Label Check: Evolution Fresh Juice

Last Saturday I was in the grocery store, and was dying for a healthy protein drink to take the edge of my hunger. I had just finished a workout and was trying to avoid “the hangries” (anger+hunger=hangries), since it was going to be a while until I could get home and make my own protein shake. Like Bruce Banner says ‘don’t make me hangry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m hangry’.

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Figuring the organic health section of the store would be ideal, I came across Evolution Fresh. The front label, aka “the sexy label”, had the words I look for in a supplemental beverage: “Protein Power” and “no added sugar” .

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But when I turned it over to the nutrition facts side, I was shocked to see the stats:  210 calories, 28 grams of sugar and 0 grams of fiber per serving. And there are two servings per container. So potentially, if you are a normal human being who would think nothing of drinking the entire bottle, there are 420 calories and OVER 55 GRAMS OF SUGAR PER SERVING!

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Let’s put that into perspective. 56 grams of sugar is about 11 teaspoons. The American Heart Association recommends women consume no more that 6 teaspoons and that men consume no more than 9 teaspoons per day.

Also, 420 calories is a small meal.  On the Real Simple website, I found a post with recipes for a months worth of DINNERS that are all under 400 calories. http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/recipe-collections-favorites/healthy-meals/400-calorie-dinners-00000000027141/

Why waste all those calories on a juice?

Finally, even though the sugar in Evolution Fresh Juice is derived from fruit, the amount is way more than your body needs, which means it will be stored as fat. And for all that fruit, you are not getting any of tummy-filling fiber. Skip the juice and grab an actual piece of fruit instead.

Evolution Fresh does have a few vegetable juices that have only 50 cal/serving or 100/bottle. If you’ve got to drink a juice, try one of those instead.

 

 

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: A Recap

Vin and I just returned from our vacation in Puerto Vallarta. Of course, after this horrible winter we needed some time to relax and get some sun. But I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t make it my goal to be active.

Our room had an amazing view and even though we were on the 8th floor, we were able to hear the ocean. It’s enough to lull anyone to sleep , so we spent little time indoors, choosing instead to rock some outdoor action.

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Ok. Most of that “action” took place on a beach. Sure, I love to lay out on the sand with my book and a couple Pacificos (under an umbrella,of course). However, I couldn’t stay still all day, every day. So I scheduled trips for the mornings, so that we could be back on the beach by at least 2 pm. On the itinerary: a horse back ride through the Rio Cuale Valley, zip lining, and a snorkeling trip that included hump back whale watching. Our resort also provided ocean kayaks and paddle boards which we definitely took advantage of!

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On days that we didn’t have a trip scheduled, I made my way to the gym. It was pretty bare-bones, so I used the patio outside the gym to do dips and push-ups, followed by  a little running on the treadmill. But I preferred to get my exercise by exploring the area, so I asked around about hiking trails. I heard a rumor that there was a beautiful, easy-to-access waterfall that was just a short bus ride from our resort. “Easy-to-access” is definitely a subjective term, since it took us at least 3o min just to find the beginning of the trail! Finally, we found our way to a rocky and rusty old trickle of water, and were a little disappointed to discover that the “river” bed was dry. But we turned it into a rock scrambling hike and made the most of it.

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  The absolute best excursion was the zip lining. We hiked up a bit up the Sierra Madres and then made our way back down using 11 zip lines. Our tour guides cracked us up with dirty jokes as we zipped through the valley, over 600 feet in the air.

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This was as fun as it looks.

 Since our return coincided with the arrival of March, I hoping that NYC would warm up a bit and we could move past this horrible winter. Wrong!

Ugh!

Ugh!

I’m already making plans for the next trip. Does anyone else look for vacation deals as soon as they get back from one?

photo (2)Ahhh Puerto Vallarta, I miss you already!

