Nourish Interview Series: Blaine McConnell

It’s submission day for the 2015 CrossFit Open workout 15.3, which means there are only 2 workouts left! Thank goodness. I don’t know about you but my legs are still on fire from all that work. Who knows what challenge will be thrown at us next. In the meantime let’s talk about nutrition and meet Blaine, bulletproof coffee lover and athlete to learn about his balanced, smart, and sensible approach to nutrition.  

Please introduce yourself. Who are you, what is your background professionally/athletically?

I am Blaine McConnell from Tacoma, WA.  I have been involved in athletics throughout my life and was fortunate enough to play at the Division 1 collegiate level.  After college I started doing more power lifting and plyometric type workouts since I have always liked to lift heavy and jump around.  I wanted to get back into competing and found CrossFit about a year and a half ago and got hooked on that style of fitness and competition.  Recently I have competed at the regional level on a team for the CrossFit Games, and even more recently signed with Phoenix Rise in the NPGL (National Pro Grid League).

Blaine McConnell, CrossFit NW Regionals 2014
Blaine McConnell, CrossFit NW Regionals 2014

What are your current goals? Are you training for something specific or training in general?

I am training for two main goals right now.  I am training for the 2015 CrossFit games, and also for the upcoming NPGL season in June.

What motivates you?

My motivations come from many different areas.  I have always been an athlete so competition runs through my blood.  Being in an atmosphere like CrossFit allows me to stay in a competitive environment and motivates me to get better every time I step in the gym.  Watching others do something great, it doesn’t necessarily have to be from the CrossFit world either, also motivates me.  Everything from seeing an athlete make a great play on the field to the mom with three kids kicking butt in the gym.  Seeing people go out and do great things helps give me more motivation to be great at what I am doing.

Tell me about your diet/eating philosophy.

My dieting and eating philosophy is very simple.  It all starts and ends with what you put in your body.  80% of what I can do in the gym and how I look comes from what I eat and when I eat it.  If you put in bad foods, you are going to perform bad and look bad.  If you put in good foods, you are going to perform good and look good.

How are you using nutrition to help reach your goals?

I am basically relying on my nutrition to help fuel me for workouts and help me recover after workouts so I can perform at my best.  I plan out my whole weeks worth of food in advance and pre-make my meals so I always have them with me after the gym, at work, and when I am out and about.

How important do you feel nutrition is to getting you to your goals? Would you still be able to achieve your goals without paying attention to your nutrition? 

Blaine McConnell, CrossFit NW Regionals 2014
Blaine McConnell, CrossFit NW Regionals 2014

I would not be able to achieve ALL of my goals without having the proper plan in place. I could probably achieve some, but I do not do what I do just to achieve some of my goals.  Having the proper nutrition for what you are trying to achieve, is like having an unfair advantage.  It becomes SOOO much easier to reach your goals when your workouts and you nutrition are working together to achieve the goal.  Rather than having great workouts and terrible nutrition fight each other the whole time.  Nutrition will win that battle every time.

Tell me about your nutrition journey. How did you find what works nutrition wise for you?

I played around a lot with my nutrition during college and still do to this day.  I have taken some nutrition courses in school, read books, and looked up articles to find ideas about what other people are doing and what I can learn to implement some of that for my own benefit.  I would find a nugget in a book, for example, about hydration and when the best times to hydrate before/during/after a workout and tried it out and it worked so I stuck with it.  I have also read an article about what to eat before a workout for energy, tried it, and not feel the benefit from it so I didn’t stick with that.  Doing little things like that and sticking with them have added up over time and basically become a true tailored nutrition plan for me.

What nutritional information have you learned that you find most people don’t know or find surprising?

Most people do not know WHEN to eat WHAT.  Nutrient timing is huge. For example knowing when the best times to eat your carbs can be the difference between recovering faster between workouts and feeling better, to storing more fat!  There are a lot of little things that you can tweak that people just have no clue about, and make a world of difference in how they feel and look.

What do you eat on a typical day? If you time your meals to a schedule according to your training, when do you typically eat?

I always time my meals according to my training.  I usually get up around 6am and make my bulletproof coffee.  Bulletproof coffee is black coffee (no sugars, no creamers), with 1 tablespoon of MCT oil (for energy and healthy fats), 2 tablespoons of unsalted grass fed butter (for good fats and energy) and 30g of protein.  The bulletproof coffee helps kick start your day AND your metabolism as well.  It basically gets the furnace burning and kick starts your body in to fat burning mode.  I could go on and on about the benefits but there are many many articles online about the benefits of bulletproof coffee.  About an hour after that I go train at the gym.  After my workout is when I eat the majority of my carbs.  I usually drink a protein shake with 40g of protein and add some extra carbs, about 200-300g depending on how hard my workout was, to help refuel and recover faster.  A couple hours after that I usually have 8-10oz of lean meat (chicken, fish, turkey) along with a sweet potato and asparagus.  An hour after that I usually snack on some almonds or a bar and have another bulletproof coffee.  2-3 hours later I usually eat 10-12oz of lean meat and cut out some of the carbs and just stick to about 1 cup of mixed veggies.  Then before bed I will snack on something small like a bar so I don’t go to bed on an empty stomach.  And throughout all of that I am constantly staying hydrated.

