3 Things To Create Harmony In Your Life

I don’t have resolutions for 2015. I have a word for the year, a theme that I will strive for.


I’ve made peace with the fact that perfect balance is not achievable when you dream big, work hard and adventure often. Harmony is a better fit. Merriam Webster has several definitions of harmony but I am I am referring to it as follows:

  1. pleasing or congruent arrangement of parts
  2. correspondence, accord
  3. internal calm; tranquility

I no longer expect things to happen in my life at the perfect time in the perfect amounts. There will always be evenings at work instead of having dinner with Brian. There will be weekends with too much sitting on the couch binge-watching Friends or House of Cards when I should be writing blog posts. Something important will always suffer slightly, so I can attend to something else in my life that is equally as important. But if the parts of my day can come together in a pleasing arrangement so I can go to bed tired but content then all is right in the world.

Harmony isn’t necessarily easier than balance. Nothing worth having is easy. It is, however, achievable. My favorite things list this month are things that quite accidentally (or not?) came together as I was sealing my intention for the New Year. I hope they will also give you some assistance if you are trying to create harmony in your life.

  • Buddhify App

    I keep working on my meditation practice. Just like exercise I always feel calmer, my thoughts are clearer and I have less anxiety when I meditate. Unlike exercise, meditation is usually one of the first things to fall off my to-do list. Buddhify takes away the excuse of time. This app has very short meditations so I can fit in some practice when I have a break at the gym or in the morning before breakfast. Brian is traveling again and I have found the Going to Sleep meditation called Fade very helpful.

  • Real Simple Magazine

    Real Simple MagazineIt’s not about the recipes or the quick cleaning tips (although I do make my own eco-friendly bathroom cleaner thanks to them). It’s their new monthly column Breathe. Along with a gorgeous graphic, there is a short exercise to help you find your zen. The February issue’s theme is restoring a feeling of openness. If harmony is to be found I believe one must be open to change, open to new ways of doing things and new ways of approaching old routines. I look forward to the monthly reminders in the midst of their book recommendations and organization tips.

  • Green Spa Vapor and Veriditas Botanicals Sleep Aid Essential Oil

    Green Spa VaporPart of my effort in creating harmony is taking care of myself better when Brian is traveling the globe and taking amazing pictures of the wonders of the world. When he travels I would over schedule myself in an attempt to fill up the empty space. Add that to the fact that I don’t sleep when he is away and I am exhausted when he returns. I have set an intention to downshift my schedule, make time for ME and find a sleep strategy that works. I purchased this diffuser and oil before the third night of his last trip. I started it about 20 minutes before bed so the room was pleasantly perfumed when I was ready to attempt sleep. Combined with the fan (white noise) and the guided meditation I was able to drift off to sleep with less anxiety.

Now if I could find a way to help me stay asleep. While I was able to drift off, I started waking up about every 2 hours. Any thoughts?

What’s your word for the year? What positive steps have you taken to live your word in 2015?

The Best Tasting Plant Based Protein Powders

The Best Tasting Plant Based Protein Powders

Whey seems to be the first name in protein supplements but it is NOT the only game in town. Plant based proteins are available but aren’t as popular because of taste and price. Whey tends to be less expensive and often tastes so much better. Plant based proteins often have what I call an “earthy” taste. Soy is usually most palatable with rice and hemp being the least, in my opinion. Blends of plant proteins usually yield the best taste but that lends itself to a higher price.

If you’re following a vegan diet or have a dairy allergy or intolerance finding a plant based protein supplement can help balance your daily plate. Just don’t feel like you have to suffer with a gritty unpleasant protein powder. There are tasty options if you know where to look.

To find the best tasting plant based protein powders, I employed the same methods as I did when I found the best tasting whey protein powders. I chose all chocolate and followed the directions on the package, drinking it straight from my BlenderBottle with water (unless otherwise directed). I purchased all of them with the exception of DailyBurn Fuel. (I won it in a completely unrelated Instagram contest. Yah me!) Here is the list of contenders:

  • Plant Fusion Chocolate
  • Vega Protein Smoothie Choc-a-lot
  • Vega Sport Recovery Chocolate
  • Rice Protein Chocolate
  • True Vitality Chocolate
  • Phood Chocolate Caramel
  • Skinny Gut Ultimate Shake Natural Chocolate
  • DailyBurn Fuel-6 Chocolate
  • Garden of Life Organic Plant Protein Chocolate
  • Spirutein Chocolate
  • Garden Of Life Raw Protein Real Raw Chocolate

And the winners?

