Cherry Smoothie

Today’s smoothie:

cherry smoothie

1/2 cup plain 2% Greek yogurt
1/2 cup frozen cherries
2 cups mixed baby greens
1/2 of a banana
1 Tbps flax seeds, ground
Water

248 Calories / 7 g fat / 16 g protein / 19 g sugar

This was my first time using frozen cherries. They weren’t very sweet or flavorful, even by themselves. I’m guessing the lack of flavor is a due to the low quality of fruit and it being frozen, which mutes flavors on things. So I added banana instead of more cherries.

How am I getting all of these fruits? Target has the best selection of frozen fruits for cheap. I didn’t know you could buy frozen mangoes, pineapples, peaches, or cherries. During the spring and summer, I try and stick to my farmer’s markets. Up here that means only berries, pears, or peaches. Now that I have discovered Target fruit, I went all out with frozen, non-organic tropical fruits. It’s the little luxuries in life.

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Natural and Cheap Alternative to Protein Powder

This may seem like a no-brainer, but as I was thinking about how to add protein to my smoothies without processed, chemical-filled, expensive protein powder, it dawned on me that yogurt is a perfect substitute for protein powder. Why didn’t I think of this before? Because I was brainwashed!

To compare:

1 serving of Perfect Fit Protein Powder = 15 grams of protein for 70 calories.
1 single-serve container of nonfat Greek yogurt = 15 grams of protein for 80 calories. 

And yogurt is ridiculously cheaper. Perfect Fit, which is organic, costs over $1.30 per serving at its cheapest. A 32 oz tub of organic yogurt costs $4 which would be around 63 cents per serving. So-called health companies are tricking you into believing that their products are special and you need them, but as usual, whole foods can deliver the same benefits. Making a smoothie takes more effort than mixing a shake but you don’t truly “need” the entire smoothie production. You could just swallow a damn yogurt and get the same amount of protein. Chugging plain unflavored yogurt doesn’t sound any worse than chugging chalky, gritty ass protein powder.

Ditch your protein powders and buy organic, plain, no-sugar-added yogurt.

Review: Vega One Nutritional Shake

When I last left off, I told you about a clean, low calorie, but gross tasting protein shake (Perfect Fit). I’m happy to report that I finally found one that I like: Vega One.

vega one nutrtional shake

Vega One Nutrtional Shake – 12 serving size

A couple of months ago, they had a call for bloggers to apply for their blogger campaign, but I didn’t do it because I didn’t want to be obliged to write a positive review, especially after the not-so-Perfect Fit. Now I regret it! Whole Foods had it on sale for 40% off and I was curious, so after checking out the label, I went ahead and bought it. Since I’d be mostly mixing it with other ingredients, I bought the “natural” flavor.

At a quick glance, the label looks impressive:

  • vegan! no dairy
  • no GMOs
  • 50% of vitamins and minerals
  • 3 servings of greens
  • probiotics
  • omega 3’s
  • 15g protein
  • ingredients list includes protein from hemp/pea/brown rice, plus flax seeds, chia seeds, broccoli, kale, spinach!

It is around 140 calories per serving, which for me is a little bit high since I’m mixing it with other things but if you get a flavored kind and don’t add mixer, that’s pretty good.

For my first test, I made the exact same carrot juice smoothie as I did using the Perfect Fit powder – so that I could do a fair comparison, and because I already had a big bottle of carrot juice. The difference was huge. The Vega shake was smooth, not sandy like Perfect Fit. The sweetness is also very light, whereas the stevia in Perfect Fit feels like it coats my mouth and stays there forever. In fact, I think my favorite thing about the Vega shake is that the level is sweetness is just right. It seems natural, not like sugar substitute.

Next I tried to the mixing test to see how well it would mix without a blender. I put a scoop in a shaker bottle with a blender ball, added carrot juice and water, and shook it up. It definitely wasn’t as good as blending it with banana (that’s expected) but it was better than I expected. It was mostly smooth except a couple of crunchy bits, which is not as gross as it sounds. If you’ve ever added ground flax seeds or wheat germ to a smoothie, it was like that. I didn’t mind it. I had to keep shaking it up though because a lot of the green vegetable sediment would start to settle on the bottom. Definitely not a deal breaker.

