Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Dang, These Aren't Bad At All



I'm not one to normally shill for a product (though I have occasionally recommended a movie or a book). But now that I'm going low carb again, I have been researching various protein bars, shakes, and the like.

Let me first say that NOTHING replaces actual food. You know, the real stuff you buy and cook for yourself: veggies, eggs, chicken, fish, etc. But if you are in a pinch and need an alternative (or if you're doing 5 small meals a day like I am), the occasional shake or bar is a good way to get in a meal without overdoing it on the calories. I'd say to go easy on the shakes and bars because most contain whey and/or casein, or basically, milk protein. And dairy is inflammatory. But there are low carb non-dairy alternatives for shakes, such as rice protein. As for bars . . . well, that's where things get complicated.

The truth is, most protein bars are just glorified candy hidden as something good for you. They're loaded with sugar, and the protein is usually not of the best quality (e.g, hydrolyzed gelatin counts as a protein, and there is no nutritional value to this stuff). Low carb bars are generally low carb only because the sugar has been replaced with a sugar alcohol such as maltitol. If you've ever eaten "sugar free" candies sweetened with maltitol, you know the problem with these. Hello, Mr. Toilet. Let me sit here and hang out with you all day.

I used to eat Atkins bars way back when and even up until recently until I had a good, long look at the label. They used to taste like chocolate covered sawdust. Then the flavor improved and more fiber was added. But the most recent formula for my favorite bar, the Chocolate Peanut Butter bar, is a disaster. They've, whoever "they" are, have added a peanut butter layer to make the bar even more palatable, but in so doing they've added more sugar alcohols than I care to consume (like, 11gms of pure fart). Seriously, you eat one of those things and within fifteen minutes to a half hour, your stomach starts gurgling. No thanks.

So, here comes my shameless promotion of Quest Bars. Once out of the wrapper, they kind of look like the original Power Bars, which were like biting into a rock and didn't taste much better, but looks can be deceiving. These actually are soft and chewy to the bite and taste good. They are high in protein (20 gms of the the real stuff, whey and milk protein and no hidden hydrolyzed gelatin) and high in fiber (17 gms), are low-carb (only one gm of sugar), the only other carbs coming from the fiber in nuts, AND they don't sweeten the bars with sugar alcohols. You can buy bars with either sucralose (Splenda) or stevia, depending on your preference. There are tons of flavors and I got a sampler box first before ordering more. I've encountered nothing bad tasting yet.  Plus the calorie count is 170 (compare to Atkins' 240). Look, the bars are also gluten free and they don't bloat you. Some bodybuilders use them when on a cut, and these men and women of superb physiques abhor bloat. I doubt they eat them three days out from a contest when they want to drop serious water, but if you want a structured, fairly nutritious snack or small meal, here you go.

A caveat: apparently Quest Nutrition is being sued by somebody who claims the fiber and calorie counts on the bars are incorrect (not as much fiber as claimed, more calories than claimed). For a low carber, yeah, this doesn't matter, even if it's true. The company claims it is not, that the lawsuit is frivolous, and is fighting the charge as its own data shows otherwise. (Stay tuned, though, because a protein bar in which I can pronounce everything on the label seems almost too good to be true.)

Another thing some may not like about these bars is the amount of fat (6gm, or 9% of your daily value for fat), so if you're really fat-phobic, these may not be the bars for you. You can just go buy the high carb/sugar bars with low fat, or maybe eat a piece of fruit. But my cavewoman metabolism doesn't like high carbs. But again, if you're a low carber, fat doesn't matter. As Dr. Atkins rightly pointed out (I love that he's finally been vindicated), fat doesn't make you fat. Carbs make you fat. And sitting on your butt too much. (I did squats today, by the way. Hope I'm not too sore tomorrow.) Besides, in comparison to Atkins bars, 6gms is nothing (Atkins bars are 14gms a serving).