Do you change your nutrition in preparation for a competition?

In preparation for a competition I do not change what I eat.  I perform best when I stick with my routine.  The day of the competition may be different because I could be doing multiple events in a day which would make me change my protein and carb intake a little so I can recover between events, but as in preparing for the competition I have found that sticking with my daily routine will keep me at me best.

What are your favorite pre and post workout snacks?

Since I workout in the morning my favorite pre workout snack is my bulletproof coffee.  There are sometimes when I will skip the usual protein shake and go for some chocolate milk and a donut! Sounds terrible I know, but sometimes after a really long and tough workout, you just need it!

Blaine McConnell, CrossFit NW Regionals 2014
Blaine McConnell (with the CrossFit Nine 2014 NW Regionals team from left to right – Adam Kraft, Alex Konicke, Emily Emery, Keri Arvidson, and Chelsea Nicholas), CrossFit NW Regionals 2014

Do you plan your meals? If so, how do you plan and what tips do you have for others who might need help planning their meals?

I do plan my meals.  If I did not I would just go order some food which is what most people do too.  I usually make 3 days to a weeks worth of meals on the weekend and then if I need to make the other 2-3 days worth of food for the rest of the week later on.  It is easier for me to break it up in two cooking sessions so then you don’t have to spend 5 hours in one day trying to do the whole week at a time. I would say that would be the biggest tip for people starting out.  Do not try to make the whole weeks worth the first time you want to plan your meal.  Start with 3 days for the week.  Then if you have time, a few days later make a few more days worth and your life will be much easier.

What is your favorite treat meal?

PIZZA!! I love pizza.  Treat meals or cheat meals are the best way to keep your sanity.  Some people start a meal plan and they get depressed because they think they can never eat the fun foods again in their lives, which is 100% not true.  You can, you just can’t go crazy and let one meal turn into one day and then lead into one week of treating yourself, because then you are really cheating yourself.

How important is supplementation to you? Do you think supplementation is required of an athlete to have the best measure of success or do you think nutrition and training are enough?

First off I like to break supplementation into two groups.  Performance supplements, and Sexy supplements.  Performance supplements are things like creatine, pre workout powders, BCAA and other things that can physically help you perform better in the gym. Which if used right can definitely assist in you in achieving your performance goals.  I myself take creatine and BCAA powders because I train hard and my body cannot physically perform at the level I need it to without supplementation.  Sexy supplements are things like energy boosters, fat burners/weight loss pills, and other supplements along those lines.  Which are ones that no one needs to take. With proper nutrition you can achieve your results better and keep those results longer than using “sexy” supplements.  When you take things like energy boosters, energy drinks and fat burner/weight loss pills, you throw off your body’s natural ability to produce the things your body can to give you energy, help boost your metabolism and lose weight.

What suggestions or advice would you give others who are trying to optimize their nutrition to nourish and fuel their bodies?

For anyone who is not an elite level athlete, DO NOT MAKE DRASTIC CHANGES IMMEDIATELY.  I had to all caps that because it is super important.  If you are a person who eats a ton of sweets, do not stop cold turkey and throw out all of your sweets tomorrow.  You will go insane, have withdrawals and eventually give in and go on a bender eating every doughnut in site.  Same with the person who drinks a lot of soda, do not stop drinking soda all together in one day.  Start off by trimming a little off the top, as I like to say.  If you eat a bag of skittles every day, start by not eating them on Mondays. Then when that feels comfortable, cut out Monday and Wednesday. And so on and so forth until you have cut out sweets.  Same with the soda drinker, if you drink 3 cans of soda every day, start by cutting it down to 2 cans, then cut out a day, then 2 days.  Then start substituting. Every time you get a craving on your day you are not suppose to eat those skittles eat some fruit instead, or when you have the craving for a soda, drink some water or even get some of those calorie free flavored waters.  Moderation is the best way to succeed.  Eventually they build up and when you look back you see the drastic change has been made all while taking these baby steps along the way.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

The last thing I would like to share is that no one meal plan is perfect and no one person is perfect.  If you started a new plan and it isn’t going as well as you had hoped (and hopefully this feeling is not on day 3) then don’t get discouraged and quit.  Anything worth having takes time.  Nutrition takes time, results take time.  No one person is perfect either.  So if you cheated on your meal plan and ate a bag of chips, don’t beat yourself up about and just give up on the whole thing.  I to this day, have days where I feel like it was just a terrible day and the only thing that will make me feel better is some Ben and Jerry’s.  Just don’t let that day become every other day ok! Stick to your guns and stay the course.

