Use these detoxing recipes to get your nutrition, your metabolism and your gut health back on track.
Post-holiday there is a lot of collateral damage — and we’re not just talking about your waistline. Your whole digestive system has been working overtime and is as tired and toxic as the rest of you feels. When your GI tract is fatigued, you may not be properly absorbing and using the nutrients from your food, which negatively impacts both your energy and your metabolism.
This two-week meal plan will ease you back into your healthy habits without suffering the withdrawal symptoms of an overindulged holiday season. The recipes are simple, balanced and flavorful, and they are created with real, non-processed whole foods. Use this plan for the prescribed two weeks, or repeat it as many times as you need to give your metabolism — and your year — a much-needed kick-start.
Asian Meatballs With Cauliflower Rice
Makes 4 Servings
Takes 40 Minutes
Cauliflower rice is a great substitution for regular rice, reducing your total carb intake and adding plenty of fiber and water for healthy digestion. The ginger helps calm the gut, and the coconut aminos are a great alternative to soy sauce, which can irritate your insides.
- 1 lb 90% lean ground pork
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp coconut amino acids, plus more to taste
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp ginger, peeled and grated
- 3 green onions, chopped and divided
- 1 head cauliflower, grated
- ¼ cup sesame seeds
- splash coconut oil
- sea salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine pork, sesame oil, amino acids, garlic, ginger, ½ the green onions, and salt and pepper (to taste). Roll into 1 ½-inch balls and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes. Saute cauliflower rice in coconut oil. Divide cauliflower rice between bowls and season with dash of amino acids. Top with meatballs, sesame seeds and remaining green onions.
Nutrition Facts (per serving = 3 meatballs): calories 375, fat 26 g, carbs, 12 g, fiber 4 g, sugar 4 g, protein 25 g, sodium 192 mg
Shrimp Asparagus Pesto Pasta
Makes 3 Servings
Takes 30 Minutes
Pesto is made primarily of basil, and according to research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, basil contains several important enzymes and antioxidants that assist the liver with detoxification. Asparagus also contains a bounty of folate, which according to the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences is necessary for optimal gut health.
- 4½ cups asparagus, chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 1 1/8 lb raw shrimp, shell on
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/8 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
- 1½ lemons, sliced into rounds
- 6 oz chickpea pasta
- 3 tbsp pesto
Preheat oven to 400 F. Spread asparagus and shrimp on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with sea salt (to taste) and top with lemon rounds. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until shrimp are pink and fully cooked. Meanwhile, cook chickpea pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse and return to the pot. Add pesto and stir to combine. When shrimp are slightly cooled, remove shells, then add shrimp and asparagus to pasta and stir to combine. Enjoy cold or reheated.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 589, fat 24 g, carbs 43 g, fiber 12 g, sugar 10 g, protein 61 g, sodium 495 mg
Kale and White Bean Caesar Salad
Makes 3 Servings
Takes 25 Minutes
Though they are lauded for other reasons, hemp plants also produce seeds, which are chock-full of essential omega-3 fatty acids, which assist your liver in its detoxing efforts. Hempseeds are also a source of complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids to help you build that fat-burning lean muscle you want.
- 4 slices organic bacon, cooked and chopped
- ¼ cup hempseeds
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- ½ lemon, juiced
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 6 cups kale leaves, chopped
- 2 cups white navy beans
- sea salt and black pepper, to taste
Place hempseeds, water, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and garlic in a food processor cup and process until smooth, adding more water to thin, if needed. Place kale in a large bowl and pour hempseed dressing over top. Massage dressing into kale for 3 to 4 minutes, or until kale starts to soften. Add bacon and white beans and toss. Season with sea salt and pepper (to taste).
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 382, fat 12 g, carbs 46 g, fiber 18 g, sugar 1 g, protein 23 g, sodium 352 mg
Coconut Matcha Smoothie
Makes 1 Serving
Takes 5 Minutes
Smoothies are a quick way to get in your nutrients without a lot of volume, giving you a break from intense digestion. Matcha is potent green tea leaf powder: One serving is equivalent to 10 cups of regular green tea!
- 1/3 cup full-fat organic coconut milk, refrigerated
- ¾ cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 banana
- 1 cup spinach
- 1 tbsp hempseeds
- 1 tsp matcha powder
- ¼ cup vanilla protein powder
Add all ingredients to a blender cup and blend until smooth.
Nutrition Facts: calories 416, fat 22 g, carbs 33 g, fiber 6 g, sugar 16 g, protein 26 g, sodium 204 mg
Makes 3 Servings
Takes 5 Minutes
This high-powered snack is perfect for on-the-go energy.
- ¾ cup almonds
- ¾ cup walnuts
- 6 tbsp raisins
- 6 tbsp pumpkin seeds
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Store in an airtight container.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 617, fat 50 g, carbs 30 g, fiber 9.5 g, sugar 17 g, protein 31 g, sodium 11.4 mg
Moroccan Chicken Stew
Makes 4 Servings
Takes 30 Minutes
Turmeric contains curcumin, which has been shown to be anti-inflammatory, and according to a study published in Planta Medica, black pepper can help your body better absorb curcumin by up to 2,000 percent! Parsley is also reputed to detoxify the system of heavy metals.
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- 16 oz skinless, boneless chicken breasts, diced
- 2 medium yellow onions, diced 1 tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp cardamom
- ¼ cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 3 large tomatoes, diced
- ½ cup parsley, finely chopped and divided
- 2 tbsp raw honey
- 1/3 cup organic raisins, no sugar added black pepper, to taste
Heat coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add chicken, onions, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, cayenne, salt and pepper (to taste). Cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomatoes, ¼ cup parsley, honey and raisins. Cover and cook another 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and sauce is thick. Divide into bowls and garnish with remaining parsley.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 406, fat 17 g, carbs 29 g, fiber 4 g, sugar 22 g, protein 37 g, sodium 694 mg
Coconut Cod and Spinach With Rice
Makes 3 Servings
Takes 15 Minutes
Coconut milk contains medium-chain triglycerides, which are digested immediately and used as energy rather than sitting in your gut. Research suggests that MCT oil can help reduce overall calorie consumption, leading to gradual weight loss over time.
- ¾ cup jasmine rice
- 1½ cups full-fat organic coconut milk
- ¾ cup water
- 1½ tbsp tamari
- 1½ tbsp rice vinegar
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 (4-6 oz) cod fillets
- 3 cups baby spinach, chopped
- 1/8 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
Cook rice according to package instructions and set aside. Heat a saucepan over medium heat, then add coconut milk, water, tamari, vinegar, bay leaves and salt. Stir to combine. Add cod fillets and simmer about 8 minutes, or until fillets are white and flake easily with a fork. Stir in spinach and remove from heat; stir until spinach has wilted. Serve with rice.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 574, fat 23 g, carbs 43 g, fiber 2 g, sugar 2 g, protein 47 g, sodium 831 mg
Makes 4 Servings
Takes 40 Minutes
When you consume acidic foods such as dairy, grains and processed sugar, your body has to work overtime to maintain a neutral pH. Eating more alkaline foods such as fennel helps balance your pH and reduce stomach acid.
