6 Ways To Kick Your Own Butt Back Into Gear

While we all love the warm-and-fuzzy endorphin rush that comes after a good workout, some days we just don’t want to move. And, hey, when your to-do list is a mile long, or you just really need to unwind, there’s nothing wrong with taking a day off from getting your sweat on. But if you’ve been dealing with a near-constant case of ‘meh’ motivation lately, well, that’s a different story.

Often, a little movement is exactly what we need to feel our very best—and luckily, there are plenty of little things you can do every day to boost your motivation and kick your butt back into gear. Here are health and fitness experts’ go-to strategies for getting up and going.

1. Upgrade Your Mornings

First off, stop hitting the snooze button so much! Getting enough sleep is super-important if you want to power through a workout and the rest of the day, but more isn’t always better—especially if it cuts into workout time. The sweet spot, according to the National Sleep Foundation, is seven to nine hours of shut-eye each night. To prevent yourself from hitting snooze, yoga instructor and personal trainer Stephanie George recommends keeping your phone on the other side of the bedroom, so that you have to actually get out of bed to turn it off.

Sticking to a consistent routine that involves waking up around the same time every morning—even on the weekends—can also help you have healthier days. “Eventually that routine will turn into a habit and, who knows, you make even be able to wake up without an alarm,” says George.

George also recommends making time for a healthy breakfast. “Coffee won’t cut it,” she says. “You need a well-balanced meal that provides you with the energy you need to get moving.” Try eggs with spinach, peppers, and onions scrambled in, or a protein shake with frozen berries and greens.

2. Drink More Water

Could a few extra sips of H2O be the difference between staying on the couch and lacing up your sneakers? According to the CDC, as much as 43 percent of American adults drink fewer than four glasses of water a day—less than half the recommended eight glasses. Not only is dehydration dangerous, but it also significantly decreases your energy levels, leaving you feeling tired and lethargic. “Even a small depletion of water in your body can affect mental focus, energy levels, and physical performance,” says author and sports scientist Elesa Zehndorfer, Ph.D.

Featured Products

One easy way to stay hydrated: Mix an electrolyte supplement into your water. Not only will these minerals help your body maintain its proper fluid balance, but flavored electrolyte powders also make drinking easier if you don’t like plain water.

3. Focus On Balanced Plates

Deficiencies in vitamins and minerals—especially magnesium, calcium, and zinc—can make you feel tired, irritable, and lethargic, warns Zehndorfer. Not only do these minerals support your mood and energy levels, but they also help your body relax for sleep. Meanwhile, processed foods—which are often high in sugar—can lead to a rollercoaster of blood sugar spikes and crashes, and leave you too sluggish to get moving.

Your goal: Focus on lots of green vegetables, fruits, complex carbs (like whole grains and starchy veggies), and high-quality protein.

Related: 7 Protein-Packed Breakfasts Trainers Love

4. Write Down Your Goals

It’s a whole lot easier to make workouts happen when you have a clear reason for working out, which is why Chris Ryan, C.S.C.S and founder of Chris Ryan Fitness recommends writing down specific yet attainable goals and literally signing a contract with yourself to see them through. Do you want to shed a few pounds, run a race, or finally touch your toes? Write that down. What’s your plan for getting there? Maybe you’ll run four times a week or make it to yoga class every other evening. Write that down, too.

5. Find A Cause Worth Sweating For

When you need a kick in the pants that’s bigger than just you, find a fitness-focused charitable organization—like Team in Training, Cycle for Survival, or The D10—in your area to inspire you to get moving. “Not only do they make fitness fun, but they present the opportunity for fundraising and the chance to hear amazing stories that will motivate you to celebrate your body each and every day,” says Ryan. You get to reward your body and have a positive impact on the world around you—that’s a win-win!

6. Call Your Workout Buddy

Research from the University of Aberdeen shows that having an exercise companion increases how much exercise we do on a consistent basis. Having someone to hold us accountable and talk to during workouts can be just the game-changer we need to make that gym routine stick. “If you surround yourself with people who think healthy, think fun and think positive, you will be well on your way to meeting your fitness goals,” Ryan says.

Diggin’ What’s Good? For more essential health facts, tips, and inspiration, join our Facebook communities, Eating Healthy and Staying Fit, today!

I Took Collagen ‘Beauty Shots’ For A Month—Here’s What Happened

With my 30th birthday approaching sooner than I’d like, I’ve spent a lot of time recently looking into how to switch up my beauty routine in order to stave off the inevitable wrinkles. I tried Botox about eight months ago, and while I liked how smooth it made my forehead, it’s not exactly the most cost-effective method to keep lines at bay. So when I heard about Reserveage Nutrition’s Watermelon Mint Beauty Shotsantioxidant and collagen protein-packed beauty drinks that can be taken daily to support healthy, youthful skin—I knew I had to give them a, well, shot. I decided to down one every day for a month in hope of more youthful skin on the horizon.

What’s In A ‘Beauty Shot,’ Exactly?

The star of Reserveage’s beauty shots is the ever-trending collagen protein. “Collagen, an essential building block of healthy skin, is the protein matrix that keeps skin firm and strong,” says Bobby Buka, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and contributing founder and chief science officer of First Aid Beauty. “This collagen can become easily damaged as a result of our daily exposure to environmental factors such as sunlight and pollutants.” And when collagen breaks down, you can say hello to wrinkles.

Each beauty shot (three ounces) contains five grams of hydrolyzed collagen, along with a few other skin-loving ingredients like 90 milligrams of vitamin C (which protects against environmental damage that causes aging), 15 milligrams of biotin (the B vitamin that supports strong skin, hair, and nails), and hydrators like hyaluronic acid, cucumber extract, and aloe vera extract. The label references a study that found that 2.5 grams of collagen per day increased skin elasticity after just four weeks, so considering the beauty shots contained twice that amount of collagen, I was optimistic!

Featured Products

“When we take collagen, it gets broken down into amino acids by our digestive system,” says Monique Chheda, M.D., board-certified dermatologist. “These amino acids are then absorbed through the gut.” Once absorbed, collagen can be utilized throughout our entire body—not just our skin—so there’s no guarantee where it’ll end up, she explains. (Collagen is also important for gut and joint health.) Though more research is needed on collagen’s skin benefits, both docs I spoke with said there certainly wouldn’t be any downsides to getting more of it!

Shots, Anyone?

As a beauty writer, I have access to the best skin-care products (#workperks) and know I have to be very diligent with sunscreen, so my skin started off in pretty good shape. That said, though, I have started to notice itty-bitty lines forming at the corners of my eyes, and that my face looks more tired and dull than it did in my early and mid-20s.

So given how important collagen is for skin health—and how much pollution I’m exposed to living in New York City—I was pumped to add these beauty shots to my daily routine and see whether I’d notice any differences after a month.

Related: Which Type Of Collagen Is Right For You?

I kept the rest of my relatively low-maintenance beauty routine exactly the same so I could measure whether or not the collagen shots were doing anything: I used a gentle facial cleanser morning and night, applied sunscreen in the morning, and continued my usual retinol serum before bed (retinol is the gold standard wrinkle-fighting ingredient). Once a week, I slathered on a brightening face mask.

I’m always in a rush to get to the office on time in the morning, so I stashed my shots in my bag the night before so I wouldn’t forget to take them. Still, I got home from work most days that first week only to find the shot still in my bag—so I had my first few shots for dessert. Once I started taking them out of my bag as soon as I sat down at my desk, though, getting into the routine grew easier. On crazy-busy days, I often didn’t get around to imbibing until the afternoon, so instead of going out for my usual iced hibiscus tea at three o’clock, I made the beauty shots my afternoon treat. (I consider the four bucks a day I saved a major perk of the experiment.) I even packed a few shots with me on a long weekend of traveling for a friend’s wedding, and knocked them back before moving onto more traditional celebratory beverages (a.k.a. actual shots).

I expected the shots’ watermelon mint flavor to be overly sweet and artificial (when I hear anything is watermelon-flavored, I automatically assume it’s going to taste like a Jolly Rancher), but it was really delicious! Nice and subtle with no weird aftertaste. And despite all of the ingredients in there, the shots went down like water. I worried they’d be goopy or chalky, but they had a thin, pleasant texture. I came to really enjoy drinking my shot every afternoon, and was sad when my 30 days were up.

My Complexion, A Month Later

After 30 days of dutifully downing my shots, I didn’t notice a change in the wrinkles around my eyes—but I did, however, notice that my complexion looked all-around glowier than usual. Prior to the beauty shot experiment, my entire face had been looking pretty lackluster, but the area underneath my eyes had really been riding struggle bus (which probably has something to do with the fact that I don’t always get a full eight hours of sleep) and I often sported dark circles.

