Product Review: Six Pack Fitness Renee Tote


As a nurse, I am often away from home for long periods of time.  With 12 hour shifts and going to the gym either before or after, I could be away from my house for 15 hours at a time.  What do you do about planning meals around being away for 15 hours?  As you know, I am a huge advocate for meal planning and prepping for the upcoming week.  I prep all of my meals for the week either Sunday or Monday and have them ready to go in individual Tupperware containers.  Well, during a 15 hour span, that is easily 3 meals and some snacks.  I have been searching for a good solution to carrying all these meals and snacks for my shift.  I’ve been through a variety of lunch boxes, plastic bags, brown bags, you name it.   I was never able to find a carrier large enough to hold all my meals.  Until a few months ago when I found Six Pack Fitness bags. Continue reading

Product Review: Phormula-1 Pure Whey Protein

I have a confession, I do not use a protein supplement often.  I am a “I’d rather eat it” type of person and prefer to get my protein from food sources.  That being said, there are some times when life gets in the way and between going to the gym, going to work, having to go to the grocery store, doing laundry…  well, sometimes you just don’t have time for those whole meals.

photo by johnna brynn photography

As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, you must meet your macro nutrient and calorie requirements for the day in order to see optimum results.  I know there are people, females especially, that LOVE the days that they are “too busy to eat” because they only consume about 500 calories.  They think they are on the fast track to losing weight and one day closer to that hollywood ‘J-Lo’ body.  In fact, this is absolutely wrong. Too low on calories actually can cause your body to hold on and retain fat.  Too low intake of calories is detrimental for someone who is trying to add lean muscle.   Muscles need protein to build, repair, and grow.  Proteins have calories.  Your body NEEDS calories. Continue reading

The Lions Choice; Review: Protein Pancake Mix

3c994-1443025411021Last year I was lucky enough to find the company “The Lions Choice” on instagram.  This company produces high protein, superfood infused products such as bars, peanut butters, and pancake mixes.  All products are gluten free, non-GMO, no sugar added, contain 20 superfoods, and include an active probiotic. If you remember, a few months ago, I presented you with my review of The Lions Choice Protein Bars. To view this page click here: The Lions Choice Protein Bar Review  As promised, I wanted to provide you with my review of their High Protein Pancake mixes.


The pancake mix comes in 12 ounce packages and, so far, comes in two delicious flavors.  There is a Cookie Dough flavor and a Cinnamon Twist flavor. Continue reading

Mix Up Your Cardio

Cardio.  The dreaded C-word when it comes to fitness.  Doing cardio is like going to the dentist..  You know you need to, but you never want to.. and usually you feel better afterwards, but let’s face it, DURING–it sucks.  Doing cardio is like someone giving you ten dollars for allowing them to punch you square in the gut.  You can’t breathe, you roll around in pain and agony, but in the end, you’re rewarded.

Cardio comes in many forms and routines.  When most people think of cardio they immediately think of the strip of darkness and sadness that consume half of most gyms–The stationary bikes, ellipticals, treadmills, and other boring devices of torture used to elevate your heart rate. Oh the monotony of running in place, biking to no where, walking up stairs while staying on the exact same level.

But in reality, this does not have to be where it begins.  You do not have to succumb to running like a gerbil on a hamster wheel to stay in shape.  I have found the best way to actually enjoy cardio is to continually mix it up!  Perform different exercises for different reps or rounds.  Pair different exercises together. The more the merrier!  It gets your mind off of how much you actually hate exercise when you are constantly changing exercises and counting reps!

Let’s design a new cardio program for you. Continue reading

Common Misconceptions When it Comes To Fat Loss

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Hi everyone! I wanted to address some misconceptions I hear often about fat loss.

