Everything This Weight Loss Expert Eats In A Day

In my 16-year journey as a weight loss and fitness expert, I’ve tried just about every diet in the book, from bodybuilder-style macro-counting to high-fat keto. Though some experiments have proved more sustainable than others, each has helped me find the eating style that works best for me.

These days, my eating philosophy is to really listen to my body, eat whole foods in their whole forms (as little from packages as possible!), get enough satiating fat, and love what I eat. I keep a list of my five favorite healthy breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks, and a binder of all my favorite recipes—like slow cooker chicken chili—to make healthy eating easier when life gets busy. (And, trust me, it does when you have two kids, two dogs, a full-time job, and a hubby who works opposite hours than you do!)

Here’s what a full day of healthy—and delicious—eating usually looks like for me.

On a typical day, my alarm clock goes off at 5:20 in the morning and I enjoy the quiet with a cup of coffee—usually a cappuccino made with lots of whole milk and cinnamon—and my pup, Angus. I feel best following a modified intermittent fasting regimen and delaying my first full meal, so my frothy beverage usually counts as my breakfast.

Then I usually meet with a client in my gym, get my kids ready for school, and do a workout (often kickboxing or a run) of my own. From there, I’m off to work, running from private clients to speaking events to consulting meetings all over the place. I don’t eat my first real meal until around noon, but when I finally stop long enough to sit down and eat, I usually go for breakfast food, my favorite of which is an omelet (or some sort of egg dish).

I stuff two full eggs (the yolks contain all those vitamins, like choline) with vegetables like spinach, mushrooms, and onions—and, of course, cheese. I try to use seasonal veggies and different cheeses (like cheddar and goat cheese) and herbs to keep boredom at bay.

There are some days, however, that I’m crunched for time, so I go for a one-two punch of portable fruit and protein: yogurt parfait plus a banana and packet of nut butter (like Justin’s almond butter).

My yogurt bowls consist of two-percent plain Greek yogurt topped with raspberries, blueberries, two tablespoons of sliced almonds, and a tablespoon of sunflower seeds. I always recommend going for fuller-fat dairy because it’s more satisfying and swapping sugar-laden granola for nuts and seeds, which provide healthy fats, protein, and crunch. The bowl is low in sugar, but high in fiber and protein, so it really holds me over.

With that first meal, I take my supplements: a multivitamin to keep my nutritional bases covered, a probiotic to support a healthy gut, turmeric for an antioxidant boost, and collagen to keep my skin glowing and hair and nails strong.

I’m usually satisfied until late afternoon, when I grab a snack.

My afternoon munch pretty much always includes some dark chocolate, but I do have a few other staples, like apple slices and raw mixed nuts, hummus and sugar snap peas, a clementine and a cheese stick, and apple slices and nut butter. My criteria for a great snack: It must contain a fruit or vegetable for vitamins and fiber, and it should also provide some fat and protein. To make travel and portion control easier, I buy pre-made serving-size packets for nuts, nut butters, and hummus whenever I can.

Once work and after-school activities finish up, my family sits down together for dinner. So much research shows how vital this time can be for families, so we fight for it! We keep the TV off and put our phones away so we can focus on each other and eating mindfully.

Often, we all eat a slight variation of the same theme. My kids might have Italian-seasoned ground turkey over pasta with red sauce, while my husband and I might eat it over spaghetti squash, zucchini, salad, or steamed broccoli.

My goal at dinner is to fill half my plate with produce. Then I add a solid four-ounce serving of a lean protein like chicken or shrimp and some healthy fat like avocado, a drizzle of olive oil, or even a little melted butter. I always use a small plate to keep my portions in check.

During my own weight loss journey (I shed 65 pounds before starting my career in the industry), I realized that I snacked at nighttime just out of habit, and consumed hundreds of extra calories just to keep my hands busy while watching TV. These days, I don’t usually eat after dinner, and make myself a mug of one of my favorite teas—like decaf chai or Earl Grey, or Trader Joe’s Candy Cane green tea—instead.

If I’m truly hungry, though, I’ll go for a snack made of whole, natural foods, which are hard to overeat! My favorites are a sliced apple with a tablespoon or two of almond butter and baby carrots with hummus.

My personal eating style has evolved so much over the years, and right now this way of eating really works for my lifestyle, but I always keep my eyes open for areas where it might need to be tweaked. I truly believe that being willing to try new things and staying inspired are the keys to eating healthy long-term!


Liz Josefsberg is a weight loss and wellness expert with over 15 years in the industry, as well as a member of The Vitamin Shoppe’s Wellness Council. A mom, author, fitness enthusiast, and weight loss success story herself (65 pounds lost!), Liz consults all over the world. She loves testing every diet, exercise regimen, device, and piece of gear she can get her hands on. 

The Oil You’ve Never Heard Of That Saved My Face

Anyone who has dry skin knows that managing it can be a never-ending, often painful challenge. The most uncomfortable permutation of my own dry skin is the malar rash I get on my face. A malar rash is also known as a “butterfly rash”—an irritated patch of skin that stretches across the cheeks and over the bridge of the nose.

Two years ago, I had flaky and sore neon-pink triangles on either side of my nose. After a wash, the dead skin would peel off leaving the skin raised and inflamed. This was the kind of enemy that could not be defeated by mere soap and coconut oil. 

Fed up with the affliction, I wanted to finally nail down an effective skin routine that didn’t take hours or leave me feeling raw. My skincare-enthusiast friends expertly assembled an assortment of expensive, high-quality products that promised to fix my face: cleanser, gentle exfoliant, toner, and moisturizer. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, first of all, all those excellent products didn’t work. The rash persisted. Moisturizers failed, making me feel like I was wearing a cling-film mask. And the toner dried out my damaged skin even more.

But everything changed when my friend sent me a bottle of maracuja oil. The contents of the enticing little bottle hadn’t worked for her oily skin type, so when she heard about my skincare struggles, she passed it along.

After just one application, I was hooked.

Maracuja oil comes from the seed of the passionfruit, known to scientists as Passifloraedulis, which is native to tropical and subtropical areas in South America. Products bearing the same name may also come from Passiflora incarnata, more commonly referred to as a passion flower, which is a wild vine that populates the southern United States. Both varieties are packed with nutrients known for promoting skin health, most notably the antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin B, as well as oleic and palmitic fatty acids.

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For optimal results, I rub an approximated silver dollar amount over my hands and massage it into my face. Since I use so much oil, it does take a minute or so to work it in, but my desert-dry face absorbs the moisture like a dehydrated sponge. To finish the job, I like to apply a vitamin E cream on top.

I apply the oil after cleansing in the morning and before going to bed. Using it gives me an extra layer of protection against the elements and keeps my face feeling supple and healthy.

Though my skin sometimes maintains a little redness, the hydration provided by the maracuja oil has helped manage the flaky dryness and keeps the area smooth. I’m also pleased to note that long-term use has not resulted in any pore clogging or increase in pimple activity!

Related: All The Ways I Use Tea Tree Oil In My Beauty Routine

Maracuja isn’t the only oil I use to tame the horsemen of the apocalypse doing their best to wreak havoc on my face. I also love camellia oil as a make-up remover and cleanser. I have experimented with various other oils as a primary staple, but many make me feel greasy, rather than hydrated.

Ultimately, this oil has been a lifesaver. Total game changer. My holy grail skincare product. After implementing it into my routine, I was suddenly taking selfies without a filter and admiring the natural glow my skin developed after regular applications.

Before, using makeup to cover the bright patches on my cheeks was necessary but frustrating, as the texture was visibly unpleasant and removal was always painful. Now, if I do wear concealer or foundation, my face isn’t a disaster zone when it comes time to take it off at the end of the day. I’m like, “Foundation-who?”

Many people I’ve encountered say they avoid maracuja oil because they’re familiar with it only through the super-expensive versions sold by luxury brands. This breaks my heart, considering that you can find affordable versions—like this oil from Shea Terra Organics—without dropping all your cash.

Best of all? I was able to forego the million-step skincare routine so many others before me have endured. Maracuja oil spares my face and my fragile attention span by keeping things neat, clean, and simple.

How Keeping A Food Diary Helps Me Manage Life With Lupus and Fibromyalgia

When you keep a food diary, you log everything—and I mean everything—down to the half-and-half in your coffee and the raisins in your oatmeal. It’s an effort.

Keeping a food diary is new to me. When I see my nutritionist next week, she’ll analyze it and tell me if I’m filling in the nutritional gaps in my diet. But I’m not keeping the diary to count calories, exactly—I’m doing it because this is what it takes to live with lupus and fibromyalgia. This is just the latest addition to my health management toolbox, which also includes supplements and exercise.

Systemic lupus erythematosus, usually just called lupus, is an autoimmune disease that affects the kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart, and lungs. Essentially, a healthy immune system creates special cells, called antibodies, that attack foreign objects like bacteria or viruses. With an autoimmune disease, the immune system creates antibodies to the body’s own healthy tissues. My body is at war with itself on a cellular level.

As if that weren’t enough, I also suffer from fibromyalgia, a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain on top of fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues.

