Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Why I Consider Myself a Bodybuilder

It's safe to say I've experienced my share of turned-up noses and raised eyebrows when people find out I'm a "bodybuilder." For a while, I hesitated to call it "bodybuilding," and often answered questions of what I've been up to with a casual referral to "training" or "new workout regimen I'm trying out." However, I've decided to embrace the label of bodybuilding, and maybe clarify what it means to me.


I do bodybuilding because I want my physical body to reflect the strength and beauty that's being produced on the inside of my body. 

There's a hardcore, never-ending fitness class going on deep within my spirit, a conditioning brought on by the Holy Spirit, that if I allow it to, will tear apart my soul and rebuild it just like a hardcore workout does to your muscles.

I've told people before that I believe fitness is God's preferred method of communication with me, and hey, I'm not going to question his methods. Whatever he's doing, it's working, and I like it.

Sure, competing in shows has given me a platform to start my own business, become a credible source of nutrition and fitness knowledge, as well as become an inspiration to those wanting to perfect their aesthetics. I think all of those reasons are proof enough of why it's an honorable position to be in as a bodybuilder. But, what I think can sometimes get blurry for competitors is discovering why they care about being an inspiration any way. 

I'm afraid if achieving physical perfection was my only motivation for me crawling out of bed at 5 a.m. and crawling up the ladder of death, I mean, stairclimber, every morning, I would have worn myself out after a couple shows and over-tanned, vein-popping photographs, and then marked it off my checklist a long time ago. 

So, why do I keep on going like the Energizer Bunny? 

Not because I think working out is a Biblical law or spiritual discipline.

Not because I think I'm worthier of a person if I look and feel better.

Not because I think God loves me more if I work hard enough to prove to him I'm a hard worker.

Because the revelations in my spiritual life motivate me to shine out God's light in every which way I can, and to me, doing the shows keeps me accountable and challenged enough to never stop ... to never give up.

That's why no matter what critique a judge gives me, whether I'm too lean, too thin, or too whatever, I keep pushing myself and pushing myself, because I know who the real judge is. And he has whispered in my ear, "Good job, my precious daughter," enough times to remind me of why I'm here.

My hope is that you find encouragement to dig deep and hear what God is saying to you. If you feel encouraged to pick up a weight or two in the meantime, that's just a bonus. ;)

Monday, December 2, 2013

'Tis the Season to Lift Heavy Things

One question I get asked a lot these days is if I'm training for another show some time soon. I hate my answer ... "No, I'm in my off-season right now ... bulking and building muscle." 

Prejudging at my last show in October, the NPC Heartland.
I hate using the word "bulking." It makes me sound like a d-bag body-builder wannabe. I guess a better answer would be "Yes, I am training for a show or two next spring, but right now, I'm adding more muscle mass to my physique."

Learning how to refuel my body and add muscle mass, rather than just maintain, has been a huge knowledge-bearing season for me. I've learned how to stay lean and get stronger at the same time.


In the bodybuilding world, this often means, lifting heavier weight for as many reps as you can, fatiguing the muscle some days and then allowing those muscles to rest on others. For me, I've really been using the pyramid scheme of adding weight and decreasing reps (and then repeat the other way around). This style of weight-training has been immensely helpful in adding muscle mass and maintaining a lean physique.

As I've researched and experimented with my physical body in how to get stronger, I've learned that this process is similar to the feat we face in our spirits. We can choose to maintain our current spiritual "physique," or we can choose to get stronger. To me, this has meant trying new things, starting new disciplines, becoming a little bit more vulnerable, taking risks, and over all, being different.

Following Jesus is all about being different. It's not about doing the same things all the other Christians are doing and saying, but it's about your relationship with Jesus, and hearing what Jesus has to say to you. Everyone walks out their purpose a little bit differently. And trust me, nobody walks it out in a straight line. Each of us has bumps in the road, a mountain we must climb, or a wrong turn in our trail. The most important thing to remember is that just because we slip up a couple of times, it doesn't mean we need to throw in the towel and give up.

Never. Give. Up.

Just like we trainers preach to our clients — to not let your poor choice of a cheat convince you to forever eat cheetos and forget about the gym. We all make poor choices. It's the choice to move past that, accept God's grace and move forward in the right direction that separates you from the losers.

Don't be a loser.

Choose grace. Choose the high road. Bulk up and build muscle, ladies! ... And gents! ;)

For help in building muscle, shoot me an email or see what you might be interested in on my Services tab above. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pre-Order Your 'Fearless and Fit' Tanks Today

"Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the LORD GOD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation" (Isaiah 12:2).
You guys have been so supportive in my efforts to launch my own business as a fitness consultant and health coach. I know many of you have been waiting for me to release my first fitness-inspired tank top line, and I'm excited to say we are super-close! Thank you for all your patience!!

Some of you have already sent me your size and order request, but even if you've already done that, I ask that you please complete the order form below as well.

If you pre-order your tank(s), it will be only $15, so go ahead and secure your order today!

I have decided to give you three options:

  • Pink
  • Green
  • Blue

All will be on black tank tops, and the manufacturer does warn that they run a tad small. The sizes come in:

  • Small
  • Medium
  • Large
  • X-Large

As far as receiving your tanks, I think it will be easiest for those of you who come to my classes or who train with me or those I see occasionally, if I just bring them to you in class or to your home. For others, I am more than happy to ship them to you for an extra $2. You'll just need to specify that in your email to me (see below).

They are so stinkin' cute, and I hope you like them. My hope is that when you wear this tank, you wear it as a walking reminder that you shall have NO fear because you are a child of God, and you rely on Him for your strength. When you lift, when you run, when you push through that last mile or sprint, you may be reminded that you are "fearless and fit."

Pre-orders will be available until Sunday, December 1. 

*Note: If paying via PayPal, there will be an extra $3 charge for tax purposes.

