Who doesn’t like chicken tortilla soup? Nobody. That’s who. So let’s make some delicious high protein, soup.
Step 1. Make start with my Taco Shredded Recipe
Step 2. Make the soup
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1-2 cans green chiles (these or these)
- 1 can crushed tomatoes (28 oz)
- 3 tbsp masa (more for a thicker soup) (Masa is corn flour, NOT corn meal.)
- 2 ancho chiles (dried poblanos)
- 2 guajillo chiles
- 1.5 lbs taco shredded chicken*
- 1 can corn (Or 2 cups frozen corn)
- 8 cups chicken stock
Note: I usually make it with a pound and a half of taco shredded chicken for Jen and add extra chicken when I serve it for me. But you could start with more chicken if you like.
- Sweat onion in 1 Tbsp olive oil (medium heat with a pinch of salt until soft and translucent)
- Add garlic and sweat another minute or two (don’t let it burn)
- Add green chiles and allow the juice to evaporate a bit before doing the next step, or it will clump.
- Add masa and stir until evenly coated
- Add tomatoes and then pour in chicken stock and being to a boil
- Rip up chiles and toss them in (or cut them with scissors)
- Add chicken
- Turn down to a simmer for 10 minutes
- Add corn, simmer 10 more minutes
- Add lime juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Serve with tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream and cilantro (Nonfat Greek Yogurt works pretty well instead of sour cream if you just have to up your protein)
And voila! Or should I say Olé! Chicken Tortilla Soup fit for a king with macros to boot.
To log it in MyFitnessPal,
1. Create a recipe
2. Log all of the ingredients
3. Measure the total volume of soup in cups or mL or whatever you use.
4. Now when you serve it up, just log the number of cups you dish out.
5. Log extra chicken and garnish separately.
It’s been almost a year exactly since my weight loss journey began (if you start the year from my bout of the flu). Just a warning. At the end of this post there will be before and after photos. If half-naked, middle aged men offend you, don’t scroll down.
I started out the year at 212 pounds give or give a few pounds.
I lost 6 pounds on the Flu (no appetite plus fever plus diarrhea will do that to you). No telling how much of the weight was just water. But hey it was a start. I’d better capitalize on it.
I lost 8 more pounds on three weeks of Atkins/Ketogenic diet. Ketogienic diets cause a fair amount of water loss, so not all of it was fat, but it was fairly effortless. Ketogenic dieting is pretty brainless. “How many carbs are in this food. Okay, I can’t eat it…or I can only eat this much.”
But after I started tracking my calories, I realized the real reason I was probably losing so much weight is that when you have a hefty soda, junk food, and dessert habit, when you cut out those carbs, you also cut out all that fat too, leading to a massive calorie restriction. You just don’t realize how few calories you’re eating…or at least I didn’t I guesstimated that on average I was only eating 1200-1600 calories per day even though I thought I was eating way more.
On February 21, I switched to a flexible dieting/”If it fits your macros” approach along with strength training. I can eat whatever I want (within reason) as long as I hit my calorie and protein targets. This leads to the concept of tradeoffs. For example, almonds are often touted in the Paleo/Keto world, but chocolate has fewer calories and is more satisfying. SOLD!
I immediately gained 2.5 pounds, which I attribute mainly to increased water retention as I was no longer in ketosis. I stayed on Aggressive Fat Loss until September 1, when I weighed 166 pounds. I hadn’t weighed 166 pounds since I worked as a Lifeguard and Beach Attendant in 1995. Only this time I had better abs.
On September 2, I officially started bulking. I kicked off the bulk with a two day cruise where I just ate whatever I wanted which happened to include two entrees for dinner every night. This was the first time I had eaten breakfast since starting Aggressive Fat Loss. I later estimated that I ate 2000 calories just for breakfast on the cruise. I gained an impressive 10 pounds on the cruise although a large part of it was water that I lost over the next few days.
I bulked through Christmas ending up at 184 pounds (18 pounds heavier than my lightest on September 1). I absolutely LOVED the eating, but I didn’t like the look. Yes, I gained muscle as was the plan, but I also gained fat, and I much preferred having more defined abs. I could have gained a bit more muscle, but I tweaked my shoulder (while playing, not while lifting) and was unable to push the weight on bench press and overhead press.
The Final Countdown
The Monday after Christmas, I started cutting again. As of this writing, I am 176 pounds. I plan on continuing to cut until I have a true six pack. I guesstimate that if I was able to put on 5 pounds of muscle during the bulk and keep it through my cut, that I will end up around 165 pounds. If I was able to gain and keep more muscle, it will be little heavier. From there, I plan to do a series of very lean bulk cycles, gaining no more than 10 pounds over six months and pretty much stay between 165 and 175 for as long as I can.