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 bulb fennel, sliced
- 2 cups celery root
- 2 cups rutabaga, peeled and cubed
- 2 cups organic chicken broth, plus an additional splash
- 4 (4 oz) salmon fillets
- 1 cup full-fat organic coconut milk
- ¼ tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
- ¼ cup parsley, chopped
In a large soup pot, melt coconut oil over medium-low heat. Add fennel, celery root and rutabaga. Cover and cook 15 minutes, or until tender. Add chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Cook another 10 minutes, then use an immersion blender until soup achieves a semi-chunky finish. Reduce heat to low. Meanwhile, add a splash of chicken broth to a saucepan and place salmon skin-side down. Bring to a simmer and poach 5 to 10 minutes. Remove fish from pan, remove skin and discard. Cut flesh into chunks and add to soup. Increase heat to medium and add coconut milk. Cook until heated through. Garnish with parsley when serving.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 414, fat 25 g, carbs 20 g, fiber 5 g, sugar 8 g, protein 27 g, sodium 793 mg
Cranberry Protein Cookies
Makes 8 Servings
Takes 20 Minutes
Cinnamon is one of the most delicious and healthful spices around, helping reduce inflammation and acting as an anti-bacterial agent. In addition, 1 teaspoonful contains 22 percent of your daily value of manganese, which according to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, helps you metabolize fats and carbohydrates and regulate your blood sugar.
- 1 banana, mashed
- ¼ cup vanilla protein powder
- 1 cup oats
- 1 cup almond butter
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ cup dried, unsweetened cranberries
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, combine mashed banana and protein powder and mix well. Add remaining ingredients and combine until a dough forms. Roll dough into 8 balls and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Flatten lightly with a fork. Bake 20 minutes.
Nutrition Facts (per serving = 1 cookie): calories 266, fat 18 g, carbs 19 g, fiber 5 g, sugar 6 g, protein 10 g, sodium 8 mg
Pear Spice Overnight Oats
Makes 4 Servings
Takes 8+ Hours
Kefir is a fermented dairy drink that tastes like thin, tangy yogurt, but it contains a more potent and diverse range of probiotics. Overconsumption of sugar, alcohol and processed foods can kill off a lot of the good bacteria in your gut, allowing the bad bugs to take over and increase inflammation. The probiotics in kefir help replace those lost microbes and restore balance in your system.
- 2 cups plain kefir
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups oats
- 1 tbsp raw honey
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- 2 pears, sliced
- ¼ cup tahini
- ¾ cup vanilla protein powder
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except pears and tahini. Stir until well-blended. Cover and refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, top with tahini and pears.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 474, fat 14 g, carbs 61 g, fiber 11 g, sugar 22 g, protein 29 g, sodium 135 mg
Rainbow Chopped Salad Jars
Makes 3 Servings
Takes 30 Minutes
Tahini — aka sesame-seed paste — is a great source of magnesium, which is needed for energy production in the body. And purple cabbage is a good source of vitamin C, which is necessary for both a healthy immune system and a healthy gut.
- 1/3 cup tahini
- 2 lemons, juiced
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 2 tbsp water
- 3 cups canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup matchstick carrots
- 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
- 3 cups purple cabbage, chopped
In a bowl, whisk together tahini, lemon juice and sea salt, adding water as needed to attain a creamy consistency. Divide dressing equally between 3 large Mason jars. Layer in chickpeas, tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers and cabbage. Cover and refrigerate up to 4 days. When ready to eat, dump salad into a bowl and toss.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 496, fat 18 g, carbs 69 g, fiber 19 g, sugar 16 g, protein 22 g, sodium 493 mg
“I always say to start with drinking half your bodyweight in ounces per day as a minimum,” Uherek says. “However, if you’re sweating more because of workouts, add in about 7 to 10 ounces every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise. Add in a clean electrolyte option, like Nuun tablets to replenish electrolytes — clean brand meaning no added artificial sugars and food colorings.”
Craving a sweet treat?
Try these low-sugar suggestions from Alexa Uherek.
Homemade Hot Chocolate
Combine 8 oz unsweetened almond milk + 1 tbsp 100% cacao powder + 1 tbsp maple syrup. Heat contents on low-medium in a pot on stove. To reduce sugar, use 1 tsp instead of a tbsp.
Nutrition Facts: calories 116, fat 5 g, carbs 17 g, fiber 3 g, sugar 12 g, protein 2 g,
sodium 164 mg
The Quick Fix
Gather ½ cup organic raspberries + 1 tbsp dark chocolate chips: Stuff one chip in each raspberry and enjoy.
Nutrition Facts: calories 122, fat 5 g, carbs 15 g, fiber 4 g, sugar 10 g, protein 2 g, sodium 1 mg
Additional snack options
¼ cup hummus + 1 cup baby carrots = calories 191 fat 11 g carbs 20 g fiber 6 g sugar 6 g protein 5 g sodium 360 mg
1 slice organic sprouted bread (toasted) + 1 tbsp raw nut butter = calories 205 fat 20 g carbs 23 g fiber 4 g sugar 5 g protein 9 g sodium 160 mg
2 celery stalks + 2 tbsp nut butter + 3 tbsp goji berries = calories 267 fat 18 g carbs 21 g
fiber 7 g sugar 10 g protein 10 g sodium 116 mg
1 serving protein powder + 8 oz unsweetened cashew or almond milk = (macronutrients depend on protein powder)
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Want to try intermittent fasting? Here are a few things to note before diving in.
The fitness crowd tends to throw shade at the idea of skipping meals and snacks to slim down, believing this will eat away at your hard-earned muscle, grind your metabolism to a halt and spur diet-derailing hunger pangs. These days, however, the idea of occasionally shuttering your kitchen is the guiding principle of an increasingly popular — and increasingly researched — dieting approach with a lot of weight-loss buzz: intermittent fasting.
Believe it or not, fasting wasn’t invented by Instagram hashtags — in fact, people have been fasting for thousands of years: Our ancestors did it (usually because they didn’t have a constant supply of food stashed in the fridge), and a number of religious events such as Ramadan revolve around some form of dietary fast.
As the name implies, intermittent fasting (IF) is a system during which you alternate between periods of restricted calorie intake and periods of normal eating. To be clear, IF does not restrict the kinds of foods you can eat — as do diets like Paleo or keto — just how much you can eat on certain days of the week. Many swear by IF because it’s easy to implement, requires nothing draconian like a horrible juice cleanse, and it has been proved to be one of the speediest and sustainable ways to torch fat stores and promote a lean physique.
Research says fasting has been a favorite research topic as of late, and a number of studies have found intermittent energy restriction — in which people ate fewer than 800 calories at least once per week — to be a valid weight-loss strategy, at least in the short term. In one study, weight loss was similar among participants following either a heart-healthy diet or a high-protein, reduced-calorie IF regimen for three months. However, the IF diet won out for minimizing weight regain after one year. Another investigation showed that IF was just as good at stripping body fat as simple calorie cutting. However, IF did a better job at preserving lean body mass.
As to how exactly IF helps sculpt your physique, theories abound: Some propose that IF flips a metabolic switch that encourages your body to burn more fat. Others state that since IF restricts your window of eating, you’re likely to eat fewer calories during the course of a week, helping trim the waistline with less risk of losing muscle. Even more studies propose that IF might help people get in touch with their true feelings of satiety and fullness on food-restricted days, which can put the brakes on overeating during times of normal food intake.
