All Posts By

Natasha Samuel

5 Fitness Gifts For Under $20

‘Tis the season for new fitness gear fa la la la la la la la la.

The season for festive decorations, chilly weather, and copious amounts of holiday treats is upon us. With final exams ending and a much-needed break beginning, what’s not to be excited about in December? 

The holiday season is the perfect time to show the ones you love how much you really care about them. What better way to do this than with fitness gifts?!

No matter what stage of their fitness journey they may be, anyone can appreciate a thoughtful gift with a healthy lifestyle in mind. There’s no better gift to kick off 2018 with than a stocking full of fitness goodies. Our Fit University Fam weighed in and compiled a list of gifts that can easily be packed into a loved one’s stocking. No need to worry about budget or time, we’ve got you covered with gifts all under $20 and conveniently purchased through Amazon.

5 fitness gifts for under $20

1. BlenderBottle ProStack System $12.30

This BlenderBottle is even better than the traditional shaker bottle. Not only is it perfect for shaking any supplements or powders, this bottle has a section for storing anything imaginable. From snacks to their favorite supplements, this gift is perfect for the gym junkie on your list. 

Gifting tip: Fill the bottle with snacks and supplements that you think your loved one would love to try.

2. Otium Wireless Sports Earphones $19.99

Now I know what you’re thinking, $19.99 for a knock-off pair of Beats wireless headphones are too good to be true. But these gems work just as good if not better than my Beats headphones! These bad boys are waterproof, long-lasting, and sound canceling- basically meaning they’re the perfect gift for anyone on your list. This gift thoughtful for anyone who loves to jam out in the gym.

3. Headwrap & Sweatband Set Of 5 $16.99

Treat your loved one to a luxurious headband that will be a great gift for the yogi, runner, or heavy lifter in your life. This gift is a great stocking stuffer and a thoughtful gift that people often forget to get themselves.

Gifting tip: Split this pack of 5 between numerous friends on your gift list and share the love. 

 

4. Resistance Bands- Set of 5 $9.69

No matter their fitness level, this is a great gift for those looking to try something new. Since they can be used in numerous different ways depending on the intensity, resistance bands can cater to anyone’s needs while helping fill a fitness junkies dream stocking. 

Gifting tip: If you don’t think resistance bands will be their thing, a jump rope or gliding disks would be an excellent stocking stuffer.

5. Fitlosophy Fitspiration Journal $19.95

This gift is a different spin on the traditional workout logbook. For beginners looking to track progress or those with experience in the gym, this journal offers inspiration for staying on track and achieving health goals. 

 

These gifts are sure to save you money while being convenient. Give the gift of health to your loved one by creating the ultimate fitness-lovers stocking that anyone in your life can appreciate.

Happy Holidays from your Fit University family!

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A Hungry Girl On A Juice Cleanse

I never thought I could survive on liquid until now. 

I will be the first to admit that I LOVE food. Not only do I love food, but I love to eat. I was blessed with an endless appetite and speedy metabolism that encourages me to grub regularly. 

My love for food has inspired me to learn how to fuel my body with the best food I can. Cold-pressed juice is one of my healthy favorites for the energy and nutrients it deliverers to my body. My body flourished off juice, so much so that I have been in a serious relationship with my juicer since I was gifted it last Christmas. 

With this being said, I never would have believed you if you told me that I would one day try a juice cleanse. But here I am about to embark on my second juice cleanse journey. Like many, I had many concerns about strictly consuming juice and no solid foods for such a lengthy period of time. But I am here to tell you that if I can do it, so can you and your body will love it.

Disclaimer: Juice cleanses are often marketed as a weight-loss hoax. If that’s your motivation for embarking a cleanse, reconsider your reasons and know that losing a lot of weight in a short period of time is unsafe.

Juice cleanses are somewhat like a ‘restart’ button. By strictly consuming juice, your body absorbs a ton of nutrients while giving your digestive system a break. Longer cleanses might give your system more of a break, but I find a one day cleanse is perfect for me. Before and after the cleanse, you are encouraged to eat whole foods, no meat or dairy, and no processed foods to ensure you get the benefits from the cleanse. 

