Sunday, June 30, 2013

NorCal FitExpo

Today, my friend Emily and I went to the Norcal FitExpo! I wasn't sure what to expect, I had never been to an expo before... there were so many people hawking supplements, it was almost hard to believe. I tried pre-workouts for the first time and learned that my body responds quickly to them, I tried squats on a power plate, tried a bunch of different protein powders, and a really yummy lavash recipe that I'm going to be snacking on this week (with a few modifications... of course!). But what I'm most excited about was meeting this lady right here.

We met Jen Aragon at the FitExpo!
I've mentioned a few times that I'm having trouble with work taking up a lot more time than usual this past month, meeting Jen was exactly what needed to happen to me. When we met her, the Optimum Nutrition booth was pretty deserted. We introduced ourselves and I told her that I admired her for being such an awesome role mode while coming across as a real human being. I told her that I felt too many people that I follow through whatever social media came across as robotic but that she was one of the few people I find relatable and personable. She thanked me and then we got to chatting. She gave me a few suggestions and things to think about, we snapped a quick pic and then went on our way to watch some people set records in powerlifting.

But meeting Jen got me to thinking, I've been using work as an excuse lately to slack a bit with my diet and certainly with my training. Fact of the matter is, I'm perfectly capable of changing my "routines" (I hate calling them routines) and adapt to this new and temporary schedule. So why wasn't I? Because it requires a greater sacrifice. I have been being lazy the past few weeks because I didn't want to make any additional sacrifices.

I marinated in that not-so-great moment of self-realization while watching some tremendous feats of strength (we're talking people benching 400+ lbs) and I started to get a little mad at myself. I know exactly what I need to do, I know exactly how to do it.... what the hell is my problem?

My problem is that I have become too comfortable. 

I feel like this a-ha moment was meant to happen today. Lance and I watched the most inspiring TedTalk over coffee this morning all about seizing control of your life in your twenties and it resonated with me. That talk was what put me in the right mind-frame for this revelation of sorts. You can watch the video by clicking here, I suggest you do. Remembering the video, I switched gears from feeling sorry for my lazy butt to feeling inspired to change. 

I decided that I'd rewrite my workouts since my current split was too hard for me to maintain and I was becoming bored with it. I also decided that I'd spend an hour or so this evening making lunch and a few extra meals for the week so I have absolutely no excuses to eat the take-out we've been having at work lately. Not only is this going to make me feel better mentally because I'll no longer be eating crappy food, I'm going to feel better physically. 

The past month, I've been just a little off and it has been adding up to some noticeable consequences. I feel weaker because I haven't been going to the gym as often, I feel slower because I haven't been doing my weekly long cardio session, I feel out of breath much more than I have in the past year because I haven't been eating as well as I could be, and I feel bigger. The last one has been hard on me. I've only put on a pound or so, but that's been mentally and emotionally taxing. I wish it didn't affect me so much, but it does, and it's something I can work to change. 

So what does that mean for the blog? It means you will all be seeing more photos like the one below.

Mmmmm, tons of grilled chicken breast, grilled eggplant, quinoa, steamed green beans, and steamed baby zucchini

I've made good on one of the promises I made to myself, I prepped a bunch of lunches/meals for the week!!! The square containers will be paired with some lavash for wraps and the rectangular containers will be mixed with some lettuce and cherry tomatoes for salads. 

Next up is rewriting my workouts which I am really looking forward to! I plan on still maintaining a mini-split, but will plan on hitting each muscle group twice a week instead of once. This should help me progress and break through the plateau I'm experiencing in a few areas and if I absolutely have to skip a planned gym session because of work... I won't have to skip a muscle group for an entire week. 

I feel good about this plan!

Tell me, have you ever had to change your routines because of circumstances you had little say in? What did you do and what do you wish you had done differently?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Certifiably Sweet

This announcement that has been a long time coming.....

