Thursday, August 25, 2016

Hiking: Graveyard Fields

A-hiking we will go, a-hiking we will go, hi ho hi ho, a-hiking we will go!

Back at it again, my mom and I took to the mountains for a quick hike! The Graveyard Fields/Graveyard Falls trail has been on our list to hike for a while now. The hike is right off of the Blue Ridge Parkway at mile marker 418.8. There's a large overlook area with a restroom facility and a map of the trail so it's easy to find and not too far from Asheville!

When we arrived it was misting rain and looked cloudy but as we started, the sun came out and it was beautiful! We started out going down a stone staircase near the bathrooms. It's just a very short bit until we arrived at a bridge/platform for viewing the lower falls. If you turn right after the bridge, there is a swimming area from what I understand, however we went straight/left/up to continue on to the Upper Falls. The trail weaves through blueberry bushes! Many people were picking them and taking them home! It also has wooden planks for much of the trail which is kind of interesting.

Lower Falls

The trail was soooo muddy! There were a lot of places where we had to take short little side routes off the main trail to avoid giant mud pits. It seems that it may often be this way becaue the little side routes were well worn and easy to navigate back to the main path. The trail does twist and turn a lot, though, so at times we were afraid we were getting lost! Follow signage for the Upper Falls whenever you see it.

Upper Falls
After about 1.5 miles maybe, it's noticably steeper as you approach the Upper Falls. It really isn't a long hike but it took us a bit longer to navigate the mud. We enjoyed the beautiful falls and had a snack on a big rock, then continued back. You will backtrack for a short while, and then come to an intersection where you bear right to loop back to the parking area. On the way back, you cross a rather nice and new bridge with great views! You finish at the other side of the parking area.
View from the Bridge

Overall, we really enjoyed this hike! I always love waterfalls! It's pretty easy and level with the exception of the end near the Upper Falls and I love that it's close by to Asheville. Give this hike a try!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Protein Banana Loaf

Bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S. What to do with over ripe bananas? Banana bread, of course. In my efforts to make a macro friendly version, I created this delicious banana loaf! It's sweet, cinnamony, moist and dense! It makes for a great snack or even breakfast!

Ingredients:
  • 3 medium sized ripe bananas
  • 3 tbsp egg beaters
  • 5.3 oz fat free greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup nustevia (I used NuNaturals brand, feel free to use any sugar substitute to taste)
  • 1/2 cup kodiak cakes power cakes pancake mix
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1 scoop protein powder (I used Quest banana cream pie)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. 
  2. Mash the bananas first with the beaters of a hand mixer. 
  3. Add the egg beaters, yogurt and sweetener and mix with the hand mixer. 
  4. Add in remaining ingredients and mix well. 
  5. Spray a standard sized loaf pan and pour in the batter. 
  6. Bake for 50-60 minutes. The top will be browned. 
  7. Let cool and enjoy!



My loaf deflated a little bit after cooling, I've noticed that happen when I bake with protein. If you have any tips or tricks to avoid that, let me know! It has a different texture than your classic banana bread but the flavor is spot on! Let me know and tag me on Instagram if you try this!


Macros for 1/6 of loaf:
141 calories 1f/25c/9p

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Glutes on Fiya

How sterotypical is it that I work on glutes/legs on Humpday AKA Wednesday? That's just the way the protein cookie crumbles. For a few weeks now, I've done at home workouts and that's fine by me! I feel like it saves time and if I focus, I think I still get a good workout in!

Equipment I use: Dumbbells (5lb, 10lb, 35lb, 45lb), and resistance bands

Here's the circuit workout I did Wednesday, August 17!

Circuit 1:

  • 10 Dumbbell Deadlifts (I used 45lbs)
  • 20 Crab walk and squat (Challenge Options: add resistance band around legs and/or add a dumbbell, hold it at chest level and squat with it each step)
  • 15 each leg dumbbell kickbacks
Repeat circuit 3x

Circuit 2:
  • 20 plie squats (I used 35-45lbs)
  • 15 Hip thrusts plus hold for 30 seconds (I used my couch to rest my upper body on and used a 35lb dumbbell to add weight)
  • 15 each leg lying hip abduction (Optional challenge: add resistance band or hold a weight on top of your leg)
Repeat circuit 3x

Circuit 3:
  • 15 each leg split squats (I used 10lb dumbbells and did one set elevated)
  • 15 step ups (I used my couch but you could also use a stepstool, step, or chair and hold dumbbells for an extra challenge)
  • 10 each leg pistol squats 
Repeat circuit 3x

Final Round!
  • 15 single leg glute bridges on each leg (Hold dumbbells on hips for extra challenge)
  • 30 walking lunges (Dumbbells for extra challenge)
  • 15 each leg forward to reverse lunge 
  • 15 single leg glute bridges on each leg 
  • 30 walking lunges
  • 15 each side side lunges with dumbbells
  • 15 single leg glute bridges on each leg
  • 30 walking lunges
  • 20 jump lunges!
Phew! That was a workout and a half!

