Health & Fitness · Recipes

Açai Bowls

Açai berries have been one of the hottest ingredients for the past few years.  The acai berry has been deemed a “superfood”, which basically means it is packed with essential vitamins for you.  Right now, people is Southern California cannot get enough of something called an açai bowl and for good reason.

First, let’s just review a few simple things. An açai berry is a purple berry found in in Central/South America.  This delicious little fruit grows on acai palm and the fruit is now used as an ingredient in juices, smoothies, powders, etc.  Some people are actually calling this little purple/red berry “purple gold” because of all the punch it packs for such a small piece of fruit.  Acai berries are high in antioxidants, richer than the typical strawberries and blueberries you already know so much about.  Additionally, acai berries are low in sugar and provide a wonderful source of calcium for your body.

With all the health benefits and seeing how popular this fruit has become, I decided to make my own acai bowls at home.  Even a good thing can be a bad thing and when I was looking at calories/sugar content of an açai bowl from local smoothie stores I realized I would be better off making my own.  Let me tell you, this was DELICIOUS! My picky two year old stole this gorgeous snack from me, so I ended up making a second. Not only does it look delicious, but it is loaded with things that are good for you.

To make this smoothie I purchased a bag of the frozen Jamba Juice Protein Smoothies Berry Awesome Açai.  Açai berries can also be found on its own in the frozen food section at some grocery stores (I wasn’t so lucky, but is available at other grocery stores nearby).  Since making this though, I have discovered the açai powders they sell online and I will be using a scoop of that mixed with my own greek yogurt from here on it.  The powder is much more cost-effective and still provides the same nutrients as the frozen berries.  Simply mix half the bag with 8 oz of liquid, I chose coconut water, a little ice and blend it up.  Once you reach desired thickness, pour into bowl and top with fruit/granola.  I have seen people use everything from mango to coconut shavings on their açai bowls.  I think it truly comes down to your personal preference.  In my opinion, the granola adds a nice little crunch to the bowl.  (My daughter would agree, because she kept requesting more in her bowl.)

If you’re looking for a new snack or breakfast item, give these delicious bowls a try! Have you already tried them? What do you think?? I am LOVING how beautiful the food looks and how delicious it tastes!

Health & Fitness · Uncategorized

Kombucha Krazed

Kombucha, have you heard of it? If not, thats okay but you may want to take serious notes because this drink is packed with some serious healthy punch for your body.  Today I am talking about everything you need to know about this popular drink that is hitting shelves everywhere at stores near you.

Kombucha is actually tea, typically black but occasionally green or other varieties, that has been mixed with a type of sugar that has gone through an intense fermentation process. After going through the fermentation process komucha becomes carbonated and takes on added health benefits.  Kombucha becomes infused with what is known as “SCOBY” aka some probiotics.  SCOBY stands for Symbotic Colony Of Bacteria & Yeast.

With me so far? Good! So a few things you need to know before you crack open a bottle.  This drink has a VERY vinegary smell.  When I first too a whiff, I wasn’t sure I could actually drink the beverage.  If you can get past the smell, there is the another obstacle to overcome: the SCOBY actually appears as little particles floating around in your drink.  Although not overly large or textured, you still have something floating in it.  I kind of compare it to apple cider vinegar with the bragg.  It’s tough, but once you overcome these two obstacles you really will fall enjoy it.

Komucha is available from many brands currently in supermarkets around the country.  I personally have been fond of the brand, Synergy.  It has a variety of flavors available and I have fallen in love with Gingerberry and Trilogy. No, it wasn’t love at first taste BUT after my second bottle I was actually craving this drink first thing in the morning.  Some may consider it an acquired taste, but with time I think it could grow on you.

Why Drink Kombucha?

At this point, I haven’t described the most pleasant experience to make you want to go buy a bottle but keep reading you will see why.

As I mentioned before, kombucha provides probiotics for your body which assists with overall gut health.  Studies and research show that good bacteria is essential for your gut, which is where most illnesses originate.  This good bacteria supports the immune system by overcoming the bad bacteria found with in the gut.  Since the bacteria found in kombucha is loaded with antioxidants, it can assist with a variety of illnesses by reducing inflammation found within the body.  Additionally, studies are linking kombucha to aiding with cardiovascular health and management of diabetes.

I personally started drinking this after my GI suggested I incorporate more probiotics into my diet.  To be honest, I am AWFUL at remembering to take pills and I wanted something that could be found naturally within foods or drinks.  After research I landed on Kombucha.  I have been drinking this first thing in the morning, for no particular reason did I choose first thing, for the past month.  Overall, I have been pleased with the results and have seen improvements with my issues.

