Sunday, April 27, 2014

My Ultimate Reset, Part 1

Today I completed the first phase of Beachbody's Ultimate Reset, a program for detoxing, strengthening immunity, improving digestion and resetting metabolism. This program is 21 days and is divided into 3 phases: Reclaim, Release and Restore.

During the Reclaim stage you follow a menu plan that weans you off of meat and dairy, which are acidic and stress your digestive system. The supplements in this stage are Optimize (enzymes, which are necessary for every bodily function), Alkalinize for normalizing the body's pH balance, Soothe (includes aloe and curcumin) for reducing inflammation, and Mineralize (Himalayan pink salt) which is added to distilled water--the only beverage allowed. Once this phase is complete, the body is primed, balanced and strengthened on a cellular level and ready for the next phase of releasing accumulated toxins.

During the entire 3 weeks of the Reset, there is no strenuous exercise. The focus is internal. Daily walking, stretching, gentle yoga or Tai Cheng are encouraged.

Since I was already 90% vegan, I thought Phase 1 would be easy. What I didn't take into account was my coffee habit. The first few days were hellish as I went through caffeine withdrawal. I enjoyed almost all of the food, though, except for one thing.

Day 1 I did Tai Cheng in the morning. After lunch I felt super tired. I slept about 90 minutes on the sofa and when I woke up I had a horrid headache. I felt like my brains were going to explode through my eyeballs! The headache did not let up all evening and I was very tired.  I turned in early.

Day 2 I woke up with that darn headache. I had my regular chiropractor visit, and as suspected, my neck and back were all wonky from sleeping in a hotel the whole week before and then my snooze on the sofa. (I have severe neck issues, btw--the kind that only surgery can fix). The adjustment helped a bit, but my head was not right all day. I cheated on the exercise rule and went mountain biking, but I didn't feel 100% on my bike and actually walked a short way on an uphill. (I'm usually a climber) By the time evening rolled around I had developed body aches, mostly from the waist down. My hips and low back and thighs were all sore, but not the post-workout kind of sore. More like the I'm dying from the flu kind of sore.

Day 3 I had a HORRIBLE night. I woke at 2 a.m. with such horrible pain. I couldn't find a comfortable position. My lower back and legs and hips were trying to kill me. At 3:15 I stripped and got in the jacuzzi. I did deep breathing exercises. I drank 2 big glasses of my mineralized water. I got relief for about 15 minutes. I went on the reset boards someone suggested magnesium. Ding! I remembered that magnesium makes you sleepy, and I also remembered that we have melatonin. I took both. It was about 5 a.m. when I finally dozed off. The alarm rang at 6:30. Fail. I was in pain the whole day. I felt mentally foggy. I felt feverish, but the thermometer proved that theory wrong. I had alternating chills and hot flashes.  I looked up caffeine withdrawal on the internet and found this link. Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms  I had ALL TEN SYMPTOMS. I went in the jacuzzi twice. I tried Tai Cheng but my hamstrings were so tensed up I couldn't even bend forward enough to touch my knees.

Day 4 I woke in around 3 a.m. with the same pain, but managed to get back to sleep after about half and hour. When I woke up my pain was still there, but not as intense. I went for a walk at the local park. There is one hill at the beginning of the trail and I didn't think I'd make it to the top because my knee and ankles hurt THAT BADLY. These are old, healed surgeries that haven't bothered me at all in the last year, except for the most recent knee surgery last November. Weird. Still, I think the walking helped. By lunchtime my pain had subsided. By dinnertime I felt pretty good. Whew!

Speaking of dinnertime, this meal caused me TEARS. I have never in my life eaten seafood. When I was a kid, my Catholic parents had fish every Friday, but mom made me a grilled cheese sandwich. I lived in Key Largo and worked in a fish restaurant, yet I never ate seafood. I can't get past the smell. So the dinner was supposed to be nori rolls and miso soup and a Japanese cucumber salad. I went to 5 stores looking for wakame seaweed and mirin. I followed the simple recipes and made the food. The wakame had to be soaked for 5 minutes and drained. When I drained it the smell reminded me of cleaning the fishtank. It literally smelled like fish poop. I mixed it into the cucumbers with the mirin and rice vinegar and set it in the frig to marinate. Next I laid out a sheet of nori seaweed and piled on the brown rice, carrots, cucumbers, and avocado and rolled it all up. I gagged as I sliced the roll. Then I boiled the water, added the miso paste and green onion, and dumped in some wakame.