First, muscle is NOT built from fat.  Your body does NOT turn fat into muscle.  I hear this all the time– (Woman looking at her belly) “I really need to go do crunches because I want to have abs like you..” NO! You can honestly do crunches until your blue in the face, are you building muscle? Yes! BUT that muscle is still going to be buried under the adipose tissue.  In order to burn adipose tissue, or better known as the dreaded F-word, FAT, you must be in a caloric deficit! In order to do so, you must be stern with a diet and, usually, incorporate cardio into your routine.   Continue reading

Product Review: The Lions Choice Protein and Superfood Bar 

 Now a days it seems like protein bars are being created just as poorly as candy bars.  High in sugars, fats, and carbs.  Don’t be fooled! Just because something is labeled as a “High Protein” Bar does not make it healthy.  Be mindful and read those ingredient lists and nutritional labels!  Hi everyone! I wanted to inform you of a new protein bar that I have stumbled across.  I feel compelled to share this company with you because I know those that are reading my blog are just as health-conscious as I am!

  The company is called The Lions Choice and it has my support 100%.  The Lions Choice makes a variety of protein bars, nut butters, and even pancake mix, each infused with superfoods* and probiotics!  Today I will review the protein bars, saving the high-protein peanut butter and the pancake mix for later posts. 🙂  I found The Lions Choice on Instagram through social media members I follow– I was intrigued by the low calories, high protein, and low fat content of the bars.  I am constantly looking for macro-friendly options now that I am beginning to prep for my second NPC bikini competition. I decided to visit the website and research for myself.  Not only are the macros of these protein bars good, they are made with great ingredients!! Continue reading

Reverse Dieting

Here is an unfamiliar topic– reverse dieting. What is that?! Reverse dieting is pretty well known with physique competitors.  It is what I am currently doing now that my show has past.  Everyone knows that one goes on a “diet” in order to lose body fat/weight, but what about when you have successfully lost the weight you wanted?  There is a point where you need to understand that enough is enough–one cannot diet forever.  It is fatiguing mentally and physically.  But what comes after the diet?  A rebound back to old ways? Gaining back every ounce you had lost over the past few months?  This doesn’t have to be the case.

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Once you are at that realistic goal weight you can then reverse diet to a higher calorie “diet” to maintain this weight or a weight close to it. Continue reading

Vitacost! And My Favorite Products

Vitacost! Everytime I go onto this website I am like a kid in a candy store!

I love love love this website! It has absolutely all the essentials for a healthier lifestyle at unbeatable prices. You can get everything from protein powders and other supplements (amino acids, BCAAs, creatine) to protein bars such as, my favorite, quest bars, and even gourmet grocery items.

They have amazing healthy snack foods no matter your diet or lifestyle.  They have paleo snacks (whole foods/nothing processed/no dairy)  gluten free, low carb, etc.

Here is a picture of my first vitacost haul:  (Not pictured is my second AND third haul…..only weeks after the first 😛 )

My favorite items are:

  • Nut butters–“buff bake” snicker doodle flavor and cookie flavor,  “Justin’s” honey almond butter.  I sent Vitacost a product request for them to look into trying to get Gbutter as well, so we will see 🙂
  • Plentils- lentil chips, so tasty if you crave salty!! The serving size is large and the calories and fats are low! I got the garlic Parmesan flavor and margarita pizza flavor!  1 serving is 31 chips! Definitely large enough to curb any chip cravings!
      
  • “The good bean” chickpea snacks. This is the perfect healthy snack with a nice crunch. I take these to work while working night shift and I get the cravings to munch on something. My favorite is the chocolate flavor. It’s delicious! Satisfies my sweet tooth, but not too sweet.  I also like the spicy chili lime 😛 It is the perfect amount of spice! It’s got a good kick to it!  I’m waiting for my order of sweet cinnamon ! I’ll let you know how it is !

Continue reading

My Favorite Products Helping Me Lean Out While Staying Healthy and Sane! (NPC Competition Prep)

And “fat burner” pills are NOT on the list! Competition prep is tough! Any “diet” is tough if you have to restrict foods.  I am a huge advocate for cheat meals once per week so you do not go into the binge eating roller coaster of a restrictive diet, but I am unable to indulge until my competition is over because I must “lean out”.  Stage weight is very different than everyday weight–  Any bikini or physique competitor will tell you that. Stage weight is NOT sustainable throughout the entire year. That being said, in order to reach that fat loss, restrictions must be made for a couple weeks to a month.  I am still following IIFYM and not restricting carbs or fats–but with calories being lower than normal, in order for me to get enough meals in, they have to be pretty clean/low calorie items. As soon as my competition is over, I will reverse diet and go back to my maintenance of 2150 cals/day with a cheat meal every Saturday.

