Dining Out In Your Own Home, For That Special Occasion

Need a gift idea? Or, would you rather stay in on a special night like Valentine’s Day? A few years ago after leaving the restaurant industry, I had started doing private wine dinners and small parties for various clientele who I had met through personal training or networking. I had never really marketed it as most everything I did was word of mouth for which I received a fair amount of business! More recently, I have been asked about doing a couple more dinners for different potential clients. I keep being asked the same questions, so I wanted to take the opportunity to answer them here.

How does it work?

I’ll need to know how many people and what exactly they are looking for… There are certain things that cannot be done outside of an industrial kitchen or in a home kitchen. I will typically go and meet with the host to view their kitchen, work space, and equipment before I can come up with a menu, as much of the cooking and preparation needs to be done at that location.

When meeting with the host, I will find out if there are allergies and/or aversions to certain foods, and nutritional guidelines (if any). Once I have those specifics, I can then come up with a menu. I haven’t yet had to get an “approval” for the final menu, as I am usually trusted to stay within the guidelines I am given, if any. That way all the client knows is that they are getting seasonal food they like, cooked the way they like it, with proper technique. The rest is up to my own experience and knowledge with food/ ingredient pairing, flavors and culinary artistry.

Seasonal Winter Menu (for example)

Appetizer:
               Butternut Squash Soup; crisp pancetta, grilled shrimp, yogurt, herbs
First Course:
               Potato Gnocchi; mushrooms, herbs, parmesan
Second Course (Served Family Style): 
              Porchetta; brined, roasted with fresh herbs
              Sides: Whole-Roasted Cauliflower w/ lemon, garlic and olive
                             Braised Kale, onion, wine, raisins
Desert:
              Marscapone Mousse; coffee, dark rum, nutmeg

What is the cost?

The per person cost is based on the menu. For two people it can range from $100-150/person. Parties larger than that can be similar, but likely less per person. Smaller parties will have a significant amount of leftovers for one or two meals beyond the initial event, something which may be worth the cost!

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Need for a Personal Chef?

A few years ago after I left the professional restaurant industry, I had started cooking privately for small parties and a couple different clients, weekly. It is something I really enjoyed as it was really left open to my creativity. The clients that I had were aware of my background and training within the culinary industry, and enjoyed fresh, good quality, seasonal food. I haven’t cooked professionally in the last four years due to focusing on running my gym but, do it more as a hobby. Cooking professionally is something that I sincerely miss and something that I am coming back to. Given my background in nutrition and sports nutrition certification through the ISSN, I will also include that end of it for the client with specific health, fitness and body composition goals. Nutrition, at the most basic level is about numbers. Fitting food to those numbers from raw ingredients can be a challenge and/or very confusing for the inexperienced, or, just too much work for some busier people who are trying to improve their health and fitness.

The main reason I left the restaurant industry as a professional cook was to focus more on combining my knowledge of the culinary arts with the science of nutrition and fitness. I wanted to help people. However, I wanted to stay involved with food, and stay in touch with the craft I had taken so much time to learn and had originally fell in love with.

Many people think eating healthy is boring or unappetizing. It doesn’t have to be. You can eat pasta, bread, cake, etc. You just have to know how to moderate it. You need to be sure that your portion size fits your needs. There’s no need begin a crazy diet that you ultimately are only going to do until you reach your goal, before going back to what you enjoy. Eat what you want, what you enjoy, but, be accountable for it. Use moderation and know your portion sizes.

What’s my goal with all of this? To cook fresh, good quality, seasonal food using local and sustainable ingredients that fit the nutritional needs and goals of the individual client. Over the past couple years, various services have popped up that prepare and deliver ready-to-eat meals that do have a nutritional focus, they’re main market; the fitness industry and most especially, CrossFit. However, I keep hearing the same comments from the consumers of these products; “They’re okay…” I think that’s the general consensus for mass produced, frozen, ready to eat meals. I am targeting the same market; those that value health and fitness AND good food that can be tailored to their specific nutritional and dietary needs to improve their body composition.