By the time my month-long shot habit came to a close, though, not only did my entire face look brighter, but my under-eye area looked much more, well, alive. I even stopped applying under-eye concealer! Since dullness was something I was looking to address, I was really happy to see that these shots had some effect.

Plus, there was another surprising benefit from taking the shots: My nails suddenly felt harder and stronger. (Chheda told me that research suggests biotin may be helpful for strengthening nails, so I credited the biotin in the shots for the unexpected perk.) I bite my nails and they normally break very easily, but by the end of the 30 days, I realized I hadn’t dealt with a cracked nail since before I started guzzling the shots.

Glowy skin aside, I’d continue drinking the shots just to keep my nails strong year-round!

Want to try Reserveage’s Beauty Shots for yourself? Treat yourself to a six pack or two.

Here’s How To Make Plant Protein Powder From Scratch

This article originally appeared in Amazing Wellness magazine. 

“Making your own protein powders at home helps you control what goes inside, and allows you to have a wider variety of nutrients,” says Carina Wolff, author of Plant-Protein Recipes That You’ll Love. For healthy fats plus plant protein, try her seed-based recipe. It works best when added to hearty dishes, such as soups, sauces, and baked goods.

Diggin’ What’s Good? For more essential health facts, tips, and inspiration, join our Facebook communities, Eating Healthy and Staying Fit, today!

Do ‘Complete’ And ‘Incomplete’ Proteins Really Matter?

Whether you’re a resident of the weight room, a vegetarian, trying to lose weight, working to keep your blood sugar stable, or just want to be all-around healthy, a balanced, nutritious diet is key to reaching your goals. And a hugely important component of such a diet? Protein.

Not only does protein, which digests slowly and doesn’t spike your blood sugar, keep you satiated, but it’s also essential for just about every structure in your body, building muscles, hair, red blood cells, the immune antibodies that fight infections, and more,” says Brooke Alpert, C.D.N, R.N, M.S, founder of B-Nutritious.

When we think of protein, our minds often jump to animal products, like meat, milk, and eggs—but plenty of plant-based foods (like nuts, grains, and legumes) provide protein, too! That’s where one big question comes in: Are some proteins better than others? Glad you asked…

All proteins are made up of molecules called amino acids, which have various functions in the body—like breaking down food, supporting the body’s growth, and repairing tissues. There are 20 amino acids in total, nine of which are considered ‘essential’ because they can’t be produced by our body and must be obtained through our food. (The essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.) The other 11 amino acids are ‘nonessential’ because our body can make what it needs on its own. (These include alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.)

Featured Products

You’ve probably heard animal proteins referred to as complete proteins, and that’s because they offer all nine of the essential amino acids. Plant proteins, meanwhile, are typically deficient in one or more of those essential aminos, and are thus incomplete proteins. (There are a few exceptions, however: Quinoa, hemp seeds, soy, and chia seeds are all complete proteins.)

Given that animal proteins are complete proteins, you’d think they’re the better protein source, right? Not necessarily.

By eating complementary proteins—two plant-based protein sources that fill in each other’s missing amino acids—you can even rack up all the aminos you need in one plant-based meal. For example, grains (like rice or whole-wheat bread) are low in the amino acid lysine but high in the amino acid methionine. Legumes (like beans or peanuts), meanwhile, are high in lysine and low in methionine. So, by eating the two foods together—think peanut butter toast or rice and beans—you’ve got yourself a complete protein! “There’s a reason why beans and rice have a staple in many cultures for years,” says Alpert. (Not to mention, it’s an affordable, non-perishable, and sustainable meal.)

Related: 7 Tips For Doing A Plant-Based Diet Right

That said, you don’t actually have to compensate for missing aminos every time you sit down to eat. “It is not necessary to combine incomplete proteins in every meal, or even every day,” says Sarah Skovran, R.D.N., L.D.  As long as you’re eating an adequate balance—and amount—of incomplete proteins on a regular basis, your body will be stocked with the amino acids it needs and can pull from its ‘amino acid pool’ as necessary, she says. In fact, research from the American Dietetic Association shows that eating an assortment of plant foods over the course of the day can provide ample amounts of all the essential amino acids and ensure adequate nitrogen retention (a marker of sufficient protein consumption) in healthy adults.

The bottom line: Most Americans consume more than enough protein—and don’t need to stress about whether they’re complete or incomplete—especially if animal products are a part of their diet in some capacity, says Alpert. Herbivores, however, should make sure to eat a variety of plant foods, including grains, beans, nuts, fruit, and plenty of vegetables. “If your plant-based diet contains only grains and no beans or nuts, you might be low in certain amino acids, like lysine,” says Skovran. “And if you eat beans and nuts, but no grains, then you could be low in others, like methionine.”

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan and don’t eat certain types of plant foods—or experience low energy or trouble building muscle—Skovran recommends seeing a registered dietitian who can make sure you’re getting all of the amino acids (and vitamins and minerals) you need.

Diggin’ What’s Good? For more essential health facts, tips, and inspiration, join our Facebook communities, Eating Healthy and Staying Fit, today!

Watching Your Weight? Here’s How Protein Can Help

Protein, which builds pretty much all of the tissues in our body (think muscles, organs, and even hair), is a key part of any healthy diet—but it’s especially important for people who want to build muscle or shed body fat (or both!).

How much protein you eat—and when you eat it—can help you reach your health and fitness goals. You just have to know how to use it! Watch the following video for the full run-down on how protein can help you manage your weight, and try a supplement (like the new MyTrition Natural Protein Blend) to meet your needs!

 

Featured Products

Diggin’ What’s Good? For more essential health facts, tips, and inspiration, join our Facebook communities, Eating Healthy and Staying Fit, today!

7 Protein-Packed Breakfasts Trainers Love

If you want to fuel your day, workouts, and results, you’ve really got to start eating breakfast—and, no, a bowl of sugary cereal isn’t going to cut it.

“Too many Americans eat soft and doughy fake food in the morning,” says celebrity fitness and nutrition coach Kyle Brown, C.S.C.S., founder of FIT 365, who, by the way, eats breakfast every single day. His non-negotiables: protein, healthy fats, whole carbs, and lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to prime his brain and body for all-day energy and performance. After all, when you spend all day programming workouts, coaching and pumping up clients, and squeezing in your own sweat sessions, you have to be on your A game!

To help you fuel up like an expert, we asked seven top trainers to snap photos of their go-to morning meals.

1. Breakfast Protein Cookie Dough

Go ahead, lick the bowl clean. “I love that this breakfast tastes like dessert and packs a protein punch for under 500 calories,” says Josh Hillis, C.P.T., author of Fat Loss Happens on Monday. The granola provides plenty of carbs for energy, which are balanced out by the protein and healthy fats for better blood-sugar control. Hillis recommends using more protein powder on super-active mornings.

Ingredients:
– 1½ to 2 scoops protein powder of choice
– ½ cup granola
– 1 Tbsp chocolate chips
– 1 Tbsp almond butter
– Water to taste

Combine all ingredients except for the water in a bowl. Stir and add water gradually, until mixture reaches a cookie dough-like consistency.

2. Sourdough Veggie Sausage Breakfast Sandwich

Baltimore-based strength and conditioning coach Erica Suter, M.S., C.S.C.S., loves to refuel with this super-easy and vegetarian-friendly sandwich after her morning workouts. “The bread helps me to replenish my glycogen stores, which were depleted during exercise, and the eggs promote muscle growth and recovery,” she says. By combining two whole eggs with one egg white, you can increase protein content without increasing fat content.

Ingredients:
– 2 eggs
– 1 egg white
– 1 serving veggie sausage (links or patties)
– 2 pieces Sourdough toast

Toast your bread while cooking your eggs (Suter likes them scrambled) and sausage. Then, add the eggs and sausage to your bread and voila!

3. 6-Minute Check-Every-Box Breakfast

“Because my days start at 4:30 a.m., breakfast is a huge priority for getting me up and keeping me energized,” says physical therapist and strength coach Laura Miranda, D.P.T., C.S.C.S. “I choose this combo of food because it checks all of the boxes for health: It has avocado for fiber, potassium, and blood-sugar regulation, eggs for protein and omega-3s, kale for everything (and especially fiber), and plantains for resistant starch that keeps me fuller, longer, and has a prebiotic effect to make my gut happy.”

Ingredients:
– 2 handfuls kale
– 2 eggs
– 1 green plantain
– ½ avocado
– Red pepper flakes

Cut the plantain into half-inch cubes and sauté, then sauté the kale until wilted and bright green, and cook your eggs however you prefer. Combine your ingredients on a plate and top with sliced avocado and red pepper flakes to taste.