Until then, here is a list of the couple items that are helping me through this prep.  I want to mention, I am NOT (unfortunately!!) an ambassador or affiliate with any of these companies or products—I am not receiving compensation for speaking about these products.  I am simply and honestly telling you my personal favorite products that I think anyone whom is trying to stick to a diet, lose fat, or maintain a healthy lifestyle would benefit from!   I highly recommend them and think you will thank me if you purchased them yourself, so I have included the link to the product on (of course) AMAZON.COM –my favorite, as you may have noticed!!   Right click on the links and “Open in new screen”  to stay on my blog and finish the rest of the list!!

1. Gbutter–
Gbutter (The Healthiest and most Delicious spread) (2 Jar Count)


I can’t get enough of this nut butter.  The macros are great!!  Much less fat/carbs/and calories than any peanut or almond butter on the market.  There are two flavors, chocolate cashew butter  and cinnamon bun walnut butter. BOTH ARE AMAZING–right off the spoon, or in morning oats, mixed in with fat free greek yogurt or cottage cheese, in protein smoothies, topped on protein pancakes— you name it.


I have to say, my favorite of the two is the cinnamon bun–it tastes like a spoonful of cinnamon brown sugar poptarts! BUT, the chocolate cashew has less calories and fats—making it my go-to during my competition prep!

2. Quest Bars
Quest Bar Cookies & Cream
Questbar S’mores –12 Bars


I’ve said it a million times, I do not EVER let my questbar supply run dry.  I am constantly ordering these bars from amazon.com.  They are the cleanest protein bar out there with little to NO sugars.  Low in fats and high in proteins.  I’ve linked my two absolute favorites  SMORES is amazing when warmed in the microwave for 10 seconds (or left in the car while your inside the gym—mmmmmmm)


Look at those big chunks of chocolatey goodness!  I also highly recommend chocolate brownie, chocolate chip cookie dough, and chocolate peanut butter.  I always have at least 2 of those 5 flavors stocked at my house!

3. Artic Zero
ARCTIC ZERO Fit Frozen Desserts


This is something I have never ordered on amazon myself, but it ships in a freezer box just like omaha steaks do, and I know many people order online to get the flavors they can’t find in stores)  I find this in my local grocery store next to the sorbet or soy/coconut milk ice cream.  This is an incredibly macro-friendly healthy ice cream option.  An ENTIRE PINT of this ice cream is only 150 calories, and it actually tastes good!  My favorite and go-to flavor is the cookie dough chip.  It’s a must if you crave desserts but can’t fit the fats/carbs/calories into your macros/diet.  It is great alone or covered in the Gbutter I mentioned earlier.  I also love to make a protein mug cake and top with this  — see Chocolate Protein Mug Cake Recipe

4. My kitchen scale
Ozeri Kitchen and Food Scale

This is lame, I know, but I am telling you– I never really understood portion sizes until using my kitchen food scale. A chicken breast is NOT a single serving of 4 oz. chicken!  It wasn’t until I started to measure out my meals did I lean out and  lose that extra body fat  that I was not losing with 5-6 days of intense exercise.  You really do not need to be a prisoner to the scale, because after a month or two of using it consistently you will be able to pretty accurately “eyeball” portion sizes.  It is the only true way to follow an “If It Fits Your Macros” diet, and allows me to stray away from the bland bodybuilder “chicken rice and broccoli for every single meal” diet  and continue to have options while on a serious cut before my bikini competition.

5.  “Meal Management” Lunch Box
Jaxx FitPak(pictured below)
Isobag 3 Meal Management System

 

I added two examples each different and depends on your personal needs.  The first is a bit smaller with only 1 shaker bottle compartment– cheaper option.  The second is a larger bag with 2 compartments for shaker bottles.  I personally bought the top option, (PICTURED ABOVE) because for my shifts I do not need it to be any larger–It actually fits 3 larger tupperware containers—like pictured above— if you don’t want to use 6 small ones. It comes with 6 smaller containers that are dishwasher safe and great sizes for meal prep as well! I know multiple people that have the second option, the Isobag, and swear by it!  Plus it comes in cute color options, but it’s a little more pricey. Both are great choices!

