Category Archives: Working on Our Fitness

Anatomy of a Protein Shake

Happy New Year!  It’s that time again, when we set our resolutions for the year ahead.  For most of us, that list includes a health-related goal, such as losing weight, getting back in the gym, fitting back in our “skinny” jeans, etc.  Even if you don’t have weight to lose, you may just be ready to cleanse from all the heavy holiday eating.  A great way to detox, shed pounds and feel better all around is starting the day off with a protein shake.

A new year is a great time to reset your health!

A new year is a great time to reset your health!

When you hear the words “protein shake,” you may picture the big bulky man at the gym who wears MC hammer pants and a big support belt as he strains to bench hundreds of pounds.  But protein shakes aren’t just for weight lifters and those trying to bulk up.  They make a very healthy meal replacement and are a convenient way to pack a lot of nutritional punch.  If you’ve always wanted to try a protein shake, but you feel overwhelmed by all the options out there, this blog post is here to help!

Protein Shakes to Avoid

When it comes to selecting a high-quality shake, the first step is knowing what ingredients to stay away from.  Just because it’s sold at your local health food store, GNC or gym, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you.  Avoid shakes that contain the following ingredients:

  • Artificial Sweeteners, Colors and Preservatives – Stay away from dyes, MSG and other additives.   If you see the words “aspartame,” “high fructose corn syrup,” or sucralose on the label, put it down!  Artificial sweeteners are so harmful to your health, and they can spike your blood sugar worse than regular sugar does.  
  • Hydrogenated Oils – Not all shakes contain oils, but there are a few out there that contain soybean oil and other hydrogenated oils that are harmful to your heart.
  • Soy Protein– Many people who are dairy sensitive use soy protein shakes thinking they are a healthier option, but most soy protein is highly processed, containing MSG, phyto-estrogens and other unhealthy ingredients.  Here is some more in-depth information about the dangers of processed soy.
  • Synthetic Vitamins and Minerals – You know all those words that you can’t pronounce on the back of supplement labels?  Well your body has a hard time recognizing them too!  In order to be most efficiently utilized by the body, most of the ingredients in your shake should come from the ground…not the lab!

I won’t name any names, but here is the list of ingredients in a very popular protein shake sold in gyms, GNCs and grocery stores everywhere.  See if you can pick out all the harmful ingredients.

micellar alpha and beta caseins and ceseinates, whey concentrates rich in alpha-lactalbumin, whey isolates, whey peptides, colostrum extract, l-glutamine, taurine, lactoferrin), leanlipids (trans fat free lipic complex consisiting of canola oil, sunflower and/or safflower oil, mct’s, l-carnitine), fructose, cocoa powder maltodextin, cytovite 1 (vitamin and mineral premix consisting of vitamin A acetate, cholecalciferol, d-alpha-tocopherol acetate, ascorbic acid, folate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, niacinamide, pyridoxine hcl, cyanocobalamin, biotin, pantothenic acid, di-calcium phosphate, potassium iodide, potassium chloride, ferrous fumerate, magnesium oxide, copper gluconate, zinc oxide, chromium nicotinate), GCC (proprietary endogenous creatine precursor consisiting of glycocyamine, betaine anhydrous), natural and artificial flavors, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, soy lecithin.

What to Look for in a Protein Shake

Now that you know what to stay away from, here is a list of acceptable protein shake ingredients:

  • High-Quality Protein Source – The main ingredient should be non-denatured whey, brown rice, pea or hemp protein.  A good option should have at least 17 grams of protein per serving. 
  • Natural Sweeteners –  Select a shake that is sweetened with natural ingredients such as stevia, organic coconut palm sugar, evaporated cane juice, cocoa powder, natural vanilla, etc.  Many high-quality product lines are removing fructose, or fruit sugar, from their protein shakes to make them a better low-glycemic option for those with diabetes and other blood sugar issues.   All the protein shakes at Longevity have less than 9 grams of sugar per serving!
  • Beneficial Fat – If your shake contains oil, it should come from organic coconut oil or another stable fatty acid.
  • Whole Food Ingredients – Some of my favorite shakes contain extra antioxidants, vitamins and minerals  and anti-inflammatory ingredients.  Ideally these ingredients should come from organic fruits and vegetables and other whole food and plant sources.
  • Value-Add Ingredients – Many high-quality shakes contain extra amino acids, digestive enzymes and antioxidants.  To me this is an added bonus and it means I have less pills to swallow!

