Doing These Breathing Techniques Will Help You Get Killer Abs

Erika​ ​Bloom​,​ pioneer Pilates instructor and a former professional dancer has a trick for strengthening your abdominal muscles, and it doesn’t involve working out. The luxury wellness expert has provided holistic, supportive, body-changing Pilates in many places, and she has a few tricks up her sleeve for getting killer abs. Breathing, and that’s it! We’ve interviewed the master Pilates instructor (who has helped me with my own training), on how performing breathing exercises can help you regain strength in your abdominals. Doing these can help with diastasis recti, pelvic floor dysfunction, and back pain. Keep reading for more with Erika Bloom!
erika bloom breathing techniques
Image: Courtesy of Erika Bloom Pilates

Erika Bloom On Why Breathing Exercises Work To Strengthen The Core

1) Why do breathing techniques work to strengthen the core?

One of the main functions of the deep core muscles is breathing. They work as we inhale and exhale. It is effective and promotes functionality to repattern them to do the action they are structured to achieve. It is important to first strengthen and restore functionality and patterning to the deep core postpartum before adding in any superficial core work.

Postpartum, the muscles of the deep core need reawakened and repatterned. The core muscles also act as muscles of respiration or breathing. Therefore it is most effective to begin to retrain them by performing conscious breathing exercises. The transversus abdominis muscle, or TVA, also wraps around the torso and engages on an exhale to support the organs and stabilize the spine. Just activating these muscles with the breath is truly effective for creating tone, building strength, and repatterning core engagement post-baby. This work can address diastasis recti, pelvic floor dysfunction, and back and pelvis pain.

2) What is the importance of a strong core?

Our store core promotes beautiful posture and healthy movement in the whole body. Additionally, a functional core supports digestion, organ function, energy, and sleep. Restoring the deep core postpartum is also essential to preventing prolapse because of the involvement of the pelvic floor in core engagement.

3) How often do you recommend doing these exercises?

Doing 100 breaths in the morning and 100 at night is effective because it sets up the patterning to breathe well all day and even as you sleep.

Erika Bloom Pilates
Image: Courtesy of Erika Bloom Pilates

Breathing Exercise For Core Strength

1) On an inhale, focus on engaging the diaphragm and releasing the pelvic floor.
2) On an exhale, focus on engaging the pelvic floor and wrapping and tightening the deep transversus abdominis muscle.
erika bloom breathing techniques
Image: Courtesy of Erika Bloom Pilates

The post Doing These Breathing Techniques Will Help You Get Killer Abs appeared first on Sporteluxe.

40-Minute Step HIIT Workout

High-top sneaks and slouchy socks? We’ll go ahead and leave those in the past. But 20 years after taking the group fitness world by storm, the step is still making us sweat.

The year was 1989. Young MC demanded that we all Bust a Move. Thong leotards (worn over shiny spandex shorts) were totally acceptable gym attire. And Reebok launched “Step Reebok,” a lightweight, height-adjustable bench, which literally elevated the world of aerobics. Suddenly, “step-hops” and “straddle-downs” became common lingo in group fitness classes, and colorful, plastic stacks of platforms and risers lined the walls of health clubs everywhere.

Step workouts dominated for a solid decade, with many enthusiasts using a home model in conjunction with a collection of fuzzy VHS tapes. But the fitness world is fickle, and peppy, bubble-gum choreography slowly gave way to grittier, sweatier trends like Spinning, boot camp and cardio kickboxing. And though (most) women retired their scrunchie socks and Reeboks with the straps (with the straps!), gyms that invested some green in those teetering towers of plastic held on to them, hoping the trend would come full circle and become popular again.

And they were right. The step persists, and aside from a few deluxe models that include storage compartments and fancier risers that allow for incline and decline, their basic construction remains the same. The traditional step workout, however, needed an overhaul to be on par with current trends. In that light, we’ve chucked the bubbly hops, high-impact kicks and complex dance combinations of the early ’90s and replaced them with heart-pumping HIIT and intense resistance training moves designed to build real muscle.

Get ready to bring your workout to a whole new level with this spicy high-intensity interval training and full-body strength routine.

If you don’t have a stepper at home, modify by using stairs or a thick hardcover book.

40-Minute Step HIIT Workout

Looking to blast through your cardio and strength training in less than an hour? Our revamped step workout will rev your engine and tax every muscle from the neck down in just 40 minutes.

Warm-Up: 4 minutes

Set the step low, and do one minute of each move below for two rounds.

Elevated Toe Tap

Elevated Toe Tap

Face the step with your arms at your sides. Bend your left knee and tap the ball of your foot to the edge of the platform. Jump and switch feet so the left foot is on the ground and the ball of your right foot is touching the edge of the platform. Repeat in rapid succession, pumping your arms as you alternately tap the edge of the step with your feet.

Squat Touchdown

Squat Touchdown

Face the step with your feet together. Jump your feet out to shoulder-width and squat down, kicking your hips back and touching your fingertips to the step, chest up. Jump your feet together again and hop in place twice before jumping back out into a squat.

HIIT Circuit: 12-Minute EMOM (every minute on the minute)

Set the step low to medium height and get out your timer. Start the timer, then get in as many reps as you can for the first move in about 50 seconds. Then transition quickly to the next move, which begins at the top of the next minute. Cycle through the sequence of these next four moves a total of three times.