In Psalm 27, King David shares a prayer of fearlessness, and I hope this encourages you in your own walk with God:
The Lord delivers and vindicates me!
I fear no one!
The Lord protects my life!
I am afraid of no one!
2 When evil men attack me
to devour my flesh,
when my adversaries and enemies attack me,
they stumble and fall.
3 Even when an army is deployed against me,
I do not fear.
Even when war is imminent,
I remain confident.
4 I have asked the Lord for one thing—
this is what I desire!
I want to live in the Lord’s house all the days of my life,
so I can gaze at the splendor of the Lord
and contemplate in his temple.
5 He will surely give me shelter in the day of danger;
he will hide me in his home;
he will place me on an inaccessible rocky summit.
6 Now I will triumph
over my enemies who surround me!
I will offer sacrifices in his dwelling place and shout for joy!
I will sing praises to the Lord!
7 Hear me, O Lord, when I cry out!
Have mercy on me and answer me!
8 My heart tells me to pray to you,
and I do pray to you, O Lord.
9 Do not reject me!
Do not push your servant away in anger!
You are my deliverer!
Do not forsake or abandon me,
O God who vindicates me!
10 Even if my father and mother abandoned me,
the Lord would take me in.
11 Teach me how you want me to live;
lead me along a level path because of those who wait to ambush me!
12 Do not turn me over to my enemies,
for false witnesses who want to destroy me testify against me.
13 Where would I be if I did not believe I would experience
the Lord’s favor in the land of the living?
14 Rely on the Lord!
Be strong and confident!
Rely on the Lord!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Aren't Ya Happy About Artichokes?

I discovered something new about myself last week. I love artichokes!

Who knew?

I already knew I loved easy, few-ingredient meals, but this one hits it out of the ball park. If you're unsure your down with the artichoke sickness, please give this a shot before totally dismissing it. The artichokes really give the baked chicken a savory flavor, and better yet, they fill you up without adding a whole lot of calories.

Other Benefits of Using Artichokes:

  • High in potassium (balances sodium intake and blood sugar)
  • High in fiber (promotes digestion and the "full" feeling)
  • Antioxidants (builds immune system and fights disease)


Ingredients:

  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 can artichokes (in water)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste


Directions:

  1. Bake the chicken and garlic in a greased baking dish at 350 degrees (low-medium) for 45 mins - 1 hour. 
  2. Top the chicken with the artichokes and tomatoes (spread evenly).
  3. Bake again for another 15 - 20 mins.


The chicken is so tender and juicy. It's delicious. Like all good things in life, this meal is simple, quick and inexpensive. ;)


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fall Food Ideas

Part of me still believes it's summer here in Texas. Maybe it's the occasional sweep of sun rays and blue skies, or maybe it's just the kid in me not wanting the leaves to turn because a year-long summer means fun-fun-fun!

Inevitably, though, it's nearly November, and we're finally experiencing some cool weather, which makes the turn of seasons a little bit easier for me to bare.

To ring in the fall and the break of holiday feasts, I thought I'd share with you some fall-time foods. Soups are great options to fill up on veggies and lean protein, so that when your grandma tempts you with her pan of fresh baked cookies cut like angels (but really they're more like little demons), you can at least say you've eaten mostly clean beforehand.

Vegetable soup is one of the easiest things to make, and it's perfect for cool weather.

Toss all your favorite veggies in a crockpot, season them to your liking and cook on low for 4-6 hours.

Filling up on lean, white fish is another good choice because most of us are super-busy during this season.
Frozen fish thaws in about five minutes and cooks in about 10. Try popping them in the oven on broil (low) or sauteeing them in 1 tablespoon of coconut oil with some garlic and onions, or if you feel like splurging (hah), try covering them in some whole wheat bread crumbs (gluten-free options are available).

Stick around for more healthy, easy options for making this season special and scrumptious, without ruining your summertime physique.

What questions do you have? Let me know in the comments below! 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

'To-Thai-For' Peanut Stir-Fry


One of my favorite things about Thai food is the variety of flavors involved in a medley of healthy protein and veggies. One little spice can make a bland piece of broccoli have an explosion of flavor.

My husband and I fell in love with Thai food about three years ago when we decided to boldly branch out of our typical routine of settling for Panda Express "wok smart" dishes. We ordered lettuce wraps as an appetizer and were sold. De-lish-us.

Being the rebel I am, I told my hubby that we could so totally make these ourselves, and I could definitely make them healthy. That I did. But I have something even better for you.
I'll raise you a few more veggies and a lot less fat with this next recipe. Check those lettuce wrap wanna-be's, and take this complete meal, with an ensemble of lean protein, an assortment of veggies, as well as the most important thing ... It's packed with that perfectly peanutty flavor.

It's easy. It's cheap. And it's healthy.








Thai Peanut Stir-Fry


Ingredients:

  • Chicken breasts
  • Stir-fry veggie medley 
  • Coconut oil
  • PB2 (powdered peanut butter)
  • Soy sauce or liquid aminos
  • Garlic (or powder)
  • Stevia


Directions:

  1. Chop chicken breasts up into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Pan-fry them with 1 tbsp of coconut oil on the stove until cooked thoroughly.
  3. Season with garlic powder and powdered peanut butter.
  4. Add some soy sauce to chicken and stir with peanut powder until the consistency is thick like a sauce.
  5. Reduce heat and let simmer for a few minutes.
  6. Add veggies.
  7. Simmer until tender and then serve.
  8. *Try serving it all in a lettuce wrap if you want some extra crunch!
What's your favorite thing about Thai food? Anyone have any healthy alternatives to traditional recipes?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Quick Fixes for Savory Cravings

Try these recipes when you're craving things like ...


Guacamole

  • Avocados
  • Garlic
  • Salt
  • Lime juice
>> Mix it all together. hehe.

Doritos


  • Kale
  • Mrs. Dash fiesta lime seasoning
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
>> Rinse kale and tear it into pieces. Toss it in a little oil and lots of Mrs. Dash. Spend like five minutes massaging the kale in the bowl. Pretend like it's going to massage you back, so you have to do it really good. This step is crucial because it helps get rid of that funky "green" flavor kale tends to have on its own. Lay the pieces on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Check on it every three minutes.

 

French Fries

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Olive Oil spray
  • Garlic 
  • Sea salt
>> Peel and slice sweet potatoes into thin circles. Place on greased baking sheet and season 'em up. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes.


