Energy-Boosting Smoothie

Energy-Boosting Avocado Spinach Smoothie

One thing I swear by when it comes to weight loss, fat loss, muscle building, and general health, is drinking a delicious, nutrient-packed smoothie every day. I usually drink mine first thing in the morning to kick-start my day, and when I’m stuck at work for a long time, I’ll bring the ingredients and make one there for me as well. Not only will this smoothie detox your system and provide you with much-needed nutrients, but it will also help your hair, skin, and nails look and feel amazing, and it will also help curb cravings throughout the day. And if you need any more reasons to join me in this healthy habit, just know that it tastes great too!

The really important ingredient in this smoothie is the avocado. Avocados are packed with healthy fats, which give you energy that doesn’t leave you “crashing” later on, unlike sugar. They also work wonders for your skin and hair, and they give any smoothie a great thick consistency. For more info on healthy fats, check out this article where I talk about it in more depth.

One more quick note here: If it at all possible, be sure to buy organic fruit and vegetables. Not only do they taste better, but you don’t want to blend up all the pesticides and that crap in your healthy smoothie. It kind of defeats the purpose.. If something is not available organic at your grocery store, just wash it really well with cold water before you slice, eat, or blend it.

Ingredients:

  • Handful of spinach
  • 1/4 of an avocado (work up to putting in a half if you want)
  • 1/4 of a cucumber
  • 2 baby carrots
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1/4 cup non-fat Greek yogurt (I like the flavored kind, but plain is technically better for you. This part is optional.)
  • 1 banana
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/4 cup of orange juice, or a couple orange slices squeezed in (the OJ is also optional. It helps with the taste, but it does add extra sugar to the smoothie)
  • a handful of blueberries and strawberries
  • about 1/2 cup of water (make sure the liquid combined isn’t too much. Start with less water and add it if it needs more)
  • a cup of ice

Blend all ingredients and enjoy!

I want to know what you think! Leave comments and questions below :)

If you liked this recipe, make sure you check out my other juicing recipes, and my new favorite homemade protein bars!

 

Super Easy Protein Bars

protein bars

After quite a bit of searching for a simple but delicious protein bar recipe, I ran across this one on Pinterest. It was originally pinned from thehappyhealthfreak.com, so thank you, happy health freak. These protein bars are one of my favorite things to eat, they take 10 mins or less to prepare, and they have only 1 tablespoon of sugar (or stevia). I also added coconut flakes, chocolate chips, and walnuts to the mix so they’re a little more exciting, but do as you please.

You can find the original recipe here, but here’s what I do:

1/2 cup old fashioned oats

1/2 cup quick oats

1/2 cup of your favorite protein powder — I use vanilla

2 tablespoons ground flaxseed (I have never put this in there, but it wouldn’t hurt)

1 tablespoon baking soda

1/2 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon powder stevia or sweetener of your choice (I use real sugar, whatever)

1 cup applesauce (unsweetened)

1/2 cup natural peanut butter or PB2

1/4 cup egg whites, or 1 whole egg

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1/2 cup walnuts chopped

1/4 cup chocolate chips if desired :)

Mix the first 7 ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix all the wet ingredients together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well. Add the coconut, walnuts, and chocolate chips (if desired) and mix thoroughly. The batter will be thick. Pour into a greased 8×8 pan, and be sure it is evenly distributed. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 mins or until a knife inserted will come out clean.

Nutritional info for one bar (this is for the original recipe, not necessarily for my version)
123 Calories, 16g Carbs, 2g Fat, 12g Protein, 85mg Sodium, 4g Sugar.

Enjoy! For more great healthy recipes, check these out!

 

 

Is Your Cardio Really Working?

Is Your Cardio Really Working?

Have you ever noticed the “heart rate” area of a treadmill or elliptical and wondered what that was for exactly, or why it matters? Or do you think it’s just for old people or people with health conditions? Well it’s not, and knowing your target heart rate could be your ticket to doing some serious fat-burning!

There are actually two target heart rates to consider. The first is your fat-burning zone. It’s right above the “warm-up” level, and below the heart-pounding cardio level. Depending on your age and fitness level, you can be at the fat-burning heart rate while walking briskly or lightly jogging. At this pace, your body uses its stored fat for energy.

