Warrior/28 Meals – Week 1

The idea behind this whole experiment is to make it as easy as possible. Most of the programs I see 1) focus on short term results, and not on long term changes, and 2) make it impossible to stick with because the meal plans suck, plain and simple.

Food needs to taste good, first and foremost. If it doesn’t, you won’t want to eat it, no matter how healthy it is. Second, unless you are someone who has a surplus of time, if making the food isn’t easy, you won’t do it. Humans are creatures of habit, and tend to take the path of least resistance.

When it comes to food, that usually means hitting Starbucks for breakfast, Chipotle for lunch, and pizza delivery for dinner. Once we’ve ceded the decision to make our own meal, once we’ve made that one, small compromise, it becomes easier to compromise on subsequent decisions: instead of finding the healthy option at one of the aforementioned places, maybe we get one that’s not quite as good for us. And maybe, once we’ve done that, we get the venti instead of the grande. (I can only speak to my personal experience on this.)

So the first phase of Warrior/28 is all about creating long term change. I prepared some easy meals for the week on Sunday, and I can mix and match most of the stuff here to change it up so I’m not stuck eating the same lunch or dinner every day. You can see this week’s meal plan here. Just know, this isn’t set in stone, and I’ll update it as I go.

(Clockwise, from left)

  1. Warrior Chicken: dinner 3 nights this week. Seasoned with Warrior Blend (see below)I’ll have that with some steamed veggies (not pictured) and the Coconut Rice (see below)
  2. Avocado: I’ll keep one of thee around as either a mix-in with my lunch, or with my eggs, should I be so inclined to actually make some before work
  3. Fuji Apples: afternoon snacks
  4. RX Bars: so many nutrition bars to choose from! That’s a post for another day. Most nutrition bars, while high in protein, are also higher than I would like in cholesterol, and with my family history with heart disease, that’s a route I’d just as soon avoid. I picked up these guys because it looked like a flavor I would like, and there are only 7 ingredients in them. I’ll let you know how they work out.
  5. Granola bars: I mix them into my yogurt. Adds a little more protein, puts some crunch in the yogurt, and let’s face it, fiber is our friend.
  6. Chobani Greek Yogurt: protein, and while there are conflicting studies on how beneficial yogurt can be for your gut, I figure it can’t hurt. I’m always starving around mid-morning, regardless of what I have for breakfast, so this helps bridge the gap between breakfast and lunch.
  7. Cilantro and Red Bell Pepper: pre chopped and ready to mix into any of my meals, should the mood take me. I like having options for flavor so that I don’t feel like I’m eating the same thing every day.
  8. Zombie Spice Blend, and Warrior Spice Blend: always keep spice rubs around. It’s an easy way to prepare a meal: take meat or veggies, add spice rub, and cook.  Done. The Zombie Spice Blend (soon to be available from Saint Brian’s BBQ) is a Caribbean jerk style rub with coffee grounds, adding a nice flavor profile and a little caffeine kick. The Warrior Spice Blend (also soon to be available from Saint Brian’s BBQ) is specially formulated to take advantage of spices that studies have shown to have properties that aid in recovery, and it has no salt, so it won’t make you retain extra water.
  9. Pork chops with Zombie Blend: this will be one of my lunches this week, eaten in taco form.
  10. Barbecue Chicken: seasoned with Dash Cunning Spice Rub, grilled, and shredded. Other lunches this week. These, too, will be consumed in taco form. I’ll add either Saint Brian’s Original Sauce or Sweet Victory Sauce to punch it up.
  11. White Corn Tortillas: whole wheat tortillas are crap. Let’s face it.  They fall apart when you look at them. They serve no purpose in conveying food from my plate into my mouth, other than to lull me into a false sense of security before dumping food all over my hand and down my arm.
  12. Apple Slaw: I julienned a Fuji apple, mixed it with a pre-bagged coleslaw mix, and added a dressing of mayo, cider vinegar, and honey. This will go really well with my lunch tacos.
  13. Coconut rice with cilantro: I made Minute Rice, but instead of water I used coconut water to add some flavor (plain rice is incredibly bland). I added some chopped cilantro to add some freshness. I didn’t feel the need to go with brown rice because A) I don’t like it, and B) a recent study has shown that there are no health benefits to eating brown rice over white rice.