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Burpee Jump-Over

Stand sideways to the step with your feet hip-width apart. Crouch and place your hands on the floor, jumping your feet back into plank. Do a push-up, hop your feet back underneath you and then leap laterally over the step. Land softly on the other side and repeat. Continue, alternating sides.

Knee Drive to Reverse Lunge

Knee Drive to Reverse Lunge

Face the step and place your left foot in the center of the platform. Extend your leg to stand up on top and drive your right knee through to hip height. Step back down with your right foot, then step your left foot back and lunge down until your right thigh is parallel with the floor. Complete all reps on one side, then switch.

View the 2 images of this gallery on the original article

Traveling Push-Up

Start in a push-up position alongside the step with one hand on top of the platform and one hand on the floor. Bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the floor, then extend back to the start and walk your arms and legs laterally, moving up and over the step to the other side. Leave one hand on top and place one hand on the floor and do another push-up. Continue, alternating sides.

Elevated Mountain Climber

Elevated Mountain Climber

Get into plank with your feet on the step and your hands underneath your shoulders, spine and head neutral. Slowly draw one knee into your chest without curling your spine or lifting your hips and pause. Return to the start and continue, alternating legs.

Strength Circuit: 24 Minutes

Adding weight to your resistance moves amps the intensity, and increasing the step height adds an element of instability — both of which demand more of your muscles. For each of these four moves, do 12 reps per side before transitioning to the next exercise. (For the elevated pike push-up, do a total of 12 reps.) Set the step on its highest level for the standing moves, and cycle through the circuit three times, allowing for 60 seconds of rest between moves.

Bulgarian Split Squat With Biceps Curl

Bulgarian Split Squat With Biceps Curl

Hold a set of dumbbells with your palms facing forward, and stand with your back to the step. Extend one leg behind you and place your toes on top, shoulders back, hips square. Bend both knees and lower straight down, simultaneously curling the dumbbells up toward your shoulders. When your front thigh is parallel to the floor, stand back up and uncurl the dumbbells. Do all reps on one side, then switch.

Pistol Squat

Pistol Squat

Stand close to the step with your back to it and lift your right foot off the floor in front of you, core braced. Keep your right leg straight and extended in front of you as you bend your left knee and push your hips back, lowering slowly until your glutes touch lightly down on the step. Then drive through your heel to return to standing. Do all reps on one side, then switch.

Dumbbell Renegade Row

Dumbbell Renegade Row

Set the step low to medium height and place a dumbbell to the side of the step, then get into plank with one hand on the step and the other on the dumbbell handle. Position your feet wider than normal for balance while keeping your head, hips and heels aligned. Brace your core as you row the weight up toward your flank, keeping your hips square. Lower to the start under control. Do all reps on one side, then switch.

Elevated Pike Push-Up

Elevated Pike Push-Up

From an all-fours position on the floor, extend your legs one by one behind you and up onto a high step. Walk your hands back and lift your hips until you are in a pike position with your hips over your shoulders and head. Bend your elbows and slowly lower down until your head touches the floor, then press back up to the start.

8-Step Stress Prevention Plan

Protect your mind and body from wear and tear and reduce your stress with these strategies.

Life can be intense, and the past six or so months have been exceptionally disquieting on many levels. Whether it’s been the pandemic itself or the taxing fallout of illness, quarantine, financial uncertainty or isolation, it’s fair to say that people are hella exhausted. But take heart: You can learn to manage your stress levels with a few practical behavioral shifts and some sagacious coping strategies.

Learn how to manage your stress levels with just a few practical behavioral shifts.

8-Step Stress Prevention Plan

Human beings are innately wired to deal with on-the-spot stress, such as the heart-pounding fight-or-flight instinct you feel when faced with danger. But our biology is not equipped to handle repeated exposure to acute stressors, and recurring surges of hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine can ultimately corrode and deregulate cell balance. In a domino effect, other systems break down, causing things like weight gain, insomnia, depression, anxiety and fatigue.

Your best bet is to prevent stress from happening in the first place, and this checklist from Michael Mantell, Ph.D., behavior science consultant and transformational coach, can set you on the preventative path.

  1. Exercise and be active every day — but don’t overdo it. Too much activity and too little recovery can cause inflammation, which could lead to a host of serious health issues.
  2. Cut back on coffee. Caffeine can amplify anxiety, interrupt sleep and disrupt digestion, none of which are helpful to achieving calm and balance.
  3. Like Michael Pollan says: Eat food (not too much), mostly plants. The phytochemicals found in plants help balance your mood by aiding in the synthesis of neurotransmitters.
  4. Tame your thoughts. Events don’t stress you out; your thoughts about those events stress you out. Use meditation to become accepting of the present and observe your thoughts without judgment.
  5. Really breathe. Deep abdominal breathing connects your body and mind, slows heart rate, relaxes muscles and reduces blood pressure.
  6. Implement stress-free thinking. Catch yourself mulling over your doom and gloom scenarios, then challenge them. Do you have any evidence that these will occur? Then turn your thinking from dread to possibility, because even if the worst does happen, you may not like it but you will be able to bear it.
  7. Practice compassion. Compassionate people recognize that imperfection and suffering are common, shared human conditions. Give yourself grace and stop worrying about that which you cannot control.
  8. Don’t just survive — thrive. Look at every setback as a setup for a stronger comeback. This helps you develop resilience, the psychological mechanism that keeps people going.
Michael Mantell, Ph.D., created the “S.M.I.L.E” Model for Happiness to help people grow happier and healthier through challenging times.