4. Greek Yogurt with Berries

“My go-to breakfast is Greek yogurt with fruit and cereal,” says Silicon Valley-based trainer Jaime Mcfaden, C.P.T. “I love that it is protein-packed, full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and the crunch of the cereal gives it an extra-special taste and texture,” she says. “Growing up in a Greek family, we used Greek yogurt in pretty much every meal. Now, as a working mom, it’s so nice to grab something I can make in two minutes or less and know that I am getting all the nutrients, protein, and fat I need to get me ready for my busy day ahead.”

Ingredients:
– 6 to 8 ounces of plain Greek yogurt
– Handful of berries
– Handful of cereal

Simply spoon your Greek yogurt into a bowl and top with a handful each of berries and cereal for crunchy, sweet deliciousness.

5. Protein-Packed Rolled Oats

This breakfast might have a lot going on, but it’s still quick and easy to pull together. “For my first meal of the day, I always want something powerful in both experience and nutritional density,” says Lisa Niren, C.P.T., head instructor and director of content and programming for the Studio running app. Her go-to includes a dose of caffeine from coffee, probiotics from kombucha, and lots of filling fiber and protein from protein powder and oats.

Ingredients:
– ½ cup gluten-free rolled oats
– ½ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
– ½ cup cashew milk
– 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
– Blueberries, flax or chia seeds, dried cranberries, or cacao nibs to taste
– 1 GT’s Gingerade Kombucha, on the side
– 1 almond milk cappuccino (coffee, cashew milk, and unsweetened almond milk), on the side

Cook rolled oats in almond milk until the mixture reaches your desired thickness. Then, stir in protein powder and desired toppings. Serve with the kombucha (over ice) and almond milk cappuccino.

Related: I Drank Kombucha Every Day For 2 Weeks—Here’s What My Gut Had To Say

6. Chunky Monkey Bowl

“The way I see it, every time I have this breakfast, I’m winning my morning,” says celebrity fitness and nutrition coach Kyle Brown, C.S.C.S., founder of FIT 365. “It provides me with complete nutrition.” While the grass-fed whey protein supports muscle growth, the healthy fats from coconut milk (think: MCTs) and almond butter help to promote brain function. Meanwhile, the banana’s carbs and fiber help perk you up with energy that lasts, he says.

Ingredients:
– 1 cup coconut milk
– 2 scoops chocolate protein powder
– 5 ice cubes
– 1 small banana
– 1 Tbsp almond butter
Chocolate chips or shavings to taste

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend to a thick, smoothie bowl-worthy consistency. Top with chocolate shavings or chips, if desired.

7. Stacked Smoothie

“I call this the ‘stacked smoothie’ because it’s stacked with all the right things to start my day off,” says Alena Luciani, M.S., C.S.C.S., founder of Training2xl. Specifically, it provides heaps of protein, vitamins, antioxidants, unsaturated fats, whole carbs, and fiber. “I always work out early, so it’s vital that I incorporate all of this into my breakfast,” she says.

Ingredients:
– 1 cup cashew or almond milk
– 1 scoop protein powder
– 1 cup leafy greens (spinach or kale)
– 1 cup frozen cauliflower
– 1 scoop nut butter
– 1 to 2 Tbsp maca root, spirulina, or elderberry powder
– dash of cinnamon

Add all ingredients to blender, blend to a smooth consistency, and enjoy!

Diggin’ What’s Good? For more essential health facts, tips, and inspiration, join our Facebook communities, Eating Healthy and Staying Fit, today!

The Instant Pot Is A Meal Prep Master—And These 6 Recipes Prove It

The Instant Pot, a giant electric pot that can function as a pressure cooker, sauté pan, steamer, rice maker, slow cooker, and more, is basically a kitchen wizard—so it’s no wonder Instant Pot recipes have been taking over Pinterest and Instagram lately.

The Instant Pot’s many talents—and the fact that you can easily fit a week’s worth of food in it—make it a meal prepper’s dream. It’s like a crock pot with wings!

With a few tried-and-true meals in your arsenal and an Instant Pot on your countertop, you can transform your Sunday meal prep from an all-day affair to ‘fill the pot and chill.’ Here are six popular recipes to get you started.

photo: The Girl On Bloor

1. Instant Pot Chicken Pad Thai

Keep your meal prep repertoire interesting with this chicken Pad Thai recipe from The Girl On Bloor. You can cook all of the ingredients in the Instant Pot (yes, even the noodles), which is a major perk for anyone who’s had to wash an entire kitchen’s-worth of pots, pans, and tools after a meal prep session. This recipe keeps health in mind by using chicken breasts and plenty of colorful veggies like carrots and peppers. If you’re keeping your meals lower-carb, you can even swap in spiralized carrots or zucchini noodles for the rice noodles. Once everything’s in the pot, you’ll have a week’s-worth of meals in just 30 minutes flat!

photo: I Breathe, I’m Hungry

2. Instant Pot Balsamic Beef Pot Roast

When you’re craving comfort food but don’t feel like waiting all day as a pot roast cooks up in the Dutch oven, try I Breathe, I’m Hungry’s Instant Pot Balsamic Pot Roast recipe. You’ll quickly brown the meat using the Instant Pot’s ‘sauté’ feature and then stew it to tender perfection along with balsamic vinegar (try Walden Farms’ Balsamic Dressing for calorie-free flavor), onion, and spices. Once the meat’s done, you can even use your Instant Pot to steam up some cauliflower for a nice mash to serve it over.

photo: A Pinch of Healthy

3. Instant Pot Red Beans And Rice

Andouille sausage spices up A Pinch of Healthy’s recipe for this already-flavorful classic meal. Just dump in everything except for your sausage and your rice (which you can also make in the Instant Pot), and cook for about half an hour. Then, throw your sausage in for another 15 minutes, and voila, you’ve got yourself a balanced, flavorful meal you can enjoy all week long. Don’t forget to top your beans and rice with plenty of your favorite hot sauce (6 Pack Fitness makes four flavors and we love them all) and serve them with a side of something green, for good measure.

photo: Lexi’s Clean Kitchen

4. Instant Pot Pho

That’s right, you can even make super-trendy Pho (a Vietnamese soup made with bone broth, rice noodles, some sort of meat, and veggies) in your Instant Pot with this recipe from Lexi’s Clean Kitchen. You’ll prep by charring some veggies and parboiling your beef bones, and adding them to your Pot along with a number of fragrant ingredients, like apple cider vinegar (Bragg is our go-to), cinnamon, star anise, and cardamom, to cook up homemade bone broth. Pressure cooking the bone broth sucks up about an hour, but considering this would cost you a full day on the stove, we’ll take it. From there you’ll deck out your broth with a protein, like sirloin steak, rice or veggie noodles, bean sprouts, hot sauce (try 6 Pack Fitness’ Chipotle Hot Sauce for this one), and fresh herbs. Store your soups in big Mason jars for easy transport throughout the week.

photo: I Wash, You Dry

5. Instant Pot Chicken Taco Soup

Done in 35 minutes, flat, this chicken taco soup from I Wash, You Dry is the perfect base for all sorts of toppings that you can mix and match to keep your taste buds happy all week long. Simply add all of your ingredients—chicken breasts, onion, broth, beans, corned, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, taco seasoning, and ranch seasoning—to the Instant Pot, watch an episode of Parks And Recreation on Netflix, and you’ll be ready to deck out this Mexican-inspired meal. Top with anything from salsa, to avocados, to tortilla chips, to shredded cheese, to ranch dressing, and enjoy! If dairy is not your friend, try Bragg Nutritional Yeast Seasoning for a dose of umami instead.

photo: Oh Sweet Basil’s

6. Award-Winning Instant Pot Chili

C’mon, we had to include a chili recipe…But this isn’t your average slow-cooker chili. First of all, it’s loaded with bacon! Second of all, it takes just 40 minutes to cook, making it much easier to execute than the usual slow-cooker recipe that has to stew for six hours. (Raise your hand if you’ve been woken up in the middle of the night by the ding of your slow cooker.) Oh Sweet Basil’s chili recipe features all of the usual staples, like beans, tomatoes, ground beef, jalapeños, and plenty of spices, like paprika, chili powder, and garlic. (Oh My Spice’s Sweet And Savory Seasoning tastes ah-mazing in chili.) Just cook your bacon, beef, and veggies in the Instant Pot first, add the rest of your ingredients, and you’re golden.

Featured Products

Diggin’ What’s Good? For more essential health facts, tips, and inspiration, join our Facebook communities, Eating Healthy and Staying Fit, today!