I got all anxious.  I didn't think I could go through with it. I tasted a little piece of the wakame in the cucumber salad and it was slimy and smelled so damn fishy. I dumped it down the garbage disposal and cried! I left the nori roll and soup for my daughter, thinking she would eat it after karate because she snacks on dried seaweed.  She tried one bite and screwed up her nose. No way she was going to eat that. So it all went in the trash. I cried again. What a waste. How do people eat that?!

I ended up eating some leftover bean/rice/avocado taco from Day 2 and made her a bean burger. My appetite was ruined and I didn't enjoy my dinner at all. My kitchen smelled fishy and it took me the whole evening to get over that.... yeah i have seafood ISSUES.....and it wasn't even fish!

Days 5-7 I felt fine. I never felt hungry the entire week. The food portions were huge, and only ate vegan meals. I usually eat 3 meals and 2 snacks a day, but most days I only ate the 3 meals. A few of the days I had a half serving of Shakeology with fruit, but some days I just didn't fit it into my schedule toward the end of the week. The supplements have to be taken at specific least a half hour before meals and at least 2 hours after meals.

Other things I noticed this week (all are normal): vivid dreams (I usually don't remember my dreams), increased sensitivity to odors, random mild body aches that move around to different areas.

I'm anxious to start Phase 2, Release, tomorrow. A new supplement will be added to the schedule tomorrow--Detox--and a new all-vegan menu begins. I'm ready for some new recipes. ;)

Finally, let me say that absolutely everyone who I've communicated with that has done the Ultimate Reset says the results are totally worth it. I checked my weight this morning, and after 6 days I'm down SEVEN POUNDS. My waist measurement is down a whole inch. I hope that when this program is over my workouts will be smoother and my weight loss and maintenance will be more consistent. I have had no cravings and despite my painful caffeine withdrawal, I'm glad I'm doing this for my health. I'll indulge in coffee when this is over, but I'm going to try to limit my intake in the future. I figure if you've got a withdrawal that painful you must have been drinking too much!

Find out more about the Ultimate Reset

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

21 Day Fix Review

I almost finished the 21 Day Fix, Team Beachbody's newest fitness and nutrition program by bikini model Autumn Calabrese.

By almost, I mean I stuck to the plan perfectly until day 18 when I ate pizza, then skipped day 19 & 20 workouts and ate a burger a fries! Even though I was vacationing the last week, I was able to stick to the diet and do the exercise in the hotel room, and I have no excuse for the pizza and burger... Day 21 I was back on plan, and did the double workout that was supposed to be on Day 20. 

So what was this Fix about and how did I like it?

First of all, with the program you get colored plastic containers, one for each food group int he meal plan. You do an easy calculation before you begin to determine which caloric intake tier you are in. Then you know how many servings of each container group to eat each day.
There is a list of approved foods for each category to choose from. I am a vegetarian (yeah, we'll just forget that tummy-ache-inducing burger last weekend) so I had to finagle the Red group (protein) a bit. I needed 4 servings per day. A serving of Shakeology is in that group, I ate one Quest Bar for another because I'm using up my stash before going totally vegan, and a vegan protein bar, tempeh, or seitan for the other two servings. Often I'd get to the end of the day short one Red serving, so I'd have a protein bar or shake. It worked.

When I first opened the package I thought the containers looked tiny. They are deceiving, though, because you can cram a lot of stuff into them. I never once felt hungry or deprived on the meal plan. 
I got to eat avocados, hummus, nuts and seeds, fruits, and loads of veggies. I think the real key to the success of the meal plan is the limits on the Yellow food group, which is basically starches and grains. Just two servings a day, and a serving is ONE piece of whole grain bread or about 1/2 a cup of brown rice, etc.

The workouts were 30 minutes a day for the first two weeks, and the third week there were two 30-minute workouts a day, preferably at different times of the day. Most of the exercises use multiple muscle groups. There are usually 1 minute intervals with 15 second breaks in between, so you don't get much rest between sets. There is equipment needed...2 sets of hand weights or an exercise band. A mat is helpful, too. In the hotel, I had a hard time with the band, so I used a couple of gallon jugs of water. Like I always say, there is always a modification for everything. 