As I embark on my second cleanse, I will share what juices I drank, how I felt, and all the things I wondered before my cleanse. Let’s juice it up!

You’ll have to pee…a lot.

This may be TMI, but I only write the truth. Being on a strictly liquid diet means having frequent potty runs but not for what you may think. Having to be pee is the norm of a juice cleanse without your normal bowel movements. 

You will crave anything that is chew-able.

The most annoying part for me about the juice cleanse was only drinking. Strictly drinking cold juices and water gets boring so I mixed it up with hot herbal tea and hot lemon water when cold beverages seemed unbearable. One of my juices had chia seeds in it which made it something fun to chew on and a different texture than just straight up juice. If your body is absolutely craving food, it is okay to snack on some carrots or cucumber sticks to ease your craving. But try your very best to not chew anything for the duration of your cleanse.

Take a break from the gym.

Since your calorie intakes dramatically decreases while you’re on a juice cleanse, extra physical activity should be avoided during your cleanse. If you absolutely have to, going on a leisurely walk or yoga is an easy way to stay active without straining your body. 

Incorporate nut milk into your juice cleanse.

If the company you are purchasing your cleanse through offers a nut milk, DO IT. In my cleanses, I love to incorporate two milks for a few reasons. First, they are my absolute favorite. They tend to be sweeter, nuttier, and more comforting to sip on than just plain ole green juice. Also, if you are used to being on a high calorie or high protein diet, these milks will help keep you fuller while you’re on your cleanse and lessen the shock to your body from dropping your caloric intake. 

Don’t worry about being hungry.

For a girl who loves her food, a juice cleanse was intimidating but it doesn’t have to be. As long as I spaced out my juices evenly and hydrated in between each juice, I actually wasn’t starving. Did I have a few tummy rumbles? Here and there. But overall, I wasn’t as starving as I thought I would be. 

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How to Use Your Freezer to Eat Healthier

Be prepared to fall in love with your freezer with these healthy hacks.

The hardest part about eating healthy is making sure you have healthy options on hand when it’s time to prepare meals. While the pantry can be handy for some foods (mac and cheese and cookies come to mind), the fridge is often where you store fresh produce and other groceries. ‘Use by’ and ‘best by’ dates on fresh foods can make healthy eating difficult, particularly when you’re shopping for one, but that’s where your freezer comes in. It will become your saving grace.

Not only can you use your freezer for storing the foods found in the freezer section of the grocery store, but you can also use it to preserve healthy favorites before they go bad. These are a few of my favorite freezer hacks that you can use in your college apartment or even the mini fridge of your dorm.

Find your freezer favorites.

What’s not to love about frozen fruits and vegetables? 

Fruits and vegetables are the best thing to buy in the freezer aisle because they are picked at their nutritional peak and then frozen to preserve their nutrients. A few of my freezer favorites include frozen pomegranates, acai smoothie packs, green beans, white corn, and any frozen fruit mix. From smoothies to speedy dinner sides, freezers can be a lifesaver on nights you don’t have any veggies to add to your dinner.

While produce is my favorite thing to buy from the freezer aisle, frozen seafood like shrimp and salmon are a favorite because they are easy to defrost in seconds and are a lean protein option. Frozen rice packs are another easy way to ensure you have food to prep at anytime. The freezer aisle comes in #clutch during busy weeks where groceries are not abundance. 

Shopping tip: As always, check the packaging on everything. Some foods may look healthy, but can be packed with unnecessary ingredients. Look for whole foods when shopping in the frozen food aisle, not overly processed foods being disguised as healthy. 

Keep track of dates and freeze food before it goes bad.

Buying whole foods without preservatives and added ingredients means that they tend to expire sooner. No need to throw away your favorite foods, though – freeze ’em! You’d be surprised at how many of your favorite foods you can freeze. Breads, meat, soups, sauces, zoodles, cookie dough – you name it, you can probably freeze it. 

Most ripe fruits and vegetables can be easily frozen by cutting them up and putting them in a freezer bag.

Freezing bananas at their peak of ripeness can ensure you always have something sweet and creamy for your go-to smoothie recipe. Love green smoothies but hate having to keep fresh spinach or kale? Easily freeze greens in a freezer bag to add to smoothies or stir-fry (cook only with frozen kale since spinach will be mushy).

