Improve Your Energy and Health in 5 Easy Steps

Have you ever heard of somebody NOT wanting to improve their health? I haven’t. But what I do hear are a whole lot of excuses as to why they cannot; all the reasons that keep their hands tied, while health somehow eludes them. These rationalizations usually include gripes such as “I don’t have the time”, “I don’t have the money”, “I don’t know how”, “I don’t like vegetables”…and the list goes on. Am I judging? Not one bit; in fact, I was pushing the same hot air no more than 4 years ago. But after being tired of hearing my own lame excuses over and over again, I finally just jumped in head first and have never looked back! I found that convenience seems to be the biggest issue which holds us back; let’s face it…we’re an extremely lazy society. And interestingly enough, the reason why we are so lazy is that we simply lack the proper nutrition to fuel us in the first place; it’s a terrible cycle to be stuck in.

The thought of giving any extra effort beyond our daily “duties” makes us sick to our stomachs. Well, worry no more. I’m going to tell you how you can start getting onto the health track with a small handful of ingredients and a blender. Thats right, I’m talking about smoothies. But aren’t smoothies just another food fad like…fondue? Sure, if you’re only going to have one every other month when you go meet up with your “healthy friend” at Jamba Juice. But what if you could truly take your health back on your own? What if you could find 5 minutes each day to create a simple meal that fully nourishes you with whole food, can be dumped into a “to-go” cup and tastes amazing…would you shift your perspective?

I make a lot of smoothies. So many, in fact, that I have a backed up list of recipes I’ve yet to post on my site. I’ve always had a system when it comes to making them; but as complicated as many of my concoctions can be, you really don’t need all of the ingredients that I use in order to make a great smoothie for yourself. You also don’t need an insanely expensive blender; when I first started, I used a very affordable yet amazing machine by Kitchen Aid . You can snag it between $80-$130 USD on Amazon. We’ll go into further detail on ingredients below but for now, let’s do a quick reality checklist to see what you actually need get started:

Blender: This is what you’ll use to create your smoothies. Buy it once, use it everyday.

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Liquid Base: This is the foundation of every smoothie. Whether it be Filtered Water, Coconut Water, Tea or Non-Dairy Milk, this will be the liquid component.

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Baby Greens: In order to take advantage of the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients which plants provide, you’ll want to get in your greens. Buy bagged; From “bag to blender”, no cooking required.

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Fruit – Not only do fruits add sweetness and flavor but they also contain many antioxidant and energy benefits. Stock up on Bananas and bags of frozen berries.

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Protein – When I first converted to a plant-based diet I was constantly asked where I get my protein from (and actually still do). Some of the best sources of protein to put into your smoothies will come from nuts, seeds and superfood powders. Some of my favorites are Hemp Seeds, Cashews, Flax Seeds, Hemp Powder and Spirulina. Another great thing to have on hand is a large tub of clean, plant-based Protein Powder (about 20 servings worth). One of the cleanest and most powerful brands that I have ever tried comes from Vega. See which products are right for you. My top 2 choices are Vega One and Vega Sport.

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That’s it in a nutshell. But if you’re really low on cash, groceries and/or time…all you really need is a liquid base and the protein powder. Super simple…super fast…super good! If you just keep those simple handful of ingredients on hand, you can’t lose. And if you want to step it up a bit (after you’ve become a smoothie wizard) refer back to these simple steps and tips for guidance.

1. Liquid Base
The first thing to always go into the blender is the liquid. Measurement markers are usually right on the blender jar, so no need for an extra measuring cup. A good rule of thumb is 8-12 oz, depending on how thick you want your smoothie to be. If you want to be able to drink it faster (on the go), you can always add more liquid for easier drinkability. If you’re in a pinch, filtered water is the easiest choice. Coconut Water is also an excellent choice for hydration and electrolyte replenishing qualities. For texture, creaminess and added nutrition, use a nut milk such as Almond, Hemp, Cashew or Coconut Milk; these are normally supplemented with B-12 and Vitamin D (which are crucial if your diet is plant-based). For the advanced “en-smoothiast”, you can even use chilled teas, health tonics, pressed vegetable juices, aloe juice, etc.