Loaded Mashed Potatoes

  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet Potato (peeled)
  • Garlic
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Sea Salt
>> Cover cauliflower with water in a pot on stove and bring to a boil for about five minutes. Reduce to simmer and cover for another 20 minutes. Feel free to add more seasonings like rosemary or chives or anything else. Cook until water is all soaked up or until it's soft. Drain excess water out and either mash it all together or blend it up. You might serve it with some fat-free cheese, chives or imitation butter flavoring.



Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ali's Natural BBQ [Product Review]


Instagram is one of the best platforms I use to learn about new products, new recipes and new ways to spice up my healthy lifestyle. Instagram is also where I saw Ali's All Natural line mentioned first. Someone used her maple syrup on their protein pancakes, and I noticed they said it was sweetened with stevia, which is music to my ears these days.

Ali, from Ali's All Natural, was so sweet to send me a few of her last sample packets. All she had for me to try were a couple of her newest products like her barbecue sauces.

What most people don't consider when they're preparing meals, especially if they're new to the whole "sugar-free, healthy, wholesome, diet" world, is that they can rack in a butt-load of empty calories just by dumping the sauce or dressing onto their perfectly healthy chicken breasts, and unfortunately, your super-lean protein becomes the equivalent of eating a cup of sugar along side it.

That's why most of the time, I advocate using condiments in moderation and recommend low-sugar ones like mustard, soy sauce or salsa. However, since Ali uses stevia, an all-natural, zero-calorie sweetener, you can be very generous with your toppings. ... And you'll want to when you taste them!

I used Ali's homestyle BBQ sauce and Raspberry Chipotle BBQ sauce on some day-old chicken breast at lunch, and it was delicious — the perfect combination of sweet and tangy.

Her flavors include:

  • Homestyle BBQ
  • Spicy BBQ
  • Raspberry Chipotle BBQ


I wasn't able to try any of her syrups, but I'm sure they are delicious.

Those flavors include:

  • Strawberry
  • Blueberry
  • Boysenberry
  • Banana
  • Maple

If I buy some more, I'm definitely going to try out one of the pizza recipes that she suggests. Ali also gives you other ideas on how to use her sauces and syrups on her blog. Not only do I encourage you to try out Ali's line because I think her healthy alternatives taste great, but also because she has a long history in the health/fitness industry, being a fitness competitor and model.

Let me know what you think in the comments below! You can order her syrups or her sauces online at her website: www.alisallnatural.com

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Lick-Your-Lips Lasagna

When your meal plan includes "a big salad full of veggies" for dinner every night, you tend to get a bit creative in the kitchen. Now I'm not even on a "meal plan" any more (because I've learned how to eat according to my body's needs), and I still like to feast on loads of veggies along with some lean protein for dinner. 

One of my favorite ways to change up my meals is to create veggie disguises. Veggies like squash and broccoli and cauliflower and eggplant and rutabaga can all mimic the flavor and texture of not-so-healthy ingredients like pasta, chips or fries.

When you're in the mood for Italian, I'd encourage you to try this dish. When my husband wants pizza on one of my non-cheat days, I'll often plan to make this healthy lasagna-like meal, so I don't feel too deprived. You could seriously eat the whole pan of lasagna and not wreck your diet. ;)

Ingredients:
  • Eggplant
  • Zucchini
  • Onion (or onion powder)
  • Tomato paste
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Italian seasoning (oregano, basil, red pepper, etc)
  • Nutritional Yeast*
  • Fat-free feta cheese
Directions:

  1. Peel eggplant and zucchini.
  2. Slice up all the veggies and layer them in a greased baking dish. 
  3. Blend up onion (if some leftover), tomato paste, diced tomatoes, garlic and other seasonings to make a simple marinara sauce.
  4. Pour a layer of the sauce on top of the veggies.
  5. Sprinkle a layer of fat-free feta cheese (and nutritional yeast if you want). 
  6. Repeat this process until you have used up all your veggies.
  7. Cover and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Labor Day Grocery List Giveaway

Happy Labor Day, friends!

Many of you know I'm in the process of ordering some friggin' sweet tanks (many of you are probably like "uh, ya, when are they going to freakin' be here???). But as soon as they come in, you will be able to order yours, and I'll get it to you ASAP.

What I'll also be able to do is a giveaway with the tanks! So look out for more on that, as well. For now, I've got something just as special to give away.

I'm going to choose three of you happy health-pursuers to send my AMFit Approved List of Groceries too. This is the list that comes with all my custom programs and is included in my 4-Week Crash Course to Bikini Program.

You can get if FO FREE if you just do one of the following tasks (which totally helps this chick out, so the more you can do, the better)! 

1. Go comment on any of my blog posts and share it via Facebook or Twitter

2. Share my Facebook page

3. Tag an inspirational photo on Instagram with #ambermichellefit and/or #getfitfromtheinsideout

The more you care, the more you'll share, and the more I'll be able to share with YOU! ... And, GO!!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

My Staple Supplements

My husband's and my supplements.
Many of you have been asking about the kinds of supplements I take and which ones you should add to your diet. With so many vitamins, protein, probiotics, superfoods, fat-burners and stimulants out there, it's easy to get overwhelmed, so I don't blame you.

I'll be the first one to tell you that I'm constantly learning about my body, and as we age, we have to change our diet and supplement it to provide an opportunity to be the best self we can be. I cycle on and off a few supplements here and there, but here are some of my favorite supplements, and why I encourage you to add them to your routines.

Note: I search Vitacost.com for all my supplement needs first because they tend to have super-good discounts and free shipping offers all the time. Click here to get $10 off your first order!

Spirulina

If you haven't gotten sick of me talking about this superfood yet, then you should click through to a few more of my blog posts — hah! But seriously, spirulina is one of the earth's most intense sources of health. It boosts your metabolism and body's ability to burn fat, gives you energy, promotes healing and recovery to your muscles, as well as fighting free radicals. I typically buy the Hawaiin Pacifica green powder.

