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2013 Pre-Holiday Fuel Challenge: Survival Guide (with meal ideas and other helpful tips)

With the weekend upon us, I thought I’d go ahead and put this up for all the pax to review. We all need to go to the grocery store this weekend to prepare for the challenge that is ahead. While the Fuel Challenge is very doable, preparation is critical to success.

The easy part was signing up.  Now for planning and execution.  Here is a Survival Guide that will take some of the pain out of Week 1.  Remember the goal is to educate yourself on nutrition and make changes that will result in not only short term benefits, but will also transition into a long-term, healthy lifestyle.  The question is not, “What am I allowed to eat?” but “What fuels will I choose to result in a healthy and fit lifestyle?”



If the banned items [LINK HERE] looks like your shopping list, you might be stymied for ideas on what to eat. Rather than offering up sample meals, here are some ideas on what to eat during the day.  Make sure you are stocked up prior to beginning The Challenge.  Not having the appropriate food on hand is a recipe for failure.



  • Eggs/egg whites
  • Turkey bacon
  • Veggie “sausage patties”
  • Fruits
  • Light/Greek Yogurt:  add berries and 1/4 CUP of granola
  • Healthy Cereal (Cheerios, Grape Nuts, steel cut oatmeal, not instant) and Skim or 1% Milk
  • Fruit and Veggie Smoothie

TIP:  most cereals are junk calories and even the “good” ones should be done in moderation and combined with a healthier portion.  Cereal and fruit bars are to be considered junk food.  Protein bars are usually very high in calories. Use with discretion.



  • 1 Can of Tuna / Salmon.  Check the cans for the lowest calorie servings.
  • 4-5 oz. Chicken or fish
  • Lean deli turkey with low fat cheese
  • Green salads with chicken or fish (See notes on dressings below)
  • 3-bean salad (black, red, and chick peas)
  • Little Baby Carrots
  • Hummus (good with LBCs)
  • Celery sticks with organic PB
  • Cucumbers with Crumbled feta and a little balsamic vinaigrette dressing
  • Fruits
  • Raw veggies



  • 6 oz chicken breast
  • 6 oz fish
  • 6 oz lean pork
  • Ground turkey
  • Bean salads
  • Green Salads (use spinach leaves instead of iceberg)
  • Steamed veggies
  • Roasted veggies, such as brussel sprouts and asparagus
  • Pan-roasted chick peas and barley
  • Whole wheat pasta with edamame, arugula and herbs
  • Brown rice and roasted veggies



  • Apple slices
  • Almonds, walnuts, pistachio nuts
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Turkey Jerky
  • Celery and PB
  • Frozen grapes
  • Bananas
  • Avacado slices with pepper
  • Raw veggies with a little hummus
  • Trail mix (low calorie, low fat if possible)
  • Celery and a little peanut butter

TIP:  It’s a good idea to fuel about 20 minutes before working out (when the nutrients start to hit the bloodstream).  Half a banana, a cup of blueberries or almonds as you rise in the morning prior to a workout will fuel your workout and keep you from bonking.



Bottom line:  Eater smaller portion meals more frequently.  The plan that the Fuel Team recommends:

  • Small portion of energy food before a workout.
  • Breakfast
  • Mid-morning snack
  • Lunch
  • Mid-Afternoon snack
  • Dinner

The idea is to keep your blood sugar fairly stable throughout the day and the hunger pangs at bay so that you aren’t tempted to splurge at your next meal.  Snacking after dinner or right before bed is counterproductive.  If you feel hungry after dinner, drink a large glass of water and luxuriate in a crunchy, wholesome celery stick.



  • Portion sizes in the average restaurant are about twice the size they should be.  Split a meal or take it home for lunch the next day.
  • Consider a healthy appetizer as your meal.
  • Dressings and sauces are often hidden sources of calories.  Abstain.
  • There are plenty of healthy options available even at fast food restaurants, such as veggie burgers and salads.  The key is to watch for the junk calories (white breads, dressings, sauces, etc.).  the best bet is to avoid drive thru’s entirely. But if you must, you could do a lot worse than a 6 piece nugget meal and a fruit cup from Chick-fil-a…..but planning ahead should keep this from happening. As the old saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail.



