One of the ways we grow as a couple and as individuals is via the little (and sometimes not so little) challenges we put ourselves up to. Whenever we offhandedly mention that we’re pursuing one, we’re surprised by how intrigued people are. So, because we’re gotten pretty good about sticking to a biggie every month, we’re going to provide some of the deets right here via a monthly recap post. Below, we’ll get into March’s challenge, which focused on nutrition.
First off. How did we choose a nutrition challenge for March?
Two things. We try to align a monthly challenge with each of our pillars once a year. Nutrition is one of those pillars, so we've gotta hit it at some point. Aaaand we have another half marathon coming up next month – er, next week, to be exact – making March the perfect time to get a little hardcore on the food front.
Because we're health-minded guys anyhow (and because medical insurance is expensive when you're doin' it for yourself), we normally operate with a solid nutrition plan. While it's heavy on the healthy stuff, our "regular" plan also allows for plenty of indulgences.
Here's the basic frame we usually operate with:
Breakfast: 90% of the time we have oatmeal with fruit (please contain your excitement). Yea, we go a little carb heavy because – as guys who exercise every day – we need a little energy action.
Post-Workout: Always a smoothie made up of a selection of fruit, soy milk, protein powder, and ice. Oh, and – since we've recently scaled back lunch (see below) – we toss in some plain greek yogurt. Our Vitamix is our most treasured kitchen item. Get one (<---- That is a 100% unsponsored recommendation).
Lunch: We've recently switched this up. Since we have two solid, filling smoothies a day, we now have a high-protein meal-replacement bar. Simple. No fuss. Easy to travel with, too, if we want to go that route. Lately, we've taken to the Premier Protein brand.
Snack: Mid-afternoon, we whip out the Vitamix again. We follow the recipe above and will oftentimes add some greens – kale and/or spinach work well. Don't crinkle your face; it's delicious.
Dinner: We have about 10 "on track" meals that we rotate between. Many of them are salads (cuz we make a mean one). We also bust out a killer stir fry and a you'd-never-know-it's-vegan burrito (with butternut squash puree). The key for us? We go heavy on greens but don't refrain from a modest carb and a bit of fat. Here's a shot of one of our favorites: Greek salad. We make the pita and dressing ourselves.
Dessert: We love us some sweets so rarely refrain from dessert. We like breaking open a bar of, for example, Theo chocolate. It's made right here in Seattle. And, in many cases, vegan. We are also easily swayed by a good chocolate chip cookie. Actually, Caanan makes the best. Bribe him to make you some. You won't regret it.
That's the basic plan.
A few other things:
–Normally, we try to refrain from going off plan in more then one area on any given day. So, for instance, if we have grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner, we'll try to keep everything else intact. In hardcore mode, we try to minimize the amount we go off plan period.
–We try to look at the week ahead to note when we are doing something special, seeing friends, etc.; we then plan how we will offset any food indulgences that may accompany those things. It can be tough, but we're always wise to not get too crazy with it. Indulgences need to happen. We're not preparing for the Olympics – just trying to stay healthy.
–Regarding fitness... Normally, we run five days a week and hit the gym once. When we're in hardcore mode (like these three weeks), we add in a second day at the gym, run on four, and maintain a day off.
– We're 100% vegetarian at home. When in Seattle, we eat at home 90% of the time. We never cook with meat. On the road – or when we eat out – we're flexible.
– We eat dinner early whenever we can. It's one of the smartest shifts we've ever made.
– We try to refrain from caloric liquids. The exceptions? Coffee (duh, Seattle) and alcohol. We don't go beyond a drink a day unless we're out with friends, etc.
– A "cheat" day is smart. This often happens on an NVR cheat day:
Because we're pretty disciplined in Seattle, we've employed a general set of basic rules regarding nutrition while traveling. Just this week, we've formalized that a bit and are eager to try it out when we hit the road next week. Look for details on that in future post.
Some tips for you:
– Have some kind of nutrition plan. Period. Even if it's not linked to fitness or losing/gaining weight. You'll feel better.
– Base your basic structure on your caloric needs (as we did) given your goal. Carbs, fat, and protein are all good. Figure out the mix that's right for you.
– Add individualized parameters to the mix. No soda, meatless monday, no eating after 7, no eating out of the bag, etc.
– If you are extremely hungry, you are on the wrong plan and need to go back to the drawing board. Even if you're trying to lose weight, there are a lot of low calorie foods that you can eat a ton of (like vegetables).
– Leave lots of room for life to happen. Strive to create a "plan for life" and not something that's going to make you bonkers. For example, a good deal of our life involves being social / eating in situations we can't control (especially if we are, say, on a media trip). Our plan does not fight that reality. Rather, it accounts for it and, in the end, balances it out.
Our upcoming challenge, for April, is all about complaining. Or, rather, not complaining. Should be interesting!