On another front, IF may have other positive effects on your body, such as reducing memory loss, improving cholesterol and blood pressure, and helping prevent diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity. And contrary to logic, IF could actually help — not hurt — your physical performance at the gym: A 2018 study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that athletes who participated in an every-other-day fasting protocol (eating 33 percent of their normal calorie intake on fasting days) for six weeks became more energy-efficient during exercise, reported less fatigue and experienced reduced body-fat levels. Researchers theorize that occasional energy restriction might spur changes in hormones and mitochondrial function, helping you get more out of your workouts.
Fit Girl Fasting
Want to give intermittent fasting a whirl? Try this 5:2 eating plan: You eat normally for five days and reduce your calorie intake to about 25 percent of normal for two days. Drink all the calorie-free liquids you want on both days to stay hydrated and healthy, and focus on whole, nutrient-rich foods for all seven days.
5 Days a Week
½ cup rolled oats (cooked) + 1/3 cup low-fat milk + 1 scoop protein powder (Top with 2 tbsp chopped nuts + ½ cup blueberries.)
2/3 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt + ½ cup berries
4 oz cooked salmon + 1 cup cooked quinoa + 2 cups mixed greens + drizzle of olive oil vinaigrette
1/3 cup hummus + ½ cup sliced red bell peppers
1 cup milk + 1 scoop protein powder + ½ frozen chopped banana
4 oz pan-seared boneless pork loin chop + 2 cups roasted baby potatoes + 1 cup steamed asparagus + 1 tsp olive oil
Nutrition Facts (per day): 1,953 calories, fat 93 g, protein 146 g, carbs 201 g
2 Days a Week
½ cup cottage cheese + ½ cup chopped pineapple + 2 tbsp unsalted roasted sunflower seeds
½ cup baby carrots + 1 string cheese + 1 oz almonds
1 oz jerky
Nutrition Facts (per day): 586 calories, fat 36 g, protein 39 g, carbs 34 g
Fasting Cheat Sheet
Want to try intermittent fasting? Here are a few things to note before diving in.
High, low and start slow
There are different ways to put IF into practice, and since the jury is out as to which style yields the biggest benefits, choose the one that best fits your lifestyle.
The most common method of IF is 16:8. Here, you eat during an eight-hour window, say between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., and fast the remaining 16 hours in that day. There is also the eat-stop-eat method during which you do a 24-hour fast twice a week and eat normally five days a week, and the 5:2 method during which you eat normally for five days, then reduce your food intake to about 25 percent of normal (which usually totals about 500 to 700 calories) on two nonconsecutive days per week.
If you’re new to IF and aren’t sure you can hang, ease into it so you have a better chance of sticking with it long term: A JAMA Internal Medicine study found that while people on an alternate-day fasting regimen (25 percent of energy needs on fasting days) experienced weight- loss benefits, about a third of the participants failed to make it to the end. To increase your chances of follow-through, consider the 12:12 method: Here, you fast for 12 hours per day and eat within a 12-hour window — which probably isn’t that far off from how you’re eating now. This method also could increase your chances for fat loss: A 2018 British investigation found that people who simply delayed their breakfast by 90 minutes and ate their dinner 90 minutes earlier than normal — with no imposed restrictions on what they could eat — lost twice as much body fat over a 10-week period than those who ate their meals at their normal times. Experts theorize this is owed to a decrease in both appetite and overall calorie intake.
Food for thought
If you choose a routine such as the 5:2 method during which on fasting days you simply eat less, don’t waste an entire day of calories on a couple of slices of gooey pizza. Make those calories count, and focus on nutrient-dense, satiating foods such as legumes, vegetables, fruits and fish — items that deliver plenty of nutrients relative to the number of calories they contain.
Also, beware of the feeding-day binge: Since IF doesn’t dictate the types of foods you should eat, you might be tempted to reward yourself with less-than-healthful foods during normal eating periods. But IF only works for fat loss if you focus on nutrition, not just calories, so on non-fasting days, fall back into a normal diet full of whole, clean foods, and stick to your regular eating schedule of several meals and snacks per day.
Dehydration can exacerbate hunger and leave you in a candy-worshipping hangry rage. Keep plenty of calorie-free liquids like water and tea nearby when fasting to promote satiety and replace some of the liquid you’re missing by cutting out much of your food. Not sure you’re getting enough H2O? Keep track of your urine color: The darker the color, the more water you need. As for caffeine — don’t worry about it. Recent research proved that it does not dehydrate people as much as it was once thought, especially if you’re a regular coffee drinker.
Train to gain
The days you train and the days you feed or fast should align properly. If your goal is to nail a personal-record 1-mile run or improve on your strength with heavier lifts, train during non-fasting periods when you have more available energy. If your goal is fat loss, exercise on a fasting day to create a metabolic environment that favors fat burning as your carbohydrate stores become depleted. That being said, however, if you feel exhausted and lightheaded when exercising on a fasting day, either call it quits or eat some food. Your workout will be half-assed, and you’ll increase your risk of injury.
Pop a pill
On fasting days, consider taking a multivitamin to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy: A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition also found that women following a weight-loss diet reported less hunger when supplementing with a multivitamin. Make sure your multi also includes the B vitamins that help turn food into energy and control appetite. To reduce muscle breakdown, think about branched-chain amino acids or including a protein powder supplement to your regimen, if it works into your fasted calorie allotment.
It may not work
Like many diets, the success of IF will vary from person to person. Some may rave about their success with fat loss and their clearer mind, while others may experience nothing but prolonged fatigue and irresistible cravings.
It often takes a couple of weeks for your body to adjust to IF, and side effects of fasting like raging hunger, brain fog, grumpiness or low energy will likely subside with time. If you’re still miserable after three weeks, IF is probably not right for you.
WARNING: Certain medical conditions can be worsened by fasting. Consult with your doctor if you’re diabetic, have low blood pressure, take medications, are underweight, are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding before beginning any sort of intermittent fasting.
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Sub freekeh for rice and get an extra dose of fiber, protein, glutamine and prebiotics.
Freekeh (pronounced free-kah) has been around for a while. This wheat variety is harvested while still green, then it’s toasted and rubbed to reveal the young grains. As a result, it has an earthy, nutty and slightly smoky flavor that can breathe new life into your humdrum recipes. Here are five ways to use this supergrain to supercharge your meal plan.
1. As a high-fiber rice substitute
Freekeh has three times the amount of fiber as brown rice, and according to research published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, increased fiber consumption helped people lose more weight over the course of a year. Swap white or brown rice for freekeh in casseroles, burritos, soups and pilafs.
2. As a gut-friendly salad
Freekeh contains resistant starch, which is the prebiotic nosh of choice for your healthy gut bacteria. Prebiotics also help treat leaky gut syndrome, candida and irritable bowel syndrome. Freekeh Salmon Salad: To a large bowl, add 2 cups cooked freekeh, 8 cups spinach, 1 large avocado (diced) and 1 large tomato (chopped). Top with 8 ounces cooked salmon fillets and drizzle with olive oil and vinegar (to taste).
3. As a high-pro vegan bowl
Step aside quinoa — freekeh has twice the protein per serving, making it the ideal choice for plant-based athletes. Freekeh-shly Good Breakfast Bowl: Cook 1 cup freekeh according to package directions. Split into 2 bowls and top with fresh fruit, pumpkin seeds, nut butter and cinnamon.