7 Veggies To Watch Out For If You’re Keto

You probably already know that baked goods, candy, and most fruits are off the table on a ketogenic diet, but you’d think good ol’ veggies, which are typically low in carbs and pack a ton of nutrition, would be safe, right? Well…

Every rule has an exception, and while pretty much all of your favorite green veggies are keto-friendly, some higher-carb vegetables—like potatoes, carrots, and beets—are questionable.

A successful keto diet often requires cutting carbs down to just 50 grams total per day, or about 20 to 30 grams of net carbs (total carbs minus the fiber, which doesn’t raise your blood sugar). Just a serving of starchier vegetables, which are higher in net carbs than other vegetables (think: green) can potentially derail a keto diet and switch the body right back into burning sugar instead of fat, explains Ginger Hultin, M.S., R.D.N., C.S.O., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

While these seven higher-carb veggies are healthy, experts recommend avoiding them if you’re aiming for ketosis.

1. Potatoes

One medium potato contains 32 grams of net carbs, making the starchy root vegetable a pretty dangerous keto saboteur. “Potatoes are full of carbohydrates, which are turned to blood glucose [a.k.a. sugar] when broken down in the gut,” reinforces Mariana Daniela Torchia, Ph.D., R.D., M.P.H. Sweet potatoes, though high in antioxidants, are in the same boat.

Featured Products

Try swapping cauliflower, which contains just three grams of net carbs per serving, in for potatoes. The low-carb veggie has a mild, easy-to-spice-up flavor, and makes a great substitute for the tubers in your go-to mashed potato recipe. If you’re itching for the sweetness of sweet potatoes, Hultin recommends serving up zucchini or spaghetti squash, which also taste slightly sweet but contain just 2.7 and 5.5 grams of net carbs, respectively.

2. Peas

Peas may be green, but that doesn’t mean they’re in the same category as keto-friendly broccoli and romaine lettuce. Green peas are higher in net carbs, containing nearly 15 grams per one-cup serving, says Hultin.

3. Carrots

Though carrots are a nutrient-dense root vegetable and provide your body with a hefty dose of beta-carotene, they walk a fine line when it comes to keto. One medium carrot contains about seven grams of carbohydrates, so they need to be carefully limited—or avoided—on a ketogenic diet, says Elizabeth Ann Shaw, M.S., R.D.N., C.L.T., C.P.T., who typically recommends the keto diet for those with specific medical concerns, not the average Joe.

If carrots are your usual veggie dipper of choice, try lower-carb zucchini spears, cucumbers, or bell peppers the next time you snack.

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

4. Corn

Before you add corn to your next batch of guacamole (the ultimate keto snack) or Mexican-style bowl meal, consider yourself warned: A small ear of corn packs a whopping 20 grams of carbs, making the sweet summertime staple pretty difficult to incorporate into a keto lifestyle.

5. Beets

Noticing a trend with the root vegetables yet? Beets are beautiful, incredibly healthy, and unfortunately, higher in sugar and carbs than most veggies that grow above ground. One cup contains about 10 grams of net carbs (nine from sugar).

You do have a root veggie option though: turnips, which contain fewer than eight grams of net carbs per serving. Hultin likes roasting them in olive oil, salt, and pepper for a side dish or snack.

6. Celeriac Root

Soups and stews can be easy staple meals on a keto diet—as long as you’re careful about the types of vegetables you throw into the pot.

Like many root vegetables, celeriac root (a common soup ingredient that’s related to celery) is higher in net carbs, and racks up about 12 grams per serving.

Hultin recommends using celery stalks and seasoning in soups to achieve the same flavor without sacrificing so many carbs.

7. Beans

Beans, which are often categorized as both proteins and vegetables, are a unique, nutrient-dense category of plants. Though they’re high in fiber, they’re also pretty high in carbs.

Most beans—including black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, navy beans, and pinto—contain about 12 grams of net carbs (or more) per half-cup serving, says Hultin. Your best bean option: green beans, which contain fewer than five grams of net carbs per serving.

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. 

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.

Featured Products

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.

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.

Featured Proteins

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.

How To Build Muscle And Shed Fat At The Same Time

Building muscle or losing body fat can be a daunting enough process on its own—so, understandably, achieving both at the same time can seem downright impossible.

After all, the strategy for building muscle is typically the opposite of the strategy for losing fat. Muscle gain—or any sort of weight gain, for that matter—occurs when your body has more building materials (a.k.a. calories and nutrients) than it needs for basic upkeep, and adds to your body’s structures (like muscles and fat stores), explains Craig Primack, M.D., president-elect of the Obesity Medicine Association. Weight loss, though, happens when your body is short on materials and starts demo-ing your body’s structures for scrap parts to use.

That’s why, when we lose weight, we never lose 100 percent fat, but a mix of fat, water, and muscle, explains Denver-based dietitian Jessica Crandall, R.D., C.D.E., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In fact, up to 20 percent of that weight loss can come from muscle, as our body repurposes those proteins for other things. On the flip side, it’s also impossible to gain 100 percent muscle; usually some fat comes along with it, too. “You can’t eat a chicken breast and tell your body to store all of it in your biceps,” she says.

While it’s way easier to make major muscle gains if you’re okay with putting on a bit of fat in the process—and to lose a significant amount of weight when you’re just trying to preserve muscle—the two-for-one combo is possible! “You can gain some muscle and lose quite a bit fat at the same time,” says Sarah Walls, C.S.C.S., owner of SAPT Strength & Performance Training in Virginia.

You just need a very specific strategy: One McMaster University study, for example, found that guys were able to gain about 2.64 pounds of muscle and lose 10.56 pounds of fat in four weeks given the right training and nutrition plan (which turned out to be workouts focused on strength training and HIIT, and a high-protein, calorie-restricted diet).

Below, the experts break down the dos and don’ts of gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time.

DON’T: Focus On Cardio

Cardiovascular exercise, especially steady-state cardio, doesn’t stress your muscles enough to stimulate much of an increase in muscle size (called ‘hypertrophy’), says Walls. Over time, doing cardio alone will just increase how much of the weight you lose comes from muscle mass.

To build muscle, which boosts your metabolism and makes fat loss easier, “your training plan should be biased toward free-weight, full-body compound movements like squats and pullups,” says Walls. Since these moves engage large muscle groups, not only do they support muscle gains, but also blast a ton of calories in the process.

For maximal hypertrophy, try to work each major muscle group at least twice a week and include squats, hip-hinges (like deadlifts), pushing exercises (like pushups or chest presses), and pulling exercises (like bent-over rows and pullups) in your workouts.

Just in case you’re not sold: One Harvard School of Public Health study found that guys who performed 20 minutes of resistance training per day gained less abdominal fat over the course of a decade than to those who did the same amount of cardio.

DO: Integrate HIIT

If you are going to do cardio, make it high-intensity interval training, which alternates between bouts of all-out effort and low-intensity recovery, and has been shown to support both muscle gain and fat loss. How? HIIT burns major calories, improves your insulin sensitivity, and boosts your muscles’ abilities to use both sugar and fat as fuel, according to one Journal of Obesity review. In fact, one Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study found that just one month of HIIT training helped rowers decrease their body fat percentage, while traditional rowing had no effect.

DON’T: Drastically Cut Calories

The greater your caloric deficit, the more likely your body is to start catabolizing (breaking down) muscle for energy and other biological necessities, says Crandall. As a general rule, experts say a 500-calorie deficit—achieved through diet, exercise, or a combination of the two—is best for moderate weight loss.

That said, if you’re really vying for muscle gains, that 500-calorie deficit may be too much—especially if you want to go hard in the gym. In this case, Crandall recommends sticking to a caloric deficit as small as 300 (or even fewer) calories per day. Regularly measuring your body fat percentage can help you determine how much of a caloric deficit you need to reach your goals. (The scale can’t tell you how much of your weight comes from lean versus fat mass.)

One word of warning: Consuming the right number of calories is important, but focusing on calories alone doesn’t guarantee your body gets the carbs it needs to lift heavy weights, the protein it needs to recover from those lifts, or the fat it needs to maintain healthy hormone function, Crandall says.

DO: Balance Your Macros

The real key to simultaneous building and shredding is protein, which supports muscle mass even when calories run short. Though the current recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of your body weight per day, that recommendation is the absolute minimum, not the ideal—especially when it comes to muscle-building, explains Crandall. One American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that men who ate 2.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day for four weeks lost about three more pounds of fat—and gained two more pounds of muscle—than men who ate 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends between 1.6 and 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass per day for optimal muscle growth. That’s between 131 and 180 grams per day for a 180-pound adult.

