Monday, July 30, 2012

Juice Cleanse: Prep Time

I've heard a lot about juice cleanses but have hesitated to try them because they are usually pretty expensive. I researched some juice cleanses and finally decided that I would make the juice on my own. I'll tell you how I prepared for the cleanse, how I felt during, and the changes I saw after.

Why a juice cleanse?
The reason to do a juice cleanse is to reset your body's digestive system. While drinking only juice, your body taking in pre-digested nutrients and therefore does not have to work to digest anything. This break allows your colon to deal with toxins that have built up due to all of the processed foods you normally eat. I like to think of a cleanse as a factory reset on an ipod :) A cleanse is also a great way for you to kick start a plan to eat healthier.

What is a juice cleanse?
You'll find all kinds of variations on cleanses on the internet but a juice cleanse typically means juicing fresh fruits and vegetables and eating them throughout the day. My cleanse lasts 3 days and contains 6 juices per day that you drink every 2 hours. You cannot eat/drink ANYTHING else. No coffee, no Coke Zero, not even an apple (in solid form). You CAN and should work out!

Getting started - need a juicer!
The most obvious expense to juicing (besides buying out the entire fruit/veggie section) is buying a juicer. There are some really nice and expensive juicers out there that will work really well, especially with leafy greens. But, I don't have a lot of money and and I don't even know if I'm going to like this cleanse or juicing often. Therefore, I opted for a $50 (on sale from $70)  juicer from Amazon that had pretty good reviews, the Hamilton Beach Big Mouth Juice Extractor.

Easing in and out
I didn't know this before researching juice cleanses but its really important to ease in and out of the cleanse, so it's really more of a whole week process. You can't just go out to a steakhouse and stuff yourself and then get really wasted on a Saturday and expect to be able to juice on Sunday to get rid of your hang over. Apparently, you will be miserable during the cleanse and your body will be to busy getting rid of the toxins from the day before rather than those that have really built up.

Easing in and out of the cleanse happens about 3 days before and 3 days after. T-3 days, don't eat any meat or dairy (fish and eggs are ok) and try to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. T-2 days, don't eat any animal products or caffeine or alcohol and just stick to fruits, vegetables, and grains. Day before, try to eat only raw or lightly cooked fruits and vegetables (no grains, bread, rice, or sugar). The reverse is true for the days after the cleanse. Slowly introduce solid foods, grains, and animal products back into your diet. You may feel so good from the cleanse that you won't even want the animal products. Easing in and out is relatively easy for people (like me) that eat healthy and don't eat many animal products.

Stay tuned, my next post will be on the juice recipes!

Would you ever consider a juice cleanse?

Fitness Log: Week 11/16

Monday - CrossFit
Pre-WOD: 1-1-1-1-1 back squat (85-95-105-115-125)
WOD: 10-minute AMRAP:
10 thrusters (35#)
10 sumo deadlift high pull (35#)
Total: 6 rounds plus 3 thrusters
I PR-ed on the back squat! I did a lower weight for the workout because the "high pull" part is really difficult for me with higher weights. My mid/lower back was really sore from this workout (so were my hamstrings) and I'm not sure that means that my form was bad, especially when I got tired.

Tuesday - CrossFit
1-1-1-1-1 Shoulder Press
3-3-3-3-3 Push Press
(I don't remember my weights but the max for both was around 65#)
WOD: 20-minute AMRAP:
10 pull-ups
500 m row
10 burpees
150 single-unders
Total: 3 rounds
We were supposed to run today but it started raining really bad. I was trying to do double-unders, but mostly failed. I just can't seem to get my rhythm down so I'm going to try to practice more often.

Wednesday - CrossFit
Pre-WOD: max hang squat clean (73#)
WOD: 5 rounds:
15 push-ups
10 hang squat cleans (45#)
Time: 12:40
 I went to crossfit 3 days in a row! This usually doesn't happen since I'm often too sore. I was still sore today but the workout was good. Hang cleans seem so much harder than cleans from the ground, I guess because you have more momentum?

Thursday - CrossFit
1000 m row
10 rounds:
10 box jumps (20")
10 kettle bell swings (26#)
1 mile run (after the 10 rounds)
Time: 31:15
This workout was a good one and really tough on the legs! I'm definitely taking a rest day Friday since I went to crossfit 4 days in a row.