Now S.M.I.L.E.

Now that you’ve pre-emptively quelled your stress, it’s time to nurture happiness with Mantell’s strategy to make you smile.

  • Savor: All of us could stand to slow down a little and proverbially smell the roses. Linger where you are and mindfully focus on the details of whatever you’re doing.
  • Me: Time to yourself allows you to unwind, reboot your brain, improve your focus and promote your relationships. Even the little things you do during the day add up: Close your office door to shut out distractions, wake up a little earlier to work out or leave your phone in the car when with friends.
  • Interact: Personal relationships are integral to human happiness, and spending time with others, expressing kindness and doing good deeds reduces stress and promotes connections. However, not all interactions are positive, so avoid those who weigh you down.
  • Listen: Using your ears can boost your happiness quotient. Listen to the birds chirping or your grandkids playing or the music playing to promote well-being and lift your spirits.
  • Empathize: Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes can actually give you a leg up. Build empathy for others by permitting your own vulnerability and finding commonality with others around you.

Why Sleeping On This Side Of Your Body Is Better For Your Health

Do you want better sleep and will do anything to get it? Do you have tireless nights where you wake up groggy and unhappy the next morning, and you can’t figure out why in the world you feel this way? There may actually be a better method in the madness, and it’s not as difficult as it sounds. Some researchers have found that going to bed on the left side of your body may help you with key health issues. A lot of the time when you sleep on the left side of your body, the stomach, and gastric juices remain lower than the esophagus, thus reducing heartburn and digestive upsets. We did a little bit of research and looked into the matter. Keep reading for more.

better sleep
Image: Kinga Cichewicz via Unsplash

Why Going To Bed On The Left Side Of Your Body Might Give You Better Sleep

So it turns out that sleeping on the left side of your body actually has more benefits than you can count on one hand! When you look at the composition of our bodies, you’ll notice that our organ composition is actually asymmetrical. The way we process energy and eliminate waste goes through this system. So, if we set up our bodies in a way that we sleep on the left side, we process all of this in a healthier way. Try it out at home! See if sleeping on your left side gives you any sort of improvement on your health. We will say that sleeping on your face does cause wear and tear on your facial structure by constantly applying pressure on your bones, but for that we recommend getting a beauty pillow, like this one from Nurse Jamie.

According to Healthline, there are a number of different ways that sleeping on the side helps your body. For one, it aids digestion. Two, when you sleep on the left side of your body, the stomach, and gastric juices remain lower than the esophagus, thus reducing heartburn and digestive issues. Another great thing that sleeping on the left side can do is boost your brain health. Apparently, you have waste in your brain too! Sleeping on your side may help reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or other neurological diseases. Finally, sleeping on your side can reduce snoring or sleep apnea.

better sleep
Image: Elizabeth Lies via Unsplash

The Best Way To Get Better Sleep On Your Left Side

To get a good night’s sleep on your side, be sure to find a pillow that sits comfortably on your collarbone and face, so you’re not smushed and uncomfortable. Put that same pillow in between your knees to support your lower back. Hug that pillow like you’re snuggling it, and keep your arms parallel so that your body feels even and well-stacked.

 

The post Why Sleeping On This Side Of Your Body Is Better For Your Health appeared first on Sporteluxe.

Flourless Chocolate Whey Cookies

Try this fresh-from-the-oven indulgence that won’t wreck your waistline.

Flourless Chocolate Whey Cookies Recipe

Ready in: 35 minutes

Makes: 14 servings

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 scoops chocolate whey protein powder
  • 1½ cups cooked chickpeas
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • ½ cup natural almond butter
  • 5 pitted dates
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup egg whites
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place a sheet of parchment paper over a baking sheet.
  2. Blend all ingredients, except coconut, in a food processor until smooth. You may need to stop to scrape the sides.
  3. Toast coconut in a small frying pan set over medium-low heat until lightly golden, then add to processor and pulse until combined.
  4. Spoon batter into 14 heaps on baking sheet, spacing evenly.
  5. Bake 24 to 26 minutes, then allow to cool on a wire rack.

Nutrients per serving (1 cookie): Calories: 180, Total Fats: 8 g, Saturated Fat: 2 g, Trans Fat: 0 g, Cholesterol: 22 mg, Sodium: 65 mg, Total Carbohydrates: 22 g, Dietary Fiber: 3 g, Sugars: 14 g, Protein: 8 g, Iron: 2 mg

Take Your Workout To The Next Level

With only a few minutes of preparation, you can improve each workout, lift heavier, train longer and get greater results by using these five warm-up protocols.