Between the two diseases, I live with chronic pain, joint stiffness, fatigue, brain fog, rashes, and fevers. Sometimes, due to the lupus, the lining around my lungs becomes inflamed and it hurts to breathe deeply. It feels like having the flu, minus the sneezing and the understanding that it will be gone whenever the flare-up is over.

There is no cure for lupus or fibromyalgia. In fact, the FDA has approved only one lupus-specific treatment in the last 50 years, and it didn’t work for me.

Like most people with autoimmune diseases, I’ve had symptoms most of my life—things like strange infections that didn’t go away with treatment, unexplained inflammation, and even an allergy to sunlight. When I had digestive problems, I saw a gastroenterologist. When I had allergy problems, I saw an allergist. When I had gynecological problems, I saw a gynecologist. It wasn’t until 2011, when I was 41, that I received a diagnosis of lupus. By that point, I’d gotten so sick I couldn’t teach, drive, or—eventually—stand on my own.

Medication only goes so far in treating autoimmune diseases, even when you find the right one. It’s only one tool. Somewhere in my head lives an irrational girl who wishes for a magic pill to fix me. Rationally, I know it doesn’t exist. Instead, I have to manage the symptoms that stay with me if I want any quality of life.

That’s where my health management toolbox enters into the picture.

With lupus, my overactive immune system has made proper eating hard. My stomach doesn’t empty normally. My intestines don’t absorb nutrients or push food along well. Too much fiber or fat and my digestive system goes on strike, leaving me unable to eat. Food allergies only further complicate the issue.

For this reason, keeping a food diary is so key. My nutritionist deals with my specific situation; she is aware of my health history, symptoms, medications, risks, preferences, and goals. They help me add calories and nutrients to my diet, and I also take a multivitamin to fill in some of the gaps. And, like many people with lupus, I am vitamin D deficient, so I take a high weekly dose of vitamin D.

Like diet and supplementation, exercise and movement is also an important tool in my wellness box. Actually, it’s as much a part of my morning as opening my eyes.

Movement is the only way to break through the immobilizing morning pain and stiffness of both lupus and fibromyalgia. Many mornings, my first thought is, I can’t move. It feels like someone has tied knots around all my joints and then pulled the string until everything is locked in place.

Related: Despite My Fibromyalgia, I’m Focused On Staying Healthy

When I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, my doctor—through my tears—suggested that I try tai chi to help with pain management. In fact, the New England Journal of Medicine published an article about a study in which people with fibromyalgia experienced less pain if they did tai chi, a “low and slow” martial art.

So I tried the tai chi out of desperation. After a few days, my pain decreased a little. After a couple weeks, I could push through my morning pain and not wince with every step. When I didn’t do it, every move hurt. Things like getting downstairs to make my morning coffee once again became agony and the tai chi helped that pain recede.

On hard days, every little bit of effort counts as progress. I take a few bites of oatmeal and wash my morning medications down with water.

The burden of keeping a food diary and tracking my exercise and all the little things I do each day to keep functioning is infinitely lighter than the burden of watching my life slip by without fighting for it. Only a few years ago, just getting through the day was a chore. If I could shower and get dressed without having to immediately go back to bed, it was a victory.

To make the process better, I use a pretty planner and colored pens to track my wellness progression. It’s how I manage a disease that wants to manage me.

When I practice these acts of self-care—like when I eat well, take supplements, and move through my tai chi practice—my pain ebbs away. In fact, I’m not just losing pain: I’m finding myself.

Tai chi and yoga both demand attention to breath, a basic and necessary action for life. With each breath, I remember: I am more than pain. I imagine that I can feel my chi—my energy—pulsing through my body. With every food journal entry and everything I do to take care of myself, my thoughts become clearer, and I can truly focus on things that matter outside of myself.

How’d These Smoothie Bowls Get So Blue?

Now that matcha has invaded everything from Starbucks frappuccinos to protein shakes, and we’ve become accustomed to seeing its striking green color across the most influential Instagram pages, another superfood is taking over town: spirulina.

Spirulina—a type of blue-green algae—has been made famous by wellness brands like Moon Juice, Sakara, and The End Brooklyn (though its ‘superfood’ status actually dates back to the ancient Aztecs and Mayans). The spiral-shaped organism (it’s technically a bacteria) grows in warm alkaline waters in mild climates, and is found in the largest concentrations in Mexico and Africa’s Great Rift Valley. As it grows, it absorbs a myriad of nutrients from its environment.

“From what we know, spirulina is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin K1, vitamin K2, and vitamin B12, as well as iron, manganese, chromium, and a host of phytonutrients,” says chiropractic physician and certified nutrition specialist Scott Schreiber, M.S., R.D. “Not only is it a powerful antioxidant, but spirulina has also shown promise in protecting the liver, kidney, nerves and brain, helping detox heavy metals, supporting health blood pressure and cholesterol, and boosting energy.”

And did we mention just two tablespoons of spirulina also happens to pack six grams of protein?

Blue Smoothie Bowl goodness @healthsynergy 💦

A post shared by Smoothie Bowl Recipes (@smoothiebowls) on

It’s not just spirulina’s impressive nutrition stats that have made it so trendy, however, suggests Abbey Sharp, R.D., of Abbey’s Kitchen. The algae’s beautiful blue color is otherwise pretty impossible to find in nature, and, frankly, it just looks lovely in a latte. “Given today’s rainbow and unicorn food trends, spirulina has become a popular additive to smoothies and other Instagram-worthy dishes,” she says. (Seriously, check out this delightful birthday cake latte The End Brooklyn made The Vitamin Shoppe for its 40th birthday…)

Most nutrition experts have been long-time fans of spirulina, and research suggests its health benefits are legit. For example, one small study published in the Journal of Applied Phycology found that five grams of spirulina a day may support the immune response of people with compromised immune systems.

Kiwis and spirulina smoothie bowl via @monacoskitchen

A post shared by Smoothie Bowl Recipes (@smoothiebowls) on

Just a couple things to keep in mind before turning all of your favorite recipes blue: First, make sure you buy your spirulina from a reputable manufacturer that tests for contaminants, since this water-dwelling organism can absorb potentially-harmful metals, like mercury, from its environment, and produce toxins, warns dietitian and chef Julie Andrews, M.S., R.D.N. This is especially important if a supplement lists ‘blue-green algae’ or ‘AFA’ (which are harvested from the wild, and not commercially, like spirulina) as ingredients.

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Once you’ve got the blue-green light, you can add spirulina—which you’ll typically find in powder form—to pretty much everything. If you want to keep things basic, just mix the powder straight into water or juice. If you’re feeling creative, stir your spirulina into salad dressings, mix it into homemade energy bites, or blend it into smoothies—like this colorful recipe from dietitian Gillean Barkyoumb, M.S., R.D.

Ingredients:
1 scoop of vanilla plant-based protein powder
1/2 avocado
1 cup of almond milk
1 Tbsp almond butter
1 Tbsp cacao nibs
2 Tbsp spirulina powder
Ice, as desired

Don’t worry, if you’re not a fan of spirulina’s flavor (some find it a little too ‘earthy’) you can still reap its benefits by popping a tablet supplement, like The Vitamin Shoppe brand’s California-Grown Spirulina tablets.

6 Supplements I Take To Grease My Achy Joints

Waking up feeling like the Tin Man—back so stiff I can’t bend over to touch my toes and knees so achy they feel glued in place—has been my reality for nearly five years. It takes a good half hour before I can get up and move around as normal, and even longer until I feel like I’m oiled up enough—yanked and pulled and stretched out—to be a human being.

I have an autoimmune disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis that causes super-duper stiff joints (commonly referred to as arthritis). I’m not alone—an estimated 54 million Americans live with daily joint pain or joint disease. That’s a lot of people feeling like me, all of us aching for some sort of respite from feeling creaky, cracky, and crooked.

Of course, successfully treating the various conditions that affect the joints is like finding your way out of a particularly tricky maze. I can’t say I’ve gotten out quite yet, but I’m closer than before.

I started by talking to a doctor and a nutritionist about medication and diet, but I’ve also had a lot of luck with vitamin and supplement use.

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When I started really feeling the effects of joint pain and stiffness—before I was medicated and even during medication—I did a lot of research on vitamins and supplements. For one, you can never be too certain of what you’re putting in your body. And second, it’s good to have that autonomy and knowledge. (That said, just because the Internet’s endless stream of immediate information is available to you does not mean you know everything. Always check with your doc first before starting any supplementation!)

Here’s what I use to juice up my achy, break-y joints. I take each of the below once a day (except where otherwise noted) in the morning with my coffee and some fruit. Before supplementation, I was still doing much of the same: stretching, taking pain relief medication, and eating as well as I could. I can successfully report good news: I’ve noticed a significant increase in joint mobility and pain level after taking these supplements for about a year. Three cheers for knees that don’t pop and crunch with every jaunt up the stairs!

1. SAM-e

It might have a weird name, but SAM-e (or S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine), which is found naturally in the body and made by amino acids that we get through food, has been shown by studies to improve joint function and tenderness. It could help with joint discomfort, potentially reducing the pain you feel when you’re all locked up.