4. As an endurance-boosting side
Freekeh is high in glutamic acid, which helps synthesize glutamine, enhancing endurance and strength. Righteous Rosemary Freekeh:* Add 1 cup cooked freekeh to a bowl with ¼ cup chopped pecans, 1/8 cup chopped dried apricots, 1 tablespoon macadamia nut or avocado oil, 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Mix well to combine.
5. As a nutrient-boosted baked good
Freekeh is available commercially as a flour and can be used in recipes in place of refined flour products for added fiber, protein, antioxidants, calcium and iron.
Chocolate Freekeh Muffins
- 1 cup cooked freekeh
- ½ cup freekeh or coconut flour
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 4 tbsp cocoa
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- pinch salt
- handful dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 F. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and pour into a greased muffin pan. Bake 20 to 22 minutes. Allow to cool.
*Recipe provided by Now Foods. For more great recipes like this, go to nowfoods.com.
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For Jen Widerstrom, clean eating feeds both her body and soul.
It’s not enough for former American Gladiators athlete and NBC’s The Biggest Loser trainer Jen Widerstrom to simply eat “healthy.” For this Oxygen Challenge 4 coach, the real difference comes from committing to a clean-eating nutrition plan — for life. “You work so hard to be healthy and vital, and when you put fuel in your body that’s been altered, it diminishes the return on that investment,” she explains. “When it comes to eating animal-based protein, we have to remember that we ultimately ingest whatever was given to that animal.”
In other words, any hormones and antibiotics these animals consume through their feed are transported into your body, which Widerstrom says can adversely affect your physical development and organ function. “Also, I care very much about the way animals are treated, especially when it’s for our benefit,” she says. “In the words of Mary Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science, ‘Nature is inhumane; we don’t have to be.’ I couldn’t agree more.”
Be Responsible and Well-Rounded
So what should you look for at the grocery store? “Be proactive — read the labels on your food,” Widerstrom says. “If the food is made well, they’re going to tell you on the packaging. If there’s no messaging, it’s often because the products contain antibiotics and hormones.” Making these determinations can be harder at a restaurant, but typically if a food is grass-fed, hormone-/antiobiotic-free or organic, it will be listed boldly on the menu.
“I also advise people to be conscious eaters instead of mindless ones,” Widerstrom says. “Have a clear understanding of what kinds of foods your body digests well, and focus on choosing real foods so you will look and feel your best.”
That being said, Widerstrom is a big proponent of having everything in moderation. “I’ll have a beer and pizza with the best of them, but I’ll sweat that day, and you better believe I’m eating my eggs and avocado that next morning!” she says.
Recipes — for Life
Jen Widerstrom, an NASM-certified trainer, is on a mission to share the importance of eating natural products — and that’s why she chooses to source her beef, turkey, chicken and jerky from Laura’s Lean. Here is a recipe that uses these all-natural, hormone- and antibiotic-free, grass-fed products.
Makes 2-3 servings
- 1½ lb (3-4) boneless, skinless Laura’s Lean chicken breasts
- ¾ tbsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp lemon pepper
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp paprika
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs of choice
Preheat oven to 400 F. Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, combine salt, lemon pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika. Sprinkle mixture evenly over chicken on both sides. Heat oil in a large oven-safe pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook 4 to 5 minutes each side, until nicely browned. Add rice wine vinegar and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat. In another bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and honey. Pour over chicken and stir until coated.
Cover pan with foil and place in oven. Bake 15 minutes, then add tomatoes. Bake another 5 minutes until tomatoes start to burst. Remove, sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve.
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Health and lifestyle coach Rebecca Pfanner breaks down why you’re scared of your appetite and offers steps you can take to permanently change your mindset.
So many of us women fear our appetite. We’re scared to eat that brownie, macaroni or cake because “it’s going to make us fat.” When we give in, we tell our friends, “I was so bad today. I ate a brownie!” We’ve come to believe this is the most horrible thing a woman can do!
This is not true. This is the story we tell ourselves because we’ve been programmed to believe feeding our appetite is wrong.
Our appetite is what keeps us alive. Without it, we wouldn’t know when to eat. We would starve and die! So why have we turned this survival mechanism into something that makes us feel guilt, shame and disgust?
Look at Eve! She wanted that apple so badly. She had an appetite for it, craved it, desired it. So she took a bite. She fulfilled her appetite but was then shamed, kicked from the garden and made a disgrace. Eve’s story may have been the start of female shame and guilt when it comes to feeding the appetite.
Many of us continue to fight our appetite with every fiber of our beings. We don’t want to be kicked from our garden, so we hang onto the fear: “If I let myself experience my full appetite, there will be no end to what I devour.”
We’re making the very thing that gives us life, our appetite, a cause for emotional turmoil.
We’ve become so used to shaming our appetite as a “guilty pleasure” that we truly believe we’re wrong for wanting to appease it. When we do, we fall into an endless pit of desire that won’t stop.
When you desire something, do you feel guilty for thinking about what you want? What about shame for getting what you want because you didn’t “earn” it? Or guilt and shame for being “bad” — like eating that brownie or saying no to a request of our time?
Society often enforces these concepts. If you love sex, you’re a whore. If you love food, you’re a glutton and you’ll get fat when you should be skinny. If you love money, you’re greedy.
Many of us say we want “freedom” when it comes to food and body image, but when we deny or invalidate our natural appetite, we’re creating our own jail cell that keeps us trapped in our current way of being.
Here’s a secret: As our own jailers, we hold the key. We get to decide whether we consider our appetite good or bad.
Our appetite and desires lead us to our truth. So how can we allow for our true selves to step forward if we’re always shying away?
If we continue to fear what we want, we prevent ourselves from fully experiencing life. Some of us believe that if we connect with our sexuality, we’ll want to sleep with everyone we see. If we let ourselves make great money, we’ll become greedy, self-centric women.
What if the opposite were true? Your body doesn’t want to overindulge. It knows when to stop. The challenge lies in listening to its wisdom and separating your thoughts and emotions from your body’s intuition.
Instead of feeding the fear of your own appetite, let’s get curious and embrace it. In my work, my goal is to help you feel empowered to take charge of your feelings, thoughts and decisions.
Be in Charge Instead of in Control
We’ve gotten so used to focusing on maintaining our willpower, avoiding “bad” foods, counting calories and logging exercise. These restrictive behaviors lead to the guilt and shame associated with feeding our appetite because they’re so easily sabotaged and lead to feeling out of control.
Being in charge of your appetite keeps you focused on your intention of doing what you love without experiencing the guilt because you make intentional choices that leave you feeling empowered.
Know You Are Capable
You’ve always had the power to make your decisions without all the rules and restrictions. Never allowing yourself sweetness feeds feelings of guilt and shame when you do indulge. Instead of following a plan desperately and strictly, listen to your body.
Give Yourself Grace
Acknowledging your appetite can be hard since you may have spent a lifetime hushing it. Giving up the idea that your appetite and desires are bad may sound scary, even impossible. Allow yourself the room to have setbacks and experience doubt and frustration.
Learning how to give up restrictions will change your relationship with your appetite and what was once so scary — cookies, money, sex — will lose its power over you.
Instead of starting another diet this new year, let’s begin to lay the foundation for a new life where you embrace your appetite and desires — a life you’re excited to live, a life where you say yes to yourself.
What if embracing your appetite left you happy beyond measure?
What if it never needed to be so damn hard?
To learn more about working with Rebecca Pfanner, visit her website ModavateCoaching.com.
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Make the most of your meals — and your training efforts — with these wise food choices.