Learn proper techniques for defrosting your freezer favorites.

Bread, pita, English muffins, and bagels all easily freeze and defrost after being microwaved for a few seconds. Chicken, pork, ground turkey, and beef are easy to freeze, but be sure to defrost safely to ensure you avoid any food-borne illnesses. I Google everything if I’m unsure on how to safely defrost it. 

Here are a few food-safety tips to abide by when defrosting:

  • Place whatever you’re thawing in the fridge the day before you want to eat it, unless you’re in a major rush.
  • Avoid microwaving anything to defrost.
  • Once you defrost something, eat it that day or save it in the fridge for under a week.
  • Avoid re-freezing in most cases.

These are just a few of my favorite freezer hacks that help me eat healthy, even when I don’t have fresh groceries. 

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The No-Deprivation Guide to Staying Fit While Studying Abroad

Experiencing the Mediterranean diet while studying abroad has transformed my mindset on food. 

As I prepared to study abroad in Florence, Italy, one of my first thoughts were how my body would react to a new diet and lifestyle. Six weeks abroad spent eating pizza and gelato may sound like a dream, but this style of eating could not be farther from my diet in the States. I prepared for my digestion system to go into shock, but my time in Florence so far has transformed how I think about food.

Just in my first few weeks, my digestive system has been thriving. Shocking, right?

When you think of Italy, you think of all the indulgent food that is packed full of ‘carbs’ and ‘cheese’, but America’s take on what Italian food is couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

While in Florence, I have experienced some of the best food and felt great doing so. From the vibrant pesto on freshly made pasta or baked goods paired with espresso in the mornings, Italian food has been delicious. I have been studying and living the Mediterranean lifestyle, and here are just a few ways I have stayed fit while studying abroad

Walking (or Hiking) Everywhere

While I am accustomed to being a gym rat and lifting heavy things, I have traded my university’s gym for the streets of Florence. According to my FitBit, I have averaged 30,000 steps per day  and more than 100 active minutes per day. 

Walking everywhere I go and being active in the Mediterranean Fitness and Health course I am taking has kept me active and been a welcome change to my usual gym routine. My class traded a traditional classroom for biking on the city street and paddling dragon boats on the Arno River,  Besides walking on the streets of Florence, hiking at beautiful destinations like Cinque Terre on Italy’s central coast is the best way to get unique views of some of the most scenic locations on Earth while getting a workout in.

Eating Locally – and Seasonally

The Tuscany region is home to tons of fresh produce. I have been loving the abundance of fruits and veggies found in markets along the streets of Florence. The peaches, cherries, cantaloupe, and plums are unreal here. Seriously, I am unsure if I’ll be able to go back to eating produce in the States. Grabbing some fresh fruit between classes has been my favorite way to get a cheap snack full of vitamins and minerals.

Enjoying Foods Made with Simple Ingredients

I have been enjoying all of the food Florence has had to offer from pizza to pasta and everything in between. While back home I often associate Italian food with being indulgent and unhealthy, real Italian food is made simply with wholesome ingredients. 

For example, fresh pasta and a simple tomato sauce is not only affordable but it is composed of simple grains and produce. After eating this sort of pasta dish, I feel satisfied but not overwhelmingly full and energized for more walking. Kale and chia seeds are not the only definition of ‘healthy eating’. The Mediterranean diet is often composed of vegetables and fruits, olive oil, and flavorful-but-light additions like capers and olives. 

While I may not be able to justify the health benefits of my daily cup of gelato, the wholesome ingredients used in this region have helped my body thrive. Moderation while traveling is always key above all things. Not pressuring myself to get my daily lifting session in or feeling guilty about my second glass of Chianti wine has been key to maintain my healthy mindset while studying abroad

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My Go-to Green Juice Recipe

A green juice a day is a trend that is here to stay.

I was recently gifted a juicer, and it’s safe to say that  I am completely obsessed. Most of my friends know that my juicer and I are in a very happy and healthy relationship. I guess you could say it’s getting serious.

A main component of my weekly grocery haul is a ton of spinach, ginger, and other fruits and veggies that I can get in bulk for juicing. My daily green juice has improved my immunity and energy levels. When I am struggling to get my daily dose of vitamins and minerals, my fresh green juice comes in clutch by delivering the daily recommended levels.