2. Cat’s Claw

I won’t lie—the oh-so-witchy name of this supplement is what caught my eye. But cat’s claw (this shouldn’t be mixed up with Devil’s Claw—which also aids joints but has a different set of benefits) has got some convincing science to back it up. First off, it may contribute to a reduction in joint discomfort, while also benefiting the immune system. Yes, please! A study showed that cat’s claw, when compared to a placebo, effectively worked to promote a reduction in pain, swelling, and tenderness of joints.

3. Turmeric

Golden lattes are incredibly popular and delicious, yes, but not without good reason. Turmeric—or more specifically the compound found in turmeric, curcumin—has been found to be effective in promoting relief from temporary joint discomfort. According to the Arthritis Foundation, turmeric has long been used by Chinese and Ayurvedic medicinal systems as a way to promote relief from pain caused by joint issues. In addition to taking one capsule of curcumin daily, I also frequently drink golden milk (made with turmeric powder and hemp milk or almond milk). Some experts say that taking curcumin with black pepper has been found to increase curcumin’s bioavailability (which is a fancier way of saying its “effectiveness”).

4. Fish oil

There’s something about fish oil that, for a lot of people, just seems gross. I get it. When you really think about it, it is kinda gross. However, I swear by it. Those little golden capsules, full of yellow-y joint-lubricating goodness, were one of the first supplements I took for my joints. And it helped. Bonus: Because fish oil is an omega-3, it’s also chock full of brain, gut, and skin benefits.

5. Ginger

I never liked ginger. But when my rheumatologist suggested that it might actually work to nix the symptoms I was experiencing, I decided to give a go—at least in supplement form.

According to Arthritis Foundation, ginger has been shown to reduce joint pain when taken twice a day. I take one or two capsules of ginger root daily (depending on my pain level), and often drink ginger tea for additional supplement. The bonus? Ginger seriously helps to settle any stomach issues, so it’s a win-win. (This is especially the case for me, since my autoimmune disease, like many others, causes digestive problems.)

6. Boswellia Serrata

Boswellia is the newest addition to my supplementation ritual. Interestingly, Boswellia is a plant found in India, the Middle East, and Northern Africa—and it’s known for producing sweet-smelling frankincense. However, its root has also been found to be effective for joint related issues. According to study, there’s some strong evidence suggesting that it is good for inflammatory conditions, although more research is necessary.

Bonus: Capsaicin

Studies show that capsaicin (the active compound in cayenne pepper)) has a pain-reducing effect on discomfort caused by joint and muscle issues associated with physical activity or overuse. I swear by capsaicin gel. It’s got a tingly, cooling effect—which, for me, distracts from the deep throbbing pain of a stuck knee or tight upper back. Plus, it’s safe to use. Some people might not fall in love with its extreme hot-cold effect, but it does work to disguise the pain. If you’re not into that tingly feeling, you can also find capsaicin in cayenne capsule form. 

 

Is Plant-Based Protein Just As Effective As Whey Protein?

When it comes to protein, we tend to think of animal products like meat, dairy, and eggs as the best of the best, but a recent study suggests that plant-based protein sources deserve more credit than they usually get.

Published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, the study assigned 11 mixed martial artists (MMA) athletes to either a rice or whey protein supplement. They supplemented with three scoops (75 grams) of their designated protein throughout six weeks of high-volume and high-intensity training in preparation for an upcoming fight. They took one of their three scoops of protein before training and followed their usual diets otherwise.

After the six weeks, the study found the rice and whey proteins had ‘statistically similar’ abilities to help the athletes hang onto their muscle mass while undergoing the stress of intense training. That’s right, rice protein benefited their muscles just as much as good ol’ whey.  

The main takeaway: Upping our overall protein intake has a major impact on our ability to maintain fat-free mass and a healthy body composition, regardless of the source of that protein. “The whole point was increasing protein intake, period,” says one of the study’s authors, Alison Escalante, R.D, L.D.N., C.I.S.S.N., of ALLYFIT. “Though we were working with dieters that were cutting weight and in strict preparation for a fight, they were still able to both maintain their lean body mass and their performance by increasing overall protein intake.”

“We wanted to explore this because there’s a lot of hype about plant-based dieting and that’s something that we found intriguing,” she explains. So whether you have a dairy allergy, are vegan, or just need a change of pace, consider this study confirmation that plant-based proteins do in fact hold their weight, and that it is possible to nourish your muscles without relying on animal proteins.

Related: 5 Plant-Based Protein Bars That’ll Make You A Believer

We know many of you whey loyalists still aren’t sold—after all, whey protein has long been considered top dog when it comes to building muscle, as it  contains all nine of the essential amino acids, including high amounts of the branched-chain amino acids (leucine, valine, and isoleucine), which are key to muscle protein synthesis (the process through which our muscles recover and grow). It’s also digested more quickly than plant-based proteins. For those reasons, past research concluded that whey better stimulates muscle protein synthesis than other popular protein options, such as casein and soy.

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Ultimately, though, you can still maintain or build muscle using a plant-based protein supplement. “The body can combine an amino acid from one food source with the amino acids from another food source to make the proteins it needs, including what it needs to grow and maintain muscle,” says Isabel Maples, R.D.N., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Plus, many plant-based proteins out there these days combine a number of protein sources—like rice, pea, and hemp—to pack more of amino acids into every scoop. So if you’re really concerned about coming as close to whey as possible, go for one of these combo plant proteins. Look for about 20 to 30 grams of protein—and two to five grams of the BCAA leucine, the most crucial for muscle protein synthesis—per serving.

4 Easy Ways To Use Aromatherapy Blends For Self-Care

Whether you want to relax your muscles or energize your senses, you can level up your self-care routine naturally with essential oil blends!

All you have to do is choose which of Mytrition‘s new aromatherapeutic oil blends best fits your mood. Need a pick-me-up? The Energy blend, which is loaded with refreshing citrus oils, will perk you right up. Trying to chill out? The Relax blend combines all sorts of soothing oils, like lavender, sage, chamomile, rose, and sandalwood, to help you unwind. When you need to clear your head and get down to business, oils like eucalyptus, ginger, and lemon in the Clarity blend will help you focus. And, of course, when it’s time to hit the hay, the Dream blend‘s lavender, frankincense, and ylang ylang will practically sing you to sleep.

What are the best ways to use these mind- and body-loving oil blends? Check out these four easy methods.

 

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Need An Energy Boost? Sip On One Of These Kombucha Mocktails

Few things are as satisfying as a fun, flavorful cocktail (or two). But the resulting hangover and/or sugar crash? Not so much.

So, in the name of health—and deliciousness—we created four mocktails that will not only look awesome and taste sinfully good, but also boost your energy instead of tanking it. Made with feel-good ingredients like kombucha and fruit, and our go-to energy drinks and mixes, these mocktails are totally happy hour-worthy. Seriously, go ahead and mix one up right at your desk. Trust us, you won’t miss the alcohol one bit.

Turmeric & Pineapple ‘Rise & Shine’

This sunrise-hued drink’s flavor is just as warm as its color. The rock-star here: BodyTech’s Pineapple Flash Point Preworkout Concentrate. Half a scoop gives the drink a kick of 125 milligrams of caffeine and tons of tropical flavor, without the sugar.

 

Ingredients:
½ cup Voss sparkling water
½ cup AquaVitea turmeric sunrise kombucha
½ scoop BodyTech Pineapple Flash Point (it’s BOGO 50% off in April!)
Orange slice for glass
Ice cubes

Combine sparkling water, kombucha, and Flash Point powder. Stir thoroughly, pour over ice, and garnish your glass with an orange slice.

Plum & Ginger ‘Sassy & Classy’

Craving something sweet? This fruity mocktail, complete with muddled plum and Isopure Alpine Punch Anytime Energy (which provides a mild 50 milligrams of caffeine, along with focus-boosting l-theanine and herbs), will do the trick.

Ingredients:
½ cup Voss sparkling water
½ cup AquaVitea Ginger Kombucha
½ scoop Isopure Alpine Punch Anytime Energy
1 plum
Ice cubes

Muddle a slice or two of plum in the bottom of a glass and add ice. Separately, mix sparkling water, kombucha, and Anytime Energy. Pour the mixture over the ice and muddled plum, and enjoy!

Black Cherry & Basil ‘Dark & Stormy’

When you’re feeling fancy, this twist on a classic is a total crowd-pleaser. It packs a superfood punch thanks to antioxidant-packed tart cherry juice, along with a smooth energy boost from Isopure’s Cherry Lime Anytime Energy.

Ingredients:
½ cup Voss sparkling water
½ cup AquaVitea kombucha
2 tsp Dynamic Health Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate
2 basil leaves
½ scoop Isopure Cherry Lime Anytime Energy
2 black cherries
Ice cubes

Muddle the cherries in the bottom of a glass and add ice. Separately, mix the sparkling water, kombucha, tart cherry juice, and Anytime Energy. Pour the over mixture over the ice and muddled cherries, and garnish the glass with a basil leaf or two.

Blue Raspberry & Lime ‘Light Me Up’

This sweet and sour mix is powered by Betancourt Nutrition’s Blue Raspberry B-Nox To-Go Pre-Workout, which supports energy and endurance—so it’s the perfect day-drinking option when you need a boost. Just looking at this bright beverage will perk you right up.

