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So my boyfriend and I have a friendly bet going to see who’s going to have the best abs by July 4th. This little bet has been helping keep me motivated to work out and maintain my diet over these last few weeks. Last week after a slight meltdown at the gym and feeling overall wrecked I started doing a little research wondering why my abs were still nowhere in sight despite all the hard work I’d been putting in. I started digging and discovered it was possible I could be overtraining and not giving my body enough time to recover. There are lots of things that overtraining can affect but the big one is that because your body is under so much constant stress (yes exercise is stress) your cortisol levels get jacked up and boom not an ounce of fat drops off of you. (See Pretty Awesome Fitness – Overtraining) I’d heard something like this a couple weeks prior when I was listening to one of my favorite fitness podcasts, Paleo for Women; in their podcast Paleo for Women Episode 117 they discussed how it was possible that a ballerina who had written in was overtraining and putting her body under chronic stress.
With this information in hand, I decided that I needed to take a couple days off. No lifting, no running, no rowing, no yoga, nothing. Some light stretches in the morning to get the kinks out but that was it. It felt like a crazy gamble. I thought to myself what if this doesn’t work and I’ve lost valuable time that I could have been devoting to getting ripped. But something interesting happened, I woke up last Saturday and my boyfriend said: “honey you’re getting skinny.” Wait, what? I didn’t believe it. I looked at myself in the mirror in the bathroom and sure enough, I was looking leaner. But I hadn’t worked out in 3 days. That Saturday, I did some core work and had a light run on the treadmill. I had a couple more days of workouts (no more two-a-days) and then this Tuesday Aunt Flo decided to pay her visit.
Unlike the last several months when that would have meant I was going to be as bloated as a stuffed turkey, my tummy remained remarkably flat. I was so shocked I had to Instagram story the heck out of it! (That’s right you can watch me be freaked out by my progress on Instagram, ADD ME @realgraceshines) Anyway, all this got me thinking, sure moving your body is very important to getting fit but what you’re fueling your body with is just as important during those gaps when you need to let your body rebuild those muscle fibers. Ultimately, in the last two weeks, I’ve been relying mostly on my diet and not on the workouts to keep me on track.
Here’s how I’m making my abs in the kitchen:
- Because I’ve cut out grains due to my asthma and allergies it actually makes it really difficult to find replacement carbs. You know gluten-free hamburger buns or corn-free tortillas, so my carb consumption has gone way down. I have carbs of course but I have complex carbs like potatoes, sweet potatoes, apples, broccoli, and recently this Cuban-American girl has reintroduced plantains into her diet. If you’re working out you’re going to need complex carbs so your body doesn’t rob the fuel it needs from your muscles during those intense workouts.
- I eat breakfast! Every morning I get some protein in me and some healthy fats. Usually, it’s eggs and some kind of nuts on the side with a banana but I switch it up depending how I’m feeling in the morning. Some mornings I need more fuel than others.
- I pack my lunch for work. No matter how much you try most of the time if you eat out for lunch you’re going to either overeat or you’re going to have some food laced with a whole bunch of stuff that’s no good for you. I started packing my lunch and snacks for work every day. I’ll pack some chicken and spinach salad, or a gluten-free pastrami sandwich. Pack some baby carrots, some kind of nutty bar, maybe some cheese. I pack an apple for some carbs and fiber in the afternoon.
- I make dinner every night for myself. For a long time, I used to not like making dinner for just one. I guess it seemed a little sad to me so I was eating take-out a lot. I realize now that in order to reach my fitness goals I have to make my own meals most of the time, so I’ve figured out some strategies for cooking dinner a little faster. I do things like wrapping my meat (chicken, salmon) in parchment paper with whatever veggies I’m going to eat that night and pop it all in the oven. It cooks in about 15 minutes and all I have to clean up is just the baking tray. Boom dinner!
At first, I was seriously missing bread and wondering where the heck I was going to get all the calories I needed to function with so many new restrictions but as these weeks have gone by I barely miss bread. I’m loving my little veggie snacks and have concluded that my body runs best on a Paleo-ish diet. I say Paleo-ish because sometimes I do have some rice when I need some carbs and there’s nothing else on the menu that will work or I will have some lentils when I’m looking for a little variety in my gluten free pasta. It’s not happening often but it happens and I think that’s okay. The key I think is to listen to your body as you figure out what foods work and which ones don’t. My body loves cheese and I’m not giving it up but I’ve been tending toward the goat’s milk variety as opposed to cow’s milk these days. While I don’t count calories, I did try estimating the other day how many calories I was consuming. I’m up to about 2200 a day which makes sense given the muscle I’m gaining and when I’m being active.
I think my discipline is going to pay off come July 4th! So stay tuned for the Independence Day showdown!