Fresh juice offers more than just your ordinary smoothie or store-bought juice; it provides a large amount of nutrients in a compact liquid that hydrates you while also providing your body with antioxidants, phytochemicals, minerals, and vitamins. Ever since I started incorporating fresh juice into my mornings, I feel more naturally energized and have avoided illnesses. Not saying it’s a magic bullet, but it works for me.

Buying fresh juice without added sugars can be expensive, but juicing at home can be affordable and easy once you get into the routine of cleaning your juicer and prepping your produce. While I tend to change up my produce seasonally, one of my favorite green juices not only tastes delicious but is under $10  for two mornings of green juice – cheaper than most store-bought versions. Let’s juice!

Time: approximately 10 minutes

When to drink it: Whenever you want a boost of energy and veggies

Perks: Packed with produce, portable, cheaper & healthier than store-bought

Makes: 2 servings of juice

What You’ll Need:

1-2 bags of spinach (you can use kale, but I find spinach lasts longer and tastes better)

3 large apples of your choice

Or

2 large grapefruits

4 stalks of celery

1 cucumber (any kind will do)

Thumb of ginger (unpeeled)

The recipe:

1.) Be sure to rinse of your produce before juicing to make sure they're clean and free from contaminants.
2.) Cut your fruits and veggies according to your juicer's instructions. Each is different. When it comes to prepping your produce, do not peel anything (carrots, cucumbers, apples, ginger, turmeric, etc.). That’s where many of the nutrients are.
3.) Put your desired fruits and veggies in your juicer, according to its instructions. Juice!
4.) I store my juice in mason jars and prep only 2 days' worth at a time. In general, fresh juice has a fridge life of 24-48 hours.

 

Once you start fueling your body with green juice every morning, you might get hooked. Be sure to tag @fituniversity on social media if you try out this green juice recipe!

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How Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth (the Healthy Way)

Being healthy doesn’t mean you have to give up your love for chocolate.

When it comes to treating myself, I struggle with a chocolate addiction. Going to the gym? No problem. Eating my vegetables? Easy enough. But I just really love chocolate.

I initially found it difficult  find the balance between maintaining a healthy diet and indulging in my favorite chocolate treats. Over time, however, I learned that incorporating healthy, indulgent treats into your everyday routine is surprisingly easy. 

Here are some simple ways to stay on track (without missing out on sweet foods):

1. Make simple swaps.

When it comes to satisfying your sweet tooth, incorporating natural sweeteners, coconut oil as a butter substitute, and unprocessed flour alternatives are easy ways to modify recipes for a healthy diet.

2. Kick up the flavor (without kicking up the sugar).

The addition of spices like vanilla, cinnamon and cacoa are easy ways to add familiar flavors to your desserts. These spices even provide extra nutritional benefits.

Cinnamon may be a common spice for all things sweet and delicious, but organic cinnamon can also offer medicinal properties like anti-inflammatory agents and antioxidants. 

If you are a chocolate lover, cacao will quickly become your new best friend.

This unprocessed version of traditional cocoa powder contains almost four times more antioxidants that traditional dark chocolate along with various vitamins and minerals which include protein, calcium, carotene, thiamin, riboflavin, magnesium, and sulfur.

Whether its in a powder form or in cacao nibs you can use in replacement of chocolate chips, cacoa has been a lifesaver when it comes to making all my favorite healthy treats chocolatey and decadent

When it comes to all things sweet and healthy, I have three go-to recipes that make me forget about all of my favorite unhealthy treats.

These recipes are not only delicious, but they can be enjoyed without the guilt or discomfort that often comes along with traditional desserts. 

Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

These oatmeal chocolate chip cookies will make you forget about your favorite pre-made cookie dough. They’re absolutely delicious and surprisingly healthy with no flour, no butter, and no processed sugars. 

What you’ll need:

3/4 cup of oat flour (quick oats blended in a blender)
1/2 cup of old fashioned oats
1/4 cup of quick oats
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
1 large egg
1/2 cup of melted coconut oil
4 tablespoons of coconut sugar
1/2 cup of dark chocolate or sweetened cacoa nibs

The Recipe

1. Stir together the oat flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

2. In a separate bowl, stir together the vanilla, egg, and coconut sugar. Combine melted coconut oil when it is cool enough. 

