First Impressions: Renaissance Periodization

Earlier this year my mom asked me if I knew of any sports nutrition-type services as a possible birthday gift for my brother. The one that came to mind was Renaissance Periodization (RP), which I understood to be a diet aimed at athletes. It seems like every Fitness Influencer(tm) I follow on Instagram uses RP templates. After recommending it for my brother for his birthday, I got myself a template for MY birthday. 😀 My curiosity finally got the better of me — and, after a year or so of growing muscles, I would like to see them! So I got a fat loss template (and I got 10% off because the fitness people always have discount codes). They also have muscle gain templates that I may try someday.

These are my initial impressions after two weeks. I am still on Base and haven’t moved onto Fat Loss yet – I’m sure I will have many more hangry things to say when I’m in Fat Loss. 😛

Apparently they recently came out with an app that will just tell you what to eat and adjust your macros on a weekly basis depending on how your gain or loss is going — I might check that out once I’m done with this template.

Why This Diet?

This is the sample template from RenaissancePeriodization.com

This is one of those macro-tracking diets, which are increasingly popular. Rather than tracking calories, you aim for a certain amount of macros per day or meal. Some people find this tedious, but I think of it as Catan for my nutrition. I sort of enjoy figuring out how to maximize my meals within the constraints.

Although there are macro calculators all over the interwebs and I am very comfortable tracking macros, I was never sure if I was doing it “right.” I was interested in these templates for a few reasons:

  • They are designed by PhDs* and athletes, so I am more confident that the guidelines are worth following. Lots of generic nutritional advice is aimed at losing weight, not losing fat. These templates are designed to maintain as much muscle weight as possible. Many people report continuing to gain strength while on these cuts, which is hard to do.
  • The phased dieting means you don’t have to diet harder than you need to and when you’re done they provide you with a new maintenance plan.
  • For me, there is a psychological benefit to “doing a cut”: I only have to put up with this nonsense for a maximum of 12 weeks. They discourage you from dieting for more than three months at a time and recommend at least two months of maintenance between each cut.
  • The meals are supposedly timed around your workouts, but as I’ve discovered, this basically just means you get an extra protein shake and workout carbs (aka gatorade) when you train, so that’s not a huge component. But you do get more carbs on training days.
  • You get four meals a day plus bedtime casein and a protein shake on workout days, which appeals to my Hobbit eating style (breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, etc).
  • I’m at the point now where I just want to pay somebody to tell me what to do vs. trial and error my way through things. Well, certain things. I’m still a DIYer at heart. 😀

*the PhDs are related to physiology and exercise, I did check. 😉

Phased Dieting

The templates are phased: you start with Base to get your body to a good starting point, and then there are three phases of fat loss. If you are losing weight on a phase, you don’t need to move on. A lot of people end their cut during Fat Loss 2, and a lucky few never leave Base at all!

I really like that they don’t push you into a crazy cut if your body doesn’t need it. They also provide you with a new maintenance for when the cut is over, so you can maintain the loss and let your body recover from the stress of dieting.

Workout Ratings

RP gives you more or fewer carbs depending on how intense your workout is — light, moderate, or heavy. This was a huge difference for me. The average CrossFit workout is considered “light.” I used to consider my powerlifting workouts as “heavy,” because, well, the weight is heavy! Haha sucker, according to RP I’ve never done a “heavy” workout in my ENTIRE LIFE. At best I get “moderate,” and some powerlifting sessions are considered “light” if the weight is heavy but there aren’t many sets.

On my template, the difference between heavy and moderate training day carbs is 80C = 320 calories. I train four days a week, so that’s an extra 1,280 calories per week that I wouldn’t even need to be eating. I think if I did nothing else but rate my workouts appropriately, I would cut a few pounds.

Also, cardio is not considered training at ALL. If you do cardio, you get “non-training day” carbs. SAD

Set It and Forget It

I have been on the MyFitnessPal train for a while and have found that I don’t need to use it with these templates. I like that the macros are per meal, rather than per day (which is what many calculators provide). And I REALLY like that if I know my meal is compliant, I can just eat it and be done. No need to go back and log it. There is a lot more upfront planning and work but once you’ve got your meals for the week, you just roll through and don’t think about it at all. Past Mariza did all that thinking for me.

And speaking of upfront planning…

Food Prep

First of all: If you don’t know how to cook, you’re gonna have a bad time. It’s the only way to control what’s going into your food, and if–when–you get tired of the same thing week after week you need to be able to get creative.

