performance

By now you all know I’ve been paleo for a good 10 months. My body is loving me, and I’m like, so freaking full of energy all the time I could run up a wall. Wahooo! But seriously, never felt better, healthier or happier. Being an extremely active person who trains almost everyday, if not 2x a day, I need plenty of fuel and nutrition to keep my body running nicely. Our bodies are machines, and the food and supplements we put into it is the fuel for it to run off of.

My simple rules for keeping my performance up and my body and mind strong: keep it clean, lots of water, plenty of rest and move more. This is my lifestyle, and while I know it’s not for everyone, here are my essentials for those of you who want to 1) keep it paleo, and 2) increase performance. Aspiring ninja’s welcome.

 

1. Bulletproof coffee. MCT oil + butter in my coffee? You better believe it. I have never been a coffee drinker in my entire life (until 2 months ago), and always felt sluggish and sickly after drinking a cup o’ joe. Turns out bad coffee is to blame. Read about Bulletproof Coffee on their site because they explain it better than I can. And learn about grass-fed AKA good butter vs. bad butter and why grass-fed butter is awesome here. I start almost every morning with a cup of BPC with my breakfast then workout 90 minutes later. My performance and brain power has increased significantly and I love it. #ninjastatus

2. Yams + starchy vegetables . My one issue with the paleo diet is the tendency, or choice, to be super low-carb. Carbs are not the devil; rather the opposite, it’s just about choosing the right carbs to fuel your body, build muscle, replenish glycogen stores and feel fueled. A lot of people who go paleo will immediately drop significant weight due to the removal of all breads, pastas, cereals, starchy foods, etc. Then they hit a plateau and have difficulty losing remaining fat, or “leaning out”. Carbs are vital for athletes and highly active individuals, but should be consumed at the right time. I came from a place of low-carb eating slash severely damaged metabolism so adding a lot of high quality complex carbs was terrifying. Once I realized my depletion and lack of energy was related to my low-carb diet, I upped the carbs and now notice a nice hum in my metabolism. I eat plenty of yams, squash, zucchini, and even red potatoes if I need the extra carbs surrounding my workouts or at night before bed. An example of what this looks like is: slow-digesting carbs before a workout (yams), fast-digesting carbs post-workout (banana and/or berries blended in a recovery smoothie), and then 1 cup homemade paleo coconut milk ice cream or grass-fed greek  yogurt before bed. I usually go to bed pretty full, and wake up with abs. I still eat plenty of healthy fats and protein, and keep it all in balance. It’s about balance, people.

3. Glutamine + BCAA’s. Essential for recovery, muscle repair, soreness, fat loss, metabolism and everything nice. To read about BCAA’s you can go here, or for L-glutamine, here. I get mine on Amazon! Optimum Nutrition BCAA Capsules and Optimum Nutrition Glutamine Capsules are my favorite.

4. Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance. While you can’t actually eat this, you can consume it in other ways. The buzz surrounding Kelly Starrett’s book was deafening in the CrossFit community, and for good reason. I picked it up last week and have used it everyday since. For any ache or ailment, there is a mobility prescription to fix you. Flexibility and mobility is ESSENTIAL for healthy muscles and performance. Go buy the book! No need to thank me.

5. High quality protein. We are big on grass-fed and pastured meats and eggs. We love our protein, but understand that there is a significant difference in grain-fed meat vs. grass fed. The nutritional profiles of the opposing groups is crazy! We are omnivores, but make it a point to seek out high quality foods if we are going to eat meat. Being in the countryside of Southeastern Pennsylvania, the local farms are in abundance. We love that! We eat grass-fed beef a couple times a week, organic + pastured chicken and eggs regularly, pastured pork and bacon, and bison when we can find it! And as for whey protein supplements? We love Progenex and Formulx. Read more about the importance of grass-fed beef here. And buy your own here.

Cheers to being better humans! I’m back from a long summer vacation, and an actual vacation in Florida. Time to kick things up a notch.

 

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bikini season

1. Aviators \ 2. Despi Bikini \ 3. Isabel Weekender \ 4. Isapera Sandals \ 5. Wappo Bracelet \ 6. Seafolly Kaftan (ON SALE!)

Summer is my all. time. favorite. thing. ever.  Popsicles, neon toenails, ripped cutoffs, beachy waves, sunkissed skin, summer concerts, late night swimming, sandals, bikinis, bright colors, the smell of the ocean… I could go on forever, but you get it.