Get it here >>

Barlean's Greens

The only way I'd approve you skipping the Spirulina is if you opt for this "greens" mix by Barlean's. I'm sure there are comparable green drink mixes out there, but this one has been a hit for me. It's basically overflowing with algae, vitamins, herbs, superfoods, fiber, probiotics, and lots of other green goodies. I toss a scoop of it in my chocolate protein shakes and end up drinking what tastes like a mint chocolate shake because of the spiciness of the herb blend in the powder. It's all that mint and ginger!

Get it here >>

CLA, GLA, ALA or MRM's Smart Blend

One of the most common supplements that everyone's raving about is fish oil. Even the folks who are eating a diet full of fried chicken and icecream often take fish oil. The thing is, is that it's not a miracle supplement like some may assume. Supplementing your diet with the appropriate blend of fatty acids and omegas is super-important for optimizing your body's fat-burning function. One of the hardest things about getting these supplements is finding one that combines all of your essential fatty acids. I use MRM's Smart Blend because it has all of them in there, and I don't have to worry about purchasing separate bottles for each one. The only drawbacks are that the pills are pretty ginormous, the dosage is frequent throughout the day, and maybe it's just me, but sometimes I burp fish (don't tell anyone).

Get it here >>

100% Whey Protein Isolate

I take 1 scoop of whey protein isolate after I lift weights. Because my workouts include heavy lifting and muscle-building, it's important that I have some kind of recovery formula to help rid my body of ammonia and lactic acid, as well as aid in the regrowth my muscles go through 1-2 days after lifting. The isolate protein is the purest form of whey protein, broken down into it's smallest, quickest-absorbing molecular state, so that your muscles can literally zap it up after you take it. Talk about a ton of choices when it comes to proteins. Don't be fooled. Look for one that says "whey protein isolate," and does not say "concentrate." Also try to find one with ingredients that you recognize and no artificial flavorings, etc. My current favorite is Nature's Best Isopure Natural (Vanilla), but honestly, I'm always looking for other options, just to supplement my supplements. :)

Get it here >>

BCAAs

Branched Chain Amino Acids must be ingested through food or supplements because your body doesn't make them on its own. However, your body craves them — especially when you lift heavy and train hard. Leucin, Isoleucine and Valine support anabolic muscle-building, interval training (cardio), and even mental function and mood. I drink Universal Nutrition Atomic 7 or Gaspari Nutrition Aminolast like it's Crystal Light. These BCAAs combine the benefits of the amino acids with other performance ingredients such as citruline malate, l-glutamine and l-taurine. Other beneficial ergogenic aids included in supplemental BCAAs would be the addition of vitamin B6, which prepares your body for maximum absorption.

Get it here >>

Casein Protein

I'm a sucker for wanting something sweet to eat at night after my dinner. A guilt-free option is to take a scoop of casein protein, which is a slowly-digested pure protein that helps rebuild your muscles and will satiate your hunger all night long. One I've been using is Optimum Nutrition's Gold Standard Natural 100% Casein, which is broken down into its amino acid subcomponents as other proteins. Gold Standard Natural 100% Casein is free of artificial flavors, sweeteners, and synthetic colors and uses only premium micellar caseins to create a protein that is truly time-released. You can use it to make mug cakes, shakes, puddings and pies. It's also way lighter in calories, carbs and fat than other leading brands.

Get it here >>

If you're serious about changing your lifestyle to get fit from the inside out, check out some of my online services or email me for more information. Hope you have a wonderful day!



Thursday, August 22, 2013

All Things Work for Good

This summer has been a season of self-discovery and growth, to say the least. I've suffered physically from workouts and suffered emotionally through relationships and conflict. I've pushed through tough intervals. Eaten broccoli by myself. Slept alone as my fireman husband transitioned to a new schedule. I've felt on top of the world after hours of prayer, and I've felt like the smallest person on earth after seeing areas that need serious improvement.


As August comes nearly to an end, and I reflect on what I've learned this summer, I'm encouraged to believe that God works all things out for those who love the Lord (Romans 8:28). God's opened many doors for me the past few months, including the pursuit of my own business and transcendence into a new chapter.

When I decided to train for a bodybuilding show back in April, I never imagined how it would change my life.

Sure, I thought it would be a challenging way to get me bikini-ready, but lead to me quitting my job and starting my own business? Uh, it never crossed my mind.

As I changed my daily routine to adapt to new workouts and a strict eating plan, I started implementing more structure into my schedule. I had to if I wanted to keep my sanity. I was working 40 hours a week at my desk job, teaching aerobics classes two nights a week, hair modeling at the mall kiosk and helping my hubby study for his fire academy exams — not to mention spending quality time with him, my two dogs, my family and the few friends I had left.

And what did I do next?

I agreed to start training more clients at another new gym. What, was I crazy?

As the potential for madness increased, I became desperately dependent on God's grace to get me through each day. 

I started making the 30-50 minutes on the stair master my devotional time. I downloaded the YouVersion Bible app and registered for reading plans. I started watching YouTube sermons of Joyce Meyer, Jimmy Evans and Creflo Dollar.  I turned on worship music in my bathroom as I scarfed down oats and rolled my hair. Since I wasn't drinking anymore on the weekends, it was easier to wake up and go to church on Sunday mornings — even without my husband sometimes.

When I should have been in the most frazzled, stressed-out state of my life, I was finally at peace. And there's no doubt in my mind it's because my focus was on Jesus and not myself or circumstances.

You see, God has a way of taking care of you if you let him. I think I'm so used to trying to make everyone happy and take care of everyone else and then my own crap too, that I tend to tell God, "Hey dude, can you just wait one more second while I finish this up and then I promise, I'll be with you ..." It's a real problem for us busy-bee's and people-pleasers.

What He wants me to say is "Lord, I'm so in love with you and desperate for your ways to be my ways, that I'm just going to sit here and worship you, and I trust that you will provide for me physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually and all things in between."

My homegirl Joyce Meyer always touts the saying, "Where the mind goes, the man follows." She's reminding us that whatever we focus on is what we become.

If you start thinking about a warm, ooey-gooey brownie with whipped cream and a scoop of ice cream on top, you're mouth's going to start watering, and sooner than you know it, you're walking into the kitchen and grabbing the Blue Bell.

The same thing happens when we set our minds to think positively. And more than just positive thinking, start focusing on the promises God's already spoken into our lives.

