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.
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