The second is your cardio zone. At this level your body uses both fat and muscle as energy, so this will definitely slim you down if you think you look too bulky. Just be careful, because doing a lot of “cardio zone” cardio can make you appear flabby and melt away hard-earned muscle.

To calculate your target fat-burning zone heart rate, follow this formula:

220 – {your age} x .6 = fat burning zone

To calculate cardio zone:

220 – {your age} x .85 = cardio zone

Knowing your target heart rate allows you to make sure every cardio session does exactly what you want it to do. Personally, I like to do 5 minutes of fat-burning, then 5 minutes of cardio, and repeat for about half an hour. Play around with different ways to get your heart rate at the proper level, use different cardio machines, and see what works best for you!

 

 

 

 

Fat-Burning Treadmill Workout

cardio2

This is my favorite treadmill workout because it’s HIIT, and it has enough variety for time to pass quickly. I usually this for 30-40 minutes.

  1. Warmup — Walking 3 minutes. Speed: 3.5
  2. Side shuffles right. 45 seconds. Speed 3.0. (Start at 2.5 just to get the hang of it, and increase as much as you are comfortable with. Keep knees bent and arms in front of you when shuffling.)
  3. Side shuffles left. 45 seconds. Speed 3.0.
  4. Sprint. 30 seconds. Speed 8.0.
  5. Walk. 1 minute. Speed 3.2.

Repeat (excluding the warmup) until 30 minutes is up.

The treadmill speeds that are listed here are close to what I do. If it seems too hard or too easy for you, simply adjust as needed! Remember to keep pushing yourself each time. Try sprinting a few seconds longer than you did last time, or increase the speed a little every time :)

Shoulders and Back

shoulders and back

A lot of girls (me included, at one time) don’t think they need to develop their shoulders and back because they don’t want to look manly. But trust me, a well-toned back is one of the sexiest body parts you can have! This workout will help build narrow shoulders, help get rid of “armpit fat,” love handles, and back fat. Yeah, none of that is attractive. And the benefit to having muscular shoulders is that it makes your body more proportioned and narrows your waist, giving you more of that desired V-shape.

Circuit 1: Shoulders

1. Heavy alternating dumbbell shoulder press

shoulder press (Use the heaviest weight you can for these, if you want to build some shoulder muscle and definition. If you only want to tone, use light weight. Heavy weight= a weight where your max reps is 6-10. Light weight max reps should be 15-20. I like to do these seated on a bench, especially when using heavy weight.)

2. Front raise (20)

front raise (Use a light weight)

3. Incline bench lateral raise (15)

incline bench (Use a light weight. The reason for doing it on the incline bench is to keep constant tension on the shoulder to make the exercise more effective.)

4. Rear delt flys (light weight, 15)

You can either use dumbbells while bent at the waist as in this picture:

rear delt fly

Or you can use a rear delt machine:

rear delt machine

Rest 45 seconds. Repeat for 3x total.

Circuit 2: Back

1. Chin ups (on assisted machine if necessary) (15)

assisted chin up

2. Lat pulldown (15)

lat pulldown (use a medium-wide grip as shown)

3. Bent over row (barbell or dumbbell) (15)

bent over row (Be sure to use the underhand grip as shown. This recruits your lower lats, which gives your waist a more tapered look!)

4. Seated row (15)

seated row (Be sure to keep your back straight and chest out. Feel free to use this, or any seated row machine that your gym has).

Rest 45 seconds. Repeat for 3x total.

Circuit 3: Cardio

I purposely left out an abs session today so that they can recover, and so that you have plenty of energy for a good cardio sesh! Sometimes I like to do my cardio first, sometimes I feel like doing it after, so the order is up to you. Just make sure you get a solid 20-30 minutes of HIIT or 40 minutes of steady-pace.

Click here for my absolute favorite treadmill workout that doubles for a leg-slimmer too!

Bikini Butt Workout

Brazilian Butt Workout

Circuit 1: Warmup/Abs

  1. Overhead dumbbell or cable side bend (low weight) (20 each side)

side bend (If using a cable, hold the handle above your head and bend sideways, using your obliques)

2. Cable crunches (30)

cable crunch

3. Lying heel touch (20 each side)

heel touch

Rest 45 seconds. Repeat 3x total.