For those of you reading this in the MA/RI area interested in this service or who know someone who may benefit from this, please share this! I am only looking to take on one or two clients at this point. If you have questions or need some more information, please email:

bryce@fulcrumathletics.net

“Good food is the foundation of genuine happiness.” –Auguste Escoffier

Rules of Nutrition and Exercise

Every individual requires a certain amount of energy (calories) to support their lifestyle and daily activity, optimally. However, most people have no idea how much they need, or, where it should come from. This is the biggest problem to overcome for those that are looking to improve their body composition.

  • Rule #1: Know Your Energy Needs– Determine your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). This is how much energy you need to be consuming to maintain your current self without exercise. Men; multiply your body weight in pounds x 11 calories. Women; 10 calories. This will give you a good approximation within a couple hundred calories of your RMR, as if it was calculated by one of the numerous other ways including the Harris-Benedict Equation, Mifflin St. Jeor Equation, My Fitness pal, etc. Now, adjust for activity. Multiply your body weight by 14-16 calories per pound. If you work out three days per week use 14. Six days, use 16. You will now use those two different numbers. Your first; RMR, is your energy measurement you need to hit on your rest days. Your second; is what you need to hit on your training days. If you are overweight, subtract 500 calories from both. If underweight, add 500 calories.
  • Rule #2: Get Enough Protein- 1 gram per pound of *lean body weight is an easy, healthy approximation and generally, there is no need to have more than that. When you have your total, divide over breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, generally in 20-35 gram servings, spaced relatively equally throughout the day. Eat mostly good quality, local, lean meats, poultry, fish and eggs. Remember, there is protein in starches and grains as well…
  • Rule #3: Get Enough Carbs- The more active you are, the more carbohydrates you require. It doesn’t matter if you are doing CrossFit, weightlifting, bodybuilding, pilates, etc. You need carbs! If you train more for strength, 1-2 grams per pound of body weight is sufficient. If you train for endurance; 2-3 grams per pound. Be sure that most of your carb intake is from complex carbs such as; rice, potatoes, grains, legumes, and pastas as well as seasonal fruit and vegetables.
  • Rule #4: Fill In With Fat- Whatever is left after you’ve determined your protein and carbohydrate needs can be filled in with healthy fat choices such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, good quality animal fats, nuts/ nut butters, seeds, etc.
  • Rule #5: Fit In The Sweets- If you don’t do this, you may go mad! Some people crave them and it’s easy to say; “Just don’t cave in” but much harder to do. So, why not just have a little to satisfy that craving. Assuming everything else is in check, a very small indulgence won’t hurt to keep you sane. The problem with overly strict dieting, is that no one ever sticks to it and will always go back, it’s just a matter of time. Secondly, restriction opens one up for periods where they may over-indulge because the opportunity presents itself. A solution, if you MUST HAVE CHOCOLATE for instance, is to buy really good quality 85%-90% (cocoa) chocolate. Have only a piece or two when you feel like it. It is very different as it has 1/2 to 2/3 less sugar than usual chocolate bars (per serving). It will help you to appreciate what good chocolate really is and settle that sweet craving.
  • Rule #6: Eat Local Food- Support the small farms. This will be better quality food, and in many cases organic. You will begin to appreciate cooking for yourself and becoming more aware, and appreciative of what you are putting into your body.
  • Rule #7: Eat With The Seasons- You will have no choice but to eat seasonally by purchasing your food from a local farmer’s market or farm stand. This will help keep you free from un-natural growing methods, additives and overall, give you better quality food.
  • Rule #8: Sleep Enough- Go to bed earlier. Turn off the tv, stretch a little and go to sleep for 7-8 hours. Try to maintain a routine, even on the weekends. The best way to destroy a weeks worth of gains in the gym is to go out drinking all night and not get enough sleep. It only takes that one night…
  • Rule #8: Exercise!- It doesn’t matter what you do, just do it. Don’t come up with an excuse, there are none. Not enough time is probably the most popular. Working too much…excuse. Not enough money…excuse. “Injured”…excuse. Can’t wake up early enough…excuse. The gym is too far…excuse. Exercise to improve your health, not to impress other people. Your body NEEDS it, and your brain needs it whether you think so or not. Do you want to feel better mentally and physically? Work out. Do you deal with a lot of stress? Work out. Do you like what you see in the mirror? Work out. There is no magic pill. Go to the gym, grind it out, lift weight that feels heavy, challenge yourself and your body. Don’t cut corners, do it right. Follow what’s listed above as a template and I can guarantee you will see the results your looking for.