Once upon a time, it was simple to go grocery shopping, but every week, there seems to be a new hyped-up food or magic metabolic elixir fighting for a spot in your shopping cart.
Forget Instagrammable food trends and focus instead on functional foods, those that continually produce results both in and out of the gym. Choosing your foods wisely will improve performance, body composition and energy levels. Here are our picks for the most awesome scientifically supported foods for athletes, as well as some we think are overrated.
Your morning brew just got a whole lot sweeter: In a recent study, scientists found that drinking caffeinated coffee before a high-intensity workout like sprinting or weight training boosted performance by reducing the rate of perceived exertion and increasing energy. The most effective, scientifically determined dose of caffeine is about 300 milligrams; any more than that and you could actually impair rather than improve performance. Additionally, one serving of coffee contains more antioxidants than many other things in your diet, making it one of the healthiest beverages in the world.
Beets (aka Beetroot)
Beets are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents that help athletes recover faster. They are also an all-natural source of nitrates, which are converted to nitric oxide in the body, opening blood vessels and allowing more blood, nutrients and oxygen to be delivered to muscles, improving performance, recovery and tissue repair. Researchers tested the effects of drinking beet juice preworkout in sprinting sports like running, cycling, BMX and speedskating. Athletes who drank half a cup (4 to 5 ounces) of beet juice reduced the time it took them to reach peak power, which meant better acceleration during their high-intensity sessions.
Egg whites are a great low-cal source of protein, but if you’re still pitching out all the yolks for your morning omelet, you may be missing out. Scientists had subjects eat either three whole eggs or five egg whites (the equivalent of 18 grams of protein for each) after a leg workout. Those who ate the whole eggs experienced greater protein synthesis than those who ate egg whites alone, which means more muscle growth. The suggested reason: The nutrients in the yolks helped facilitate the synthesis process better than egg whites alone.
Cottage Cheese and Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are great sources of bone-building nutrients such as calcium, as well as casein, a form of protein that contains a lot of leucine, the amino acid shown to have excellent muscle-building potential. A diet rich in protein such as casein promotes fat loss because your body has to work harder to digest, therefore burning more calories and boosting metabolism. A ¾- to 1-cup serving of cottage cheese or Greek yogurt makes a great snack any time of day.
Just as there are probiotic bacteria in your gut that keep you healthy and improve digestion, there are also bad bacteria that can proliferate, causing inflammation and illness. In order to nurture the good while exterminating the bad, you should eat probiotic foods such as yogurt as well as seaweed, which contains a rare carbohydrate that feeds and nourishes the good bacteria. A recent study published in the journal Nature revealed that a diet rich in nori, the kind of seaweed used to make sushi rolls, helps the good bacteria in the gut thrive, creating an optimal environment for healthy digestion. Experts recommend eating about 5 grams of seaweed per day, but unless you live in Japan, that is probably a tall order, so enjoy a sushi hand roll or two whenever you get the chance.
For some reason these days, people fear fruit, especially bananas. However, one medium banana contains only about 100 calories, 27 grams of carbs and 4 grams of fiber. Bananas also offer the perfect blend of carbs and electrolytes such as potassium and sodium needed to fuel workouts — more than any commercial sports drink. In fact, researchers compared bananas to sports drinks both before and during endurance activity and heavy-exertion workouts. While both improved performance and energy, bananas also helped reduce inflammation, which means better recovery after a strenuous workout.
Bone broth is the new postworkout phenomenon — and with good reason. This low-cal beverage is rich in chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine, the structural components of joints, as well as collagen, the protein that promotes healthy bones, skin, hair and nails. It also contains a myriad amino acids that promote muscle building and repair and several that support metabolic function such as glycine, glutamine and arginine. Athletes also may use bone broth after training to replenish fluids and lost electrolytes, such as sodium, magnesium and potassium.
Peanut Butter Powder and Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter
Sounds good in theory — peanut butter minus some of the calories — and using the powder in your shaker bottle postworkout is a breeze. However, the very thing you’re eliminating from peanut butter is the most beneficial of its nutrients: the fat. Regular peanut butter contains a wealth of heart-healthy fats as well as vitamin E, and choosing a reduced-fat or powdered version robs you of those healthy nutrients. Additionally, the fat removed from a lower-fat product is usually replaced by sugar, corn syrup solids or other starchy fillers, so in the end, it’s not a reduced-calorie food at all. So while there are some valid uses for the powdered version — since it does contain some quality protein and other vitamins you need — if you are eating peanut butter for its full spectrum of health benefits, stick with the real, sticky thing.
Artificially Sweetened Products
It’s tempting to enjoy sweets without the added sugar and calories, but what are you really putting into your body? Turns out, those colorful little packets may be holding you back from reaching your fat-loss goals. Artificial sweeteners have been shown in numerous studies to induce an insulin response, despite the lack of actual glucose (sugar) in the food. Continually inducing this response can lead to insulin resistance, a metabolic nightmare that prevents the body from breaking down fat as fuel. If a lean physique is your goal, skip the sugar-free products and get used to drinking your coffee black — or with just a touch of real sugar.
The movement toward a more plant-based diet has made nondairy yogurt more popular. But while tasty, this sub-in does not compare nutritionally to regular yogurt. Nondairy yogurts can be made with soy, almond and/or coconut milks and contain little to no protein. Also, manufacturers often add sugar and artificial thickeners to improve the flavor and consistency of the product. Unless you’re allergic to dairy, then skip these alternatives and stick with regular or Greek yogurt or give Icelandic Skyr a try — it’s slightly thicker than Greek yogurt and less tangy.
If you’re drinking almond milk for a protein boost, you’re pinning your tail on the wrong donkey butt. While it does contain plenty of vitamins and minerals, almond milk has only 1 gram of protein per serving as compared to about 8 grams in a cup of dairy milk. If lactose is your qualm, check out some of the new, alternative products popping up on shelves. For instance, ultra-filtered milk is regular milk that is passed through a series of filters that remove specific, individual components, resulting in a product with more protein and calcium, less sugar and no lactose. There’s also A2 milk, which contains the A2 form of beta-casein, the protein that makes up about 30 percent of the protein in cow’s milk. A2 milk is digested more easily, resulting in very few symptoms of stomach discomfort, gas, bloating and diarrhea.
Move over butter — MCTs (medium-chain triglyceride) are claiming that spot in your Bulletproof Coffee. Because of their structure, MCTs are easily digested in your liver, where they have been shown to produce a thermogenic effect. Adding coconut oil — which is about 65 percent MCTs — or straight MCT oil to your coffee is believed to accelerate fat loss, boost energy and improve well-being. This may very well be true. However, MCT oil is not a magic weight-loss pill, and in fact, overdoing it can cause weight gain. In the end, MCTs are still fats and are highly caloric by nature, so be conservative with their use and don’t rely solely on them to strip your body of fat.
Commercial Acai Bowls
Acai in and of itself is awesome and contains loads of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals as well as fiber, protein and healthy fats. However, an average 16-ounce acai bowl from a restaurant or commercial establishment has about 41 grams of sugar* — and this is without any toppings or add-ins at all. Instead of getting one out and about, make your own at home: Buy unsweetened frozen acai berries and blend them with your favorite frozen fruits and a splash of water or milk. Toss in a scoop of protein powder or plain Greek-style yogurt for a protein boost.