6. My Nutribullet
NutriBullet Pro Blender/Mixer


I will have to say, if you do not have a Nutribullet it is something I recommend investing in.  It may seem a little costly at first, but I’m telling you it is totally worth it.  There is no blender that compares to this system except for a Vitamix (Which costs 300 dollars MORE)   I use this on a daily basis, multiple times per day.  For everything and anything.  Mainly for protein smoothies, it grinds ice and frozen fruit to a pulp–no chunks left behind.  It is also magical when it comes to juicing—yeah, juicing.  I add fresh strawberries, fresh spinach, and a splash of water or fresh Orange juice and it yields a perfectly smooth–no chunks or pulp (TRUST ME I HAVE TEXTURE ISSUES) juice that contains ALL of the nutrition from the veggies and fruits (regular juicing strips a lot of the fiber and nutrition to the pulp).  This blender is AMAZING.  If I put a frozen banana with a splash of almond milk it will turn it into the consistency of ICE CREAM– smooth, and thick enough to eat with a spoon, not a straw!

7. Flavored sparkling water-   no link necessary, find this at any grocery store.   I take a bottle with me to restaurants and bars when I’m meeting friends or having dinner with my boyfriend.  I do not let a “diet” keep me from enjoying myself and socializing with friends!! I just ask the bartender for a tall glass of ice with a lime and add my own sparkling water– looks like I’m enjoying a gin and tonic, but calorie and carbohydrate free!!

Night Shift and Workouts


Night shift and energy RARELY come hand in hand.  In fact, many of my fellow shift workers and RNs are completely shocked when I tell them I work out 5-6 days per week regardless of working full time on night shift.  Regardless, I make it work.  The energy comes from within.  You have to have focus and WANT to make it through.  That is my advice for anyone that works a crazy schedule, yet want to continue to hit workouts on a consistent basis.  You have to have REASON for what you do.  You have to have GOALS.  You have to think about the FUTURE you and how the outcome of hard work will OUTWEIGH the current feeling of tired.

I find it much easier to go to the gym before work.  I have tried both before and after and I have found that, for me, I am wiped out by the end of my shift and going to work out right results in:  a crappy feeling workout followed by the inability to fall asleep.  A crappy workout and less sleep? No thanks.. Continue reading

Travel Tips

Hi everyone! I am writing from my hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania.  I came up from Florida just for the long weekend for a cousins wedding.  I wanted to share with you some of my travel tips for staying in shape.  A long weekend away from your normal routine shouldn’t mean throwing everything you worked for away!  It will be harder to get back into your routine when you get back home if you decide to take a “hell, it’s vacation!” mentality.  I’m not saying that you have to be miserable and have no fun!  Or that you can’t have a cheat meal,  –as you know I am a large advocator for the cheat meal!  But, not a cheat week!


1. Pack high protein snacks.  Snacks with high protein will keep you fuller longer. They are good for long car rides or plane rides.  I chose beef jerky and quest protein bars.

2. Drink water– avoid the caffeinated diet beverages, such as diet pepsi, coke, etc.  They are high in sodium and will also leave you craving water (thirst, in fact, mimics hunger—this could result in you hitting up the Auntie Annes Pretzel stand at the airport ! )

3. Grocery shop when you get to your destination –unless you’re traveling somewhere “All-Inclusive” (then lucky you!) You will need to buy your own food.  I recommend going grocery shopping so you are not reliant on going out to restaurants for every meal—sure they have healthy options, BUT how often are you about to order the chicken, hold the seasonings, extra broccoli on the side—and then, the steaming plate of Lobster Mac n’ Cheese and BBQ Ribs with Loaded, cheesy mashed potatoes come out of the kitchen–smells wafting by as the waiter brings it to the table next to you…. How easy is it to actually order that healthy chicken breast and broccoli ?  About as easy it is to return a hardboiled egg back to original form for an omelet.

I bought: oats, 6 pack of eggs, fat free cottage cheese, low calorie fat free greek yogurt, fresh fruit, a pack of green beans, pack of bella mushrooms, and chicken breasts.  I had access to a stove so I was able to bake the chicken and sauté the green beans and mushrooms together— thus creating 4 pre-made meals.