3. Combine the wet ingredients, dry ingredients, and the chocolate chips. 

4. Cover and chill the dough for 30 minutes to an hour. This is vital to ensure you don't make pancake cookies!

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

6. Scoop the dough into balls on a non-stick baking sheet. I like to sprinkle some sea salt on top after this step.

7. Bake for 7-10 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies.

8. Enjoy!

Chocolate Avocado Mousse

Initially, I was skeptical about including something green into a dessert but I was pleasantly surprised by the results. The avocado gives the mousse a light, airy texture while providing healthy fats that will help keep you fuller for longer- the perfect late night snack!

What you’ll need:

A blender (I love my NutriBullet for this!)
1 large avocado
1 banana, make sure it’s ripe and spotty.
4 tablespoons of raw cacoa powder
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 tablespoons of honey or agave

The Recipe

1. Add the ingredients to your blender.

2. Blend until the mixture is completely combined.

3. Chill in the fridge for a few minutes and enjoy!

4. I love to add fresh fruit, a mint leaf, chia seeds, or coconut shavings to the top.

5. Enjoy!

Chia Seed Pudding

Chia seed pudding is LIFE. I’m obsessed, but the chia-seed texture is not for everyone.

Chia seeds are an amazing source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, and calcium. This superfood does a magical thing when combined with almond milk and transforms into pudding within a matter of hours. This recipe can be used as a dessert, but it also makes the perfect breakfast or healthy snack.

What you’ll need:

1/3 cup of black chia seeds
1 1/2 cups of almond milk
2 tablespoons of honey
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1/4 cup of cacoa powder (if you want it chocolatey)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon (optional)

This recipe makes about 2 servings.

The Recipe

1. Simply combine ingredients into a container with a secure lid (mason jars are perfect for this).

2. Give it a shake until everything is combined.

3. Let the mixture sit for 3 hours.

4. Add your favorite topping like nuts or fresh fruit. 

5. Enjoy!

Note: An hack for this recipe is to buy sweetened vanilla or chocolate almond milk to simply combine with the chia seeds. These two ingredients make this recipe super simple if you’re in a time crunch!

These simple, sweet recipes are the perfect way to satisfy your cravings while maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Feel free to experiment and find your favorite healthy recipes when you need to satisfy your sweet tooth.

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Victoria Sport: Best Women’s Active Wear?

Watch out Lulu. You have new competition for most stylish women’s active wear and her name is Victoria Sport.

When Victoria’s Secret announced their plans to discontinue their beloved swimwear line, many hearts were broken. Their reasoning behind halting the production of their beach attire? To focus on Victoria Sport: a stylish and practical active wear for fitness enthusiasts everywhere.

Popular activewear companies, like lululemon and Nike, may have some cute leggings, but their pieces are typically outrageously priced and way out of the average college student’s budget. While I was hesitant at first, I was pleasantly surprised that their new line was great quality, yet still affordable. After giving it a try, Victoria Sport has slowly become one of my go-to active wear brands for cute workout tops, functional leggings, and the best sports bras I own. 

If you’re still skeptical, here are some of my reviews of their most popular pieces:

Let’s talk about leggings.

 

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Lululemon is known for being the best when it comes to leggings, but they are also known for coming with a hefty price tag that can be $100 or more.  Victoria Sport’s signature Knockout High-Rise Tights, on the other hand, range from $62.50-$69.95. Although still quite an investment for most college students, I was fortunate enough to buy these leggings during a sale and quickly I fell in love.

The Knockout Tights are perfect for any fitness guru for three simple reasons: the fabric, the pockets, and the style. The fabric is thick and breathable, it doesn’t show sweat, and most importantly, it isn’t see through. Squat test approved! The pockets are a handy addition because they can hold your keys, ID, and phone so you’re not stuck carrying them around the gym. And, the style of these leggings is what makes them a favorite of mine. Being high waisted, they are more flattering on my figure and stay up even through the most strenuous workouts, which is something I always look for in leggings. 

