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The Insomniac’s Best Bet For Sleep!

Sleep is a fundamental aspect of our daily lives, and a key factor in our overall health. A good night’s sleep can be crucial to our successes in our fitness and health goals, our careers, our family, romantic and social lives, and so much more. And consequently, a night without a good sleep can derail everything.

As a habitual insomniac, I know firsthand how crucial good sleep can be, and throughout the years, I have learned the best tips to ensure a night of superior rest that will leave you refreshed and ready to take on the day:

Tips for better Sleep:

Use an eye pillow: The best way to ensure your body can register it is time to sleep is to create absolute darkness. Blackout curtains and unplugging anything that might glow is a start point, but it will not prevent the invasion of the early morning sun which may remind you another sleepless night has come to its conclusion. An eye pillow, however, keeps everything dark for the whole night! Not only does this make it easier to slip into sleep, it will help keep you there.

Toss the clock: To have glowing numbers glaring at you telling you just how much sleep you have missed out on is not about to help you sleep any better. In fact, the constant awareness of the time will further prevent falling asleep. If you absolutely must have the time, then it is better to wear a wristwatch with a light. It will not be staring you in the face, and you will not have to actively rise and look for it.

Give up the Caffeine: This is something that most people should be kicking, especially soda. But coffee can be just as agitating to the insomniac as anything else. Caffeine addiction not only keeps you from the sleep you need, but will inhibit the production of the alertness chemicals of the brain. This sluggish production then leads to lethargy, which requires more coffee. It is a vicious cycle, one that insomniacs in particular need to avoid, but if you are having even the slightest bit of trouble sleeping, consider passing on the latte. This is hugely important if you drink energy drinks; the amount of stimulating chemicals in an energy drink can do extremely detrimental things to your sleep patterns. Set your body right – skip excess caffeine and reap the benefits.

Set the Stage: The mind is a powerful tool. Therefore, if you have trouble sleeping, your bed needs to become a place of sleep. To read or watch TV in bed prevents you from entering sleep mentality when you get there, so to form the proper mental constructs, do these things elsewhere!

White Noise: Though sound machines with ocean or frog noises have become a cliché, white noise can be extremely helpful in aiding sleep. By existing in a space with a constant calming sound, you are less susceptible to the alertness arbitrary sound might cause. I know this is a huge problem for me as a light sleeper – anything can wake me up! Having any sort of constant white noise in the background makes that less likely.

Make Routine: Go to bed, and wake up at the same time every night despite how tired, or lack thereof you may be. Setting a schedule helps regulate your body and how it reacts at different points of the day, and will eventually lead to easier sleep. Regardless of what time I actually did (or did not) fall asleep, I get out of bed the same time every morning, as well as go to bed at the same time as often as possible. In doing this, my body is more likely to respond to the idea of sleep.

Exercise!!! A healthy body leads to a healthy mind, and a healthy sleep schedule! Rigorous, consistent exercise helps to promote the production of serotonin and adrenaline, chemicals that simultaneously help us feel more alert during the daytime, and promote a natural, restful sleep in the evening. Our bodies are designed to be used, and to be active, therefore by providing the exertion and engagement of our muscle groups that nature intended, our body will reward us with better sleep.

***Note: I have been an insomniac for 17 years – in that time I have tried everything to combat this condition. Herbal remedies, perscription and non perscription medication, physical and mental therapies, everything. Please do not insult my intelligence by assuming I haven’t heard of  an obvious solution. Thank you!

 

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11

Creating a Better Fit!

Today I am getting involved with a movement asking “How would you change the fitness industry?”

Happy with my natural body!

This topic is near and dear to my heart, not only for what fitness has done for me and my life, but for what I have been able to share with others to encourage them towards their happiest, healthiest selves. Fitness is what I eat, sleep and breathe, this is what keeps me going, what makes me happy, healthy and strong. It is my passion, and I strive every day to live and act as a positive example and role model of what I believe.

