As many of you know, I left the gym for a week to vacation in Costa Rica! It is vacation season and Amber was kind enough to put together this awesome list of travel tips to help guide you during your travels! Enjoy!


1) Prepare: 

> Proteins and fats are the only nutrients your body needs to survive. Protein powder, jerky, nuts, and nutrition bars are all great things to pack for convenience helping you to avoid making a desperate and, most likely, non-compliant choice.

> If possible, look up hotel(s) online, and choose one that is within walking distance of a grocery store. Almost all rooms have at least a fridge (you might need to ask the front desk to provide one) and, sometimes, a microwave available. Hit the store when you get into town, and purchase the items you need to make compliant food choices. While you're online, scope out some of the nearest restaurants, and check out the menus to see if you can put together a compliant meal. Sometimes, you might end up with an appetizer of meat skewers and a side salad or a double-order of broccoli from the side menu.

> While you're online, check for a local gym that you might go to a few days if your trip's itinerary allows the flexibility. 

> If you have no control over the hotel's location, get online and see what's around you to assess your options. You might need to pack the items suggested above. 

> Continue to drink a lot of water (2-3 quarts/liters which means 8-12, 8-oz cups).

> Try Intermittent Fasting: if you've never done this, it might be a good time try. All this means is that you forgo eating longer than usual. That might mean you simply don't eat breakfast but drink water or tea. I like to order coffee with heavy cream (if they have it, you'll probably need to request it), or 1/2 and 1/2 for a bit of fat to tide me over to my morning snack. This strategy also helps you "save" calories for later. 

> Don't forget your shaker and water bottle(s)!

2) Compliant Eating Tips: 

> You cannot out-train a poor diet. Diet makes up 70-80% of why your body is the way it is, making diet even more important than strenuous exercise. So the best thing you can do for your body is to try to eat as compliantly as possible while on your trip. The first step is preparation, which is why "Prepare" is number 1 on this list. 

> By now, you are pretty clear on when you're supposed to eat what, so just do your best. 

> In terms of all your meals and're probably not training as usual right now, so it's ok if you don't get all your food in on a daily fact, it's probably a bit helpful. You might feel a bit hungry because it takes your digestive system a few days to adjust to less food. And, when you get back home, you might even feel like you're stuffing your face because you may have adjusted to less food by that point! 

> If you're going to eat carbs/sweets, try to save them until after 2 pm. Or, eat a little bit and throw the rest away (I know it's is, however, a choice) or split something with a buddy.

> breakfast: 

> Is breakfast provided? Go for boiled eggs, poached eggs, or omelets...try to go cheese-less because there's often cream mixed in with omelet eggs, and the whole thing is most likely cooked in more fat than you would normally use. Remember, with eggs you don't need extra fat (like bacon and sausage). If you want bacon and sausage, opt for a cheese-less egg-white or an egg substitute omelet. 

> Try looking on the side menu to see you can order a side of a few eggs. You might have to do a double or triple order depending on your personalized diet procedure, and then you'll have to endure the weird looks. ;)

> If you must order a whole meal, ask if you can trade out the potatoes/hash browns and toast for a side of fruit; and only eat 1/2 of it if your a lady. Guys can eat all the fruit. At the very least, just ask your server to leave the starch off the plate and to not to bring the toast. 

> Try to stay away from parfaits and yogurts unless you know the yogurt is plain and not vanilla-flavored...if it's flavored, it probably has too much sugar for you. 

> Make a protein shake with milk, milk alternative or water, and eat some nuts or a KIND low-sugar bar.

> Eat a nutrition bar: QUEST bar is an option. Or any bar that's high protein (approximately 20+ grams); moderate to high fat (approximately 5-15 grams); and low-carb (about 15 grams or less depending on fiber content of bar). 

> Buy a pre-made protein shake like a MUSCLE MILK (not the best or worst you could do, and it seems to be widely available). 