Where can people follow you?

You can follow me on Instagram @blaine_mcconnell and see how I train, how I eat and how I like to unwind.


 

Like the Nourish Interview Series? Be sure to sign up for the Nourish to Fuel newsletter in the sidebar so you don’t miss out on upcoming interviews. 

Missed a Nourish Interview Series post? Check out the first interview with Chelsea Nicholas here and the second interview in the series with Alex Konicke here.

Or maybe you have an interesting take on nutrition or a story to share about how nutrition has changed your health or life? You don’t have to be an athlete to be considered. If you’d like to be considered for a future Nourish Interview Series post, email support@nourishtofuel.com with a brief introduction to yourself for consideration and more information.


 

 

 

Kasandrinos Olive Oil

Nourish Interview Series: Alex Konicke

In the Nourish Interview Series, I interview interesting individuals about their nutrition journeys and how they nourish to fuel themselves. Keeping with the spirit of the CrossFit Open, going on now, let’s meet another awesome North West Regionals CrossFit athlete and learn about their approach to nutrition in the second interview of the series (click here if you missed the first interview in the series). Meet Alex Konicke. My youngest daughter has said she loves Alex because he’s so smiley all the time, just like her, which makes her happy. It’s a pretty accurate description of Alex. He’s pretty much always got a smile on his face, he gives awesome hugs, and he’s one of the most motivating coaches I’ve ever had the pleasure of being coached by. Here’s more about Alex’s nutrition journey and goals.

Alex Konicke - Toys For Tots Bellevue Interbay  Throwdown 2014, Photo by Henry House
Alex Konicke – Toys For Tots Bellevue Interbay Throwdown 2014, Photo by Henry House

Please introduce yourself. Who are you, what is your background professionally/athletically?

I am a people person. I love being around people, being of service, and really just being available for those that need and appreciate me and what I do. I have been involved with sports since I knew what they were and stayed on my own path of what I wanted to do. My brother played baseball, but I wanted to try soccer and ballet. I ended up playing lots of baseball as well, but I am truly glad I became my own person and followed things I wanted to not what everyone else might have been doing. I played some high school soccer as well as Varsity Tennis. When the college years came, I wanted something new. Without looking too hard, Rugby fell into my lap and I loved every minute of the 4+ years playing. Towards the end of the college days, CrossFit was introduced to me. A very fit freshman friend of mine coaxed a few of us to try it with him and I was sold. Within the next year I had drank the Kool-Aid and was dedicated. CrossFit Nine was where my CrossFit future started (Dec. 2010). Dan Arvidson, owner of CrossFit Nine, swung me a deal I couldn’t pass up to join the gym. Within a couple months I had my CrossFit Level 1 Certificate and wanted to coach. It wasn’t until the end of 2011 that CrossFit Nine was in need of more coaches, so after a short hiatus I took to run a half and full Marathon, I was back in 100%. After 4 months, I unfortunately had a bulging disk that was giving me loads of grief for 8 months. To feel my pain, during this time I was daily dreading getting out of bed and out of the car, walking around like an old man. From this I learned to coach well with verbal cues but I was questioning my CrossFit future. I was back into good working ability with the help of physical therapists, sports rehab specialists and chiropractors. I am very motivated by the competition within CrossFit and I have goals to make it to the CrossFit Games in the near future, so I am avidly training for this.

After 2 years of solid coaching, I managed CrossFit Nine for the majority of 2014, when I left to open Reign City Fitness – CrossFit Downpour with a few others I had met on my journey. After 3 ½ Months in, we are well established with a quickly growing community of over 210 clients (110 CrossFit Clients).

Throughout college I attained a Bachelors in Business Marketing. I am currently certified in CrossFit Level 1+ 2 and USAW Weightlifting certified, and I don’t plan to stop there.

What are your current goals? Are you training for something specific or training in general?

I am training for the CrossFit Games. The first step for me is to become a top caliber athlete in my region, then from there rank in the top of the NorthWest/Canada West division, leading up the making it to the CrossFit Games. I have my own personal coach that programs workouts for me weekly to attack my own personal weaknesses among the athletic ability that CrossFit tests (Strength, Endurance & Gymnastic ability)

What motivates you?

What motivates me is being the best at something. CrossFit is new, unique, different, and euphoric. From a daily workout, to competing at Regionals, CrossFit gives me the euphoria that I felt during my years of intense sports.