Now, let’s talk sports bras.

 

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Since my volleyball days, I have always had the hardest time finding the perfect sports bra. Even the most high impact sports bras never seemed to do the job, but Victoria Sport has reinvented sports bras entirely, and that’s why they have been deemed the “world’s best”. Regardless of your need for a low impact undergarment or a high impact undergarment, these sports bras are of supreme quality and are one of the most affordable active wear bras I have come across starting at just $15.

Their cheapest sports option, the Player Racerback Sports Bra, happens to be my favorite. Similarly to their performance pants, their sports bras can be snatched on amazing 2/$25 deal days. With that price, you could buy four Victoria Sport bras for the price of one lululemon sports bra. 

 

A post shared by Victoria Sport (@victoriasport) on

Overall, Victoria Sport has blown me away with the overall quality and comfort of activewear. While lululemon still offers top-quality active wear, Victoria Sport has made a dent on the active wear and ‘athleisure’ scene this year, and you can thank me (or hate me) later for getting you hooked on Victoria Sport.

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Get Outside with This Spring Bench Workout

Get out of the gym, and get moving outside with this killer bench workout. 

I’ll be the first to admit: I am a gym rat. I eat, sleep, and dream in my university’s gym.  While there’s nothing wrong with being gym obsessed, taking your workout outside can be a wonderful change of pace.

During the springtime, the weather is pure perfection!  Choose to take your workout outside, absorb some vitamin D, and enjoy the fresh air.  

This bench workout makes you look like such a boss to all the park-goers around you, too.  So, grab a friend and try it together!  All you need is your favorite outdoor location and a bench. Since this is a dumbbell-free workout, too, you can do it virtually anywhere — a park, bridge, or your college campus.

So, let’s get grinding!

To warm-up, run a distance you are comfortable with.  If you’re not a runner (AKA me), try to run as far as you can without stopping.  If you are a runner, try to push yourself to run at a faster pace for anywhere from ten to twenty minutes.

giphy (2)

Start by jogging, then proceed to do side shuffles for 30 second intervals on each side for 5 minutes. 

Now, it’s bench time.

You can do your bench work as intervals during your run or at the end of your run — your choice!

What to Do: Perform each exercise for 15 reps or until failure, 4 times.  The harder you push yourself, the more you’ll get out of this sweat sesh.

  • Single Leg Bench Squat
    • While balancing on one leg, lower your bottom down to touch the bench (Beginner: sit down fully, Advanced: lightly tap the bench with your bottom). On that same leg, stand back up to complete one rep. 
  • Air squats to failure
  • Bulgarian split squats
    • Place one leg behind you on the bench. On your standing leg, squat to a 90 degree angle. Be sure that your knee is in line with your foot at all times to avoid injury. Think of this as an elevated lunge.
  • Jump squats to failure
  • Tricep dips
    • Sit on the ground with your back to the bench.  With your hands gripping the edge of the bench, starting in a 90 degree angle, straighten your elbows to push yourself upward, and come back down to a 90 degree angle to complete one rep.
  • Push-ups on bench 
    • These can be done with either your palms on the bench (beginner), or your toes on the bench (advanced).
  • Plank on bench
    • This can be done with either your palms on the bench (beginner), entirely on the ground (intermediate), or your toes on the bench (advanced).

Finish off with a light jog or walk to cool down.

As the birds begin to sing and the cool spring air makes it hard to resist spending time outside, soak up the sun and switch up your workout.  You are now officially equipped with a high-intensity workout that makes Springtime that much more enjoyable!

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HIIT: Fall In Love With Your Warm-up

Pump up the jam and get ready to HIIT it!

For some people, running a mile or two on an elliptical or treadmill is their idea of a killer warm-up.

But for me, it’s HIIT.

As I began to really listen to my body and figure out what I truly loved to do in the gym, I found a love for High-Intensity Interval Training, aka, HIIT or tabata

High-Intensity Interval Training gives your body the best of both worlds. It burns fat, increases your heart rate, and builds muscle.

Running may seem like the ideal way to warm-up before a workout, but running may be rough on those with weaker joints or knee injures. Simply by incorporating HIIT into your warm-up, you can modify exercises to work with your abilities, and you’ll start your workout sweating.