Circuit 2:

1. Wide stance sumo squat (15)

Variation 1: With barbell:

wide stance

Or Variation 2: With kettleball or dumbbell (heavier weight):

wide stance2

2. Single leg deadlift (15 each side) (10-15lb dumbbells)

single leg deadlift

3. Weighted split squats (15 each side) (Use a Smith machine for better balance. Make sure your front leg and glute muscle are the only ones working.)

split squat2

4. Jumping jacks (100).

jumping-jacks1

Rest 45 seconds. Repeat 3x total.

Circuit 3:

  1. Step up + leg lift (15 each side. Use 10-15 lb dumbbells or a 20 lb barbell if you can. Unlike the picture, make sure you lift that back leg parallel to the floor.)

step up leg lift

2. Lying hamstring curl (12. Use the heaviest weight you can do 12 of.)

legcurl legcurl2

Or if you don’t have that machine, hamstring stability ball curls are also good! (Do 20)

lying ball

3. Hip extension with weight in knee (20 each side)

donkey kick

Follow the picture above, but hold 5lb dumbbell behind knee as shown below:

donkey kick weight

4. Squat jumps (40)

(You can use your arms for momentum, or keep them wherever feels comfortable for you. Aim to get really low and achieve maximum air for these!)

squat jumps

Rest 45 seconds. Repeat 3x total.

Cool down! Make sure you stretch and walk those muscles out so you’re not too sore the next day.

Great job! This is one of the days that I recommend a pre-workout, or some coffee beforehand, along with a solid meal of carbs and proteins an hour before the workout.

Tips:

When I first started doing a program that involved not using machines 100% of the time, I felt kind of awkward at the gym, and sometimes I would skip exercises that I felt would be too weird to do with everyone there. DON’T DO THAT. As soon as I got the guts to just do it and ignore everyone else, I noticed much better results in my fitness level, as well as more confidence in the gym! People at the gym come up to me all the time now and say I look like I really know what I’m doing, or they ask for suggestions for new exercises that they can do too. Usually the weird, conspicuous exercises are the ones that work the best! So don’t be afraid to make a little corner of the gym yours, put everything you need for one circuit there, and just do your thing.

Cardio And Abs Workout

cardio and abs

Circuit 1: (Repeat circuit 3x total)

  1. Lying Hip Lifts (20) (Use lower abs to lift hips)

hip lift

2. Stability Ball V-Up (15) (Use lower abs to raise legs)

v up

3. Stability Ball Crunches (20) (Be sure to get full back extension in “A”)

crunches

Rest 45 seconds.

Circuit 2: (Repeat circuit 3x total)

1. Side Plank With Dip (20 each side) (Feel the burn in your obliques)

side plank

2. Side Plank With Rotation (add dumbbell when ready) (12 each side) (Use abs to twist)

side-plank-rotation.preview

3. Reverse Crunches (20) (Use lower abs to pull up legs and lift hips)

reverse crunch

Rest 45 seconds.

Circuit 3: Cardio!

Feel free to choose the type of cardio you want to do, but don’t do the same type of cardio every time you workout. (i.e. using the same machine, the same level, the same intensity, etc). Here are my favorite cardio workouts:

  1. 20 minutes of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) on the elliptical, treadmill, or stationary bike. HIIT means you set the controls to “Interval.” When the level is difficult you sprint, and when it’s easy you go slowly and rest. Your “sprint” or “work” interval should last between 15 and 30 seconds, but you should not be able to do it longer than that. If you can, it’s too easy and you need to make the level harder. Try my favorite treadmill HIIT workout for some good ideas.
  2. 20 minutes of HIIT on the step master. Watch this video to see how that is done the best! I would only recommend using the step master once or twice a week.
  3. 40 minutes of steady pace cardio on the elliptical, treadmill, or stationary bike.
  4. 30 minutes of steady pace cardio on the step master.

I am a HUGE believer in HIIT because it burns twice the fat in half the time. How is that not the best thing ever? I never really saw great results in my fitness level when I only did steady pace cardio, so if you’re looking for the next step to torch that fat, you’ve found it! I can do three sessions of HIIT on the step master one week and see a full on six-pack by the end. It’s amazing, let me tell you.