Cooking for Nutritional Purpose

Cooking for fitness goals and cooking for enjoyment are two very different things. Those that have specific performance or body composition goals will, and should have more specific dietary guidelines. At this point, food is fuel, and sometimes will be hard to enjoy. It is generally understood and accepted that protein is the most important of the three macro-nutrients for body composition, maintenance and or improvement of strength, and lean muscle. However, where carbohydrates and fat (the two other macros) fall into place is a different story.

Some people believe that carbs are evil and the diet should be comprised of mostly protein and fat, with most carbs coming from non-starchy, fresh vegetables. For example, there is nothing particularly wrong with a meal that consists of a good quality piece of fish or meat and a heaping pile of fresh, seasonal vegetables tossed with a little bit of butter and fresh herbs. However, throw exercise like CrossFit, strength training, weightlifting, endurance training or pretty much any other form of activity that keeps the heart rate elevated or causes a physiological stressor; the body needs carbs.

The common American diet that’s unrelated to sports nutrition is typically higher in fat and sugar. Common foods, deserts and or snacks like granola bars, cookies, brownies, etc. taste good because of fat and sugar. However, there are ways to improve the nutritional profile of these foods, therefor turning an otherwise poor food choice into an optimal pre/post workout snack.

Quick-breads such as cakes, cookies, brownies, etc. are all the same. They contain the same basic ingredients; flour, sugar, fat, liquid/ eggs and baking soda/powder. The only difference is the percentage of dry ingredients : liquid : fat.  Of course, flavoring and additional ingredients as well. These basic ingredients can be manipulated though, to improve the nutritional profile by reducing the fat and sugar while still keeping the same relative flavor and texture.

Substitutions for fat in some of these recipes, in order to increase the carbohydrate and fiber content, can be starchy fruit and or vegetables. The high starch content will give a very similar, almost indiscernible mouth feel to the final product. For instance, try reducing or replacing the fat in a cookie with white bean paste or mashed plantain. Apple sauce or apple butter can be used to not only replace fat, but also reduce the need for as much added sugar. The same goes for sweet potatoes.

For people who really need to have those “sweets” or snack/ dessert-like foods, these are ways to avoid having too much sugar or fat in your diet that will screw up your macro-nutrient intake, at the same time providing an optimal source of pre/post workout energy. At this point, having knowledge of flavor pairings and compliments such as herbs and spices would be very useful because removing fat and sugar from an already very tasty food, is sometimes hard to make up for. In future posts, I will start to provide a resource for ingredients, herbs and spices that tend to work well together, as well as recipes.

Individualized Nutrition Programs

Over the past couple months, I have been working on putting a nutrition program together that outlines personalized meal plans. This is sports nutrition, NOT medical nutrition therapy! It is based off of attaining ideal body weight/composition through nutrition and fitness, which is specific to the individual and their goals. This is scientific, not just a recommendation to ‘eat this, not that’ or to avoid food groups, or detox, or eat clean, or some other form of fad diet. Elaborating off of what I had to do in college and certification with the ISSN, this program utilizes equivalent measurements of different food choices to plan out a diet, making it flexible and easy to use. It is assumed that most will understand that the choices which are provided are of the best quality that is available (and affordable) to them. This is 100% guaranteed to work assuming it is followed and is meant to be flexible in order to create the least amount of stress. Noticeable and sustainable changes in body composition will happen over the course of two to four months, and sometimes in as little as one month.

Understanding what and when to put food into your body to achieve the best results is specific to the macro-nutrients involved. Not knowing those specifics is like trying to hit a target while blindfolded. Individuals with specific goals for performance and/or body composition will have different nutritional needs and recommendations. The problem with most fad diets, is that most people don’t stay with them usually because it affects other parts of their life whether it be sleep, not enough energy for exercise intensity, or the inability to maintain energy for the everyday stuff like work!