Plant Fusion

Plant Fustion Product Art
Plant Fusion was the first “new to me” plant powered protein I sampled and I love it. It had a really natural cocoa flavor, not a fake super sweet one. It was smooth but not rich. Despite a little clump let in the bottom of the bottle it didn’t have a gritty taste in my mouth. I found mine locally at Mama Jean’s Natural Market but if you don’t live in SGF you can purchase it from All Star Health.

Spirutein Chocolate

Spirutein Chocolate
Spirutein Chocolate is not VEGAN (due to the addition of bee pollen) but it tastes yummy. It is made from plant based proteins, a mixture of soy and pea. I also thought this one was creamier but that could be because I mixed it with milk (almond coconut milk to be exact) because I followed the directions. Once mixed it had a couple of clumps going down the hatch but nothing left behind in the bottom of the bottle. It’s easy to find in single serve packages if you want to give it a try.

True Vitality

True Vitality
True Vitality is my go to vegan protein powder. While mixing it my BlenderBottle can be challenging it has a pleasant taste. It’s a blend of pea, hemp and rice protein powder with added digestive enzymes and omega 3 fatty acids. DHA, an omega 3 fatty acid found in fish, is hard to get from plant based sources. Like my Ovega, they get theirs from algae.

As with whey, I had a hard time finding samples of many brands to try. I am sure I am missing someone’s favorite plant based protein powder. Which one do you enjoy and why?

The Best Places To Save Money On Supplements

When I get asked about various supplements, like whey protein powder or multivitamins, there is sure to be a follow up question.

Where do you buy your protein powder (multi vitamin, protein bars, etc.)?

I’ve learned a thing or two over the years about how to shop for supplements. I am on a budget like everyone else. The first step in shopping for supplements is to do your research. Not just price shopping but to understand if the supplement even makes sense for your goals or if it really delivers on its promise. If you eat fish and other omega-3 rich foods you may not need to take fish oil. If you don’t need it, then you are wasting your money. You many need a multi vitamin but not one that you take four times a day. If you can’t remember to take one, then you are wasting your money trying to take four.

The next step is to try before you buy. Nothing is worse than buying a huge container of protein powder to find out you hate it. Places like the Vitamin Shoppe or Mama Jean’s Natural Market offer single servings of protein powders so you can give them a test run before committing to a larger purchase. Mama Jean’s has a great selection of protein powders in their bulk spice section – allowing you to buy as much or as little as you want. Vitamin Shoppe often has Wellness Fairs in their stores so you can try different supplements before you buy and leave with some things to try at home as well.

The Best Places To Save Money On Supplements

The sample box trend also offers you a chance to try selected samples on a monthly basis. I recently signed up for Bulu Box (paid for with my own funds) to see what kind of samples they would send based on my selected criteria. My first box included a multi vitamin sample as well as a sleep aid I had been meaning to try. It’s a fun way to get introduced to new brands you might not be familiar with.  You can earn points by reviewing the products you tried and use these points for discounts on purchases of full sized products. If you want to try it yourself click here and use coupon code FANTASTIC to get your second box FREE!

You might be surprised what supplements you can find at your local discount store. Target carries Designer Whey Protein Powders and an Up & UP version of EmergenC. You can often find name brands of protein powder, like Muscle Milk, at Cosco. My (not so) secret place for protein bars? Big Lots. You never know what you might find but I often find Designer Whey, Luna and LaraBar ALT bars and EAS protein shakes. Dry roasted edamame is not a supplement but I also stock up on it while I am there.

The Best Places To Save Money On Supplements

My favorite place to buy my supplements is online. All Star Health has the best prices I have ever found on my multivitamin, Vitamin D and calcium supplement. Amazon has the best prices on Ovega. Compare prices between these sites (and others) and don’t forget to factor shipping into the equation.

I must also give you a quick tip on where NOT to buy supplements – multi-level marketing plans. These are the companies where your friends sell the products and try to get you to sell them as well. I am not saying that some of these aren’t quality products. It is just that they are often way overpriced. There is also often pressure to sign up for reoccurring shipments. The convenience can be tempting but often they start showing up on your door faster than you actually need them.