Not pictured: steamed veggies, and breakfast.  The steamed veggies come in those bags from the freezer section that you can just throw in the microwave. That will round out my dinners. Breakfast is usually just a bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats. Between taking care of the dogs (one requires chicken in his bowl or we won’t eat his food; he also will not poop unless he is on a walk, and I need to carry him up and down steps because his hips are bothering him) and getting myself ready, I don’t have a lot of time in the morning for much more.

Warrior/28: Week 1

Here I am, day 1 of the 28 day challenge. The hypothesis: is it possible to make small changes to my diet, and nothing else, over 28 days and see a change in my physical fitness and instill longer-term change? This will be measured quantitatively (will I lose weight, improve my BMI, and lower my body fat percentage), and qualitatively (do I look/feel better).

Starting weight/body fat %/BMI: 169.8 lbs / 22.3% / 25.1

This is the heaviest I’ve been, ever, and I need to turn this around. I have a history of heart disease in my family, and as I turn 40 in a year, I need to establish a better, healthier lifestyle in order to build a foundation for the years to come.

A little bit about my philosophy on this meal schedule:

  • I am a creature of dichotomies: I crave both routine and variety. So while I don’t necessarily want to eat the same thing for lunch every day, I need the “schedule” of preparing meals for myself, otherwise I get out of the habit very quickly and fall into bad habits (read: I go to Wawa a lot). I attempted to build in some variety with my meals, while still allowing for me to prepare them at once and thus save time during the week.
  • I need this to fit into a “regular person” schedule. By this I mean that I don’t always have the time or energy to prepare meals (I have a full time job in addition to running Saint Brian’s), so that means that there are days that I go out to eat. I feel that most normal people do this, so I’m attempting to build this with that in mind.
  • You’ll notice that several times during the week, I’m eating a banana and chocolate milk for “dinner”. These are my jiu jitsu nights, so I tend to eat light before practice (8:30 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Semper Fi MMA Academy). I’ll make sure that I’m getting enough calories earlier in the day to fuel the workout.

My usual routine, as it has been for a few months now is this (and I follow with what I’m attempting to do differently):

  • Wake up at 6:00 am, feed and walk the dogs
  • Make breakfast: this is usually Frosted Mini Wheats and 2% milk. The change: attempt to incorporate more protein, such as eggs. The challenge: time.
  • Stop at Starbucks for a venti no water vanilla Chai latte, and if I skipped breakfast or was running late, I’ll get either their oatmeal or chorizo breakfast sandwich. The change: no more lattes, and no chorizo sandwiches. If I stop there, it will be for normal tea to get my caffeine fix, and the oatmeal is OK. The challenge: the Chai lattes are delicious. And, you know, chorizo.
  • Work from 8 until noon, no snacks, and then get lunch. This is a rotation between Wawa (either an Italian hoagie or a chicken sandwich with chipotle sauce and bacon, Shorti for both) and Chipotle for a burrito. On Fridays, we all at the office get lunch together somewhere. The change: stop going out for lunch, and bring my own prepared lunch, or limit myself to SaladWorks (I get a Tivoli with no dressing and extra spinach). I’ll still get lunch with the team on Fridays, but will either alter the meals the rest of the day or find a healthier option wherever we are eating. I’ll also be adding a mid-morning snack, so this should help cut down on the appetite at lunch. The challenge: I have no discipline when I get ravenous. And I love burritos.
  • Work through the afternoon, no snacks, until 5ish. Get home, feed and walk the dogs, veg on the couch for a bit. Typical fare for dinner (on non-training nights): pasta drizzled in olive oil, or popcorn, or pizza. So, yeah, I still eat like a college student. The change: eating actual adult food with meat and vegetables. Adding an afternoon snack. The challenge: time and energy to make the food.
  • Tuesday and Thursday nights at 8:30, and Saturdays at noon, I have jiu jitsu practice, so I’ll go light on meals leading into class. I don’t want o cramp up or vomit all over my training partner. That is frowned upon (though not expressly forbidden).
  • Dessert any time between 7:30 and 9:30 pm. This usually will be several Oreos (one row is a serving, right?), or ice cream, or whatever sweets are around. The change: I’m not getting rid of dessert, I just need to moderate it to being the actual suggested serving size. The challenge: will power. And that fact that Ben and Jerry’s puts all of their ice cream in single serving pint containers.
  • Sleep by 10:30 or 11.

One additional, qualitative benefit to this experiment will be looking at my sleep. I have every intention every night of being in bed by 10 or 10:30 so I can get 7.5-8 hours of sleep, but it’s rare that this happens. So an additional, secondary question here would be: will altering my diet improve the quality of my sleep?