Therefore, my answer to this question comes without a second thought: less artificiality. 

Fake boobs, fake nails, fake tans, and fake bodies from steroids are NOT what health and fitness is about, yet it is impossible to open a fitness magazine or website without seeing at least one, if not all of the above, on the front pages. In my heartfelt opinion, these are not things that we should be promoting as ideals – instead, we need to be stressing the natural: natural health, natural results, and natural beauty.

This is an issue I struggle with every day, and it bothers me constantly, especially as a fitness professional who refuses to go under the knife or get fake for success. To me, fitness and the fitness industry should be about promoting health, confidence, and loving yourself for who you are – and who you can become through hard work and consistency. These values are what drew me in and changed my life, and they should be the paramount priority.

If your body came from a scalpel, or a pill or an injection… it doesn’t mean as much to me. The real heroes of fitness are those who gained their bodies from eating right, and working out consistently with intensity. These are the values I want to glorify – these are the values that I continue to encourage, and embody. Should we truly be promoting the idea that the only way to a perfect body is through drugs and surgery? I hate the notion.

So, my proposal for creating a better fit is to see more natural models being displayed to demonstrate the benefits of hard work and dedication. I would like to see a stronger condemnation for the use of illicit substances, and a discouragement of plastic surgery for the sake of aesthetics.

Let’s be happy with who we are, and what we can achieve through our own means!!

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Ginger Cinnamon Protein Bars!

Protein bars are a part of my every day diet, so making sure I have an option that is high in protein, moderate in carbs and LOW in sugar is crucial to keeping my eating plan on track — and these home made treats are rewarding and satisfying, without being a ‘glorified candy bar’ like store bought protein bars Believing that credit should always be given where it is due, this recipe was inspired by Jamie Eason’s protein bar recipes, which I highly recommend. She has some wonderful flavors!

Ginger-Cinnamon Protein Bars

  • 1 cup oat flour (Blended oats)
  • 2 scoops vanilla whey protein
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 4 egg whites
  • 6 oz baby food applesauce
  • 4 oz water
  • ~2 tbsp each of cinnamon and ginger (to taste, I like lots)
  • Optional: crushed walnuts or almonds
    Optional: 1/2 cup of preferred no sugar sweetener
Note: I often make a double batch of these; as a serving size is two ‘muffins’, they go very quickly in my house.
These can be baked in a cake tin, but I prefer to do mine in a muffin/cupcake pan. I find they cook more evenly this way, and are perfectly portion sized!
Directions
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F
  • Mix wet and dry ingredients separately, mix thoroughly
  • Combine ingredients, add optional nuts if desired.
  • If using a muffin tin, line with cupcake holders or a very thin coating of olive oil to prevent stick.
  • Place thoroughly mixed ingredients in the cake pan or muffin tin
  • Let bake for 20 minutes, then perform a quick check to ensure they are cooking through. Cook for another 5-10 minutes as needed.
  • Let cool before removing from pan or cutting.
  • Enjoy!

**Stick these in the fridge! They CAN, and WILL go bad otherwise. Remember, there are no preservatives!

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4

Clean Eating Chili

When I get sick, I don’t crave sweets, ice cream or chicken noodle soup, what I crave is Chili. Chili also happens to be one of my favourite foods of all time, so having a healthy clean eating chili recipe is an absolute must! Over time I have developed, altered and improved this recipe, and since it has been requested of me on several occasions, I have decided to inaugurate the recipe listings on my new website with it! I hope you give it a whirl, and enjoy!

Note: To say I like my food hot would be an enormous understatement, so I have provided this recipe sans my level of spice so that it can be altered to suit any palate or tolerance level. See below for my spice additions.