Living healthy doesn’t have to break the bank. Most of your nutrition should come from real food. Supplements can add to your nutrition and cover gaps. Being a savvy supplement shopper can help keep you feeling good and on budget!

Where do you shop for supplements at the best prices?

The Best Tasting Whey Protein Powders

The Best Tasting Whey Protein Powders

One of my goals is to make your fitness journey a little less confusing. I do my best to stick to the basics, the 4 Keys To Real Fitness, because they work and ANYONE can master them. Sometimes, however, we have to get into the weeds and tackle complex subjects. It seems like nothing is more complex and confusing than protein supplements.

Just like the vast array of protein bars there are seemingly endless varieties of protein powders and drinks. Way (no pun intended) too many for one person to sample but for you I tried. I decided to help you by testing out as many as I could stomach. I decided to collect what I could find in single serve packages (I’m on a budget too!) and do some taste testing to help narrow down your protein supplement options.

Here is a list of ALL the whey protein powders I tested out for you. This list does not include any ready to drink protein shakes that the same companies might make. Please note that the companies who make these products provided NONE of these to me. The Vitamin Shoppe did provide me single serve samples of the Syntha-6 and PowerCrunch Proto Whey for free (along with the big basket of protein products I purchased from them that day).

  • Designer Whey
  • Spiru-tein Whey
  • Powercrunch Proto Whey
  • Betty Lou’s Low Glycemic Designer Protein Shake
  • GNC Lean Shake
  • True Athlete Natural Whey Protein
  • NSN Whey Protein
  • Tera’s Whey
  • Jay Robb Whey Protein
  • The Vitamin Shoppe Next Step
  • Syntha-6 Ultra Premium Lean Muscle

As you might notice, all of them are chocolate. I tried to be as “scientific” as I could by testing the same flavor and following instructions EXACTLY as they were printed on the package. I made them all with the suggested amount of water (with the exception of Jay Robb which specifically said milk) in my BlenderBottle.

Which ones did I like?

True Athlete Natural Whey

The Best Tasting Whey Protein Powders

True Athlete Natural Whey was my favorite out of the new powders I tried. It has 120 calories and 20 g of protein per serving; a reasonable amount for most of us. It tasted like cocoa! It wasn’t bitter and it wasn’t overly sweet. I consider that a huge bonus because many of the products I tried didn’t really taste like chocolate. It blended well with minimal clumping and had a creamy texture. Available at the Vitamin Shoppe and Amazon, it also has a reasonable price tag.

PowerCrunch Proto Whey

The Best Tasting Whey Protein Powders

The same company that makes PowerCrunch bars makes PowerCrunch Proto Whey. I have a soft spot for these bars because they remind me of the Figurines my mother (and I) ate when I was growing up. Their double chocolate flavor reminded me of their bars, maybe even a little like a candy bar taste. It is fructose sweetened but has the bonus of added fiber. Initially it looked like it mixed well in my bottle but I found a couple of clumps at the bottom when I was done.

Syntha – 6 Ultra Premium Lean Muscle

This one almost didn’t make the cut. It tastes amazing but along with its 22 g of protein it has a pretty long ingredient list. Some of those ingredients are a nice bonus, like papain (a digestive enzyme) and median chain triglycerides (clean burning fats).  Other ingredients like the artificial sweeteners and flavors aren’t as appealing. The taste however is great and at 200 calories can serve as a nice meal replacement shake when mixed with your choice of milk with a piece of fruit on the side.

Designer WheyDesigner Whey Protein Powder - Personal Trainer Approved!

Designer Whey is my tried and true protein powder, so of course it will make the list. I’ve used their brand for over a decade. It is a nice smooth chocolate taste, mixes well with water and is sweetened with stevia. I use it in everything from a simple shake to date balls to chocolate protein pancakes. The price is reasonable; it’s even available at Target.

Just like food, we all have our likes and dislikes. What I like may not be pleasing to your taste buds. I have clients who love Trader Joe’s, Muscle Milk and AboutTime but based on my previous experience with the later two (I’ve never tried the Trader Joe’s) I can’t say the same. I am curious to hear…what is your favorite chocolate protein powder and how did you discover it?