2. Baby Greens
The second step is adding your greens to the liquid. I have found that “baby” varieties work best in the blender due to their soft leaves which break down much easier…even in blenders that are less powerful than the holy grail Vitamix or Blendtec models. As far as convenience goes, you can’t beat baby greens because you can buy them in the market already prepped in a bag or container. Just bust it open, grab a giant handful and toss it into the blender with your liquid base. You can use baby varieties of Kale, Spinach, Romaine, Arugula, Spring Mix as well as many other varieties of fresh farm micro-greens and sprouts. Many people complain about not being able to eat enough servings of greens throughout their busy days; well this is your chance to pack it in there and get it down easy. Once you’ve tossed a couple handfuls in the jar, put the lid on and blend on the high setting until all the greens are completely blended. You should end up with green liquid and no tiny green bits.

3. Fruits and Veggies
My smoothies are primarily fruit based, aside from the greens. I do this on purpose because I also drink extracted vegetable juice daily. I “eat & blend” my fruits and “eat & juice” my vegetables. The reason I do this is due to the high sugar content in most fruits. If you blend the fruit, you keep the fiber which will help slow down the absorption of the sugars. Blend your fruits and juice your veggies! So, for this step I almost always start with 1 Banana OR 1 Avocado; it will give the smoothie it’s velvety texture. If you’re looking for creamy but would rather go without the extra sugar; go with the Avocado (packed with healthy fats, vitamins and aminos). Now throw in 1 handful of berries OR 1 piece of fruit (Apple, Orange, Pear, etc). The possibilities are endless; don’t be afraid to use your imagination. Once you’ve added these ingredients, blend on the “crush ice” setting to break up the fruits and then slowly switch over to the high setting. At this point, you should have a pretty good idea if its too thick (add more liquid) or if its too watery (add some ice cubes).

4. Protein Powder
Many seasoned en-smoothiasts go without protein powders but since I am a vegan, I definitely make sure I cover my bases and add it. I’ve also been working out quite a bit since my weight loss, so I’m trying to build some muscle as well (why not?). And if you’re trying to take as much of the guesswork out of smoothie-making as possible, protein powder is the easiest, quickest way. One serving can cover a good portion of your nutrition needs; just be certain that it’s a good one. Theres a lot of junk out there disguised as healthy supplements. Make sure you research and read labels. It should be plant-based, nutrient dense, high in protein, made from clean (whole food) ingredients, chemical free, non-gmo and on top of all that…taste really good! That said, I’ll do you a solid and save you the search. Look no further than Vega’s line of nutrition products. And since we’re talking convenience and essentials, we may as well be talking about Vega Essentials. 20 grams of plant-based protein, 3 servings of greens, 25% daily value of Vitamins and Minerals, 16% daily Fiber, 1g Omega 3s and only 130 calories per scoop. It’s available online, your local Pharmacy and now even Target stores. The price is not bad either; around $2 per serving which is less than a trip to the donut or coffee shop (do I even need to compare the health benefits of those food choices?)

5. Optional Mix-Ins (for when you become a pro)
I find smoothies to be a great opportunity to mix in other superfoods from nature that can increase the nutritional value of this meal in a glass. Of course, at first, you may just want to go with quick and simple shakes (steps 1 -4). That said, save this extra info for when you’re a seasoned smoothie pro and want to upgrade. Myself, I don’t think I’ve ever made a smoothie that did not at least contain some Chia Seeds or Flax Seeds. These seeds are so very important to everyday health…vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, Omegas; they are a powerhouse on their own. Based on what my body feels like, I will also add in a superfood supplement (or 2, or 3). Superfoods are berries, herbs, teas, mushrooms, etc that are found from all over the world. Each one has a unique nutrition profile and can help maintain different parts of the body. Their packed with antioxidants which the “basic” groups of popular produce simply do not contain. It’s always best if you can find the whole food itself; but if, like me, you simply do not have access…bags of the pure powder will do just fine. Some of the ones I use are Reishi, Lucuma, Goji, Camu Camu, Acai, Spiralina, Matcha, Hemp, Cacao and Maca. Other mix-ins to consider are soaked nuts, oats, quinoa, dates (pitted) and good oils such as Coconut or Hemp.

So, as long as you have a blender, some liquid and a excellent plant-based ingredients, you truly cannot fail at making a nutritious smoothie. Make this a new everyday habit to replace a small meal or some other habit you’d like to avoid. Before you know it, you’ll start feeling better and wondering what else you can incorporate into your health regimen. Now pour that amazing smoothie into a tall glass and toast to your newfound health!