> Guys might need a full protein bar and a full protein shake to meet their protein needs at a meal. However, don't be surprised if this combo causes a stomach-ache. Real food is always best. 

> lunch/dinner: 

> Dealing with lunches and dinners? Opt for salads with meat and dressing on the side...adjust how much dressing you use based upon how many nuts and cheeses are on your salad).ypu could also order any broiled, seared, baked, or bbq'ed meat option and steamed veggies (ask for either dry-rub only or no BBQ sauce or BBQ sauce on the side as they're often very sugary). Ask for no bread, and trade the starch on the plate for extra veggies...especially if you're going to drink alcohol, try to limit your carbs at lunch/dinner. 

> Make a protein shake with milk or water, and eat some nuts or a KIND low-sugar bar.

> Eat a nutrition bar: QUEST bar is an option. Or any bar that's high protein (approximately 20+ grams); moderate to high fat (approximately 5-15 grams); and low-carb (about 15 grams or less depending on fiber content of bar). 

> Buy a pre-made protein shake like a MUSCLE MILK (not the best or worst you could do, and it seems to be widely available). 

> Guys might need a full protein bar and a full protein shake to meet their protein needs at a meal. However, don't be surprised if this combo causes a stomach-ache. Real food is always best. 

> snacks: 

> Hopefully, you prepared and brought/bought something...nuts or a KIND bar, alone, will always work in a pinch. A lot of candy machines these days have a jerky and/or a nut option available. 

> Remember, it's ok if you don't eat all your food because your training is down.

3) Alcohol: 

> Try to hold off until after 2 pm. Stick to hard liquor a with diet or club soda.

> Plain, vanilla, or cake-flavored vodkas are good with diet coke.

> Citron or mandarin-flavored vodka plus a squeeze and twist of a citrus fruit is good with club soda (a bit strong if you're unused to it).

> Old fashioneds (whiskey-based...ask for light sugar); manhattans (whiskey-based...ask for light sugar); regular vodka or gin martinis, vodka or gin gimlets (ask for light sugar); or straight shots--clean or on the rocks--are your best bets. 

> Beers and sugary, mixed drinks (margaritas, daiquiris, piña coladas, etc.) are your worst bets. 

> Angry Orchard Cider is not appropriate because it has a lot of sugar. In terms of ciders, stick with Two Rivers, Common, Crispin, Ace...or choose blindly at your own risk for a carb overdose. 

> Try to limit yourself to 1-3 drinks; and try not to drink everyday. Drink one day and lay off the next day; or, at least, drink less the next day. 

> It's important to eat as compliantly as possible if your are drinking because it will minimize the  setbacks you might face.

4) Walk, walk, walk: 

> If this is the only exercise you get, it'll still be very helpful! It is great if your trip is business-like and includes a lot of sitting. 

5) Exercise:

> Use the Exercise sheet Erica offered up in the latest newsletter for some body-weight hotel room exercise options.

> Use the treadmill, elliptical, or bike (or run outside if you have a timer watch) to run some sprints. After warming-up for 5 minutes or longer, jog for 45 seconds and sprint for 15 seconds, run 45, sprint for 15, etc. for a total of 10 minutes. The treadmill is a bit cumbersome because you have to turn up and down the speed. But the machines might have a built-in sprint setting. 

> You can also sprint intuitively by just adding a sprint until you can't sprint anymore, jog or walk until you're recovered in breath, repeat 10 times (after warming up, of course). 

> Check out the local Crossfit or Strength and Conditioning gym. Be sure to try to contact them beforehand and/or check out their website to see if there's an online waiver and instructions for drop-in athletes. Don't just pop in unless you've been there before. Or, popping in to scope the place out and introduce yourself is even better because you'll know where it is, and the next day's class will be smoother for you and for the facility that is welcoming you. 

> You can always just jog a bit, but sprinting help your body in the same way as weightlifting giving you more after-burn effects in terms of calories usage (for anywhere from 24-72 hours of enhanced metabolic burn depending upon your unique body), whereas simply jogging only really burns calories during the activity. 

