low carb

Ripped Recipe: Baked Veggie Oat Patties with Lime-Cumin Aioli

Ripped Veggie Oat Patties

Sounds weird, I know, but they’re good. I created these several months ago when trying to figure out how to get lots of vegetables into my son. I’m not a fan of disguising vegetables, but sometimes it’s just necessary. This recipe is gluten-free. You could make it dairy-free too by eliminating the cheese and figuring out what else you could bind it with.

<strong>Ingredients</strong>
You can use literally any vegetables you like. For this particular batch I used the following:
1 large zucchini
3/4 head cauliflower
1/2 head broccoli
1 medium vidalia onion
3 large carrots
1 medium sweet potato
1 small can tomato paste
2 beaten eggs
1.5 cups oat flour (I just put quick oats in the blender for a few seconds to make flour) *you could sub in some almond flour or coconut flour too
a cup of shredded cheese of your choice
optional grated parmesan or pecorino, like a half cup

<strong>Preparation</strong>
Grate all veggies except onion into a big bowl (I use a regular box grater). Small dice the onion because it doesn’t grate cleanly. You could also just dump everything into the food processor.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cook the grated veggie mixture in a couple of batches just until a little soft (like 5 mins). Add oat flour, tomato paste, cheese and spices to veggies once they’re done cooking and back in the bowl. Taste the mix and add whatever seasonings you want. You can go really simple with salt and pepper or go Italian and add garlic powder, basil and oregano. Or you could go more Middle Eastern with cumin, ras el hanout and fennel. You could go Indian with curry spices. Do whatever you want really. Let this mix cool so it’s not more than warm. Then add eggs (you don’t want the eggs to cook until you bake).

Lay some parchment paper on a baking sheet.

Next, using your hands, form patties with the mixture (it will be sticky). If it seems too wet and sticky (like it’s not staying together at all), just add more oat flour until it holds together better. I like to wet my hands with a little water so the mix doesn’t stick as much to my fingers. Set the patties on the parchment-covered baking sheet with at least a centimeter between them. Bake at 350 until golden brown. I’ve never timed how long this takes, but somewhere in the 45-60 minute range.

I like to eat these wrapped in lettuce with a cumin-lime aioli made with:
a couple Tbsp mayo
cumin to taste
juice of half a lime
salt to taste
chili powder to taste
(mix all the above together)

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Getting Ripped: “The Opposite of Common Sense” Series, Part III — Eat Plenty of Carbs

The trend of vilifying carbs is hotter than the dot com boom and shows no signs of letting up. Yeah, and it’s totally wrong. Energy balance is the only thing that matters. You will lose weight if you burn more calories than you consume. That’s it. It’s the first law of thermodynamics. But notice, I said “weight” not “fat”. “Weight” could mean any combination of muscle and fat. I explained in part II of this series that the key factor involved in regulating the type of weight you lose (i.e. muscle vs. fat) is heavy resistance training in addition to an energy deficit. Technically, you could eat only Saltine crackers and still lose weight, and specifically fat.

Having a large proportion of your calories come from carbohydrates is really important while cutting because we know that it’s super important to keep lifting heavy and with a lot of effort during a cut. But remember, you’re going to be in an energy deficit, meaning that your capacity to move the weight will be diminished. The problem with cutting carbs while cutting is that your muscles will quickly become depleted of their favorite and most accessible fuel source, glycogen. If you reduce carbs, you reduce muscle glycogen and your capacity to move the weights right along with it. When lifting, if your body is depleted of glycogen, energy will come from fat. But fat and glycogen metabolism each occur through two mutually exclusive pathways. The bottom line is that the fat pathway doesn’t provide anywhere near the immediate energy that muscle glycogen pathway does. You will be at a real disadvantage if you rely on fat metabolism for the acute energy requirements of a set of heavy squats.