Pumpkin Peach Pie Smoothie

What makes Pumpkin Pie even better? Peaches! 😮🍑🍑I took my classic Pumpkin Pie smoothie recipe and made it summer-ready by adding fresh organic peaches. Yum!!! Super high in antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, minerals and beta carotene…this smoothie combo is excellent for skin, fighting oxidation brought on by free radicals and maintaining a healthy weight. So, go right ahead, don’t be afraid to gulp this one down and turn your frown upside down 😋😃
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1 Cup Plant Based Milk

1/2 Cup Pumpkin Purée

2 Peaches (pitted/skin on)

1 serving  Vega One Nutritional Shake (French Vanilla)

1/3 Cup Whole Grain Oats

1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice

1 Tbsp Chia Seed

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Blend all on high speed until smooth. Pour and enjoy!

Mounds of Zenergy

Recently, I was graciously offered a free box of an amazing organic superfood tea made by Buddha Teas, an independent, environmentally responsible company set in Carlsbad, California. When Buddha Teas had asked me which tea I wanted to try, I was immediately drawn into the vast product offerings on their website; from bags, loose leaf, green teas, black teas, herbal teas and specialty teas, I knew right away that I’d be ordering from them often (and I hadn’t even tried it yet!). After browsing for a good 20 minutes, I finally landed on the Zenergy Blend, mostly because I’m an athlete and could always use an extra boost of energy! And this particular blend contained a unique blend of Ginkgo Biloba, Green Tea, Ginger Root, Maca Root and Ashwagandha; a true powerhouse of adaptogenic goodness!

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I was so excited to try this out from the very second I got my hands around the beautiful packaging; a sturdy, 100% Recyclable, flip-top box with a gold-seal stamped logo on the front. Clear indications that it is certified Organic, Non GMO, 100% Kosher, contains no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives…and they even use unbleached tea bags. All of this was a plus for me since I’m a stickler for clean ingredients. You can tell that these guys really care about their tea (and take it very seriously).

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I threw a pot of boiling water on, prepped a tea bag and steeped for about 5 minutes (as instructed). As many teas do, they have their own “motivational quotes” on the tea tags; I mean, who doesn’t love a little slice of wisdom with their tea? I sat down to relax with a hot cup of this tea (nothing added) and was pleasantly pleased at it’s mild, yet, full bodied flavor. John, from Buddha Teas, had mentioned that this was a very unique tasting tea which is “Maca forward” with a slightly creamy texture. He hit the nail directly on the head! Thankfully, I love the subtle nutty flavor of Maca Root; and along with the Ginger and light Green Tea notes, it was perfectly balanced. For those who enjoy the gentle flavors of Ginger Root Tea and Green Tea, this blend is an exceptional choice. Not only is it calming to drink but it provides a subtle “pep in your step” as well as providing other nutrients not found in other teas.

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Now for the part I like best…hot tonics! I often brew and blend many of my favorite teas into a tonic which includes a variety of superfoods, adaptogens, berries, nuts and seeds. With Zenergy’s already super creamy texture, I began to daydream about Dark Chocolate…and Coconut; kind of like a Mounds bar…except healthy…and fashioned into a Chinese Herbology inspired medicinal tonic. Fast forward to 5 minutes later, I had gathered all the ingredients together and threw em’ in the blender. The rest is history.

So sweet, chocolatey and creamy! And with just the right boost of ZENERGY! Enjoy the recipe below.

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MOUNDS OF ZENERGY SMOOTHIE (Salted Chocolate Coconut Tonic)

  • 8oz freshly brewed, hot Buddha Teas Zenergy Blend Tea
  • 4 Khadrawy Dates (pitted and soaked)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Raw Cacao Powder
  • 1 tsp Reishi Mushroom Powder
  • 2 Tbsp Coconut Flakes
  • 1 Tbsp Coconut Oil (Unrefined)
  • 1 tsp Coconut Nectar
  • pinch freshly ground Pink Himalayan Salt

Boil some water for brewing your Zenergy Tea. Once boiled, pour over 1 tea bag into a cup or brewing pot; 8 oz of liquid to 1 tea bag is a good serving ratio. While the tea is steeping, place the pitted dates into a small bowl and pour some of the boiled water over them for soaking. By the time you prepare/measure out all other ingredients and add them to your blender jar, the dates will be nice and soft for blending. Discard the soaking water and put the dates in with the rest of the mixture. Once the tea has steeped for at least 5 minutes, pour into the blender. Cover the jar with the lid tightly. Begin to blend on the low setting, gradually working up to high speed. Blend until perfectly smooth. Pour into your favorite mug and sprinkle some Ground Cinnamon on top if desired. Enjoy!