Also, get a food scale.

There are several “approved foods” on the templates in each of the macro categories. If you eat one of those foods, you don’t have to worry about taking into account the other two macros. For example, if I eat 90% or leaner meat, I only have to count the protein content and disregard any fat content. If I accidentally grab 85% lean ground turkey then I do have to count the fat content. Yes, it’s sort of complicated at first. They make it really easy to eat approved foods and really annoying to eat something not on the list, although technically you’re allowed to do so.

They also make you eat like 3,000 cups of vegetables a day. I know they’re trying to trick me into thinking I’m getting a lot of food but I’m not falling for it.

My first week, I decided to make my meals the way I usually do – just make five versions of the same meal. I messed up my fat content right away due to the aforementioned 85% turkey plus I added mayonnaise because I didn’t realize I had the wrong meat. Since the fat was cooked in there, I couldn’t make any adjustments to that meal. I adjusted by taking fat out of my other meals, but was annoyed that I had screwed up right out of the gate.

I immediately understood why RPers prep food the way they do: huge quantities of protein (usually chicken and turkey), vegetables, and rice, all separate and plain. Everything is separate so you can assemble as-needed. It also helps to prep everything plain so you can smother it in whatever calorie-free seasoning appeals to you in that moment.

I just completed my third meal prep and finally got my macros right. Woohoo!

Eating Out

Try not to. But if you do, just get some protein and vegetables. I’m not a figure competitor so I don’t worry about eating out once a week but if you’re trying to be 100000% compliant, it will be hard.

The RP Group

Shortly after I bought my template, I was invited to the RP Facebook group. I like it because I get all the latest hot tips on calorie-free sauces, sugar-free jello, and weird protein pudding recipes. Some people in there are trying a little too hard to HaCk tHe SySteM with their weird recipes that aren’t really food, but we’ll see how I feel about those when I’m in the throes of Fat Loss.

I also find it helpful to see other people complaining about how hungry they are. I know that sounds weird, but if I get hungry I sometimes worry I’m doing something wrong. Knowing that it’s A DIET and everybody is hungry reassures me that this is all planned suffering.

Results to Date

Not really enough to register a large change, but including for completeness. For my first pic I accidentally defaulted to my Belly Dance Contraposto pose and then realized that was a bad way to actually see what was going on.

In two weeks, I have lost either 6.4 or 4.8lbs depending on if you wanna go by average weight or lowest weight; maybe even 9 if you want to include what was clearly a water retention spike on March 30. 😀

I am using average weight to track the loss because of those aforementioned random spikes. RP does not require you to weigh yourself daily–although they do recommend a minimum of twice a week–but I prefer to because I like GRAPHS. I’m at the point now where my weight is just a number but it took me a long time to get here and I totally get that weighing too frequently may be too stressful for a lot of people.

A lot of people in the RP group have really amazing visible results but very little weight loss–body recomposition is a strange thing. In my case, I think I’m carrying enough fat that I do anticipate losing weight vs. recomping at the same-ish weight. If I were already super lean I might not track my weight so diligently.

The first few days I was low-grade hungry all the time. Towards the end of the first week I would usually be OK for a bit, but it would be like falling off a cliff where I’d go from “OK” to “STARVING” within a matter of minutes. Luckily that would be right about time for another meal. At the end of week two, I am not so constantly hungry. Which probably means I’ll have to move onto Fat Loss 1 soon.

Unexpected Side Effect: Offensive Odors

A couple nights ago, Bren very gently and lovingly told me that, since starting RP, my breath has been terrible. :O I had no idea!! It’s like that episode of SpongeBob where he thinks he’s ugly but he really just had bad breath.

This diet has me eating more protein than I’ve ever eaten. I googled around and apparently It is Known that high protein diets can cause bad breath. I took away two primary possible causes and solutions:

  1. Sometimes your body has trouble breaking all that protein down, which can lead to bad smells coming up from your belly. It’s possible the issue will resolve itself as your body acclimates, but you can help it along with digestive enzymes (the enzymes also help if you are struggling with the 91849308 cups of vegetables you have to eat every day).
  2. If you are eating a lot more meat, it’s probably getting stuck in your teeth. Floss after EVERY meal and buy a tongue scraper.

I have acquired these items and hopefully they will help. I’ve also got some mints so my breath can smell like minty butt instead of just butt. If you see me in real life, I apologize if I offend; I am actively working to resolve the issue.