What's your favorite glute workout? Do you prefer working out at the gym or at home?

Monday, August 15, 2016

ExoProtein Bar Review: Blueberry Vanilla!



The protein bar industry is flourishing lately! There's so many different types of protein bars, different flavors, textures, protein sources, etc. Does your favorite protein bar use whey protein, egg white protein, brown rice protein, soy protein, chicken protein, cricket protein?

That's right. Cricket. As in the insect. We all knew they had protein, right? But did you ever think, hey I should eat that? Maybe not, but someone did! 
Apple Cinnamon, Blueberry Vanilla, Cocoa Nut, Banana Bread, PB&J
Exo Protein makes protein bars featuring cricket protein. They are gluten, dairy, soy, and refined sugar free. Crickets are a very sustainable source of protein so I love that aspect of this product. The bars are all natural but do I really want to eat bugs??
Of course I had to try these bars! To be honest, this is not the first time I've eaten a cricket! I've had the sour cream and onion flavored crickets from Hot Topic just for fun! 
The first flavor I tried was the Blueberry Vanilla and I can say, I did not taste a hint of crickety flavor. (Sorry to disappoint XD) What I did taste was a very present blueberry flavor but not overwhelming. It was sweet enough for a snack bar and had a texture similar to a larabar but more crumbly.  

Blueberry Vanilla Unwrapped
I tasted a bit first and then chopped it up as topping for one of my epic protein fluff bowls. It worked out just great! They are a bit higher in calories (and fat) and lower in protein than a typical protein bar so I might classify it more as an energy bar or maybe even a meal replacement, however I was impressed with real blueberries and a good flavor. It was pretty satiating and I'd rate it 6.5/10 (lower score because of macros).

Macros for Blueberry Vanilla:
260 calories 16f/23c/10p

Protein Fluff topped with Blueberry Vanilla Exo Protein Bar, Fruity Crisp Oreos, Sprinkles and Sugar Cookie GButter

I can't wait to try all the flavors! If you want to try some crickets too, you can order from exoprotein.com!

Let me know what you think!

For my protein fluff recipe go here: Protein Fluff


Monday, August 8, 2016

Slap Nutrition Review and 90 Days Challenge

Why am I just now reviewing Slap Nutrition?!

As an active person trying to gain muscle mass, it's very important for me to get good nutrition and protein. So, I often use supplements to my diet to make sure these needs are met. I've tried various protein powders but I really enjoy Slap Nutrition.

Other protein powders usually have one or more of the following issues: a) taste gross b) made of weird chemical and artificial things c) cause gas. Slap nutrition, however, uses "clean" simple ingredients. They are sweetened with stevia and contain 100% micro filtered whey protein isolate. All the flavors are very delicious, in my opinion, although not overly sweet.

I've successfully used the protein powder in protein fluff, smoothies, protein cheesecake, protein cake, pancakes, oatmeal and simply with cashew milk or almond milk.

My top three flavors are probably Slappy Birthday, Cinnamon Swirl and Peanut butter, although I've yet to try the latest flavor: Mint Chocolate!

Cinnamon Swirl Protein, Slappucinno (Coffee) Pre-Workout, Gifted Womens, Multivitamin, and Salted Caramel BCAAS 
 Next up, BCAAS! Admittedly, the Slap Nutrition Salted Caramel BCAAs are the only BCAAs I've ever used. If you're not familiar with BCAAS, it stands for Branched Chain Amino Acids. These amino acids make up about one third of muscle protein. Taking a BCAA supplement can reduce muscle fatigue and soreness, speed up recovery and help the body absorb protein. The Salted Caramel BCAA supplement does all this whilst tasting super delicious. I add it to my smoothies or fluff or drink it with my preworkout or simply with water during or after a workout. Another fun way I've incorporated it is blending it with ice and Walden farms carmel syrup! It's like a zero calorie frosty with beneficial amino acids!