Some final thoughts
I am incredibly thankful that I found flexible dieting. It works and is very sustainable. When I started the journey I would have been happy with just losing 10-15 pounds. I never dreamed that I would end up looking better at 42 than when I did at 22. And I have flexible dieting to thank for giving me the hope to not only make it a goal but see it through to fruition.
At 42, I had better abs than when I was 22!
But this isn’t just about looks. I’m much stronger, have better blood pressure, resting heart rate, fasting glucose, and cholesterol levels than before. I have more energy now and generally feel better. And most importantly I know I can keep this up for years. (Note that I mean the lifestyle, not the calorie deficit. You only need a deficit to lose weight. After that you can eat more.)
My brother had a lot of success with a ketogenic diet. I had always had a not-so-secret love affair with low-carb diets, so based on his experience, I did it too. Despite the initial weight loss, it just wasn’t much fun after a while. So I left it for flexible dieting, which I was able to stick with until my goal. My brother on the other hand eventually stopped from not being able to sleep well and leg cramps. According to him, if you google “Atkins le” or “ketogenic le”, Google will suggest leg cramps.
Most people who diet fail to keep the weight off, and I can understand why. You can’t just go back to whatever you were doing before and expect to keep the weight off. You have to maintain your lifestyle changes for the weight change to become permanent. And the beauty of my current diet is that I can truly eat whatever I want within reason. I can have a large cheat meal or cheat cruise…as long as I adjust my calories before or after. I can eat dessert every day (much to the chagrin of my wife who thinks treats aren’t treats if you get to eat them every day).
There’s nothing magical about any particular program. All you need are the following components:
- A solid caloric deficit
- Adequate protein to maintain muscle mass
- An eating plan that you enjoy so you can make the process sustainable.
- Strength workouts to convince your body to hold on to muscle (otherwise you’ll lose quite a bit of muscle along with that fat)
I should also give a shout out to Radu Antoniu, whose videos are some of the most informative, entertaining, and well edited out there in the fitness world. His program Shred Smart is also worth looking at even though you can learn everything you need to know from this free videos.
Heck you if you want to pay me to hold your hand through the process, I’d be happy to do it. Just e-mail me at email@example.com.
Facebook just showed me this photo. It was from five years ago. I remember thinking at the time, “Getting a bit tubby there. You really need to lose weight.” Apparently I didn’t take that advice for a long time. Now, as I come to the end of the first phase of my body changing journey, I’d like to reflect back on some lessons that I’ve learned along the way and let you know my plans for the future. Hopefully you can learn something from my experiences that will make your own journey even easier.
Progress so far
I started this journey around 212 pounds and am, as of this morning, 167.4 pounds (45 pounds for those of you bad at math). It has taken exactly 7 months and 4 days to get to this point. Most of my progress was made on the a fairly aggressive caloric deficit. I have very strictly monitored my caloric intake and tracked my protein, fat, and carbohydrate intake. I’ve worked out three times a week (45 minute weight workouts) and walked on the off days. I haven’t done any running or high intensity cardio workout except for recreational (riding a bike with the kids) or situational (sprinting to get out of the rain).
As for the 45 pounds, I’ve actually lost more than 45 pounds of fat, because I’ve added some muscle along the way. For example, today I did 6 chin ups with 50 pounds attached. When I started I could barely do four bodyweight chin ups. For the purposes of this post, I’ll guesstimate five pounds of muscle for a total of 50 pounds of fat gone.
It’s Wednesday night as I type this, and on Friday, my relationship with cutting will end. I am officially going to lean bulk. This means that I am going to eat in a controlled caloric surplus for the express purpose of gaining muscle. And that’s where the topic of superstitions comes in. I don’t mean fear of black cats or bad luck for breaking a mirror. I’m referring to the psychological term superstition. It refers to the belief that if success is accompanied by a random event, the person (or animal) will associate the event with success. (Also works for bad things too.)
This is the product of our own brains working against us. Our brains are designed to recognize patterns. We are hard wired to learn from our experiences and continue what has worked in the past. This is known as heuristics. Unfortunately, our brains can also recognize patterns even where none exists, and this is especially true when it comes to losing weight. Losing weight is a very long, intentional process. Even though it all comes down to a caloric deficit, there are a large number of variables to account for, and the research is often controversial with multiple credible researchers lining up on opposite sides of a given issue.
