So Fresh & So Clean

I think I’ve finally discovered the secrets to properly cleansing with juice.

1. Too much fruit juice will spike your blood sugar level. The come-down sucks. Green vegetables should be the main source of nutrients.

2. Adding nut milk to the cleanse changes EVERYTHING. Especially if you intend to exercise and/or stand on your feet all day at work while cleansing.

3. Have fun! Don’t act like this was the worst idea you’ve ever had. If you feel that way, don’t do it.

Here’s a recap of my three-day juice cleanse:

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DAY ONE

I woke up early (8am) even though it was my day off. Immediately went to the kitchen and made myself a shot of lemon juice, ginger and cayenne pepper. Yow! Forget about needing coffee..

Around 10am I had my first full juice of the day: Cranberry-Apple. A nice, slightly sour yet refreshing fruit juice to give me a bit of an energy boost for the day. You know, to do laundry… and watch X-Files…

Next up, around noon, I made a surprisingly good green juice. Usually when I make green juices I like to add an apple or pear for some sweetness, but I refrained and stuck to hard greens (including parsley, for a little punch). It was so good though! Definitely not too dense like some green juices can be, probably because I used half a cucumber along with the leafy greens.

I went ahead and pre-made my green juices for the following day at this time. I have a masticating, cold-press juicer so the juices tend to stay fresher longer. Juices made with centrifugal juicers tend to only last 8-12 hours as opposed to my juicer’s 24-48.

In the afternoon I made this really simple, REALLY awesome turmeric tonic. I didn’t know much about turmeric but I had heard it was good during a cleanse, although I was afraid it would taste like cumin. It didn’t, of course. Turmeric is closely related to ginger and is therefore sweet and spicy. The tonic was basically lemon, turmeric, ginger, cayenne and coconut sugar. So so so so SO good. I would drink this every day (and may). Definitely kept me from crashing in the afternoon and craving any snacks.

A few hours later I had another simple, sweeter juice. Carrot juice. You just can’t go wrong with carrot juice. It’s not too sweet, very light and pure tasting and packed with so many nutrients.

My second green juice of the day I drank around 6pm, before going to the gym. It was just a few hard, leafy greens (kale and chard, mainly) mixed with coconut water for sweetness. The coconut water packed some much-needed potassium and electrolytes before working out.

So, I took a spin class that night. I felt like a bit of cardio would be do-able on the first night of a cleanse. I made sure to not over-exert myself. It is important to get some light exercise in while cleansing, but most people recommend yoga or long walks. I liked the push of cycling. I sat in the sauna for about 20 minutes afterwards and let the toxins sweat out of my body. It felt amazing.

Of course, then my blood sugar level started to drop. But LUCKILY I brought along my final “juice” of the day. Almond milk! Delicious. Just what I needed after a workout. In fact, I recommend raw, fresh almond or cashew milk after a workout to anyone, any time. About a cup of almonds, 2 cups of water (or coconut water, YUM), and a little coconut sugar blended in a Vitamix, or something similar. Just make sure you drain the results through a nut bag/cheese cloth/coffee filter otherwise it tastes a little grainy and thick.

DAY TWO & THREE

I woke up feeling AWESOME both days. No allergies, no pains, no hunger, nothing. I felt well-rested and barely needed my alarm to get me out of bed. I biked to work, and felt strong and energetic the whole way. Each morning I drank some hot water with lemon and honey first thing which helped get my body in gear.

I felt great all day. I drank the same juices as the previous day and didn’t feel sick or even terribly hungry once. Cran-apple around 10am, green juice at noon, turmeric/ginger tonic and carrot juice in the afternoon, then the green coconut juice and almond milk at night. I also managed not to over exert myself even though I biked a total of 10 miles throughout the day, each day.

I felt light, happy and so clean by the end of the third day. This was by far the best cleanse I’ve ever done. Upping the veggie to fruit ratio and adding a nut milk really changed everything. There was never an unpleasant moment and I was glad to be able to continue exercising, if only gently.

POST-CLEANSE

The day after my cleanse I woke up and made a big bowl of oatmeal. I added a spoonful of hemp powder for protein plus some strawberries. My body was happy to be eating again, especially something so clean. I continued the day with more clean eats: raw veggies and fruits and nothing heavier than eggs and beans. I also went on a 6 mile run in Central Park and, I must say, it felt great.

The cleanse left me feeling stronger in body and mind. Everything inside of me is at peace for the moment. I feel like somebody hit the reset button and I have a clean slate to work with, to build up from. A juice cleanse may not be for everyone but I highly recommend it for anyone just looking for a little push in the right direction. There is no reason you should ever be unhappy with the things you are putting your body; it’s never too late to get back on track and rid yourself of any toxic intake. Whether you find that change through a juice cleanse or not, well, that’s your prerogative.

Stay Clean!