I GOT CERTIFIED! I passed my test yesterday and I could not be more excited!

I was a little worried about the test given my schedule the past few weeks... but I had nothing to worry about. I studied hard and I was prepared. :)

There was no way I could have done this without my amazing support system of family and friends. Thank you all for what you've done for me.

...and now for something completely different. :) SUGAR!

Yes, this was my Halloween costume from 2 years ago. Yes, I personified a sugar rush.
Yes, those are Nerds glued to my face. Yes, I did go to a bar dressed like this. :)

Who among us doesn't get a little happy for the day after Halloween, Easter, or V-Day for the sweet deals on candy? (see what I did there??) Now that I've gotten your attention with a really dumb joke... here's some science!

There are three types of sugar; monosaccharides, disaccharides, and polysaccharides. Monosaccharides are single-unit sugars like fructose, glucose, and galactose. Disaccharides are double-unit sugars like maltose, sucrose (table sugar), and lactose (milk sugar). Maltose is made up of two glucose units, sucrose is made up of a fructose unit and a glucose unit, and lactose is made up of a glucose unit and a galactose unit. Polysaccharides are glycogen (stored glucose in animals), starch, and fiber (both digestible and indigestible). Yes, starch and fiber are technically sugars.

Incidentally, lactose intolerance is a condition suffered by many people who cannot make lactase which separates the bond between the glucose and galactose in milk sugar. No lactase means no digesting of the lactose sugar which causes the indigestion symptoms.

Random fact: greek yogurt has less lactose then other yogurts, some people (like myself) who are mildly lactose intolerant can eat greek yogurt with no digestion issues. As if you needed another reason to love the stuff.

So, how does your body process this stuff?

The nutrients are absorbed by the "brush border" in your intestine and only single molecules can be moved across and into the blood stream. You might wonder how your body handles those disaccharides and polysaccharides. Remember how I briefly mentioned lactase? That's an enzyme. Its sole purpose is to split the lactose molecule into it's respective glucose and galactose molecules. Maltase splits the maltose sugar and sucrase splits the sucrose sugar. Once these are split, they're ok to be digested. Polysaccharides, like starch, are "processed" by other juices in your digestive tract (mmmmmm, I'll put myself off my breakfast yet*), specifically by an acid called chyme which is released into your small intestine by the pancreas and broken into disaccharides for further digestion in the intestine.

There are some sugars (carbs) that are completely indigestible. Those are called insoluble fibers. Your body simply does not have the enzymes required to break these down. Since your body isn't digesting these products... and this is the part that I still have trouble wrapping my mind around... you don't get any energy from these fibers. Is that not insanely weird????!?

But I digress...

The spirit of the question someone asked me was if the human body absorbed the different sugars in different ways. The answer appears to be yes, but I don't know enough to explain why in my own words. I'm also not qualified to be talking that kind of science talk. So here are some words by other people on the subject.

A paper by Purnell et. al. titled "Brain functional magnetic resonance imaging response to glucose and fructose infusions in humans", which essentially means "hey guys, we photographed a human brain with an MRI machine after feeding the subject two different types of sugar, pay us to see the results!" If you have access to things like that, click the link above to view the actual paper.

Now, I can only see the abstract of this article which states:

Methods: Nine healthy, normal weight subjects underwent blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) fMRI measurements during either intravenous (IV) glucose (0.3 mg/kg), fructose (0.3 mg/kg) or saline, administered over 2 min in a randomized, double-blind, crossover study. Blood was sampled every 5 min during a baseline period and following infusion for 60 min in total for glucose, fructose, lactate and insulin levels.
Results: No significant brain BOLD signal changes were detected in response to IV saline. BOLD signal in the cortical control areas increased during glucose infusion (p = 0.002), corresponding with increased plasma glucose and insulin levels. In contrast, BOLD signal decreased in the cortical control areas during fructose infusion (p = 0.006), corresponding with increases of plasma fructose and lactate. Neither glucose nor fructose infusions significantly altered BOLD signal in the hypothalamus.
Conclusion: In normal weight humans, cortical responses as assessed by BOLD fMRI to infused glucose are opposite to those of fructose. Differential brain responses to these sugars and their metabolites may provide insight into the neurologic basis for dysregulation of food intake during high dietary fructose in