Featured Supplements

When it comes to carbs and fats, Crandall recommends a relatively balanced approach. Most adults need a baseline of roughly 130 grams of carbs—which not only fuel exercise, but also help shuttle protein into your muscles—per day, plus another 40 to 60 grams for every hour of intense exercise (like heavy strength training) they do. Fats can make up anywhere between 15 and 30 percent of your total daily calories, depending on how much you need to feel satiated.

DON’T: Eat Your Protein All At Once

Hitting your daily protein goals is important, but, if like most Americans you get the vast majority of your protein at dinner, you’re essentially depriving your muscles of the building blocks they need all day long only to then give them more than they can handle in a single sitting, says Crandall. The result: Your muscles waste—or at least don’t grow optimally—throughout most of day, and the excess protein you eat at dinner gets stored as fat.

A 2018 review published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests that people should consume 0.4 to 0.55 grams of protein per kilogram of their body weight at each and every meal (it recommends four per day) for optimal muscle growth. That’s 33 to 45 grams of protein four times per day for that same 180-pound adult.

Related: 8 Breakfasts That Pack Between 20 And 30 Grams Of Protein

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.

Featured Products

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: 

8 Nutrition Myths That Hurt Dietitians’ Feelings

With every Instagrammer in your feed dishing out nutrition advice these days, it’s never been trickier to decipher fact from fiction. Not only is this social media misinformation confusing, but it can keep you from being your healthiest self.

To set the record straight, I asked some of my expert pals to bust the most frustrating food-related falsities out there. Keep these myths in mind the next time you’re scrolling through the social media static.

Myth #1: You Should Only Shop The Perimeter Of The Grocery Store

Food shopping can be so tricky that I wrote an entire book on it! The perimeter of the grocery store may house many of the whole foods we’re told to fill our diets with—like produce (my favorite section), animal proteins (like poultry and meat), and refrigerated dairy—but that doesn’t mean the middle aisles don’t have healthy foods to offer! Soda, cookies, and chips aside, those center aisles contain plant foods like beans, whole grains, and nuts, which are nutritious, versatile, affordable, and easy to store. These ingredients can help you create an endless number of delicious, nutritious meals and snacks, like bean-filled soups and salads, homemade trail mix, and more.

Myth #2: Foods With More Than Five Ingredients Aren’t Healthy

While long ingredient lists that include sugar and its aliases, preservatives, and artificial flavors and colors should be questioned and perhaps avoided, not all multi-ingredient foods are unhealthy.  It’s the quality of a food’s ingredients—not the quantity—that matters most. If a product’s ingredients are whole foods you’d already stock your kitchen with—like whole grains, fruits, veggies, and spices—then it’s probably an okay choice. (Consider this: My favorite bread, Dave’s Killer Bread, contains 32 organic ingredients, 21 of which are whole grains and seeds.)

Myth #3: Avoid Nuts; They’re High In Fat

It’s true, nuts are mostly fat and fat is more calorie-dense than carbs or protein—but the majority of the fat in nuts is healthy unsaturated fat, which keeps us feeling full, and supports healthy blood sugar and a healthy heart. Plus, nuts are naturally packed with protein, fiber, and many other nutrients (like minerals!), says Patricia Bannan, M.S., R.D.N., author of Eat Right When Time is Tight. A serving of nuts (about a handful or two) is a great snack choice and can actually support weight loss by keeping you satisfied and making you less likely to munch on less valuable foods.

Myth #4: Gluten-Free Foods Are Better For You

Newsflash: Donuts are donuts! Plenty of the gluten-free foods out there are highly-processed and low in nutritional value. That ‘gluten-free’ label doesn’t say anything about how much protein, fat, fiber, sugar, or calories the product contains, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D.N., author of The Superfood Swap. And unless you have a condition like celiac disease, your health doesn’t depend on avoiding gluten, anyway. So if you’re reaching for those gluten-free donuts because you think they’re somehow better, think again.

Related: What Going Gluten-Free Can And Can’t Do For Your Health

Myth #5: Carbs Make You Fat

Along with protein and fat, carbohydrates are an essential macronutrient, which means they’re essential for our bodies’ proper function. In fact, they’re broken down into glucose, which is our primary source of fuel! Because our bodies prefer to use carbs for energy, we actually resist storing them as body fat, says Kara Lydon, R.D., L.D.N., R.Y.T., Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. When we don’t eat enough carbs, our bodies become desperate for glucose, and may even start to break down the protein found in our muscles to turn into glucose, which is bad news for our muscles, metabolism, and fitness.

Sure, regularly chow down on big portions of refined carbs (think bagels, sub sandwiches, and pasta) and you’re likely going to pack on the pounds. However, stick to whole grains, starchy vegetables, and fruit—and eat your carbs alongside fat and protein—and you’ve got yourself a balanced, waistline-friendly diet.

Myth #6: Coffee Is A Bad Habit, Not A Health Food

We often assume that if something feels good, it must be bad for us—and while that may be true with highly-processed, addictive foods, it’s not the case with coffee. While some people who are caffeine-sensitive may experience shakiness, upset stomach, or sleeplessness after drinking coffee, studies have suggested that it can protect against Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, and gout, so go ahead and enjoy that morning (or early afternoon) brew.

Featured Products

Myth #7: White Foods Aren’t Nutritious

When we talk about the importance of ‘eating the rainbow,’ white tends to get left out—even though there are plenty of white-colored foods out there that deserve a place on your plate. Cauliflower, potatoes, white beans, some mushrooms, and garlic are all white in color and packed with healthy nutrients like potassium, vitamin C, B vitamins, and fiber, says Keri Gans, R.D.N., author of The Small Change Diet. Meanwhile, dairy foods like milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese provide calcium and protein. Instead of judging a food by its color, check the Nutrition Facts to see whether it provides nutritional value, like protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The white foods that won’t make the cut: processed foods like white bread, white rice, and pastries.

Myth #8: Organic Is The Only Way To Go

There are plenty of reasons people choose to switch to organic foods, like the fact that they don’t contain certain man-made pesticides or fertilizers and are non-GMO. But that doesn’t mean your conventionally-grown produce doesn’t offer nutritional value. In fact, research has found that, nutritionally speaking, organic foods have little extra to offer than conventionally-grown foods, says Alissa Rumsey M,S., R.D., founder of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness. (The exceptions: Animal products like chicken, milk, beef, and eggs, whose organic versions have been shown to contain more omega-3 fats.) Since going green can cost more green, stick to produce that’s in-season, keep an eye on sales, and shop the store brand when you want to buy organic. Otherwise, just make sure to wash your conventional fruits and veggies before eating them; no excuse to pass on produce!

Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Women’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You From Label To Table.

I Thought I Was Healthy—And Then I Did Whole30

As a self-proclaimed health nut and the resident super-healthy black sheep of my family and friends, I’ve been known to squeeze in workouts on vacations and pass on pizza for salad. I love high-intensity workouts like CrossFit and if I’m going to do yoga, it’s going to be hot. I’ve been reading nutrition labels since high school, and though I’ve had plenty of slack moments (like all of college…), I’ve found a healthy balance by living without strict rules and eating a variety of carbs, fats, and proteins to feel good.

That’s why, when I first heard that my parents (ironically) were following Whole30—a 30-day eating plan that forces you to get back to healthy basics by eliminating sugar, alcohol, dairy, grains, legumes, preservatives, and processed foods and snacks—I didn’t think it was for me. I didn’t need a hard reset or rules. My diet was already healthy!

But when I visited home for the holidays, my attitude shifted. Having just completed their 30 days, my parents buzzed with enthusiasm and filled our meals with ‘compliant’ (a ubiquitous term for things you actually can eat on Whole30) foods. I was intrigued—and after my own 10-day stretch of indulging on holiday treats, I felt compelled to give it a shot.

Along with a small crew of friends and co-workers, I decided to go for it—and to say the next 30 days surprised me would be an understatement. Here are the five lessons I learned:

1. I hadn’t been eating as many whole foods as I thought I was…

As a self-proclaimed kale enthusiast (seriously, my boyfriend sometimes calls me ‘KALEsy’), I thought my vegetable and fruit consumption was in pretty good shape. When I started Whole30, though, I realized that I often sacrificed roughage in favor of protein. And I’m not just talking about swapping out greens for lean meat, but for a sugary protein bar or shake.

✌🏻❤️🌿

A post shared by Kelsey Cannon (@sheseesfit) on

Before Whole30, I’d typically start the day with a bowl of oatmeal with protein powder stirred in, eat last night’s dinner leftovers for lunch, snack on a protein bar, yogurt, or protein shake, and then have a serving of meat with a grain and a veggie for dinner. All-in-all not unhealthy, but without grains, dairy, and packaged protein products, I had a lot of gaps to fill once I started Whole30.