So there you go! Make sure you’re really going slowly through your abs exercises so you recruit those abs, and try not to half-ass them by the end. Speed is NOT essential to making those exercises work!

Good luck with the workout, and let’s burn some calories!

Arms and Chest Circuit

toned arms and chest

Circuit 1 – Abs Warmup: (Repeat circuit 3x total)

  1. V-up with toe touch (add dumbbells when ready) (15)

v-up

2. Stability ball plank (hold for 30 seconds to a minute)

stability-ball-plank

3.  Russian twists (30 total)

RussianTwist

Rest 45 seconds.

Circuit 2 – Chest: (Repeat circuit 3x total, without pausing between each exercise)

  1. Dumbbell pec fly on incline bench (15)

pec fly

2.   Dumbbell chest press on incline bench (15)

chest press

3.   Pushups (to failure)

Rest 45 seconds.

Circuit 3 – Arms: (Repeat circuit 3x total, without pausing between each exercise)

  1. Walking lunges with dumbbell bicep curls (30 total)

walking lunges

2.    Reverse lunge with hammer curl (30 total)

reverse lunge (Be sure to step backwards, instead of forwards like you did in the previous exercise, and, unlike the picture, keep palms facing each other when you curl up.)

3.     Tricep pulldown (20)

tricep pulldown

4.    Tricep dip (using assisted dip/pullup machine, or from a bench) (20)

tricep dip

[Read How To Do a Tricep Dip here for hints and tricks!]

Rest 45 seconds.

That’s it! Now realistically, if you must rest between each exercise, do so because I don’t want you to pass out or not be able to finish the workout, especially if you haven’t previously worked out your upper body very much. My recommendation is to use lighter weights if you want to simply tone and define your arms. If you’re trying to get some size, use heavier weight. And by “light weight,” I mean whatever is really heavy by reps 15-20. “Heavy weight” should be very difficult by rep 6 or so.

If you need to get some cardio in, I would suggest to do it today (chest and arms day), on shoulders and back day, and of course the cardio and abs day. That way you’re not missing cardio sessions, and you don’t have to do them on a leg or butt day (trust me, you don’t be able to). I like to start my workout with either a 20-minute HIIT session, or a 40-minute low-intensity session, like jogging, cycling, or uphill walking (rotate HIIT and low-intensity back and forth day to day).

Spring Break Workout Plan

Spring Break Workout Plan

It’s starting to show up everywhere. In Target with the huge bikini display, the mall with all the workout clothes, and definitely Pinterest with everyone’s “get into shape” boards, showcasing motivational toned abs and a perky butt. Oh yeah, and at the gym! Did you even know that many people have a membership to your gym?? Welp, you guessed it… IT’S SPRING BREAK SEASON!!!!

And unless you’re a crazy gym-goer and have eaten nothing bad for you at all since the holidays, you might be getting a little panicky about how to lose those last few pounds and get that toned muscle that you know is hiding somewhere beneath your winter layer. Instead of frantically scouring the Internet for quick-working fad diets that you know you’ll give up by this weekend, keep calm and read on :). I’ve got you taken care of.

I’m going to share with you my meal plans and workouts that have helped me make more progress over the past 2 months than I’ve ever had, ever. We’ll be doing these together since my spring break vacay starts EXACTLY one month from today, and we can record our progress together!

The Way It Works

You’ll be following a basic 5-day program that you repeat every week until your deadline. Since our bodies quickly adapt to any workout, you can modify the workouts to get some variety week to week, and I’ll post my modifications so we can all be on the same page.

Workouts

Here is the 5-day plan to be repeated (with modification) week to week:

I will post the exercise circuits and modification ideas for each day on a separate post and link them back to that list.

Diet

The best way to lose weight, burn fat, and tone up is to have a diet high in lean protein and healthy fats, and low in carbohydrates. You should only be eating carbohydrates at breakfast, if you want, and after a workout. Vegetables are free-for-all and should be consumed at every meal! Fruit is ok, but stick to the ones lowest in sugar and high in antioxidants, like grapefruit, and berries.