What that says to me is there is some reason why the brain processes these sugars differently...but we're not entirely sure. The key is "may provide insight" in the conclusion. Now, that may be fleshed out a little differently in the rest of this paper, so I'll do my best to get my hands on it and figure out exactly what else is said.

I did find an article by Dr. Joseph Mercola, who is "a web entrepreneur and alternative medicine guru who markets a variety of dietary supplements and medical devices as part of his diet- and lifestyle-based approach to health". Thanks Google. :)

His reaction to that paper, and I assume he has access to the full paper as he is a physician, can be found here:

His high-levels-of-fructose-lead-to-impacted-health idea is echoed in this pamphlet (is it a pamphlet? I never know what to call electronic things of this nature) from the British Columbia Medical Association. This one didn't require a fee to view... insert joke about free Canadian medical care here. 

*After learning about the digestive tract and what enzymes and acids are released at which points during eating and digestion.... I swear I can feel those processes happening as I eat if I'm not distracted by something else. It's a very cool but very very gross feeling.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Campfire Stew

Good morning everyone!!

I spent this last weekend (well, part of it anyway) in Pismo Beach, Dr. Boyfriend and I went camping. We spent our time surf fishing, hiking, and chatting in front of a roaring fire. I seem to have lost my fire-making prowess, so thank goodness for Dr. Boyfriend's firebug abilities.

Suited up in waders and ready to go battle the Pacific ocean, the ocean won.

We went hiking the next day at Bishop's Peak, the starting point is that itty-bitty string of dots to the right of the line of trees by our new friend's purple waistband.

It was absolutely beautiful! The last rock outcropping was more of a climb than it was a hike, but we wanted to eat our snacks on top of the gigantic rock we had been staring at the entire hike.
I've told you guys before about work last week, right? It got pretty intense, we were pulling 12-14hr days and that left no room for the gym and very little room for eating right. We were eating takeout at work for dinner every night. Bucca di Beppo, Tandoori Oven, Panda Express, BBQ, I'm not sure what they had on Friday... that was our first night camping.

We had some delicious grilled chicken breast, roasted sweet potatoes, and garlic bread. Just cook the chicken on a grill over your fire pit, wrap sweet potatoes in foil and shove them in the base of the fire for 40 min-1hr and rotate halfway through. The garlic bread was a pre-made loaf that we wrapped in foil and stuck on the grill with the chicken. It was SO GOOD.

But on Saturday night, we made stew. A big, hearty, delicious stew.

Campfire Stew (serves 4), ~1hr

I would recommend using a oven-safe mitt when cooking over a fire, I forgot mine and am missing all the knuckle hair on my right hand to prove it!
1.5lb of 93% ground beef
1 1/2-2 C chopped onion, I get a bag of pre-chopped onion from TJs; the more prep you can do ahead of camping, the better!
2 15 oz cans of diced fire roasted tomatoes
1 15 oz can of cannellini beans
1 bag of frozen broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots (our carrots were tiny spheres!!)
Fiery Five Pepper seasoning

Wrap your dutch oven with foil to prevent the pan from burning, especially if yours has wooden handles like mine! If you use cast-iron, you can totally skip this step.
Heat about 2 T of EVOO in the pot, add the meat after the oil is hot, about a minute
Stir the meat with a pair of tongs, you're camping which means you're not bringing your entire kitchen with you, and break up the chunks
Season liberally with Fiery Five Pepper seasoning
Add the onions and cover with the lid, you want to keep ash from the fire out of your stew!
When the meat has almost finished browning, add in the cans of tomatoes and beans, cover again
Cook for about 5 minutes and then add the veggies, cover that pot!
Stir occasionally and bring to a simmer, you want bubbles coming up and bursting on the surface
Once you start to see bubbles, you're ready to eat!

