How Important Is It to Count Macros?

Macronutrients, or macros, are the amount carbohydrates, proteins and fats that should be consumed daily as part of a healthy diet. The amount, usually listed in grams, is based on your height, weight, age and fitness goals. Losing weight is easily attained by following the 80/20 rule: 80% diet and 20% exercise. Ever hear the statement that abs are made in the kitchen? It’s absolutely true! So exactly how important is it to count macros? Read on, and I’ll explain!

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Undereating

When I started counting macros, I was amazed at how much I was undereating. Most people do because they don’t understand the importance of adequate nutrition or they’re afraid of gaining weight (see this article about quality calories). Without the proper amount of nutrition and calories, your health can actually suffer – your immune system will be compromised, energy levels will be low and you will lose muscle tone.

Lose or Maintain Weight

Eating the right amount of calories while still staying in a calorie deficit is an easy way to lose or maintain weight. Even the most sedentary person can benefit from reaching the macro goals during the day. To me, counting macros also makes meal prep a whole lot easier!

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Fuel for Workouts

Consuming the proper amount of macros will provide adequate energy for workouts or athletic activities. It will help build muscle and burn fat. Your results will happen quickly and be easy to maintain. You’ll build strength and endurance, and progress in your workouts!

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Helpful Apps

There are several apps that can help with macro counting. With most of them, you can plan meals for days in advance which helps take all of the guesswork out of counting! A few of those apps include:

  • Stupid Simple Macros
  • My Fitness Pal
  • If It Fits Your Macros
  • Macrostax

I personally use Macrostax and I love it because it also provides recipes to meet the macro goals at each meal. The recipes are clean and easy, customizable and mostly made with ingredients that are kept on hand.

An Important Tool

When counting macros, besides using an app, your other best friend will be a food scale (<– affiliate link!). If you’re serious about building muscle and losing fat, the proper amounts of food can make that happen. Estimating amounts of food leads to overeating and a food scale with keep you on track! Look for one with measurements in grams and ounces, as well as a tare function for meal prep!

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Counting macros is a healthy habit to learn and is very beneficial to your health. Do you count macros? How has it benefitted you? Let us know in the comments below!

Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken

Chicken is an excellent source of protein and can be cooked or seasoned in so many ways! My recipe for slow cooker shredded chicken is crazy easy, and makes meal prep a snap! All you need is fresh chicken breast (I use organic), a slow cooker and the seasoning of choice!

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Shredded chicken can be used in so many different dishes like tacos, salads, pasta dishes, enchiladas, sandwiches or even as a snack (with a little bit of sriracha!). I normally make this chicken completely plain, then season it as I use it in my recipes.

A couple of pounds of chicken can be cooked at a time then it can be refrigerated or frozen until needed.

Place a liner in the slow cooker (for easy clean up – affiliate link!), then place the chicken breasts inside. Season the chicken – or not – and place the lid on top. Turn the slow cooker on low and cook for approximately 8 hours. I like the chicken to be a bit on the dry side but if you’d prefer your chicken to be a bit moist, add about 1/2 cup of broth to the slow cooker.

Once the chicken is cooked, place the chicken on a cutting board and shred it using a couple of forks. Use it right away or store for later use!

This super-simple slow cooker shredded chicken is an easy way to get more clean protein in your diet. I like to use it in tacos… How would you use it? Let us know in the comments below!

Quality Calories In a Healthy Diet

It’s no secret that keeping calories under control is most beneficial for a healthy diet. I’m sure you’ve heard talk of quality calories in a healthy diet but what are they exactly? Read on, and I’ll explain it, as well as give helpful tips on how to get the most out of the calories consumed!

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What are Quality Calories?

Quality calories are foods that have a high nutritional value such as lean meats, veggies, fruits and nuts, and provide energy to fuel your body. These foods are low in calories and are extremely beneficial by providing the right vitamins and nutrients for a healthy body. The highest quantity of foods consumed should be of nutritional value and processed foods should be avoided.

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Positive Effects of Proper Nutrition

A diet rich in high quality foods reduces body fat, helps with muscle gains and can give you a younger appearance. Your skin will be clear and bright, your hair will be soft and shiny, and the body will be full of energy! A properly nutritious diet provides fuel for workouts and can help with proper sleep!