Where can I find it?

Komboucha is hitting shelves everywhere from the local grocery stores to Target.  Prices vary depending on brand and bottle size.  An average 16 oz bottle will cost between $3-$5.  However, Fresh Thyme often offers them for a buy one get one free sale and Target offers one massive bottle for $7.  Not bad considering you only need to drink 8oz per day.

If you’re looking to up your gut health and fuel your body with good bacteria, give this trendy drink a whirl.  It costs the same as your favorite drink at the local coffee shop, but provides actual health benefits instead of just a caffeine rush. Loaded with probiotics and vitamins, its a great supplement to add to your daily routine.

Have you tried it already?? What are your thoughts???

fitness · Health & Fitness

Orange Ya Glad You Worked Out

Orangetheory Fitness

Right before Christmas a friend of mine finally convinced me to give Orangetheory Fitness (OTF) a whirl. I was super nervous because I’d never been to an actual class, at any gym. Plus I was still getting back into shape after having my second baby in June. Let me tell you though, I went and absolutely fell in love with it.

What is OTF? OTF is an interval training workout designed to blast calories and build muscles. OTF is a 1 hour scientific based, full-body workout. During the class you wear a heart monitor that is displayed on a screen, so you can keep track of your workout the entire time. The goal is to maximize your workout by getting into the orange zone to burn optimal calories during class and for up to 36 hours after class.

The gym is equipped with three stations: treadmills, rowing machines (that actually use water for resistance), and weight stations. All equipment is numbered so if you’re number 4 on the treadmill that will be your number on the rower and the weights. If you’re a germaphobe like me this is great news because you’re only sharing equipment with one other person and everyone is required to wipe equipment down after using it.

The Workout: There are three different stations that will be used during the interval training workout. However, it may look different each time depending on how the class is setup for the day. Upon entering the gym, everyone will start on either the rower or treadmill to get their heart pumping. At this time it is important to make sure your name is displayed on the workout screen. If not, let the trainer or front desk now because you have to be able to track what you’re doing.

Once everyone has warmed up the intervals begin. Those who chose the rowers will then go to the floor and begin the full body exercises on the floor. Depending on the day you may use weights, bands, a medicine ball, or other various equipment. The trainer will go over each exercise movement in the block. If you forget, it is displayed on a tv screen the entire block as well. Often times you’ll complete a round then head back to the rower to get the heart pumping again. You’ll spend about 20-25 minutes on the floor during each workout. Sometimes it’s all at once and other times you switch to the treadmills midway, then back to the floor.

Now, if you started on the treadmill and it’s a typical class you’ll likely be there for the next 20-25 minutes. However, the trainer is constantly telling you what to do. Depending on the workout (endurance, power, or strength) you will be guided to change your settings. On the treadmill you will have a base pace, push pace, all out pace and recovery walk. Located on the treadmill you will have a visual reminder to follow as well to help guide you on what speeds and incline you should be using. It is broken down by walker, jogger, and runner with recommended speeds for each level of the workout. Pay attention to what you choose and really try to push yourself to feel uncomfortable. Change itself is uncomfortable and to get the most out of this class, you will need to feel that. Each block is different on the treadmill so listen to the trainer. For example on Sunday I was in a four minute block on the treadmill: 1 minute base pace, 2 minute push pace, 1 minute all out. This was followed by a waking recovery with another four minute block that was different than the previous. While on the treadmill, time flies. You’re focused on your heart rate zones and listening to the trainer that it’s truly over before you know it. Then to the floor and rowers.

Every person in the class completes the same workout at their own pace. You will complete the floor moves and treadmills using the weights and speeds that you choose. The trainer is there to support and provide corrections, but you are in charge of you. No one notices what you’re doing or keeps track of you other than yourself. Don’t feel embarrassed or insecure, just push yourself while there.

Heart Monitor: This is mandatory when attending the class. You will have to purchase one of the OTF heart monitors. You can choose your preferred style (bracelet/chest monitor) but you can try them both before purchasing. The chest monitor is believed to be a little more accurate and I personally preferred this because I hate having things on my arms while working out. The coolest thing about the heart rate monitor is it connects to an app on your phone using Bluetooth. Therefore you can use this heart rate monitor at home as well to track your workouts.