I will close by saying again that NOTHING replaces real food, so use shakes and especially bars in moderation. But sometimes they're good to have on hand in a pinch.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Diet/Detox Everyone Keeps Asking Me About

BEFORE
OK, so many people on Facebook have asked me now how I managed to drop 10-15 pounds (I can't give the exact number since I didn't weigh myself beforehand because I didn't want to cry) in a mere two weeks without exercise, that I've finally decided to just blog it.

Really, all I did was swipe Dr. Oz's Rapid Weight Loss Plan and tweak it a little for my own metabolism. From past experience dieting, I know that my body hates carbohydrates and stores every last single one as fat unless I'm doing some serious training. And even then I had to limit the carbs. Unfortunately, years ago, I was pretty fit and lean and then I fell into a big margarita and stayed there slurping away for about three years and put a lot of weight right back on. Then I got sober and was focused on staying sober. So I didn't pay much attention to my diet for four and a half years. Finally I went to put on a pair of pants about a month after Christmas and realized.... omg, camel toe. WTF, those pants fit last year. 

So, I was motivated by that and finally disgusted enough with myself to act. I think for any kind of life/habit change (quitting smoking, quitting drinking, quitting eating things that make you sick), you just have to reach a point that you're sick and tired of being sick and tired. And a quick disclaimer: I'm no hater of people of size. To me, heavy women are just as beautiful as skinny women, and every size in between. Big, beautiful, bold thick women have curves and boobs. Skinny women meh, unless they carry muscle in which case I like to see them flex. Ha! And nobody likes bones stabbing and bruising them. (Well, I take that back. Some enjoy that tremendously: just not me.) But at the end of the day, at age 51, I can say with utter sincerity that what TRULY matters is the spirit residing in the body, not the body that houses the spirit.

Look, for me, losing some of this fat is a health issue. My cholesterol is over 200, not scarily so, but when heart disease and diabetes run in your family, as it does in mine, when you reach your 50s, one starts feeling her mortality. And my dad died at 56; one brother at 51; another at 53; and my last remaining sibling, who is now 53 himself, has already had a stroke and has Type II diabetes and needs a pacemaker. This is not for me. 'Nuff said.

Here is the diet with my tweaks, along with notes at the end about how I felt throughout. Your mileage may vary; everybody's body and metabolism are little different. I will say upfront that it was only until the last couple of days that I actually felt good on this diet. I was still fairly unenergetic in mid-afternoons.

As stated, this is basically my tweaking of the Dr. Oz 14-day rapid fat loss plan:

 For the plan to work, you’ve got to get rid of the foods that are keeping you fat. This is the hardest part. This two week jump start diet has 5 types of food that need to be eliminated to lose the weight and get your body back in balance.

1. Eliminate wheat (gluten): This is one food that you need to completely eliminate from this two-week diet. It is one of the most inflammatory foods that humans eat, so get rid of it.

2. Eliminate artificial sweeteners: These actually are proven to increase your waist by 70%. They need to go for this diet. Some argue that stevia is a leaf and doesn't count as an artificial sweetener because it's natural, but I didn't allow ANY type of sweetener.

3. Eliminate sugar and alcohol: Sugar is just not a food that does any good for you. It does more harm to our body than anything else. Alcohol is out because it can cause you to overindulge and it's also loaded with unneeded carbs, sugars, and calories, all with very little nutritional value.

4. Eliminate coffee: Coffee by itself is actually healthy, but it’s the sugar and cream we add to it that are not good for you. You can have all the green tea you want instead. Me, I can't function without coffee. So, I allowed myself one cup black in the morning. And I drank unsweetened iced jasmine green tea during the day, along with lots of water to flush the toxins out.

5. Eliminate dairy: Dairy products are inflammatory foods and to lose weight you need to get rid of the foods that cause inflammation. Important note: lactose-free and dairy-free are two different things. Anything that is dairy-free is lactose free, but lactose-free products do contain dairy. So don't be fooled by labels.