For smoothies, I’ve only made the “carrot cake” smoothie using a half scoop of Vega, 1/2 cup of carrot juice, 1/2 banana, handful of spinach, and cinnamon. I think it clocks in at around 200 calories. Even after the 40% off, it was $24 for this 12-serving size. There is a larger size, which is 24 servings for $70 (reg)/$42 (sale). You get what you pay for though. We all know that high quality food costs more, and your supplements are no exception. I can justify buying it at this sale price, but at full price ($40 for 12 servings) I couldn’t do it. I guess I better go stock up while it’s on sale!

A review of Perfect Fit Protein Powder

In a perfect world, I wouldn’t need protein shake or meal replacement shake (I am learning that they are two different things). Meal replacement shakes are filled with chemicals and fake ingredients, which I normally try to avoid. However, I have to go with what works for me. I’ve tried for years, but I just find it too hard to eat real food for breakfast on weekdays. I still do the instant oatmeal packets but without protein or fat, I get hungry. If I don’t plan ahead with my smoothie, I end up not eating until like 10 am and then I might cave and get something really cheesey and unhealthy. So shakes are my compromise. They keep me in line.

The first protein shake I tried was Whole Foods 365 brand. It was good for adding to my vegetable shakes, but it didn’t mix well by itself without a blender. It was also too sweet for my taste buds. Then I tried GNC Lean Shake 25, and I thought it was perfect. The Cookies & Cream flavor tastes delicious, mixes with a blender bottle, and actually keeps me full. I even brought packets of it when I traveled. Then I noticed that it gave me acne. Like, really bad. I hadn’t seen it that bad since high school. I think it may be because the protein comes from milk. As I finished up my tub of Lean Shake, I started hearing more about mixes with plant-based protein sources such as peas and brown rice.

A few months ago, I got sample packets of Perfect Fit Protein. Perfect Fit Protein powder is an invention of the Tone it Up girls, which has an entire subculture/movement/cult on its own. The protein powder looked good on the outside:

perfect fit protein powder

Perfect Fit by Tone It Up

perfect fit protein powder

Perfect Fit Protein Powder – no sugar, 70 Calories, 3g carbs, 15g protein

The nutrition info looks good, and the ingredients list was nice and clean. The protein comes from brown rice and it’s certified organic! First, I used two packets to make their “famous” protein powder pancake, which skinny chicks on Instagram fucking love. It was very gritty, even in pancake form, and I couldn’t get the overwhelmingly sweet aftertaste out of my mouth.

perfect fit carrot cake smoothie

Carrot Cake Smoothie with Perfect Fit protein powder

Next I tried it in drink form. I made their recipe for a Carrot Cake smoothie. Long story short: still disgusting. I had to chug it down. It was so gritty even though it was blended up with the banana. Gross. Do not buy this.

Good news: I bought a new protein powder and used it in the same exact smoothie recipe. It was sooo good! More on that tomorrow.

Review: The Feed Zone Cookbook

As I finish training for my first marathon, and as my need for weight loss slows down, my big struggle is figuring out how to fuel for long distances without gaining weight. I wanted to read The Feed Zone Cookbook: Fast and Flavorful Food for Athletes because I wanted to know real athletes do it. I know I’m nowhere near a professional cyclist or a marathoner, but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn from their tricks. Plus, the book is written by a sports physiologist/cycling coach and professional chef duo (Biju Thomas and Dr. Allen Lim), which is a bangin combination for a nutrition cookbook. Lucky for me, the publishers gave me a copy to review.
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The cookbook has sections that suggest what to eat before, during, and after endurance activities, as well as some treats. There are many grab-and-go recipes that you can prep beforehand so that you have a nutritious breakfast or fuel on the go. Things like a waffle sandwich, burritos, savory muffins, and the popular rice cakes are all things I can have ready in your freezer for early morning race days.