Heart Rate Zone: While working out there are five different color zones. Each zone represents your heart rate during the workout. Gray represents your light heart rate, meaning you’re using 50-60% of your max heart rate. Blue is considered your warmup heart rate; using between 61-70% of your max heart rate. Green means you’re using 71-83% of your max heart rate and this is your base pace during the workout. Orange is the desired zone to achieve using 84-91% of your max heart rate. Finally red means you’re at your all-out pace and using 92-100% of your max heart rate.

Splat Points: Since your heart rate is being tracked, this is where the importance of the orange zone comes into play. At orange theory you are trying to achieve at least 12 splat points during each workout. This means you spent at least 12 minutes in the orange heart rate zone. It is believed that if you reach the 12 splat points you will be able to have an after workout burn for an additional 24 to 36 hours. During the workout your name changes colors to correspond with your max heart rate level, calories are displayed as well as splat points.

Free! If you’re interested in giving this interval training workout a whirl, the first class is actually free. Simply call and setup and appointment or schedule online. You will have to arrive to your first class 30 minutes. Once you’re there you sit and discuss your current fitness level with the receptionist. After a brief conversation with them, you will meet the instructor who will show you around the gym. I loved this because you had time to familiarize yourself with the equipment and ask questions about the class.

After Class: When class is finished you stretch and can ask questions. Your workout summary is displayed on the screen and it will be emailed to you. You can also signup for additional classes while there or just use the app.

Pricing: After your free class the pricing will be explained to you. Since you will fall in love with this class, your best bet is to signup for a membership because it’s more cost-effective than paying for each individual class. They have various packages available and can explain them to you. I chose the monthly package and can attend class once a week. However, I can purchase additional “add-on” classes at a cheaper rate since I’m a member.

Go! If you’re looking to give yourself that extra push while working out, give this gym a whirl. I only go once a week in addition to my at-home workouts. I’ve attended about 10 classes so far and I’ve seen a MAJOR change in my fitness level and body. This place is not messing around and helps you feel motivated and energized.

Let me know what you think after you check it out! Have you already been, what are your thoughts? Or if you have another workout favorite, drop a comment below because I am always looking for new workouts.

fitness · Health & Fitness

Mint To Be Delicious

Who loves chocolate? ((don’t everyone jump at once)).  Who loves mint?? Who LOVES chocolate mint flavored goodies?  Well, if you answered yes to these questions you are in luck today because I have found the BEST mint chocolate chip protein bars.

Recently I began shopping at Aldi a bit more, because who doesn’t like to save money.  So, I have been trying more and more of their brands and foods.  While some things are a total bust, this my friends is an absolute home-run.

Aldi carries their own line of nutritional bars and products through the brand Millville called Elevation. They cover everything from protein powders to meal replacement bars.  After becoming hooked on CLIF Builder’s Protein Bars this past summer, I couldn’t live without them.  However, the price tag is a shock even when you purchase them on various websites like amazon.  12 CLIF bars can cost anywhere from $15-$20 depending on the day.  ((Amazon changes prices often, so its hard to say what it may cost on any given day of the week.)) Well, Aldi’s Mint Chocolate Elevation Bars taste amazing, if not better than CLIF, and are a bit less expensive.  12 bars from Aldi will cost around $11 because a box of 6 is only $5.99. Now it may not seem like a huge difference, you can almost purchase another box from Aldi for the same price as purchasing one from CLIF.  Meaning you can actually purchase 18 bars for $18.  Which is worth it when our two-year old devours half a bar sometimes as well.

When you compare the two side by side, they are virtually the same product. Both brands contain 20g of protein.  The protein used in both bars is soy protein isolate, and when comparing the ingredients side by side its almost a mirror image of one another.

Packaging: Both products use the mint green color scheme on the outside of the box and on the individual wrappers as well.

Appearance: If you set the two bars right next two each other, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the two apart.

Caloric Information: CLIF bars come in with 270 calories/80 from fat.  Elevation bars have 260 calories/70 from fat.

Sugar Content: CLIF has 21g in each bar.  Elevation has 19g per bar.  (A bit high still, but probably part of the reason they both taste so delicious).

Sodium: CLIF bars contain 9% of your daily value.  Elevation contains 9% of your daily value.

Vitamins: CLIF bars have a much higher percentage of vitamins such as Vitamin A/C, Calcium, B, etc.  For example a CLIF bar has a daily value of 30% vitamin A, whereas Elevation bars only contain 15%.

Fiber: CLIF bars contain 2g of fiber and Elevation contains 3g of fiber.

