Easy eating for lots of activity
August 14, 2019 8:35 AM   Subscribe

I’ve upped my activity a great deal this summer. I’m going to CrossFit 4-5 days per week. This is seriously tiring me out, and I’m pretty sure that a big reason is what I’m eating. Right now I’m mostly eating microwave Quaker oatmeal and frozen meals from Trader Joe’s (Cod Provençale, Chicken Burrito Bowl). Those are about the level of effort that I want to put in. What else can I be eating at that level of effort so that I’m less tired all the time?
posted by ocherdraco to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Can you add snacks like almonds/trail mix, babybel cheeses/string cheese, beef jerky, fruit, greek yogurt, smoothies packed with healthy fats, fibre, and oils (so protein powder, fruit, frozen greens, MCT oil or the like)? Do you have a big thing of whey powder and a shaker cup so you can drink that after your workouts?

The classic dinner is to get a roasted chicken and portion out and bake some frozen veggies to go with it and a side of quinoa (I think Trader Joe's has precooked grains?), you can eat that a few nights in a row and only prep once.

Another consideration is getting more sleep, I know a lot of fitness people say you need minimum 8 hours. I use breathe right strips sometimes and I find they help me sleep deeper too.
posted by lafemma at 8:43 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


Clif bars were pretty much created as on-the-go fuel for ultradistance cycling.

Also, make sure you're drinking enough water.
posted by notsnot at 8:56 AM on August 14 [3 favorites]


Protein shakes. I use the premade Premiere ones that have 30g of protein. If you like chocolate the chocolate one is good and the cookies and cream is fantastic (and creamy rather than thin like skim milk). I much prefer these to the big old tubs of whey powder. They actually taste decent and they don't have the nasty grittiness that powders do. They are best served cold, but are okay warm. I tried the vanilla once and it was okay. I like the chocolate ones the best. There are multiple flavors out there. They're pretty expensive if you buy them by the four pack, but I get them at Sam's or Costco and the price is more reasonable.

My other idea is crockpot meals. A lot of them you just dump the stuff in in the morning and it's ready to eat at dinner. Depending on the meal, add frozen steamer bags of veggies and/or minute rice (or other quick cooking starch).
posted by kathrynm at 9:03 AM on August 14


Second the smoothie idea. I use frozen bluberries, baby spinach, green tea, and veggie protein powder, and a bit of sweetener. Sometimes fruit sparkling water for a little fizz. Just throw it all in a blender on high for a few minutes. My cheap Oster blender has a pre-set "smoothie" setting that makes it easy.

A smoothie-adjacent idea is gazpacho. I use fresh veggies, removing rinds and inedible seeds beforehand and just let the blender do the work. My favorite variant is with seasonal melon, but there are lots of variants and few of them require any cooking. Chop, blend, and go. I make enough that I can keep a pitcher in the fridge for when I need a healthy meal on the go. The contents will settle so stir or shake before pouring. Also, some plastic containers will retain the flavor and smell of aromatic ingredients like onion, so you might want to consider glass.
posted by cross_impact at 9:28 AM on August 14


If you're active and trying to gain strength, you should probably be getting 1.2-1.6 g/kg of body weight of protein*. Many people are lucky to hit 0.8 . If you want easy, you can dump whey protein in a bottle with milk (or almond/soy/rice milk, or even water) and shake it up (I find microwaving it 35 seconds makes the milk less cold and helps the protein powder to mix). Milk has a lot of complex sugars to help give energy with less of a sugar spike.

My protein "shakes" are 1/2 cup generic "all bran" cereal, 1/5 can of frozen orange juice concentrate (thawed so it pours), 1.5 cup milk, whey protein powder (1 scoop; 20g protein) blended. All measures are approximate, as I just randomly mix stuff together.

Cottage cheese is great for protein, and yogurt is good for carbs. I let my family know which of these are "mine" and eat right from the containers.

I've posted this before, nobeagle kibble: can of black beans, can of chick peas, can of lentils, 1lb of mixed frozen veggies thawed/drained, salsa (likely 1/2 jar to a full jar depending upon size). Either mix in freshly cooked brown rice, or add a second jar of lentils. Mix this all up, and you've got several days worth of foodage. Alternately try pasta sauce, but I'm a salsa person.