Dear Diary…Why You Should Keep a Food Journal

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The 30 Day Food Journal Challenge I started in January is finally over! For the past month, my clients, friends, and I kept a detailed log of our daily exercise and food intake, using the My Fitness Pal app. So did my challenge work? Is keeping a food journal really worth the effort?

Here are some tips I learned:

Honesty is the Best Policy

A food journal can give you insight into your daily calorie intake and can help you determine areas where your diet can be cleaned up. But you must be thorough. It’s best to log right after you’ve eaten so you don’t forget. This includes the handful of potato chips you had, and that half of a chocolate chip cookie I snacked on (couldn’t help it, it had walnuts). Over a period of time, omitting little bites like those can mean the difference between reaching your goal or coming up short.

Be Consistent

Keeping a food log can work, but only if done with consistency. I recommend setting a specific time goal for journaling. Whether it is an entire month or even just a week, make a commitment to log every day for that time. Out of the 22 who signed up for the 30 Day Food Journal Challenge, about half didn’t keep up with their log, and dropped out after the first week. Everyone who recorded for the full 30 days experienced various degrees of success–from better fitting clothes, to a ten pound drop in weight. 

Underestimate Your Exercise Expenditure and Overestimate Your Calories

The My Fitness Pal app, as well as the cardio machines at the gym, grossly overestimate the calories you burn while you workout. My suggestion is to under report the amount of time you worked out to get a number that could be close to accurate. As for calories consumed, if you measure your portions, you don’t need to adjust for accuracy. However when dining out, it’s always best to over estimate. Last night I searched “pizza” on My Fitness Pal and many of the entries were under 300 calories a slice, which seems highly unlikely. Especially in New York, where a slice of pizza looks like this:

nyny_pizza1.sized

If your pizza fits on a plate, you’re not in New York

Review Your Previous Entries

You can’t learn about your food habits and triggers, if you don’t take the time to look at previous entries. Did you have a bad day at work on a high calories day? Are you too busy too eat a sufficient amount of food when the baby is awake? Reflection can be key to helping you make healthy changes that can last a lifetime.

Yes! Journaling Does Work!

Finally, some people would be above printing a letter of praise from a happy food journaler. I, however, am not one of those people! Read Shannon’s letter below to see  how keeping a food journal helped her break through a plateau:

Hi Amy- I just wanted to thank you for starting the 30 day food journal challenge . It was just the change I needed to shed a few more pounds, which I’d been trying to drop for months. I was basically stuck at the same weight and just figured that was it for me…but then I started journaling and bam, 5 lbs in 30. days!!! It’s incredible the difference those 5 lbs have made I am beyond ecstatic at how I look and how much more defined my muscles look now. I truly appreciate and just love people like you who start these sorts of things and are always looking to help those around them. You are a great inspiration!! Thank you thank you thank you!!! Xoxoxo

Oh and I plan to continue journaling, I’m addicted –Shannon

Thanks Shannon! Glad to hear that you love how you look and, more importantly, how you feel!

30 Day Food Journal Challenge!

You show me yours, I’ll show you mine. Hey put your clothes back on, I’m talking about your food journal!

For the rest of this month and February, join me for the

 30 Day Food Journal Challenge!

How it works:

1. Get the free My Fitness Pal app

2. Tell me your username and we’ll sync up

3. Log every day or as much as you can for 30 days. The goal is to log as much as possible from Jan 13 to Feb 11.

If you want, I will check your journal for you, answer any questions, give advice, etc.
Contact me at amy.blitz@gmail.com Tweet me at AmyBlitz1 or hit me up on Facebook for more info

Your Top Gym Excuses-BUSTED!

Happy New Year!  Disclaimer: This is my  favorite time of year.  I love working with people who have resolved to get fit after the ball drops. Conversely, this is also the time of year that I hear a lot of excuses as to why people are NOT making regular exercise their priority. While a person’s reasons for not exercising MAY be completely valid, I am here to bust (or blitz) those excuses, and get you on your way to a healthier and happier 2014. Here it is, the list of reasons I hear most from people who are not working out.