Alex Konicke
Alex Konicke – CrossFit Downpour NW/Canada West Team Invitational 2015, Photo by Henry House

Tell me about your diet/eating philosophy.

I always resort to Paleo when eating. I have always been a chubby kid inside, wanting cheat meals more than I should. I have been eating 85% clean the past 2+ months after dialing in a healthy plan. My goal is 2-3 cheat meals a week, and no more consumption of alcohol over 4 drinks/week. This is great for me and I have seen great results from this certain plan. In the past I haven’t watched my diet too well, but from the past few months going forward it will be imperative to do so in order to reach my goals and have the fitness success that I am motivated by.

Along with the parameters of the cheats and drinks, my diet is to be gluten free and the majority of it is Paleo. I will eat some dairy here and there, but focus on eating as many vegetables and lean meat as possible and snacking on nuts and fruit.

How are you using nutrition to help reach your goals?

If I didn’t hone in my nutrition, I wouldn’t be happy with my body type and I would be carrying around even more extra weight that I am now. This is bad for the mentality as well as on the competition floor. The heavier I am, the harder most CrossFit movements will be. They would be harder even more, if I am not burning the right fuel in my body. This will show up in worse mental drive, slower movements, and lack of energy, even body depressant with too much gluten.

I also have always wanted to be a model, so while training for CrossFit competitions, it is helping me lean out and look better. It will help out the physique side of my goals in this respect as well.

How important do you feel nutrition is to getting you to your goals? Would you still be able to achieve your goals without paying attention to your nutrition?

I for sure wouldn’t be able to. Not having good nutrition just adds more variables that can hold you back. If I am burning off the doughnuts I ate before a workout and not broccoli, I will certainly notice a difference in how my body moves, recovers, operates, and feels.

Alex Konicke - Elysian Games 2014, Photo by Henry House
Alex Konicke – Elysian Games 2014, Photo by Henry House

Tell me about your nutrition journey. How did you find what works nutrition wise for you?

I’ve done many cleanses and short diets. My favorite thing to do is juice fruits and vegetables. I will drink a freshly juiced drink (consisting of a majority of veggies) any day, any time. Convenience and price can get in the way of this easily but I am usually all over Evolution Fresh & Whole Foods in house juiced drinks.

How did you eat before finding what works for you? Did you pay attention to what you ate? How did that affect your training?

I ate what was convenient and may have seemed somewhat healthy (Subway) unless I had a strong craving, then the game was over. This is how I ate, very spontaneously. I did not pay much attention to what I ate. There were many times where I would try to track for a day or two then forget to track and lose…track, LOL. Eating this way would affect my training in a way that I may not have felt like working out that day. I might have had to take way more breaks than usual and be very confused why. In my college years I partied and drank a lot which had a serious impact on my ability to play rugby at my best.

What do you eat on a typical day? If you time your meals to a schedule, when do you typically eat?

I shoot to eat every couple hours. I listen to my body for the most part and have food handy as needed. My diet can include anything from, bacon, turkey and eggs, to salads, broccoli and hummus. I keep apples and bananas around as well as Lara Bars and other gluten free protein bars laying around for snacks, though I try to keep away from processed foods as much as possible. I’ve lately gravitated towards “Amy’s Chilli” and gluten free soups, and steamed veggies in some form everyday.

Do you count macros? Why or why not?

I have never counted macros but I feel it is the next step for my goals and healthy eating.

Alex Konicke, CrossFit Downpour NW/Canada West Team Invitational 2015, Photo by Henry House
Alex Konicke, CrossFit Downpour NW/Canada West Team Invitational 2015, Photo by Henry House

What are your favorite pre and post workout snacks?

I don’t necessarily have a pre or post workout snack. Coffee is a usual pre workout drink for me. I do try to cycle through other pre workout supplements once in a while as well to not be reliant on one certain caffeine source.

Do you plan your meals? If so, how do you plan and what tips do you have for others who might need help planning their meals?

I plan them as much as possible. It can be hard to find the time, but I usually prep for a few days. I usually just make sure I am well stocked at work for healthy snacks. I do not measure out or count calories. My tip for those needing help planning is to make sure you keep track of your Tupperware lids, they get lost so easily! On a serious note, when meal planning, what I find best is to do it Sunday and Wednesday (at least a couple days apart). This way you aren’t spending ALL day/night cooking and you wont avoid your 3-4 day old planned meals that you end up throwing away.

What is your favorite treat meal?

I LOVE pizza (Zeeks) & doughnuts! I am an advocate for sweets for sure; anywhere from Cheese Danish to Cinnabon to Chocolate. Two of my top choices for desert cheats are Mousse and Crème brûlée though.

What suggestions or advice would you give others who are trying to optimize their nutrition to nourish and fuel their bodies?