Sunday - 7-mile run
I went to Indy for the weekend so  I met up with one of my friends, that is also running the Chicago Half, and we ran on the Monon Trail. It's a really nice paved trail with mile markers and plenty of shade. Carrie ran the first 5-ish miles with me and then I went on to do 2 more. I don't have a total time because I wasn't being very good at stopping my stopwatch, oops! Afterwards I had a perfect post-run lunch at Panera with salad (with avocado) and black been soup and an apple :)

My training went well last week since I went to Crossfit almost every day and completed a long run. Although, I am supposed to be at 10 miles right now so I'm a little behind and need to restructure my training plan, so here it is:

August 4 - 8 miles
August 11 - 9 miles
August 18 - 10 miles
August 25 - 11 miles
September 1 - 12 miles
September 9 - race day!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Orange Beet Summer Salad

My new favorite food for the summer are beets! Usually beets make me think of Dwight Schrute (The Office) but they are actually really good roasted or canned. These colorful root vegetables contain powerful nutrient compounds that help protect against heart disease, birth defects and certain cancers, especially colon cancer. They also have cleansing properties and provide a boost of energy from natural sugars. Beets are a perfect addition to summer salads because they taste great with citrus fruits, like oranges! I experimented with this salad this week and finally came up with a good mix. The recipe isn't exact, I really just threw stuff together.

large handful of baby spinach
1/2 can of stringed or sliced beets
1/2 of an orange, chopped
1/2 of a red pepper, chopped
small handful of  walnuts
1/2 grapefruit, juiced
1 tsp. of apple cider vinegar

After you chop the orange, red pepper, and beets (if not already chopped), toss together with spinach and walnuts. Then, take 1/2 of the grapefruit and just squeeze out the juice, being mindful of any seeds that fall out. Add the juice and vinegar to the salad and enjoy! The grapefruit juice is actually kind of hard to taste because of the overpowering of the vinegar, oranges, and beets, so its really optional.

What are some of your favorite summer salad ingredients?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Beach Days and Vitamin D

I got to spend some time at the beach when I was visiting Florida this past weekend and it really made me miss it! I grew up in Naples so I used to be quite the beach bum. Here are some of my photos:

I brought my lunch, from Whole Foods, to the beach. I love their salad bar because it has so much variety and plenty of vegan options.

I also stayed hydrated with coconut water. It would be awesome to just crack open a real coconut on the beach and drink the water but oh well.

Being at the beach got me thinking about sun exposure, vitamin D, and SPF. I have to admit, I like being tan and I've traditionally not been good about using SPF. My skin is olive-toned and I don't burn easily, especially in the northern states. I also admit that I do go to tanning beds occasionally. I used to go much more in college to get "ready" for spring break but I've actually only gone a handful of times in the past 2 years. Growing up in Florida with warmth and sun all year round really makes me miss it in the northern winter and tanning does actually lift my mood.

My main issue with the propaganda about wearing SPF on your entire body all the time is that we need vitamin D and the best way to get it is by exposing your skin to the sun. Vitamin D is perhaps the most important vitamin (close with C) to boosting your immune system. Vitamin D deficiency, common among middle/upper class or white collar people, has been possibly linked to some diseases, even autism (mother is vitamin D deficient).

When you google "vitamin D," you get a lot of conflicting opinions from a lot of different doctors and studies. Some say that you can get enough of the vitamin in your diet (mostly animal foods) and that you should avoid the sun at all costs. While others say that you don't get enough vitamin D from your diet and that you should get some sun exposure because it is thought to lower the risk of some cancers. So the main question I see is the risk of skin cancer vs the risk of vitamin D deficiency, and I don't think anyone knows the right answer yet.

I'm definitely more in the "some sun exposure" camp. First of all, since the invention and use of sunscreen with SPF, skin cancer rates have not decreased and have actually increased quite drastically (this could also be due to the reduction of the o-zone layer). Second of all, before homes, offices, and cars, humans were in the sun all the time, so we evolved to handle some exposure to it. Lastly, I think that sun exposure can be included in the hormesis theory of radiation. This theory states that low amounts of radiation (basically what we get from background every day, including the sun) are actually beneficial rather than harmful. When your body is exposed to radiation, it learns how to deal with it by killing cells that may be harmed. If you lived in a lead box with no radiation exposure and then went outside, your body wouldn't know how to handle it. So perhaps if you stay away from the sun completely, and then get some exposure one day, your body doesn't know how to deal with it. (This is similar to the idea behind vaccines.) I'm not a doctor and I've come to these conclusions logically and not by research, so I could be completely wrong. However, I'm not convinced that the sun should be 100% avoided. I'd also rather get vitamin D naturally than by supplements. I may also be increasing my risk for skin cancer.

Do you use SPF sunscreen every day?

Do you take a vitamin D supplement?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Fitness Log - Week 10/16

I was on travel this past week in Florida, and despite the heat and humidity, I did get some exercise!