I Hate to Exercise

Exercise doesn’t have to be a 60 minute slog on the treadmill or a series of unending crunches. If traditional exercise techniques don’t appeal to you there are ways to be active that don’t feel like “torture”. Dance classes, swimming lessons, pilates, yoga and walking are just a few ways that will help you move more without touching a dumbbell. The other option is to enlist a friend or workout buddy to meet you at the gym and join you in a sweat session. BUT, if even after that you don’t love it, just remember this: I have never met anyone who does not feel great after a workout.  Exercise is beneficial both physically and mentally. I promise you’ll feel more confident and proud of yourself after your workout. Remind yourself of that feeling anytime you start to hate.

You Don’t Have Time

SBTB

This is the one I hear the most. You can find the time, it just takes a little effort. Pack up your gym bag at night and wake up a little early. Create a walking lunch club at work. Cook a lot of food on Sunday so you can devote at least 3o minutes after work to some exercise. I have done all of these things and they do help. You need to schedule your workouts like you would schedule a meeting. Whenever I’m training for a race, I put my running workouts on my iPhone calendar so they pop up with all my other appointments. Even if you can only make times for 30 minutes, five times a week, you will improve your fitness level and depending how intensely you work, can lose weight too. I promise, after one month it will start to feel like a normal part of your life.

The Gym is Intimidating aka People Will Look at Me

I totally get why the gym may scare you off at first, especially if your point of reference are those ridiculous Equinox ads.

Yep, I am always fed grapes while wearing my bikini

Yep, I am always fed grapes while wearing my bikini

The truth, and I’ve been saying this for years, is that everyone at the gym is too busy checking themselves out to give you a second thought. Yes you may have seen the stud by the weight rack taking a peek at you, but it is most likely that you caught his eye while he was admiring his own delt– so relax and get your sweat on. It’s all good.

The Gym is Too Busy/ The Trainers Will Bother Me

Very true! It will be very busy in January. But give it a few weeks. By February, the crowds die down and you will be there with all the regulars. And that’s what we want–for you to be a gym regular, not just a “January Jane”. (I just made that up, but maybe we can make that a thing?)

As for the pushy trainers, also true, but here’s the thing: it’s their job to approach you and yes, to sell you training. If you really don’t want that, keep your ear buds in. Of course,there are some clubs where the trainers are especially aggressive. Ahem, I’m looking at you New York Health and Raquet. In that case, I recommend a friendly but firm “no thanks”. A friend of mine once faked an injury just to keep the NYHR staff from bothering them, so that’s an idea too.

You Have No Idea What To Do

A personal trainer’s job is not only to work you out, but to make sure you know how to exercise on your own. Don’t feel like you should be in shape to get the most out of a trainer. We love to teach and get you on the path to self-efficacy. You can also learn a thing or two from a group class, although I recommend telling the teacher you are newbie before the class begins. If a trainer or classes are not possible for you, then I recommend the rule of five. Pick five exercises for the day and repeat them circuit style for 30 minutes. Alternate upper body, lower body, pushing and pulling during your circuit, to allow your muscles to recover between exercises. Whatever you do, don’t walk into the gym for the first time ready to recreate the P90X commercial. You need to build a solid foundation in order to avoid injury and both physical and mental burnout.

My Gift To You: A Workout…and an Eggnog Protein Shake!

weight gift

This month DO NOT Blitz Your Body. Instead…Blitzen Your Body!  To honor my favorite reindeer, I have created a quick and easy-to-remember circuit, that will get you in and out of the gym in 30 minutes. You’ll burn calories, boost strength and endurance, plus get your endorphins flowing right in time for the holiday. And then, once the New Year comes around, you will already be ahead of the workout game.