When you’re crunched for time, it’s tempting to skip a warm-up and get right to training. But while your brain is ready to go, your body has not yet gotten the memo. A warm-up serves as this wake-up call, getting your blood flowing, increasing range of motion, and preparing your muscle fibers and nervous system to work. But with all the different techniques these days, it’s difficult to know which warm-up goes best with which kind of training and which will do the most good. No worries — we’ve done the matchmaking for you. Use this go-to guide for warming up and get more out of your training while also preventing the risk of injury.

When doing cardio for a warm-up, work at an easy pace for no longer than five minutes.

Cardio

Best Before: Any kind of workout.

Cardiovascular activity is an excellent way to warm up — to raise your internal temperature — because it gets your whole body moving, infusing your muscles with oxygen, blood and nutrients and preparing them to hit the ground running (literally!). Sometimes cardio is sufficient in and of itself as a warm-up if you’re simply doing some easy aerobic work, but if you’re doing heavy lifting or an intense high-intensity interval training session, this technique should be combined with another protocol — such as the ones below — to properly and fully warm up.

What You Should Do: Any activity that gets your body moving and grooving is great — jogging, rowing, biking, stair climbing.

Keep in Mind: It should be done at an easy pace for no longer than about five minutes to simply get you warm, not to make you break a sweat. So even if you love to run, anything beyond 10 minutes of light jogging ventures into full-on workout territory and is no longer considered a warm-up.

Foam Rolling

Best Before: Any workout but particularly heavy strength training.

Improving range of motion (ROM) is something to prioritize when you’re about to pump some iron, and according to research, using a foam roller can help increase ROM without negatively affecting performance. Foam rollers work as a sort of self-massage, helping break up and release the fascia — the connective tissue that surrounds the muscles — which can become tight and inflamed. Rolling improves ROM even before you lift a weight.

What You Should Do: Position yourself on top of the roller, and using your bodyweight, roll along the muscle starting at the origin and moving slowly through its entire length. Pause when you encounter an area that is tight or tender and hold that position for several seconds to help it release. Aim for a minimum of five passes in each direction per muscle before moving on to the next, and do a total of about five minutes. Note of caution: Never foam-roll your lower spine because the area may seize up.

Keep in Mind: There are different “levels” of foam rollers, ranging from moderately soft to rock solid, so if you’re new to the technique, start with the softer ones and move up as you become adept at rolling (and as your body adapts to the hardness). In addition, foam rolling can make you sore, especially if you’re super tight or have a lot of adhesions — areas of tightness in your fascia. So don’t be surprised if that IT band is grumbling the day after you roll the heck out of it.

Dynamic Stretching/Mobility

Best Before: Explosive workouts such as plyometrics or powerlifting and sports.

This technique involves moving a limb actively through its entire range of motion, helping push blood into the muscles while releasing synovial fluid within the joints, lubing them up and getting them ready to work. It also can help you perform better: One study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that dynamic stretching as a warm-up helped improve performance in basketball players.

What You Should Do: Actions that focus on multi-directional movement at the joints — leg swings, arm circles, bear hugs — are examples of great dynamic stretches. Begin in a shorter, gentler range of motion and gradually allow your actions to become larger and more dynamic.

Keep in Mind: Spend about five minutes on the large muscles and joints in the body, paying special attention to any that have chronic tightness or those that will be worked extra hard that day.

Do several sets of exercises based on the lift/split you have planned for the day. For example, if your goal is to back-squat 120 pounds, your movement prep could be bodyweight squats.

Movement Prep (aka warm-up sets)

Best Before: Strength training and CrossFit-type WODs.

Movement prep is really a going-through-the-motions sort of gig. You do several sets of the exercises but at a lower intensity. This alerts your central nervous system that heavy work is coming its way and establishes a movement pattern for the forthcoming exercises that your body can remember when the going gets tough. This helps you produce force efficiently and explosively, making movements more effective and workouts more intense. And of course, you reduce the risk of injury.

What You Should Do: Assess the lift you’re focusing on for the day and do some movement prep appropriate to that lift. For example, if your goal is to back-squat 120 pounds, your movement prep could start with bodyweight squats, also known as air squats, for a couple of sets using perfect form; then you could move to squats with an empty Olympic bar for a couple of sets. Next, you’d start building, dropping the rep range down to three to five per set and adding weight in 20 percent increments per set until you reach your target weight.

Keep in Mind: How long the actual prep lasts depends on the lift in question and how strong you are at it. If you’re a veteran, chances are your movement prep will take longer than a novice. Also, know that single-joint isolation movements like a biceps curl requires less prep because they affect fewer muscle groups and joints.

Muscle Activation (aka isometrics)

Best Before: Heavy lifting days.

Isometric contractions — wherein you contract your muscle against an immovable object — done preworkout have actually been shown in some studies to increase power up to 51 percent. This kind of contraction stimulates the central nervous system to recruit more high-threshold motor units (those responsible for innervating the fast-twitch muscle fibers), improving contractile strength and force output, resulting in more powerful lifts.

What You Should Do: Think about the movement you’re about to do, then find a way to simulate it against an immovable object. With a bench press, for example, place your hands in the benching position flat against the wall, then actively try to press the wall away from you, tensing and contracting all the muscles you would be using in an actual bench press. Hold each press for 10 to 15 seconds, then rest 30 seconds. Go for two to three sets, and with each set, make the contraction a little more intense.

Keep in Mind: This technique can easily drain you, so limit the amount of actual work to no more than three minutes.