Verdict: We initially were going to just “try” the Elevation bars.  However, it is now what we choose over the CLIF bars.  I actually think they have a little more flavor and aren’t as tough to chew.  Plus, saving a few extra dollars is something I can never be mad about.  Next time you’re at Aldi, pick up a box.  I promise you will not be disappointed.  If you decide to give them a whirl, let me know.  I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on them as well.

Health & Fitness

Clean Protein

Everywhere you look, people are trying to better themselves any way they can. Between the latest beauty, fashion, and workout trends everyone’s trying to be better from the inside out.  I am sure if you have wandered any grocery store or even target lately you have seen the massive protein powder displays. What was once only used by men who were trying to bulk-up is now a product everyone is using to get their desired fitness results. However, it can all be SO overwhelming when reading labels with whey isolate this or rice protein that.  Well, my friends we have tried A LOT in our house and I am here to give you the rundown on what we have found and enjoy the best.

First thing to know, there are so many types of protein available.  Here is a list of the most common types available:

  • Whey
  • Casein
  • Egg
  • Soy
  • Rice
  • Hemp
  • Pea

Now, I am not lying when I say we have tried them ALL.  Whey tended to make my husband and I feel/look bloated. Egg was super hard for my husband to digest, but actually tasted the best.  After thorough research I found out that egg white protein is very hard for people to digest because it is broken down at a faster rate and can be difficult on people’s stomachs.  I personally have always avoided soy products just because it can mimic estrogen in women’s bodies when consumed in high rates.  As far as hemp, rice, and pea the thought alone sounded awful to me UNTIL…..

….I tried it.  Call me a hypocrite, I curled my nose at the thought of plant-based proteins and then fell in love with them. By no means am I the healthiest person in the world, but I like to make educated choices when it comes to placing things inside my family’s body.  So much of what we eat is loaded with fillers, that I don’t want to do that to my body.

We recently began using Vega Clean Protein, because it was loaded with real foods and didn’t cause the bloat we were seeing with other types of protein.  It had a decent taste and the price was reasonable, $30 for a small tub and it was free of many of the fillers you find in so many proteins. Meaning, it is free of GMO products, artificial sweeteners, free of artificial coloring, and sourced from natural protein found in plants. Overall, it has been a huge hit.

Then my husband went to Fresh Thyme on a mission to find some Elderberry Syrup for me (I’ll get to that in another post).  This is when he stumbled across Garden of Life Sport Organic Protein. Just like Vega, this product met our requirements as far as being a vegan -based protein and free of all the negative ingredients.  He was able to sample it, and next thing I know we have a giant tub on our counter. Virtually the two products are very similar and it may come down to personal preference. We prefer the garden of life protein because it tastes a little less “powdery” and it is delicious when mixed with almond milk and ice.

  • Vega Clean contains 25g of protein per scoop and Garden of Life Sport contains 30g of protein per scoop.
  • Garden of Life is a little less expensive per ounce. (you can purchase garden of life protein on amazon for $35 for a 28.4 oz (1lb 12 oz) container. Vega Clean is about $28 for a 19.5 oz container on amazon. *Pricing subject to change on Amazon like most things do.*
  • Both products have BCAAs- 3 proteins that cannot naturally be found within your body but are essential with muscle recovery as well as definition of muscles.  BCAAs are found within proteins (like meat, yogurt, nuts) and when used before/after workout can assist in aiding your muscles reach their fullest potential all while helping reduce soreness post-workout. Vega has 4g of BCAAs per scoop and Garden of Life contains 5.5 per scoop.

Overall, if you are looking to up your protein intake OR trying to achieve leaner muscle definition give plant-based protein a whirl.  I was skeptical at first because I thought it would “bulk” me up, but really it is aiding in my fitness journey to live a healthy and happy life.

Garden of Life

Vega Clean

fitness · Health & Fitness

*FREE Workouts**

Who’s ready to hit the beach?!?! With the Arctic-like conditions we are currently seeing, its hard to think that summer will ever arrive.  However, it is closer than we think.  Last week I shared with you the website I use to stream workouts, Beachbody on Demand.  So, today I wanted to talk about a FREE workout website I have been using for years and love the workouts called Tone It Up.

Toneitup.com is a website ((they also offer an app)) that unites and encourages women to work on their fitness; inside and out.  It all started when Karena and Katrina  met each other at a gym in California.  One went up to the other, and the rest is history.  These two beach babes now own a multi-million dollar fitness business that separates them from many other online and in-home programs I have seen. I discovered this website in 2013, when I was preparing to get in shape for my wedding and have been obsessed ever since!

kk

What started off as two girls making fitness videos has now turned into a full-blown community where they want to see women succeed with their fitness goals. Their brand offers DVDs, online videos to stream, workout classes on the app, printable workouts, nutrition plans, recipes, workout gear, protein powders, AND so much more!  Their networking on social media is outstanding and they often host events throughout the country where women can come together and workout with them and the women they have been corresponding with on the app or website.  Their vision is clear: find fitness of the body, mind, and support one another as women.