Oh, and as an added bonus, I have included a special EGGNOG PROTEIN SMOOTHIE recipe at the end. Try it after your workout to aid in muscle recovery.

5 minute warm up

1/4 mile treadmill run at moderate pace – Don’t like running? That’s fine. Substitute any treadmill running portion of this workout with a treadmill hill walk, 5 minutes of stairmaster, or 1 minute of jumping jacks combined with 1 minute of mountain climbers and another 30 seconds of jumping jacks. This is the cardio portion, so just get your heart rate up for at least 2.5 minutes.

15-20 push ups: Works chest, triceps, back and core muscles.

15 side lunges (per leg) Works glutes and thighs

15-20 of any type of row. I love TRX rows, but you can also do a bent over dumbbell row. Works the muscles of the middle back and biceps. 

Plank for 30-90 seconds. Works the core stabilizing muscles and shoulders.

50 bicycle crunches. Works the obliques and abdominals

10-20 Forward lunges with a bicep curl AND an overhead press. This is the move that will get your heart pumping again after the core work. Grab a set of light to moderate weights. With the dumbbells in both hands, step forward into a lunge. With your back knee hovering above the ground, do a biceps curl, ensuring that you keep your elbows close to your torso. Flip your grip so that palms face forward and perform an overhead press. If you are a beginner  then just perform the curl. Lower your arms and step your back leg forward. Repeat on the other side. Works legs, glutes, biceps, shoulders, triceps and core muscles.

Rest for 1 minute or more if necessary. Go back to the treadmill or the cardio of your choice. Try to increase the intensity of the cardio portion by either going a bit faster or increasing the incline/resistance. Repeat weight circuit.

Do this circuit 2-3 times. If you have extra time at the gym, add some small muscle group exercises like triceps extensions and lat shoulder raises at the end.

And now for the NOG!

Blitzen’s Eggnog Protein Smoothie

1/2 cup Silk Nog (this will provide the eggnog taste without the egg nog fat and calories)

1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1 TB chia seeds (optional)

1 scoop Designer Whey Vanilla Protein powder

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 banana (frozen is best, but if you only have a fresh one, add more ice)

1 dash ground cloves

1 dash ground nutmeg

1 dag ground cinnamon

2 ice cubes

Combine Soy Nog and almond milk in your blender. Add chia seeds. Allowing the chia seeds to soak in this liquid for a few minutes will make your smoothie extra thick. Add the rest of your ingredients and blend, adding a bit more almond milk if it becomes too thick for your taste. If you need more sweetness you can add a bit of honey or liquid stevia, just adjust calories accordingly. I like it as is.

Serve over ice.

Serves 1. With chia seeds: 300 calories. 7 grams fat. 11 grams fiber. 7 grams sugar.

Mother Funkin’ Pumpkin

pumpkins

Now is the time when everyone goes pumpkin crazy. Pumpkin lattes, muffins, cookies and of course, pies are all over the place. Unfortunately, most of these foods are loaded with sugar. The good news is that with a can of pure pumpkin puree and a little effort in the kitchen, you can create yummy pumpkin treats that are tasty and good for you. Since after Thanksgiving they’ll be practically giving the stuff away, it will also save you a few dollars that you can spend on gifts for your favorite personal trainer…or your child, whichever you prefer.

Pumpkin is a high fiber, low calorie food. This means that adding it to your recipes will help keep you fuller for longer.  Once opened, your can of pumpkin will last in Tupperware for up to a week, which is why I’m sharing three pumpk-tastic recipes.

Pumpkin Smoothie

Pumpkins are loaded with iron, magnesium, and potassium, minerals that promote muscle recovery. A smart addition to a post workout smoothie!

8 oz Unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1 scoop French Vanilla protein powder. Designer Whey is my favorite brand since it tastes great and mixes well.

1/4 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 banana

1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground cloves

Or just use pumpkin pie spice, if you happen to have that.

Ice

Honey to taste

Blend it all up. Boom. Done. Serves 1.