But what about the people who say carbs are different that the other two macronutrients (fat and protein) because they just somehow make you fat? There’s been a classic argument going on between Jillian Michaels (of Biggest Loser) and Gary Taubes (an anti-carb researcher); Jillian says carbs are just like any other food and losing fat is about energy balance, while Gary basically says carbs are the enemy. Check out this YouTube vid for some clips of the argument. The way I see it is that they’re talking right through one another and they’re both right. If you you eat lots of carbs, but accurately monitor your calories in and out and eat below your maintenance calories AND lift heavy, you will lose fat. I’ve done it many times while eating ice cream, cereal, fruit, potatoes, oatmeal and rice. So clearly this would indicate that Gary Taubes is wrong and Jillian Michaels is right, right? Yes and no. Taubes’ entire argument against carbs is based on the mechanism of autoregulation, whereby the body sends the appropriate satiety signals to the brain at the appropriate time. In essence, it’s the body’s natural “stop eating” signal. With a diet comprised of the right foods, this autoregulation mechanism works well, and people won’t become fat. I agree completely. Taubes says that when carbs–particularly foods made with refined cereal grains–are introduced into the diet, the autoregulation mechanism breaks because these foods create disproportionate insulin responses, which drives blood sugar through the floor and creates more hunger that is out of line with real energy requirements. That false hunger breeds more eating and potentially fat gain. I agree with all of this. I can feel this… like what happens to my body when I eat rice, which makes me hungry. I know this, but I like rice and I eat it with other stuff to buffer those effects and I also know what “false hunger” feels like and when to ignore it.

The point is that if you if you understand your body, if you understand how different foods work, if you calculate calories and maintain an energy balance, you can eat whatever food you want and override the autoregulatory inhibition that some carbs cause (although from the micronutrient standpoint, it’s not a good idea to eat refined foods). With the right carbs in your diet, you’ll have to do less overriding and more letting your body guide you.

Eating Carbs to Get Ripped

I’m now eight months deep into fasting for 20 hours per day while lifting pretty damn heavy weights for my bodyweight. I’ve learned a few very interesting things during that time, one of which is that there’s a big difference between getting lean and getting dry. To me, getting lean means dropping body fat, while getting dry means dropping water weight and glycogen. The first is achieved through caloric deficit, while the latter is achieved primarily by drastically reducing carbohydrate consumption (which also usually coincides with caloric restriction). For me, going low carb for more than a few days to lose a little vanity “blur” that might be sitting under the skin in the form of water is utterly counterproductive to strength gains, size gains AND, surprisingly, fat loss.

When I first went low-carb (i.e. less than 50g/ day), I immediately began losing weight. I think that virtually everyone experiences this during the first couple of weeks of a low-carb diet. What’s really going on is probably less fat loss and more glycogen and water loss. I think I read somewhere that the average size adult male carries around three pounds of glycogen between the muscles and liver. A lot of water (like several pounds worth) also follows that glycogen out. This is how elite fighters drop so much weight right before a fight; they’re dehydrating and “deglycogenizing” their bodies. But I see no point in dropping weight this way if there’s no practical need for it, especially if most of that weight isn’t fat, but rather the fuel the muscles prefer to use before anything else. This is also why those same fighters who drop so much weight immediately flood their bodies with fast and slow carbs and water immediately after weigh-in gaining virtually all of that weight back; if they didn’t their performance in the ring would suffer severely.

Eating Carbs to Lose Fat

Getting ripped is accomplished by losing fat while maintaining [or modestly growing] muscle mass. That’s it. There’s no secret. For novice lifters with extra body fat (like above 15%), more significant strength/ size gains and significant fat loss can happen simultaneously, but for more conditioned and experienced bodies, the focus really should be on either strength/ size gains or fat loss/ getting shredded, not both. So what do carbs have to do with this?

A calorie is a calorie with respect to the fact that energy is energy. A caloric deficit will result in weight loss, but different sources of the same number of calories can elicit profoundly different biological responses and can mean the difference between losing primarily muscle versus primarily fat. Because the body is so efficient, it naturally prefers to drop muscle first under an energy deficit, since muscle is far more metabolically active than fat and requires energy simply to exist, while fat doesn’t. To maintain muscle while in a caloric deficit a person must lift heavy weights with great effort. The volume need not be high (in my experience), but the effort must be to provide the proper stimulus for the body to be forced to keep its muscle. To put this kind of effort into every repetition, the muscles need fuel. Clearly, right? But with low glycogen stores, it’s almost impossible to exert that kind of force. This is why fuel mixture is so important while dropping fat.