Quality Food Options

Let’s be honest… At the start of a healthy eating journey, it is so hard to give up some of the foods you love that don’t provide adequate nutrition. Trust me when I say that it is for the best and there are some really adequate substitutions! One small thing to start with is reducing the amount of processed foods consumed. It can be time consuming to cook every single meal, daily, from scratch, but it does eventually become a habit. Small changes will make a big difference!

Reduce the Use of Oil

Foods that are fried in oil are extremely high in fat. Fat is essential in any diet but large amounts of fat will equal fat on the body. Try using olive oil sparingly, or baking in an oven or air fryer. This will significantly reduce the fat content.

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The Dreaded Sweet Tooth

Have a sweet tooth? One of my favorite snacks to curb sweet cravings (besides my addiction to black grapes) is a sliced banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter and a tablespoon of dark chocolate chips. While it’s not exactly a substitute for a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, to me, it’s a close second!

Portion Control, Serving Sizes and Reading Food Labels

Regardless of the type of food consumed, the serving sizes are going to play a huge role in any diet. The label attached to any food is going to give nutrition information as well as the serving size. Of course, fruits and vegetables do not have labels attached to them but the nutrition info can be found here.

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So in all, quality calories in a healthy diet are essential for weight management, fuel for energy and overall health. What changes have you made to get more quality calories in your diet? Let us know in the comments below!

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5 Styles of Yoga Practices

It’s no secret that yoga is rising in popularity. Yoga is the connection between the body and the mind, and is so beneficial in so many ways. Whether it is spiritual or physical, a great yoga practice is healthy for everyone. But which style is right for you? Here are 5 styles of yoga practices you can try…

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Hatha (haa-thuh)

Hatha yoga is considered the “basics” of yoga focusing on the mind/body connection. Modern Hatha focuses on the breath and posture, while Traditional Hatha focuses on the balance between the mental spirit and physical body, as well as the connection with the consciousness. Hatha yoga is slow and methodical without a specific flow.

Ashtanga (aash-taang-guh)

Ashtanga yoga also synchronizes the breath to a series of postures. The postures build heat and clear the mind, while detoxifying the body and building greater mental focus. Ashtanga is thought to be a very athletic form of yoga. (Here is a really great article explaining the origins of Ashtanga!)

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Vinyasa (vuh-nyaa-sah)

Vinyasa, the most common form of yoga, is defined as a flow and sequence of postures strung together to move from one posture to another easily. Vinyasa yoga is variable, which means that the sequence can differ from practice to practice. Vinyasa yoga helps build strength and stability with the breath as the transition between postures.

Iyengar (ai-uhn-gaar)

Iyengar yoga focuses on proper alignment with the use of props (such as blocks and straps <– affiliate links!) and mastery of the postures to create a better opening of the body. Iyengar yoga is an excellent choice for every body, especially beginners, because of the use of the props to make the poses easier.

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Yin

Yin yoga is my favorite… Yin yoga focuses on stillness and calm, with the poses held for a significant amount of time to allow the fascia and ligaments to release. Yin is an excellent choice, in my opinion, for athletes and can help with mobility issues because of the length of time the pose is held.

Frequency of Practice

The frequency of a yoga practice is going to depend entirely on the individual. I practice twice a week with great benefits! Some may practice daily, and some may practice several times a day. Do you have a favorite amongst the 5 styles of yoga practice listed here? Do you have a favorite that isn’t mentioned here? Let us know in the comments below!

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Easy to Make Vegetable Broth

Vegetable broth is a great addition to soups, rice, pasta, etc., adding a light flavor, very little to no calories and plenty of nutrients! This easy to make vegetable broth doesn’t require special kitchen appliances or even a trip to the grocery store!

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When cutting veggies for any meal, save the scraps in a plastic bag or container in the freezer. When the bag is full, dump it into a slow cooker, Instant Pot or soup pot on the stove. Fill the pot with water and let the veggie scraps “brew”. I place the veggies in my 6qt. slow cooker and let it simmer on low all day before turning it off. Once it is cool, I remove the larger scraps and pour the broth through a small mesh colander into a freezer-safe container to store in the freezer.

The broth can be thawed in the refrigerator, on the counter or in a microwave. The best part about it is that it is basically free and there is no sodium or other additives. Of course, salt, pepper or other spices can be added, if desired.

