Body Beast – Build & Bulk Phase Review

9 weeks down, 3 to go!

Not going to lie – I was really intimidated by this program. It’s packed full of testosterone and Sagi – “the Beast” – can be overwhelmingly cheesy at times…but you learn to love him after just a couple workouts. The amount of food required to support a heavy lifting routine is also very different than other Beachbody programs like 21 Day Fix, Hammer & Chisel, and Shift Shop. For people like me who love meal plans like Shift Shop that cut the carbs, the Body Beast meal plan is daunting. For example, the containers I needed to eat during the Build/Bulk phases were:

4 red (protein), 5 green (vegetables), 5 purple (fruit), 1 blue (healthy fat), 1 orange (seeds/dressings), 4 tsp (oils/nut butters), and (drumroll please) – 9 yellows (carbs).

At the start of Body Beast, I weighed in at 171lbs. During these last 8 weeks, I’ve been focusing on perfecting my form, increasing my weights, and – yes – consuming enough calories to facilitate muscule growth. In the weightlifting world, this is often referred to as “bulking,” and it does involve some weight gain. In preparation for the program, we heard a lot about “fluff” – a.k.a. seeing the number on the scale go up instead of down, which is a scary thought when you’re used to kicking your own ass in order to see that number go down.

However, gaining weight does not necessarily mean gaining fat. While a pound of muscle and a pound of fat weight the same, muscle takes up less space than fat. During these first 8 weeks of Body Beast, I have gained 7lbs. I’m now hovering right around 178lbs. However, I’ve lost five inches and my pant size has remained the same, so I’m not concerned with the number on the scale right now.

I will say that during the first two weeks on Body Beast I relied heavily on bread and grains to check off my yellow containers (all nine of them). After completing 2 rounds of Shift Shop, I can tell you that my body likes a limited or grain-free diet. So I decided to experiment to see how limiting grains affects my progress/performance. I reduced the amount of breads/pastas I was consuming, and focused on eating from the ‘top of the food lists.’ That means I ate a lot of potatoes, berries, leafy greens (like spinach), broccoli, and eggs. My weight didn’t drop, but I did feel less bloated and I would say I had more energy.

Time for some honesty. If you’re anything like me, having so many yellow containers in your meal plan will cause 2 things to happen:

  1. You will use the number of yellows to justify way too many treat swaps.
  2. You will get so sick of potatoes that by the end of the bulk phase you won’t even want to look at a potato.

So yes, maybe I wouldn’t have gained 7lbs if I had truly cut out all alcohol/chocolate from my diet…but life is about balance, and Body Beast is a long program (12 weeks!). I don’t know if I would have been able to stick with it if I didn’t allow myself some wiggle room for having a glass of wine or a couple pieces of chocolate every once in a while. That being said, I didn’t skip a single workout and have been consistently increasing my weights – I am so much stronger than I was at the start of this program! Here’s just a quick peek at my weight diary, showing the weights that I’ve been using for the different workouts:

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You can see that I’ve actually gone down on my weights this week – that’s because I’ve been focusing a lot more on form over weight. I want to avoid injury!

Now we have moved on to the “Beast” phase of Body Beast. We’ve been referring to this as the “Lean” phase. Supposedly this is where we will all magically lean out, lose weight, and become chiseled superstars. In order to facilitate this, the meal plan has changed – now I’m eating the following containers every day:

3 green, 3 purple, 2 yellow, 1 blue, 1 orange, 6 red, 2 tsp

You can see that we’ve cut carbs and increased protein. I’m only one day into this phase…but I already feel different. Eating so much protein makes me feel so full! I ate dinner at 8:30 and still wasn’t very hungry!

The pictures below show how my body has changed from the summer (when I was doing Shift Shop) to now, after 8 weeks of Body Beast. I’m looking forward to leaning out and seeing more changes over the next four weeks!

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Your fitmiss in progress –
Jennie

 

 

Tasty Thursday – Veggie-Packed Stir Fry

The other night I was hungry and had one of those “I have nothing in the house to eat” moments. Now, don’t get me wrong – I had a lot of food in the house – and a lot of leftovers – so I decided to get creative to make a satisfying, fulfilling, protein-packed meal. This recipe is adapted from my fridge clean-out that night – I’ve doubeld the recipe to allow for 2 servings, so you can make this for yourself and a vegan friend!