For those playing along at home, I’ll include links to any of the recipes that I use. I’m preparing my meals later today, but for now, you can view this week’s meal schedule here. It’s a work in progress and not set in stone. I’ll likely make changes throughout the week, and if/when I do, I’ll post an update.

28 Day Challenge

Despite doing a pretty intense Brazilian jiu jitsu workout 3 times a week, I’ve been carrying a few extra pounds lately.  I attribute this to stress, getting older (I’m closer to 40 than I’d like to admit to myself), and a daily Starbucks habit.

I was reading about this “Whole30” thing (essentially a revamp of the Paleo diet, which is a revamp of the Atkins diet: no grains, mostly protein and roughage, and no fun), and while I have no intention of eliminating grains from my diet, I was intrigued by the idea of really zeroing in on what I was eating.

My hypothesis is that I’m already leading a relatively healthy lifestyle, and with only minor tweaks to my daily food intake, I can affect a positive change in my weight and health. My starting weight is in the neighborhood of 168 lbs, and I believe that I can get that down to 160 lbs.

I want to be a little scientific about this, so the only thing I’ll be altering is my diet. The goal is to put an plan in place that’s easy to follow, easy to execute (time is ever the enemy to plans), and is based in actual science. For example, I won’t be eliminating grains, as there is no conclusive, peer-reviewed study that shows that grains have a detrimental effect on one’s health.  To that end, should you come across an article that shows scientifically-backed information about nutrition or diet changes, please send it along, as I will gladly ready it.

So here’s my plan: starting Monday, December 12th, I’m going to start following a 28 day food plan, and I’ll share what I’m doing with everyone.  At the beginning of each week, I’ll post the planned meals. Some rules I’m going to set for myself:

  1. No more Starbucks chai lattes in the morning.
  2. No soda (except on my cheat day, if the mood takes me)
  3. Be flexible; life happens, so the plan needs to be able to change
  4. East relatively normal; this isn’t a crash diet, it’s meant to be an experiment to engage longer-term change, so the plan cannot be draconian, else it won’t be sustainable
  5. Incorporate Saint Brian’s products whenever possible (because SHAMELESS PROMOTION)
  6. Post the results, regardless of whether they prove or disprove my hypothesis

I’ll be posting the first week’s plan on Sunday.

Smoked Pork Chops, Cherry-Chipotle Sauce, Coconut Rice with Lime and Cilantro


This was a fun one to make. In cooking the pork, I actually used both my smoker and my gas grill, but if you have either a nice Weber or a gas grill that has the ability to smoke as well, you can stick with one kind of fuel.

Cherry Chipotle Sauce

I borrowed this one from barbecue master Steven Raichlen, so rather than reprint the entire recipe here, I’ll just give you the link. I found that using just the one chipotle pepper was enough, as two would likely overpower the cherry flavor. I also omitted the liquid smoke, as between the chipotle and smoking the chops there was enough smoke in the dish already.

Smoked Pork Chops

I used two thick, bone-in chops for this. I could have simply smoked them both for a couple of hours, but I didn’t want to wait that long (and the night I was cooking had a thunderstorm predicted, and I didn’t want to be caught in the rain).

Start by applying Saint Brian’s BBQ Dash Cunning Spice Rub to the pork chops, taking care to ensure total coverage of the meat. Wrap the chops in plastic, and allow to dry marinate for at least an hour, or as long as overnight.

I fired up my offset smoker to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and started the chops on there. After 20 minutes, I transferred them to a screaming hot grill and cooked them for about 4 minutes per side, until the internal temperature was 145 degrees* (I like my pork chops medium rare).

If you are using something like a Weber kettle, set up for indirect grilling and put the soaked wood chips onto the coals. Smoke the chops for 20 minutes, then transfer them to be directly over the coals, and cook for 4-7 minutes per side until they have reached the desired internal temperature.

If you are using a gas grill, set it up for smoking and indirect cooking (some advice on that here) and follow the same instructions for cooking over charcoal.

Coconut Rice with Lime and Cilantro

  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 coconut milk
  • 1 T freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • 4 tsp finely chopped cilantro
  • salt to taste

Combine the rice, water, coconut milk, and salt in a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low heat and simmer until the liquid is absorbed. Using a fork, fluff the rice while adding the remaining ingredients, adjusting the seasoning as needed. Serve hot.

* Recommended internal temperature for medium rare pork is 145 degrees Fahrenheit, 160 for medium. If you pierce the pork to tenderize, minimum safe internal temperature is 160 degrees.