I gotta say, this will probably be the first summer of my life that I’m not feeling self conscious in a bikini. I’ve always been into fitness, but since starting CrossFit this past winter? I kinda feel like a whole new woman. I feel confident and strong! It’s taken me a lot to actually say that, but when Kyle and I went to the beach a few weekends ago, I was rockin’ my new Despi bikini (thank you Orchid Boutique!) and feeling awesome. I want to help you feel awesome, too! Let’s do this!!

 

Here are a few tips for feeling awesome in your bathing suit this season…

1. GO workout! Yeah, if you thought I wasn’t gonna say this you were wrong. Go to the gym, lift some weights, squat every week (air squatfront squat, back squat), get your heart rate up, stretch, recover, repeat. Or just find a really good CrossFit gym in your area with excellent coaches who teach good form and join! Best investment ever. There, I said it.

2. Quit gluten and grains. That crap makes you bloat. If you don’t think this applies to you, then you’ve probably been living bloated for a long time now (like I was) and you don’t even know the amazingness that is a flat tummy. Gassiness and bloating after dinner is not normal. Gluten and grains have lecithins that are hard for the body to digest and can cause a very acidic environment in the stomach. If you need more information about why gluten and grains are slowly killing you, go here, here and here. We are all very different, but I have yet to meet someone who is grain-free and says they aren’t healthier.

3. Eat LOTS of green vegetables. Green veggies (think: kale, asparagus, brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, swiss chard) have lots of water in them and are loaded with fiber! These foods help keep your — eh hem — insides clean, limit bloating and digestive problems, and are fantastic for fat loss! Any questions?

4. Drink ~1 gallon of water a day. You need to hydrate. It’s hot out there. Your skin will start to crinkle (ew) if you’re dehydrated. Drink up already!

5. Don’t starve yourself, woman! If I had a dollar for every time a woman told me she was watching her calories more closely now that it’s bikini season, I’d be freaking retired. Here’s something for ya: if you’re eating less than what your body needs, your body goes into fat storing mode because you aren’t feeding it enough. Good food is fuel to the body, and keeps the metabolism purring like a Jaguar. Eat enough clean calories so your body functions properly, you can fuel your workouts (assuming you’re already kicking ass), and so your body doesn’t store unwanted fat. Also, no one likes a hangry girl, just sayin’.

 

Do you have any tips for feeling good this summer? How are you feeling about “bikini season”?

 

protein-powders

 

In a perfect world I would tell you to avoid protein powders all together and focus on eating whole, natural foods. I preach this constantly, but I am also a believer in practicality and reality (for the sake of sanity), so I’m here to share some of my favorite, and not-so favorite protein powders I’ve experimented with over the past few years. As a very athletic person trying to gain muscle mass, I do drink protein shakes daily. It makes my crazy life much easier, giving me extra nutrients, minerals and vitamins. So many of you have asked me on Instagram or Twitter what my favorites were, so I figured we’d make it easier for you and put all that good info in one place! Please keep in mind that no good protein powder can replace a good diet so get the foundation right before you experiment with supplements. Promise?! And there is such a thing as over doing it on the protein (read about that here).

I’ve tried SO many different kinds of protein powders, but I’m only sharing the best of the best with you today. Being a gal with plenty of food allergies to mention, I chose to only share the ones that are “clean” or “allergy-free”. Most general brands or supplements found at GNC or places like the Vitamin Shoppe contain things like gluten, soy, food dyes, added processed sugars and more. I refuse to meddle with that crap regardless of my athletic needs or desire for convenience.

Noteworthy Protein Supplements I’ve tried (in no particular order)…

1. Reserveage Organics Grass-Fed Whey Protein – I’m a chocolate girl, so chocolate won me over, but the vanilla is pretty good. I have milk allergies most of the time, but have noticed that when I consume organic dairy in small amounts I have near to no reactions. I have cycled through 3 containers of this protein supplement and had zero reactions; though it contains milk, it is low in lactose. Interesting, huh? The ingredients are almost perfect: whey protein concentrate, cocoa, natural flavors (questionable), stevia leaf extract, sunflower lecithin. The whey protein comes from grass-fed cows which is awesome. No synthetic hormones are used and you can be assured that the cows were pastured and your product is organic. I’m a huge fan of whey protein (only when it is grass-fed and organic) because it is easily absorbed and digested by the body. This is a great protein supplement to take right before or after a workout. I still continue to use this supplement on a weekly basis and is one of my favorites. The price is amazing for the quality. I get mine at Whole Foods.