You are a treasure. You are a child of the Most High God. You are saved. You are priceless. There is nobody else quite like you. God has a purpose for your life that matches no one else's. 

The only real way for these promises to sink into your mind and melt into who you are on the inside is for you to make time to consume God's Word. Whether it's on a Bible app, a YouTube video, a church sermon or a praise song, fill your thoughts up with these things, and I promise you, I guarantee you, you will see change.

Pair that kind of spiritual training with some barbell squats and jump rope and you'll have a serious case of butt-kicked syndrome. I promise it's worth it. I'm more aware of the craziness of my marriage, my family, my job and everything else than I ever have been before, but I know that God is in it because I've put him there.

Today, I hope to inspire you to focus on the good in your life. Instead of worrying about your future, be thankful for what you have today. Choose to see the good in people. Praise your spouse for what he or she does right. Forgive yourself for negative thinking and fill your mind with thoughts that are clean and pure and uplifting.

Download the YouVersion Bible app here >>

Check out my favorite worship music here >>

Subscribe to MarriageToday YouTube channel here >>

Check out Gateway Church here >> 

PS: I'd LOVE for you to go to church with me. Email me if you ever want a buddy to go with!


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tips for Tree-Huggers ... Er, Vegetarians

The most helpful tip for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike is to eat clean. "Clean eating" seems to be a buzz phrase right now, but what does it really mean? To me, a clean diet means I'm trying to consume foods in their most natural state and avoid chemicals and other food additives big corporations keep sneaking into our foods.

The other big tip for a healthy diet is to include lots of protein, which helps keep you full, nourishes your muscles (which you should be exercising), and promotes efficient use of energy and metabolism. 

But what if you don't eat meat? 

No fear, my friends, you can still eat clean and get your protein by eating plants. Of course, vegetarians still might consume dairy and other meat-derived products like eggs. But, even if you're more strict than that and only want to follow a vegan diet, you can still follow a healthy diet. So, no excuses!

Just because you're a vegetarian or vegan doesn't mean you're automatically healthy. There are plenty of fried foods and salty, sugary, fatty carbs out there to completely sabbotage your so-called "granola" lifestyle. That's why it's so important to research, to read labels, to share knowledge and gain wisdom about what you're putting into your body.

The Bible says, "My people perish for lack of knowledge." (Hosea 4:6). So, stay "in-the-know" and do your body good by investing time and energy into what works best for you.

Here are some of the BEST vegetarian food sources I'd recommend:


1. Green Vegetables


My mom used to hide spinach in our hamburger helper. I used to hate green vegetables. I might eat a salad if it was lathered with creamy ranch, but spinach? Uh, no thanks! You have to try all kinds of foods and decide which ones you love and which ones are okay to dismiss. You don't have to love it all. Now, I happen to love spinach, but years of eating lots of raw veggies has actually broadened my palate preferences. 

Other choices include broccoli, collard greens, kale, spring mix, chard, mustard greens, arugula, green beans, asparagus, brussel sprouts, green peppers, jalapeños, and zucchini. I often say these are "free" foods because of their high nutritional value and low caloric value. Eat lots and lots of these!

2. Colorful Vegetables


Don't abandon the other veggies. They'll get their feelings hurt! Adding color to your diet is fun (maybe that's just the kid in me) and healthy. Did you know that the color of veggies and fruits can actually tell you what kind of nutrients are in them?

Eat lots of squash, bell peppers, cauliflower, garlic, onions, mushrooms, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, tomatoes (actually a fruit), egg plant, carrots, roots (ginger, parsnips and rutabega), and anything else you can find in the produce section. Throw them in a big stir-fry or a crockpot. Purrèe them in soups too.

3. Beans & Lentils


Protein doesn't have to be a problem for vegetarians. You can get plenty of it from non-meat sources. Some of the best candidates are beans and lentils. These are high in fiber, keeping your tummy full and regular. My favorites are black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, pinto beans, white beans, red lentils, edamame and tofu. Try combining them with a whole grain like brown rice for a complete protein source.

4. Nuts & Seeds


For vegetarians/vegans and meat-eaters alike, it's very important to get enough "good" fats. It almost sounds like we're cheating even thinking that ... "good fats." But, the healthy fats in raw nuts like almonds, walnuts, pecans and cashews actually help your body burn fat and speed up your metabolic rate because they help promote hormone stability and increase the rate at which fat is turned into energy. Other good sources come from seeds like flaxseeds, hemp, pumpkin seeds, and chia seeds. You can eat them raw or in their butter forms, as long as the product isn't packed with additives and sugar.

5. Fruits


Fruits may have sugar, but the sugar they contain, called fructose, is a naturally-occurring sugar, and is easily turned into energy as long as you don't overdo it. No need to worry about high fructose corn syrup if you just eat the real thing: berries and pomegranates are the best choices, but apples, oranges, grapes, mangoes, kiwi, bananas, peaches, apricots, papayas, pears and melons are all healthy choices. I recommend eating fruit in the earlier parts of the day and not paired with other kinds of foods because it sits in your gut and ferments for a while, often causing acid reflux if eaten late at night.

Also, eat coconut! Coconut oil and coconut butter are great sources of saturated fats. Eat avocados and extra virgin olive oil. Again, these help your body use fat as energy and also aid your body in absorbing much-needed vitamins that support hormone health, brain function and hair/skin health.

6. Whole Grains


Today, the biggest trend going on is go gluten-free. Paleo dieters and other grain-free eaters swear up and down that we shouldn't eat wheat. I believe that wheat is okay in moderation, as long as you don't have an allergy towards it, and it's a non-GMO grain. Other whole grains like oats, quinoa (actually a seed), brown rice, barley, amaranth, and spelt are fabulous choices. You might find products like Ezekiel bread in the store. That's a great brand!

However, avoid white flour, and in fact most flour should be minimized altogether. If you’re going to eat bread, try flourless sprouted grain breads.

7. Extras


Green tea, black tea, white tea, all tea ... It's all good! A glass or two of red wine is fine, as long as it doesn't become a daily necessity or an excessive, empty-calorie habit. I recommend that all my clients drink at least one gallon of water each day. Herbs and spices like cinnamon, tumeric, basil, cayenne, and others are both tasty and nutritious for any diet.