How to Make a Protein Shake

I like to bulk up my protein shake so that it’s nice and filling and holds me over until lunch.  I put a serving of protein (usually two scoops), a cup of frozen berries and about 8 oz of water into the blender.   I also add a beneficial fat (flax seeds or oil, coconut oil), D3 liquid, and something green (a greens powder or chlorophyll liquid).  You might want to use almond milk or coconut milk if you like your protein shake on the creamier side.  Make it your own so that you’ll look forward to having it for breakfast every day!   Protein shakes take about 3 minutes to prepare, and you can drink them on the go.  They are also a great breakfast option for children, especially for picky eaters who aren’t as interested in protein and vegetables.

This whey protein contains all the amino acids and a blend of organic fruits and greens, making it perfect for children who are picky eaters.

This whey protein contains all the amino acids and a blend of organic fruits and greens, making it perfect for children who are picky eaters.

Young or old, we all need protein in the morning.  Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, and if you stick to no other resolutions this year, you should make sure you and your family start the day with a high-protein meal.  Try a healthy protein shake in the morning, and I bet you’ll notice you have better energy, focus and mood all day.  I tend to crave less sugar and starchy carbohydrates on my shake days.


One of my favorite shake brands is the OptiCleanse GHI. This brown-rice protein is gluten, dairy and soy free, and it contains ingredients that mend the gut, support the liver and clear inflammation.

Longevity has several high-quality protein shakes in our walk-in pharmacy, and knowledgeable staff members that can help you find the best one for you.  We each have our own favorite brands we can recommend!  Every shake we carry is gluten-free, and we have both vegan and non-denatured whey options.  We also carry shakes that help mend the gastrointestinal tract, balance hormones and cater to those with blood sugar imbalances.  All our shakes are 15% off in the month of January, just in time to help you jump-start your New Year’s resolutions.  We’re also discounting our healthy oils, hemp hearts, greens powders and chlorophyll liquid, all wonderful additions to your morning shake.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2013!

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Who is your fitness idol?

This American Fitness Timeline on the New York Times Website inspired this post.

Isn’t it interesting to see all the different fitness icons America has looked up to over the past 60 years?  And isn’t it sad that despite all our great role models, the percentage of obese Americans continues to climb?  Even so, it’s fun to reminisce.  As a child of the 80s, I can remember  wearing out the Jane Fonda video with my mom and sisters as she showed us how to work up a sweat and rock the leg warmers!  In high school I had Billy Blanks’ Tae Bo videos memorized.

So all this got me to thinking about fitness idols and who we’ve looked to for inspiration over the years.  Nowadays, we have a plethora of diet gurus and celebrities to admire (or hate).  I love it when an actress, singer or model is honest about her fitness struggles and tells the truth about how hard she works to get her body looking the way it does.  When a celebrity says she eats whatever she wants and just chases her kids around to stay in shape, it absolutely drives me nuts.  These people are either lying or very lucky, and either way I think they are evil!

We're so fascinated when celebrities struggle to stay fit just like us.

As much as I love to read about what the celebrities are doing to keep their rock hard bods, I have to keep in mind that many of them have trainers, personal chefs and other staff dedicated to making sure they look fabulous at all times.  That’s why some of my biggest fitness idols are people I actually know, like a great group fitness instructor,  or people who are constantly training for marathons.  Also, I’m always really inspired when I see those individuals who successfully lose lots of weight and keep it off WITHOUT using some kind of crash diet.

Two of my fitness role models are in my family, my sister Harmony, and my sister-in-law Shannon.  Both of them have a few kids under their belt, but don’t let the carpool stickers on their SUVs fool you.  These ladies are hard-core.  They’re always training for the next race and make their workouts a priority despite basketball games and PTA meetings.