Many people I’ve worked with find that they are not eating enough, surprisingly. However, these same people are working out every day and trying to lose weight while for an extended period of time, consuming an already overly hypo-caloric diet. What tends to happen here is not only fat loss but, loss of muscle, energy, strength, and performance. Though total weight loss may occur, the percentage of lean body mass may not change much- a perfect way to attain that skinny-fat look.

The total caloric and macro-nutrient demands of an athlete or “hardcore exerciser” can be a bit daunting when people first look at the properly calculated needs. At around 1 gram of protein per pound of body-weight and 1-3 grams per pound of carbohydrates (depending on activity) it may seem like a lot of food! Therefore, meal frequency becomes important.

With the program I have written, each person would have a determined caloric intake based off of their goals and an appropriately plotted meal plan with specific measurements and food choices. Each food group or category contains most available foods and their serving sizes with macro-nutrient measurement. Once the appropriate intake is determined, it will be divided over three main meals; breakfast, lunch and dinner, and two snacks. Depending on the time that a client trains, special consideration will be taken for nutrient timing in order to properly fuel and recover from workouts. Each plan will include an outline for both training days and non-training days, as well as a food index.

For more information, fill out the contact form!

How to Prioritize Nutrition

I’m sure most of you reading this have been told that certain diets and foods are bad for you, while others are optimal. I was one of those people once. I can remember a point at which I bought into the idea that bread would kill me, grains would give me cancer, etc. Of course with this came the idea that you could eat as much bacon as you want. I ate sandwiches but replaced the bread with bacon. I was ‘above’ eating dessert and pretty much stopped drinking delicious beer, replacing it with hard cider because I thought it was more ‘natural’. I actually still prefer Harpoon Cider over most drinks because it is pretty delicious but, that’s neither here nor there.

I’m not really preaching to anyone about nutrition, just stating some observations based off of the reading I’ve done and real-life conversations I’ve had with people on the subject. As of the past couple years, I have followed some pretty well known people in the nutrition world; Layne Norton, Alan Aragon, Abbie Smith-Ryan among others, some of which were brought to my attention through a friend. Some of them are also very outspoken about their thoughts on certain dieting practices, training theories, etc. making it so they are either loved or hated. They question anything that isn’t science based and are not afraid to call out the bullshit. There are a lot of things that I once thought were correct, which I have found are actually very incorrect. Much of the time I enjoy finding these things out because at least I know I am staying up to date.

Within the past couple years and more recently the past few months, I have been following the work of the crew behind Renaissance Periodization; a team of strength coaches, PhD’s and doctors who have basically outlined a practical approach to health and body composition through diet and exercise without creating more stress from overly strict diet practices. The priorities are outlined in order of importance as it relates to food intake. The first and foremost objective they recommend is;

‘Are you eating enough? Or, too much?’

Secondly, in order of importance, ‘Are your total daily calories relatively balanced from a macro-nutrient standpoint based on your activity level, type, and individual needs?’

In other words, “Do you get enough protein, carbs and fat to support your goals and if so, how much of each?”

I found this extremely interesting as it created a ‘duh’ moment for me. It brought me right back to the basics of which I studied in college. Through conversations I’ve had with people who have asked my advice, these first two questions listed above are what stumps them. In general, all of them believe that carbs are bad, grass-fed meat, bacon, and fresh vegetables are optimal, and that butter in your coffee is a miracle. Tracking my intake was a real eye-opener for me as I thought I was eating “healthy”. As it turns out, I found that I was consuming roughly 40-45% of my calories from fat and 30% give or take, from protein. The rest came from carbs (under 40%). Much too high in fat and too low in carbs for my goals of staying lean but also, improving my strength with weightlifting. On top of that, I still wasn’t getting enough calories to support my training!

At this point, I don’t really track anymore as I have learned what I need to eat to support my training and maintain adequate energy levels. Every once in a while I may go back and log it to check and make sure I’m on track, but have also since learned about the difference in the way my body feels and how I’m able to recover from workouts, based on how I eat.
What I am suggesting to anyone wondering about nutrition is that it is optimal to know how much energy you consume based on how much you expend. From that point, how much of that energy should come from protein, carbs and fat to support your goals. At the beginning, it is very likely that those individual numbers for most people will be far off from where they should be. Getting those in line first, would likely make the biggest improvement in health before stressing about whether or not your meat is grass-fed or that you should substitute your breakfast with a cup of coffee that has a quarter of a stick of butter melted into it.