For my vegans, it's important that you make sure you're getting enough Vitamin B12, which normally comes from meats, but you can get it in fortified foods like nutritional yeast or even some sprouted grains. Of course, you can always take a supplement. You might check your intake of iron, calcium and Vitamin D too.

Hey Veggie-Lovers ... What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below.

For information about my services like meal planning, exercise programs or fitness modeling, shoot me an email at ambermichellefit@gmail.com 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Quick Fixes for Sweet Cravings

German-Chocolate Cake

  • Chocolate protein powder
  • Water
  • Cinnamon
  • Stevia
  • Walden Farms (WF) Chocolate Syrup
>> Mix all ingredients together in a coffee mug or small bowl, pop in the microwave for 45 seconds - 1 minute, and top with more syrup.

Cherry Cheese Pie

  • Nonfat greek yogurt (I suggest draining liquid on top out)
  • Vanilla-flavored stevia drops (or stevia + vanilla extract)
  • Cinnamon
  • Flax seed
  • Sugar-free cherry pie filling
>> Mix stevia, cinnamon and flax into the yogurt tub and spoon some cherries from the can into a serving of the yogurt.

>> Also try laying the yogurt mix in a pie dish and spreading the entire can of cherries over the top to trick your mind into thinking it's a real pie.


Apricot-Coconut "Apri-Coco" Bars

  • Vanilla whey protein
  • Oats
  • Stevia
  • Vanilla-flavored stevia drops (or stevia + vanilla extract)
  • Cinnamon
  • Flax seed
  • Baking powder
  • Water
  • Walden Farms Apricot fruit spread
  • Walden Farms Pancake syrup
  • coconut flakes (light)
  • nuts (optional)
>> Mix dry ingredients up until well blended. Transfer about 3/4 of the mixture to a new bowl and add some water. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray and pour the batter into the dish like cake batter. Bake for 3-5 minutes in the oven (just so it rises a bit).

>> Mix the fruit spread, syrup, stevia, vanilla and coconut flakes in another bowl and spread on top of the bars. Add the extra dry ingredients and nuts on top. Bake for another 10 minutes or so. Serve warm with more syrup and cinnamon.

Nut-Butter Crepes

  • Vanilla protein powder
  • Egg whites
  • Stevia
  • Favorite nut butter or PB2
>> Combine 1-2 scoops of protein powder with 1/2 cup of egg whites (maybe add a little water too) and stevia/cinnamon in a shaker cup. Pour it in a heated pan (like you're making pancakes). It should be a thin layer (like a crepe). Cover with the pan's lid and let it cook thoroughly through. You should be able to make 2-3 flat crepes. Add nut butter and roll 'em up.

>> Try topping it with cinamon, WF syrups or fat-free whipped cream.

Snickers

  • Chocolate protein powder
  • PB2
  • WF caramel Syrup
  • Water
  • Stevia
  • A handful of almonds (or peanuts)
>> Combine all ingredients in coffee mug or small bowl, using the smallest amount of water possible and only adding it in little by little until you have a creamy, fudgy consistency. Either serve chilled or warm in the microwave in 30 second increments. Top with more WF caramel syrup.

Strawberry Birthday Cake

  • Vanilla protein powder
  • WF strawberry syrup
  • WF chocolate syrup
  • Water
  • Vanilla-flavored stevia drops (or stevia + vanilla extract)
  • Nonfat greek yogurt
  • Sprinkles*
  • fruit*
>> Combine all ingredients in a coffee mug or small bowl, again adding minimal water until it's a pudding-like consistency — like cake batter. Pop in microwave in 30 second increments, mixing in between, and top with your choice of syrup, sprinkles and fruit.

>> Consider chilling this little cake in the fridge or adding a little more yogurt, and then freezing it for 30 minutes - 1 hour for a cake batter-flavored fro-yo alternative.

Friends, please know that I've come to realize that I really don't enjoy cooking or the art of baking or anything fancy-schmancy like that ... What I do love is looking at what I have in my kitchen, and seeing how I can easily (key word: easily) throw something together for a surprisingly healthy alternative. So, in turn, I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas on other things to try to make.

What do you crave? I may not be able to recreate a Danish-truffle-flan-creamsicle-crepe masterpiece like I see some insanely-creative-with-too-much-free-time healthy bloggers come up with, but I will accept a new challenge and give it my best shot! 








Thursday, August 1, 2013

3 Ways to Hide Your Spirulina

Many of my clients complain that despite the fact that one of my most recommended supplements, Spirulina, is near tasteless, they still have a hard time taking it every day. I've often advised you to throw it in your protein shakes and disregard the grotey-green color it turns. However, I'd like to share three more ways you can hide this superfood and still reap the many benefits it offers.

1. Make it a seasoning.

Mix it with sea salt, garlic, onion powder, pepper, nutritional yeast and any other herbs or Mrs. Dash mixes. You might even create your own little seasoning powder and store it in an old canister or bottle. Once it mixes with the other herbs and spices, you won't notice any difference in flavor, and the color difference won't be as extreme.

2. Toss it into your salad dressing.

If you use a store-bought salad dressing, open the jar and pour some of it in there. Just be sure and shake it up every time you use it. Since you'll be drizzling it on greens, you won't notice the color, especially if you use a dark shade of dressing.

Try making your own dressing by combining some extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon/lime juice, stevia, garlic, honey and other herbs/spices.

3. Use it in your sweet potato brownies or morning oats.

I promise you won't ruin these delicious sweet treats by adding some green to it. Most likely, the color of your brownies/fudge won't change. And, if you add a teaspoon of raw cocoa powder to your oats, it really hides the flavor and color of the spirulina too.

Benefits of Spirulina

  • Contains about 60 percent of highly-absorbable protein
  • Contains all 9 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein
  • Super-rich in fatty acids like GLA, CLA, EPA, DHA and ALA, which support the transfer of fat to ATP (energy), which means it supports fat metabolism
  • Helps with mental clarity, energy, inflammation, immunity and blood flow
  • Contains vitamins: B, K, C, A and E
  • Contains calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium and zinc
  • Helps regulate your body's pH levels and rids it of harmful ammonia, which is produced when your work out
You can find Spirulina in tablet or powder form at your local health food market like Sprouts, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods or even try your local grocery store. You can also buy it online at Vitacost.com or Amazon.