The Two-Week Plan:

I started off each morning with a cup of black coffee and an ounce of apple cider vinegar (um, not mixed together.)

Breakfast smoothie recipe: Mix 1 cup Almond Milk (unsweetened!), 1/2 cup frozen berries, 1/2 banana, 1 tablespoon rice protein, 2 tablespoon flax seeds in a blender and drink. It is important to add the flax seeds last.

Stay well hydrated during the day. LOTS of water and tea. Pee. Pee. Pee. All day.

On this diet during the day you get to eat your choice of the following:

6 ounces of lean protein like chicken, fish or turkey
Good fats that come from avocados or Olive Oil, pickles and nuts
1/2 cup of brown rice (there's a smidgen of gluten here, so organic is better so as to only get a trace amount and I, because of my metabolism, cut this to 1/4th cup per day and had it at lunch)
6 ounce container of unsweetened, unflavored Greek Yogurt (this is high in protein and low in dairy)

Eat all of the low glycemic veggies that you want (no fruit other than your morning half banana; they are loaded with natural sugars). These include: Artichokes, Asparagus, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Squash, Snap peas, Broccoli, Mushrooms, Bamboo shoots, Bean sprouts, Celery, Cucumber, Daikon, Eggplant, Leeks, Lentils, Beans, Greens, Okra, Onions, Peppers, Radishes, Rutabaga, Swiss Chard, Zucchini, Salad greens, Water chestnuts, Watercress

I did not eat lentils or beans because there are carbs there, despite the high fiber. I mostly stuck to salad with a protein or the Greek yogurt, or a veggie side dish with the protein or Greek yogurt. A lot of these veggies are stir-fryable, so I made veggie stir-fry with a mix of the veggies I like, using olive oil for frying. The only raw veggies I ate were celery and cucumber chopped to snack on with a handful of mixed nuts for whenever I got hungry. You have to go easy on the nuts, though, because they pack a lot of calories.

Some of the folks who are doing this diet suggested taking butternut squash and cutting them into French fries and cooking them in olive oil to make them crunchy.

Supplements: Take a probiotic supplement every morning during the two week diet. Also take a half of multivitamin in the morning and half in the afternoon.

Detox bath: At the end of your day, every day, soak in a detox bath with 2 cups Epsom salt and 1 cup baking soda. And maybe put on some deodorant again before you go to bed. The first morning after, I woke up smelling positively toxic in my pits, no kidding. And, depending on how bad your diet has been, you can expect a candida die-off, which will make you headachy and your joints achy. The bath helps.

Day one was easy because I was motivated. Days two and three were harder. By day four, I was noticing extreme fatigue, headache, and achy joints. This lasted pretty much until about day nine. You just have to buck up and take it--I'd remind myself, "You did it to yourself, so suck it up." The last four days were not so bad, although as I said, I did feel a decided lack of energy by mid-afternoon.

Also, by the end, I noticed my palate had changed. Vegetables started to look good to me and taste fabulous. Yesterday I cracked open a Diet Pepsi, one of which I used to drink daily, and after just two swallows, I pitched it. It tasted like chemicals to me.

AFTER (actually Day 12)
What now? Well, I'm sticking with no gluten but adding back in a little dairy to my diet in the form of whey protein. No sugar, but coconut sugar in moderation and stevia for a sweetener. Otherwise, I'm just sticking with low carb most days but will have a complex carb such as brown rice or a sweet potato if I start to feel draggy. I get one "cheat" meal a week; this helps fool your body into thinking you're not starving it, and you get to enjoy a little pizza or Chinese or whatnot in moderation. And, I'm returning to my treadmill, weight bench, and Power Blocks. Maybe some yoga. The ultimate goal is to get down to a size 10 or 12 and maintain.  This would put my weight anywhere between 150-160 because I actually do still carry a fair amount of muscle from my bodybuilding days. In fact, I actually have uncovered my biceps. I knew my guns were still under there somewhere.

Good luck! I hope this plan works for you.