Clean Eating Chili (Makes a Pot)

  • 2 diced chicken breasts
  • 1 can of Kidney beans
  • 1 can of Black beans
  • 1 small white onion, chopped large
  • 1-2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large can, organic diced tomatoes (with juice)
  • 2 stalks green onions, chopped
  • 2 tbsp (or a splash) White vinegar
  • 1 handful dried chilies
  • 1 handful pickled chilies
  • Mrs. Dash Extra Spicy
  • At least 1 tbsp cayenne powder, 2 tbsp chili powder
Directions:
  • Defrost, cook, and dice your chicken breasts – I opt to pre-dice and pan-cook my chicken, while I prepare the remainder of my ingredients
  • Slice your vegetables and pickled chilies, strain and rinse your beans.
  • Add the 1 can of organic diced tomatoes to the pot, juice included. This will be your base.
  • Add your beans and vegetables, white vinegar, and dried chilies.
  • Set the pot to boil, and as it heats up, add your chicken, Mrs. Dash seasoning, and any other desired spicy ingredients (see below)
  • Bring to a boil, let simmer about 10 minutes, and you’re ready to eat!

Bry’s Fire Factor:

To this base mixture, I double the inclusion of chili and cayenne powder and amount of chilies, and add Dave’s Insanity Sauce (use carefully!) and Sriracha sauce (also known as rooster sauce).

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Despite our best efforts, even the fittest people can fall sick.  What inevitably follows is the struggle whether or not to work out based on our condition – can we push through? Should we take a rest day? Will we make ourselves feel worse?

The best way to determine whether or not you should be hitting the gym while ill is to follow the neck up rule, which stipulates that if your symptoms are mostly felt from your neck up (sore throats and coughs, runny noses and congestion, headaches and so on), then you’re good to push through a moderate workout – modify where you need to, but don’t be afraid of getting your sweat on.

If, on the other hand, your symptoms fall below the neck (chest congestion, nausea, stomach flu, etc), then you’re better off taking an extra rest day to recover rather than make yourself any worse. The one exception to this rule that need be noted is a fever: if you have a significant fever, skip the workout to prevent overheating your body.

Follow this simple rule, and you’ll be back on the path to consistency in less time than you’d expect!

 

 

November 17, 2011 at 6:24 pm no comments
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Tips for Getting Through the Holidays!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This article was written for Muscle and Strength

The advent of Thanksgiving commences the holiday season; a time for togetherness, giving, and of course, lots of delicious dinners and desserts. What is a health oriented individual to do when it seems everyone else is indulging?

The holiday season is a difficult time to stick to health goals as we all know — certainly contributing to the upcoming New Years’ Resolutions surrounding wellness. But this does not mean we should throw our carefully crafted discipline to the wind! So in light of the approaching holiday challenges, I present to you my survival tips for making it through the holidays with a clear conscience, no guilt or regrets, and less worries for your waistline.

Don’t go hungry. Temptation is much easier to resist if your stomach is not growling at you. Save overindulging later by eating breakfast and lunch on holiday dinner days. This way, you will not feel ravenous while selecting what you put on your plate.

Watch portion sizes. Follow the Plate Proportion Rule:Protein and carbs should make up 1/4 of your plate, whereas veggies should take up half. By setting a visual guideline for yourself, you will prevent overindulging on filler such as mashed potatoes and gravy, and ensure you get a serving of vegetables that you may have otherwise passed on. Fill your plate reasonably, and avoid seconds. The second helping will not taste better than the first!

Be condiment conscious. Have your vegetables without the cheese sauce and your meat without the skin or fat. The slimmer alternatives are just as delicious, and you will save an enormous amount of calories. Do not add extra salt, and you will avoid bloat. NO Gravy! Gravy is as empty in nutritional value as a soda, and just as potent in calorie content. Avoid!

Eat slowly. Allow your mind the time it requires to communicate appetite satiety to the rest of your body. Holidays are often culprits of overeating, given the tendency to enjoy as much as we can, as quickly as we can. Everyone has had the experience afterwards of “I ate too much!” Avoid this by savoring your food, and reap the rewards.