Nutritional Information:
500 calories, 36.5g carbs, 17.8g fat, 42.1g protein

Serve this stew with some rolls, garlic bread, or you can serve it with chips. I wish that we had garlic bread leftover from the first night, but I can vouch for the above stew pairing way-too-well with Tapatio Doritos. :)

That lid is going to be freakishly hot, I used the tongs to grab the knob to move it on and off the pot
I didn't drain the meat because there wasn't that much fat in it to begin with and when you're camping and being active all day, you need those calories

There you go! There really isn't too much to eating healthily on a camping trip.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The "I can't leave my home and all I have is this backpack" circuit

Like I said before, it's a very busy time at work right now. On Monday and Tuesday, we pulled 12 hr days... we'll more than likely do it again today.

Monday is my scheduled rest day, so that was ok with me. But by the time I went home (8:30pm), I was positively itchy to move after sitting on my behind all day behind a computer. So I set my alarm for 5:30am, fully intending on dragging my butt out of bed to get to the gym.

5:30am Tuesday came around and it was very clear that I was not going to the gym. I set another alarm for 6am (side note: anyone else find it funny how much difference a half hour makes?) and told myself I'd do an at home workout. I was just far too tired and cranky to deal with a gym shower.

Rolled out of bed, poured myself a cup of coffee (which is another hilarious and embarrassing story), and took a few minutes to brainstorm about what the heck I could do.

laptop + yearbooks + canned beans!!

I decided to load up my backpack with yearbooks and canned food and use it like a sandbag. I was able to cram 30lb worth of stuff into it and I managed to burn over 350cal in 50 min with the following circuit. You could just as easily do this in a gym with an actual barbell (and one plate and one dumbbell) and make things far easier on yourself, the backpack was cumbersome and not balanced which admittedly may have worked in my favor and given me a bit more of an ab workout.

The "I can't leave my home and all I have is this backpack" circuit
Warm up: 5 min of dynamic stretching
4 sets of 10 clean and press
4 sets of 10 bench press (lie on the floor)
4 sets of 10 seated military press
4 sets of 10 goblet squats (the backpack was way better than dumbbells or kettlebells for this!)
4 sets of 10 barbell glute bridge
10 sets of 3 weighted wide arm pushups
Cool down: 2-3 min of dynamic stretching

look at that straight back, that lifted chest, those knees behind the toes... which you can't see... it was 6am, sorry!
After my weight workout, I had fun with the #dharmayogachallenge, an Instagram challenge put on by the Dharma Yoga Center. Each day there is a pose that you photograph yourself doing. I had 4 poses to catch up on yesterday which was a ton of fun!

day 1 - tiptoe

day - inverted lotus

day 3 - tree

day 4 - boat
That small yoga practice was exactly what I needed to transition from weights to the rest of my day. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

WTFitness: Diastasis Recti

First things first, it's been a while... we should catch up.

I am incredibly pleased to announce that I have signed up for my Health Coach Certificate test!!! I won't say exactly when... I'd like to surprise you all with a post once it's complete. But it is soonish, so stay tuned. (I know, ain't I a stinker??)

I would also like to apologize for the lack of activity around here lately! It's been a busy week at work and I needed to take those precious few hours of spare time to recharge my batteries...and work out of course. ;)

Last bit of "news", I made a Facebook page for this blog! If you'd like to follow posts here that way, just look over in the right hand nav bar and click the super pretty purple button with the sans-serif f on it. Hurray! Easy!

On to what you were promised... diastasis rectis.