When I see people eating well, pushing their body to its limits and losing weight the RIGHT way, it really encourages me and makes me think, “If they can do it, so can I!”   Some days, we need all the motivation and accountability we can get!

It’s only natural to be a little envious when it seems to come easier to others than it does for yourself.  But rather than letting it get you down on yourself and the amazing body the Big Guy Upstairs gave you, let it inspire you and push you to the next level.  It’s never constructive to think negative thoughts about ourselves (Believe me, I know!).

So let’s hear it!  Who are your fitness idols of past and present and how have they impacted your health in a positive way?  You never know, you just might be someone’s health role model!


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I Can’t Get No Inspiration

I’m not one to sugar coat things, so I’m just going to say it.  This is a really rough time of year when it comes to our health and fitness.  Between the parties, family dinners, the gift baskets and the constant stream of treats through the office break room, we’re bombarded with opportunities to eat junk.  And with all the social commitments, the shopping and to-do lists, who has time to exercise?  Most people just do their best to survive the season and plan to get back on track with their health at the New Year.

The holidays bring new temptations around every corner.

But unfortunately, I’m not the kind of person who can just let things go for a month or two without packing on some serious pounds, not to mention the fact that I just don’t feel good when I’m not eating right and exercising regularly.  Last week I was feeling things begin to slip, so this week, I decided to kick it up a notch and get a little jump on my New Year goals.

I joined a new gym that opened Monday, and it is amazing!  I’ve never been a member of a gym this nice.  Each cardio machine has an iPod docking station and a personal T.V., the classes are awesome, the dressing room is immaculate and all the equipment is brand new.  The atmosphere feels more like a spa than a gym, so it makes me want to stay longer and workout harder.  Even though I’m not much of an early bird these days, I even got up and went to the gym before work a couple of mornings this week.  I noticed over the last few days that when I upped my fitness game, it made me want to eat lighter as well.

I’m saying all this not to brag (Because Lord knows I’m not perfect!), but just to say that I’m feeling inspired and really motivated, and that’s just what I needed to make it through the remainder of the holiday season.

So today I want to issue a challenge.  Find something that will inspire you to finish 2010 well.  Think about what really motivates you to eat a little healthier and work out a little harder.  Maybe it’s a brand new playlist for your iPod, a new pair of jeans, an upcoming class reunion, taking up a new fitness activity or finding an exercise buddy.  Get motivated today, and you’ll get a two-week jump on your New Year’s resolutions!

Show the holidays who's boss!

So now it’s your turn.  I’d love to hear what inspires you to live a healthy life, so please feel free to leave a comment.  You might just give us all a little boost of motivation, and we need all the help we can get!

Anyone can give up, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength.
— Author Unknown

P.S. If you have a suggestion for a blog topic in 2011, leave that for me as a comment as well.  Or just let me know what kinds of posts you enjoy the most.  (Do you want more recipes, grocery store spotlights, information on specific foods, etc.?)  I’m always happy to research the nutrition topics my readers are curious about, so don’t be shy!

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Bye, Bye Early Birdie

For the first 26 years of my life, I was a bona fide morning person.  It seemed no matter what time I went to sleep, I could hop right up out of the bed and accomplish several things before most people came out of R.E.M. mode.  I had no problem with early morning classes in college and I was always first in to the office when I entered the work force.  For the three years that I worked at a PR firm, I got up most days around 5:15 and drove to the gym for a pre-work cardio, session with a trainer, or a body pump class.

But then something happened.  I got married.

My husband is in no way to blame for my sudden loss of morning motivation.  In fact, he’s up every morning at 5:30 and out the door by 6.  I can’t explain it, but ever since I said “I do” on the first of the year, it’s been so difficult for me to drag myself out of my warm, cozy bed at 7:30, even if I’m in the bed before 10 p.m.  What happen to me?  I’m eating healthier than ever and I have plenty of energy during the day, but it seems I’m just not an early bird anymore.