Please email me if you have any questions or queries about custom meal plans, fitness routines, online training, group fitness, private classes or fitness modeling.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

5 of My Fave Beauty Tips & Tricks

One of the biggest hurdles to overcome when trying to establish a healthy lifestyle is the decision to wake up everyday and love yourself. Choosing to see past all of one's flaws and insecurities is especially hard for women.


Thank God for self-tanner and maskara — am I right or am I right?

Really and truly, though, it's so important to remember that you are worth it, and not just because L'Orèal tells you so. You are worth the life of God's only son. You are so valuable that God reaches down and blots away all your wrongdoings every single day.

Seriously, folks, if the epitome of perfection (Jesus) loves you that much, then I think we can find the strength to pick ourselves up and carry a little dignity.


And what woman doesn't carry herself a little better when she feels beautiful? Come on, now. You know what I'm talking about. Lord knows I got enough "fat days." You know those days when you don't get out of your sweats all day or even mess with your contact lenses because ... well ... you just don't feel like it?

Well, we can also have "fat-free days," or better yet, "friggin hot" days.


The key is to discover what really makes you beautiful from the inside out. You gotta get that part down first. After that, it's just glitter and lipstick and tons of fun.

One of my favorite parts about getting ready for my first NPC bikini competition was the three hours worth of primping and getting ready with my mom and friend. It's in times like these that we can let our hair down (literally) and just be at peace with our bodies.



With that being said, I have a few beauty tips and tricks to share. Let me know your faves in the comments below!

  1. L'Orèal Instant Bronze tanning lotion — This stuff is priceless. Actually, it's about $8.99 at Walmart, which is super-cheap compared to other leading self-tanners out there. It's absolutely the only tan-in-a-can I use, other than a Versa Spa, which I highly recommend. Get it here >>
  2. H. A. C. — Highlight. And. Contour. This acronym refers to the way you put your face make-up on. Once you get this down, you will wonder how you ever walked around with a pastey-looking flat face before ... sorry, that's kind've harsh. Watch a fabulous tutorial on the Maskcara blog here >>
  3. Teasing Brush — Maybe it's just here in Texas, but I think big, voluptuous hair is just downright sexy. With as much hair as I have, most people would think I couldn't have a flat-hair day, but girls, believe me. I do! But, ever since I found this perfect little hair utensil, I can make the perfect poof! Get it here >>
  4. Bronze your chest — For those of you who got the good boobie-gene, bless you. All my girls with mosquito-bites, say Ahhh! Actually, this little maneuver works for both types. Take your bronzer and create a "natural" shadow of cleavage above and between your breasts. Dust your shoulders, jawline and throat. You'll love the instant slimming effect it has!
  5. DIY Natural Face Toner — OMG, one of my favorite creations (because it's so oober-simple and cheap and totally "granola") is my facial toner. Grab a bottle or jar, and fill it 3/4 full of water. Fill the rest of the container with apple cider vinegar. Add in some essential oils like peppermint, tea trea oil, lavender or jojoba. Shake it up and wah-lah! I use a little on a cotton ball every morning and night. It totally brightens your face. (You'll get used to the slight vinegar smell, but feel free to use less and more oils.) 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Don't Be Chicken [Spice Up Your Protein]

I tend to keep a stock of canned chicken and tuna in our pantry for times when I open the fridge to get my perfectly-portioned meal-to-go and realize ...

Freaking Micah! He took my dang lunch!

It's times like these when I might slip a curse word, and then quickly ask for forgiveness and text my hubby, "Oh no, babe, you go ahead. Enjoy it," (as I repeat the verse "a righteous man is not easily offended" in my brain). 


Thankfully, I came up with a friggin' delicious and as usual, quick and easy meal to slap together in about less time than it takes you to instagram your latest manicure.

Buffalo Chicken Salad


Ingredients:

  • 1 can all-white chicken breast (sub tuna if you want)
  • 1 heaping tbsp nonfat, plain greek yogurt (sub light/fat-free mayonnaise)
  • Franks Red Hot sauce (sub buffalo wing sauce or other fave)
  • Water
  • Salad
  • Other tossed veggies


Directions:

  1. Drain water from canned chicken and dump it in a big bowl.
  2. Add yogurt/mayo and lots and lots of Frank's sauce. Mix it all up until it looks like chicken salad. *Actually only add a couple tablespoons of the hot sauce while mixing, and then add more until you reach desired taste.
  3. Toss up a salad on top with veggies, and chop it all up together until chicken and dressing is evenly distributed.
You can also make this 2-ingredient sauce up ahead of time and store it in the fridge for marinades, salad dressings and dips. It's great for chicken, fish, veggies and salads! 

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Good Morning Oats

It's always a good morning when I start my day with oats and worship. Pairing the two together warms me up from the inside out. I've shared how I like to combine my egg whites and oats in one chunky dish before, but I thought I'd show you exactly what I'm talking about.

Quick Note: Some of you have asked why my Crash Course to Bikini Program suggests egg whites and not the full egg.

Don't get me wrong, I agree that the yolk in the egg is nutritious and healthy, but in this program, we are focusing on shedding body fat quick. Forgetting the egg yolk in this 4-week meal plan allows you to consume the same amount of protein with less calories and fat. You're able to consume the nutrients the yolk provides from other foods in the meal plan without the extra fat/calories.

In your normal diet, I'd recommend a 3:1 ratio of egg whites to complete egg. If you can't get over throwing out the yolk (or you have issues dropping some of the yolk in your bowl and getting it all over everything like me), either opt for some liquid egg whites or use only 2 full eggs instead of my recommended 3 egg whites.

Okay, back to the feature presentation ... my delicious, hot and steamy oat-cake-bowl. 


When I haven't already prepared a big pot of steel cut oats to last me each morning for a week, I'll get out my bag of organic rolled oats. I actually prefer the taste of the rolled oats, even though they don't swell up as big as steel cut oats.