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I’ve used all sorts of vegetable scraps for broth including:

  • Leaves and ends from carrots
  • Leaves and ends from celery
  • Potato skins (any type that I didn’t eat!)
  • Skin from eggplant and beets
  • Stems from kale, spinach or broccoli
  • Rinds from spaghetti squash or butternut squash
  • Peel and ends from zucchini
  • Stems from mushrooms
  • A jalapeno or other spicy pepper
  • Basically ANY part of any vegetable that I didn’t eat
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This easy to make vegetable broth can be stored in the freezer up to six months but in all honesty, it probably won’t last that long because it can be used in so many fabulous recipes! Do you make your own broth? Tell us about it in the comments!

What to Look for When Buying a New Bicycle and Accessories

Riding a bike is something we generally learn to do as kids, and something we never forget. I just recently got my first bike in many years and am trying to get comfortable riding it. I mean, it’s been 30+ years since I’ve ridden a bike! For this article, we’ve compiled a few tips for what to look for when buying a new bicycle and accessories that are budget friendly and definitely won’t break the bank!

The First Step: Buying a Bike

Let’s be honest – bikes can be expensive and are manufactured in a wide range of materials with many, many options for parts. If you’re just starting out or just want to take the occasional leisurely bike ride, a bike purchased at a big box store can be just the ticket. The most important part, though, is to make sure the bike fits you properly and that it is safe to ride. Bikes purchased from big box stores are assembled by the person working in that department that day who is generally not an expert. Once purchased, take the bike to an actual bike shop and have them properly fit the bike to you and have them adjust the parts making sure the bike is safe to ride.

But if you’re serious about riding, which I am, you may want to invest in a better bike that is built for genuine riding. A better bike would be one with outfitted with upgraded parts like the drive train (which includes the gearing and chain), a better seat and most importantly, better brakes. Buying a used, high end bike is an affordable option. Also, check with a local bike shop rather than buying online – they can recommend a bike or parts as well as make sure the bike fits you for a fabulous ride!

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The Most Important Step: The Helmet

The helmet, also known as the “Brain Bucket” or “Skid Lid”, is absolutely the most important step! The helmet should sit on top of the head with the strap firmly clasped under the chin. If you shake your head back and forth, it shouldn’t move. It should be snug but not tight, be comfortable and be breatheable. After all, no one wants a super sweaty head and eyes while riding! Most modern helmets come with a ratchet adjustment on the inside for a perfect fit. (Pro tip: if you’ve been in an accident and skinned up your skid lid, get a new one or get it inspected at a local bike shop!)

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Padded Shorts

Padded shorts specifically for biking, are absolutely necessary! Most bike seats (or saddles) are not made for comfort, and padded shorts help get you through long rides so the focus can remain on the road, not your butt! It’s hard to focus on the road when your tail (amongst other parts) are numb and uncomfortable. There are shorts made specifically for men or women, as well as for the type of bike riding you’re going to do such as road riding or mountain biking. Investing in a good pair or two is a wise choice!

Cycling Shoes – Clip In or Not?

Cycling shoes and clip-in pedals definitely help with the push/pull action of pedaling and in turn, you’ll have much more power for the ride. But if you’re like me and not quite ready for that, there are some really cool flat pedals with tiny bolts that stick out and grip the bottom of your shoes without actually clipping in. I have these pedals on my bike and they grip really well, and come in some nifty colors! The bolts are small but keep the shoes from slipping off of them, and are ideal for road biking as well as mountain biking.

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Riding Indoors on a Bike Trainer

This is something that is more my speed… My bike, Daisy (yes, she has a name), is mounted to a bike trainer so I can do sprints indoors. Trainers for a regular bike, as opposed to a stationary bike, let you get used to the saddle and gearing, as well as provide a great workout during inclement weather. I bought my bike trainer on Amazon (<– affiliate link) several years ago and never regretted it! I do sprints twice a week, which is the equivalent to HIIT on a bike, and love it! The best part is that I don’t have to ride near other people until I get over that fear…

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Conclusion

We’ve outlined a few of the things to look for when buying a new bicycle and accessories, so now the very most important part is to get out there and ride! Have something to add to the list? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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