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To Cleanse Or Not To Cleanse

The juice cleanse trend has been steadily building over the past couple of years but this season it has completely blown up. Juice. Is. Everywhere. Promises of weight loss, body detoxification, and a dozen other health benefits saturate every website, billboard, magazine or other platform these juice companies can get their hands on. Meanwhile, every fitness studio, organic health food store, or passerby on the street has an opinion on the matter. So how do you know if a juice cleanse is right for you?

Reasons Not To Cleanse:
1. Juice cleansing is virtually the same as crash dieting. Most people tend to choose to do a juice cleanse after the holidays or a binge weekend, looking for a quick remedy to rectify their poor eating choices. There is rarely a plan to change bad habits, just a quick few days of feeling better and then straight back to an unhealthy lifestyle.
2. Fruits have an extremely high sugar content. If you drink juices based in fruit rather than vegetable then your blood sugar levels are sure to continually spike and crash without the accompaniment of whole grains, fiber or protein.
3. The weight loss isn’t real. The weight you lose during a juice cleanse is mostly water weight. You will most certainly gain it back if no conscious changes are made to your eating habits onces you introduce solid foods back in.

All three points are completely valid. I agree that the reasons many people choose to cleanse are not the most virtuous, but I also believe that a cleanse can be a great push in the right direction and with a little help it’s not hard to break old habits.

Reasons Why I DO Cleanse:
Sometimes I need a few days to pause, clear my head and restart my system. I am a generally healthy person but once in awhile I start to lose sight of what my body needs and begin developing bad eating habits. My tendency towards choosing a cleanse to get back on track is different from a “crash diet.” After a short cleanse you are fully in control of your next step. Do you break the fast with a huge burger and fries? Or do you slowly introduce raw vegetables and legumes into your body? The latter choice is the only way to properly end a juice cleanse. Otherwise, yes, it IS essentially a crash diet; a quick fix. This doesn’t mean that you have to “go raw” and never eat cooked foods or meats again. It just means that you should be completely aware of everything you put in your body throughout the day. (Although a vegan, raw lifestyle is nothing to scoff at.) A cleanse is just a great way to clear your mind and get you serious about your eating habits.

I have tried the different big name juice cleanses as well as a few from local providers, and they all have their pros and cons. Personally, I prefer to make my own juices. It’s more time-consuming, sure, but worth it in the end to both my pocket and mind. Not only is juicing from home much cheaper but it allows you to really see how much produce goes into each ounce of juice. Being a part of the process rather than just a consumer makes you more aware of your own body and the effects of each vegetable or fruit on your system. You can fit a WHOLE lot of servings of fruits and vegetables into one big glass of juice. I should probably emphasize here that a good cleanse does NOT rely on fruits for the base of its juices. As stated before, fruits are VERY high in sugar especially when you use as much as needed for a glass of juice. Vegetables have a lower Glycemic Index and will not spike your blood sugar levels the way too much fruit will. It is important to base your juices mostly in vegetables while safely incorporating lesser amounts of fruit. It is true that minimal fiber and no grain is incorporated into a cleanse and it is not healthy to restrict your body for an extended amount of time from the other nutritious foods it needs. Proper cleanses contain about 1,000 to 1,200 calories a day and include some sort of nut-milk in order to provide a small amount of fat and protein to the diet.

So in conclusion, juice cleanses are indeed a quick and easy fix to some larger problem. The controversy lies in the choices you choose to make after cleansing. Some people need the clean slate that a cleanse provides in order to change their overall habits and behaviors with food. If you can establish a healthy relationship with food, eventually your healthy body will self-correct after a binge and crave wholesome, clean food. A juice cleanse is a great first step in that direction.

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Stay tuned the next few days as I embark on my own 3-Day Juice Cleanse: more updates later tonight!

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What Did You Have For Lunch Today?

Did it look as good as this?

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We just threw together some Watercress, asparagus, string beans, avocado, tuna, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, a little radicchio and some easy lemon tahini dressing. Boom.

Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram!

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Day Seven: Plie with Side Lift

Here it is, the last post of our Pilates series this week. This final workout has a little more movement involved than the previous stretches. Adding cardio makes this muscle-toning stretch even more effective. Get ready to work that core and blast that fat!

1. Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart with arms extended out to the sides.
2. Inhale, turn feet out and bend knees 90 degrees into a plie.
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3. Exhale, straighten right leg while lifting left leg out to side.
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4. Inhale, lower back into the plie position. Repeat on the opposite side.

Continue alternating on each leg, inhaling as you bend your knees and exhaling as you extend. Speed up a little to get your heart rate up, but keep an eye on your posture. It should look something like this:

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If you missed any of the posts this week, be sure to go back and try the other stretches out. Let us know what you thought!

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Day Six: Ball Roll

How are you feeling this morning? Still rolling around in bed? Here’s a great little exercise that is sure to wake up your abs and back. Rolling exercises like this are a great way to stimulate the spine, deeply work the abdominals, and bring you in touch with your body’s balance and flow.