Start from scratch… Paleo. Make it your own but it’s so easy to start there. On top of this, you NEED to log your intake. Start a template of all of your meals and snacks and have your coach/trainer look at it and give you input. This is the best way to springboard onto a solid diet. This way you notice what foods you are actually eating, you can see what is good and isn’t good for you. You can identify if you should be eating different foods at different times. Lastly you can realize what foods help you lose weight, gain muscle etc., and learn which don’t.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Keep a workout regimen and diet in your daily goals. It is hard to keep on track, but keep trying things you haven’t tried before. Unhealthy and overweight issues are so treatable, if you can’t do it alone, please just put your trust into someone to help push you. Regarding diet and injuries, I always say, “the ONLY thing you can do is try things you haven’t tried yet.” Do your own trial and error. If they don’t work then great, you can now try something else and see if that works. If you keep trying the same thing over and over again you will literally go insane… “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result”.

Keep on developing yourself. We are here to learn, grow and experience. If you feel like you have stopped dead in your tracks and are unhappy, make a change.

“Do what makes you happiest”

Alex is an owner/general manager at Reign City Fitness/CrossFit Downpour in Bellevue, Washington. Reign City Fitness opened November 2014 in a gigantic 42,000 square foot facility. In addition to CrossFit, Reign City Fitness offers yoga, TRX classes, Zumba, Pilates, Barre, and more!

http://www.reigncityfitness.com

http://www.reigncityfitness.com/crossfitdownpour/

 


FATface Skincare

 

Nourish Interview Series: Chelsea Nicholas

Feeding our bodies is one of the most important things we do every single day, multiple times a day. As important as this is, there isn’t one way to nourish ourselves that works for each individual. What works for one person may not work for another person. Although there are many basics nearly anyone can incorporate, it’s important for each of us to find our own path to how we best nourish to fuel. Taking into account many things, such as body composition, goals, athletic performance, allergies, food intolerances, health, you name it. Each journey is our own, but we can learn a lot from others and how they fuel their bodies. In the first of a new series, the “Nourish Interview Series”, I interviewed Chelsea Nicholas an Engineer, CrossFit NW Regionals Athlete, and awesome woman to welcome in the CrossFit 2015 Open and this exciting new series on how an individual uses nutrition to reach their goals! Over the course of the next couple weeks you’ll hear from other CrossFit regionals athletes (including one athlete who was just signed to the NPGL Grid league) as the series continues. 
Let’s get started and hear about Chelsea and her nutrition! 
Please introduce yourself. Who are you, what is your background professionally and athletically? 

My name is Chelsea Nicholas. I’m 27 years old. I grew up in Bothell, WA. I’ve always been busy with sports including gymnastics, cross-country and track and field. I earned a BS and MS in Civil Engineering at Washington State University, where I pole-vaulted on the Track and Field team for my first two years. After graduation I started working as a Structural Analysis Engineer at Boeing (December 2011). Right around this time I also found CrossFit.

Chelsea Nicholas - Cretus 2014, Photo by Henry House
Chelsea Nicholas – Cretus 2014, Photo by Henry House

What are your current goals? Are you training for something specific or training in general?

After competing on a team at the North West Regionals CrossFit competition last year, I decided I wanted to start competing as an individual to see how far I can go with the sport. I hired a coach to design my programming and have been working with her the last 9 months or so putting in 15+ hours a week. I have countless goals that vary in magnitude and depth. The main goal I have been working towards this year is qualifying for regionals as an individual. Day to day I’m also chasing personal records (PRs) in various lifts and common workouts such as a 300 lb back squat. I like to have something to train for. CrossFit is an exciting sport to participate in because everything is measurable; you can literally track your fitness. I think that’s why a lot of people fall in love with it so quickly.

What motivates you?

Initially my motivation for getting to the gym was purely aesthetics; I wanted to look good. At some point I realized that everyone has a different idea of what it means to look good and you get a lot more satisfaction if you focus on performance. That’s when I stopped “working out” and started “training.” I try to be my own motivation. The only person you should worry about impressing is yourself.

Tell me about your diet/eating philosophy.

My perception of healthy eating has evolved so much over the years and I’m sure it will continue to change. It’s all about something you can sustain and enjoy every day that keeps you energized and fueled for training. Nutrition is very personal and you have to find what works for you.

Chelsea Nicholas - Toys For Tots 2014, Photo by Henry House
Chelsea Nicholas – Toys For Tots 2014, Photo by Henry House

How are you using nutrition to help reach your goals?

I use nutrition to energize, recover, and heal. It absolutely affects performance and if I want to reach my goals I need to plan/track my nutrition (and sleep) very closely.   If you are eating right you will feel happier, healthier, stronger, more powerful, and ready to attack your workouts. This means eating enough of the right things at the right times.