Green Superfood Oatmeal

Tired of drinking freezing smoothies in the unforgiving chill of winter? Not me. 😉 But sometimes I just want something to heat me up. How about this Green Superfood Oatmeal? Delicious, nutritious, filling and chock full of immunity boosting antioxidant power! And it warms you up from the inside out.

The ingredient that ties this altogether is one of my most trusted and powerful superfoods; Vega Sport Performance Protein. After a tough session of swim training last night, I woke up with a true hunger. My muscles ached and they wanted to be fed! This clean, plant-based, whole food powder “sports” 30g of protein, 6g Glutamine, 6g BCAA, Probiotics, Tart Cherry and Turmeric. Now, let me just point out how genius this nutrition profile actually is. Protein, glutamine and ammino acids help repair and build new muscle while the probiotics, tart cherry and turmeric work on efficient digestion and anti-inflammation. Mind blown! For me, this is workout medicine after my body feels wrecked from running, cycling, swimming, lifting, etc. It will aid in recovery and get you back out there in no time.

On top of all that, it tastes great!
Ever since my health journey began, my tastebuds have changed immensely. What I used to cringe at; I now embrace wholeheartedly. Experimenting in the kitchen is one of my favorite things to do and this hearty superfood breakfast is the perfect example of that sentiment. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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1 serving of your fav cooked oatmeal

Some fresh fruit like bananas, dates, berries (optional)

8oz plant-based Milk (almond, coconut, etc)

1 serving Vega Sport Performance Protein (Vanilla)

1 tsp Mushroom Matrix- Fit Matrix (Cordyceps and Reishi)

1 tsp Spirulina

1 tsp Maca

1 tsp Acai

1/4 tsp Camu Camu

Prepare 1 serving of your favorite whole grain oatmeal. While thats cooking, heat up your nut milk in a small pot on medium. When nut milk is hot, pour into your blender jar along with the Vega Sport and all of the other superfood powders. Place the lid on tight and begin blending working your way from low to high speed. Make sure lid is secure; liquid is hot! Blend until super smooth. In a large bowl, add your cooked oatmeal. Now pour the hot superfood smoothie contents into the bowl. Mix them together with a spoon. If desired, add some fresh fruit and sprinkle with some shredded Coconut.

Win a free copy of Thrive Fitness!

Vega and I are giving away one free copy of Brendan Brazier’s new book, Thrive Fitness! Hop on my Instagram page, follow the 3 quick, simple steps and you’re entered! 

https://instagram.com/p/BBlKsrYl0xA/

10 Tips to a Successful Juice Fast

Juicing holds a special place in my heart; it changed my life 2 years ago when I fasted on it for a total of 45 days (20/10/10/5). I shed 70 pounds, went full on vegan, reversed my high cholesterol and high blood pressure, curbed many bad habits including (food addiction, alcohol and caffeine) and completely overhauled my eating habits from the ground up. This all happened over 6 months. Crazy, right? Nope. Not crazy at all. It’s science really. 

To me, it will always be known as the most powerful weapon in my arsenal; a weapon that fought (and won) against my most destructive habits. It changed both my physical and mental health forever. Some see it as a trendy, hipster fad; conventional doctors don’t recommend it; the mainstream media pokes fun at it any chance they get. But you’ve gotta let all that brain chatter go. It’s the real deal, if you do it right.

That said, I’d like to share with you some tips that were not only vital in making my juice fasts a success; but were the very things that helped keep me on the right path for good!

1) Drink warm Lemon Water when you wake up to jumpstart digestive system; this may even eventually replace your morning coffee habit.

2) Drink 5 or 6 (12-16oz) Juices every day. There is no limit, drink even more if you want.

3) Drink tons of water in between juices; it’s extremely important to stay hydrated throughout your fast.

4) Enjoy detoxifying Herbal Teas throughout the day. Not only does herbal tea continue to nourish and help with digestion; a hot cup of tea in your hands will be a welcome change to all the juice. It is calming and you will begin looking forward to it.

5) Drink 16 oz of Pure Coconut Water each day to replenish lost electrolytes. Very important.

6) Move your body! After the initial days of rest and detox symptoms begin to fade, go for a walk, a light jog or some yoga. This will keep you fit AND keep your mind off hunger as well.

7) TRUST! Stay the course…you will most likely feel crappy for the first 3-5 days; this is normal. It’s called withdrawal 😉 Once you get over that hump, it’s smooth sailing from there. Your body will tell you when it’s time to transition back to eating again.