Monday - 3-mile run
Tuesday - 2-mile run (to get subway for lunch haha)
Wednesday - rest day
Thursday - 3-mile run
Friday - 4.5-mile run
Saturday - gym workout with my sister

I had trouble getting a long run in last week because I was unfamiliar with the area I was in and didn't want to get lost. I would be running along bigger roads and all of a sudden the sidewalk would end, so it was hard to map out a route. How do you get in long runs during travel?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Fishy Feast

Since I was in a conference in Orlando, I decided to take the weekend and visit my family in Naples, FL, where I grew up. I usually go the the beach and eat a lot of fish when I'm down here :)

Yesterday my high school friend, Jessica, and I went for a run before going to the beach. She's much faster and more acclimated to the humid heat than I am so she kicked my butt. She'll actually be posting as a guest blogger soon so watch out for that! After the beach we went to one of my favorite sushi restaurants, Sushi Thai, with her family and had an amazing lunch. The fish is so fresh at this restaurant and they have some great rolls, like the lobster roll below. Sushi is quite healthy, especially if you're eating it raw. Plus, seaweed has even more nutrients than dark leafy greens like kale and spinach. However, white rice is definitely not healthy. I try to ask for brown rice if they have it or pick off the rice because there's usually too much of it on the roll anyway. I'd rather taste the seaweed and fish. Jess gave me the idea to try to make sushi rolls without rice, I have some nigri at home so I might try it next week!

I met up with my sister later in the day and she also wanted to get sushi for dinner but I convinced her to get mexican instead and it was great! We went to a new (to me) restaurant in Naples called Agave. It's more "southwestern" than "mexican." The name caught my eye since a "Blue Agave" place just opened in our building in Chicago. Turns out, we got there during happy hour which was actually a really good deal! It was half off margaritas and appetizers, including ceviche! Ceviche is a way of "cooking" fish in which you marinate raw fish and seafood with lemon/lime or other citrus juice. You leave it for a few hours and the juice actually "cooks" the fish. The fish still tastes raw but lemony. I got the ceviche sampler (half price!) and it was amazing!! My favorite was the scallop and mahi tostone, pictured below.

I don't normally eat this much fish in one day, or even a week, but it was yummmmmy :) And, be sure to check out these restaurants if you live or are on vacation in Naples!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Conference eating and healthy travel

I'm traveling for work at a conference in Orlando and have been trying to be healthier than I usually am on travel. Usually at week-long conferences I get in a bad habit of staying up late, not working out, and eating crappy food. I'm usually really tired and feeling sick by the end of the week! So far this week I've done a good job of going to sleep early (by not staying out and drinking with the other students) and I've even been running a couple of times. However, eating healthy has been really difficult!!

First of all, the conference hotel is kind of isolated and there are no restaurants or grocery stores within walking distance (I don't have a rental car). I've had a hard time finding good food for lunch and dinner and I honestly can't wait to get home and eat a decent salad. I don't know how people eat unhealthy food all the time! It makes me feel so tired and blah!

So, in an effort to at least eat fruits this week and I went to the CVS next door and bought some packaged apples and bananas. I doubt that they are the highest quality fresh fruits, but something is better than nothing!

Tuesday night was the conference banquet and these things are always hit or miss with the "vegetarian option." Many times, the veggie option consists of grilled vegetables in a sauce....or was meat-eaters think vegetarians eat. Last night's meal was actually pretty good. It was some sort of Indian-tasting dish with a potato curry dumpling and some vegetables. Although, the salad served beforehand had bacon bits on it...ewww.

How do you stay healthy while traveling?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fitness Log: Week 9/16

I'm over halfway through my training! This means that I have to step it up on my long runs and get more into the 8-9 mile range. This will be tough over the next two weekends since I'll be travelling to Florida for a conference and to visit my family. My goal for this week is to go to crossfit every morning, except for Friday since I have to catch an 8 am flight.

Monday - CrossFit WOD
3-3-3-3-3 max front squats: 63-83-103-108(2)-103(2)
WOD: 5 rounds for time:
1 power clean (53#)
2 hang cleans (53#)
3 front squats (53#)
30 double unders (I did tuck jumps)
Time: 4:50
I've always struggled with front squats more than back squats because of flexibility issues. I really suprised myself today with new PRs! I'm pretty sure I've never done over 100# on even a 1-rep max front squat! This means that my hips are getting more flexible and my form is getting better. However, I'm still having issues with my knees. My right knee (which is the one that used to give me a lot of pain during running) tends to come in during the squat, especially with a lot of weight or during wall balls. I need to remember to push it out!