Throughout those 30 days, I’d have eggs scrambled with kale, peppers, and onions for breakfast, a large salad with a serving of meat for lunch, nuts, fruit, or a ‘compliant’ bar (like an RXBAR or an Epic Bar) for snacks, and a serving of meat with a double helping of veggies for dinner.

With fruits and veggies now front and center, I was forced to try a wider variety of produce and different ways of making them, just to keep things interesting. I found a lot of new go-to’s, including a sweet potato soup (I used butternut squash instead) from The Whole30 Cookbook, which has become one of my all-time favorite sides. It added a nice sweet element to my mostly-savory meals and kept well in the fridge, so I could spoon it out all week long.

2. Sugar is in EVERYTHING.

This is another lesson that falls into the ‘what I thought I knew’ category. I knew sugar was hidden in most foods—I’d even written articles about it myself! But Whole30 taught me that knowing added sugar exists and living added sugar-free are two totally different monsters.

Once I started really combing through the nutrition labels on everything I bought at the grocery store, I realized just how sneaky added sugar could be. After all, it goes by more than 50 names other than just ‘sugar’! At first, determining whether a food contained sugar and finding Whole30-compliant alternatives took a long time—but it fortunately grew much easier with practice. Thirty days later, I’m basically a sugar-molecule sharp shooter.

Related: 10 Foods That Pack More Added Sugar Than You Should Have All Day

Eliminating these secretly-sugary foods was a lot of work. At first I found myself reaching for RXBARs or Lara Bars to satisfy my sugar cravings, but the point of Whole30 is to break the habit itself, so I dug my heels in and tried to avoid using these ‘compliant’ foods as a crutch. Cutting out sugar was by far the hardest part of Whole30, but the farther in I got, the more I noticed and appreciated the natural sugars in fruits and vegetables. I couldn’t believe how sweet a cherry tomato tasted by the end of it!

Featured Products

3. My social life revolves around food.

It’s reality: A lot of socializing happens over food and drink. But on Whole30, birthday parties, date night dinners, and even happy hours became impossible trap-filled nightmares. And while some people are able to make it work—passing up on cake and cocktails, ordering very, very carefully at restaurants, and bringing their own food to get-togethers—I found it much easier to just avoid going out.

#bulletproof and muscle books… #happytuesday

A post shared by Kelsey Cannon (@sheseesfit) on

If that sounds lame, well, that’s because it was! To avoid completely dropping off the face of the earth, I scheduled workout classes or coffee dates with friends who weren’t on the Whole30 train. But after spending a lot of time (and money) traveling to see friends and family in the months before my Whole30, I was more than happy to take a few weekends off and just rest.

4. It takes a village to be healthy.

It may have been for lack of better things to talk about (see above about my rather nonexistent social life), but I talked about Whole30 to anyone who would listen. I even dreamed about it sometimes.

My boyfriend and I got truly excited to plan which cool new recipe to make over the weekend, and our indulgence became finding more elaborate dishes, like Chicken Cacciatore or that homemade butternut squash soup I mentioned earlier.

My coworkers and I traded tips for fighting cravings, and I chatted with friends about new compliant packaged foods we found (I totally blew my boss’ mind when I told her about RXBARs). Our lives were consumed by making Whole30 work, and since we were all in it together, it was easier to face the occasional office birthday party. I even hosted a few ‘compliant’ get-togethers at home!

Looking back, I don’t know if I would have survived alone. Being able to talk to fellow Whole30-ers really helped me stay on track, and it was nice to share my success with others who know how hard I’d worked once I was done.

5. There’s ALWAYS room to grow.

Even though it took a lot of planning, work, and will power, I really felt the benefits of Whole30, and they kept me motivated whenever I started to wane. Around the end of week two, my clothes felt a little looser, I slept better, and I had more energy throughout the day. The strange thing: I didn’t even realize that I could feel better. Since I already ate healthy, drank lots of water, exercised, and got eight hours of sleep a night before Whole30, I didn’t expect that there would be room to improve until it happened.

Despite how difficult Whole30 was, I totally recommend it—even if you’re already a self-proclaimed health and fitness fanatic. The experience helped me redefine ‘healthy food’ (read: low- to no-sugar) and pull myself out of a major boredom rut with my meals. Not to mention, it taught me a lot about my own eating habits—especially my reliance on protein bars. Now if I itch for a protein-heavy snack, I’ll pick up an Epic Bar, which tastes more like food and less like candy.

I’m not going to continue eating in a totally-compliant manner all the time (even the founders recommend you only do it for 30 days), but everything I learned—especially about avoiding sneaky sugar and preservatives—definitely stuck.

I Put On 12 Pounds Just So I Could Try Keto

I was raised on low-fat diets, Weight Watchers, and the idea that eating fat makes you fat. Despite the decades of experience I have as a weight loss professional, some of these ideas from my own weight loss journey (I lost 65 pounds before making health and fitness my career) have been hard to kick.

So you can imagine my surprise (and slight anxiety) to see how popular the high-fat ketogenic diet has become throughout the past few years. Super low in carbs (we’re talking like 25 net grams a day), this trendy diet requires eating between 65 and 85 percent of your daily calories from fat in order to shift your body from burning glucose from carbs to producing and burning ketones from fats (a state called ‘ketosis’). That means saying goodbye to carbs like grains, starchy veggies, and most fruit—and loading up on fats like nuts, avocados, olive oil, and butter. The exact opposite of what the mainstream diet world has been telling us for the past three decades!

But with so many people boasting the energy and weight-loss benefits of the keto diet, I had to say: I was intrigued. I wanted to try it!

So, I did what any curious health and fitness expert would do: put my fears aside, purposely gained 12 pounds (yes, really!), and gave keto a shot.

Getting Started

I pored through the internet (relying heavily on Mark’s Daily Apple, Dr. Axe, and even keto Reddit boards) to gather information and plan out some easy meals for my first week.

My everyday diet embraced healthy carbs like yogurt, fruit, and potatoes, but shied away from too many fats, so I knew I’d have to do some meal prepping to make this massive change stick. I decided to make egg cups (eggs, cheese, bacon, and spinach baked in a muffin tin) for easy grab-and-go breakfasts, spinach salads topped with avocado, bacon bits, cheese, and ranch dressing for lunches, and cheese- and bacon-wrapped chicken for dinners. Lots. Of. Cheese. I snacked on macadamia nuts, enjoyed small pieces of dark chocolate, and even made ‘fat bombs’ (frozen balls of coconut oil, nut butter, and cocoa mixed together) to keep me satisfied and ward off cravings.

I loved the food (I mean, who doesn’t like smothering things in ranch and butter?), but I still worried I would gain a lot of weight.

To my surprise, though, my weight dropped those first few days. I learned that these quickly-lost pounds came from water (which is stored alongside carbs in our bodies), not body fat, but I wasn’t complaining. Plus, all the newfound fat in my diet was so satiating that I simply stopped feeling hungry. Within three days, my cravings disappeared and I felt balanced and energized.

Attack Of The Keto Flu

And then, around the end of week one…the ‘Keto Flu’ hit! A common experience for new keto eaters, the keto flu occurs your magnesium, sodium, and potassium stores become depleted as your body shifts from using carbs to fat as its main source of energy. (These vital electrolytes regulate your heart beat, balance fluid levels in your body, and perform many other important functions—and losing too much of them can be dangerous.) I couldn’t believe how quickly it came on. I felt extremely lethargic and thirsty, needed naps in the middle of the day, and couldn’t even get through a workout.

Related: 5 Mistakes People Make When They Go Keto

Following the guidance of my online gurus, I picked up a magnesium and potassium supplement (like Country Life’s Magnesium Potassium Aspartate), and started drinking chicken Boullion cubes (which contain more than a gram of sodium a pop) to replenish my electrolytes.

The struggle lasted on and off for about two weeks—and it seriously knocked me out.

Smooth Sailing

Once my body got used to being in ketosis and I nailed my electrolyte intake, the ‘keto flu’ passed and all of the perks I’d read about finally started raining down. I had incredible amounts of energy, zero cravings, and slept beautifully. My workouts got back to normal, too.

As the weeks passed, I experimented more and more with my meals. Eggs continued to be my go-to breakfast, but I tried out all sorts of recipes for lunches and dinners, including ‘meattza’ (pizza using a layer of ground beef as the crust) and Hasselback chicken (chicken breasts stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach). I enjoyed my broccoli with melted cheddar cheese on top, ate a lot of cauliflower (it’s relatively low in carbs), and loaded up on spinach (which provided much-needed potassium).