By fatiguing your muscles early, you are on the way to building more muscle and getting the most out of your workout. #gains 

So what warm-ups actually get you the benefits of HIIT training?

I know most people have a love/hate relationship with this exercise, but bear with me — burpees are a perfect example.

This compact movement gets your heart rate up quickly while fatiguing your muscles in the best way possible. Ever since incorporating them into my warm-up, I have seen an improvement in my stamina and my muscle mass. And who doesn’t love leaving the gym drenched in sweat?

 

Here are some of my favorite HIIT warm-ups:

(tag us in your Instagram if you give them a try!)

Leg Day HIIT Warm-Up:

These exercises target your leg muscles (quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves) and are the perfect way to start a killer leg day. These can be done with weight, resistance bands, or just your body weight.

  • 3 sets of squat jumps
  • 3 sets of full range squats as active rest
  • 3 sets of jumping lunges
  • 3 sets of walking lunges

Squat jumps are my absolute favorite because they’re super fun. Blast your favorite gym tunes and feel like a bad a**.

StairMaster HIIT:

  • 30 seconds of side steps each side
  • 1 minute of a stair sprint
  • Repeat 3 times

The HIIT possibilities are honestly endless. Pick any of the exercises from the list below, throw on your timer for 10 minutes, and go for it. And if you aren’t sure how to do a certain exercise, check out Bodybuilding.com.

  • Butt kicks
  • Jumping lunges
  • High knees 
  • Kettlebell squat
  • Kettlebell snatches
  • Jump rope
  • Mountain climbers
  • Box jumps

By simply incorporating these high intensity workouts into your warm-up, you will begin to see your body get evolve before your eyes. Tabata comes in all different styles, so find the one that you love, and you will begin to fall in love with your warm-up. While I love going for a run still, HIIT training has revolutionized my gym days.

Push through and your body will thank you later.

 

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How to Make the Perfect Smoothie Bowl

Did someone say smoothie bowl?

I admit it, I am in love with the delicious and nutritious acai bowl trend.  Tasty and delicious, I could eat them for every meal, but these bowls are often pricey and hard to come by

While my favorite local smoothie joint makes a bowl that’s hard to beat, making the drive to pay over $10 for something that I’ve learned to make myself is not ideal for any college student.

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I have experimented with different fruits, liquids, and toppings, and I think I may have perfected the art of making the most aesthetically pleasing and delicious homemade smoothie bowl. 

The key ingredients are acai and pitaya.

Acai is my absolute favorite, but pitaya is definitely a close second. The key to making these smoothies into acai bowls is using frozen acai packs — they are truly life changing! Thick and creamy, these packs allow me to throw on my toppings, grab my spoon, and dig in. The Sambazon acai packs are my favorite, but Trader Joe’s now sells an exact dupe! 

Full of antioxidants, omega-3’s, and many other nutrients, acai is a fruit your body will thank you for. 

Pitaya is another nutrient powerhouse that is packed full of fiber, magnesium, and riboflavin. A fruit that can make for a terrific tropical twist, it can be found in the frozen fruit aisle

When preparing your frozen fruit to be blended, here are a few tips to follow:

1. First and most importantly, you’ll need a good blender. 

I am in a serious relationship with my NutriBlender– I really love it that much. They’re speedy, affordable, and fit perfectly in any college dorm or apartment! #winning

2. Choose your liquid of choice and find the balance.

No one wants a runny smoothie and no one wants a clumpy smoothie. About 1/2 cup to 1 cup of liquid will ensure a perfectly blended smoothie.

Unfortunately, there is no perfect recipe or measurement to making a smoothie bowl thick, but there are a few tips to help you perfect yours. Use roughly 1/2 cup to 1 cup of liquid when blending your frozen fruit to ensure your smoothie bowl is smooth and blended. I prefer almond milk for my acai bowls and coconut water for my pitaya bowls. 

For your smoothie bowls feel free to add other fresh and frozen fruit including berries, mango, pineapple, and any greens you like.  I know greens can seem intimidating, but don’t be afraid to add a handful of kale or spinach to your mixer — it’s an easy way to incorporate micronutrients into your diet and you won’t taste it…I promise!