Something that sets this website apart from other streaming services is the fact that many of the workouts are actually FREE.  Some will incorporate workouts from the DVDs or paid portion of their app, but if you go to the fitness tab on their website you can find one that’s free to substitute. If you subscribe to their site, they send out weekly workout plans to help you stay on track. Each day the plan offers the toning move to focus on and the cardio that should be completed. If you look at the picture below you see the targeted toning move written under the day of the week. When you are on the website, the moves are shown as quick video clips so you know EXACTLY how to complete the move. The toning moves target specific muscle groups and help them tone your body. If you go to the app, you can join live classes where moves are shown and you actually follow along from your computer. Most of the exercises require minimal equipment: dumbbells, resistance bands, exercise ball, etc.  Sometimes I don’t actually have the exact equipment needed so I will modify the move to use what I have available or search for a smilier workout that focuses on the same muscle groups to tone.

Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 8.32.37 PM

To help with motivation, they offer various challenges throughout the year.  Some of my favorites have been the valentine’s day or spring break challenges.  For one month you commit to the weekly workouts and  they also have you challenge your mind and spirit by journaling or meditating. Currently they are offering a detox plan to help jumpstart your fitness goals for the new year.

Just like any workout program at home, you have to be motivated and commit to the plan.  With the amount of support from Karena + Katrina, their website/app, and social media followers you will think you are working out with personal trainers in a class every day.  There energy is contagious during the workouts and you can tell that they are enjoying themselves which actually makes it easier to follow along.  I personally love the HIIT workout options they provide, many of which just require you to use your own body weight for the moves.

So, if you haven’t yet, GO check out the website or app. You should also checkout their Instagram page because they are always posting on there as well.   I promise you will not be disappointed and may find the motivation you have been looking for!

P.S.: If you love target, their products and equipment are now sold there!!!! How exciting for them and for you because when I started 5 years ago with their workouts, items weren’t as readily available. I own four of the DVDs and love them! The workouts are often a little longer and they are there coaching you along the entire time. Be on the lookout for their newest displays in stores now.

Tone It Up

hiit

Health & Fitness · Uncategorized

Beast Mode

Let’s face it, before a workout everyone can think of 39,274 reasons why you don’t want to do it. I come up with any and every excuse sometimes, my personal favorite excuse to use is that I would rather eat a peanut butter cup lol. However, after becoming a mom I realized how important this time is for me AND how much of a struggle it is to fit it in.  Between no sleep, working, trying to be an involved parent, and a loving wife workouts can quickly fall to the side. That is until I came across this…..

Beach Body on Demand has literally been my saving grace.  I am SO thankful a co-worker is a beach body coach and told me all about it. Let me back up for a second and explain how I landed into this streaming service.  Initially I simply purchased the 21 Day Fix package and fell in love.  As time went on, I purchased 21 Day Fix Extreme.  Then my lovely friend explained to me that there was a streaming service that you could pay for to receive ALL of the beach body workouts to stream whenever and wherever you have an internet connection.  I was skeptical at first, but did the free 7-day trial.  After that, I fell in love.

Working out from home requires discipline, but it also provides the comfort of knowing that IF someone in the house needs me I am right there.  It is awesome because I can always squeeze in some sort of workout during a nap time.  The programs vary and so do the times for each workout, so each day I can customize what I want to do.

Like anything else in life it requires dedication, but I have found what works for me.  Typically I go for the more fast-paced workouts, but if I am feeling sluggish or needing an easier day there are options for me.  Even on my worst days, I can squeeze in at least 15 minutes. Plus it is not just for ladies, my husband is also obsessed.  He started using the programs himself and he is absolutely hooked.  He obviously uses heavier weights, but we are able to workout together at home with our baby monitor nearby. Check out his before and after pics below:

IMG_1816

One thing my friend is constantly saying is that fitness is a journey and not a race.  If you find that you are struggling with making time, give it a whirl.  If you are looking to join an accountability group or Beach Body on Demand, reach out to Michelle Mehler.  You will not be disappointed in the results.  She often has Facebook groups for check-ins and support, plus she shares her secret tips. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Well actually, you have body fat and weight to lose too.  Kinda sounds like a win-win. 🙂