Proteins:

  • ground turkey
  • extra lean ground beef
  • chicken
  • fish
  • salmon
  • egg whites

Fats:

  • almonds
  • mixed nuts
  • avocado
  • natural almond butter
  • natural peanut butter (I don’t recommend a lot of peanut butter though)
  • fish oil
  • egg yolks

Healthy Carbohydrates: (slow-digesting as opposed to quick-digesting)

  • brown rice
  • quinoa
  • sweet potatoes
  • oatmeal

Try to eat at least 4 small meals a day, so your metabolism increases and you burn through calories quicker. To help you out, here is my basic meal plan for a typical day:

  • First I have a detoxifying smoothie with spinach or kale, cucumbers, peppers, celery, lemon juice, and half a banana. You can find more recipes for delicious ones here!
  • Breakfast: Ground beef and eggs, oatmeal if you want (fats in the morning keep your energy levels up all day!)
  • Lunch: Spinach salad with grilled chicken, veggies, and a vinaigrette dressing
  • 2nd Lunch (?) or Post-Workout Meal: Ground turkey with eggs, brown rice, steamed broccoli + mixed nuts
  • Dinner: White fish or chicken, steamed mixed veggies
  • Snack: Mixed nuts, berries, raw veggies

Other, more exciting recipes to choose from are here!

Notice that the amount of calories tapers by the end of the day, so that when you go to sleep you don’t pack on pounds by unused calories consumed too late in the day. Make sure you avoid at all costs all fast food, processed foods, sugary foods AND DRINKS (yup that means Starbucks frappuccinos are out!), especially towards the end of the day. For best results, I would also recommend cutting out most dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt.

Tips

I don’t know why, but by bedtime my self-discipline always dwindles, and I’m very prone to breaking my rules and having ice cream at night. That’s why I make a point to drink a lot of water towards the end of the day to stay full, have some of my favorite flavored tea to sip when I have a sweet tooth (honey isn’t too bad), and go to bed as soon as I start getting tired so I avoid staying up and eating.

I can’t wait to go on this journey with you guys! It’s going to be a hard road sometimes, but when you can post those pictures on Instagram and Twitter of you looking hot next to all your friends in a bikini, you’ll be SO GLAD you did this!

Good luck and let’s get started!

Read about the Top 5 Mistakes Women Make In the Gym , 10 Fat-Loss Tips for Women, and check out the Workouts page for more exercise ideas!

My Top 10 Thigh-Slimming Exercises

glutes hamstrings quads exercises

One of the biggest things I’ve learned the past few months is the importance of incorporating plyometric movements into your leg workouts. These consist of all the different exercises you can do with your body weight that will get your heart rate up quickly. Plyometrics burn fat faster and build lean muscle more efficiently than weight-lifting alone, especially if you’re looking to “slim” and “tone” rather than “bulk.”

So here are my top 10 favorite, tried-and-true, and proven thigh-slimming exercises! You can use these as a circuit. Do each set one after another without a break, then pause for 30 seconds, and repeat the circuit 2 more times.

1. Curtsy lunge (15 ea. leg) (skip to 1:16 for demonstration)

curtsy lunge

2. Box frog jumps (10) (skip to 0:25 for demonstration)

box-jump

3. Bodyweight squat, feet together (20)

bodyweight squat

4. Russian hops (15 ea leg) (skip to 2:18 for demonstration)

split-jumps (Keep hands in front of you if that’s more comfortable. Hold the lunge position for one second before switching.)

5. Lateral side lunge (15 ea leg) (skip to 0:27 for demonstration)

lateral lunge

6. Jumping jacks (50)

jumping-jacks2

7. Weighted step-ups onto bench (15 ea leg) (Use a light barbell or dumbbells)

step upsstep ups barbell

8. In and out low jacks (20) (skip to 0:12 for demonstration)

low jacks

9. Reverse lunges (15 ea leg)

reverse lunge2

10. Squat jumps (20)

squat jumps

Note: Click on the exercises that are underlined for a video demo of the exercise.

Notice how every other exercise is a plyometric movement? This will help you burn a ton of calories and get the most out of your workout! Try to get through each circuit without pausing, but if you must at first that’s ok. The important thing is to get it all done!

Good luck! Let me know in the comments how this worked for you :)

Be sure to check out my other workout tips and some more great glute, hamstring, and quad workouts!