Most days this doesn’t stop me from working out all together.  I just go after work when I’m loose and alert and fully coherent, but there are a couple days a week when I have commitments in the evening that keep me from exercising, or at least from getting a long, quality workout.  There are also those days when my brain is totally fried at the end of the work day, and the thought of doing anything besides vegging out with a glass of wine is pretty daunting.  Those are the days that I could really benefit from working out in the morning when I’m fresh.

In 2009, just over a third of men and women of working age—25 to 64 years old—engaged in regular physical activity.

On the days that I do get up early to exercise, it’s because my husband has literally forced me by either turning on the lights or pulling the covers off me, and that’s exactly what happened this morning.  Even though I asked him to make sure I got up, I had a lot of hate in my heart for him when he actually did it!

As hard as it is to jump on that treadmill or to obey Jillian Michael’s orders to push harder when my body just wants to be curled up in the sheets, I feel so much better when I get that workout out of the way first thing.  I find I have more energy throughout the day, I’m more motivated to eat well, and I can enjoy my evening without feeling guilty about skipping out on my workout.  I think getting my body moving early also does wonders for my stress levels throughout the day.

All of this got me wondering if there really is a best time of day to workout.  According to the experts interviewed in this article, calories aren’t burned more efficiently at any particular time of day, and you really just need to pick a time that is most convenient with your lifestyle and schedule so you’ll stick with it.  I found another fascinating article in U.S. News and World Report about how morning exercise can boost your career because it leads to elevated mood and productivity.

Exercising in the morning helps us sleep better at night. Working out in the evening hours can create an adrenalin rush that can inhibit quality sleep.

Other experts say the optimal workout time is in the late afternoon, when our temperature is at its peak, because our muscles are warmed up and we can put more power and energy into our movements.

There are a lot of conflicting messages out there, but I think if I had it my way, I would work out every day around 9 a.m.  My body would be fully awake and I’d still have lots of energy to push myself.  But since a little thing called a job gets in the way of that, I guess I better get my hand off the snooze button and start working out early in the morning as much as I can, especially on days like today when I won’t have time to squeeze it in after work.  That will be my Thanksgiving resolution (Oh gosh, now it’s in writing.  I fear my husband may use this against me come 6 a.m. tomorrow!).

So I want to hear from you.  What is your ideal workout time?  Are you an early birdie or a night owl?  Or perhaps mid-morning or mid-afternoon is your sweet spot.  Do you choose that time due to your schedule or because of the quality of your workout?

As always, I welcome your feedback as well as any tips for transforming me back into the morning person I once was!

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You’re Pretty and You’re Skinny!

We have a very important saying in the Anderson family.  Every man who has joined the clan (I have five sisters) had to first learn our mantra. Whenever a woman asks them a question, this should be their response. “You’re pretty and you’re skinny!”

For all you male readers, you could also really benefit by learning this phrase.  I’ll demonstrate how it works.

Female: “Does this dress make me look fat?”  Male: You’re pretty and you’re skinny!

Female: “Is that girl prettier than me?”  Male: You’re pretty and you’re skinny!”

Female: “Should we eat in or get take out tonight?” Male: You’re pretty and you’re skinny!”

Female: “Why do you keep leaving the toilet seat up?”  Male: “You’re pretty and you’re skinny!”

Are you getting it?  It’s really a win-win situation no matter how you cut it! Anyway, I’m telling you all this because it relates to today’s topic.  I want to talk a bit more about motivation and how having someone there to encourage, affirm and partner with us helps us reach our nutrition and fitness goals.

I already know it’s really important to me.  I’m always more motivated to work out when I have a buddy, whether we are taking a power walk together, meeting for a class, or running a race.  It holds me accountable to show up when I know someone is waiting for me, and it just makes the workout more fun.  It also really inspires me when someone notices the progress I’ve made (Affirmation, as well as sushi, is my love language! Thankfully, Shea has been well-trained to assure me that I’m pretty and skinny on a regular basis!).

As Dr. Adam Shafran, an exercise physiologist and chiropractor who wrote You Can’t Lose Weight Alone: The Partner Power Weight Loss Program said, “Most people put all their effort into finding the right diet or exercise program but don’t put any energy into creating a support and accountability system, and too often, that’s where the devil lies.”