Tuesday - CrossFit WOD
3 rounds:
10 hand-stand push ups (from box)
30 box jumps
50 lunges
70 sit-ups
Time: ~25 minutes? (I forgot)
This workout made me soooo sore! (I'm writing this on Thursday and my legs are still in pain.) Lunges always get me!

Wednesday - 3-mile Run
Due to my soreness from Monday and Tuesday, I skipped crossfit and just ran 3 miles at work. It took me about 30 minutes. I was running pretty slow but it helped my recovery overall.

Thursday - CrossFit WOD
For time:
Run 1 Lap
Rest 1 Minute
Run 2 Laps
Rest 2 Minutes
Run 3 Laps
Rest 3 Minutes
Run 5 Laps
Rest 4 Minutes
Run 3 Laps
Rest 3 Minutes
Run 2 Laps
Rest 2 Minutes
Run 1 Lap
Total Time: about 45 minutes
The "lap" in this case is a lap around the block by the gym. It's somewhat less than 400 m, so the 5 laps was approximately a mile. This speedwork was great for my half training but my legs were still sore!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Recipe: Basil Chia Seed Dressing

I made this awesome raw dressing recipe from Carol Alt's Easy Sexy Raw book! Carol Alt was one of the most popular models in the 80s and she's in her 50s now and looks absolutely amazing, maybe because of her raw diet? One of the most interesting things that I found in her book is that she eats raw eggs! Apparently you should buy organic fertilized eggs directly from a small farm to minimize the risk of salmonella. Breakouts of the disease usually happen at large factory farms. Anyway, here's the recipe:

Ingredients (makes 1.5 cups)

2 Tbs. chia seeds
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. honey or agave
1/2 tsp. sea salt
pinch of ground pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup fresh basil

While the dressing is easy to make, you must plan ahead a bit so that you can soak the chia seeds in the water for at least 6 hours. I just put the chia seed in the water in a small container in the fridge overnight. Chia absorbs the water and then turns into a gel that can be used as the base for many things like dressing or pudding. Once you have the chia gel, combine it in a blender with the lemon juice, vinegar, honey/agave, salt, and pepper. With the blender running, slowly add the olive oil through the opening in the top. This makes the dressing really creamy. Finally, add the fresh basil and blend until it is a smooth consistency. You must use fresh basil for the taste to be there.

This recipe makes over a cup of dressing, which is quite a bit to try to use up in a week before it goes bad. I'll cut this recipe in half next time I make it. This dressing is very fresh tasting so it will go good with any summer salad. I put it on a salad with baby spinach, strawberries, and chopped raw almonds, and it was delicious!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

No Carbs and Paleo

I read an interesting article on the Forks Over Knives website on the Paleo Diet and want to share some of my thoughts.

When I first started researching about healthy eating 2.5 years ago as part of my New Years' Resolution, I came across a lot of conflicting literature. There are soooo many diets out there that it will confuse anyone. I've found that all diets tend to reference only parts of medical studies that are favorable to their cause, whether its a plant-based or meat-eating diet. Therefore, the basis for my healthy eating lifestyle has turned into eating a more natural diet, much like our ancestors did.

Before farming and industry, our ancestors were hunters and gatherers. The Paleo Diet, heavily advocated by crossfitters, is based on this era of humanity. Paleo says that you should eat mainly meat, eggs, and fish with vegetables, but no dairy, processed foods, or starchy vegetables (legumes). However, I believe that the paleo diet calls for way too much meat. In the hunter-gatherer days, meat was very unpredictable and people certainly did not eat it for every single meal. Most of their calories still came from vegetables and fruits that were gathered. I definitely do agree with paleo in not eating dairy and processed foods. Humans are not meant to eat the milk of another animal.

So, this brings me to the issues of carbs. Low-carb diets are probably the most popular among people trying to lose weight. This makes sense somewhat since these people are not eating carbs for energy and thus burning fat for energy. Also, the carbs that a typical American eats are of very low quality; e.g. white bread/pasta, white rice, crackers, cookies, etc. So eliminating these processed carbs from your diet eliminates much of the excess processed sugar in your diet, thus you lose weight. However, can you eliminate carbs to keep off the weight? And, what about unprocessed, natural carbs?

Through research and experimenting with my own diet, I've come to understand that "natural carbs" do not make you gain weight/fat and are healthy for you to eat. Instead, they give you energy and keep you fuller for longer, thus potentially helping you lose fat. Natural carbs are those that are closest to their natural form and have not been completely processed and altered from their natural state. Potatoes get a bad rep for being unhealthy, but its how you cook them (fried) or what you put on them (butter, sour cream) that is unhealthy. Brown or wild rice is also good for you, while white rice is stripped of all of its nutrients and thus more of an "empty calorie." Whole grain bread or pasta is also healthy. But you must beware of bread labeled "whole wheat." They still often contain white flour as the 2nd (sometimes even 1st) ingredient. My favorite bread/wrap brand is Ezekiel 4:9. It is made of sprouted grains (no flour) that form a complete protein and contain lots of vitamins and fiber. You can find the bread in the freezer section at a health food store or even in your local grocery store (Payless/Kroger carried it but Jewel-Osco does not).