Ingredients:
¾ cup Voss lime mint sparkling water
¼ cup Betancourt Nutrition Blue Raspberry B-Nox To-Go
5 raspberries
lime slice for glass
Ice cubes

Combine sparkling water and B-Nox. Pour over ice and stir in the raspberries. Garnish with a lime slice.

Related: 5 Signs You Need A Break From Caffeine

What Is The Keto Flu—And How Can You Avoid It?

Most of us are painfully familiar with the flu—the nausea, headaches, brain fog, and distinct urge to hide under the covers are not anyone’s idea of a good time. And while flu season is thankfully over, the threat of these symptoms still looms for people who are jumping on the keto bandwagon.

The ‘keto flu,’ which has nothing to do with actual influenza, has become a rite of passage for all who take part in the ketogenic diet, which involves slashing carbs and loading up on healthy fats in order to transition the body from burning sugar to burning fat.

Toying with the keto lifestyle? Do not fear the ‘keto flu’! It doesn’t have to be as awful as it sounds.

First, The Basics

To understand the keto flu, you first have to understand ketosis. Ketosis, the holy grail of a keto diet, is the state in which the body converts both dietary and stored fat into fatty acids and compounds called ketones, which the body can use to produce energy instead of relying on carbs and sugar. Simply put, this is the body’s ‘fat-burning state,’ and it’s obviously an attractive concept for anyone interested in dropping fat, says dietitian Jaime Mass, R.D.

Achieving the fat-burning glory of ketosis is no joke, though. To get there, you have to cut carbs significantly lower than the average low-carb diet (we’re talking just about 20 grams of net carbs per day) and drastically increase fats to upwards of 70 percent of your total calories. Think of it like your backup generator; it won’t switch on unless your primary power source shuts down.

Enter ‘Keto Flu’

It takes most people at least three weeks of eating a keto diet to actually shift into ketosis. In that time, your blood sugar (glucose), glycogen, and insulin, all plummet, explains Kelly Pritchett, Ph.D., R.D., C.S.S.D., assistant professor of nutrition and exercise science at Central Washington University and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In order to begrudgingly shift over to burning fat, you have to completely empty your body of all its available sugar sources.

While that happens, most people feel pretty terrible. “In that shift of going from glucose to ketones, there is a period where the body is essentially adjusting to the fuel you are providing—and in a large way,” says Mass. Essentially, your cells are caught in limbo: They’re not getting carbs they’re used to having for optimal function, but they’re not yet efficient at running on fat. As a result, your energy plummets and you may experience fun symptoms like lightheadedness, dizziness, fatigue, and even headaches.

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Keto flu symptoms tend to spike once you’ve completely emptied your glucose tank, and subside as your body shifts into full-force ketosis. Even then, though, some may continue to feel lethargic and find they can’t push their bodies to the same intensities they could during their sugar-burning days, says Pritchett. That’s because the process of converting ketones into energy is pretty complicated, time-consuming, and inefficient compared to the process of using glucose—so while endurance athletes often thrive in ketosis, weightlifters and HIIT-lovers may struggle.

Surviving (And Minimizing) ‘Keto Flu’

Transitioning into ketosis will never be a 100 percent seamless process; you’re pretty much bound to run into some sort of keto flu-like issue along the way. However, there are a few tricks to save yourself some major suffering.

For starters, decrease your carb consumption down to keto-friendly levels gradually instead of going cold turkey. “If you ate a lot of carbohydrates—especially processed and sugar-dense foods—regularly for years, I would suggest first cutting out the highly-processed sweets for a week,” says Mass. “Then, the next week, cut all processed carbs.” By easing your way into the eating style, you limit the severity of any sugar withdrawals.

Related: Want To Try Keto? Here’s What A Healthy Day Of Eating Fat Looks Like

From there, up your fluid intake to make sure that you’re properly hydrated as your body depletes itself of that blood glucose and stored glycogen. “For every gram of glycogen we store, we store three grams of water. So when you start keto and break down that glycogen for energy, you release that stored water,” explains Mass. Translation: The water weight you quickly lose on keto can leave you unknowingly dehydrated if you’re not careful. Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition shows mild dehydration (losing more than one percent of your body weight in water) decreases cognitive function and memory—so that water loss can definitely contribute to the brain fog many experience during the keto flu.

Pritchett also recommends taking it easy on exercise as your body transitions into ketosis those first few weeks; using what little energy you do have on exercise can just exacerbate keto flu symptoms. As your body and energy levels adjust, you can slowly increase your exercise frequency and intensity back up to those of your normal routine.

Peer Pressure Has Always Been My Best Fitness Motivator

“Peer pressure” has always had a negative connotation. It’s why kids are “up to no good,” right? For me, though, peer pressure was always a good thing. Instead of getting me into to trouble, peer pressure got me into running.

Peer pressure was the reason I joined the cross country team in high school and it remains the reason, to this day, I show up before dawn ready to run.

I’ve never been athletically inclined on my own, so the concept of running for fun was ridiculous to me for a long time. Growing up, I dreaded gym fitness tests knowing I’d have to run the mile. I played soccer and basketball briefly, but only because my friends were playing too. I wasn’t very good and rarely, if ever, got to play.

When I started high school, I entertained the thought of trying out for field hockey. I was moving from a private school to public school and I thought it might be a good way to make friends, but I ultimately decided that sports weren’t for me.

I got lucky in high school and was adopted by a group of friends that gave me a place to sit at lunch and a ride home after school. As we grew closer, I learned that many of my friends were on the cross country team. They actively chose to log miles every day, while I dreaded running a lap around the track in gym class. I couldn’t imagine doing it voluntarily.

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As my first year of high school came to a close, a friend suggested I sign up for cross country when  the fall came around. I scoffed at the idea. “I’m not a runner,” I told her. She brushed that off.

“Just sign up,” she said. “If you change your mind, you can quit.”

So I signed up. But I had almost forgotten about it—up until a letter, along with a training plan—came in the mail.

I called my friend: “I don’t think I’m going to do this,” I said. “I’m not a runner.” Again, she told me to just show up and quit later if I didn’t like it.

Justly chastened, I acquiesced. I bought a pair of running shoes that were too big and completely wrong for my feet and showed up. The first run was six miles. I grumbled the entire way through, walking more than I ran.

But when I finished, I was met by a chorus of cheers. Great job, they all screamed—assuring me that it gets easier. The next day, they welcomed me back and cheered again. I suddenly had this incredible support system that was rooting for me and celebrated every time I crossed the finish line, even when I came in dead last.

The camaraderie I felt on that team kept me coming back. Even with injuries (likely from my lousy shoes), I signed up for more, electing to run both indoor and outdoor track. What’s more, my circle of friends grew as I got to know members of the boys’ team, too. They lifted me up and pushed me to work harder. My body got stronger and my pace got faster. Running became part of who I was and I was better for it.

Related: I Coped With My Dad’s Illness By Running

But then high school ended. Despite my love of running, I no longer had the support of my team. Suddenly, my motivation waned. I left the suburbs of Connecticut for the streets of New York as I entered college and just couldn’t get myself out there on a regular basis.

I’d run through the streets of Brooklyn and across bridges and back, but I’d push too hard, do too much too soon, and then injure myself. After college, I started working and I just didn’t have time for running—or at least that’s what I told myself.

When I met the man I would marry, I felt that old inkling of motivation (pre-wedding workout!) but once the wedding was over, the urge to stay fit faded again.

Then, after having kids, I felt overwhelmed and out of shape. My body hadn’t bounced back from pregnancy and my mental health was suffering. I needed something for me, so I turned to what I knew had worked. I bought a new pair of running shoes and started pounding the pavement again.

It helped! I felt physically and mentally better after a run, but the motivation still wasn’t there. There was always something else to do. I had work or take care of the kids. I was too exhausted to wake up early and too exhausted by the afternoon to go out late.

I wanted it, though. I really wanted it to work.

Browsing Facebook, I found area fitness groups. One in particular, Moms Run This Town,  was in my town and the runs were near my house. I could lace up my shoes and simply step outside!

“Anyone up for an early morning run?” posted one member. I wondered what she meant by “early.”

“Does 5:45am work?” another said. I gasped at the time. An hour before sunrise.

“Anyone else want to join? All paces welcome!”

Before I had a chance to second guess myself, I replied, “I’m in.”

I hemmed and hawed. I made up excuses for why it was a bad idea. But I said that I was going, so I needed to go. Once again, peer pressure took over and I dragged myself out of bed and pushed through a three-mile run.

Related: How To Become A Runner When You Think It’s Not Your Thing

The next time an early morning run came up, I said yes again. And again. Even as the weather turned colder, I kept saying yes. Saying yes made me accountable. Saying yes meant someone was counting on me. And that’s enough.

I’m training for my first half marathon now. I wish I could say the race alone motivates me to get out and run, but honestly, it’s the fact that a friend is running the race, too.

We all have to find something that works for us and motivates us. Having accountability through a team or running group, and having someone relying on me to show up, ready to run, is what keeps me motivated.

It turns out that peer pressure isn’t always a bad thing if you just find the right peers.