How To Get Pregnant: A Fertility Specialist Shares Her 13 Top Tips

Becoming pregnant is a task in itself. If you’ve decided you want to fall pregnant, but don’t know where to start or how to prepare, there are a few things you can do to prepare your body for fertility. Needless to say, like many women, trying to fall pregnant isn’t as easy as one would like to think it. Infertility impacts roughly 1 in 8 women. Out of these, 40% are due to factors of the female, 40% will involve male/sperm issues, and 20% could be a combination of the two, according to Dr. Lucky Sekhon, RMS Fertility Specialist. Dr. Lucky is a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist, a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist, and an assistant clinical professor in the Mount Sinai Health System.

We asked Dr. Lucky about her top tips on how to get pregnant and prepare the body for fertility. There are a handful of ways you can do this. Keep reading for more.

how to get pregnant
Image: Courtesy of Lucky Sekhon

Fertility Specialist Dr. Lucky Sekhon Shares Her Top Tips On How To Get Pregnant

1) Get off birth control.

Some forms of birth control will be reversible as soon as they are discontinued (ie. IUD). There are, however, birth control pills that have been used longterm can take up to 6 months to wear off. In most cases, women will return to ovulating normally within 1-3 months of stopping. If you don’t have a period for longer than 3-6 months after discontinuing birth control, you should see a gynecologist rule out any medical problems that could be interfering with ovulation. This will prepare you for your pregnancy beforehand if you are currently trying.

2) Start tracking your periods/ovulation.

Efforts to try to conceive should be concentrated on the 2-4 days prior to ovulation. Outside of this window, it is less likely to result in pregnancy. If you notice that your periods are irregular or infrequent, this could be a sign that you are not ovulating regularly, which can make it challenging to time when to try to conceive. Anyone with irregular cycles should consult their doctor before trying to get pregnant.

3) Quit smoking.

Smoking cigarettes accelerates ovarian aging and can increase your risk of early menopause. Cigarette smoke is toxic to pregnancy. It increases the risk of miscarriage, growth problems, and preterm delivery.

4) Reduce your alcohol intake.

Excessive alcohol intake is toxic to the reproductive system. Alcohol exposure in pregnancy can result in fetal alcohol syndrome. Because many people are not aware of early pregnancy, it is important to cut down alcohol intake while trying to conceive so that you aren’t inadvertently exposing an early developing pregnancy to large amounts, which could be harmful.
how to get pregnant
Image: Ignacio Campo via Unsplash

5) Change your caffeine intake.

Keep caffeine intake to less than 200mg per day. Excessive caffeine intake has been linked to adverse pregnancy outcomes such as miscarriage. Caffeine in moderation, however, is deemed safe in pregnancy.

6) Start taking prenatal vitamins.

Start prenatal vitamins that contain at least 400mg folic acid per day. Ideally, start this process 3 months before you try to conceive. This is to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

7) Check in with your doctor about any chronic health issues.

Women with health problems (such as high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.) should work with their doctors to optimize their condition and overall health before conceiving. It may be necessary to see a high-risk obstetrician to be counseled regarding the risks of their condition to pregnancy. This is key to manage health issues once they become pregnant.

8) Review your medications with your doctor.

It is important to discontinue any medications prior to conceiving which could be toxic to a developing fetus. You could put your baby at risk of malformations.
how to get pregnant
Image: Jonathan Borba via Unsplash

9) Do some cancer surveillance.

before getting pregnant, it is ideal to have an up to date pap smear and mammogram to ensure there are no precancerous or cancerous cells that need further follow up, investigation, or treatment. The additional tests and treatments required, should cancer be discovered, are usually not safe or possible to undergo while a woman is pregnant. Pregnancy can then delay the diagnosis and necessary treatment.

10) Get going on a healthy exercise routine, if you aren’t already.

Establishing a healthy exercise routine, with 30-40 minutes of cardio 3 times per week, at a minimum, will optimize your body for pregnancy and reduce the risk of pregnancy complications. It is best to begin exercising regularly prior to pregnancy as it is much harder to begin a new exercise regimen and stick to it, once already pregnant.

11) Switch up your diet!

The best type of diet to optimize your overall fertility and reproductive health is a Mediterranean-style diet. This type of diet is high in antioxidants and lean proteins and healthy sources of fats, such as avocado.

12) Change your household/beauty products to cleaner, less toxic versions.

Many types of plastic and commonly used hair and makeup products contain fragrance and other types of compounds which are harmful chemicals or ‘endocrine disruptors’ which can interfere with our reproductive system and negatively impact our fertility.

13) Have a gynecological evaluation.

If you have known gynecologic issues (ie. fibroids, endometriosis, etc.) have a focused evaluation (ie. pelvic ultrasound) to identify any issues that should be rectified prior to conceiving. For example, if there is a large fibroid distorting or occupying the uterine cavity, it could lead to difficulty conceiving or increased risk of miscarriage and/or preterm labor when pregnancy is achieved.
how to get pregnant
Image: Melanie Brown via Unsplash

The post How To Get Pregnant: A Fertility Specialist Shares Her 13 Top Tips appeared first on Sporteluxe.