*A small-size bowl from Planet Smoothie
Is it legit or pure hype? The verdict is still out. Researchers have not found enough evidence to show that alkaline water — which is rich in alkalizing compounds such as calcium, silica, potassium, magnesium and bicarbonate — has the ability to neutralize the acid in your bloodstream, enabling your body to better metabolize nutrients. If better pH balance is what you’re after, drink mineral water instead, or simply toss a little baking soda and/or lemon juice into tap water to make your own alkaline water on the cheap.
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Expert tips for kicking stress-induced cravings to the curb.
Are you an emotional eater? Here are six surefire ways to keep your emotions – and your waistline – in check.
1. Know your triggers and locations. “Many people have hot spots for emotional eating, such as the living room couch or office desk,” says Susan Albers, PsyD, author of Eating Mindfully (New Harbinger, 2012). “Make a no-eating rule in those places so you have to eat somewhere else. This will help you stop the habit of overeating mindlessly in those spots.”
2. Shop smart. Limit the amount of comfort food you have available so you’re forced to address your emotions when they pop up instead of masking them with food.
3. Stock up on pistachios. They’re a low–glycemic index food that helps keep your blood sugar stable to avoid the double whammy of feeling moody and hungry.
4. Drink water throughout the day. Dehydration is stressful on the body and results in the same neurochemical cascade as emotional stress, which can cause you to overeat, says Albers.
See AlsoAre You Drinking Enough Water?
5. Exercise regularly. Choose activities that you enjoy. Not only do frequent workouts help to keep stress in check, but looking forward to your workouts is another way of coping with stress.
6. Soothe your senses. Stress can be over-stimulating to your senses, so seek out other things that bring you comfort – besides food – such as taking a bath, wrapping yourself up in a blanket and reading a book, or turning off your cell phone.
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Here’s everything you need to know about the set point weight theory and what it means for your fitness goals.
According to conventional weight-loss wisdom, dropping a few pounds is a matter of basic math: Burn more calories than you consume and watch the numbers on the scale plummet. But anyone who’s dealt with a stubborn plateau or struggled to maintain a loss knows that in practice, the equation isn’t that simple.
“The old ‘calories in, calories out’ idea is really only a very small piece of the puzzle,” says Lauren Antonucci, RD, CSSD, CDE, CDN, a board-certified sports nutritionist and director of Nutrition Energy in New York City. In addition to diet and exercise, a combination of factors works to regulate your body’s weight, keeping it at a number that’s biologically ideal, according to your genetics, your physiology and your environment. This phenomenon is known as the set point weight theory.
Set Point Weight Theory, Defined
Antonucci describes set point weight as the weight you would be if you weren’t concerned with how you looked in a bikini. “Let’s say you just walked around eating when you were hungry, stopping when you were full,” she says. “If you were eating mostly real foods, there’s a place where you would land, and not everyone lands in the same spot.”
While set point is still technically a theory that has yet to be scientifically proven, most experts agree that a person’s standard weight is determined by a combination of genetics, physiology and environment. Your environment includes what most weight-loss plans address: diet, exercise, lifestyle and level of daily activity. Physiology encompasses all bodily functions, including your metabolism, hormones and the genetic tendency of women to carry more body fat than men. And your genetics, as they relate to your set point, can be most easily understood by looking at your ancestors’ day-to-day lives — were their winters long and the food scarce? Then those with a high capacity for fat storage were most likely to survive and pass along their genes to you.
How Set Is Your Set Point?
While your genes are what they are, your body’s physiology can shift — or be shifted. Puberty, pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause can all cause a change — typically a gain — in weight. Some medications also can create long-lasting increases in the body’s fat supply. “That’s one that people in the United States tend to be more prone to because sometimes we’re giving medications such as antidepressants and people are on them for decades,” explains Holly Lofton, M.D., director of the Weight Management Program at NYU Langone Health in New York City. “[Those medications] can make our fat cells more stable, an environmental change that can lead to a physiological change. That can change one’s set point.”
Bariatric surgery, which removes part of the stomach or creates a bypass, also alters the body’s hormonal environment by removing the receptors that create hunger hormones. As a result, people who undergo this procedure typically see dramatic weight loss in the first two years. It’s fair to say that they experience a change in set point, but without consistent monitoring and maintenance, this new setting may not stick. “The body sees weight loss as an illness, so it will create hunger hormones from other pathways,” Lofton says. Over time, the weight may return.
If it seems like your set point is more likely to go up than down, that’s because it is. Of course, it is possible to lose weight through diet and exercise, but environmental changes are just one consideration. “It’s much easier to increase a set point than it is to decrease it,” Lofton says. “The body just doesn’t like to lose weight, it likes to gain weight.”
Metabolism Versus Set Point
But what if you “boost” your metabolism? Can that lower your set point?
It’s not uncommon to hear set point and metabolism used interchangeably, but they are two distinct concepts. While set point refers to your body’s standardized weight, your metabolism is the amount of energy you must expend to maintain that weight, and it can be broken down into a few categories:
Basal metabolic rate (BMR), or resting metabolic rate (RMR), is the amount of energy the body requires to support its basic functions — things like thought, heartbeat and breathing.
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) goes beyond the basic functions to include all non-planned exertional activities, such as walking to your car, going to the bathroom and cleaning your house.
Activity expenditure encompasses planned exercise, like a high-intensity interval training class or a run in the park.
Lofton explains that when we lose physical weight, our BMR also decreases. “In order to maintain that lower weight, we have to make up that change in metabolism by doing something, usually increasing our physical activity expenditure,” she says. In other words, you can increase your metabolism to maintain a new weight, but you’re not necessarily changing your body’s set point. “If we bring the activity back down, then the body will likely go back to the way it was,” she says.
Setting Goals and Managing Expectations
If it seems like your set point weight is at odds with your goal weight, don’t throw in the towel just yet. “It is not impossible to lose weight and keep it off,” says Natalie Digate Muth, M.D., a dual board-certified pediatrician and obesity medicine physician and registered dietitian based in Carlsbad, California. “But it’s probably not due to a change in set point but rather a continued and conscientious effort to increase energy expenditure through significant amounts of moderate to vigorous exercise and consumption of healthful, portion-controlled foods.”
To make a lasting change, start by upping your level of physical activity. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, Lofton says that able, active people should aim for around 240 minutes of exercise performed at an exertional rate — in other words, a leisurely gallop on the elliptical won’t cut it: You should be huffing and puffing. And don’t ignore strength training, which can improve your overall physique and change your body composition for the better, even if it doesn’t necessarily change the number on the scale.
“If you increase your muscle mass and simultaneously decrease your fat mass, your body is more metabolically active,” Lofton explains. “So you’re burning calories more efficiently even though your weight has not changed. But you’re still at the same weight because you have gained muscle and lost the same amount of fat.”
Theoretically, then, if you gain muscle and lose fat, you might not lose physical weight, but your body might be satisfied since you’re still at your set point and keep you there.
If meal planning is a source of confusion, it may be worth your time to schedule an appointment with a dietitian who can test your RMR and provide you with a recommendation for daily caloric intake. Interestingly, Antonucci sees many weight-loss patients who are chronically under-eating. “They keep getting better and better at the diet game and somehow end up eating less than they need for weight loss,” she says. “Their body gets confused and their metabolic rate goes down and they’re no longer losing. The only answer is to eat up to their metabolic rate. Then their metabolism will go up, and then they will stay there because their metabolism has changed.”