7 Training And Supplement Tweaks To Make For ‘Cutting Season’

Whether you’re a dedicated gym rat who spent the winter months hitting the weights hard, skipping cardio, and chowing down for the sake of packing on muscle, or you lived out these past few months bundled up on the couch with a takeout container in-hand, it’s time to face the music: Warmer months—and the infamous ‘cutting season’—are just around the corner.

For many bodybuilders and casual exercisers alike, cutting season means it’s time to clean up that diet, break a sweat, and switch up your supplement routine to shed body fat and lean out for the summer. Here are seven expert tips to help you switch gears and get shredded.

Tried And True Training Tips

We’ve heard 100 times that ‘abs are made in the kitchen’—and while proper nutrition is crucial for shedding fat, the gym is often the easiest place to start turning up your burn. Keep the following three guidelines in mind to ensure your workout routine is as fat-loss friendly as possible.

1. Superset Compound Movements

To maximize your calories burned per minute spent in the gym, focus on compound movements that incorporate several muscle groups, like squats, deadlifts, bench presses, shoulder presses, pullups, and pushups, says Sofia Rodriguez, M.S., C.P.T. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns (even at rest), and the easier it is for you to shed body fat.

“To really activate your anaerobic energy system and burn more calories, super-set your exercises and take little to no rest in between sets,” she adds. Hit all your major muscle groups at least two to three times per week, and keep in mind that you may not be able to lift as heavy as usual if you’re cutting calories.

2. Focus Cardio On HIIT

To keep your precious muscle intact while shedding as much fat as possible, focus your cardio routine on high-intensity interval training (HIIT), recommends James Grage, co-founder and owner of BPI Sports. HIIT workouts, which are shorter and more demanding than your standard steady-state cardio sessions, burn more calories both during and after your session. Plus, research shows they’re particularly effective for attacking belly fat. Throughout your shred, shoot for three 30-minute sessions per week.

3. But Don’t Do Too Much Cardio

When your body doesn’t have enough of its usual energy sources, glucose or glycogen (energy in the blood or muscles from sugar and carbs), to fuel your workouts, it may break down the proteins in your muscle tissue into amino acids to convert into glucose, Grage says. This muscle breakdown is called ‘catabolism,’ and it is not what you want when you’re trying to cut body fat after building muscle for months.

As appealing as cardio may seem when you’re trying to cut body fat, doing too much (especially if you’re restricting calories or sweating without food in your system) can trigger this muscle protein breakdown and sabotage your results. In fact, one University of Tampa study found that the more cardio participants did per day, the more muscle mass they lost. However, when they limited cardio to 20 minutes or less per day, they minimized declines in muscle mass and strength. So as tempted as you may be to go cardio crazy during ‘cutting season,’ stick to those three 30-minute HIIT sessions!

Supplement Step-Ups

There’s no doubt that a successful shred depends on a solid nutrition and fitness foundation, but there are a number of supplements out there that can support your muscle-sparing, fat-crushing efforts. The following four are our experts’ top picks.

1. Glutamine

The most abundant amino acid in the body, glutamine not only fuels our immune system, but it also regulates muscle protein synthesis for muscle recovery—and it’s especially important when your body is under the stress. To support your muscles during cutting season, Rodriguez recommends adding a glutamine supplement to your routine. Take between two and five grams twice daily—one dose after your workout (to help ward of muscle breakdown) and another before bed (to support muscle-building as you sleep).

2. L-Citrulline

Another amino acid, l-citrulline increases your production of a chemical called nitric oxide, which dilates your blood vessels and improves the circulation of blood, oxygen, and other nutrients your muscles need to perform during your workouts and recover afterward. That extra blood flow goes a long way; one study found that just two and a half grams of citrulline a day helped healthy, active men improve on a cycling time trial.

You’ll see citrulline in various doses in all sorts of training supplements, and while you’ll benefit from smaller amounts, experts often recommend up to six grams before exercise.

3. BCAAs

Research has shown that BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids)—especially leucine—support muscle growth by directly stimulating the muscle-building process. Unlike most aminos, which are metabolized in the liver, BCAAs are metabolized in skeletal muscle, so your body can break them down quickly for fuel. Keeping a steady supply in your system can discourage your body from breaking down muscle for fuel as you cut. Grage recommends supplementing with anywhere from 10 to 40 grams per day (depending how hard and often you work out).

4. CLA + Carnitine

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a fatty acid that helps the body use stored body fat for fuel and supports lean muscle mass,” says Grage. In fact, studies show that CLA can reduce body fat without impacting muscle mass. “Carnitine, meanwhile, is a fat transporter that shuttles freed-up fat cells to the mitochondria so they can be used for energy.” These two supplements work well together by encouraging your body to utilize more fat for fuel and preserve lean muscle.

3 Ways To Make Your Essential Oils Work Harder

Whether it’s a eucalyptus-infused towel, lavender-scented pillowcase, or citrus candle next to the tub, essential oils can make us feel everything from energized to relaxed to just plain luxurious.

Our favorite oils are more than just smell-goods, though! In fact, essential oils have some very practical, everyday uses.

These three blends, using Aura Cacia essential oils like bergamot, sweet orange, and tea tree, will give your cleaning routines an au-naturale upgrade. Use them to freshen up any room, wipe down the kitchen counter, and keep that yoga mat from smelling funky.

 

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How Much Can Willpower Really Do For Your Health?

If you think saying ‘no’ to that chocolate cake is the only thing standing between you and shedding those last few pounds, you’re in good company: Surveys show most people identify a lack of willpower as the biggest obstacle in weight loss. But for as much as we toss the term around, does willpower really make or break our journey to a healthier lifestyle? The answer isn’t so black and white.

“When people think of willpower, they define it as denying themselves something they really want, but for whatever reason think they shouldn’t have,” says certified health coach Anna Dupree. But that approach can be problematic. Research shows that relying too much on willpower can backfire pretty easily, as the more you restrict yourself from certain foods, the more likely you are to crave them. So when you finally meet your temptation face-to-face—say at a happy hour or birthday party—you’ll end up eating three slices of cake instead of feeling satisfied with one.

“It’s not empowering and it’s not inspiring [to focus on willpower alone],” says Keri Glassman, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., founder of Nutritious Life. “It doesn’t help in the long run because when you don’t change your mindset, you just force yourself to do something, and eventually you wear out.”

Thinking things like I can’t ever eat a slice of pizza, or I won’t lose weight if I eat those chips, has the potential to destroy your relationship with food. It can also trigger a pattern of restrictive eating, which has been known to lead to certain eating disorders.

Related: ‘Mindful Eating’ Is Everywhere—Here’s How To Actually Do It

Plus, you use willpower in so many other moments throughout the day—like during your morning commute (you want to scream at the top of your lungs, but you know you shouldn’t) and in meetings at work (you want to tell your co-worker to pipe down, but you know you can’t)—that your mental muscle is often exhausted by the time you get home, making healthy food choices more difficult to stick to. And research shows that stress, insufficient sleep, and weight loss all increase your production of hunger hormones, making it physically harder to resist your favorite foods.

One review published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics points out that science has yet to answer whether it’s even physically possible to constantly suppress the urge to eat tempting foods. After all, your brain’s reward system (yes, the one that’s linked to sex, gambling, and substance abuse) plays a big role in food decisions, and it’s not exactly easy to fight.

And even after all that effort, willpower doesn’t have as much of an impact on your waistline or health as you might think. “People’s willpower does not predict their weight,” says Traci Mann, Ph.D., professor of social and health psychology at the University of Minnesota and author of Secrets from the Eating Lab. “It doesn’t matter how good or bad your willpower is; it’s not enough.”

Research shows that your physical environment plays a larger role in making and sticking to healthy lifestyle changes than a split second of mental strength, says Mann. So keeping chips and cookies out of your house is more important than turning down that bagel at a morning meeting.

The bottom line: No health, fitness, or weight-loss goal should ever rely on willpower alone. Use the following three tips to make your health journey less about willpower—and more about a lifestyle. Not only will you reach your goals quicker, but you’ll actually enjoy getting there.

1. Find Your True Motivation

Both Glassman and Dupree agree: Losing weight or getting healthy is all about mindset. Focus on your true motivation for wanting to make healthy lifestyle changes—whether it’s to be able to keep up with your kids or quit feeling so darn tired all the time. “It has to be something you have a deep-down desire to do,” says Dupree. “Instead of thinking about what you can’t have, think about what you’re trading it for.” For instance, you’re trading packaged foods (which might tank you energy or lead to weight gain) for nutrient-rich whole foods that give you more energy and help you feel fuller for longer so you can go on more family outings.

2. Focus On Simple And Gradual Changes

Overhauling your routine overnight is bound to stress you out. Instead, slowly swap out foods you’d like to eat less of (like packaged cookies and snacks) for foods you’d like to eat more of (like apples and carrots). When you don’t completely restrict yourself from day one, you’re more likely to see the changes you make as positive.

3. Practice Self-Care

Even when you’ve got your mind right, eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep can still be tough—especially if your schedule is jam-packed! But you’re more likely to keep up with healthy lifestyle changes if you still make time to do things you enjoy, says Dupree.

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So swap that gym session for a fitness class you really love, turn off your phone to read after dinner, or make breakfast with your kids on the weekend. The more fulfilled you feel, the more motivated you’ll be.