So my point is that I think that the no-starch/carb rule and high meat intake of the paleo diet is not necessarily healthy. Natural carbs and starchy vegetables are perfectly healthy and cutting them out may result in losing nutrients. Meat/fish/eggs should only be eating occasionally, like the hunters did, and going a long time on a plant-only diet is not detrimental.

What are your thoughts? I'd especially love to hear from crossfitters doing paleo!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Fitness Log: Week 7/16

I know! I know! I failed to write about weeks 5 and 6 of my training mainly because I did pretty bad. I couldn't work out for a few days because I scratched the inside of my esopagus with an apple piece and breathing deeply hurt. (I know, it was one of the weirder injuries I've had.) Last week I attending a conference in downtown and I thought I would have time to work out more but nightly socials got in the way ;)
Soooo...I'm back into it and not accepting any excuses!

Friday (6/29): CrossFit WOD
"Grace" for time:
30 clean and jerk (45#)
Time: 4:30
The 45 lbs actually wasn't that heavy and I can do a bigger weight next time.

Saturday: CrossFit Endurance
Run ~2 miles to the track
WOD for time:
run 1 mile
300 single unders
50 burpees
run 800 m
200 single unders
35 burpees
run 400 m
100 single unders
25 burpees
time: I don't remember
Rune ~2 miles home
I did this workout instead of a long run to take the opportunity of a endurance group workout on a saturday. I ran about 5.5 miles total plus the single unders and burpees, so it was a good workout anyway.

Monday: Recovery Day
Ran 1 mile and then practiced sit-ups, push-ups, and double unders. Since I've pretty much mastered kipping pull-ups (I just need to get stronger to be able to do a lot of them without a band), my next goal is to be able to do double-unders.

Tuesday: CrossFit WOD
MAX clean and jerk: 70#
4 rounds:
5 clean and jerk (55#)
200 m run
Time: ~8 minutes
55 lbs was definitely better than the 45 I did on Friday.

Thursday: CrossFit WOD
1000 m row
Then, 10 rounds:
10 push-ups
10 sit-ups
Then, 1000 m row
Time: ~26 minutes
I need to start writing times down after I do them because I keep forgetting!

Saturday: 6-mile run
I woke up super early for this run but it was already 95 and humid when I got outside, so I did not do the 8 miles I had planned and did not feel good at all during my run. I had to stop and take a break in the shade every mile or so because I felt lightheaded (even though I was drinking a lot of water and energy gels). It seemed like everyone on the lakeshore path was dragging along. Fleet Feet even had a water/gatorade station set up! Because of all my stops and occasional walking, I don't have an accurate total time but I think I ran about 8:45 pace. I'm going to be in Florida for the next 2 weekends so hopefully the weather isn't super hot down there either!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Recipe: Sauerkraut Soup

Goulash and sauerkraut soup (kapustnica) are two of may favorite Slovak dishes that my mom makes so I decided to make an easy sauerkraut-potato soup of my own. Both soups/stews traditionally are not vegetarian and include beef or sausage. I must admit that sausage definitely adds some taste to the stew that is just different from what vegetables add. However, with adding lots of carrot, celery, and spices, this soup has a great fresh flavor! Plus, its super healthy. Don't be afraid of the potato in this soup adding too many calories. Potatos get a bad rep because of the way they're usually cooked (e.g. fried). The potato in this recipe adds some heartiness to the soup and you're only eating a quarter of it per serving.  

1 box of vegetable broth
1 can of saurkraut
1 medium potato (peeled)
3-4 stalks celery
2-3 medium carrots or large handful of baby carrots
spices to taste (salt, pepper, bay leaves, cayenne pepper, garlic)

Place broth in large pot and turn on high heat. Meanwhile, chop vegetables to small pieces and place in the pot (see above). Add the sauerkraut. Add desired spices like salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic, and bay leaves. Be careful not to use too much since you can always add more once you taste the soup. Reduce heat when the broth comes to a boil and simmer (covered) for about 20 minutes or until vegetables are soft. You may need to add more water if the broth level gets too low. This recipe makes about 4 servings which can be served immediately or frozen for later. (You can also refrigerate for up to a week.)