Do not consume empty calories. Liquids, such as wine, beer, juice and soda, contain no nutritional value. Each is filled with sugar and calories that we often not even considered when we eat. Save these calories for the food; stick with water. Not only will you be able to enjoy more, but water consumption will help you feel more full.

Stick to your guns. Aunt Mabel shouldn’t guilt you into having her famous cheesy potatoes if they are not part of what you have allotted for your planned plate. Remember that these are your goals, and what someone else does, or says, does not affect you. Only you have the power to improve yourself. Do not give that up!

Have some. Just be wise. Remember that indulging every now and then is perfectly acceptable! In fact, it has been shown that those who ‘cheat’ occasionally, are more likely to stick to their diets in the long run. This is a result of satisfaction; it is easy to resent your healthy choices if you receive no enjoyment.

Like a child who knows good behavior will earn him periodic privileges, we can accept our parameters, if the payoff is worth it. In the end, if you choose this option, just be wise about your choices. The piece of pie may not turf your results, but a whole pie and whipped cream might. Be reasonable.

To conclude, I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season, and I look forward to any comments or tips you might have about how you make it through the holidays in a healthy way!

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Easy Diet Tips that can Change Your Body!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This article was written for ActivewearUSA.

Eat breakfast.  I cannot stress enough the importance of eating within an hour of waking. Not only does this fuel you with adequate energy for the day ahead, it also jump-starts your metabolism, which will keep you burning calories and fat at an elevated rate throughout the day. And I know for those who don’t eat breakfast, the majority will respond they just can’t eat breakfast because it unsettles the stomach.  You need to STOP making this excuse! The reason your stomach doesn’t respond well to breakfast is because you aren’t used to it; like any diet change, it takes time to adapt. Stop whining, start eating breakfast, and in two weeks, you’ll no longer have an issue.

Eat every two to three hours.  Nearly everyone in the modern world understands or has heard that the traditional three meal schedule we structure our society around isn’t the healthiest or most effective way to eat. Instead, try eating five to six smaller meals throughout the day, spaced apart by two to three hours.  This keeps your metabolism running smoothly because there are no long stretches without fuel; when those periods happen, your metabolism drops off and your body tries to conserve energy.  Smaller meals are also more comfortable for your digestive system; no bloating, no “I ate too much” feelings, because you will have never allowed yourself to get that hungry!

Eliminate empty liquid calories.  Nothing you drink should have caloric or sugar content. You gain no satisfaction from the surprising amount of calories you drink, nor is there truly any nutritional value that warrants their consumption. This includes soda, alcohol, and juice – yes, juice. It’s not as healthy as you think!  One serving of orange juice is a whopping 250 calories with 20 grams of sugar!  (Comparatively, a can of Coke has 27 grams.)  Instead, opt for zero calorie beverages such as water or tea. Not only will you remove excess sugar from your diet, you’ll flush toxins from your system, gain more energy, see improvements in your skin, and reduce cellulite!

Even if you cannot remove liquid juices entirely, consider removing one can of soda a day which saves you around 679 calories and 189 grams of sugar a week!

Make “processed” a dirty word.  There should be no room in your diet for processed foods. This means anything that has been fried, pre-cooked, and packaged, such as frozen dinners and junk food (chips, chocolate, soda, even non-natural peanut butter; all these items have been processed). Instead, opt for things in their natural or whole state; buy your meat uncooked and prepare your own meals, invest in whole fruits and vegetables, and look for natural peanut butters. By removing the preservatives and unncessecary chemicals from your system, you will feel more energetic, and your body will function more efficiently!

Consider simple replacements.  Switch from white bread and rice to whole wheat and save yourself the additional processing that these foods undergo. Switch out your normal yogurt for a no-fat Greek yogurt and save mass amounts of sugar while gaining protein.  Switch from regular to natural peanut butter and lose fat.  Replace your condiments with low-sodium, low-sugar versions and watch your bloating and water weight disappear.