Exactly What To Eat (And Drink) After A Workout To Boost Recovery

Sure, if you’re committed to living a healthy lifestyle, you probably don’t skip out on your workouts—but what about your post-workout refueling routine? After all, proper nutrition after training has a huge impact on the results you see—whether you’re training for a marathon or building a more muscular body.

Plain and simple, exercise stresses your body. As your working muscles contract to power you through whatever movement you’re doing, you churn through your energy stores and create tiny tears in your muscle tissue. That’s why post-workout nutrition—which provides your body with the nutrients it needs to restock its energy stores, rebuild damaged muscle tissue, and grow bigger and stronger—is so important.

Here’s what four fitness and nutrition experts recommend you load up on after your next sweat.

1. Carbs

When you work out, your body first uses whatever sugar you have in your blood for energy. Once that’s used up, it typically relies on the glycogen—a form of sugar stored in your muscles and liver—for fuel. So if you want to work out again at some point, you need to refill the tank! “Your post-workout nutrition is all about replenishing the glycogen you depleted during exercise, which you can do by eating carbs,” explains dietitian and exercise physiologist, Jim White R.D.N., owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios. Research shows that your body is extra-efficient at using carbs for glycogen after exercise—and that glycogen helps offset muscle breakdown.

Both fast-digesting simple carbs and slow-digesting complex carbs will do the trick. If you’re on-the-go and need something quick, fruit (like a banana or an apple) is an easy simple carb option. Bars (like Bonk Breaker’s Peanut Butter and Chocolate Brownie) also come in handy in a pinch. If you have time for more of a meal, go for a complex carb like quinoa, whole-wheat bread, or brown rice, suggests Jonathan Valdez, R.D.N., owner of Genki Nutrition and spokesperson for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

2. Protein

If your workout involved strength training, which can create micro-tears in your muscle tissue, you also need to eat ample protein post-workout. “After your workout, your body repairs those micro-tears so your muscles grow bigger and stronger than before, but it needs protein to do it,” says White. Why? Protein is made up of molecules called amino acids, which are the ‘building blocks of muscle.’

Related: 13 Fun Protein Snacks For When You’re Bored Of Bars

White recommends eating a post-workout meal that contains a two-to-one ratio of carbs to protein. That’s about 30 to 50 grams of carbs and 15 to 25 grams of protein. Some easy combos include brown rice and beans, chicken and sweet potatoes, and smoothies made with protein powder and fruit.

3. BCAAs

While a good source of protein, like chicken breast or whey protein powder, provides a wide variety of amino acids, three—called the ‘branched-chain amino acids’ (BCAAs)—are particularly important post-workout. The BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) play a number of roles in the muscle recovery and building process: Leucine signals our muscles to begin muscle protein synthesis (the process through which they rebuild and grow), while isoleucine and valine can be used as energy sources.

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If you’re not noshing on animal proteins like steak or eggs (which are rich in BCAAs) after hitting the gym, Valdez recommends adding a scoop (usually about five grams) of a BCAA supplement to your water after strength training. (Two scoops of BodyTech’s Strawberry Lemonade Critical Aminos XT is our go-to.)

4. L-Glutamine

The most abundant amino acid in our bloodstream, l-glutamine plays a major role in recovery after a hard workout by bolstering our immune system, promoting glycogen storage, and warding off muscle breakdown. In fact, one small study published in the Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness reported that supplementing with glutamine for four days after strength-training significantly reduced muscle soreness.

You’ll find l-glutamine in most protein powders, but it can also be taken in stand-alone powder, pill, or liquid supplements. (BodyTech makes both unflavored powder and capsule options.) It’s also found in foods like meat, dairy, tofu, beans, eggs, and spinach, says White. Take up to five grams per day to support recovery.

5. Water

We know you’ve heard this one before, and that’s because it’s important. In fact, replenishing the fluids you lost during exercise is just as important as re-fueling with carbs and protein, says Valdez. Water is a necessary ‘ingredient’ for muscle protein synthesis, and one study published in the Journal of Athletic Training even suggests that failing to hydrate properly after a workout can exacerbate soreness.

Monitor the color of your urine to gauge your overall hydration status—the paler the yellow, the better. Or, weigh yourself before and after your workouts, and drink 16 ounces of fluid for every pound lost during exercise, says Valdez.

6. Antioxidants

Antioxidants do a body good in so many ways—and exercise recovery is one of them.

Let’s start with ginger: “Research has shown that adding ginger to your meals can help decrease delayed-onset muscle soreness by up to 25 percent,” says Marie Spano M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., C.S.C.S. How? Potent antioxidants in the root called gingerol, shogaol, and zingerone. (Gingerols in particular have been shown to modulate post-workout inflammation.) Spano recommends adding a teaspoon or two of ginger into a meal (it’s great in stir-fries), tea, or a smoothie within two hours of exercising.

Another antioxidant to try: tart cherry. Research published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports found that marathoners who consumed 11 ounces of tart cherry juice leading up to, on the day of, and following their races experienced less muscle soreness. Researchers believe antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins found in cherries work their magic on post-exercise inflammation. Try stirring a cup of tart cherries into your Greek yogurt or oatmeal, or adding eight ounces of unsweetened tart cherry juice—like Dynamic Health’s Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate—to your post-workout smoothie.

Pin this infographic to keep your post-workout nutrition game strong: 

3 Old Wives’ Tales About Your Health That Are Kinda True (And 5 That Really Are Bogus)

Most of us still have a slew of old wives’ tales stuck in our heads from childhood—and though our mother’s warnings about swallowing gum and sitting too close to the TV may have scared us silly in our younger days, we can’t help but wonder now if there’s actually any truth to them.

To put decades of myths to bed, we asked health experts to separate fact from fiction and de-bunk some of the most popular old wives’ tales in the book. Here’s the truth about eight of our favorites.

1. Chicken Soup Helps You Get Better When You’re Sick

Verdict: TRUE-ISH

While no scientific human studies have ever identified chicken soup as an effective cold remedy,  “It can be a nutrient powerhouse, delivering important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to your body that can help boost your immunity,” says Elizabeth Ann Shaw, M.S., R.D.N., C.L.T., C.P.T. Carrots and onions, in particular, provide carotenoids (a type of antioxidant that can support healthy aging and eye health) and prebiotic fiber (which acts as food for the healthy bacteria in your gut), respectively.

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Plus, nutrition aside, chicken soup can just be plain old comforting—and that’s especially important when your body is in a state of stress, like when you’re not feeling well, says Shaw. So while it may not be a miracle-worker, it’s certainly worth sipping on.

2. You’ll Catch A Cold From Going Outside With Wet Hair

Verdict: FALSE

“The very act of walking out the door with wet hair won’t in itself cause you to develop a cold,” says Robert Glatter, M.D., assistant professor of emergency medicine at Northwell Health. “You have to be exposed to the specific virus in order to develop an illness.”

That said, exposure to extremely cold weather does put stress on the body, which can hinder your immune function and increase your chances of getting sick when you are exposed to a bug. Plus, “certain respiratory viruses thrive in dry cold temperatures, so you have a greater chance of being exposed in that environment,” he says.

Ultimately, your best bet at preventing sickness is washing your hands (for at least 20 seconds!) frequently and coughing or sneezing into your elbow or a tissue—especially during cold season.

3. Sugar And Dairy Give You Acne

Verdict: TRUE-ISH

While factors like hormones, bacteria, and excess sebum, are typically the main drivers of acne, there’s no denying that some connection exists between our diet and our skin, according to a review published in Dermatoendocrinology

That connection is just…murky. Preliminary research suggests a link between eating a high-glycemic (think refined carbs and sugar) diet and prevalence of acne, and some studies suggest the hormones in milk can influence acne, but the findings are limited, at best.

Related: Raise Your Hand If You Have Trouble Digesting Dairy

If you have sensitive, oily skin, though, experts still recommend you proceed with caution. “Milk contains precursors to testosterone and other androgens [male sex hormones], which influence the hormone receptors in the skin to turn on the process that causes acne,” says board-certified dermatologist and founder of customized skincare company Curology, David Lortscher, M.D. “Dairy and high-glycemic foods send insulin levels sky-high and trigger more oil production in the sebaceous glands,” he explains.

If you’re having trouble with acne and drink more than three servings of milk (skim seems to be more of an issue, though why isn’t clear) per week, consider eliminating dairy for at least a few weeks to see how your skin reacts, says Lortscher. The same goes for any type of food: If you notice a trend of breaking out the day after eating it, consider cutting it out.

4. If You Eat Fruit Seeds, They’ll Grow in Your Stomach

Verdict: REALLY?

As you probably guessed, this one is totally bogus. “Seeds need the right environment to germinate and grow, and the highly-acidic stomach isn’t it,” says Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D., and author of The MIND Diet. Swallow a raw seed whole and it’ll just pass through your system pretty-much undigested.

That said, you should chew the seeds in some fruits and veggies—like pumpkin or watermelon seeds, for example. In fact, they make for a portable, nutritious snack! “Each one-ounce serving of watermelon seeds packs a surprisingly high eight to 10 grams of protein and also provides iron,” Moon says.