Here are some links to other nutrition resources:





Please feel free to share other resources in the comments.  More options lead to a higher chance of success.



Getting dialed in mentally is often the biggest hurdle.  Some thoughts on getting your head right:

  • The first week will be hard.  Go ahead and embrace that now:  It.  Will.  Be.  Hard.  But so do sprints up Heartbreak Ridge, Jacob’s Ladders, 100 burpees, etc.  Discipline is doing what you know needs to be done even though you don’t want to.  So man up and do it already.
  • Plan for temptations.  Stock the fridge/pantry with healthy snacks.  Chew gum.  Snack on some sunflower seeds.  Drink a big glass of water.  Do 50 merkins.   Have a healthy alternative ready when (not if) temptation strikes.
  • Drink a giant glass of water about 15 minutes before each meal.  You will feel fuller by the time you dig in.
  • Make use of fruit smoothies as “dessert.” Just be careful on the portion size.
  • Commit now that there will be no exceptions, no sneak tastes, nothing.  Do the right thing, even when no one is looking.
  • Meals are a social activity and more likely than not you will be sharing many meals a week with people who are not on the plan.  You’re just going to have to gut it out or use your free pass.  Sometimes you just can’t avoid temptation.
  • If you are trying to lose weight, only weigh once a week.  Weight can fluctuate a couple of pounds a day.  Repetitive trips to the scale can lead to discouragement (or false enthusiasm and later disappointment).



  • Many salad dressings are calorie-dense.  Get to love balsamic vinaigrette and other low-cal options.
  • Sauces.  Not many friends in this category.
  • Avoid white food:  white breads, pastas, pretzels, potatoes, white rice.  Your body more or less treats these items the same as cookies or cake.  Get lots of color on the plate (not M&M’s).
  • Fat-free foods.  Many fat free foods are high in calories—don’t bother.
  • Eating too fast.  You’re brain needs time to figure out your stomach is full.  Slow down.
  • Eating until your food is gone instead of when quitting when you are full.
  • Drinking calories.  Get a Crystal Light variety pack and create your own flavored water on the cheap (just make sure it’s sugar free).
  • Eating in the car or in front of the TV.  Don’t do it.  Concentrate on the food you are eating and you will feel full sooner.  Mindless eating leads to overeating.
  • Don’t eat from a bag.  Control your portion before you start eating.  Don’t trust yourself to stop when you should.  Assume Future Self can never be trusted to make the right decision for Present Self.
  • Use your weekly free pass OUT OF THE HOUSE.  You will likely have some contraband left over and you’ll be tempted to consume it.  


Most “energy drinks” are just sugar water.  Gatorade, Powerade, etc. are basically just juice boxes for grown ups.  Good old water will take care of most of your hydration needs.



People who don’t keep a food log underestimate their calorie intake by about 50%.  Luckily, food log apps are plentiful for smart phones.  The Fuel Team recommends MyFitnessPal (MFP) for tracking  everything that goes into your mouth.  Yes, everything.

An added benefit of using MFP is the ability to follow and be followed by others.  We recommend you sign up with some form of your F3 or twitter handle so we can find each other easily.

If you can buddy up with a few pax that you see regularly, use that for accountability.



Unless you are the chef in the house you married guys will need support from the M (your wife).  If she doesn’t participate in The Challenge, she will likely have to change the menu to suit your plan or she will need to become a short order cook.  Get ahead of this issue now so that no resentment builds.  Plan meals together.  Grill the chicken and fish and throw some veggies on there as well.  Make it a team effort.



Even the best-laid plans go awry and the strongest wills can succumb to the siren song of the cupcake.  If that happens to you, confess your sin and get back on the plan IMMEDIATELY.  Don’t wait until the next day to begin anew.  Nope.  Immediate correction.

That’s enough for Week 1.  Go sign up for MyFitnessPal, load up at the grocery store, and strap it on.  Feel free to ping us with questions in the comments, on Twitter, or in the Gloom.

Let’s do this!


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