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Vegan-Friendly! Veggie-Packed Stir Fry
½ block tofu, pressed/drained/pat dry
2 tsp avocado oil, or coconut oil – a spray works
salt & pepper, to taste
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp turmeric
1-2 cups broccoli, steamed and drained
1-2 cups butternut squash noodles
2 servings spaghetti/lo mein/rice noodles (cooked)
5-6 splashes coconut aminos – probably equal to 2-3 tsp
2 tsp lemon or lime juice
4 tsp sriracha
1/2 cup coconut milk

Cut tofu in half. Reserve about half (yes, half of the half) for the  “scramble” that we’ll make later – set aside.  Slice remaining tofu into thin strips – I’d say no thicker than ¼ inch. You want the strips to be thin without being transparent. Sprinkle tofu with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tsp oil or spray in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add the tofu to the pan, making sure the strips do not overlap. This is the most time-consuming part of the recipe. It typically takes ~5 minutes for the tofu to get to my desired level of brown/crispiness. Flip the tofu, and cook on the other side for another ~5 minutes. This will really depend on your pan/heat source, so I suggest grabbing a glass of wine and watching the tofu so it doesn’t burn. You’ll know the tofu is done when it is golden brown and holds its shape (meaning – is not floppy). It doesn’t necessarily get pretzel-crisp, but it will have a hearty bite.

Remove fried tofu from heat and set aside. I’ll usually wipe out the pan at this point and add another spray of oil/tsp of oil and return the pan to the heat, lowering it from medium-high to medium. Crumble the remaining tofu into the pan. If your tofu has a lot of leftover moisture in it, it may stick together at first – but the water will ultimately cook out and you’ll be able to break it up in the pan, so don’t worry if that happens. Add salt and pepper, 1 tsp onion powder, and at 1 tsp turmeric. Cook until slightly browned. The turmeric adds a nice flavor and also helps the tofu look like scrambled eggs!

When scramble is done, add the steamed broccoli, butternut squash noodles, and spaghetti to the pan. Just for clarity: the butternut squash noodles are raw – I found mine in the produce section in Publix. The spaghetti/noodles are already cooked (I always cook up multiple servings of pasta at the beginning of the week – I’m impatient and hate waiting for water to boil).  Pour in the coconut milk, and stir the mixture around. Add coconut aminos (watch this – if you add too much, the dish will be too salty – you can always add more later), lemon or lime juice, and sriracha. Stir until everything is heated through and the flavor has coated all the noodles. Don’t be afraid to experiment with flavors/spices! Swap out sriracha for sweet chili; add garlic; sprinkle in some chili flakes if you like heat. Whatever you do, the last step of the recipe is the same – divide noodle/vegetable mixture into two dishes and top each with a portion of crispy tofu.

Enjoy!

Your fitmiss in progress –
Jennie

 

Meatless Monday – Vanilla Cashew Milk

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I’ll talk about some variations at the end.
Bonus – this is another vegan-friendly recipe!

A note about soaking cashews: it’s not technically necessary…but I’ve done some reading and it looks like soaking nuts aids digestion. I toss the cashews in a tupperware, top with water, and throw in the fridge the night before I’m going to make milk. Super easy.

Directions
:

Put all the ingredients above into a high-speed blender.
Using less nuts will create a thinner milk; using more will give you a thicker consistency. [Think of it like the difference between skim, 2%, and whole cow’s milk]
I prefer using 1/2 to 3/4 cup cashews for more of a 2% – whole milk creaminess.
You could also experiment with the amount of water you use – I prefer using 20-24oz. Blend!
I use the “extract” setting on my Ninja – it’s 1 minute of continuous blending.
Pour into a bottle or glass jar (I rinsed out a store-bought milk bottle and reused it).
Store in the fridge, and drink up!

Please note that I do not need to strain my milk – but if you are using a lower-watt blender, you may need to pour through a nut milk bag/cheesecloth to get out the “grit”/leftover pieces of nuts. This is yet another reason why I love my Ninja – no need for that!