When I put my body into an energy deficit when I want to drop a few pounds of fat, I make sure to increase the proportion of carbs in my diet to around 50% of my total calories so that my muscles have ready access to the fuel they most readily use (i.e. glycogen) so that I can lift heavy and hard. This, of course, means that either fat or protein consumption must decrease. Since protein is an important substrate for muscle development/ maintenance, that should stay relatively high as well. So the only remaining macronutrient to cut back is fat, which I cut back to around 20% of total calories.

Does that make sense?

Ripped Recipe: Tonight’s Dinner – Braised Baby Back Ribs Over Mashed Kabocha and Merguez Sausage in Lettuce Wraps with Yogurt Sauce

I fainted after eating this.

I fainted after eating this.

Ribs

Ingredients
3 lbs baby back ribs (I get extra thick from my butcher)
Several Tbsp rub of your preference (this time, I bought a pre-made rub)
1 cup white wine or red wine or unsalted chicken stock
a few cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, minced
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp white vinegar

1 Tbsp ketchup
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp barbecue sauce

Preparation
Rub ribs with… rub. Refrigerate for a couple of hour wrapped in foil. Use one large sheet so that it completely encloses the ribs with the seam at the top. You’ll want to be able to tightly seal the ends once it’s in the oven.

Preheat oven to 225 F.

Mix liquid, garlic, onion, honey, sugar, Worcestershire, vinegar in bowl and warm in microwave for a handful of seconds to increase viscosity of honey.

Remove ribs from fridge and add about 2/3 liquid to foil pouch. Make sure pouch holds liquid inside. Reseal, put on baking sheet and into oven for around 2.5 hrs.

Toward the end of cooking time, pour remaining braising liquid into small pan. Add ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, mix and reduce to lightly syrupy consistency.

Remove ribs from oven, brush with reduction, place under broiler for 6-10 mins or however long it takes to get the caramelization you want on the ribs. Cut up and suffocate these with your stomach.

Ribs awaiting glaze in background; glaze and steaming kabocha in fore.

Ribs awaiting glaze in background; glaze and steaming kabocha in fore.

Mashed Kabocha Squash

Peel and cut a kabocha squash into approximately 1″ cubes. You can either steam them for 12-15 minutes until tender or roast at 425 F for 35-40 mins. Kabocha (more than any other squash IMO) takes on an amazing flavor during a nice roasting.

When finished cooking, place squash in large bowl. Add a few pats butter (I like organic cultured butter), some grated Romano, salt, pepper, milk or stock. Maybe some cinnamon. Smash with fork or potato masher. Load plate and place drippy ribs on top if you haven’t eaten them all before sitting at the table.

Merguez with Yogurt Sauce

This makes 30 sausages. I don’t know if it’s truly Merguez (probably not), but the flavor profile is similar.

Holy Merguez, beefman! My vision is closing in!

Holy Merguez, beefman! My vision is closing in!

Ingredients
3 lbs 90/10 ground chuck (I actually use a mix of 90 and 85)
1/2 large sweet onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4-5 Tbsp fresh mint, minced
3-4 Tbsp dried parsley
4 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp Ras El Hanout
3 Tbsp zatar (of which I ran out, so I substituted it with the following, which approximates the flavor: 4 tsp ground thyme; 2 Tbsp tahini; 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice)
1 tsp cinnamon

Preparation
In a bowl, mix everything listed above and refrigerate for an hour or so.

Preheat oven to 350 F

Roll beef mixture into balls, then elongate into sausage shape. Place onto parchment-lined baking sheet and brush with glaze recipe below. Into oven for around 20 mins or until cooked through.

For glaze:
1/2 cup red wine
2 tsp honey
a few Tbsp unsalted chicken stock
pinch kosher salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cumin

Mix all of the above and warm for a few seconds in microwave to decrease viscosity of honey.

For yogurt sauce:
1/2 cup full fat plain Greek yogurt
juice 1/2 lemon
1-2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp honey
a few leaves minced mint
1/2 tsp garlic powder
scant 1 tsp cumin
scant 1 tsp ground thyme
scant 1 tsp Ras el Hanout
shake cinnamon
2 pinches kosher salt

Mix all of the above and refrigerate for a little while.