  1. Measure out 1/2 cup of oats in your bowl and cover with 1 cup of water. Sprinkle some cinnamon and stevia, and mix it all around. Then, add your egg whites. Mix it again until everything looks to be one consistency.
  2. Cover in the microwave for 1 minute. Take it out, stir it, and cook again for another minute. Mix it all up one more time and pop in the microwave for 30 second intervals again and again until your oat bowl contains the factor of fluffiness that you prefer. ... Seriously, they're almost puffy ... and cute. Hehe!
  3. Top with more cinnamon and some guiltless pancake syrup. You'll be licking the bowl and totally satisfied since this meal is filling and nutritious!


Say "good morning" because when you eat these chunky oats, you're going to be in a good mood.


Try it paired with a mug of hot coffee (mixed with almond milk and stevia) or chilled java on summer mornings. Crank up some Kari Jobe or Hillsong tunes, and thank God for the day he has made and for the unique purpose he has for you. 

Have you tried pairing your egg whites and oats before? What do you think?

Email me for questions about training, meal-planning, my teaching schedule or custom consulting services >>

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Homemade Protein Bars for Dummies

Some of my clients have trouble figuring out what to do with the 100 percent Whey Isolate Protein that I recommend in my 4-Week Crash Course to Bikini programEwww ... Mix it with water? Gross ...

Purchase the Crash Course to Bikini Program Now >>


Well, now, friends, I have a quick and easy recipe to share with you to make your very own, homemade protein bars. You can make these ahead of time or while you're meal-prepping. Once they're done, you can freeze them, refrigerate them or eat them right out of the pan like warm, gooey brownies ... errr ... protein bars.

This recipe is delicious as it is below, but feel free to change it up. After all, variety is the spice of life! Some good variables would be cocoa powder, flavored stevia drops, semi-sweet chocolate chips, berries, dried fruit (no sugar added), peanut butter, coconut butter, coconut flakes, Walden Farms fruit spreads/syrups, or ... Well, I can't think of anything else right now, but be sure and let me know in the comments if you think of something I haven't mentioned or if you have a question about a potential add-in.


Ingredients:
  • Almond butter (nut butter)
  • Oats
  • Whey Isolate Protein Powder
  • Cinnamon/Stevia Mix
Directions:
  1. Optional step: blend oats into powdery texture in food processer or blender.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well-blended.
  3. Roll out the dough onto a cookie sheet.
  4. Pop 'em in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  5. Ta-da!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

How to Meal Prep Like a Pro

You may have heard the term "meal-prepping" after you purchased my 4-Week Crash Course to Bikini Program or maybe after simply clicking through a "#fitfam" or equivalent Instagram hashtag. Maybe you don't have a clue what "meal-prepping" means, but I bet if you knew how to meal-prep, it would change your life.


Bodybuilding pros and fitness athletes have been doing it for years, and now more and more of the general healthy population or "fitfam," as we are referred to on Instagram or Twitter, are implementing these meal prep principles in their own lives. You don't have to be on a meal plan to take advantage of meal-prepping. I think it's a great way to save time and money no matter what food you're eating.


Benefits of Meal-Prepping:

  • Convenient access to prepared meals throughout the week
  • Less potential of sabotaging your healthy eating streak
  • Ensures correct portions of food for each meal
  • Cost-efficient way to not waste food
  • Frees up more time for the rest of the week
Typically, I try to prepare my meals in bulk 2-3 times a week. Most of the time, I have to add an extra session to meal-prep because my hungry husband "accidentally" steals my chicken. You could probably get away with 1-2 different cooking sessions, depending on what you have going on for the week and which foods you include in your meals.

I'd encourage you, especially my Bikini Program clients, to try to prepare your meals ahead of time, and shoot for Sundays and Wednesdays. This timeline is convenient for most people who work during the week on a normal schedule. Cooking twice a week gives you room to change up your foods and prevents your food from spoiling if left over for more than five days.

My Meal-Prep Tips:

  1. Buy your protein in bulk. Eating clean for two can get expensive and time-consuming, especially if you're living with the Hulk like I do. Shoot, eating clean for one person these days is ridiculous. It's sad that the bad foods are always cheaper than good ones. But, one way to help you save time and money is to buy your proteins like chicken, fish, and whey isolate protein powder in bulk. While it may be a little bit pricier at the time of purchase, you will surely save money in the long run. We get chicken breasts and wild-caught cod/flounder frozen from Costco or Sam's. Most of the time, we can find the organic kind, but if not, we bless it in the name of Jesus. We save the fresh meat for special events or maybe weekend grill sessions, and then it's easier to buy organic. We like Sprouts or Kroger, which recently launched their own line of organic products, and it's fabulous!
  2. Use a food scale. It may take some getting-used-to weighing your food, but this trick is a life-saver. Most people aren't familiar with what a 1/2 cup or 6 oz. serving actually looks like. Plus, it looks different if you're measuring out oats compared to measuring fish. Plus, sticking to correct portions makes it easier to delegate each food out for each day. If I did it on my own, I'd probably mess up and eat all my oats in the first two days — gah, I love my oats!
  3. Collect tupperware (and old food containers). Tubs that contain foods like greek yogurt or cottage cheese are great recycled as your portable meal containers. This is a great way to save money, and not feel bad about throwing the tub away after you're finished. Less dishes = more joy!

  4. Choose one method of cooking for each macro. You might bake your chicken/fish or grill it. You might roast your veggies in the oven. You might microwave all your sweet potatoes. Or boil all your steel cut oats. Stick with one method for each food group, and cook them all up at once. The second time you meal-prep, try changing it up.
  5. Season your foods in the containers. I like to add my seasonings/condiments after I've cooked them and portioned them out. Don't get me wrong, I usually throw some garlic powder on everything (beware, vampires), but waiting until after I've portioned out my meals allows me to flavor some foods differently than others. For instance, I might add Mrs. Dash Chipotle Lime seasoning to my chicken and veggies for Monday's lunch, but I might add mustard and dill to Tuesday's.
I'm sure I'll come up with more tips for meal-prepping like a pro, but feel free to leave your comments and questions in the space provided below.


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