It's like Where's Waldo… can you find Gertie in the photo? 🐶🐾

A post shared by Liz Josefsberg (@lizjosefsberg) on

I lost weight steadily throughout those two months. By the end, I’d lost 15 pounds total, and my body fat percentage had dropped from 36 percent to 29 percent, meaning I shed fat but kept my precious muscle. (The only other time I’d seen such a significant body fat drop was during my high-protein bodybuilding days!) My results confirmed everything I’d read online: Once your body adapts to burning fat, it will turn to your fat stores for energy.

As impressed as I was with how keto changed my body, though, I don’t think it’s something I could maintain long-term. Since the diet is so restrictive and takes such an immense amount of work and attention to follow, I found it difficult to fully live life while on it. Knowing just one misstep could throw me out of ketosis and back into burning sugar, I stressed about social situations and eating out. Plus, I really missed fruit and wine.

I’m glad I did it, though! Keto taught me that fats are awesome—and I’m truly sorry I avoided them for so many years. Since my experiment, I’ve continued to eat a lot of healthy fats—and even though I’m not all-out keto anymore, my meals are more satisfying and my weight has been easier to maintain. It’s amazing how far a little whole milk goes in a cup of coffee!

 

Liz Josefsberg is a weight loss and wellness expert with over 15 years in the industry. 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. 

5 Healthy Eating Commandments Everyone Should Follow

Healthy eating looks a little different to all of us—and considering we all have different bodies and lifestyles, that’s totally okay. But regardless of your personal preferences, dietary restrictions, or health concerns, are there some across-the-board nutrition rules you should follow? Absolutely.

Trends and gimmicks aside, here are the five laws of healthy eating top dietitians agree will help you stay true to your health and wellness goals long-term.

1. Enjoy Food Without Guilt

Any long-term healthy lifestyle depends on your ability to enjoy the foods you love in a balanced way that never leaves you feeling deprived. “Food should be savored, not feared,” says Keri Gans, R.D.N., author of The Small Change Diet. “No one is saying you can’t eat fries, pizza, and burgers—but maybe sometimes you bake the fries, top the pizza with lots of veggies, or take your burger bun-less.”

Related: What A Day Of 80:20 Eating Actually Looks Like

To find this balance, most dietitians recommend following the 80:20 rule: 80 percent of the time, you go for the better-for-you foods, and 20 percent of the time you choose whatever your heart desires most.

2. Keep Healthy Food Around At All Times

That said, sticking to healthy eating 80 percent of the time is a lot easier when you have the good stuff on-hand. Think about it: When is it that we find ourselves noshing on greasy drive-thru food or inhaling a Dunkin’ muffin? When we’re starving and desperate for grub, but don’t have any quality options handy.

Featured Products

The solution: Always (always!) have healthy snacks on you. “I keep what I like to call ‘emergency snacks’ everywhere,” says Kelly Jones, M.S., RD., C.S.S.D., L.D.N. “Whole-food bars (like RXBARs) and roasted beans (like edamame or broad beans) are my go-to’s because they provide fiber and protein to hold me over; I have them in my purse, my car, my gym bag, and my work bag.”

3. Fiber, Fiber, Fiber

The more we learn about fiber, the more we realize how crucial it is to our health. A diet rich in fiber helps control blood sugar, decrease cholesterol levels, and improve digestion, says Gans—research has connected higher intake with weight loss and a lower risk of all-cause mortality. The National Institutes of Health recommends women eat 25 grams of fiber a day and men eat 38—but most Americans only reach a measly 15.

Every single snack and meal you eat should offer some fiber, says Gans. Some of the highest-fiber foods out there include lentils, avocados, chickpeas, chia seeds, nuts, and berries—but you’ll score some fiber from all sorts of fruits, veggies, and whole grains. 

4. Focus On Protein At Breakfast

Starting the morning with protein helps ensure you last until lunchtime without falling victim to the munchies and makes healthy eating easier throughout the rest of the day. In fact, high-protein breakfasts have been associated with slowed digestion and reduced levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin.

“Many people turn to oatmeal or cereal at breakfast, which can be carb-heavy and lacking in protein,” says Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D., who recommends incorporating at least 15 to 20 grams of protein into your morning meal.

Rizzo’s go-to’s include smoothies made with Greek yogurt, hard-boiled eggs with toast, veggie omelets, or even protein bars. “For a quick protein-rich breakfast option on-the-go, I love the new Chobani ‘hint of flavor’ yogurts, which provide 12 grams of protein for just nine grams of sugar,” she says.

5. Don’t Fear Fat

Fat gets a bad rap because it has more calories per gram than carbohydrates and protein (nine calories for fat versus just four for carbs and protein), but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it.

As a matter of fact, research shows that eating healthy fats—think nuts, fatty fish, olive oil, and chia seeds—decreases our production of the hunger hormone ghrelin and prevents blood sugar spikes, so we don’t overeat and feel satisfied for longer after snacks and meals, Rizzo explains. In addition to supporting a healthy weight, fats also help us absorb nutrients, build cell structures, and manage inflammation.

Rizzo loves snacking on guacamole or subbing smashed avocado in for mayo. According to a recent study, adding half an avocado to lunch can increase satiety by 40 percent in the following hours, without affecting blood sugar.

Pin this helpful infographic to keep healthy eating top-of-mind:

Which Type Of Collagen Supplement Is Right For You?

With a slew of health gurus touting its benefits and adding it to their coffee and smoothies, collagen is the supplement right now. Why all the sudden buzz? Well, up until recently, researchers hadn’t really investigated the benefits of upping our intake of this protein (which happens to be the most abundant protein in our bodies). Now, studies are showing that collagen supplementation can boost our joint and skin health, and promote healthy aging, explains Marc S. Schneider, M.D., director at Schneider Centre for Plastic Surgery.

Bone broth, another big trend in the wellness world, is a major natural source of collagen—but since there’s only so much meaty broth one can swallow down on a daily basis, many different types of collagen supplements are currently taking over store shelves.

Most popular in powdered form, collagen supps are made from cow, chicken, fish, or egg sources. There are actually more than two dozen different types of collagen, all of which have slightly different functions—so which you choose depends on your goals, says Schneider. Here’s your guide to the most popular options out there.

Type I Collagen

If collagen’s skin-related benefits are your top priority, type I collagen is your go-to, as it makes up 90 percent of your hair, skin, and nails (organs, bones, and ligaments, too), according to Ryan Neinstein, M.D., plastic surgeon at NYC Surgical Associates. Type I collagen can help ward off the hallmarks of skin aging, like the stretching out or thinning of the skin.

Related: I Drank Collagen For 30 Days—Here’s How It Turned Out

“Collagen has been shown in preclinical studies to improve skin thickness, function, moisture content, and appearance,” says Neinstein, who credits type I collagen—particularly marine-sourced type I collagen—with these beauty benefits. “Collagen peptides from fish are considered superior in raising overall body collagen [which is predominantly type I] and improving skin, hair, nail, and bone quality,” he says. How? Research suggests marine collagen is up to one-and-a-half times more bioavailable than chicken or bovine collagen. (That’s why it’s the type of collagen most often used in topical cosmetic products.) Want to give it a try? We love Vital Proteins’ Wild-Caught Marine Collagen.

Type II Collagen

Chicken soup is good for the soul, but there’s another reason it’s so great when we’re sick: Type II collagen, which is mainly sourced from chickens and plentiful in chicken broth, is known for its immune-boosting and joint-supporting properties. “Type II collagen is by far the most important,” believes Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of DrAxe.com. This type of collagen is a major part of our gut lining and helps it act as a barrier between the substances we consume and our bloodstream, which helps our digestive system run smoothly and also benefits our immune system, Axe says. It’s also a major building block of cartilage, which is why it’s so crucial for joint health. Two of our go-to’s are NeoCell Collagen Joint Complex and Sports Research Bone Broth Protein.

Type III Collagen

Type III collagen helps form arterial walls, which is key for cardiovascular health. It’s often found alongside type I collagen in the body (think bone, cartilage, dentin, tendons, skin, and other connective tissues)—though in smaller amounts—and thus offers similar skin- and bone-related benefits, Axe says. For that reason, types I and III make perfect supplement sidekicks, packing a one-two punch.

Type III collagen supplements are often made from bovine (cow) sources. Try adding Vital Proteins Beef Gelatin to soups or hot beverages.