There are plenty of studies to back this up.  For example, in research published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology in 2005, doctors at Brown Medical School and Dartmouth University found that people who had an exercise buddy who successfully lost weight were more successful at losing, too.

As many of us know, it’s easy to get discouraged when you’re working so hard to get results, whether you’re trying to improve your overall health or shed some pounds.  In fact, discouragement is what leads so many people to give up, even when they are so close to reaching their goals or making progress.  This is where a kind word or an invitation to do something active with a friend or family member can make all the difference!

So, if you’re trying to improve your diet, ramp up your exercise routine, train for a race, stabilize your blood pressure or reach any other health or fitness goal, make sure you’re surrounding yourself with positive, encouraging people who will inspire you to stay on track and even partner with you in your healthy lifestyle changes.  Tell them about your goals and ask them to hold you accountable for the choices you make.  Also, make sure you are influencing the people around you for the better.  It’s so frustrating to me when people tease me for making exercise a priority or try to convince me not to order the salad over the fries.  Don’t be a hater!  Even if we don’t need to lose any weight, we can all benefit from eating a little lighter and staying active.

Here are a couple of interesting articles I found on this subject:

Gain Self-Esteem and Lose Weight

Self-Esteem, Support Key to Realistic Weight Loss

Have a great Thursday, and go tell someone that they are pretty and skinny!

“Everyone has inside them a piece of good news. The good news is you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!” ~ Anne Frank

“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind.
Some come from ahead and some come from behind.
But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready you see.
Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!”

~ Dr. Seuss

P.S. What motivates you to live your best life?  Is it affirming words, having a workout buddy, or something else?  I want to hear from you!


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On Your Mark, Get Set, Go! Nutrition Tips for Endurance Athletes

The topic of today’s post was requested by my dear buddy Lauren, who is one of the kindest and most hilarious people I know.  Lauren definitely needs to be giving her body the right fuel, because she does things like this.

Normally I would never post a picture of one of my friends in a bathing suit, but this was Lauren's Facebook profile picture, so I figured I'm safe.

So, today’s post is all about how to eat when you’re engaging in extreme exercise activities like races and triathlons (Do you think shopping counts?).  There are a lot of misconceptions out there, but I’m going to do my best to address four of them with the information I’ve been learning lately.

Is it true that I should load up on carbs the night before a race? NO!  Carbohydrates have many extremely valuable roles in the body, but providing long-term energy is not one of them.  Carbs provide a quick source of energy for our muscles, so they are better utilized right before a big workout, such as for breakfast on the day of the race (When I train, I go for a whole wheat English muffin with almond butter or a Clif Bar for breakfast on race day.).  If you eat a big plate of pasta the night before and don’t immediately use the energy, it just sits in your stomach during the night and makes you feel heavy the next day. As you might recall from my recent post, fats are the macro-nutrient that give you that long-burning fuel you need the night before pushing your body to its max, so don’t be afraid of that butter, olive oil, avocado or almonds.

What are electrolytes and what do they have to do with my workouts? Electrolytes are minerals that become capable of conducting electricity when dissolved in water.  In other words, water depends on electrolytes, for proper absorption, so you need them to stay hydrated! Electrolytes have four functions: They control the osmosis of water between fluid compartments, help to maintain the body’s pH balance, carry electrical current and are essential for optimal activity of enzymes.

When you exercise heavily, you lose electrolytes in your sweat, particularly sodium and potassium.  A great little trick for keeping your electrolytes up is to squeeze fresh lemon juice and throw a pinch of iodized sea salt into your water.  You can sip on that throughout the day before your evening workout, and it will help you stay better hydrated. 

Should I drink sports drinks to keep up my electrolytes? I can’t stress this enough: Always remember that there is no substitute for water! A lot of sports drinks boast their high number of electrolytes. Drinks like Gatorade can be appropriate at times, but just remember that they contain large amounts of sugar, so they’re not particularly beneficial for people who tend to be hypoglycemic (Blood sugar is abnormally low).  They can also induce insulin secretion, which produces more hunger.  I think sports drinks are okay, but only occasionally (such as race day) when you need to immediately replace the minerals that you are losing at a rapid pace.