Salted Caramel BCAAs blended with ice and sugar free caramel syrup

 Pre-Workout! I was a bit afraid to try a preworkout because I've read some bad reviews on causing heart palpitations, jittery feelings and just basically making you feel like you're going to die. I knew, though, that probably the safest preworkout to try would be from Slap Nutrition because I trust this company and the quality ingredients they choose. Also, their pre workout supplements have less caffeine than many other brands.

I first tried the fairly new Margarita flavor! It's very tasty and while I can't say that it made miracles happen in the gym, I did feel a sensation in my muscles and was focused and driven. I also tried this blended with ice and Walden Farms strawberry syrup and basically, a margarita slushie was born.

Try adding real strawberries too!

 The next preworkout I tried was Slappuccinno V2 and wow! It has a delicious coffee flavor and goes perfectly with the salted caramel BCAAs.

PWO, BCAAs, ice, WF caramel syrup, coffee grounds - blend and enjoy!
There are still many Slap Nutrition products I've yet to try but it's definitely a company I trust. Also, the president is very down to earth, gives great customer service, and is generous. He often gives sample packs of protein free with your order! The orders are shipped out so fast, it's unbelievable! The great customer service is a huge reason why I choose Slap! There are many sponsored athletes and affiliates who offer discount codes so look for that when you make an order!

Do you use supplements? What's your favorite?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Have Faith and Run the Race

As I ran through the extreme heat and humidity that characterizes the first of August in the South, not only was my heart racing, but my mind was as well.

I recalled to mind that the race for life is likened to a marathon foot race and I came to realize just how accurate a depiction that truly is. Running mile after mile in less than favorable conditions made me question myself several times: Why am I doing this? What reward or satisfaction do I receive? Who is watching? Who will know if I give up? Is there any end in sight?

The answers, however, are all at my disposal. I am doing this to prove to myself that I can, to strengthen my endurance, and to win. What is the prize? Peace. That is true also in the race for life. As I struggle, as I push myself up the hills, through the suffocating heat (or at times, the bitter cold), I keep in mind the reward of eternal life in a peaceful paradise. Even if the finish line is not in sight, I have confidence that there is a finish line and I can reach it. This is not to be confused with overconfidence; no, my cheerleading audience composed of the Almighty God, His son Jesus, the faithful angels and the worldwide brotherhood of worshipers are supporting me.

In a physical footrace, there may be times when the only cheering squad I have is myself. The mind, too, can be a powerful driving force, yet it can also be a downfall.

As I run through trying circumstances, my mind often says "You can't do it, you'll never be good enough, fast enough, strong enough. Even if you conquer this hill, you'll stumble soon after. Failure is inevitable - give up now." These thoughts can be debilitating and destructive if I allow them to consume me. I silence them as quickly as I can. I look ahead to my reward, my finish line. Even if the finish line is not in sight, I have faith that I can reach it. I must reach it. I know that soon all the struggling will be over - my muscles, my lungs and my heart will rest. I have hope.

I run and I run and I run and I hope for what I do not see.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Square Bar Review

What's dairy free, soy free, gluten free, organic, non GMO verified, vegan yet chocolatey and delicious?

This is not a riddle or a sick joke! The answer is Square Organics Square Bars.

Chocolate Coated Crunch Square with Protein Cookie Dough on top!

These bars are quite possibly the best vegan protein bars I've tried yet. As a self proclaimed chocolate addict, I'm a big fan of the chocolate coating on each bar. The inside texture is hard to describe - chewy but not overly so. All the flavors are so good! I loved that the cherry flavor has a strong, genuine cherry flavor - not a sickeningly sweet artificial taste. The mint flavor is strong and refreshing. The almond spice is a nice comforting cinnamony type flavor. Peanut butter and chocolate obviously are a fantastic combo, so I've yet to pick a favorite flavor! Although, the one I was most surprised by how much I enjoyed it was the cherry! 

Mint Square chopped as topping for Cocoa Mint Homemade Fro-Yo
Try the mint flavor cold from the fridge! 

The macros vary slightly depending on flavor but basically:

210-230 calories ~9f/23f/12p

Check them out on squarebar.com and on Instagram @squareorganics 
If you want to try them yourself you can use the code: healthy_happy_and_free for 20% off and they offer free domestic shipping!

What's your favorite vegan protein bar? Have you tried square bars? Let me know!