5. Cure A Hangover With Hair Of The Dog

Verdict: FALSE

We’re not going to say you can’t enjoy a brunch-time Bloody Mary after a night out, but don’t expect it to benefit your body in any way. The phrase ‘hair of the dog’ is short for ‘hair of the dog that bit you,’ and it comes from an old superstition that you could cure yourself of rabies by taking a potion made with the hair of the rabid dog that bit you. Ya know, super-scientific.

In reality, trying to cure a hangover with more alcohol is like trying to lose weight by eating more junk food. “When you’re hungover, your body is in a state of dehydration and elevated inflammation, so your best bet is to stick with water and eat antioxidant-rich foods like sweet potatoes, blueberries, black beans, tea, and sorghum,” Moon says.

6. ‘Feed A Cold, Starve A Fever’

Verdict: FALSE

“While it ​is ​common to lose ​your appetite when ​you ​have​ a fever​, there is no need to starve yourself,” says Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of Ancient Nutrition. Regardless of whether you have a cold or a fever, you want to eat nutrient-rich food​s to​​ provide your body with the fuel it needs to recover. Focus on colorful fruits and vegetables—especially vitamin C-packed foods like kiwi and carrots—and even chicken soup.

7. Cracking Your Knuckles Will Give You Arthritis

Verdict: FALSE

“Knuckle cracking has gotten a bad rap throughout the years, but claims about it causing arthritis don’t seem to have any scientific backing,” says Axe. In fact, a 2011 study published in the ​​Journal of American Board of Family Medicine found that rates of arthritis were no higher in people who frequently cracked their knuckles than in those who did not crack their knuckles.

Here’s what happens when you crack: The sudden change in how your joints are positioned releases gases (nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide) that are dissolved in your joint fluid, causing a popping or cracking sound, explains Axe. That’s why you can only get a particular knuckle to crack every so often; those released gasses have to dissolve back into your joint fluid. Interesting but not harmful.

8. An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Verdict: TRUE-ISH

No, you don’t need to eat an apple every single day to stay healthy, but there is some truth to this old wives’ tale. “An apple is a great healthy addition to an overall healthy diet because it provides dietary fiber, which can help ward off common health concerns like constipation, and key nutrients like vitamin C and potassium,” says Axe.

“In general, scientific evidence has shown us that consuming fruits and vegetables helps lower your risk of major chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease,” he explains. “So yes, eating fruit, like an apple, can definitely provide health benefits.” Of course, that doesn’t mean you can load up on processed foods and unhealthy habits (like smoking or never exercising) and think that as long as you have an apple a day, you’ll never have a reason to see the doctor.

How Often Do You Really Need To Switch Up Your Workout Routine?

With group fitness and specialty gyms booming, there have never been so many ways to work out. In just a matter of days, you could do everything from barre, to treadmill sprints, to a CrossFit WOD, to cycling (underwater!). But is there a sweet spot for variety?

“There’s no right way to do it—it depends on your goals,” says Brad Schoenfeld, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., and assistant professor at Lehman College. If you’re just trying to stay active, you can totally bounce around from class to class as long as you’re banking enough rest.

However, if you’re exercising with a specific goal in mind—like building strength, competing in a sport, or shaping a certain physique—your routine and strategy become more important.

Say you want to build muscle, for example. To develop the coordination and proper movement patterns necessary to get strong and grow those muscles, you’ll first need to spend a few months practicing foundational movements like deadlifts, squats, rows, lunges, and bench presses. The more efficient at these moves you are, the more you can lift—and the more you can lift, the stronger and more muscular you become.

Related: 6 Possible Reasons Why You’re Not Building Muscle

Even as you progress, your routine can stay pretty consistent from there forward. “For the average person, there’s little to no physical benefit to changing their workout routine regularly,” says Schoenfeld.

If you just want to maintain your current level of fitness, you could hypothetically do the same exercises for the same number of reps using the same weights every workout. Plus, if changing up your workouts keeps you from regularly practicing those foundational moves, it could pull you backwards.

But frankly, doing the same exercises over and over again can feel a lot like eating your vegetables; you know it’s good for you, but it can become bland and uninspiring over time. “If you hate your workout or if you get bored of it, you’re not going to do it,” Schoenfeld says. This is when you want to switch things up a little bit; not for your brawn, but for your brain!

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One simple way to keep your workouts feeling fresh without skimping on your foundation: Play around with your accessory exercises. If your workout is focused on your back and biceps, for example, you’ll always perform foundational moves like rows, but you can rotate different variations of single-joint accessory moves like bicep curls in and out from workout to workout. If you perform a dumbbell biceps curl one week, try a preacher curl or a barbell curl the next. This way, you avoid boredom without blowing up your whole routine.

Another simple tweak: Play with the rep schemes and weights you use for your go-to exercises. For example, in one workout you might be squat with heavy weight for fewer reps, but in another you might drop the weight down and up the reps.

The bottom line: Once you’ve found the routine that works for you, just stick with it. By implementing these tweaks and pushing yourself, you’ll be able to complete more reps, lift more weight, and see the motivating results you want. The same goes for endurance training. Instead of changing your entire weekly workout schedule, play with different types of cross-training (like swimming or spinning) and adjust your sprint and rest times on interval days to keep training interesting.

3 Quick Ways To Level Up Your Pre-Workout

Is your pre-workout working as hard as you are? With a little DIY chemistry, you can customize your usual formula with single-ingredient add-ins to give it more of the oomph you’re looking for.

Want pump and endurance? Try adding extra l-citrulline or l-arginine AKG. Muscle recovery and gains? There’s betaine anhydrous for that.

Here’s exactly how to max out the potential of your pre-workout supp using the performance-supporting ingredients from BodyTech‘s Alchemist Series.

 

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All The Ways I Use Tea Tree Oil In My Beauty Routine

One of the greatest things about the beauty world is the diversity of methods, products, and natural ingredients from all over the world—along with the amount of cultural exchange it can foster.

With my family being half Italian and half Romani (a diasporic ethnic group from India, more commonly known by the racial slur “Gypsy”), I was lucky to grow up with a lovely mish-mash of beauty rituals involving oils, flower essences, and sometimes elaborate practices.

In fact, my Romani mama is a former bikini model and aerobics instructor, so she was always looking to improve her beauty routine. In the ‘70s she discovered tea tree oil, and when I was in middle school she introduced me to it, telling me that tea tree oil was the key to clear and healthy skin, hair, nails, and even teeth. I don’t remember her having any blemishes to speak of, so I assumed it either worked well or she was a witch of some kind.

I, on the other hand, did have some blemishes to test on, and got right down to it. And it turns out that she was right! I saw noticeable improvements in my skin, and it has been a fixture in my beauty arsenal ever since.

My mother and I love it, but the science speaks for itself: Studies have found that tea tree oil has cleansing and purifying properties. In fact, people indigenous to Australia have recognized the stuff’s efficacy for a long time.

Here’s how I incorporate tea tree oil into my beauty routine. Tip: Just be sure to test it out on a small patch of skin before you use it!

1. As a cleanse

I tend to get acne if there’s even a trace of makeup left on my face at night. Since I model, I often have a full face of makeup on and get home late at night completely exhausted. I have to fight the urge to just crawl into bed, no matter how wonderful that would feel.

I find that I can get excited about my skincare routine if I’m excited about the products I’m using. This makes my beauty routine feel less like a chore and more like self-care. (FYI: An oil-based cleanser, like Shea Moisture Sensitive Skin Facial Cleansing Oil, does an excellent job of getting off tough to remove makeup.)

After I’ve removed my makeup, it’s time to cleanse with tea tree oil. I turn this into a little bit of a facial massage by rubbing together some warm water and a few drops of tea tree oil along my jawline, nose, and cheekbones. Then, I rinse.

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2. As a mask

I use a tea tree oil-based clay face mask about once a week to draw out any impurities. My mother has been using Aztec Secret Bentonite Healing Indian Clay since the ’70s, and passed the secret on to me.

Like a lot of beauty gurus and bloggers do, I mix a tablespoon of the clay in a bowl with a tablespoon of Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar for clear skin (I love the fizzing sound it makes!), a dollop of royal jelly honey for moisture, and a drop or two of tea tree oil for its added benefits.

I apply the mixture to my face (it will probably tingle a little from the tea tree oil), leave it on for 10-20 minutes, and then remove with water to reveal a glow.

3. As a toner

Some toners can really dry out the skin, making oil production and acne even worse in the long run. Today, I use what my mother prefers: Thayer’s Witch Hazel Alcohol Free Toner. She taught me to swipe it—along with a drop of tea tree oil—over my face after cleansing to remove any remaining residue and to tighten my pores.

4. As a spritz

Spritzing facial mist throughout the day is one of my most beloved beauty discoveries. It keeps me looking fresh and awake. Here’s a spritz recipe I make on my own:

I combine it all in a spray bottle, shake, and spritz my face a couple of times a day when I need a pick-me-up.

Related: 5 DIY Skin Treatments Beauty Experts Swear By

5. As dental care

Tea tree oil can also help support dental health (and it’s got a great fresh scent). I like this Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil and Neem Toothpaste in Wintergreen and their Tea Tree Oil Floss. I follow it all up with a mouthwash like Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil Mouthwash Whitening Plus.