These Are The 5 Best Tasting Protein Powders We Love

Protein powder has been recommended by health-conscious professionals far and wide to supplement your body through added levels of protein. According to WebMD, “Protein is an important component of every cell in the body. Hair and nails are mostly made of protein. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals.” There are three kinds of protein powders on the market today, including protein concentrates, protein isolates, and protein hydrolysates. Concentrates have 60 to 80% protein, isolates have 90 to 95% protein, and hydrolysates are quickly absorbed by the body. But what about the best-tasting protein powders? We’ve made a list of the ones we enjoy. Keep reading for more!

The Best Protein Powders We Love That Taste Amazing

1) Made Of Chocolate Whey Protein Isolate ($65)

 

best protein powders
Image: Courtesy of Made Of

Created by fitness mogul Kirsty Godso, this protein isolate is super high-performing, nutritional, and the support you need post-workout. It is super delicious and has over 25 grams of protein per serving!

2) Vital Proteins Dark Chocolate and Coconut Whey Protein Powder ($44)

best protein powders
Image: Courtesy of Vital Proteins

This protein powder is just as luxurious as it sounds! Grass-fed whey protein, cocoa beans, probiotics, and more give you health in a bottle. The flavor is so good and there’s natural HA added for glowy skin!

3) Bloom Nutrition Plant-Based Chocolate Milkshake Protein Powder ($44.99)

best protein powders
Image: Courtesy of Bloom Nutrition

This plant-based protein powder is best for building lean muscle. It’s packed with vitamins and ingredients that are raw, organic, and perfect for your wellness journey.

4) KOS Vanilla Organic Plant Protein ($43.99)

best protein powders
Image: Courtesy of KOS

This protein powder is plant-based and oh-so-yummy! With tons of different flavors to choose from, this vegan protein source is also amazing for those of us who are plant-based out there! It’s made out of peas and is perfect post-workout.

5) Four Sigmatic Creamy Cocao Protein Can ($50)

best protein powders
Image: Courtesy of Four Sigmatic

Mushrooms are growing super, super popular in the wellness space. Four Sigmatic has sang their praises for years! This protein powder also contains 18 grams of 5 vegan proteins, a balanced amino acid profile, and a high dose of seven mushrooms and adaptogens! So delicious!

 

The post These Are The 5 Best Tasting Protein Powders We Love appeared first on Sporteluxe.

5 Quick and Easy Blender Recipes

Blenders aren’t just for making smoothies. This kitchen workhorse can help you prepare healthy meals from breakfast through dinner.

The trusty countertop appliance known as the blender might be a champ at whizzing together your postworkout recovery shakes, but if you use it for little more than blitzing protein powder with frozen berries, you’re seriously selling this gizmo short.

A blender can be a multitasking kitchen workhorse if there ever was one. From pancakes to burgers to waistline-friendly desserts, those blades are ready to help you whip up ultra-fast healthy and delicious around-the-clock meals that go way beyond frosty drinks. To bring you up to speed on the versatility of your blender, start by mixing up these recipes, which prove that it’s a fit girl’s BFF.

Salmon burgers

Salmon Burgers With Mango Salsa

Makes: 4 servings

Serving size: 1 burger

Total time: 25 minutes

Hands-on time: 20 minutes

Using a blender to whip up these burgers and salsa saves you a bunch of chopping time. And swapping out the beef for salmon helps you net a boatload of mega-healthy omega-3 fats — the superhero fats shown to help those who train hard reduce the severity of post-exercise muscle pain.

Mango breathes new life into salsa and infuses this dish with plenty of vitamin C. Needed for the production of carnitine, a compound involved in fat burning during exercise, vitamin C plays an important role in melting the chub.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1¼ lb skinless center-cut wild salmon, chopped into 1-inch chunks 
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 6 large basil leaves
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ black pepper
  • 1 mango, peeled and quartered
  • 1 red bell pepper, quartered
  • 2 green onions, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and sliced
  • 1/3 cup cilantro
  • juice of ½ lime
  • ¼ cup coconut flakes
  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil or canola oil
  • 4 cups arugula

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place salmon, egg, breadcrumbs, basil, mustard, lime zest, salt and black pepper in blender container and pulse several times until you have a chunky mixture. Form into four patties.
  2. Wash blender container and place mango, red peppers, green onions, jalapeños, cilantro, lime juice and couple pinches of salt in container. Pulse several times until you have a chunky mixture. Do not puree. Stir in coconut flakes.
  3. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Place salmon burgers in heated skillet and cook about three minutes on each side, or until crispy on the outside but just barely cooked through in the middle.
  4. Divide arugula among serving plates and top with salmon burgers and salsa.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 493, total fat 30 g, carbs 23 g, fiber 4 g, sugar 11 g, protein 33 g, sodium 355 mg

Chicken Spinach Egg Pie

Chicken Spinach Egg Pie

Makes: 4 servings

Serving size: ¼ of pie

Total time: 40 minutes

Hands-on time: 15 minutes

Eggs and chicken team up to give each slice of this dinnerworthy savory pie enough protein to aid in building a lean, mean physique. And since an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that eating eggs may boost brainpower, blending the orbs together for a quick meal seems like an even smarter idea.