I can buy 1kg of frozen cooked chicken breast strips. I make containers of 1/2 frozen mixed vegetables topped with 120g of the chicken strips. Maybe with some added salsa, or a small chunk of butter that will be melted when heated.

Keep apples/bananas/pears/grapes around for carb-y treats. Try to eat less refined sugar or other things that spike your blood sugar, because that's followed with toddler-like exhuastion.

Part of getting stronger is stressing the body and then letting it recover. You'd doing xfit 4-5x a week; what were you doing before? If you're switching from no/low activity, you might be asking too much from your body. Possibly you're giving your body more stress than it can currently recover from? I can handle 10+ hours a week of running, but I certainly couldn't have right when I started.

Also, how's your general life stress and sleep? Because both of those impact your body's recovery. How old are you? If you're 40+ your body recovers slower. Food is a necessary part of recovery, but it's not the sole part of recovery.

*Cite: recommended protein consumption and timing. Cite: protein spacing/timing. Cite: recommended protein consumption. Cite: protein and kidney health.
posted by nobeagle at 9:30 AM on August 14 [8 favorites]


Rotisserie chickens and hard boiled eggs. Plus make sure you're not lacking in the electrolyte department.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 9:35 AM on August 14


I like to keep on hand those flavored tuna pouches/cans. Add a little olive oil or mayo (you can buy small bottles to keep in an office fridge), some crackers or veggies for scoops, and it's an easy snack/mini-meal.
posted by answergrape at 9:38 AM on August 14


Also, how's your general life stress and sleep? Because both of those impact your body's recovery. How old are you? If you're 40+ your body recovers slower. Food is a necessary part of recovery, but it's not the sole part of recovery.

I’m 35. I’m in medical school and have spent about the past two years in a level of constant stress (yay trauma) but my day to day right now is pretty chill: self directed, mostly planning for residency applications.

Right now, I’m getting lots of sleep—I feel rested once I’m up, but often find that I’m sleeping ten hours and that it’s very hard to get up earlier, and I’m also often conking out for an hour or so after a morning workout (for which reason I mostly work out in the afternoon, except for days where commitments preclude it).

The exercise is definitely the driver of the fatigue—I was away last week and not working out, and I wasn’t unusually tired.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:59 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


You need more protein in snacks: shakes, hardboiled eggs, nut butters. Also I would probably cut down one day of exercise to add a recovery day, 5 days a week of crossfit is A Lot.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:05 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


My friends who do CrossFit usually do an every other day schedule, to allow for recovery. It sounds like you might be pushing a little too hard for your body right now.
posted by answergrape at 10:27 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I recommend three times a week for serious workouts at least for the first year, per strength books I've read. Without that recovery time you get overtraining syndrome.
posted by tooloudinhere at 10:48 AM on August 14 [3 favorites]


I know you say that you don't want to put any effort in on the day you're exercising, but would you be willing to put in a little effort once a week on a day when you're not?

Because an hour or two of batch cooking or prep cooking could go a long way towards setting your fridge up so that you only have to open the door and grab something when you come back in from a workout. This is 100% how I manage to pack my bag lunches in the morning - once a week I hardboil a bunch of eggs, or roast a bunch of chicken wings make a couple bean or grain salads, and prep a container of lettuce, and then stuff them all in the fridge, and then when I'm half awake in the morning "preparing my bag lunch" requires no more effort than "grab item and insert in lunchbox".

The hardboiled eggs would be good as protein snacks, as would the chicken wings (that's also dead easy - buy a family-pack of wings that have already been cut up into wingettes, dump them into a bowl and drizzle with some olive oil and sprinkle on a little salt and pepper, then dump them onto a baking sheet and roast them for about 20 minutes). To round things out, maybe buy a big block of cheese and then cut it into a few serving-size chunks, then wrap those chunks separately so that all you need to do when you need cheese is reach in and grab it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:49 AM on August 14


There are lots of good answers about re: protein, but I need some complex carbs when I'm exercising a lot. I really like sweet potatoes -- favorite method is roasted whole, but one can also slow/pressure cook or microwave them. Then I drizzle with nut butter and sprinkle on cinnamon. You can cook off a batch and then re-heat as needed.