Pumpkin Protein Pancakes

One of these days I'll learn how to make a perfectly round pancake

One of these days I’ll learn how to make a perfectly round pancake

These are so good, I may never make protein pancakes without pumpkin again. The combination of pumpkin, eggs and oats makes this an incredibly filling meal. Additional bonus: they will make your kitchen smell good.

1 whole egg, plus 2 egg whites, beaten

1 tsp vanilla extra

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp sugar

1/4 cup pumpkin

1/4 cup or 1 package of Instant Oats. I like Arrowhead’s organic blend of oats and flax.

Mix ingredients in the order listed. Heat up a pan with 1 Tb. of coconut oil. Divide batter so that you are making two pancakes. Resist the urge to just make one mega pancake. It will be nearly impossible to flip and will cause you unnecessary stress. Let one side cook on moderate heat for 3-4 minutes. Flip, press it down a little and give the second side another 3 minutes or so. Serves 1.

I like to top mine with all natural peanut butter and a drizzle of maple syrup or honey.

Pumpkin Chia Seed Pudding

Eleven grams of fiber from the chia seeds plus the three grams from the pumpkin, pretty much means that you’ll never be hungry again after eating this snack.

1/4 cup chia seeds

2/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or water), Plus a few extra splashes as you go.

1/4 cup of pumpkin

1 tsp vanilla extract.

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground cloves (pumpkin pie spice)

1 tsp or to taste of honey, agave or any sweetener you like

Gently blend mixture, adding the extra liquid as needed. The pumpkin will thicken up really fast. Transfer mixture to a mason jar, then refrigerate. Give it a shake after ten minutes, and again ten minutes after that. Let it chill for at least a few hours. To document the making of this pudding, I made an awesome slideshow with music. You check out my masterpiece here: Pumpkin Chia Pudding: REMIX!

Marathon Envy

Running is hard. Sometimes not running is harder.

Congratulations to everyone who completed the ING NYC Marathon last Sunday. Regardless of when you finished, running 26.2 miles is a major feat. And I’m jealous–completely and totally mad at myself for not running this year. But the reality is, I had no choice. Sadly, the last two years I just haven’t been ready. I’ve been dealing with tendonitis in my hip since March 2012. After 8 months of physical therapy and endless hours on a spin bike, only this Spring did I begin to feel strong enough to run short distances. And then my ankles started swelling up (sigh). And this is why:

I love Jeff Galloway

Yep, this guy

Yep, this guy

Please note that I have no affiliation with Jeff Galloway. I have never met him. He does not know I exist.

A few years ago, my good friend and fellow runner, Colleen, suggested I  run/walk/run, (AKA The Jeff Galloway Method), for one of the half marathons with which I was signed up. My response: I just laughed and laughed. I think between scoffs, I said something like, “But I’m in great shape, that’s for weaklings.” Well, fast forward  to last spring, and to my complete boredom at running the same three mile route, and I was ready to hear what Mr. Galloway had to say.

The Galloway Method is all about walk breaks. My ratio is 4 minutes of running to 1 minute of walking, but there are other ratios that work for people of varying experience and fitness levels.  Here is an explanation of why walk breaks work, straight from the source:

“By using muscles in different ways from the beginning, your legs keep their bounce as they conserve resources. When a muscle group, such as your calf, is used continuously step by step, it fatigues relatively soon. The weak areas get overused and force you to slow down later or scream at you in pain afterward. By shifting back and forth between walking and running muscles, you distribute the workload among a variety of muscles, increasing your overall performance capacity. For veteran marathoners, this is often the difference between achieving a time goal or not. ” -www.jeffgalloway.com

In October, I ran/walked the Staten Island Half Marathon. I finished in 2:13. Coming off two injuries and not having run a half since 2011, I could not have hoped for a better time. The Galloway Method has also helped me with my regular “maintenance” runs. By running for distance utilizing run/walk, I can now straight-run six miles with no pain.