Sending spinach for a ride in your blender can help you enjoy more birthdays. That’s because it contains a wallop of vitamin K, a nutrient shown to help lessen the chances of falling prey to deadly diseases like cancer and heart disease. You also can use frozen spinach for this recipe — just make sure to thaw and squeeze out excess moisture.

This same recipe can be made using a muffin pan for individual (and portable) pies. Simply divide the mixture among greased or paper-lined standard-size muffin cups and bake in a 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until eggs are set.

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 large eggs
  • ½ cup sour cream 
  • 3 cups spinach, ends trimmed
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken
  • ¼ cup chopped chives 
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line bottom of 8-inch-round cake pan with parchment paper and grease sides.
  2. Place eggs, sour cream, spinach, mustard, salt, cayenne and pepper in blender container and blend until spinach is pulverized. Pulse in chicken and chives.
  3. Place egg mixture in prepared pan, scatter on cherry tomatoes and bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until center of pie is set. Let cool a few minutes before slicing.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 266, total fat 12 g, carbs 6 g, fiber 1 g, sugar 5 g, protein 33 g, sodium 507 mg

Beet Soup With Avocado Crema

Beet Soup With Avocado Crema

Makes: 4 servings

Serving size: 5

Total time: 25 minutes

Hands-on time: 20 minutes

The naturally occurring nitrates in beets appear to improve blood flow, which can boost exercise performance and lower blood-pressure numbers. To cook beets, trim ends, place them in a shallow baking dish and add water until it reaches about ½-inch up the sides of the vegetables. Cover with foil, crimping edges to make a tight seal, and bake in a 400-degree oven until a skewer poked through the foil easily pierces flesh, 50 to 60 minutes. When cool enough to handle, rub off skins with a paper towel. Or you can now find precooked beets in most supermarket produce aisles.

For great health, it’s a good idea to include more plant proteins like tofu in your daily menu. A study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that higher intakes of plant protein can be protective against developing diabetes, whereas higher intakes of animal protein — processed red meats like bacon in particular — can raise the risk for this disease. Tofu, beans and other plant proteins bring with them a powerful bundle of disease-thwarting nutrients and antioxidants.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 block soft tofu 
  • 3 medium-size cooked beets 
  • 1 cup jarred roasted red peppers
  • ½ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme 
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1 small avocado
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • ¼ cup roasted pumpkin seeds

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place broth, ½ block tofu, beets, roasted peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, thyme, lemon zest, garlic, salt, chili powder and black pepper in blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to saucepan and heat on medium until warmed through. If you have a powerful blender, you can let it run until the mixture is steaming hot.
  2. Wash out blender container. Place ½ block tofu, avocado, olive oil, lemon juice and couple pinches of salt in container and blend until smooth. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed, to help mixture blend into a smooth consistency.
  3. Serve bowls of warmed soup topped with avocado cream and pumpkin seeds.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 254, total fat 19 g, carbs 16 g, fiber 5 g, sugar 7 g, protein 10 g, sodium 273 mg

Sweet Potato Pancakes With Blueberry Yogurt

Sweet Potato Pancakes With Blueberry Yogurt

Makes: 4 servings

Serving size: 3 pancakes

Total time: 25 minutes

Hands-on time: 15 minutes

Pureed sweet potato lends a stack of pancakes natural sweetness, vibrant color and a wallop of beta carotene. In the body, beta carotene is converted to vitamin A, which works to improve immune health and fortify bone strength. Forgoing the butter and maple syrup treatment for a berry-yogurt sauce adds muscle-building protein and health-hiking antioxidants.

This batter can be made up to two days in advance. Whip everything together and then chill covered in the refrigerator until needed. It’s best to let batter rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before using. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium-size sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup almond flour
  • 1½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup blueberries

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place sweet potato cubes and 1 tablespoon water in microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and poke a few holes in plastic to allow for venting. Microwave on high six minutes, or until potato is easily pierced with a knife. Let potatoes cool a few minutes.
  2. Place milk, eggs, sweet potato cubes, oats, almond flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt in blender container and blend until smooth. Blend in additional milk if mixture is too thick. Pulse in walnuts, if using.
  3. Pour ¼ cup batter for each pancake into greased skillet and cook over medium heat for two minutes. Flip and cook an additional one minute. Keep prepared pancakes warm in a 200-degree oven while preparing remaining batter.
  4. Wash out blender container. Place yogurt and blueberries in container and blend together. Serve pancakes topped with blueberry-yogurt sauce.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 291, total fat 11 g, carbs 34 g, fiber 5 g, sugar 10 g, protein 16 g, sodium 75 mg

Mocha Black Bean Cakes With Cashew Cream

Mocha Black Bean Cakes With Cashew Cream

Makes: 12 servings

Serving size: 1 cake

Total time: 80 minutes

Hands-on time: 30 minutes

The stealth addition of beans to this guilt-free dessert gives the cakes a fudgy texture and hunger-quelling fiber. We promise there’s enough rich chocolaty flavor and natural sweetness from the dates that you’ll forget you blended beans into the batter in the first place.