The first week, despite just finishing P90X3 and cycling often, I was SORE. I mean really, really sore. My legs were sore to the touch by the end of the week. There are no recovery days in this program, but Thursdays were Pilates and Sundays were yoga days, so that was active recovery. The second week was a lot easier, as my body adjusted to new movements. 

Overall, the workouts were enjoyable, and there is a modifier for everything. Autumn is encouraging, and does almost all of the workout with you, unless she is specifically pointing out some form on one of the other people on the screen. She's also easy on the eyes...

So how did I do? Despite my total fail at the very end, I still ended up losing quite a bit in just three weeks.  I was down 4.4 pounds (actually down more after week 2), lost 1-1/4" from waist, 1" from bust, 1" from midriff and 1/2" from lower ab. 

Would I recommend this program? Definitely for people who struggle with portion control. The meal plan is simple and there is minimal cooking and food prep. Definitely for people who need a quick fix for an upcoming event, to tone up, lose 4-10 pounds in a month. 

I will be doing the program again, after my Ultimate Reset. I will definitely keep the 21 Day Fix workouts in my rotation, along with select workouts from P90X3 and T-25. 

So, in closing, remember to LISTEN TO AUTUMN. Don't undo your hard work in the kitchen (or the pizza place, or Red Robin) and if you're tired of starting over, don't quit!

Find out more here: 21 Day Fix

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I've Found My Bars!

After tireless taste testing and untrackable expenditure I have finally found protein bars that meet my strict criteria of being:  
     *high in protein (15+ grams preferred)
     *low in carbs (under 20 gm preferred)

Here is my review, in the order tested.

Dr. Mercola Pure Power Protein Bar

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip

220 cal, 9g fat, 22g carb, 4g fiber, 0mg, sodium, 14 g protein 
Taste: meh. Started kinda funky & I got used to it after a few bites.

Texture: mushy & oily 
Available only in boxes of 12 online.

While it fits pretty well into all the parameters I set, I just don't love the taste, and there is only one flavor. I will not be buying more of these.

Vega Sport Protein Recovery Bar

Chocolate Coconut
240 Cal, 8g fat, 28g carb, 4g fiber, 40 mg. sodium, 15 g protein

Chocolate Saviseed
230 cal, 7 g fat, 29 g carb, 6 g fiber, 65 mg sodium, 15 g pro

Taste: Delicious, but in hot weather the chocolate would be melty in my pack

Texture: firm
Available at my local Sprouts and Jimbo's stores as single bars. I will buy these again, but won't rely on these as my main go-to bars because of the melty chocolate coating, the higher carb count (fine if I'm cycling), and the limited choice of flavors.  

Square Bar

Cocoa Crunch
200 Cal,  9g fat, 20g carb, 2g fiber, 35 mg sodium, 12 G protein
Taste: very strong cocoa flavor,  sweet, I don't care much for it.
Texture: hard & squishy at the same time. 

Cocoa Coconut
220 cal, 11g fat, 18g carb, 2g fiber, 25mg sodium,  11g protein 
Taste: very sweet. Less intense cocoa. Better than Cocoa Crunch.
Texture: soft but dry

Cocoa Almond
210 Cal, 10g fat, 19g carb, 2g fiber, 20 mg sodium,12g protein
Taste: fairly intense cocoa flavor, sweet
Texture: chocolately coating, soft center, almonds are chopped fine.

Available online in boxes of 12, and they do have a variety pack. 
I probably wouldn't order these again. The flavor is very strong, they don't have quite enough protein compared to the calories for me. 

22 Days 

PB Chocolate Chip Nirvana
290 cal, 10g fat, 24g carb, 9g fiber, 280mg sodium,  20g protein

 Taste: mild flavor, pleasant but not WOW
Texture: soft & chewy. No coating. Heavy. A few small chocolate chips inside.
These do have the right protein and fiber counts, but the calories are high. The flavor is not great, but not bad. If I were out somewhere and hungry, and these were in a store, I might pick one up, but I wouldn't seek them out.
Daily Mocha Mantra
220 cal, 12g fat,  21g carb, 5g fiber, 20mg sodium, 10g protein

Taste: pretty good. Can definitely taste the coffee. 
Texture: firm. Chocolatey coating is messy. 

These are a bit low on protein, and high in fat, considering the calorie count. Also, you really gotta love coffee to like this one.