Someone messaged me a while back (I'm so sorry it took me this long!) suggesting I do a post on this phenomenon. I'll admit it is one that I've been curious about. I had never heard of diastasis rectis until a year or so ago when I saw an iteration of this photo:

Photo from
I cannot for the life of me remember how I came across it... it must have been a Pinterest thing. At first, I was thinking "wow, what a sweet picture, it's so cool the baby's foot can show up on the belly like that!" followed immediately by "huh... I wonder how it can protrude through the abdominal wall like that." So I asked someone, probably Mary or Lance, what could cause that. Upon hearing "diastasis recti", I immediately googled and came across photos like this one:
At which point, I googled further, saw the words "split abdominal wall", closed my laptop, made myself a cup of tea, and tried very hard to not be angry about never hearing a word about this phenomenon in Human Growth and Development or any science class for that matter.

When I started looking into diastasis recti recently, I was surprised to find photos of men who had the split.

Check out the abs on quadzilla (right) and compare them with the guy on the left, see the split?
So obviously diastasis recti is not solely caused by pregnancy... and if it isn't due to your abdomen swelling to accommodate the growth of a human being.... WTF causes it?!

There are tons of anecdotal answers out there that say, and I am paraphrasing, that your abdominal wall has been split down the linea alba which is the center line down your abs.

After looking through countless mommy blogs which will do all they can to convince you that you need to pay them for their proposed system to cure you of this "problem"... which I found extremely annoying... I decided to take my search to the scientific journals. While "this is what I think happened and how I fixed it" is interesting, I prefer to get my explanations about bodily phenomenon from someone who has made their career studying it.

According to Dr. Daniel Brauman, who has a veritable string of alphabet soup following his name, diastasis recti is not the splitting of the linea alba but is the widening of your entire abdominal wall. Which makes much more sense when you consider what Katy Bowman*, biomechanist and quite possibly the only chick in the universe who can look adorable while holding a pelvis, has to say about the structure of your linea alba in this blog post here which I highly recommend you read if you've made it this far and are still awake. TL;DR?

Your linea alba is a network of connective tissue running between your transverse abs and and obliques
The best way I can think of to synthesize all this is the following: your linea alba is like a corset and when your corset is stretched outward, the laces in front can get a little loose.

Obviously this can be caused by pregnancy. But what about in men? Unless that Absolut ad has come to fruition, and I think we all would have heard of that by now, they don't incubate human beings for nine months.
It turns out that the expansion of the abdomen can be the result of weight gain or really intense abdominal training (years and years of it), this is explained more in this is the blog post by Nicole Crawford of Breaking Muscle, the very same post that lead me to Katy Bowman.

Naturally, the next question is what the heck can you do about it? This is where the information slows to a trickle. According to scientific journals, the only way to fix this phenomenon is with surgery, no surprise there. There are tons of books and programs touted by blogs and websites to help with diastasis recti, but the only way to see information is to shill out some money.

This is where we/I start relying on anecdotal evidence. This is also the point at which we thank the internet deities for the comments section. :)

The comments section on Nicole Crawford's post has a lot of moms sounding off about what helped them heal their tummies. One woman mentions having some insane success with Crossfit which doesn't surprise me, most Crossfit athletes I see have extremely well developed cores. Another few mention planks, an exercise that hits your entire core. Side planks are a plank variation that work your transverse abs and obliques, add a reach through for some added instability and you're going to put your core through its paces.

I found another blog post that contained a few isolation exercises that helped Alysa of inspiredRD with her diastasis recti. 

One thing that I kept seeing in comments was how important preventative exercises were. When I looked for some preventative exercises, I found out that connective tissue strength is increased when muscle strength increases. Why is that good news? Any type of exercise that works the muscles making up your core, especially your transverse abs and obliques, is going to strengthen that network of connective tissue that acts as your corset.

There you have it. A not-so-brief explanation of diastasis recti and what the heck to do about it. Obviously if you recently had a baby and are looking to start working toward your pre-baby belly, you should consult with your doctor and take it slow!