2. Protein 17 Organic Grass-Fed Whey Protein – I recently stumbled upon this product while on a Google rampage to find a “perfect paleo protein powder”. What I first found was this “Paleo Protein” that, frankly, looks like shit (you stopped me at carageenan). But then I found Protein 17, ordered it within 5 minutes and I’m so glad I did. There is no flavor to the powder, which cuts out excess ingredients, so it’s not entirely tasty. This product is perfect on paper: no soy, no gluten, no GMO’s (HUGE!), grass-fed, not acid-treated, no additives, no artificial sweeteners, etc. The ingredients label is mighty short: Organic Pasture-Fed Whey Protein Concentrate. That’s it! Of course, being human and all, I wish it had some flavor, so I add my own cacao powder to my protein shakes with two drops of stevia. I will be using this protein supplement until (and if) something better emerges. Until then, this is the ultimate. Even the price is great! You can only buy it online, as far as I know.

3. Garden of Life Raw Protein – This product is vegan, raw, organic, gluten-free and soy-free, yippee! I’ve tried every flavor: original, vanilla, chocolate and vanilla spiced chai. The original is not lovely tasting, but the spiced chai was my favorite. Last year this time, this product was the only supplement I was taking. I have to be honest, I don’t love this product. I’m not a vegan, or a raw foodist, but it is obvious that raw, live foods are healthy for us, providing the highest amount of nutrition. But I prefer to just eat raw vegetables, and I won’t be using this supplement again. What’s ironic is that last year this time I was very sick, with uncontrollable seasonal allergies, digestive problems, and a bloated belly that looked like it belonged to a pregnant woman of 6 months. It was painful, miserable, and almost hopeless. I was consuming lots of vegetables, some fruit, plenty of water but this protein supplement, along with oatmeal, was part of my regular diet. I cannot stress enough how much of a physical and mental mess I was. Thankfully, I listened to my instincts that my body does not react well to grains or beans, and all is just peachy keen now. The ingredients include a long list of seeds, grains, and legumes. I now know that grains and beans present a huge problem for me, and since cutting them out of my diet completely, I have never felt better in my life. I actually tried taking this supplement again a few months ago and had a very bad reaction. If you suffer from unexplained aches, pains, inflammation, digestive problems, depression or acne, I HIGHLY suggest cutting out grains and beans from your diet and seeing how your body reacts. It has made all the difference in my life.

4. Vega Sport Performance Protein – I bought this protein supplement once and unfortunately, didn’t like it very much. It is a plant-based protein powder containing things like pea protein, brown rice protein, alfalfa protein and hemp protein. I didn’t react to it as badly as I did to the Garden of Life Protein but I wasn’t able to digest it properly (I’m assuming because of the rice), and stopped taking it after only a handful of uses. The texture is really smooth, and I liked the berry flavor. It has a high BCAA content, which I liked, but still had to stop using it. It’s one of the better vegan options, but I’d rather not see the grains on the ingredient label.

5. Progenex More Muscle Protein and Recovery – This protein is different from all the rest, it is more focused on performance and muscle gains. The flavors are dynamite – I loved the belgium chocolate and mocha (dessert in a shaker, anyone?). I noticed a significant improvement in my workouts and made big gains in my lifts at CrossFit. I could not recommend these products enough to athletes and anyone looking to see fitness improvements. However, that being said, I do have some complaints… It made me bloat. Yeah, man. Again with the bloating story. This is kinda huge for me though because I’m trying to get a six-pack. The quality is good, but not great. And the price is high for me. I’ll spend dollars on kale, grass-fed skirt steak or almond flour but I can’t pay $69 for a month’s supply of protein powder that isn’t even organic or grass-fed.

 

I want to hear from you! What protein powders do you take, if any? Have you come across any great products? Please share!

 

 

I was not sponsored or endorsed to write about any of these products. Hopefully you’ll find some help from my experiences!

wwspringtrain

Spring is around the corner (only 17 days away!) and I’m positively antsy for warm weather! We just got back from a week in South Florida and I have a nice tan and am more than ready to run outside without gloves and earmuffs on. I can’t wait to work out at our box with the garage doors flung wide open. Let me tell you that coming back to PA wasn’t easy at all. I’m excited to come out of winter hibernation and kick my training up a notch or two! Getting serious about your fitness around spring time is usually easier than making it to the gym in the dead of winter. Are you ready to tighten up your bikini body and get sweaty in the gym? Here are my favorite training pieces I’m eyeing up for Spring.