> Take a deload week and don't worry about the exercise; let your body recover from training.

Above all, have fun! Experience the culture! If you make some non-compliant choices, that's OK! Nobody's judging you (except maybe you). Just be willing to accept that you might have a temporary setback in terms of your progress. And, then again, you might not!! It's all a grand experiment! The worst thing to do is to stress over your diet. So, prepare as much as possible, make compliant choices as often as possible, and roll with the flow. 

- Amber St. Claire

Grocery Shopping

Eating healthy takes time, and it's worth that time! You'll set a great example for your children and your friends, and you'll have better control over the food that enters your body and thus your overall health. Also, eating healthy is actually more important even than exercise in order to reach your health goals, as you really cannot "out-train" a poor nutritional program. 

Additionally, shopping for your groceries and preparing your own meals makes you leaner! How?! you'll spend more calories shopping in a grocery store than you would sitting in a restaurant; you'll spend more calories preparing your own meals than picking up the phone and ordering delivery. 

So, without further adieu, CCSCers, it's time to talk about shopping for groceries! 

The best plan is to set aside a few hours each week to both shop AND pre-prep your food. Pre-prepping means cooking up a bunch of protein and chopping veggies so they're ready to eat and/or cook at a moment's notice.

Why should you have a grocery-shopping and food-prepping plan? 

1) you're less likely to eat/order out if you have a well-stocked kitchen AND some pre-prepped food.

2) you'll know exactly what's going into your meals which makes it easier to calculate how much you're eating.

How often should you shop?

Shopping one time per week is best in order to:

1) ensure that you have enough food on hand so that you're prepared to eat well and reach your health goals.

2) ensure that you don't purchase too much food at one time and then have it turn bad before you can use it.

Ugh, I have to go to a store once every seven days?!


1) purchase meats in bulk only twice a month (every two weeks); when you get home, break it up into individual or family-sized portions and either cook it or freeze it; that way, you can shop for fresh produce one time per week, which makes for a quick shopping trip.

2) purchase pre-chopped veggies; these tend to be more expensive but will save you time at home during your food prep. 

Step 1: develop a grocery list

This helps your trip to the store stay quick and efficient.

What items should be on my list?

1) Most of what you purchase should be vegetables and proteins since both your "Anytime Plate" and your "Post-Workout Plate" is comprised mostly of veggies and protein. Depending upon how often your work out, the "Anytime Plate" should make up 80-90% of your weekly meals.

2) If you're a simple eater, most of your meals will simply be a meat prepared the way you like it, a vegetable or two prepared the way you like them with a bit of fat either used in the cooking process or added on the side.

When in doubt, make your shopping list based upon the SuperFoods listed below:

Protein Superfoods:

*grassfed beef 

*wild fish

*free-range chicken

*Omega 3 eggs (same as above)

Health TIP: It is suggested that you take a fish oil supplement if you choose not to or cannot afford grassfed/wild/free-range meats, which have a better omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acid profile (more on these in upcoming blog posts)

Veggie Superfoods:

*Spinach for super shakes/salads/juicing/steamed veggie dish

*Kale same as above

*Collard greens same as above

*Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage which can be used to make bulk lunch or dinner salads like Jessie's broccoli/chicken salad (or you could switch out that broccoli for cabbage and make coleslaw which makes for a quick veggie option at lunch/dinner)

Fruit Superfoods:

*Berries are lowest in sugars and should be priority

*Tomatoes for juicing or salads

Health TIP: fruit should be considered nature's candy, so eat it in moderation (maximum of 2 servings per day and even less for aggressive fat loss)

Health TIP: while, fresh, local produce is optimal for your body in terms of nutrients, frozen veggies and fruits are picked and frozen at the height of ripeness and are therefore just about as good for you as fresh produce. But, in both cases, be sure the packages contain ONLY that fruit or veggie and no added sugars, salts, sauces. For convenience purposes and healthy eating, frozen produce should be prioritized over canned produce.