As you know whey isn’t the only game in town. Next week I’ll give you picks of the plant based protein powders.

Are Fat Burners and Pre-Workout Supplements Worth The Money?

Are Fat Burners and Pre-Workout Supplements Worth The Money?

In my last post I shared my personal list of supplements. With the exception of BCAAs, they are more about health and less about my body composition. They are basic and generally considered safe (although you should talk to your doctor before taking any supplement). I learned long ago that real fitness doesn’t come in pill form.

Fat Burners

That doesn’t mean I didn’t try that path. After I realized that my weight was out of control in my early 20s, I too dabbled in the various fat loss supplements that were then sold over the counter. I am a bit of a “fraidy-cat” so I steered clear of MetaboLife (after seeing some of my friends speeding around) which was very popular at the time. Instead I chose something less potent that featured a blond woman proudly baring her abs on the bottle. I called them “my vitamins” and popped them before dinners out with friends and in the morning before work. Not surprisingly, since I wasn’t working out and continued to eat crap, nothing changed. Money I didn’t really have went down the drain. Be smarter than me and know the real results come from real work. If you read the label on that weight loss/fat burner/metabolism booster label carefully you will see the following message:

“When taken with exercise and a sensible diet.”

The reality is even if a weight loss supplement “boosts your burn” or “mobilizes fat stores” you won’t actually lose weight without putting your body to work. If you don’t need the energy to do work, it will just get stored again. If you don’t do the work it takes to get in shape, you won’t have a shape to be truly pleased with.

When trying to make sense of supplement labels and their claims it is important to note that supplement sales are a little like the Wild West. When I asked my friend and supplement expert, Michelle Carlson, for the #1 thing people should look out for when choosing supplements she started with this:

“Do your research. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but you must keep in mind that there are no regulations over most supplements and these companies rely on great marketing.”

Like the blond on that bottle I mentioned? Supplements are regulated by the FDA as food not drugs. They don’t have to prove their claims to hit the shelves. The FDA only steps in if there are significant complaints, illness or fatalities. This has been especially apparent in weight loss supplements, which often contain a variety of stimulants that can prove very dangerous to some. Ephedra was a popular ingredient in over the counter weight loss products until the death of a pro baseball player in 2003. Thankfully ephedra was pulled from shelves that same year. If a supplement is promising to curb your appetite and burn more fat without diet and exercise – BEWARE. It probably contains at least one of these stimulants (despite promising you no jitters):

  • Caffeine
  • Ginseng
  • Hoodia gordonii
  • Ephedrine
  • Synephrine
  • Paullinia cupana

The effect can be anything from uncomfortable (like being unable to sleep) to the down right dangerous (like chest pains and respiratory  or cardiac distress).

Pre-Workout Supplements

Supplements have a place but they are not the secret to fat loss. Save your money and beware of fat burners and preworkout supplements

You may also find these stimulants in pre-workout supplements. This class of supplements often contains ingredients like caffeine for energy plus some form of nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, meaning it causes the blood vessels to relax so blood can flow more easily. While this may be a benefit for those with high blood pressure (and certain competitive athletes) the feeling can be scary to those with low blood pressure, heart issues or who simply aren’t prepared for its effects.

Since I am my own favorite test subject, I tried one of those pre-workout supplements a few months back. My blood pressure runs on the low side but I did not feel dizzy. I did feel very jittery and tingly. There was an uncomfortable tightness in my body as I saw my blood vessels “pop out” under my skin. My side effects were uncomfortable though certainly not life threatening. For others they can cause a quick change in blood pressure leading to dizziness, light-headedness, nausea and vomiting as well as the side effects mentioned previously from the stimulants. For most of us the risk (and price) far outweighs any rewards most of these products might bring.

Basic Multivitamin

Michelle also had another good reminder:

There is no need for 300% of any vitamin. Also remember that Vitamin C is the ONLY vitamin that does not have an upper limit. You can overdose on vitamins A,D,K and E as well as the mineral iron.

Meaning you can overdo ANYTHING, even something that is supposed to be good for you. Before choosing a vitamin or mineral supplement read the label to check for doses well in excess of recommended daily allowances. Never take “mega doses” of the fat soluble vitamins or iron unless prescribed by a doctor.