1. Sit on your mat and clasp your hands over your shins, just above the ankle with feet slightly lifted.
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2. Drop your shoulders and deepen your abdominals, making a curve in your spine. Don’t tuck your head, your neck is part of the long curve.
3. Inhale, pull the lower abs in as you roll backwards onto the mat. Roll only to the shoulders, do not roll onto the neck. Pause here.
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4. Exhale, keep your spine curved and deeply scooped as you use your abdominal muscles to slowly return to an upright position. Gain your balance here before repeating the roll.

Now get out there and enjoy this beautiful weekend.

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Day Five: Glute Stretch

It’s Friday! We are so so so close to the weekend, but don’t let that defer you from continuing to exercise. A healthy body is a happy body.

Now let’s talk about that butt. This stretch is a great way to get rid of any tightness you may feel in your hips and glutes. Keeping proper posture in the spine (the way this week’s previous stretches taught you) is important to bring this stretch even deeper.

1. Sit on a chair or bench with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
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2. Cross right leg over thigh of opposite leg, with the ankle just above your left knee.
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3. Inhale, lean forward until you feel the stretch in the buttock of the crossed leg. Keep your spine straight and hold for 30 seconds. Breathe evenly.
4. Exhale, come back to an upright position.
5. Switch legs and repeat.

Stay relaxed, the weekend is here.

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Day Four: Spine Stretch Forward

We’ve officially passed the halfway point in this week. Thursday is always such a long day but, hey, it’s almost the weekend.

Today we’ve got one of the easiest Pilates stretches you can do. This Spine Stretch Forward is a great way to strengthen and stretch the body.

1. Sit up tall with your legs straight and spread slightly wider than the width of your hips.
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2. Inhale, sit up as tall as you can, lengthening from the base of your spine. Flex your feet and reach through your heels to engage your leg muscles.
3. Exhale, round your back into a C Curve, scooping your belly towards your spine and pulling the ribs in, rounding your neck and head forward towards your legs.
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4. Inhale, slowly come back to the first position, stacking up your spine one vertebrae at a time.
5. Exhale, finish sitting tall as in your starting position, with your arms extended in front of you and your shoulders relaxed and dropped.

Simple, painless, but effective. Treat yo’spine.

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Day Three: Knee Folds

It’s Wednesday! Hopefully your week has been off to a great start with the Pilates stretches you’ve been trying out at home.

Today we’ve got a really easy, yet really helpful stretch. These Knee Folds engage the core (flat abs!) while relying on stability and efficiency in your movements. The alternating lifts create a deep fold in the hip socket while keeping the pelvis stable, resulting in a great core stability challenge.

1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Keep your neck long and relaxed and your spine in a neutral position.
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2. Inhale, pull the navel into the back and lift one leg into a 90 degree angle at the knee.
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3. Exhale, return the leg to starting position, releasing back to a neutral spine position.
4. Repeat, continue alternating legs, inhaling on the lift, exhaling to return.

Want to feel that burn? Add a cervical curl (crunch) as you lift your leg.
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Keep it up! See you tomorrow!

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Day Two: Hip Flexor Stretch

Today is the second post in our “Seven Days of Pilates” series.

Your hip flexor is located in one of the more hard to stretch areas of the body. More often than not we overlook these muscles, as a good stretch is so hard to find. This kneeling lunge is a great way to prevent any painful injuries in your hip and groin areas that may occur from lack of stretching.

1. Begin in a kneeling position on a soft but firm surface.
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2. Inhale, lift one leg up and in front of you. Place it about a foot away from your body at a 90 degree angle.
3. Exhale, slowly lean forward into your front leg while keeping the opposite knee connected with the ground. You should feel a pull on the inside of your hips as you lean forward.
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4. Hold this position for 10 to 15 breaths and then release.
5. Repeat with the opposite leg.

We would love to hear your feedback about the stretches we are posting this week! Go ahead and leave a comment or tweet us @bkstrength.

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Seven Days of Pilates: Coccyx Curl

Do you ever wonder what stretches you could be doing at home in between sessions to get that metabolism boost and keep your muscles loose? This week we will be featuring a different Pilates stretch each day that you can go ahead and try yourself.

Don’t let Monday get you down – kicking off the week, we will be starting with a Coccyx Curl.

“Coccyx” is just a fancy word for your tailbone. This is a great warm up for your lower back and core as it really gets you connected to your deep abdominals. Grab a mat and let’s get started!

1. Lie on your back with knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
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2. Inhale, find your neutral spine with arms down by your sides.
3. Exhale, pull navel in towards the spine and squeeze your lower glute muscles, flattening your low back onto the mat.
4. Inhale, pull up to a bridge position while slowly rolling your tailbone off the mat. Your body should make a straight line from shoulders to knees.
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5. Exhale, roll one vertebra at a time back down, through the navel. Return to neutral spine.

Repeat as many times as you feel your body needs. Keep your movements slow and concentrated. Don’t forget to breathe!

Come back tomorrow for another great Pilates stretch.

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