1. Ultra Speed Cable Jump Ropes
2. Lululemon Do It Up Duffel Bag
3. Nike Pro Compression Short
4. Polar Insulated Water Bottle
5. Trigger Point Foam Roller
6. Nike Free Run 3 Running Shoe
7. Under Armour StrappyLux Tank
8. Under Armour Hat

Make an action plan to get ready for Spring! Cut out sweets and eat plenty of leafy greens. Try an organic juice cleanse (I really liked Blue Print) and sign up for a class at your local gym. Start making healthier choices NOW. Waiting only means you’ll be late in the game… and around here it’s all about being on the ball (literally and figuratively).

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Dude. Spring is coming! How it is already February 14th, I haven’t the slightest clue. But if it brings me one day closer to bare legs and green grass? I’ll take it! So if we’re all honest with ourselves, we all have some tinge of apprehension going on on the inside. The “OMG, my bikini bod needs work” thought races through all our minds. So what do we do? We search for inspiration! For direction! Motivation! We hang up last year’s red bikini in our rooms, plaster ripped out Victoria Secret catalogue pages all over our wall, we snag the latest SHAPE and Fitness Magazine from the nearest drugstore. We’re all “yeah!” and “abs by April!”… and then… merp… the “inspiration” dies within a week and we find ourselves hiding with a bag of chocolate chips on the couch watching Meet Me in St. Louis in sweats. This is where a lot of the self-loathing stuff happens. Oh? Just me? Well I’ll be…

Ok, so that used to be me! Then I stopped looking at all these unrealistic sources of “inspiration” and just did something really simple. Stupid simple. Really.

1. I wrote down my goals. Think specific. Down to the detail. One of my goals that I wrote down in 2012 was to be able to perform an unassisted handstand push-up. Guess what? Done and done. You HAVE to write down attainable, detailed goals and plaster them somewhere you can see them. Daily reminders, people. (For example, some of my fitness goals for 2013 are to be able to perform a muscle up, and power clean 95 lbs)

2. Then I made a schedule. An appointment book with myself, if you will (these are the most important appointments, hello!). “Erika, you have a date with barbells every morning at this specific time. Be there or be flabby.”

4. I replaced all of the negative thoughts I had about myself and my body with positive ones. I decided that I needed to love myself before I could accept love from anyone else and find happiness in my own skin. Self-love is a real thing, and if you don’t have it, you’re sorely missing out. Once you start filling your mind with positive thoughts about yourself and your body, you become your own best friend. Start with finding something you like about yourself and verbally say why it’s pretty awesome. For example, I think it’s pretty awesome how strong my legs have gotten, and I remind myself of this daily.

5. Then I just did it. Some days I didn’t. But then I felt dumb and lazy, so the next day I worked out twice as hard. Over time, it got easier and easier. It started to suck less and then I formed a habit. Then my days started to feel odd when I didn’t work out. Years later, working out is one of the best parts of my day! I can’t wait to work out, sincerely. It takes time to get to that point, but if you’re willing to make some effort and stop making excuses, you can do it too.

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Some of you are going to think I’m absolutely crazy for making it sound so simple. But it’s really up to us, isn’t it? We can make it as hard or as easy as we want to. When we tell ourselves that it’s hard before we’ve even tried… well, let’s just say it’s like shooting yourself in the foot. Not pretty, huh? If you’re not going to be your own biggest cheerleader, you won’t get very far in the gym – or life, for that matter.

You have to take baby steps to form a lifelong habit of health. Everything is progress. 

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So in honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ve partnered up with Violet Love Headbands to give away three gorgeous headbands! You can wear them at the gym, while you’re washing your face, out on a date (they’re that cute), or wherever you please. They don’t give you those annoying headband headaches or snag your hair. When I’ve worn them through a couple workouts, I can just throw them in the washer and they don’t fade or fringe. I’m obsessed with them.. and my friends at our gym are too!

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Wearing AE vest [similar], Target zip-up, Nike capri, Nike Free Advantage shoes, gifted Violet Love headband.

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 Here’s how you enter the giveaway*:

1. Follow @Violet_Love on Twitter because they tweet some pretty inspirational stuff! 
2. Like Violet Love on Facebook because there’s awesome stuff on there, too.
3. Commit to stop talking negatively about yourself + your body
4. Love YOU more. You are pretty awesome.
5. Comment bellow telling me what some of your fitness goals are + how you plan on making it happen

**3 winners will be chosen at random. Winners will be announced on Tuesday, February 19th.**

What are some of your fitness goals? What’s your plan of attack to make it happen?

 

*Winners Announced! Congrats Stephanie, Katie & Jesse! Please e-mail me to receive your Violet Love gift!*

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