Just like food, supplement selection is about educating yourself. You need to learn what makes sense for your goals and your life. Don’t be influenced by what your friend (or co-worker or Dr. Oz) is taking or selling. You MUST read the labels. You must do the research. Take control of your health by doing the work. Never count on a pill or potion to do it for you.

6 Supplements to Consider Taking Daily

6 Supplements to Consider Taking Daily

I must confess there is something missing from my What I Ate Wednesday posts on Facebook. Other than the EmergenC in my morning ritual and my protein shakes, you don’t get to see the supplements I take on a daily basis. It’s not a desire to hide anything. I just don’t find it relevant the conversation. After all it is What I ATE Wednesday.

The more questions I get about supplements, the more I realize it IS relevant. Supplement ads are everywhere, especially this time of year. Everyone from Dr Oz to your best friend are promoting something as the NEXT BIG SECRET to weight loss. I say:

If there was a pill or potion that caused you to lose weight without taking care of your diet or exercising it would be on the cover of the New York Times.

The inventor would win a Nobel Prize! The obesity epidemic would be OVER. None of these things have happened. Your body will not change, your health will not improve, without changing your behavior and doing the work.

I am not “anti-supplement”. Supplements are a part of my fitness routine, but they are a SUPPLEMENT. They are meant to enhance what I eat and my workouts, not replace them. They are meant to help cover my gaps and improve what age and activity might be taking away.

Here are the basics that I take and the supplements I think most people should consider. (Always check with your health care provider before adding any supplement or medication to your daily routine.)

  1. Natrol My Favorite Multiple One a Day Iron Free

    Yes, I take a multiple vitamin. My diet isn’t perfect so I know I may have gaps. My multi is my insurance policy. Some of the fruits and vegetables I consume have traveled a long way. This diminishes their nutrient content, as does poor soil quality. I am not anemic so I don’t require extra iron. Frankly, it makes me ill if I do take a multiple with iron.

  2. Ovega

    I don’t eat fish so I have to get my Omega 3 fatty acids from somewhere. I eat milled flaxseed daily and walnuts occasionally but they are not a good source of DHA. This vegetarian supplement gets its DHA the same place the fish do – algae. I also get DHA from my True Vitality protein shakes but I don’t drink them daily. I take this supplement every day with my breakfast. If you’re not opposed to fish, there are a variety of good quality fish oils out there as well.

  3. NOW Vitamin D-3 1000 IU

    I wear my sunscreen daily and I live in the Midwest. I also spend most of my day indoors. Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is tough to get in adequate quantities from food so I take it daily. It is a fat-soluble vitamin so I take it with a meal containing fat, usually my Morning Mug Souffle. Since it is related to sunshine, take D early in the day when your body would normally be reacting to the sun.

  4. NOW Lutein 10 mg

    As a type 1 diabetic my eye health is very important.  I have no occurrence of diabetic eye damage and I prefer to keep it that way. This was added at the recommendation of my eye doctor a few years back.

  5. Country Life Chewable Cal-Snack (Calcium 1000 mg Magnesium 500 mg)

    I’m a woman who doesn’t eat dairy products on a regular basis so I take my calcium in supplement form. The chewable is better absorbed and I kind of like the taste. Odd story…I once switched to another chewable calcium without magnesium. A few weeks after I did I started to experience a irregular heart beat. I had a battery of tests, including a stress test, and nothing was found to be wrong with my heart. This went on for several weeks (perhaps months?) as I wracked my brain trying to determine what might have changed. I hit on the calcium and switched back. In a week or so the problem disappeared and has never returned. Magnesium is required for proper function of nerves and muscles, including the heart. Coincidence? Probably not.

  6. Essential Formulas Dr Ohhira’s Probiotics

    6 Supplements to Consider Taking DailyI won a huge basket of products from Essential Formuals at IDEA World Blogfest. I had never taken a pro-biotic before but the timing of my prize was perfect. I acquired a nail infection (be careful where you get your manicures!) that required several rounds of antibiotics. Since I was killing the good as well as the bad I was happy to have something to help me bring my intestinal flora back in balance. They kept my digestive system happy, so much so I kept taking them after I was finished with the antibiotics. I think they helped me through the holiday indulgences with minimal intestinal distress.