If you’ve been experiencing any running injuries, or just want to check out a pain free approach to running, you must go to:

www.jeffgalloway.com. Friend him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter.

PS–The day of the SI Half Marathon, I had to get my act together and attend a wedding. Here I am, crowin’ about it.

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If this is how you exercise, then you are doing it WRONG

Keep Your Hands to Yourself

The best way to exercise on a cardio machine is to move in the same way you would if you were off the machine and in the park. So when I’m at the gym and see someone leaning over with their body weight over the handles of an elliptical or a treadmill, I want to run over and give their hands a smack. Don’t worry, I will control this impulse (if I can do it on the L train, I can do it anywhere), plus, I think it would get my gym membership revoked.

Hey girl, didn't your mother tell you to stand up straight?

Hey girl, didn’t your mother tell you to stand up straight?

While gently holding on is a good idea for first timers who need help with balance, bending over and holding up your weight with your arms is a big no-no. I see this all the time because working out this way makes the exercise easier. But it also decreases the intensity of the exercise, which lessens your calorie burn. Further, you are robbing your body of the chance to develop functional core strength, which comes with improved posture. You are also putting yourself at greater risk of injury. Exercise should mimic the way we move in real life. So hey–if you want to move with the assistance of a waIker one day, then keep holding on. Otherwise, get the most out of your cardio and go hands free. If you can’t handle the Stairmaster without utilizing a death grip, slow down or decrease the resistance.

Top Core Exercises for Runners (and everyone)

This Sunday, I’ll be running in my first half marathon in two years,  and I know I will be well-prepared. When people train for a race, sometimes they focus solely on their running schedule and making their weekly mileage quota. Big mistake. Core strength is important to keep a runner upright and in proper form, especially during long runs. A strong core can also prevent common runner’s injuries. Below are my top three core exercises for runners. The exercises listed will strengthen the abdominals and the muscles of the back and hips, and are very effective for anyone looking to tone up their midsection.

plank

Plank

What it works: Strengthens and stabilizes abdominals, back and shoulders

Start by laying face down on a mat. Press yourself up into a push-up position, resting on your forearms. Make sure your elbows are directly under your shoulders. As you hold this position, tilt your pelvis forward, and squeeze your heels and quads together. Keep your gaze just beyond your fingertips. Your back should be flat, making a straight line from your head to your heels.

R Twist

Russian Twist

What it works: Obliques

The obliques are the muscles responsible for rotation of the torso. Runners who fail to strengthen the obliques will make the abdominals and back muscles do all the work to support the body. Sit on a mat with your knees bent, as if you were at the top position of a sit up. Angle your body so that your upper body is at a 45 degree angle with the ground.  Hold your arms straight out in front of you and hold your hands together. Or, with bent arms, hold on to a weighted ball or dumbbell. Twisting through the torso, move your shoulders from side to side. Make sure you are not just swinging your arms, but that the move originates from the waist. Keep twisting from side to side without stopping for at least 16 rotations. The slower and more precise the movement, the better. If you experience lower back pain, substitute with bicycle crunches.

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Hip Raise and Hamstring Curls on the Swiss Ball

What it works: Everything! I love this exercise because it works the glutes, hamstrings, calves, abdominals and lower back muscles.

Runners need strong posterior chain muscles. Simply put, it’s the muscles behind us that are propelling us forward. Start by laying face down on a mat with your feet propped up on a Swiss ball. Place your hands next to you on the mat for support. Using your glutes, lift your hips off the mat and hold this position for a few seconds as your stabilize yourself. Brace your core to help from shifting around. Using your hamstrings, pull your heels in toward your butt, raising your hips higher as you go. The bottoms of your feet should be flat on the ball at the top of the motion. Pause for a second, then lower down with control. If this is too difficult, just start with the hip raise, omitting the hamstring curl.

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