Cauliflower Rice

Stop trying to make cauliflower rice happen. It’s gross.

Flying Saucer Cookies & Alien Eggs

Alien eggs and flying saucers

Obviously I had to have appropriately-themed baked goods at the Halloween party! I also challenged myself to make them gluten- and dairy-free. I’d say they were a success!

Flying Saucers

I googled around and found a basic GF sugar cookie recipe. I don’t think it matters which one you use, but as I learned, it DOES matter which FLOUR you use. It’s not something I’ve ever had to think about before. GF flours can be made of different stuff – usually they are some kind of rice or tapioca flour, but there are also brands that are based on chickpeas. Take it from me: if you try to make a sugar cookie with chickpea flour, it will taste like weird sweet bitter bean butt. I’m sure the flour would be good for other baked goods, but for a sugar cookie -where there is relatively little to mask the flour – you gotta go with rice.

Sugar cookies, some assembled, some not
Assembling before baking.

Sugar cookies, some with royal icing on them.
Some cookies covered in royal icing prior to painting silver.

They were pretty easy to make: use a biscuit cutter to cut out the body and a smaller biscuit cutter to cut the top. Originally I was going to just put the flat circles on top of each other (as I saw in some other recipes) but decided to use a little piece of dough to make it into an actual dome.

I sort of used Christine McConnell’s book as a guide, mostly in the sense that I was inspired by her photos, ignored the recipe, and then realized I had sort of re-invented her wheel. Although as I recall, she stacked the dough to make the dome whereas I put mine underneath and mushed it down. AT ANY RATE

Two sugar cookies, one lightly silver and the other a more solid silver
Edible dust vs. color mist

I tried to take Christine’s advice about combining edible dust with vodka but (as you can see on the right) I found that it was too thin. The silver-er saucer was done with those Wilton edible color mists. I’m sure I just got my proportions wrong with the dust, but the mist was so easy and fast that I used it for the whole batch.

Flying saucer cookies
Look! Up in the sky!

Et voila! I’m sure Christine would have crafted some beautiful black edible ink, but I opted for one of those little glitter gel tubes – it did the trick! I thought the cookies were pretty good but I did notice several half-eaten saucers sitting around after the party, so maybe they were just “good for gluten-free.” I ate all the rest so I ain’t mad.

Alien Eggs

 

Green cake pops in chocolate "dirt"
Alien eggs!

I guess I didn’t take any process photos of these, probably because they were a total eff up! The eggs were just cake pops (GF box mix because I’m not a superhero, colored green with food coloring).  I WAS going to make a shell for the egg based on Nerdy Nummies’ video (below), but with modeling chocolate instead of fondant because fondant is gross. Unfortunately, I did something really wrong with Christine’s modeling chocolate recipe (because of course I have to make it myself) and it was all crumbly and weird. It still tasted fine, so I just made a nest for the eggs and called it a day. PROBLEM SOLVING

Cleaning & Re-Using Bacon Fat

Bone-shaped dog treats

Got a jar full of bacon fat in your freezer? Want to get that fat all over your person and general area? Boy, do I have a project for you: cleaning your bacon fat to re-use for other things.

I have done this before. The first time I tried it, I microwaved the jars and then scooped the fat out. It took forever and got everywhere. Then I read somebody else’s blog where they recommended putting the jars in hot water to melt the fat – voila, just pour it out. It seems obvious now.

The process is very simple: dump the fat in water, let it come to a boil, let everything separate/congeal, pull the fat out, and repeat. Both times I’ve done this, it has taken 3 rounds of boiling.

The longest part is waiting for the water and fat to separate – it takes several hours in the fridge.

Once it’s done, the water is (relatively) clear and your fat is nice and clean! Then you can put it right  back in the freezer and forget about it for the rest of your life.

You can re-use the bacon fat for frying things (which I was doing before with the “dirty” fat), or to replace lard in a pie crust* or to make dog treats.**

*When I did this, I was not impressed. The crust had a smoky flavor which I think would be great for savory pies, but the crust barely held together. I may try this again with a half lard/half bacon fat crust as the fat by itself was not enough to hold things together.

**I used this recipe to make dog treats for Boomer. While I was googling around I found several similar recipes with people in the comments basically accusing the makers of purposely giving their dogs pancreatitis for fun. You guys it’s an occasional treat, not a daily pot o’ grease.

Give Boomer the cookie