Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Raise your hand if you like supplements!

A few people have seen me sprinkling some collagen powder into my coffee in the morning and have cocked their heads like curious golden retrievers, so I figured I'd post about supplements.  I take quite a few.  Okay, I take a bunch.

The usefulness of supplements is a big debate.  Some say they don't do a dang thing.  Some say they provide a boost.  And still some say they are essential.  I don't know what's true and what isn't, but I do know that at least a couple of the things I've taken have shown results.  Here's what I take:

1. Multi-vitamin - duh. I don't really agonize over which ones.  When I run out, I just get a bottle of regular multi-vitamins from whichever grocery store I happen visit that weekend.

2. Vitamin D - this was actually suggested by my primary physician.  (Have I mentioned that she's also the biggest cheerleader of my paleo-ish diet?  Yeah, my doctor's cool, man.) Many women with polycystic ovaries are low on Vitamin D.  My condition has improved, but I can't say if it's due to "the D" because I also take other meds to regulate the insulin resistance issues that cause my PCOS.  My doc highly recommends this particular brand and I've been using it for nearly five years.

3. Pharma-grade fish oil - this was also suggested by my doc.  Actually, she prescribed a specific fish-oil-based drug to me, but it was way too expensive, so I found an over the counter alternative and she approved because she's cool like that.  My bad cholesterol levels have decreased slightly, so it may be working, but the lower cholesterol could also be related to better eating habits and working out.  I am a fan of Omega Via, partially because they have a recurring purchase option where you pick how often you want them to send you a new supply and it comes automatically.

And my two favorite supplements of all...

4.Magnesium Citrate - Apparently a lot of women are also magnesium deficient.  The addition of magnesium can sometimes lower stress and aid with sleep.  Since beginning a daily regimen of a glass of water with this stuff (it's fizzy! AND tart!), I've definitely seen a slight reduction in anxiety and falling asleep at night is easier.  This could also be due to my increased workout intensity, but I've been taking Natural Calm for nearly two years now so I doubt it.  Now, those first three supplements up there come in easy, portable pill forms, but this is a big ol' container of powder.  Not the easiest thing to get through airport security for my frequent work trips.  Luckily, Natural Vitality also sells single serving packets, which you can usually find at Whole Foods or most health stores.  I buy a bunch before (or during) every trip and I'm set!

5. Collagen - I prefer to take it in water soluble powder form - both Great Lakes and Vital Proteins are good brands.  Since it can break down in hot or cold beverages, and it's flavorless, I add it to my morning coffee.  I have had very fine hair and brittle nails for most of my adult life.  Since starting regular use, I have seen my nails grow stronger and my hair has gained a lot of body.  My skin is also clearer.  This can also be a tough substance to take on the road, but I recently found Reserveage collagen chews.  I don't think they serve as much of a nutrient "punch" as the powder, but they travel well and I'll take whatever nutrition I can get while doing work travel.

(Pro tip: Vital Proteins tends to be cheaper at and Thrive Market.)

I think my general feeling on supplements is that they are not going to do much in a lifestyle that is not healthy in other ways.  I mean, that's why they are called supplements, right?  They can't do it all on their own, but they can help. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Paleo-ish on a time crunch

So let's take a break from talking about my exercise regimen, shall we?  Let's get back to food.  I know you're all thinking that after all, this blog is called COOKING in Kenzo.  It's supposed to be a metaphor, ok?

I've been pretty upfront about the fact that focusing on eating whole foods (what some would call "real food" or the dreaded "clean eating") has been a game-changer for me.  I grew up eating meals where most of the components came from a can and/or box, but I know a lot of us did in the 80s.  While canned green beans (shiver) have thankfully become a thing of my past, I've definitely been treading on the edge of what is whole and what is not, lately.  Most of that can be chalked up to laziness but a good chunk of it is because I'm just plain busy.  I have a demanding job, we're building a new house, and oh yeah, I'm running after a 4 year old and 2 year old when I'm not sitting on planes or trains.  (PS I'm totally on a plane to Los Angeles as I type this.)  I've been wracking my brain to come up with ways to make fast meals that stick within my paleo-ish guidelines.  I'm besties with my crockpot but I needed a way to do something besides roasts and stews.

Luckily, I was standing in line at the grocery store when the latest issue of Real Simple called out to me.

"Oh Laaaaaura.  Buyyyyy meeee!," it said.