Cashew Cranberry Orange
200 cal, 7g fat, 26g carb, 4g fiber, 100mg sodium, 10g protein 

Taste: yummy citrus flavor, tangy, not too sweet
Texture: soft & chewy. No coating little bits of fruit & nuts inside. 
While these are too low in protein for the criteria I set, I will buy them again as a snack/energy bar or to stick in my pack when I'm cycling. They are delicious!

Almond Blueberry
220 cal,9 g fat, 23 carb, 6 g fiber, 130 mg sodium, 11 g protein
Taste: delicious nutty flavor, not too sweet, pleasant.
Texture: soft and chewy, no coating. Little bits of fruit and nuts inside.

Again, I would buy these again for cycling, my kids' lunchbox, etc., but won't rely on them for protein. Delightful. They are available in several flavors and a vegan variety pack. I want to try them all!

Organic Food Bar
330 cal, 9g fat, 33g carb, 8g fiber, 5mg sodium, 22g protein

Taste: sweet/tart, fruity
Texture: soft and chewy and little gritty. Tiny bits of seeds and/or nuts inside.
Well they are high in protein, but also very high in sugars and calories! I appreciate the "greenness" of the company and the quality ingredients, but this is not what I was looking for. I won't buy them again. I will try to sneak them in my kid's lunch (she can use the calories!), but I have a feeling she won't care for them. I may eat one if I do a long and hard bike ride, but they really are very sugary. I wonder why they felt the need to include blue agave nectar when they are already full of dates? 

GoMacro Macrobar Protein Replenishment

Peanut Butter
260 cal, 10g fat, 34 carb, 2g fiber, 5mg sodium, 12g protein

Taste: gross! Like sad peanuts...
Texture: heavy, chewy, crunchy bits of peanuts inside
I do not like this one.

 How can you seriously call this bar "protein replenishment" when it has only 12 g protein and 34 g carbs! For 260 calories I could have so much more protein and much better flavor. Yuck.

Dale's Raw Protein Bars

Here we have our hands-down winner!! Dale's has many interesting flavors to choose from, and they have regular and lower-carb protein bars. They are all vegan, non-GMO, soy-free, 90% organic and raw. They also happen to be gluten-free and do not contain agave.

Here's a video by Dale about his ingredients: Dale's Ingredients

I've tried several flavors, and liked them all--so much that I've placed another order already so I can try more flavors! I stocked up because there was a recent sale of buy 2 get 1 free and free shipping with orders over $150. That brought the price down from somewhere around $4 a bar to just over $2 each! They freeze well! So, here are the pros and cons:
Vanilla Cashew
259 cal, 15g fat, 16g carb, 7g fiber, 100mg sodium 22g protein
A bit dense & dry but seems to soften up and be more moist and chewy when brought to room temperature.  Flavor is good and no messy coating. Just the nutritional profile I was looking for!

Carrot Cake
282 cal, 11g fat, 33g carb, 8g fiber, 22g protein 
Wow, delicious. 
Not one of the lower carb bars, but I love it so much I don't care!

Raspberry Hazelnut
280 cal, 10g fat, 33g carb, 7g fiber, 100mg sodium, 22 g protein
Yummy and moist. I ate this one at the movie theater during Captain America. Way better than candy! Again, not one of the lower carb choices, but yummy and high protein.

Cafe Mocha with Chia Seeds
264 cal, 16g fat, 15g carb, 7g fiber, 100mg sodium, 22g protein
The lower carb choices are not that much lower in calories. So far I prefer the regular bar flavors, but I haven't tasted them all---YET. This one is good. I enjoyed it with a cup of maté tea. mmmmmm....

Chocolate Chia Maca
252 cal, 16g fat, 13g carb, 8g fiber, 100mg sodium, 22g protein
Another winner. Straight out of the frig they are a bit hard and dry, but left out for a bit to warm up they are delightful. Great numbers here...almost all protein after subtracting the fiber!

Dale's Raw Food Bars need to be stored in the refrigerator. They are fine to put in a pack, purse, lunchbox, etc. but because they are raw, if left out for a couple of weeks they could start to ferment. They are made fresh WHEN YOU ORDER THEM so they may take a little longer to arrive at your door, but they are worth the wait for freshness and they all taste delicious. They keep well in the freezer, so you can stock up on sales or with the coupons you will receive via email when you sign up on their website.

I just received and email that said my next order has been shipped. I can't wait to try some more new flavors!