Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The 24 Day Challenge: Meal Prep

This post is part of my new series on the 24 Day Challenge by Advocare.  You can read the original post here: http://www.importancesampling.com/2014/10/the-24-day-challenge-before-i-start.html

It's possible that the part of the challenge I was most excited about was the meal planning and prep.  I enjoy the cooking process-- the planning, the list making, the grocery shopping, the slicing and dicing, the stirring and mixing, the flipping and tossing.  I like reading recipes, following food blogs, trying new ingredients, looking forward to a good meal.  I also like only having to cook once a week or so (leftovers are awesome!).  The great thing about this challenge is that meal prep is highly recommended.  

The Challenge has a recommended list of food items: proteins, veggies, complex carbs.  Ideally, meals should be portioned out with 5oz protein, 1/2 cup slightly-cooked veggies (or 2 cups greens or 1 cup raw veggies), and 1/2 cup complex carbohydrate.  Snacks of healthy fats (nuts, hummus, olive oil, avocado) and fruits (preferably low on the glycemic index, such as apples, berries, and bananas).  The Cleanse portion of the challenge has a few extra restrictions, specifically no dairy, no alcohol, and no coffee.  Between the portion suggestions and the restrictions, my programming mind was excited about the puzzle.  Surprisingly, after a few hours of looking through blogs, webpages, and Pinterest, I determined that a number of my normal recipes fit into the meal plan (with a few tweaks for the right proportions of protein/veggie/complex carb).  Being the nerd that I am, I created a Google doc that planned out the meals and separated out the various components of the cleanse. 

Organizing.  Because it's what I do best.

With the meal plan (and therefore a grocery list) in hand, I hit up the stores for supplies.  Knowing that the challenge had a number of mixed drinks (a fiber drink, meal replacement shakes, Spark), as well as just consuming plenty of water, I took the opportunity to invest in a Blender Bottle, which hasn't left my hand since.  

New bottle and new plastic containers in hand, I started cooking.  Per my meal plan, I made the following dishes:

Tofu Stirfry + Veggies with Quinoa
Crockpot Salsa Chicken
Salsa Brown Rice
Ginormous toss salad (romaine + spinach + zucchini + tomatoes + carrots + celery)
Roasted brussel sprouts
Roasted sweet potatoes
Egg white muffins with spinach, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes
Homemade hummus
Hardboiled eggs

I adjusted the ingredient proportions and came out with 6 servings of each of the main dishes (stirfry + quinoa + veggies, salsa chicken + salsa brown rice + salad, egg muffins + roasted sweet potatoes), as well as enough snacks to last the week.

I did most of the cooking Saturday evening and Sunday night, so by the time the Challenge started on Monday, I had a fridge full of meals, packed and ready to go. 

Bring on the Challenge!

Monday, October 13, 2014

The 24 Day Challenge: Before I Start

  Have you ever heard of the 24 Day Challenge?  Specifically, the one promoted by Advocare?  Until recently, I'd only heard smatterings of it batted it around - a post (read: rave) on a blog here, a comment there.  I'd seen Spark turn normally calm softball players into hyper hitting machines.  When I finally asked a friend about it, I was invited to a Advocare mixer and convinced into doing a 24 Day Challenge (yes, maybe I do have a hard time saying no. . .).  The challenge is only 3.5 weeks long.  That is totally manageable.  Three weeks of meal planning, three weeks of no alcohol, three weeks of no coffee, three weeks of structured meals, supplements, and regulated water.  If it sucks, it's less than four weeks.  I can have my normal life back by Halloween (because no one wants to be themselves on Halloween?).

What It Is:

     Phase One:  Herbal Cleanse

The first 10 days of the challenge are focused on the herbal cleanse.  This is a gentle cleanse that is designed to clean out your system and change your gut flora.  The process has fiber drinks, probiotics, and herbal cleansing pills.  There is also a recommended meal plan, with specified portions of protein, veggies, and complex carbohydrates.  Fruit and healthy fats are encouraged for snacks between meals.  

     Phase Two: Max Phase

The last 14 days of the challenge are the max phase.  This phase builds on the nutrient absorption that the cleanse started, by providing multivitamins, thermogenic components (metabolism boosters), omega 3 supplements, and more probiotics.  As with the cleanse phase, there is a recommended dietary guide. 

     Other Products (that I'm using)

Meal Replacement Shakes: a box (14 mixes) of these shakes come with the Max Phase, and many people drink them for breakfast.  You can also blend them with ice and frozen fruit, if you want to bulk them up a bit more. 

Spark: Two boxes (28 packets) come with the challenge.  Since the challenge recommends cutting out coffee (gulp), these are my go-to sources for caffeine and mental clarity.  This is also the first product that got me interested in Advocare.  It's a powder energy drink that gets mixed with water.

Catalyst: This is an amino acid supplement.  Even though it is not included in the challenge, every distributor I've met (and many more online) recommend adding this product to the challenge.  Amino acid supplements can help increase muscle retention and encourage fat loss. 

Slam:  This is Advocare's version of the 5HR Energy shot.  It's a 2oz bottle that packs a punch.  I tried this two nights before I started the challenge and three hours later, I was very alert and very focused and very active.  

Why I'm Doing it: 

     - In support of my friend.  (I'm also "supporting" this friend by going to Vegas to celebrate her big birthday next month, so this is part of a pre-Vegas health kick)
     - Break a coffee habit (apparently by picking a more expensive, albeit more vitamin-ed, alternative)
     - Because I want to slim down.
     - Because I'm curious and interested.
     - Because I like the structure. 
     - Because this could become a business.  

Yes, I do think I'm ridiculous.  But as far as I'm concerned, there's no harm in trying.  And it's something fun.

If you want to join me, please use the following link: www.AdvoCare.com/140958817  Disclaimer: In order to get a good initial discount, I signed up to be an Advocare Distributor.  This is the link to my Advocare page.

Questions?  Concerns?  Words of encouragement?  Daily pun?
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