Variations

  • Using 1/2 to 1 tsp vanilla bean paste will intensify the vanilla flavor, so if you have this in your pantry I suggest using it!
  • This time of year, I love adding cinnamon to my nut milk – especially if I’m going to be using it in coffee. Try adding a couple shakes (or 1/4 tsp) of ground or roasted cinnamon to this recipe.
  • Another great idea for coffee – adding 1/2 tsp of caramel extract instead of vanilla (or you can do a blend of vanilla and caramel).
  • Add 1-2 tbsp unsweeted cocoa or cacao powder for a chocolate kiss.
  • If you don’t have dates, you can substitute the following: 1/2 to 1 tbsp honey (but be aware that many vegans do not consume honey, so if you’re making this to impress a vegan friend, leave this out!), 1/2 to 1 tsp (~6 drops) Stevia extract, 1/2 to 1 tbsp agave nectar. **It really depends on how sweet you want your milk – add a little bit at first. You can always taste-test and add more later.
  • You can also leave the dates/sweetener out completely, if you are looking for an unsweetened milk! You may be sweet enough as-is (or maybe you need this milk for a savory recipe).

Please be aware that this milk doesn’t have any preservatives in it, so it won’t keep as long in the fridge as shelf-stable milks. I would only recomment keeping it for 4-5 days – though you’ll probably drink it all up before then.

Non-dairy milk is a staple in my fridge. I use it in shakes, oatmeal, coffee, tea, matcha lattes, cereal…the list truly goes on and on. Drinking cow’s milk not only breaks me out, but I like the flavor of nut milks more. Recently, I’ve been trying to cut down on added preservatives as much as possible, avoiding emulsifiers/gums/and carageenan. “All natural” nut milks easily cost $5-8 per quart! That’s $2 per cup!

I get a pound of cashews at my local store for around $8.
This pound of cashews will make at least 4 bottles of cashew milk.
That works out to $2 per bottle.
So if there are 4 servings (cups) per bottle, that’s only $0.50 per serving!
(I have dates/vanilla/Stevia in my pantry at all times, so I don’t include those in the cost)

I hope you enjoy this recipe. If you make it, tag me in a picture on Instagram (my username is @fitmissjennie) or leave a comment below!

Portion Fix
8oz (1 cup) nut milk = 1 tsp in portion fix terms.
Here’s where things get a little tricky. I’m all about balance, so there are certain things that I don’t stress about – using dates in this recipe is one of them. However, if you are concerned with following the 21 Day Fix program as written, I’d suggest swapping out the dates for Stevia (the dates should technically be counted as 1 purple/”treat swap” each) or making unsweetened milk.

Your Fitmiss in Progress,
Jennie

Fitmiss Playlist vol. 1

weekly playlistOne of the things I love best about working out at home is that I can blast my music as loud as I want, and nobody can complain about it! (Well, my husband could…but he usually plays it louder than I do!) I have a pretty eclectic taste in music, and I thought it could be fun to share some of my playlists with you. My intention is for this to evolve into a weekly feature. Until then, enjoy vol. 1 – and let me know what some of your favorite songs are! I’m always looking for new tunes to play while crushing my workouts.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/tqu2yr8lyun1pk2cbeejnnfhq/playlist/6pgKG4qgJd1CQg9MxDsCQf

Meatless Monday – Vegan Taco Soup

Are you stuck in a meal planning rut and looking for a new recipe? I’ve got your back with this healthy, vegetable-packed taco/tortilla soup that – BONUS – is meat free and completely vegan. There’s actually a second bonus – it is SO easy to throw together and practically cooks itself! This is a crockpot recipe that is sure to become one of your go-tos.IMG_4911
Serves 6-8
Ingredients
(1) 28oz can no salt added diced tomatoes
(1) 32oz carton no salt added vegetable broth
1 cup fresh salsa or pico de gallo
1 white onion, diced
2 bell peppers (any color, though I usually go for yellow and green)
3 cans beans, rinsed and drained (I use a can of pinto beans, a can of black beans, and a can of great northern beans)
1 bag frozen corn
1-2 tsp black pepper
1-2 tsp Himalayan pink sea salt
2-3 tsp minced garlic (or garlic powder)
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper, depending on how spicy you like your food
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp onion powder
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

Directions
Are you ready for this? Combine all ingredients in your crockpot. I have a 6 quart crockpot and this recipe fits perfectly. Cook on low for 8 hours, or on high for 4 hours. That’s it! Serve with 6-8 tortilla chips (this is my favorite brand) either on the side or crumbled on top – your choice. If you aren’t vegan, you could consider topping your soup with plain greek yogurt (a healthier alternative to sour cream) and 1-2 tbsp of shredded cheddar cheese. If you are vegan, there are plenty of non-dairy yogurts and “cheeses” that you can try – but the soup is delicious as-is!