These are a few easy steps you can take to make positive changes in your diet, your health, and your overall fitness outcomes. Now isn’t that worth it?

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Meal Plan Example

People often ask about what I eat or how I alternate my eating habits for carb cycling or leaning out for a shoot. So here I have put together two sample days that show how I generally maintain my healthy diet. I have included some of my supplementation below where applicable as well, but I will be doing an article later on focused specifically on that topic.

I hope this is insightful!

 

 

Low Carb Day:

Meal 1 (Breakfast): 5 egg whites + 1 yolk, 0% plain Greek yogurt
Meal 2 (Post Workout): Protein shake – Gaspari Myofusion Milk Chocolate or Banana, 1.5 scoops, 5 mg glutamine.
Meal 3 (Lunch): 1 chicken breast, sliced over spinach salad + tomatoes, red onions, snow peas (no dressing)
Meal 4 (Afternoon): Almonds, chopped veggies OR jerky
Meal 5 (Dinner):
chicken stir fry, or chicken lettuce wraps
Meal 6 (Evening): 0% cottage cheese with pepper OR 0% plain Greek yogurt OR protein shake.

 High Carb Day

Meal 1 (Breakfast): 5 egg whites + 1 yolk, 1 piece Ezekiel toast with almond butter
Meal 2 (Post Workout): Protein shake – Gaspari Myofusion Milk Chocolate or Banana, 1.5 scoops, 5 mg glutamine – or home made protein bars.
Meal 3 (Lunch): 1 chicken breast, sliced over spinach salad + tomatoes, red onions, snow peas (no dressing), 1/2 cup brown rice or sweet potato
Meal 4 (Afternoon): Home made protein bars, OR rice cakes and almond butter
Meal 5 (Dinner):
Clean eating chicken or turkey chili (Recipe coming soon), or chicken and rice
Meal 6 (Evening): 0% cottage cheese with pepper OR 0% plain Greek yogurt OR protein shake.

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November 5, 2011 8:07 pm
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How to Motivate Others

This article was written for ActivewearUSA.

Motivation is the key to your success: it can make or break your diet and workout plan, encourage consistency, and help push you through to the next level. Motivation is what gets you out of bed an hour early to get in a workout before the work day, and it’s what keeps you from indulging in that disastrously tempting bowl of ice cream in the evening. Everyone knows just how important motivation is, yet some people find motivation extremely difficult to come by. Stress, time crunches and the road blocks that life throws at us are often the cause of these dips in our motivation levels, and once one falls off the motivation wagon, it can be very difficult to board again.

Similarly, we all have that one person in our lives who just isn’t motivated. They may complain about the way they feel about their bodies, yet they never seem to follow through on the initiative to start exercising or adopt a healthy diet. It can be very tough when these people are a member of our immediate family, best friend, or significant other: all you want to do is help them succeed, and realize their greatest potential, right? It is because of this, that whenever I am interviewed, I am always asked “How can I motivate my girlfriend to work out?”, “how can I convince my friend who constantly complains about their weight to eat healthy?” or “how can I get my family member to join me in the gym?” It is a concern to health-minded individuals to share their happiness with others!

However, as Steven R. Covey once said, ““Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly.” No truer words have been spoken on the subject – when you want to achieve something, it is not the photo on the wall that pushes you, it is that inner voice that tells you “Yes, I want this, and I want it badly.” Encouragement is intensely valuable, but if the fire’s not burning, you can’t blow on the coals!

So how then can you motivate the people in your life? Is it possible to help make a difference?

The answer is yes! And I have the secret: Set an example.