Each recipe also has the basic nutritional breakdown. Since this is a cookbook for athletes, these recipes are not necessarily for people looking to lose weight. The dinner recipes come in at around 700+ calories; not exactly diet foods. If you are an experienced dieter, it wouldn’t be hard to adjust your portion sizes or the amount of carbs to make it fit your diet. I can incorporate the dinner recipes into rest days or short workout days by simply reducing/removing the rice and potatoes. I love that the recipes are totally in line with how I try eat normally – fresh, whole, unprocessed foods, veg-friendly, small amounts of meat. Another thing I like is that the meals are written for 2 servings. It works out perfectly for my house of two.

The recipes themselves have a lot of variety. It isn’t just brown rice, salmon, and broccoli every day. Since the recipes are meant to be fast and easy, I looked at some of them and wondered why I had never thought to put together these simple combinations of ingredients or put them in a different context. For example, eggs and rice were a standard “instant” meal for me growing up and here they appear as an easy to make, easy to digest athlete breakfast. Another “a-ha” is making mini frittatas bulked up with rice or potatoes right in with the egg to make it a small calorie-dense meal perfect for hiking, backpacking, or ultramarathons. The dinner recipes are real, normal food that are full of flavor, easy to make, and low in fat. Some recipes that I bookmarked to make: chicken tacos, veggie burgers (yes, from scratch!), wine and soy mushrooms, grilled chicken skewers with orzo, and spiced bison.

I have already made three recipes:

Allen Lim’s Rice Cakes, which I ate for breakfast before a 20 mile run. (Learn how to make them here) / text version

1

Pasta Salad with Blue Cheese and Nuts, eaten for dinner the day before the 20-miler:

3

Added to the pasta is chicken from the Whole Roasted Chicken recipe. I am terrible at roasting whole chickens and I only do it a couple of times per year. Brian was in charge of the chicken this time and it came out perfect. He decided that we need to do this more often. Ooh look – the chicken is also a free recipe / (text version). The chicken and pasta meal was so good that we made it twice.

When I read Feed Zone Portables: A Cookbook of On-the-Go Food for Athletes, I wondered why the recipes often used rice instead of bread. For example, why make a jelly “sandwich” out of rice cakes instead of just putting jelly between two slices of bread? It turns out that my question was answered in the intro of the first book. The authors spent a season cooking for a cycling team that decided to go gluten-free that year. They already developed many gluten-free recipes during that season and included them in this book. The chefs also had anecdotal evidence from professional championships and the Tour de France, where some athletes had positive results going gluten-free. That said, the authors are honest about the fact that they don’t advocate one type of diet over another. They just point out that gluten-free works well for many athletes while other athletes don’t like it at all. I appreciate these options because, I have noticed that when I started to “carb up” in prep for long runs, I felt bloated from the excess breads. I have been feeling much better now that I’m using rice as a primary carb source. I have cut back on rice in my everyday diet and being Asian, I miss it. At least there is room for it when I’m distance running 🙂

I also followed their advice which said that a slow moving athlete doesn’t need as many carbs as the blanket information given to athletes. I was told that with a long run pace of 13:00+/mile, I don’t have to worry as much about finding quick starches to digest because I’m burning a lot of fat. In practice, I have cut down on the fueling during these long runs and my times haven’t suffered. I used to take Clif blocks for things longer than 6 miles; generally one serving (100 Cal) for every 3 miles. For a half marathon distance, I used to eat 400 calories of Clif blocks (pure sugar) but now I would just take one or two servings (200 Cal total) of a Feed Zone Portable recipe. I think I need to experiment longer to know for sure how this works.

I assumed that this book was written for a “real” athlete, not a slow novice like myself. Whether that’s true or not, I learned a ton of new information about what the body needs to go hard. I feel like I’ve been “dieting” for so long that this book helped me see how I can continue to eat while not being on a diet. This book is so valuable for any athlete – from beginner to advanced; even if you’re like me and don’t consider yourself an athlete.

Check out the Feed Zone Cookbook’s free recipes here

Check out Dr. Allen Lim’s Ted Talk