How important do you feel nutrition is to getting you to your goals? Would you still be able to achieve your goals without paying attention to your nutrition?

Nutrition is essential to reaching my goals. If I want to maximize performance and uncover my full potential then I can’t ignore it. They go hand in hand.

Tell me about your nutrition journey. How did you find what works nutrition wise for you?

I started paying closer attention to nutrition about a year and a half ago. At the time I was still working out because I wanted to look good; I cared more about the weight of my body than the weight of my barbell. I started tracking my food to control calories and macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat) but was not as concerned about what foods I was eating. I set my goal numbers using a calorie distribution of 30/40/30 for protein/carbs/fat. Wanting to lose a few pounds I set daily calorie intake too low. This was effective for losing a little weight but it came at a price; I was not enjoying my time at the gym and it was completely exhausting! Ultimately it was not sustainable and at some point I stopped counting. From this initial food tracking experience I developed a concept of how many macros are in different foods. I learned that I tend to be low on protein and high on fat if I don’t pay attention. With this in mind I tried to consume more protein and continued eating what seemed healthy and training hard. When I hired my coach 9 months ago she set some new macros for me. They followed the same calorie distribution, but with protein set at my body weight which ends up being right around 2000 calories a day.   This was great for a while, my body weight stayed the same and I continued making gains in the gym. Several months later my workouts were getting longer and I reached a point where my muscles would fatigue before my lungs gave out. At this time we added an extra 100g of carbs post workout to ensure my muscles are properly nourished. I don’t eat the extra 100g of carbs every day, but I can tell if I am going to need them based on the types of workouts I see in my training week and how I am feeling. It’s nice to be in a place where you know your body and what it needs to perform at its best.

When it comes to what foods to eat and what foods to avoid I’m still experimenting. When I find things I like that are easy to prep for the week, I stick with them. I don’t have any food allergies so I was never too worried about cuttings things out of my diet. Then about two months ago I had a weightlifting accident…I won’t tell the full story because I don’t want anyone thinking CrossFit is careless or dangerous but I tore the ulnar collateral ligament in my right elbow more than 50%. Right after the injury my coach had me cut out all wheat, dairy, and sugar from my diet to help with inflammation. I also doubled my fish oil and started taking tart cherry concentrate. Cutting these things out of my diet was surprisingly easy with the mindset that it would speed up my recovery. It’s been a frustrating yet amazing process. Your body can be extremely resilient if you treat it right. I plan to continue with the new restrictions. The only thing I really miss is ice cream and that can still be a rare treat.

Chelsea Nicholas - CrossFit NW Regionals 2014, Photo by Henry House
Chelsea Nicholas – CrossFit NW Regionals 2014, Photo by Henry House

How did you eat before finding what works for you? Did you pay attention to what you ate? How did that affect your training?

Everyone has their own notion of healthy eating and there are different levels. I’ve always thought of myself as someone who eats healthy, but my definition of the word is constantly evolving. Before I started tracking my food and reading labels I think my diet was probably low in protein and high in fat. I did not cut any food groups from my diet and I did not pay attention to the timing of my carbs. I am not the same athlete I was a year and a half ago. Knowing how to feed your body is a game changer.

What do you eat on a typical day? If you time your meals to a schedule, when do you typically eat?

Chelsea's Sample Meal PrepI will include a sample of my meals for one day but basically I try to hit 150g protein, 200g carbs and 60g fat each day. The only real timing rule I have is eating carbs immediately post workout. This is for recovery; I also try to put in more carbs at night after I train. I like to start my day with protein and fat because it keeps me feeling full longer; my favorite lately is 4oz ground bison with 2 eggs. It seems like most of my calorie intake is in the beginning of the day, but most of my carbs are consumed closer to the end of the day.

Do you count macros? Why or why not?

Yes I do. I developed an excel spreadsheet with a database of all the foods I like to eat so I can plan my meals. I have a scale in my kitchen to weigh out portions. It’s not every meal, every day, all the time, but enough to know I’m getting enough of the right things. When I don’t count I tend to fall short on protein and carbs and I pay for it at the gym.

What are your favorite pre and post workout snacks?

I always keep little packets of baby food in my gym bag. Mostly things like sweet potatoes and bananas. They are easy to eat, simple, and about 20g of carbs. After workouts I usually have some kind of post-workout drink like Progenex Recovery, Afterglow, or Revive Rx Recovery. These are all powders you mix with water and have roughly a 2/1 carb/protein ratio. This is all for ease and consistency. When I get home from the gym it’s always something like 150g sweet potatoes with more protein.

Do you plan your meals in advance? If so, how do you plan and what tips do you have for others who might need help planning their meals?