To serve, wrap sausage in lettuce leaf (bib or romaine is nice). Spoon on some yogurt sauce and kill it with your teeth. Heck, I even smashed some steamed cinnamon kabocha in there for extra drama.

Ripped Dessert: Cinnamon-Cayenne-Fennel-Spiked Chocolate Coffee Coconut Protein Balls

Part of my process of learning how to get ripped was to learn how to think even more creatively about food. Although I call this a dessert, it’s not sweet by dessert standards, but it’s a neat little protein snack and a flavor excursion.

A sneaky trio of cayenne, fennel and cinnamon set these chocolate coffee coconut protein balls off!

Ingredients
1 scoop (34g) chocolate casein protein
4 tsp coconut flour
3 tsp instant coffee
5 Tbsp milk
2 tsp virgin coconut oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 + 1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/4 + 1/8 tsp ground fennel
1 gram stevia
1/2 to 1 tsp honey
2-3 Tbsp coconut flakes

Preparation
Mix coconut flour, milk and instant coffee in small bowl with stevia and sugar or honey. If you don’t like stevia, you can sub in a little more sugar or honey. I prefer honey because it adds a bit more moisture.

Add protein, cayenne, cinnamon, and fennel along with the coconut oil. Mix well until it forms a sort of doughy paste. Form into balls. Roll in coconut flakes. Eat.

~230 calories, 26g protein, 10g fat, 4g carbs

A couple of notes:

  • If you really want to go berserk, I think you could probably smash some banana and mix it in. It might require a little more coconut flour to keep it tight though.
  • In case you were wondering, since it’s just finely ground coconut meat, coconut flour doesn’t have to be cooked.
  • If you’re going to make this, you can play with the amount of coffee. Also, I know that some individuals aren’t fond of stevia because it can be a little bitter. If that’s the case, add a little extra honey.
  • Vanilla casein can also be swapped in for the chocolate casein.
  • I wouldn’t try using whey protein for this. I’ve found that whey really doesn’t work well with recipes because it doesn’t gel the whey casein does.
  • Try swapping the fennel for ground coriander.

Ripped Salad: Vietnamese Italian Spinach Arugula and Mint with Sardines and Oranges

I know, I know. That recipe title is a mouthful. And so is this incredibly delicious and unique salad. This is completely my own creation, and it’s my favorite salad ever. Vietnamese and Italian flavors are combined with oranges and sardines to create an incredible flavor profile. Perfect for a first recipe post.

These ingredients combine to create a unique and delicious flavor profile.

These ingredients combine to create a unique and delicious flavor profile.

Ingredients

  • For the salad:
    • Several handfuls each of organic baby spinach and arugula.
    • One quarter of a large navel orange, sliced
    • A half cup of roughly torn fresh mint leaves
    • One half of a cucumber, sliced, peeled or unpeeled, but peeled if not organic
    • 3 Tbsp Grated Locatelli Romano cheese or any other sharp, hard Italian cheese (Romano, parmiggiano regianno, etc.)
  • For the dressing:
    • One can of sardines (I only buy in extra virgin olive oil or water, never soybean or other vegetable oil)
    • 1 Tbsp black or white sesame seeds, toasted in a dry pan for a few minutes
    • 3 Tbsp of one or a combination of apple cider vinegar (preferably raw unfiltered), rice wine vinegar, or white vinegar
    • 2 tsp Thai fish sauce (can be found in the international aisle of any decent grocery
    • 2 tsp soy sauce (I prefer to use reduced sodium)
    • 1 tsp Sriracha
    • 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp red chili flakes (or to taste)
    • 2 tsp of one or a combination of dried Thai basil or sweet basil
    • 1 tsp brown sugar

    Preparation
    Add greens, oranges, cucumber and mint to salad bowl.

    Begin the dressing by roughly smashing the sardines in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Spoon over greens/ oranges/ cucumber/ mint mixture. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Toss well and enjoy.

    ~280 calories, 20g protein, 15g fat, 5g carbs