And remember that weight is just one of many available corporeal metrics. Considering body-fat percentage, waist circumference, how your clothes fit or simply how you look and feel is likely to give you a more accurate reading of your level of fitness. “You would be hard-pressed to find a person coming out of my office who can tell you we set a weight-loss goal for any time frame,” Antonucci says. “We set very specific, food-oriented, habit-changing behavior and exercise goals that, over time, are probably going to lead to weight loss if it’s desirable and healthy for people.”
Up the Ante
Holly Lofton, M.D., suggests performing 240 minutes of intense exercise per week. Increase your time under tension with this 20-minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible), which can be used as a finisher or as a quick, stand-alone workout.
In 20 minutes, complete as many rounds as possible of the following:
- 5 walkouts to plank push-ups
- 20 jumping floor-tap squats
- 15 knee-ins
- 20 mountain climbers
- 5 long jumps
- 10 burpees
- 20 alternating jumping lunges
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Choose the best preworkout and postworkout foods to eat around your specific fitness routine for optimal performance, recovery and results.
If you’re like most people, your actual workout time logs in at roughly an hour, but what happens during the other 23 hours of the day is what ultimately determines your results, especially when it comes to nutrition. What you eat before and after a workout is a crucial element in your programming, and choosing wisely will help you get the results you want.
But not all foods are appropriate for fueling your specific activity. For instance, you’d never eat fried chicken right before running a marathon — unless you want to revisit it shortly after mile one — and you’d never just eat a plain salad after a tough metcon, since lettuce alone will not give your body what it needs to recover and rebuild your tissues.
Here, we’ve uncovered the latest in sports science nutrition to divine the best foods and eating patterns to use around specific activities. This will help you determine how to gas up before training and top off your tank when you’re done. Use these as a guideline to fuel your machine and hit the road to Resultsville.
Power Up With Protein
Research published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition shows that eating protein as part of your pre-lift nosh can help reduce muscle protein breakdown and encourage better gains afterward. But don’t pound a burger before hitting the squat rack (hello, gut bomb). Instead, have a light preworkout snack with some easy-to-digest protein and carbs about 30 minutes before training.
Eat This: Power Balls
Soak 1½ cups of dried Mission figs (stems trimmed) in hot water for 30 minutes. Drain, pat dry and process in a food processor with 1/3 cup of plain protein powder, ¼ cup of cocoa powder, ¼ cup of almond butter, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, zest of one orange, juice of ½ an orange and pinch of salt. Form mixture into 1-inch balls and keep chilled. Eat two balls before a workout.
In a head-to-head comparison, researchers from the University of Illinois found that providing people with 18 grams of protein from whole eggs after lifting weights was about 40 percent more effective at stimulating myofibrillar protein synthetic response (aka muscle building) than egg whites alone. The protein in egg whites is complete, meaning it contains the right mix of essential amino acids, but it’s likely that the fat and other nutrients found in the egg yolk work synergistically with the protein in the egg whites to help battle-worn muscles recover.
Eat This: High-Pro Egg on Toast
Mash two hard-boiled eggs with 2 teaspoons of pesto and ¼ cup of plain Greek yogurt. Spread on a piece of toasted whole-grain bread.
Gotta Have Ricotta
Ricotta is a standout source of leucine, the most muscle-friendly amino you can eat after pumping iron. According to research, leucine behaves like a hormone in your body, sparking muscle protein synthesis in response to weight training. Eat a leucine source such as ricotta with an equal ratio of carbs to raise insulin levels and encourage more efficient protein assimilation.
Eat This: Bodybuilder Bowl
Stir together ½ cup of part-skim ricotta cheese and 1 scoop of whey protein powder in a bowl. Top with 1/3 cup of muesli and ½ cup of chopped pineapple.
Get the Blues
Researchers from Appalachian State University in North Carolina found that consuming blueberries before intense exercise reduced the markers of muscle damage. The high level of antioxidants in blueberries work to reduce the stress associated with vigorous exercise like high-intensity interval training, and their natural sugars provide a source of quick-digesting energy so you can work at a higher intensity for longer. Combine blueberries with some protein 30 to 60 minutes before interval training to prevent your body from tapping into your muscles for energy.
Eat This: Blueberry Rice Cakes
Spread 1 tablespoon of cream cheese on a rice cake and top with 1/3 cup of blueberries and 1 teaspoon of unsalted, dry-roasted sunflower seeds.
A study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that subjects who consumed a bowl of whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk after moderate interval exercise experienced better recovery: The carbs restored spent glycogen reserves, while the milk protein reduced muscle breakdown. As little as 9 grams (1 cup) of a postworkout milk-based protein is enough to kick-start the muscle-making process.
Eat This: Simply Cereal
Add 1 cup of a 100 percent whole-grain, low-sugar cereal to a bowl and top with 1 cup of low-fat milk and a small handful each of walnuts and dried tart cherries.
Joe to Go
Recent research found that adding caffeine to post-exercise carbs can improve performance in subsequent interval training sessions four hours later. It might be that a shot of caffeine increases how much glycogen is produced from the carbs consumed, allowing you to tap into more energy reserves to push harder. Add a little protein to repair the micro-tears in your muscle fibers and accelerate recovery while also quelling hunger.
Drink This: Coffee Cure
Blend 1 cup of brewed coffee, 1 scoop of plain or vanilla protein powder, 1 tablespoon of almond butter, 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 chopped frozen banana.
Boost Blood Flow
Research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported that subjects who drank about 2 cups of watermelon juice an hour before working out had less muscle soreness 24 hours later. L-citrulline, a naturally occurring amino acid in watermelon, is thought to increase blood flow to muscles, flushing out metabolic wastes and delivering reparative nutrients.
Eat This: Watermelon Warm-Up
Scoop ¾ cup of plain low-fat Greek yogurt into a bowl and top with chopped watermelon, 1 tablespoon of roasted pumpkin seeds and a drizzle of honey.
Colds vs. Carbs
Including quality carbs in your CrossFit recovery plan not only replaces spent energy stores but also could keep the sniffles at bay. According to research, carb-rich foods like spuds, grains and fruit appear to prevent the drop in immunity that occurs in response to intense exercise, making it harder for viruses to invade your body and beat you down.
Eat This: Sweet Potato “Toast” Sandwich
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the ends off a sweet potato, then slice lengthwise into ¼-inch slices. Place on a baking sheet in a single layer, brush with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes, flip, brush with more oil and roast another 10 minutes, or until fork-tender. Spread hummus on potato “toast” and top with sliced roasted chicken.
Studies show that higher intakes of omega-3 fatty acids such as are found in salmon, sardines and mackerel may translate into reduced delayed onset muscle soreness: When omega-3s enter muscle cells, they limit the exercise-induced damage that causes painful inflammation and may even turn on pathways in the body that increase lean body mass.
Eat This: Salmon Savior
Spread 2 tablespoons of cream cheese on two rye crackers like Wasa and top with 3 ounces of sliced smoked salmon and ¼ cup of sliced roasted red peppers.
In an International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism study, people who ate chicken noodle soup before cycling drank and retained more water during the ride than those who just downed H2O. Sodium and other aspects of the soup seem to bring about a change in kidney function that promotes better hydration, and the noodles will give you some necessary energizing carbs for endurance.