Understanding and Applying the Basics of Nutrition

The idea for this write up came from a client of mine who said I should discuss how to eat, and when. I took bits of previous articles that I wrote on this blog discussing protein and carbohydrates and added them here. In order to understand how, what and when to eat, these are some things that need to be taken into consideration.

1. Knowing Intake vs. Expenditure

There are some that say you don’t need to count calories to see results. I believe this to be partly true. However, it requires an understanding of portioning and knowing roughly how much you’re taking in, and in what percentage of Protein : Carbohydrate : Fat, based on your fitness goals. Obviously, the needs of a marathoner are going to be different than a weightlifter. Once this is calculated, it is pretty interesting to see the breakdown of what you actually eat versus what you think you eat… I’ve talked to people before who have said; “I don’t have time to do that.” Or; “Pssshh, let’s be serious…I’m not going to count my calories!” As if it’s this life altering workload and unimaginable amount of stress that was just put on their shoulders. Well, let me tell you something… It’s a proven, scientific way to get the desired results! Specific goals require a specific plan. There are plenty of websites and ‘apps’ that will calculate this for you in a matter of seconds. However, I prefer to calculate it out myself, which when checked against the other websites and ‘apps’ is usually relatively similar.

There are a variety of equations to calculate these needs like; The Harris Benedict Equation or the Mifflin St Jeor Equation. Due to many peoples’ issues with math and order of operations, there leaves some room for error with those equations, though. Those above equations are meant to calculate an estimate of your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) which is essentially how much energy (in calories) you need to be consuming at rest, to maintain your current weight and body composition. A quicker estimation according to Lyle McDonald, is to use 10 calories per pound BW for women and 11 calories per pound BW for men as the baseline. When all is said and done, and your level of activity (how many days a week you exercise and for how long) is determined and then applied to the equation, most will come out with something between 14-16 calories per pound of bodyweight. This assumes that most people reading this are exercising/ training multiple days per week. For me, the above equations when adjusted for activity, came out with the range comparable to the 14-16 calories per lb of BW. That seemed pretty quick and easy…

2. Percentage of Macro-nutrients

Protein, carbohydrates and fats are the macro-nutrients and they are primarily what is determined following the estimation of total energy (calories) needs. I’ll typically start in figuring out the protein needs. Studies have shown higher protein diets to be healthy and safe and typical recommendations lie between 1.4-2.0 grams per kilogram of BW for those that are exercising according to the International Society of Sports Nutrition. I tend to do well with higher protein diets and essentially plan my weekly meals around what protein I am going to cook. In that case, due to the fact that the majority of my training is with weightlifting, I stick with 2 grams per kg of BW. If I was doing more CrossFit style workouts revolving more around conditioning, interval work or aerobic based exercise, I may lower my protein consumption a bit to allow for more carbohydrate. Most recommendations suggest that lean meats are optimal, and more healthy. This I believe, is somewhat subjective. To me, it implies that fattier cuts of meat are not as healthy, or unhealthy which I would disagree with. It is important to understand that the fattier cuts of meat will naturally increase your dietary fat intake, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing dependent on your needs. However, in relation to exercise, you may want to save the fatty meats to having either earlier or later in the day, well before or well after exercise due to their rate of digestion.

In a practical application to lifestyle, it is recommended that people who regularly exercise get about 25-35 grams of good quality protein per meal for best results and body composition. By this recommendation, at roughly 230 lbs BW for myself, I already know I need to get around 210 grams of protein in using the 2 grams of protein per kg/BW, as mentioned above. Using the 210 grams of protein that I am taking, at 30 grams per serving, I would need seven servings, or six servings at 35 grams each. One ounce of cooked meat yields seven grams of protein, as does one egg. You can elaborate on the math as it pertains to your needs, but basically four or five eggs at a sitting, or a four to six ounce (usually more like an 8-10 ounce or more) piece of meat is accurate, as it pertains to my consumption. I will typically have the normal breakfast, lunch and dinner, which by the math above with 30-35 grams of protein per meal, equals 90-105 grams in total. Lets keep in mind that this is the protein from only sources of meat and eggs. I also eat; grains, nuts, cheese, milk, beans and legumes…all of which are sources of protein. With the exception of milk, they are not “good quality” sources because they do not contain a complete amino acid profile, but still will add to overall daily protein. Aside from that, I usually will have a couple protein shakes during the day as well, which will account for another 50-60 grams.