8) Relax! Try to get into a meditative state throughout your fast. Deeply feel the good it is doing for you. I see people fail all the time because they get inside their head too much. They worry that they aren’t getting enough of “this or that”. Keep in mind that this is only temporary and you will eat again!

9) Make it fun! Mix it up and make different recipes. Use different types of glasses and straws. Chew the juice! Serve it to yourself in a different way each time. This will help avoid the monotony and lighten the mental load

10) KEEP IT UP!!

The 10 Excuses to Skip my Morning Run and How I Overcame Them

Over two years ago I would have gawked at the idea of going for even a short walk outside, let alone an exhausting run. Obese, tired and suffering from poor health; I was at the wheel but I wasn’t driving the car. My mind was my nemesis during some of the toughest points in my life and it really had it’s hold over me. But after many years of practicing grounding therapies such as meditation, aikido and yoga, I finally gained enough mental clarity to take control of my body. It only took about 6 months to overhaul my eating habits, shed 70+ pounds and realize that my addictions, depression and fatigue were a product of self-manufactured

The ego provides us with excuses as to why we should not change; even if our higher self knows it would be good thing. We have to become ninjas at fending excuses off as they approach. For instance, “I can’t find time” is one of the most common excuses. But instead of agreeing, we can ponder the excuse for just a short moment…and realize that by getting more rest at night and rising earlier, we can easily find this time. See how easy that was? Diffused. But that’s only one excuse! When you awake for your morning run, be prepared for a “song and dance” with your brain.

#1. “I’m too tired”!
No, you’re not! You’ve had plenty of rest because you planned ahead! According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults 18+ need 7-9 hours in order to function at their peak capability.

#2. It’s too cold/hot outside!
Dress appropriately. Always check the temperature before setting off on your journey and dress for the occasion. If you’re unsure, try out this nifty What to Wear Calculator.

#3. I’m too sore!
Hmmm…is it just because you slept in crazy positions all night? The body wants to stretch, move and expand; it keeps everything in tip top shape. Always make sure your post-workout recovery and rest is strong enough before getting back out there. If your excuse is always that you are too sore, you’ll eventually be worse off by living a stagnant life; I know, I’ve been there 😉

#4. The road/ground is wet!
It’s not rocket science. Wear an extra pair of socks and watch where you’re running. Avoid slippery situations; wet leaves, puddles, mud, etc.

#5. It’s too windy out!
It’s only wind, wear an extra layer if needed. Avoid exposure, especially if it is cold and windy. Use the direction of the wind to your advantage whenever possible. Breathe deeply and oxygenate your lungs. Invigorating!

#6. I don’t have time!
Here we go again; didn’t we figure this one out earlier? Plan for the time you’ll need the night before. Get enough sleep so you are able to rise earlier than usual.

#7. Oh boy…those steep hills! I don’t think I’ll make it.
Hills make us stronger and build our endurance. And nobody said you couldn’t ever take walk breaks on your run. In fact, according to ex-Olympian and running coach, Jeff Galloway, you can not only improve your time using the run-walk-run method but it will keep you more in control of your running and create less possibility for injury as well.

#8. What about food, won’t I run out of energy?
Nutrition is an integral component to any exercise plan. You should provide yourself with clean fuel to prepare, sustain and recover. This will ensure you are well hydrated, have the energy to burn and the nutrients to repair strained muscles. Loading up on complex carbohydrates will help you keep a nice reserve of glycogen to burn. In addition, Vega Sport has some great plant-based products specifically geared for the on-the-go athlete. Personally, I have used the Pre-Workout Energizer beforehand; the Electrolyte HydratorEndurance Gels and Energy Bars during; and the Performance Protein after. I gotta say, the workouts that I didn’t include these items were the hardest; both during and after.

#9: I just don’t care, I’m going back to sleep!
If you truly “don’t care”, have a wonderful time trying to navigate life by this terrible philosophy. Instead, try doing the opposite. Extend your caring to everything around you; doors will open up for you and paths will become cleared for you.

#10. Don’t go! Just go back to sleep, you can make it up tomorrow.
You are not your brain. The ego does not want you to change; it wants you to stay in that zone of comfort. The most clever of obstacles in life is the mind itself. Each day it lays more bricks upon a wall built from our stresses, anxieties and fears. It is this very wall which causes us to recoil from opportunity and closes us off from the openness of the world around us. If you can tap into your “witnessing you” and learn how to quiet your mind; you will begin to see the blank space as a window of opportunity.

Now throw off those blankets, get out there and run!