I do plan my meals, in a way. On Sundays I go grocery shopping and meal prep. By “meal prep” what I mean is I cook all the foods I bought so they are ready to portion out and eat through the week. I have all my meat and potatoes cooked and veggies chopped. It makes the week a lot easier and it still leaves room for some flexibility. I have an off day from the gym mid-week and this is an opportunity for me to try a new recipe or something different. I have it easy since the only person I’m planning meals for is myself. This method works great for my lifestyle. For others, try to sit down and outline what a perfect couple days would look like before you head to the grocery store then prepare food accordingly. It’s nothing fancy but it is efficient and effective.

What is your favorite treat meal?

On Sunday mornings I go to Whole Foods for breakfast with my sister. Usually we get bacon and eggs but every now and then we’ll get biscuits and gravy. This breaks a couple of my rules but that’s why it’s called a treat. I’m lucky to be one of those people who actually enjoy simple foods. When people ask me what my favorite meal is I always say steak salad. I’d pick that over biscuits and gravy any day.

Chelsea Nicholas - CrossFit NW Regionals 2014, Photo by Henry House
Chelsea Nicholas – CrossFit NW Regionals 2014, Photo by Henry House

What suggestions or advice would you give others who are trying to optimize their nutrition to nourish and fuel their bodies?

You have to find something that you can maintain and that means DO NOT starve yourself. Take everything you hear with a grain of salt because everyone is a little different. Find things you like to eat that fit your own personal guidelines for healthy eating and experiment to find what works best for you and your goals. A good starting point is to track your food for a week and find out about how many calories you consume in a day. From there you can try redistributing your macros to fit the 30/40/30 calorie distribution of protein/carbs/fat based on your current calorie intake. Make adjustments from there based on how you feel and how you weigh in.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

We all have this vision of who we want to be and where we want to end up. But how do you know when you get there? What do you do IF you get there?? You’re not going to go back to your old ways and feel satisfied for the rest of your life; that would be completely unfulfilling. You have to learn to love the process because the process is your life.

Where can people follow you?

On Instagram @chelsnichs

 


 

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Weight Loss Series: Introduction

They tried to get me to hate food.

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Before I took matters into my own hands to lose weight, each visit to the medically managed weight loss clinic was incredibly depressing. They tried to get me to hate food through humiliation, severely limiting calories, and behavior modification. While I understand the result the clinic was aiming for, the methods could have been a little better.

Every visit started with a scale to measured body fat percentage and weight followed by the tape measure. Neck, arms, waist, and thighs were all measured and printed on a piece of paper with your past measurements for comparison. Then you were lead into an exam room to sit and wait for the doctor holding an over-sized model of 5 pounds of fat. Yes, you read correctly, a model of fat. The fat model is over a foot long, several inches high, and is a huge exaggeration of adipose tissue. It was a fat shaming time out. “Here sit here with this giant fat glob of fat and think about what you’ve eatAdventure Timeen. “

I guess the point was to make you feel good about losing weight and disgusted by the fat as the measurements on your print out went down. I didn’t cooperate very well. I refused to sit there and hold the sticky fake fat glob. Guess it worked at least on the disgust angle. I’d rather be happy with my lumps than forced to sit in fat shaming time out.

I ultimately succeeded at weight loss without surgery or medically managed weight loss, but at what expense? Trying to get me to hate food resulted in being more obsessed with food than ever before. I never had a bad outlook on food. I knew what I should be eating and that I should be exercising, but food from a box or a drive thru was much easier than shopping, chopping, preparing, and cooking for myself. Or so I thought, until I changed the way I ate, started eating again, and cooking and planning meals for myself and family.

I understand when someone is overweight they may need a wake up call to have lasting changes that lead to weight loss. Mine was not being able to fit in the cape my hairdresser put on me. It was humiliating. I didn’t need to be put in fat time out with a glob of fake fat. What anyone who is committed to making any change really needs is a moment followed by commitment to change. After your moment, determining what your goal is will help direct you towards the steps to get started on the path to reaching that goal.

In an upcoming series of posts, I will be outlining steps you can start right away to reach a weight loss goal, of any kind. If it’s a small goal of losing 5 to 20 pounds or a bigger goal of losing 100 pounds, you can do it. My before weight loss photos above (which are scary for me to actually put out there on the internet to live on virtually forever), versus my more current ones are proof it can be done. I won’t advise you to sit in the corner with a model of fat to think about what you’ve done. I’ll congratulate you and motivate you to do it the right way, with real food and movement.