Fat Superfoods:

*Avocado: salads/super shakes/guacamole

*Flax seeds: high in omega 3s and great in shakes or on salads

*Nuts/nut butters: be careful of amounts here as these contain a lot of calories per serving making them nutrient dense and easy to overeat in terms of calories

*Fish oil: high in omega 3s


*Water is best



If you're more of a recipe user, then the strategy below will help you make a grocery list. 

Start by categorizing your meals then brainstorm the items you need for them: 

Before shopping, plan your meals/recipes to make list: 

A)  Sunday bulk recipe: making a chili, stew, or a crockpot recipe is helpful to get you through the first half of the week--especially for packing up your lunches or if you have some busy evenings and won't have time to cook dinner. Even just cooking up a bunch of protein on the grill, the stove, or in the oven can really help your week's meal-planning run smoothly.

B) Wednesday bulk recipe: just like Sunday, cooking a bulk recipe mid-way through the week can get you through the rest of the week's lunches and/or dinners.

C) Super-shakes: if you utilize shakes as a meal option, be sure to list the items you need for them.

D) List of vegetables: for daily eating and juicing (if you juice).

E) Breakfast items: list the items are you most likely to eat for breakfast for purchase

How much food should I purchase? Remember your hand measurements:

A) protein: if you eat 4 meals a day and your a woman, that is about 4 oz of protein per meal, which is about 16 oz or 1 pound of meat per day; 32 oz or two pounds of meat per day for most men. Multiply those numbers by 7 days week.  For one couple, that'd be 24 pounds of meat a week.

B) veggies: if you're eating a minimum of 1 (women) to 2 (men) cups of veggies per meal, then you'd need 4 (women) or 8 cups (men) daily. Multiply that by 7 days per week. For one couple, that'd be 84 cups of veggies per week, minimum.

C) carbs/fats: calculate the same as above using your hand measurements and taking into consideration how much your work out (for weekly carb amounts)


1) Shopping pathway: you've probably heard many times that when grocery shopping for health, you want to stay on the perimeter of the store. This way, you'll hit the produce aisle, the bulk foods aisle (nuts/seeds/whole grains), the meat/seafood section, and the eggs/dairy section. BONUS: if you have to shop with your children, these aisles tend to not have brightly-colored packaged food items that attract children to beg you to buy unhealthy foods.

2) The aisles: once you've shopped your perimeter, you can go into the aisles for certain food items such as canned tomatoes/veggies, frozen veggies/fruits, spices, oils, and whole grain bread (if you eat bread). In the aisles, don't be fooled by clever marketing tactics such as the following:

*Added vitamins/minerals

*No sugar added

*Fat free

*Low carb

*High protein

*Contains real fruit

Stick to your list and stay away from cardboard boxes and plastic containers.

3) Reading labels: Reading labels on a package usually is a red flag. Eighty to ninety percent of the food you purchase should not have a label because the foods that are best for you do not have labels. If you do purchase a food with a label: 

A) Ask yourself: is this good for me? If you find yourself saying, "it's not THAT bad, then it's probably bad." Don't buy it because you'll eat it.

B) Look for the BIG 3 "No-No's":

*Added sugar

*Hydrogenated/trans fats

*Unknown chemicals

C) Fewer ingredients is better: ideally, packaged foods that you may purchase will have fewer than 5 total ingredients on a label (EX: almond butter should read: almonds, or almonds and salt)

Money-Saving TIPS:

*purchase the generic brands of items, if available

*purchase meats in bulk; buy a whole grassfed, pasture-raised cow and split the cost among 2-4 families, which makes purchasing quality beef much more affordable

*purchase what's on sale: meat/produce/frozen and canned veggies and fruits

*shop online for possibly hard to find items like coconut oil 

*support your local farmers by purchasing items at farmer's markets or through a CSA (community-supported agricultural) farm 

Happy Shopping! - Amber