4. GYM TIME! Depending on where you travel, you should be able to find a gym nearby.  Most, if not all, will give you A FREE pass if you ask– usually they are 3 days to a week long so members can “try out” the gym to see if they want to join.  I was provided with a 7-day free pass to a fitness center in PA.  I know places such as LA fitness offer 3-day complimentary passes.  I highly recommend utilizing these opportunities.  Even if your hotel has a fitness center– go to the gym at least a couple days, because the fitness center is usually lacking in equipment AND motivation.



5. Enjoy your family 🙂

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What is Fasted Cardio? Does it Really Assist in Faster Weight Loss?

Fasted cardio is exactly what it sounds like– doing a cardio workout in a fasted, or unfed, state.  Usually this is done after waking up before consuming ANYTHING prior to training– no food or drink other than water–this includes

BCAAS and preworkouts.  The theory behind fasted cardio is: you are completing physical activity when your body has received no fuel from food–so the fuel for your workouts will come from what your body already has stored.   What does your body have stored? Fat, oh that glorious fat!

How your body uses that fat? While in a fasted state your  insulin level is low– insulin decreases the breakdown of fatty acids, therefore when your insulin levels are low, your body use more fat for energy¹.  So, on the other hand, in fed cardio, after you eat a meal your insulin levels rise, this shuts down the fat breakdown and uses the energy from the food consumed for your workout.

Physiologically this all sounds good, fasted exercise must be the way to go, right?!  So I did some research.  The two research articles I found have the same result.  Continue reading

What is Plyometric Training? What are the benefits?

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What is it?

Plyometric training is something that I have been incorporating into my exercise routine on a weekly basis for about a month now.  I usually do it on a leg day.   Plyometric training involves mostly bodyweight exercises making it efficient and practical for all.  Plyometric training includes explosive movements such as jumping, hopping, skipping, etc.  These movements are usually performed on different planes of movement, such as left-right, forward-backward, and up-down.
Plyometric exercise is one of the most time-effient training methods available, and has arguably the greatest transfer to sport application.¹
The purpose of plyometrics is to train muscle elastic strength and explosiveness.  It utilizes high-intensity and explosive movements to enhance an athletes overall power and agility with the stretch-shortening cycle–which is basically taking advantage of the muscle elasticity and the stretch reflex (eccentric loading immediately followed by a concentric contraction).  It has been studied that the quicker the muscle is stretched eccentrically, the greater the force will be on the following concentric contraction.²  This will help you to be more explosive and powerful at sprinting, explosive during your lifts–really can be applied to any sport or situation.

 The Research

After researching, I found many studies that proved positive results for the training style.  The first study evaluated the effects of plyometrics on muscle-activation in female athletes. To skip the boring and straight to the facts, the analyses showed an increase in firing of muscles and muscle activity with plyometric training, and the females involved in the training group showed an overall increase in vertical jump height after the 6-weeks of plyometrics.³ Also, found that females who participated in plyometric training had a significant decrease in number of serious knee injuries.³  Thus concluding,
“plyometric exercises should be incorporated into the training regimens of female athletes and may reduce the risk of injury by enhancing functional joint stability in the lower extremity.”³

Continue reading

Snacks “Fit” for Travel

This past weekend my boyfriend and I took a two day trip to Ft Lauderdale, Florida for his Olympic weight lifting competition. Any time travel is involved, it becomes a little more difficult to keep to a diet or fitness regime.  In order to keep on track one must plan ahead. Just as I preach pre packed lunches for work, I recommend bringing a cooler with pre packed diet friendly foods. Even if you are traveling by plane you are allowed to bring on your own snacks in a carry on soft cooler–as long as your containers are 2-3oz or less.

Best travel friendly foods: Continue reading

What to Eat Before and After an Endurance Workout vs. Weight Training Workout


Seeing your food as workout fuel is a basic step toward becoming serious with your health and fitness. Timing and nutrient intake around your workouts is vital to your results and routine1. Here is my list of what are great examples of what to eat before and after workouts to supply your body with the nutrients needed for your specific workout.

Continue reading