When soaked and then blended with coffee, buttery cashews turn into a decadent cream that replaces the lofty saturated fat numbers with those from heart-boosting monounsaturated fat. A 2017 study found in the pages of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition determined that adding about a daily handful of cashews to a typical American diet can trim cholesterol numbers.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 11/3 cups hot coffee
  • ¾ cup pitted dates
  • ¾ cup unsweetened (natural)
  • cocoa powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup canola oil or melted coconut oil
  • 1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup oat flour or whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1½ tsp cinnamon 
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1½ cups raspberries

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place cashews in bowl, cover with water and soak for at least two hours.
  2. Place 1 cup coffee, dates and cocoa powder in blender container and let rest 30 minutes. Add eggs, oil, beans, flour, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, baking soda and salt to container and blend until smooth, about one minute.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Divide mixture among 12 greased or paper-lined muffin cups. Bake 18 minutes, or until centers of cakes are just barely cooked through. Let cool a few minutes before unmolding and cooling further on metal rack.
  4. Drain cashews and place in clean blender container along with 1/3 cup coffee, maple syrup, 1 teaspoon vanilla and ½ teaspoon cinnamon. Blend until smooth.
  5. To serve, spread some cashew sauce on serving plate, top with warmed bean cake and scatter on raspberries.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 197, total fat 11 g, carbs 23 g, fiber 5 g, sugar 9 g, protein 6 g, sodium 66 mg 

Spik-and-Span

For speedy cleanup, let your blender wash itself. Add a squirt of dish soap to a dirty container, fill halfway with hot water, and then simply blend until sudsy and the food grime has been dislodged from container sides. Just make sure to rinse out any lingering soap so your next blended meal doesn’t taste like Palmolive.

Rise of the Machine/Mix Master

If you plan on giving your blender daily workouts, forget the dated Oster. You want a machine with a bigger engine. From soups to pancake batters to DIY nut butters, the mega-powerful Vitamix Professional Series 750 is up to the challenge. Yes, its $600 price tag is hard to swallow at first, but once you tap into its horsepower several times a day for years to come to whip up nearly anything you can throw at it, the Mercedes-Benz of blenders seems like a bargain. It even comes with several nifty preprogrammed settings to handle frozen desserts and hot soups.

Follow the Leader

Dump stuff in the container, blend it and eat it. Right? Not so fast. To help make blending a breeze, place liquids like milk, broth and eggs in the blender container first followed by harder items such as vegetables, flour and nuts. This way, the liquid in the bottom will absorb the solids for, well, smoother blending and also keep the machine from overheating during tougher blending jobs (hello, smoothie bowls!).

5 Ways to Use Parsnips

As is evident from their silhouette, parsnips are a close relative of carrots but with a sweeter, nuttier taste.

Though they aren’t as popular as their orange cousin, parsnips are super-versatile root veggies and can be eaten boiled, baked, mashed, spiralized or raw. Choose parsnips that are on the smaller side because they are sweeter and more tender, then try them these five ways.

They look like chubby carrots in need of some sun, but parsnips might just become your new favorite veggie.

As a Fiberful Snack

Parsnips have soluble and insoluble fiber, which have been shown to lower blood cholesterol, reducing the chances of developing diabetes. Fiber also helps prevent the release of ghrelin — the hunger hormone that tells your brain to eat — reducing the likelihood of snacking between meals. Substitute cooked and pureed parsnips for chickpeas in your favorite hummus recipe and serve with carrots for the ultimate fibrous snack!

Dice parsnips into a vegetable soup to get your daily fix.

As a Smile-Friendly Soup

Parsnips are high in folate, which most people know as an essential compound in the prevention of birth defects. But folate also helps prevent gum disease and gingivitis, giving you that healthy 100-watt smile. Each ½-cup serving of cooked parsnips contains 45 micrograms of folate, equal to about 11 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance. Dice two parsnips into a soup made with vegetable or chicken stock, canned tomatoes, carrots, celery, garlic, parsley, onions and dill to get your daily fix.

As a Calorie-Slashing Mash

Combine mashed parsnips with your traditional holiday potatoes to cut the calories in half and beef up the fiber content.

As an Energizing Add-In

Parsnips contain copper, a trace mineral that is essential for the production of ATP in your cells. Shred raw parsnips and add to coleslaw, or spiralize them onto your preworkout or postworkout salad to boost the energy factor while adding a distinctive sweet-tasting crunch.

Add parsnips into a root vegetable roast.

As a Recovery Root Roast

Potassium is plentiful in parsnips, which acts as a vasodilator, helping deliver oxygen and nutrients quickly to your muscles while helping flush out toxins and assisting with recovery. Take 5 to 6 cups of raw, diced root veggies (parsnips, carrots, rutabaga, potatoes) and toss with three cloves of minced garlic, ½ cup of white wine, 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh thyme, olive oil and a dash of vinegar. Spread evenly in a single layer in a roasting pan and bake at 450 degrees for 45 minutes, stirring often for even cooking.

Calorie-Slashing Mash

Makes: 4 servings

  • 2 lb parsnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces (6 medium)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp salt

Bring large pot of water to a boil. Add parsnips and cook until very soft, about 15 to 20 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer parsnips to food processor, reserving the cooking water. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and puree until smooth. Add cooking water as needed if the mixture is too thick.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 211, carbs 36 g, fat 7.5 g, fiber 9 g, protein 2 g, sodium 310, sugar 10 g