Competition Eats: Sweet Potato Protein Puree

Sweet Potato Protein Puree

My husband and I had the opportunity to compete as a team in our first CrossFit throwdown, held at our box this past weekend. The turn out was huge, the box was packed, and it was a day long event. Competing in our first throwdown presented us with many challenges both physically and mentally. Despite placing 23 out of 24 in our division, I think we did amazing and I’m very proud of us. We pushed ourselves harder than we ever have before and gave it our all. One challenge, of a different sort, was what to pack food wise to last an entire day. We needed food that would be filling but not too filling, give us energy without the crash, and be easy to transport.

I haven’t jumped on the mason jar bandwagon. I don’t find it cute to drink out of a mason jar. I prefer a glass or the water bottle that travels with me everywhere. It’s an inside joke that every faculty member and student at the university and clinic I work for gets a mason jar for their smoothies when they start. I’ve just never subscribed to the trend. However, when in need of multiple transport devices for a day of throwdown eats, I bought mason jars. Now I see the appeal. I’m not going to start toting one around with me everywhere, but I get it. Along with all our gear the mason jars worked perfectly packed into a cooler hauled in our vehicle to the competition.

London Broil and Spiralized Veggies Mason Jar Salad

The food planning started with grilling, resting, and slicing London Broil and using that as a base to make 2 different quart sized mason jar salads. Salad one started with the London Broil on the bottom. I added blueberries, carrot, and radishes on top of the steak then a lettuce mixture, and small container of Tessemae’s raspberry vinaigrette on top. Salad two started with the same steak base layered with spiralized carrot, spiralized steamed zucchini zoodles, and spinach with a white balsamic vinegar, sesame seed, salt, pepper, olive oil, ginger, and coconut aminos dressing in a small container. When it came time to eat our salads, after all our events concluded, we poured the dressing on, put the lid back on the mason jar, shook it all up, and used the mason jar as the bowl.

In addition to the salads I packed peeled hard boiled eggs, Applegate organic roasted turkey breast deli slices, plenty of water, and coconut water. But the biggest life saver was the sweet potato protein puree. Pre and between events we needed something that was easy to digest, low volume, and that would not upset our stomachs. The last thing you want during any workout, competition or not, is an upset gurgling bloated stomach. The sweet potato protein puree works really well post regular workout as well as on competition day, as it can be made in advance and stored in the fridge. It can be eaten cold or warmed up. It’s an excellent combination of protein, fat, and carbs and it gave us energy, replenished our glycogen stores, and satiated us for the next workout.

 Sweet Potato Pumpkin Puree

Competition Eats: Sweet Potato Protein Puree

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Ingredients
  • 4 large Sweet Potatoes roasted and removed from their skins - To roast: coat washed and pierced with a knife sweet potatoes in coconut oil and roast in the oven at 400° degrees for 45 minutes to an hour
  • 1 can Pumpkin Puree
  • 4 scoops vanilla or chocolate Protein Powder
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup full fat Coconut Milk
  • 1 tablespoon Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • Sea Salt and White Pepper, to taste
  • Optional 4 tablespoons Great Lakes Gelatin, Collagen Hydrolysate (important to use the gelatin in the green can for this as it is cold water soluble, the orange and red cans are not. See resources below for the gelatin, pumpkin, protein, and coconut milk I used in this recipe.)
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl puree roasted skinned sweet potatoes and pumpkin puree with butter and coconut milk with an immersion blender until combined. If you do not own an immersion blender: mash sweet potatoes, pumpkin puree, butter, and coconut milk with a potato masher or a fork.
  2. Stir cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and white pepper into sweet potato and pumpkin puree. Taste and adjust seasoning to your preference and size of your sweet potatoes. Larger sweet potatoes may need more butter, coconut milk, and seasoning.
  3. Stir protein powder and optional gelatin into mixture. Use immersion blender, potato masher, or fork to combine until smooth.
  4. Divide mixture into jars or containers. The size of your sweet potatoes will determine if you end up with a large batch of 6 to 7, 8 ounce mason jars or less.
  5. Store in refrigerator for up to one week. Serve cold or heated.

Resources:

SFH (Stronger Faster Healthier), Pure Whey Protein

Farmers Market, Organic Canned Pumpkin 

Great Lakes Gelatin, Collagen Hydrolysate 

Aroy-D, 100% Coconut Milk

Ball Heritage Collection Quart Jars with Lids and Bands, Green

Ball Jar Crystal Jelly Jars with Lids and Bands, 8-Ounce, Quilted

For more information about competition nutrition check out:

The Paleo Athlete Book 

The Predator-Diet Approach to Pre Competition Nutrition

And now for the disclaimer: The products above and linked to in this post are ones I used in my recipe or to pack for the competition. I did not receive any financial compensation or product for recommending any brand or product in this post. These are simply my personal recommendations and items I stock in my own kitchen. If you do purchase an item from the Amazon affiliate link, Nourish to Fuel receives a small compensation which helps to cover a portion of the cost for the site.