There are 56 grams of sugar in a 32-ounce Gatorade! It also contains red and blue dye!

What about eating energy snacks like Gu gel and Shot Bloks to keep me going during my workouts? I feel the same way about these snacks as I do about the sports drinks.  They may be alright in extreme circumstances, such as the day of the race.  I don’t think they are great for regular use as many of them contain high amounts of sugar, chemicals, dyes, etc.  If I had to choose one over another, I would go with the Clif Shot Bloks because they don’t contain caffeine and they are sweetened with brown rice syrup.  Whole Foods and other natural food stores sell these almond and peanut butter packets.  They are a great mid-workout snack because they provide protein, carbs for immediate energy, and fat for long-burning fuel.

These would also be great to pack in your lunch or your child's lunch box with an apple!

I hope this post was helpful to you.  I think the best advice I can give to those extreme athletes out there is to eat as many properly prepared, nutrient dense, whole meals as they can and avoid falling into the fat-free/low-fat trap.  You need lots of good fat, protein and low-glycemic carbs (fruits and veggies) to keep yourself going.

Wow, all this talk of training makes me want to sign up for another race!  Have a great day everyone, and please keep the questions and requests coming!


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Motivation, Schmotivation

Hello everyone!  I hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July with friends and family.  My weekend in the mountains was great.  A little too great in the area of eating and lounging if you know what I mean.   Our family doesn’t play around when it comes to feeding time.  We barely have one meal cleared before we start working on the next one!  I imagine that like me, many of you are trying to get back on the horse today a undo some of the weekend damage. What we need is a good dose of motivation!

I’ve been thinking the last few days about what really motivates me to eat well and stay fit, and I thought this would be a perfect topic for my budding little blog community.  Here are a few tricks that I try to incorporate on a daily basis to motivate myself to make healthy choices.

  • Since I work full-time, most days I have to workout in the evenings.  This is always so difficult for me because I’m drained from a long day and just so ready to go home, eat dinner and relax with some reality television.  One thing that motivates me to get my tush to the gym is to pack a gym bag every day and go ahead and change into my workout clothes BEFORE I leave the office.  I drive right by my house on the way to the gym, so if I stopped to change clothes there, I would never leave again!
  • I love to read, and I’ve found that listening to audio books while I workout can make the time fly by.  I like to download books from itunes onto my iPod and only allow myself to listen when I’m doing something active, usually doing the elliptical or taking a power walk around the neighborhood.  It motivates me to workout more often and for longer periods of time when I’m enthralled in a good book.  Right now I’m listening to my July book club selection, My Name is Memory…not bad!
  • Making a really upbeat playlist also makes me look forward to my workout, and it helps me put a little more pep in my step.  Save the slow songs for your cool down!
  • I love it when I can workout with a buddy.  I’m always taking a walk with one of my sisters, and on Wednesday nights we all head to zumba class.   Taking an after-dinner walk with my husband is one of my favorite things.   Good conversation always makes a workout fly by for me.
  • Replacing a meal with a protein shake is also a great way for me to get back on track.  I know that may not sound like that great of an option, but that’s just because you have not tried my delicious protein concoction!  It’s kind of a big deal.  I like to use OptiCleanse GHI in the Chai flavor, which is available in our pharmacy.  I add berries, some flax meal, a teaspoon of coconut oil, some water and a bit of ice, and it is DELICIOUS.  I find that starting the day with a protein shake motivates me to make better meal choices all day long.
  • Another one of my tricks is picking a goal outfit that I want to fit in to.  Everybody has a pair of skinny jeans or a snug dress they want to get back in to.  For me it’s better to have a goal like this rather than always looking for results on the scale.

Ok, that’s all I can think of for now, but I would LOVE to hear from the readers.  What motivates you to eat right and exercise?  Leave me a comment so that everyone can benefit from your tricks!

Here’s to being back on the wagon!

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