So when a person successfully loses a lot of weight, they become highly attached to any behavior or action that occurred during the process, even if the action had no or minimal effect on their weight loss. When I first started flexible dieting, the recommendation in the program is walk 45 – 60 minutes on the days you don’t lift weights. It just so happens that 3 laps around my neighborhood takes about 55 minutes, so that’s what I did four times a week for several months. Then, midsummer, I participated in a steps competition at work (team with the most steps after eight weeks wins a Fitbit…most inefficient way in the world to win something if you ask me). Toward the end of the competition, I was doing 5 laps around the neighborhood. Even though it was miserable, took too long, and my feet hurt and got blisters, once the competition had ended I was actually afraid to go back to only 3 laps. “What if my weightloss stalls? What if the only reason I was losing weight was the extra calories of the extra two laps?” You get the idea.
What about this bulking thing?
Most people who begin this fitness journey by cutting a lot of weight don’t plan to simply get thin. Once they’ve lost weight, the goal is usually then to gain muscle mass. The problem is that after months of working hard to lose weight, they become afraid to eat more. When you’ve deprived yourself for seven, eight, even 24 months to get thin, the last thing in the world you want to do is get fat again.
The problem of, course, is that it’s impossible to build a significant amount of muscle while maintaining a deficit. Heck, it’s practically impossible to build muscle while eating maintenance calories. To grow muscle, you really need a surplus. So the one thing that a person needs to do in order to build muscle is the one thing that person is afraid of—even when they know better. I’ve seen it dozens of times on Facebook fitness groups. I’ve even experienced it myself even though my plan was always to bulk after losing the weight, and even though I’ve been far more successful losing weight than I ever thought I could be. After all, my weight trend has been up for the last 15 years.
Casting out fear
So let’s run some numbers and see just how silly it is to be afraid of bulking. The general recommendation for a lean bulk is about 1900 extra calories per week. There is a current controversy over whether beginners and intermediates should follow that recommendation or do a slightly larger bulk of 3500 calorie weekly surplus (500 extra calories per day). Now if you remember your fat math, one pound of fat is 3500 calories. So if every single calorie of surplus went into fat, I’d gain one pound of fat per week. It would take me 50 weeks (an entire year) to gain all that fat back.
Let’s say, just half of the surplus calories get funneled into fat, then in one year, I’d gain 25 pounds of fat. And if just a quarter of the calories go into fat, then I’d only gain 12.5 pounds of fat in a year’s time. Now I’m only planning on bulking through March (7 months), so in that time, assuming 25% of the surplus going into fat, I could expect approximately 7.5 pounds of fat. From my experience with AFL, It should only take about 2 months to lose those 7.5 pounds of extra fat.
So don’t fear the bulk. Embrace the bulk. Seven months of eating 3000 calories instead of 1925 calories. You get to eat that way all through Thanksgiving, Halloween, and New Year! You even get to eat that way for Valentine’s Day. If you really want to go to town, save 200 calories each day, and have an extra 1200 calories for an epic 4200 calorie day (a solid Thanksgiving plan).
Don’t cut too long
The decision to stop cutting and start bulking is complicated. The general recommendation is cut until you’re about 10% body fat, and then bulk until you’re about 15% bodyfat, and then lean down again. I’m only about 13-14% body fat, and I haven’t quite hit my leanness goals (as defined by waist measurement and having a six pack). So why am I bulking? Three reasons.
- The longer you cut, the harder it becomes. I’ve been cutting for 7 months now. At first my daily calories were 2000, and I lost almost 2 pounds a week. Now my daily calories are 1815, and I lose less than half a pound a week. As you lose weight, your body doesn’t need as many calories. That makes it progressively harder to keep losing weight.
- Cutting is stressful—quite literally. Your body thinks you’re going to starve to death and tries to mitigate things by losing excess muscle. So you have to do heavy strength training to convince your body to hold on to muscle and lose fat instead. This causes your body to be stressed. Eventually, your body will adjust hormonally to reduce your metabolic rate. This was the subject of the Biggest Loser Study that I discuss here.
- Cutting is also stressful mentally.
Bulking gives you a mental break and resets your hormones. Most importantly it allows you to gain muscle. At my current weight, I probably would have to lose 7-8 pounds of fat to achieve a 10% bodyfat. I would look ridiculously skinny at 160 pounds, and it would probably take 3-4 more months. By lean bulking I’ll add hopefully 10-15 pounds of muscle in the next seven months with only a small amount of fat. Then when it comes time to lose the fat, I can do so at a higher (more enjoyable) daily calorie intake, and it won’t take as long to lose, so it won’t be as stressful. So that’s the plan.
Why do you keep emphasizing lean bulk?
A lean bulk is a controlled bulk. In my case, 500 calories over maintenance, or about 3000 calories per day, while maintaining an appropriate macronutrient balance. The traditional way of bulking is just eat a lot, which is of course how I got into this problem in the first place. So don’t just bulk. Lean bulk!