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You can also add your favorite protein powder, powdered peanut butter (PB2), or cocoa powder to amp up the protein level. 

3. Don’t be afraid to experiment in the kitchen.

 

The more smoothie bowls I made, the better I became at making them perfect.  Here are my two go-to recipes:

Acai Bowl:

  • 1 acai pack
  • 1 banana (fresh or frozen)
  • handful of mixed berries
  • 1 tablespoon of PB2 or cacoa powder (or even better, both!)
  • 1/2 c to 1 cup of almond milk

Pitaya Bowl:

  • handful of pitaya/dragon fruit cubes
  • mango
  • pineapple
  • handful of spinach/kale
  • 1 cup of coconut water

I usually don’t measure anything exactly, but these are my favorite ingredient mixtures. My favorite part, however, is adding all of my favorite toppings to complete my bowl — fresh fruit, nut butter, a drizzle of honey, chia seeds, coconut flakes, and granola are just a few of my favorite ways to spice up my smoothie bowls.

You now have all the tools to blend a perfect smoothie bowl, so go ahead, make your very own, and enjoy!

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Healthy Pancakes: Flourless and Absolutely Delicious

Breakfast is not only the most important meal of the day, it is also my favorite.

I grew up in a household where big breakfasts were the norm, hence my everlasting love for breakfast food… healthy or not.

As I become more conscious of what I fuel my body with, I have experimented with an endless amount of healthy alternatives to the most decadent breakfast comfort foods. Through this experimentation, and after whipping up a lot of good, bad, and horribly ugly pancakes, I have created the best pancake recipe EVER.

While I was experimenting with various pancake recipes, I came across this pancake recipe on The Cooking Channel and fell in love. Every other recipe I tried after that would also go into the equation; I used to compare and contrast what I liked and didn’t like until I made the world’s best pancake.

Instead of a regular Bisquick pancake out of the box, these ‘cakes offer protein and fiber — the perfect duo to fuel your body in the morning for a hard day’s work.  It makes two rather large pancakes, or three to four average ones.

Let’s talk the key ingredient – oats.

Instead of using regular flour, these pancakes are made with oat flour.  You don’t have to run to your grocery store to find oat flour if you’ve never heard of it. Simply blend any oat of your choice (I prefer quick over old-fashioned) in a blender and, you’ve got oat flour.

For any recipe that calls for oat flour for — because I guarantee you’ll be addicted — remember to measure before and after blending to ensure your ratios are spot on.  However, if you don’t want to worry about blending oats every time you make these pancakes, blend a large batch and store in an airtight container for whenever you need it. 

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Healthy Flourless Pancakes

Time: 5 minutes

When to Eat Them: breakfast

Perks: flourless, no refined sugar, customizable

Ingredients:

¾ cup oat flour
1 banana (more spots preferred)
2 eggs
Dash of cinnamon and nutmeg (optional)
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of vanilla
1 tablespoon honey (or agave)
¼ teaspoon baking soda

Frying pan
Spatula

The Recipe:

1. Start off by combining your dry ingredients in a bowl (oat flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking soda).

2. Mash banana in a separate bowl and mix in eggs.

3. Add vanilla and honey to wet ingredients and combine.

4. Dump dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients. Combine well.

5. If you’d like to add anything into your ‘cakes, now’s the time.*

6. Let the batter sit. This is important whenever using oat flour because it will take a few minutes for the flour to absorb all the liquid and the ingredients to marry.

7. Heat up a skillet on medium heat and grease with your oil of choice (I use coconut oil).

8. Pour in the batter and flip when golden brown.
*Note: Blueberries are my favorite way to spice these up. Cacoa nibs, chocolate chips, and strawberries are all great options as well. If you want the pancakes to have a bit more protein (the recipe yields 24g), add in your favorite protein powder for some serious pancake #gains.

You have officially made the world’s best pancakes!

Now, add all the goodies you’d like to the top of your pancakes. Some of my faves:

  • Blistered berries
  • Nut butter
  • Hemp seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Coconut flakes
  • Maple syrup

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If you have leftovers or double the recipe, they warm up perfectly in the microwave for the next morning or a late night snack. Enjoy!

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