If you’re looking to encourage and motivate someone else, chances are that your own personal motivation is on track. And that is fantastic! Keep at it! By continuing on the path of health and fitness, not only will you reap the results and become happier and healthier, the people in your life are going to be aware of your successes. This is motivating! I am not suggesting that you should brag about your progress, or talk of nothing else, but if you are constantly making healthy positive choices, it will have an influence on those around you – and a bigger one than trying to convince them to do something they just don’t want to.

Setting a positive example for the people in your life is the foundation of motivating others, but it is not all you can do. Sometimes, subtle actions are paramount. Become an encouraging workout buddy! People are often more receptive to the idea of working out if they don’t have to go it alone, and if they know they’re going with someone who can make it fun! Become a great hostess! Throw parties, and serve your most delicious clean eating recipes – you’ll have people asking for them before the night is over. Be the outing planner! If you are stuck in a rut going out to eat at unhealthy restaurants with your friends, plan a picnic instead, or a day at the beach or even a fun drop in swing dancing class! Bearing these ideas in mind, not only will you help motivate those around you, you will find yourself even more fired up!

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A Day in the Life of a Fitness Model

This article was written for ActivewearUSA.

As a fitness model, I must maintain a body that can be camera ready within two weeks of a shoot date, and sometimes I don’t even have that much time. Casting calls can come as short as 24 hours notice, so it is absolutely crucial to be eating clean consistently, and keeping to a dedicated workout routine: I’m in the gym six days a week. Training for a shoot is a little different than regular training. Normally, I am a heavy lifter, and I focus on the heavier weights for fewer reps in order to build the muscle. However, when I am shooting, my workouts for the week before shift to a higher rep count with lighter weights, to help bring out and carve the defined look that I’m aiming for.

For a shoot, I allow myself a week to adopt a preparation diet: for the first few days, I consume high quantities of water and sodium, and low carbohydrates. A low carb diet will help to blast fat and shred the muscles, while excess water and sodium flush out your system and keep you hydrated. By mid-week, I taper down my water and consume an absolute minimum of sodium, to ensure minimal water retention. On the day of the shoot, I will try not to eat anything before shooting if possible. The less you eat, the less your stomach will swell, and the tighter you will look. However, if the shoot is in the later afternoon or evening, not eating before hand is unsafe, if not just impossible. So I will usually eat a light breakfast of egg whites, and any other meal will be a protein shake.

The morning before a shoot is very involved. I wake up, have my breakfast, and head to the gym for a quick weight lifting circuit, and some plyometric cardio. To use the old cliché, having a ‘swell’ certainly helps to enhance the active look of muscle. Then it is time to prep myself – normally, the photographer and I have already confirmed a general theme or style for the shoot so my outfits will already be packed, but I ensure that all my additional maintenance (showering, exfoliation, shaving, moisturizing, manicures and pedicures) are done on the day of the shoot for the best look.

Once you arrive on set, makeup application can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. Makeup for the camera is very different than what you might wear for a night out as it often has to be darker and more exaggerated to hold its presence over varying light sources. It truly benefits to be patient with the makeup artist, as their meticulousness makes you look better. During the make up process, the photographer lays out their plans for the shoot, numbers outfits, and tests the lighting – it too helps to be patient with lighting, as it is the key to a spectacular photo.

As soon as the camera is clicking, I start to move. I’m aware of where my hands are, if my muscles are held tight, if my face is catching the light – all the while maintaining an expression that is intense, genuine, and appealing. I am not a static poser- I never hold the exact same pose for more than one click of the camera unless requested. Everything is a motion, and the slightest movement can change a picture. Turning your eyes, exhaling, shifting your hand, everything creates a new moment. Depending on the shoot, I must be en pointe and focused for 1-3 hours of shooting time – sometimes more, especially when on location shots are needed. I have to be ready to self direct, but to oblige what the photographer asks. I have to prepare to bring my best no matter how cold or wet I may be, and keep it looking as if this unnatural pose is the most natural thing in the world. It is a challenge… but it is also like living art.

 

When the shoot is over, it’s time to eat.

 

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