Inside that always-beautiful and tempting cover was a whole piece, entitled "Master Make-Ahead Meals," dedicated to prepping a week's worth of meal components on a Sunday and then combining them throughout the week.  Yeah, I know, there are plenty of paleo chefs out there who have suggested this, but I just wasn't ready to listen.  Of course, I had to adjust the plan a bit to accommodate what I eat, but I was able to do it in a way where I could make stuff that the whole family might enjoy.  Here's what I did in a Sunday Kitchen WOD:

  • snow peas
  • two pineapples chunked
  • head of lettuce washed and broken down
  • head of kale washed and taken off the stalks
  • brussell sprouts halved
  • asparagus trimmed
  • acorn squash sliced and roasted
Proteins cooked:
  • Bacon
  • Shrimp broiled with ghee and lemon
  • Beef and pork sausage meatballs
Starches cooked
  • Brown rice macaroni
  • Brown rice
  • Herb/garlic yogurt dressing
  • White bean dip (Real Simple recipe)
Basically I just built warm bowls or cold salads out of the ingredients I had on hand.  The most amount of work I had to do was warming up the starches and proteins, and maybe broiling a veggie like asparagus.  The yogurt dressing was a hit.  The white bean dip was eh but the kids at least tried (and liked!) the snow peas as a result of trying the dip. 

A salad (kale, lettus, almonds, asparagus, shrimp, squash, and simple lemon juice/olive oil dressing) on the left and a warm rice bowl (rice, meatballs, kale) with yogurt dressing on the right.
The brown rice macaroni went into a modification of the mac and cheese recipe in the Real Simple piece.   I ended up eating most of it even though it was really for the kids.  It was too much dairy for me so I'll nix it next week.  And I made too many shrimp, which didn't last more than a couple days in the fridge, so I will probably make less or use a different protein next week.  Other than that, this system was a huge success.  I think I will add in a batch of Nom Nom Paleo's cracklin chicken to next week's cook.  And maybe do a different kind of meatball.  Might also whip up a big bowl of my Colorful Kale Salad.  Finally, I am not against buying some of the pre-sliced veggies at the grocery story during weekends that are especially hectic.

More on this as things progress!  What do you do to get ready for the week?

Friday, January 1, 2016

2016 is the FITNESS

Photo credit @novem_bootcamp on Instagram

Happy New Year!

Let's get right to it - the run commuting was fun and I loved it, but...well...injuries SUCK.  My problems actually started on a regular morning run on a work trip back in late September.  It was a lovely run, too.  In San Francisco, along the Embarcadero, just as the sun was rising.  But my left foot came down at some point and I felt pain spike through my ankle.  Like the stubborn dummy I am, I ran through it.  Back at my hotel, I had to accept that it was the familiar pain of a stress fracture.  I knew I needed to ground myself from running for at least six weeks but couldn't stand the idea of not doing anything during the down time.

Friends convinced me to renew my membership to the local Crossfit box, which has a bootcamp style class that is more cardio and strength than the heavy weight lifting that most Crossfitters do.  I went begrudgingly to a Sunday class but soon realized it was exactly what I needed.  I knew I was getting injured because I wasn't cross training.  Bootcamp allowed me to scale things, so I've been rowing instead of running and staying away from jumping.  Oh, did I forget to mention that the stress fracture healed but then my other foot decided to go into plantar fasciitis hell?  The pain was exruciating - so much worse than the fracture.  I've done acupuncture, foot exercises, the nighttime splint, and the only relief has been cortizone shots from the podiatrist over the last two weeks.  I'm also shelling out bucks to get a specially made orthotic for my gym shoes in order to correct things in the long term.  I'm worried that if this is a recurring thing it might halt my running hobby all together, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it...even if I'm limping across the bridge.

Anyways, all this is to say that I'm excited about 2016 because I'm focused on getting fit, feeling strong, and hopefully seeing the positive byproduct of some weight loss.  The husband and I have joined a weight loss study at the University where I work, mainly for the free WiFi scale, but also just so see if we can tweak a few things and see results.  But the truth is, I just wanna get some sweet biceps (I'm in the middle in that picture up there - some guns are slowly forming!) and look awesome in my clothes.

I'm trying to get back on the grain/dairy free wagon, too, but my real goal is to get the whole family eating better, including the littles.  I'm going to be focused on prepping ahead for the week and using my slow cooker more.  I will to try to post here once a week or so.  Fingers crossed I can do it.

For now, I will sip my collagen-infused coffee (a post on collagen will be forthcoming) and enjoy the Philadelphia tradition of watching the Mummers.  Here we go, 2016!

ETA: I have a few dear friends who participate in the Mummers Parade every year and I enjoy watching to see them perform.  But the repeated use of blackface, and one troop's hateful parody of Caitlyn Jenner's transition coupled with a few of their members homophobic behavior on and off the parade route, is just enough.  I will no longer be watching the Mummers.  It's one old Philly tradition I just can't endorse.