    Proceed with caution – number 7 on the list may not apply!
    Branch Chain Amino Acids are a very recent addition to my supplement routine and are still “on trial”. BCAAs generally refer to three amino acids: leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein (and therefore muscle). The research is fuzzy at best about the overall benefits of BCAAs for muscle building and muscle recovery but I am curious to see how my body reacts. As I approach 40 I am even more concerned about avoiding age related muscle loss (sarcopenia) and even adding some muscle to my frame. Combined with a more “old school” weight training program I will be interested to see if they make any difference or not in my body composition. Not a double bind trial I know but it’s the best I can do.

As with my diet, I share with caution because what is needed for me isn’t always what is needed for someone else. Just because I take it doesn’t mean it is the right choice for everyone. The message is that supplements can be (and in some cases should be) part of a healthy lifestyle and a fitness program. As always talk to your doctor about what you take and don’t think the answer to your fitness goals is in a pill. There are way too many supplements that over promise, under deliver and could even be dangerous. Curious? Check out my next post….

Balancing Your Plate: Why It’s Okay to Eat Carbs

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When I talk to clients about eating more protein, not being afraid of fat and balancing their plate I automatically come across as “anti-carb”. I was really excited when I was asked to be a Wasa Ambassador because sharing the Wasa love gives me the perfect opportunity to bust this myth.

Wasa Logo

I am all for the right kind of carbs, “smart carbs” if you will, at the right time. Carbs are an essential part of a fit and active life because they are the body’s primary energy source. Glucose is how we power our muscles and fuel our brain. When our blood sugar dips, depleted by stress and life, we get “hangry”. We get tired. We are more likely to make poor choices. You reach for the donut in the break room or the chocolate chip cookies that are supposed to be for the kids’ lunch box for an energy boost. Those sugary carbs send your blood sugar spiking back up, momentarily making you feel better, but will soon be followed by the crash.

All carbs, however, are not created equal. The bulk of our daily carbohydrate intake should come from nutrient dense carbs that contain some protein or fiber to slow down the blood sugar spike. Vegetables, fruits, dairy, beans, oats and other fiber rich foods (like Wasa crispbread) should be part of your daily diet to give you the energy you need not just for workouts but for the entire day.

The Standard American Diet is based on the wrong kind of carbs. A bagel for breakfast leaves you hungry in just an hour or two. A burger and fries for lunch leaves you in a food coma for the afternoon. Most people waste the energy from a pasta dinner by sitting on the couch after a day of sitting at their desk. We need to rethink the plate to match our day and the needs of our body.

  • Breakfast

    Poached Egg on a WASA Flaxseed Crispbread with Avocado

    You need carbs to start the day but you also need protein to sustain you until lunch. It needs to be quick and portable. A green smoothie to drink in the car is easy and filling. A poached egg on a Wasa Flaxseed or Hearty  crispbread with avocado and a side of fruit will keep you satisfied and focused through a hectic morning

  • Lunch

    Don’t skip it! You may be busy but you’ll be less effective if you don’t eat something during the day. Try egg salad or tuna salad on bed of greens with Wasa Sourdough crispbreads on the side. The protein and fiber make a powerful lunch combo that will keep you cleared headed and alert for your post lunch meetings.

  • Dinner

    WASA with Lentil Sloppy Joe FillingIt’s hard to find something that will please everyone but I find soups or chili are universally popular. They are also easy to fill with protein and veggies with plenty of leftovers the next day. Skip the saltines or rolls and give your soup or chili a fiber punch with Wasa Hearty crispbread.

  • Snacks

    WASA Peanut Butter and an Apple SnackYes, you need to snack. If it’s going to longer than 4 hours till your next meal you need something to keep your blood sugar up. I love hummus or peanut butter with baby carrots and Wasa crispbreads for a surprisingly filling snack. Cheese pairs well with Wasa crispbreads too along with an apple or some grapes.

It’s time to rethink your plate and bring it back into balance. Real fitness is about finding harmony in your body and your life. Real fitness is about being strong, healthy and capable of living the life you want, in and out of the gym. It’s not about being anti carb and depriving yourself. Do something nice your future self will thank you for. Real fitness is about giving your body what it needs to fuel your appetite for life!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of the Wasa.