Type V And X Collagen

Though the first three types of collagen are the most abundant in the body and the most commonly found in supplements, some of the lesser-seen types—notably types V and X—are also important for key body functions. Type V collagen helps form cell membranes and the tissue in women’s placentas, while type X plays a crucial role in bone formation. Type V collagen is usually sourced from the membranes of eggshells, type X is made from chicken and bovine sources. Supplements that contain just types V and X are tough to find, but Dr. Axe’s Multi Collagen Protein contains types I, II, III, V, and X, and is a good option for anyone seeking the overall benefits of collagen protein.

What To Know When You Shop

Many of the collagen supplements out there today include collagen types I and III—but if you’re looking for the most comprehensive benefit possible, Axe recommends choosing a collagen supplement that contains a variety of types (like his!). “It’s like taking a multivitamin,” he says. “It’s a good idea because most people have multiple deficiencies.”

Featured Products

You’ll notice that many collagen supps are labeled as ‘hydrolyzed,’ which simply means they’ve been broken down into their smaller form—called ‘peptides’—which is easier for the body to absorb, says Schneider.

Lastly, since vitamin C supports collagen synthesis, it may be included in collagen supplement formulas (like Reserveage Collagen Replenish), but you can also just take your collagen alongside a vitamin C supplement or C-containing food (like citrus fruit) to reap the benefits.

Keep your collagen straight with this helpful infographic:

7 Things You Should Never Do After A Workout

Churn out tough workouts all you want, but if you really want to see results from your efforts, you’ll also need to pay close attention to what you do after those gym sessions.

Poor post-workout practices can steal your success—but they’re pretty easy to avoid if you know what to look for. Read on to arm yourself against any unintended backtrack.

Immediate No-No’s


You Rush Out Of The Gym

We get it, you have places to be, and after tossing around heavy weights or ramping up your heart rate on the tread, the last thing you want to do is more work. But sticking around for a few extra minutes of mobility drills can really pay off in the long run, according to Sean De Wispelaere, master trainer at MBSC Thrive and owner of Sean D. Thrive.

When you push, pull, squat, and hinge, you put a high demand on your joints and the muscles that surround them, says De Wispelaere. Mobility work—like sitting in a deep squat or moving your arms through Y-, T-, and W-shaped patterns—helps you maintain your full range of motion and avoid injury when it counts.

By increasing the flow of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to your muscles and connective tissues, they’ll also prevent that stiff, locked-up feeling that sometimes follows a tough workout, says De Wispelaere.

You Stay Jacked Up

Not only does working out tax your muscles, but it also taxes your nervous system. During exercise, your sympathetic (‘fight-or-flight’) nervous system kicks in to power you through—but to recover, you need your parasympathetic (‘rest and relax’) nervous system to take over, says Joe Dowdell, strength coach and owner of Dowdell Fitness Systems.

To shift gears from a sympathetic to a parasympathetic state, Dowdell recommends doing some light stretching and diaphragmatic breathing after training. As you hold each stretch, take a few slow and controlled deep belly breaths. This tells your system to calm down and sets you up for muscle-building recovery. If you regularly struggle to cool down and recover after exercise, try a supplement like True Athlete’s ZMA With Theanine, which contains zinc and magnesium to promote muscle recovery and the amino acid l-theanine to support relaxation.

You Don’t Eat

Some people feel ravenous after an intense workout, while others can’t even stomach the thought of eating—but food fuels your recovery and progress, says Mike Roussell, Ph.D.

What to eat? Roussell recommends carbs. “Protein is typically the post-workout go-to, but exercise sensitizes your muscles to carbohydrates, so you need those as well,” he says. In the few hours after your workout, your body will use carbs for good (a.k.a. energy storage in your muscles) instead of evil (a.k.a. storage as fat). Replenishing the carbs you store in your muscles (called ‘glycogen’) helps you recover and feel ready for your next session faster.

Featured Products

Eat something that contains both protein and carbs after your workouts, whether it’s chicken and rice or a smoothie (made with protein powder, fruit, and yogurt or oats), or a protein bar.

You Try To Annihilate All Inflammation

We usually think of inflammation as the enemy, and in many cases it can be a sign that something is wrong—“but when exercise produces an inflammatory state in the body, it’s actually is a good thing,” says Roussell.

You see, exercise is stress, and your high heart rate and muscle fatigue signal to your body that something is up, which triggers an inflammatory state. “However, one of the ways your body gets bigger and stronger is by dealing with that inflammation,” says Roussell. So while you might be tempted to down antioxidant supplements right after hitting it hard, these substances can potentially hinder your muscle gains.

Related: The Best Post-Workout Snack For Your Fitness Goals

Instead of focusing on blasting your body with antioxidants, focus on replenishing your body with carbs and protein, recommends Roussell.

Same-Day Mistakes


You Stew in Your Sweaty Clothes

Sweat can feel like a badge of honor, but please get out of your gear ASAP. Otherwise you’re more prone to skin issues like rashes and staph infections, not to mention B.O.

Plus, washing up can also benefit your freshly-worked muscles, says Dowdell. Soaking in an Epsom salt bath (which is rich in magnesium sulfate) can promote relaxation and help reduce muscle soreness, he says. Mix about a cup in with your bath water and soak for up to a half hour. You don’t need to hop in the tub right after you’re done sweating; a long soak will still do you good later in the evening.

You Don’t Catch Enough Zzz’s

The hard work you put in at the gym doesn’t transform into results right then and there, but in the hours and days after you finish—and sleep is a key component of that process. “Sleep is crucial to recovery and often overlooked,” says De Wispelaere. Since fitness-boosting hormones like growth hormone are released while you’re dreaming, whether or not you get to bed early can really affect your results.

To score high-quality sleep, De Wispelaere recommends the following steps:

  • Four hours before bed: Stop consuming caffeine.
  • One hour before bed: Limit how much you drink. (You don’t want to have to pee in the middle of your muscle-building sleep!)
  • 45 minutes before bed: Ditch the screens. The blue light that emanates from phones and laptops sends the wrong signals to your brain about what time of day it is, potentially keeping you up.

Next-Day Mistake

If an intense workout left you delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), jumping right into another tough session will not only hurt, but it can also backfire on your results. Remember what Dowdell said about those sympathetic and parasympathetic states? If you go hard day after day, your body can’t fully shift out of that sympathetic state, and you don’t recover properly.

“On the day after an intense session, stick to 20 to 30 minute low-to-moderate intensity exercise,” he recommends. (That’s about 65 to 70 percent of your max heart rate.) Jogging or biking, for example, boosts blood flow to your muscles and help remove waste products associated with DOMS. For extra points, tack on 10 to 15 minutes of mobility work after your cardio.

Blind Taste Test: Which Natural Proteins Reigned Supreme?

The clean eating trend is no longer just for hippies and health nuts. And if you’re looking for a cleaner, meaner whey protein supplement, you’ve got plenty of options. But can a shake really exude the spirit of a chocolate fudge brownie or vanilla ice cream without artificial flavors and sweeteners? Yes, friends. Yes, it can.

We gathered a bunch of whey lovers in one room to taste test shake after shake (chocolate and vanilla), and pit the latest and greatest natural proteins against each other.

Here were their top picks.

 

Garden Of Life Organic Grass-Fed Whey Protein

Garden of Life has finally gifted us all with a line of organic whey proteins. Our expectations of the latest product from the leader in super-clean, natural supplements were high, but we weren’t disappointed: Both the chocolate cacao and vanilla flavors were crowd favorites. The vanilla had a ‘buttery vanilla flavor’ that our taste-testers compared to vanilla pudding, and said they could sip on all day. Meanwhile, the chocolate boasted a ‘pleasant, genuine cocoa flavor.’ Garden of Life uses ingredients like organic cacao, organic vanilla flavor, sea salt, and organic stevia for flavor that’s rich (but real!) and a serving packs 21 grams of protein.

Want to mix things up? Try the strawberry or peanut butter flavors.

 

Optimum Nutrition Naturally-Flavored Gold Standard 100% Whey

It was only a matter of time before protein giant Optimum Nutrition launched a natural whey protein—and no surprise that it was another taste test winner. With 24 grams of protein and 5.5 grams of BCAAs, it packs all the muscle-building power of your favorite Gold Standard, but swaps out artificial sweeteners for good ol’ sugar (just four grams a serving, don’t worry). Taste-testers loved the smooth, subtly sweet flavor of the vanilla and compared the chocolate to hot cocoa.

 

Isopure Natural Whey Protein Isolate

With just three grams of carbs and a solid 25 grams of protein per scoop, Isopure’s natural protein also swaps artificial flavors and sweeteners for sugar. The testers’ taste buds loved Isopure’s slightly thicker consistency, along with the caramel vibe of the vanilla flavor.

Isopure also packs added vitamins and minerals—including B vitamins, calcium, and magnesium—for a more nutritionally-balanced refuel. Win win!