Portion Fix equivalents (soup only): 1.5 Red*, 1 Yellow, 1.5 Green
*The More You Know: Beans are “typically” considered a Yellow (carb) when following the Portion Fix – but for those following the vegetarian/vegan meal plan, beans are considered a Red (protein)! Beans are an excellent source of fiber and protein and make an excellent meat substitution. I suggest trying black bean tacos the next time you’re considering using ground beef!

Tasty Thursday – Portion Fix Bean Dip

When following programs like 21 Day Fix, Hammer & Chisel, and Shift Shop, carbs – the yellow container, for all of my fellow portion fix lovers – are in relative short supply. For my weight and goals, I would usually have 3-4 yellow containers (servings) to eat per day. During Body Beast, we are eating more carbs to facilitate muscle growth – nine servings per day for my calorie bracket!

Brainstorming ideas for how to eat 9 yellow containers of carbs per day left me feeling a little lost. When I eat processed carbs like bread, pasta, or tortillas in excess, I get bloated very quickly. I get bored eating oatmeal. I dislike rice. I can only drink so much nut milk per day! Then, I watched my husband open up a container of hummus…and the lightbulb went off.

Now, I know what you’re about to say. “But Jennie, hummus is a blue container food!” And yes, you would be correct. However, hummus is a blue container food because traditionally it is made with tahini – sesame seed butter – and lots of oil to create a creamy, shelf-stable product. The good news is that you can easily create a bean dip that tastes just like your favorite hummus, as long as you have a can opener, a blender/food processor, and some creativity!

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21 Day Fix Approved Bean Dip (Hummus)
Ingredients
1 (15oz) can garbanzo/chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 (15oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained (this is optional! You can use any kind of canned beans you want – black beans, white beans, pink beans, pinto beans, kidney beans would all work. You could also just use 2 cans of chickpeas if you prefer the taste)
1 tsp garlic (I always have a container of chopped garlic in my fridge, but you can use 1/2 to 1 tsp garlic powder instead)
1 tsp Himalayan pink salt
1-2 tsp black pepper
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper (this is optional, but if you like spicy food I recommend it)
1/2 – 1 tsp onion powder
1/2 cup water, divided in half
1-2 tsp avocado oil (or olive oil – this is optional)

Directions
Quick Note: due to the volume of the beans, you may need to prepare this recipe in two batches. I used a Ninja blender with the food processor attachment and needed to split the beans in half to process them properly. If you have a big food processor, you may only need to do one batch.
1. Place half of the garbanzo beans and half of the black beans into the bowl of your food processor along with the spices listed above. This is a great time to experiment with different flavors/different proportions of spices – or you can measure the spices out exactly to create 2 batches of identical hummus.
2. If you’re curious, I used the “Mix Dough” setting on my Ninja blender to process the beans. After the first cycle, the beans on the bottom of my bowl were well blended but there were still whole beans at the top.
3.  If you have a yellow container, it’s a handy 1/4 cup measurement. Fill the yellow container with water and add half to the food processor to start (you can always add more later). The water will help mix everything together and move the beans at the top down towards the blades. If your bean dip is still not 100% smooth, you can either decide to keep it a little chunky (not going to lie, I like it that way!) or add the rest of the water in the yellow container to smooth it out. You should only need 1/4 cup of water per batch, but use your judgment if you have to.
4. Optional: add 1-2 tsp of avocado oil and pulse a few times to blend. Avocado oil is a healthy fat. Do not be scared of eating healthy fats – your body needs them, and they actually help promote healthy skin, hair and nails! Plus, each batch of hummus makes 4-5 servings. 1-2 tsp divided among 4-5 servings is not enough to worry about.
5. Transfer your bean dip into a separate container.
6. If you needed to make this hummus in 2 batches, now is the time to repeat steps 1-5!

Now that you’re hummus is ready to eat, measure out a serving. If you’re following a Beachbody program that uses the 21 Day Fix/Portion Fix containers, 1 yellow container = 1 serving of hummus. If you don’t have the Portion Fix containers (but want some!) click here or reach out to me. In a pinch, you can measure out 1/4 cup as a serving.

BONUS: If you are following a vegetarian/vegan meal plan, 1 serving of this hummus would actually count as 1 red container (protein), NOT a yellow!

My favorite way to eat this dip is with baby carrots and cut up bell peppers. I even dip cherry tomatoes into it! It’s an easy way to add some more veggies (green containers) to you diet, and the crunch helps you forget all about chips and pretzels.