Here is one of my go to recipes for a high protein, low calorie meal. One of the most challenging things that a lot of people just starting on higher protein diets face, is that’s actually quite difficult to eat enough protein. A lot of people end up relying on protein shakes to get enough protein. Others find themselves choking down dry, tasteless chicken breast. When I first started flexible dieting, I was supposed to eat 160g of protein and often found it hard to get enough protein in while enjoying it, until I came up with this solution.
Here’s a recipe that makes a large amount of chicken breast taste amazing and features a large amount of vegetables in an equally satisfying format. For a little while I was eating this every single day. The main reason I stopped is that it takes a while to prep, and personally, I like it fresh—not left over. I still eat this once or twice a week, but I’ve switched to Taco Shredded Chicken for my daily protein intake due to its easier prep.
- Chicken breast (variable amounts; depending on what else I’m eating that day, it’s usually 300 – 450 g raw)
- Coconut oil (1 tsp)
- Garlic powder to taste
- Assorted Vegetables (some common choice for me
- Bell peppers of various colors
- Sauces of choice (some fun choices
- Soy Sauce (with or without honey)
- Lime juice and lemongrass
- Chop the vegetables and weigh each one (for logging in myfitnesspal).
- Cut the chicken into small pieces or strips and season with a small amount of salt
- Heat a 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil over medium heat and saute the chicken with as much garlic as you like.
- Just before the chicken is completely done, hit it with some sauce.
- Put the chicken in a bowl and set aside
- Add another 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil to the pan and saute the vegetables.
- When the vegetables are still al dente but almost ready, hit them with some sauce.
- Return the chicken to the pan and stir.
- Plate and eat.
That’s pretty much it. You can eat it as is or serve it over rice if you want to up your carb/calorie count. I usually use about 3/4 cups (cooked) of jasmine rice. If you want to kick the flavor up a notch, add the rice to veggies.
Chicken Stir Fry for the Whole Family
Macronutrients for this meal.
A typical meal of say 400g of chicken, 150g of zucchini, and 100g of carrots (with the coconut oil) is:
- 560 calories
- 97g protein
- 14g carbs
- 9g fat
The same meal with 3/4 cups of cooked jasmine rice is
- 710 calories
- 100g protein
- 48g carbs
- 10g fat
That meal will satisfy you for several hours and set you up very nicely to have a whatever you want for dinner and have 300 caloaries left for dessert. (Well, that’s what it does for me anyway.)
What if I need to cook for my whole family?
No problem. You do everything the same except that you need to do some 7th grade math (ratios and proportions). Say that you’re going to cook 800g of chicken for the whole family, and you need to eat 300g of chicken. That gives you a ratio of 300:800 or 3:8. You just apply that ratio to each ingredient to log it in myfitnesspal. To figure out your total serving, when the whole dish is done, weigh the entire amount of food, and apply the same ratio to the total weight.
If that explanation was too difficult, I’ve created a spreadsheet that you can just fill out. Fill in the total weight for each ingredient, the total weight, and your desired serving of chicken (raw), and it will automagically calculate everything for you.
212 lbs in November 2015 vs 178 lbs in June 2016
A little less than six months ago, my journey into fatness ended, and I started losing weight. I’ve chronicled the beginning of my fat loss journey here and how I lost the weight here. For all but the first three weeks I used the flexible dieting approach coupled with a weight training program. Today it’s time to show my progress. Update: To see how I ended up at the end of the program, see A Fat Loss Year in Review.
For your protection, the photos are blurred. If you really want to see them, you’ll have to click on them. I must warn you that the photos below show middle aged man torso and abdomen. Now it’s quite possible that those photos aren’t me at all, and are just some guy I found on a Facebook Fitness Group. But before we get to the photos, let’s have some stats.
||6 months later
||bodyweight x 4
||40 lbs x 6
||10 lbs x 8
||70 lbs x 7
||100 lbs x 5
||135 lbs x 5
||155 lbs x 5
||175 lbs x 5
|Bulgarian Split Squats
||80 lbs x 6
||150 lbs x 5
6 month Progress Photos
Okay, and without further ado, here are the photos. The “before” photos are at 197 pounds after losing 15 pounds, so they’re not as dramatic as they might be otherwise.
Click on the image to view it unblurred. You have been WARNED!!!
Click on the image to view it unblurred. You have been WARNED!!!
Click on the image to view it unblurred. You have been WARNED!!!
Okay, so there you have it. Half naked, middle aged man flesh. I’m currently lighter than I’ve been since 1997, and my waist hasn’t been 33 inches since before then. So you you might be asking, “what’s next?” The answer is, I’m going to try and lose another 5 pounds or so until I have a bona fide 6 pack. Then I’ll transition to a lean bulk program to gain 10-15 pounds of muscle over the next two years.
If you want to learn more: