific time I should do this for?  Maybe…(helpful, aren’t I?  ;-))  Again, a general time frame of as little as 2-3 weeks, several months, or more.  It all depends on what your goals are.  You can’t really tell if something is working unless you do it for at least 2 weeks.  So, if you’ve hit a plateau and want to give it a try, aim to do it for at least 2 weeks to see if it is working.  If not, change the variables, switch out a higher carb day for an additional low or medium one.  Just don’t change too many variables at once.

In terms of how long to use it for, think “big picture”…is this a sustainable way of eating for you?  I’ll be honest, I HATE low carb days…I turn into a cranky idiot (now, where did I put those car keys….oh yeah, they’re in my hand….ahem…).  I also find that if I do too many low carb days for too long, I start to lose muscle.  So personally, if I’m cycling with 3 or more low carb days per week, I’ll maintain that for no longer than 4 weeks.  If I’m following a general plan according to training (high carbs on brutal training days, moderate carbs on less intense days, and lower carb on rest or cardio days) I can follow it longer-term.

There you have it…carb-cycling is just another tool that you can use on your journey to your ideal physique.  If you have any questions, please feel free to add them in the comments or hit me up on my FB page (!

The end of 2013 was one hell of a roller-coaster for me and my family.  The rush of the holidays on top of  everyday life can certainly wear one down.  But that is small beans compared to what was to come.  On Christmas night, in one sudden moment, I lost my mom.  She had been ill for awhile but this was completely unexpected.  Several days after the funeral, my dad landed in the hospital for almost a week.  The last couple of weeks have been one blurred nightmare.

This has certainly been a serious wake-up call.  In an instant, it can all be changed forever.

Health – something we certainly don’t think too much about until we don’t have it.  I don’t care who you are or how much money you make, if you don’t have your health, you’ve got nothing.  If you follow my blogs or my facebook page regularly, you’re most likely into some facet of fitness.  So, good for you!  We all need to take good care of ourselves to the best of our abilities.  There are many things that are under our control and some that aren’t.  Exercise, food choices, sleep, smoking, alcohol use, etc. – we can all make conscious choices regarding these.  We can’t change our genes or family history of certain diseases but we can choose to live our lives to minimize the effects.

I am not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions.  I know it’s the start of a new year, but why do we have to wait until January 1st to make a positive change in our lives?  That aside, I am going to work to make goals for 2014 regarding health not just physique goals or competition goals.  Being a mom, I am often putting my own needs on the back burner to take care of my kids.  But, what good would I be if I wasn’t healthy?  I plan to catch up on any medical stuff I may have set aside to make sure I’m as good on the inside as I am on the outside!

So, I challenge you to do the same.  Keep on top of your health as much as you keep on top of your workouts or meal prep.  Try to quit a nagging bad habit if you have one, drop the weight that’s been plaguing you, get more sleep, get off the computer and go workout (but finish reading this first! ;-)), or whatever else will positively influence your health.  Let’s make 2014 one hell of a healthy year!

Eggnog Protein Shake

Posted: December 23, 2013 in Nutrition, Supplements
Tags: , ,

Hey Guys and Girls!  It’s going to be a crazy week with all of the holiday festivities so I’m going to keep this one simple.  If you’re like me, you’re scrambling to get all of the last minute details finished.  I’m hosting Christmas Eve dinner, I have to finish wrapping the tons of hidden presents for my girls (who are now off from school for two weeks….aaaahhhh!), and I have to make sure that they don’t make a complete mess of the house or kill each other before the guests arrive.  Not only that, my oldest daughter’s birthday is 4 days AFTER Christmas so I’ll be hosting another party then….

So, in honor of the holidays, I decided to make an Eggnog Protein Shake for breakfast today.  Here goes:


  • 1 cup Liquid Egg Whites (please be sure to use pasteurized egg whites!)
  • 1/2 cup Vanilla Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • 1/4 cup 0% Greek Yogurt (my favorite is Fage)
  • 1 scoop Top Secret Nutrition 100% Whey in Vanilla
  • The amounts of the following ingredients I’ll leave up to you (some like things a bit more “spicy” than others).  I prefer a healthy dose of the following:  cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, Butter Buds (or a pinch of another butter substitute of your choice).
  • Add several ice cubes and all the above ingredients to a blender and serve sprinkled with additional spices and cinnamon stick (if you want it pretty).

The recipe as stated is approx 300 calories, 8 grams carbs, 4 grams fat, and 52 grams protein.  You can either drink the whole thing or split it into 2 servings of 150 calories each.  As an aside, I’m not going to tell you NOT to add anything else to this (hint, hint :-)) so that option is completely up to you!

Hope you enjoy it!  Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!