Avocados are great for filling, nutritious snacks or toppings. Also eggs! A fried or hardboiled egg is great on so many things. I would also be liberal in your use of calorie-dense toppings like cheese, sour cream, guac, etc.
posted by Bebo at 11:09 AM on August 14


You'd doing xfit 4-5x a week; what were you doing before?

Sorry, missed this question. I was running 2-3x per week, but sub-5k distances.

I’m hearing what everyone is saying about overtraining—is that likely even if other than the fatigue, I feel fine?
posted by ocherdraco at 1:07 PM on August 14


Do you have any Whole Foods kinda grocery stores near you? My local chain has a deli that is great for already-made, easy-to-eat proteins like chicken piccata that I can add to their kale salad, or peppered roast beef I can add to their salad, or.... basically meat and salad.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:15 PM on August 14


Do you have space for a propane grill (bbq)? I absolutely adore the Webers and grilling up some chicken thighs or chicken breasts (especially if you butterfly them) takes less than 10 minutes including heating it up to operational temperature.

If you want some flavour, you can butterfly thighs and remove the bone, then cut into three strips (2 for smaller thighs). Season with satay (I like soy, sesame oil, "Korean bbq sauce" (basically, ground up brill fish in oil), curry powder, jar satay sauce. Or get those little bottles of pesto and sundried tomatoes - and get a tube of tomato paste. Mix that all up and skewer them. 4x 2 min, done.

Steaks: 5 minute bringing the grill to temp (300F), 2 min, flip, 2 min, flip, 2 min flip, 2 min flip - perfect medium rare.

Quartered bell peppers are super easy; quarter, sprinkle kosher salt, sprinkle garlic powder. 300F, 2 min, flip, 2 min, done. Same with thick slices of zucchini.
posted by porpoise at 2:36 PM on August 14


I do a 1000+ calorie smoothie in the morning because it's far easier than real food: 1-2 bananas, 2 cups whole milk, 2 scoops protein powder, 4 tbs flaxseed, 4 tbs oats, 4tbs peanut butter. Throwing this into your schedule (without removing anything else) should tell you if it's calories or protein that's the problem.

What about total calories? If you're losing weight or staying steady, you might just need to eat more overall. With that kind of training schedule I'd be doing real calorie tracking. This should be quite easy for you, given the pre-packaged food. A website like cronometer.com can help track this.

It's also possible you're overtraining/under-recovering. You say you're sleeping for 10 hrs but not able to get up earlier- is it possible the quality of your sleep is bad? That's a known symptom of overtraining. Ideally you should be having a light or rest week about every 6 weeks, to prevent overtraining.
posted by Jobst at 3:06 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]


You can upgrade your oatmeal with minimal effort. I have one of those rubbermaid cereal container things, and into it goes:
- rolled oats (regular kind, not quick, not instant),
- nuts (walnuts, almonds, whatever's on sale),
- seeds (flax, hemp, chia, pumpkin,...),
- dried fruit.
Shake that up so it's reasonably mixed, then mindlessly pour some into a bowl each morning. Top with a bit of water (or milk) and microwave for two minutes (at 80% power on mine). Put yogurt or nut butter or whatever in after for extra points.
posted by bethnull at 7:37 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]


Fresh fruit and lots of it. N-thing the smoothie and yogurt; and protein to keep the energy going and replacing it. Red meat (ymmv and many other beliefs involved in red meat) consistently brings the power; and replaces it for deep rest. Seemingly overhydrating has replaced ibuprofen; and slamming a half liter seems to get rid of the sluggies quickly.
- Might not be a bad idea to have a full check of your blood/cholesterol levels too.
posted by buzzman at 8:49 PM on August 14


Do you have an IntantPot?

It'll cook a piece of fish and a bunch of frozen vegetables in about 10 minutes, without any effort on your part. (Cooking time is actually 1 minute but it has to heat up and such.)
posted by dobbs at 1:45 PM on August 15


Upping calories and protein seems to be doing the trick. Thanks, everyone!
posted by ocherdraco at 11:08 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]


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