Eat This: Pregame Potage
Warm up a quality store-bought soup such as Pacific Organic Chicken Noodle about 30 to 60 minutes before cardio. If you need more carbohydrate calories, eat some whole-wheat crackers along with it.
Beyond the benefits of restocking energy stores and healing muscles, British researchers showed that people who consumed protein and carbs in a 3-to-1 ratio after a treadmill run experienced less bone breakdown and increased bone formation. Cottage cheese has all the protein you need for speedy recovery, while add-ins like granola and fruit will please your carb-thirsty muscles.
Eat This: Bone-Bolstering Bowl
Blend together ¾ cup of low-fat cottage cheese, 2 teaspoons of
peanut butter, ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 frozen chopped banana. Pour into a bowl and top with raspberries and granola.
Put a Cherry on Top
Pucker up: Several studies show that the antioxidants in tart cherries (particularly the American-grown Montmorency variety) can promote better recovery from exercise, including decreasing muscle inflammation due to repetitive motions such as running. And when consumed after endurance exercise, the simple carbs in dried fruit are more likely to be stored as glycogen than as fat.
Eat This: Power Wrap
Stir together 1/3 cup of ricotta cheese with 1 tablespoon of almond butter, 1 teaspoon of maple syrup and ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. Spread on a whole-grain wrap, and sprinkle with a handful of dried tart cherries.
Mix It Up
If you hit the mat without eating, your body won’t have the pep needed to hold that Crane Pose. Trail mix provides a nice mix of carbs, protein and fat to keep your energy up and your stomach satisfied. Since trail mix tends to be low-glycemic, eating a handful or two will encourage your body to tap into fat stores to power your vinyasa.
Eat This: Ohm-M-G Mix
In a large bowl, toss together 4 cups of air-popped popcorn, 3 ounces of chopped jerky, ¾ cup of pecans, ½ cup of dried cranberries, ½ cup of dark chocolate chips and 1/3 cup of pumpkin seeds (pepitas).
Hydration and Immunization
Though big on mobility and relaxation, most yoga sessions don’t burn a ton of calories, so post-ohm look for something light and refreshing such as cantaloupe, which is packed with water for rehydration and natural sugars for re-energizing. Eat it with yogurt to tame any post-Warrior I hunger and mend hurting muscles. Bonus: The probiotics found in yogurt may work to bolster immunity in those who like to regularly work up a sweat.
Eat This: Cantaloupe Recoup
Scoop the seeds from a cantaloupe half and fill with plain yogurt. Sprinkle on 1 tablespoon of pistachios and 1 tablespoon of sliced mint.
The antioxidants and minerals in dark greens like spinach contribute to muscle recovery from more intense forms of yoga that require you to pump out one hard move after another.
Drink This: Green-Machine Smoothie
Blend 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk, 1 scoop of protein powder, 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed, 1 cup of baby spinach and ½ cup of frozen mango cubes.
Helping Hands The sports-nutrition market is so replete with powders, bars and gels, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Here are some of our top picks to power your workouts.
Organic Valley Organic Fuel Whey Protein Powder
This whey protein sourced from organic milk is great for post-gym smoothies, flooding your body with recovery-boosting amino acids.
organicvalley.coop, $30 (12 oz)
HealthySkoop Endurance Beets
Mix this beet powder with water preworkout for a hefty dose of nitrites, which have been shown to increase blood flow to muscles, allowing them to operate more efficiently during training.
healthyskoop.com, $24 (7.7 oz)
GoMacro Thrive Ginger Lemon Bar
With a good balance of carbs, protein and fat, this bar is great for taking the edge off before a workout. Made from 100 percent plant-based ingredients.
gomacro.com, $26 (12 bars)
Munk Pack Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Protein Cookie
Combine your recovery fuel with dessert with this gluten-free cookie that contains 18 grams of non-GMO plant-based protein.
munkpack.com, $17 (pack of 6)
Made in Nature Figgy Pops Mocha Almond Pop a couple of these 100 percent organic, responsibly sourced, whole-food nutrition balls infused with ground espresso for a preworkout energy boost.
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Skip the side effects most pain medications cause in favor of a cure grown by Mother Nature herself.
If you’ve ever suffered from chronic pain (such as arthritis), acute pain (an injury) or muscle soreness after a particularly tough workout, then you know you’ll do just about anything to find relief: ice, heat, compression, acupuncture, meditation, anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers and even prescription pain pills. While some of these treatment options are safe, others — namely, the medications — can cause a host of side effects.
In fact, more than 100 Americans die each day from opioid-related drug overdoses, such as OxyContin and Vicodin. Regular use of these medications can increase your tolerance and dependence, possibly leading to addiction. They also can negatively affect your respiratory and digestive systems, menstruation, weight and mental health. It’s no wonder that in 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency and announced a plan to combat this opioid epidemic.
So how can you find pain relief without popping pills? Cannabis.
What Is Cannabidiol (CBD)?
Now you may be thinking, “Whoa, I haven’t smoked pot since that one concert in college” or “I have a job and a family and can’t risk dabbling with drugs.” No worries. We’re actually referencing a completely different part of the cannabis plant than the one used for partying.
CBD, which stands for cannabidiol, is a naturally occurring molecule in hemp plants that provides a multitude of health benefits. On the other hand, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the molecule that produces the psychoactive high recreational cannabis users enjoy. That means, you can rely on topical CBD products (oils, creams, sprays and gels) for their medicinal properties without experiencing any intoxicating or mind-altering effects. As a result, CBDs are legal in all 50 states, with no restrictions on usage. Additionally, since they do not enter your bloodstream, they won’t show up on drug tests — a crucial component for elite athletes and most anyone with an employer.
It’s also important to note that not all hemp products contain high levels of CBD — in fact, most hemp oil and hempseeds found in grocery stores don’t contain any.
Natural Pain Relief Alternative
Though clinical research is still in its infancy, numerous studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that CBD can help alleviate an array of ailments.
“Topical CBD products are excellent for the management of aches and pains that can prevent you from doing chores and living the lifestyle you desire,” says Kersten Gaba, clinical research nurse and cofounder of Basic Jane, a company that uses plant-based ingredients to create natural remedies. “We have found excellent results with the elderly and people who use their bodies a lot, such as hikers, climbers and golfers.”
Specifically, CBD has been found to help with the following:
Pain. In one study, data indicates that topical CBD application has long-lasting therapeutic effects for arthritis pain and inflammation relief — and without any evidence of side effects.
Inflammation. Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory response and also may be beneficial in certain types of cancers that are triggered by chronic inflammation. Someday, they could serve as a new class of anti-inflammatory agents for various inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
Anxiety. Another study found evidence that strongly supports CBD as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive–compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sleep. Preliminary research suggests that CBDs may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia. Plus, they may have short-term benefits for sleep apnea, REM sleep behavior disorder and excessive daytime sleepiness. Finally, CBDs may reduce nightmares associated with PTSD and improve sleep among patients suffering from chronic pain.
“Our customers like the idea of being able to target pain relief topically, without taking a pill,” says Jessica Tonani, a biotechnology professional and co-founder of Basic Jane. “For those living with chronic joint pain, a quick application to your knuckles, knees or wrists can allow you to enjoy the activities you love. We suggest gym-goers keep a topical CBD product on hand for use as a localized desensitization before or after a workout.”
While topical CBDs have not been found to cause any discernable side effects, expectant mothers should discuss usage with their physician.
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