Carbohydrates play an extremely vital role in the daily food and nutrient intake as they provide the most readily usable form of energy. Carbohydrate consumption can either limit or improve performance in sports and other physical activity, something that is usually either misunderstood or neglected. Carbohydrates DO NOT make people fat. Over consuming carbohydrates (or fat, or protein to a lesser extent) will create excess calories which will make you fat and this is why it’s important to understand how they work.

Carbohydrate is the most readily available form of energy for activity, stored as glycogen within muscle tissue and in the liver. Glycogen fuels most activity, and the energy from carbohydrate also has a direct effect on brain function, the nervous system, and even mood. A misunderstanding of them causes people to fear and restrict them which can do more harm than good for those really focused on maintaining or improving lean body mass i.e. “toning up”.

General recommendations for an active individual are between 55-65% of your total, daily caloric intake. Or, between 5 to 10 grams per kg of body weight, dependent on the type of exercise or training. The lower end of the spectrum would be more strength based training, the higher end; more endurance/ circuit training, though higher carbohydrate can help with the strength training as well. Too often, carbohydrates are blamed for health issues such as obesity and disease when in actuality, carbohydrates are essential to the improvement and maintenance of lean body mass through exercise and training and have a direct effect on performance. On the flip-side, most carbohydrates are easily over-consumed which is why it is crucial to understand food preparation, cooking, portioning, and overall intake to meet fitness, health and body composition goals. Neglecting or avoiding carbs for fad diets will only hinder your ability see optimal results from exercise/ training, and likely create an unfavorable amount of dietary fat intake to make up for the carbohydrate deficit.

It is important to understand that carbohydrates are not “bad”. But eliminating or avoiding them almost entirely will make it very hard to maintain lean muscle due to the extreme caloric deficit that accompanies that elimination. Carbohydrate and protein that is taken in at every meal based off of the needs of the individual should be the focus in order to maintain adequate energy and positive protein balance. Once that is in control, carbohydrate numbers can be modified a bit to create a net caloric deficit which will allow for a slower (but sustainable and healthy) loss of body fat.

Fat is usually the last thing figured into the diet, as it is something that can easily be added or taken away in an effort to hit the overall daily caloric goal with the appropriate protein : carbohydrate : fat measurement. A good starting point would usually lie within the range of 20-30% of the total intake following the determination of the protein and carbohydrate needs first. Many people who have weight issues can benefit from a reduction in dietary fat especially when starting an exercise routine.

Keep in mind that higher protein diets will usually contain higher fat as well. This isn’t a bad thing, but your choice of meat proteins will affect the dietary fat percentage, so this needs to be taken into consideration. Constantly choosing short ribs over seared chicken breast will throw off the numbers quite a bit, which is why it is important to be creative in your cooking!

3. Taking It All In

It is recommended that once protein and carbohydrate needs are determined, to spread that consumption out over 4-6 meals per day, paying special attention to the pre and post-workout window. Taking in protein every few hours will help the body maintain a positive protein balance and fuel the maintenance and improvement of lean body mass. Not to mention, it will also prevent that overwhelming hunger that can cause some people to over-eat.

Here’s a sample of what my day looks like;

Breakfast:

  • 4-5 eggs
  • Oatmeal
  • Orange juice

Snack:

  • Whey Protein shake
  • Apple or other fruit

Lunch:

  • Roasted Pork loin
  • Sauteed vegetables & Rice

Workout

  • Post-workout; Whey Protein shake + maltodextrin powder (carbohydrate)

Dinner:

  • Sautee of Chicken leg-meat, Vegetables, Lentils