I also like to make my own mouthwash with naturally cleansing ingredients.

DIY Mouthwash

6. As hair care

In the winter, I tend to get a dry, flaky scalp and it drives me absolutely crazy. Over the years, I’ve come up with a few different ways to combat it, and tea tree oil’s cleansing properties make it a star ingredient. I simply mix a few drops of tea tree oil into my shampoo or condition and then smooth it through my hair as normal.

7. to support nail health

Due to tea tree oil’s cleansing properties, it can be great for nail health. When my nails are looking a bit yellow or brittle, I add a few drops of tea tree oil to my hand and foot cream and rub into my cuticles and nails.

8. to support beauty sleep 

Aromatherapy always makes me feel a little better. When I’m stressed out, I like to add three drops of lavender oil, two drops of tea tree oil, two drops of eucalyptus oil, and one drop of peppermint oil to my diffuser. I feel like it helps me breathe more deeply, reduce my congestion, and catch up on my beauty sleep.

Don’t Quit Your Coffee Habit—Science Says So

Coffee is probably one of the most reliable things in our lives—and despite the bad rap it gets for causing jitters and stealing sleep when taken in excess, it actually offers some pretty sweet health benefits.

We may think of our morning cup of Joe as just an energy-booster, but epidemiological studies (which identify trends in people’s behaviors and health over time) have identified links between drinking coffee and lower risk of everything from heart disease to type 2 diabetes to liver cancer, says Keith Kantor, Ph.D., CEO of the Nutritional Addiction Mitigation Eating and Drinking program. We’re not saying drinking coffee automatically turns you into a superhuman, but there’s definitely something there. So, just in case you needed further justification for your Starbucks habit, take a look at these science-backed health benefits of your favorite beverage.

Coffee And Chronic Disease

Chronic diseases, like type 2 diabetes and heart disease, plague the U.S.—and what we eat and drink play a major part in whether or not we’ll eventually develop these issues.

To investigate the relationship between coffee consumption and type 2 diabetes risk, one study published in Diabetologia analyzed the diets of over 90,000 women and 27,000 men every two to four years for more than 20 years. Throughout the study, participants self-reported their diets, lifestyle habits, and current medical conditions. What did the researchers find? Participants who upped their coffee intake by more than a cup a day had an 11 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes, while those who cut their coffee consumption by more than a cup a day had a 17 percent higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

Meanwhile, research presented by the American Heart Association’s 2017 Scientific Session also linked guzzling java to a lower risk of heart failure or stroke. This time, researchers assessed info from an ongoing heart disease risk study known as the Framingham Heart Study, which looked at people’s diets and their heart health status. The scientists identified a link between drinking coffee and a decreased risk of heart failure and stroke; each additional cup of Joe per day correlated to a seven percent lower risk of heart failure and an eight percent lower risk of stroke.

Coffee And Cancer

Studies on coffee and cancer show connections between the two. For example, one review published in BMJ Open analyzed 18 studies to determine whether coffee’s antioxidants could affect the formation of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common form of liver cancer. The researchers found a correlation between higher coffee consumption and lower risk of liver cancer.

Coffee And Cognitive Function

Many of us already turn to java when we need to crank out a big work project, and research confirms that coffee really can boost cognitive function. According to a study published in the American Journal of Epiemiology, elderly adults who reported being lifelong coffee drinkers performed better on cognitive tests (like reciting the months of the year backwards, naming as many animals as possible in one minute, and repeating sequences of words from memory) than non-java-drinkers.

Where Does The Magic Come from?

You’d probably guess that caffeine is responsible for coffee’s special powers, but nope: Researchers believe the brew’s benefits come not from the caffeine, but from the antioxidants in it, says Jagdish Khubchandani, Ph.D., associate professor of community health at Ball State University. In fact, coffee contains just slightly fewer antioxidants than blueberries, which are often touted as one of the most potent sources of antioxidants out there—so its antioxidant value is no joke.

Antioxidants ward off oxidative stress (and resulting cell damage and inflammation) caused by free radicals—and polyphenols, the type of antioxidant found in coffee, have specifically been shown to help ward off a number of diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes, adds Kantor.

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Whether thanks to our fruit- and veggie-devoid diets or our general caffeine obsession, coffee is actually the number-one source of antioxidants in the average American diet, so it offers much more value than just the buzz. Plus, if you’re drinking coffee (and not dumping sugar into it), chances are you’re not drinking something higher in calories and sugar (and lower in antioxidants) like soda or juice—and avoiding these less-healthy beverages can also benefit your health, says Kantor.

Just keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you should throw back six espressos a day! The majority of these studies look at moderate caffeine intake, which tops out at three or four eight-ounce coffees per day. And that doesn’t change the fact that it causes digestive issues and nervousness in some people—so if you have anxiety, insomnia, acid reflux, high blood pressure, or intestinal issues, you’re still best off limiting your intake.

4 Keto-Approved Ways To Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

The keto diet, which shuns carbs and ramps up healthy fats, may seem impossible to anyone with a sweet tooth. Sugar is an absolute no-go—even many fruits are difficult to squeeze into a day’s tiny carb allotment—which, sadly, leaves little room for typical carb-laden desserts. Plus, though Paleo and vegan treats line store shelves everywhere, pre-made keto goodies are pretty much nonexistent.

So if you really want to get your dessert fix on keto, you’re going to have to get creative. Luckily, these keto-savvy experts have a few easy tips and tweaks for having your cake and staying in ketosis, too.

1. Swap Your Sweetener

Though they may not look like table sugar, agave, honey, coconut sugar, and other natural sweeteners are still sugar, so they’re off-limits on keto. Your fix: Sub a sugar- and calorie-free sweetener into baked goods (and that morning cup of Joe).

There’s Stevia (the popular sugar substitute made from the Stevia rebaudiana plant), of course, but monk fruit (which is made from the Asian lo han guo plant) is also a popular sweetener for keto eaters, says Katherine Brooking, R.D., co-founder of nutrition consulting group Appetite for Health. Just be aware that these sweeteners are much sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a long way. (Monk fruit is reportedly 150 to 200 times as sweet as sugar…)

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Molly Kimball, R.D., nutrition manager at the Ochsner Fitness Center in New Orleans, also recommends Swerve Sweetener, which is made from fermented sugar alcohol and plant fiber. “It measures cup for cup like sugar, has zero glycemic impact, and zero net carb count.”

Though no scientific evidence suggests they cause cancer or other serious health problems, it’s worth noting that non-calorie sweeteners shouldn’t become a daily go-to if you’re focused on eating an overall healthy diet, says Brooking. These sweeteners don’t offer the nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber of whole-food sources of sweetness like fruit.

2. Fix Your Flour

If you just can’t avoid baked goods, trade in your usual wheat flour for almond flour or coconut flour. “Almond flour has 75 percent fewer carbs and 50 percent more protein than white or whole wheat flour, while coconut flour has 25 percent fewer carbs and more than three times as much fiber as whole-wheat,” says Kimball.

Each offers a unique texture and slight natural sweetness. Start experimenting by swapping out a quarter of a recipe’s flour for either almond or coconut flour to familiarize yourself with each flour. (Coconut flour is very dry and tends to require extra liquid.) Or, keep things simple by following a keto-friendly recipe—like this Keto Chocolate Cake In A Mug from Ruled.Me—that already incorporates them.

3. Go Crazy For Cocoa

Chocolate is one of the most crave-worthy treats out there, but considering a mere tablespoon of milk chocolate chips packs 43 grams of carbs and a whopping 26 grams of sugar, it’s tough to fit into a keto lifestyle.

But you don’t have to back away from the chocolate entirely: You can use cocoa powder or unsweetened dark baker’s chocolate in all sorts of keto-friendly recipes. “I love mixing cocoa powder, melted coconut oil, and Swerve sweetener, for a quick treat,” says Kimball. Pour the mixture into a baking pan, pop it in the fridge to set, and voila, you’ve got keto dark chocolate.

For more chocolately goodness, Kimball recommends these Keto Chocolate Salted Peanut Butter Fat Bombs from Swerve, which are basically vegan, keto peanut butter cups. (Or, whip up one of the decadent fat bomb recipes we rounded up.)

4. Befriend Berries

While super-sweet fruits—like bananas, pineapple, and anything dried—are off the table on keto because of their high sugar count, there is one exception: berries. Half a cup of raspberries and blackberries each pack just four grams of sugar, so they’re an easy way to satisfy your sweet tooth (not to mention load up on antioxidants). You can snack on berries fresh or frozen—just watch your portions!

Rule For The Road: Check The Macros

Since carbs should account for less than 10 percent of your daily calories on a standard keto diet, someone who eats 2,000 calories a day has room for just about 25 grams of net carbs (carbs minus fiber) a day. To enjoy these sweet treats without putting ketosis in jeopardy, Kimball recommends sticking to servings that contain about two to three grams of net carbs, two to three grams of protein, and 15 or more grams of fat.

Related: 15 Keto Snacks For All You Fat-Fuelers Out There

Pin this infographic for keto-friendly desserts, anytime: