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Q & A: What are BCAA benefits for women?

I’m a huge proponent of eating a whole foods diet and limiting supplements. However, there are a few supplements I do take personally and recommend for clients. The big 3 are protein powder, Krill oil, and BCAAs. Today, I want to share a bit with you about BCAA benefits.

I was recently asked by Emily and Debbie from Momsanity to sample their brand new BCAA powder. I happily obliged because it has all natural ingredients and perfect ratios of leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

BCAA benefits

Overview

BCAAs are branched chain amino acids. Simply speaking, they are broken down protein molecules and the building blocks for muscles.

Usually, BCAAs are purchased in powder form and added to water. They can be used for multiple purposes. Many people (including myself) use BCAAs when working out in a fasted state. The purpose for this is to provide the body with amino acids so that muscle tissue is preserved. When you workout, muscle tissue can be burned ALONG with fat. BCAAs help to preserve muscle tissue without having to eat prior to your workout.

BCAAs can also provide the body with energy similar to ingesting carbs but without the insulin response. This is another benefit to drinking them prior to working out fasted. BCAAs are also great for muscle retention and muscle gain, particularly in the post workout window. This is why most all commercial protein powders include BCAAs in them. Note that if you are eating a protein packed meal after your workout, you do not need to supplement with BCAAs at that time.

BCAA Benefits For Women:

  • Hunger and Craving Control – Given that fat loss often requires a lower carb intake than you’re used to, BCAAs can become your best friend for achieving leanness. They can help in regulating hunger and cravings by supplying the brain with the energy it needs. BCAAs can also lower cortisol. These lower cortisol levels will work to suppress your stress induced cravings. Research shows time and time again that BCAAs are fabulous for controlling cravings and managing hunger, especially for active women following a relatively low carbohydrate diet. In addition to balancing blood sugar, the BCAA leucine activates hunger controlling molecules in the brain.
  • Energy Boost –  What busy mom doesn’t need this benefit! Valine is considered the energizer. It promotes muscle endurance, blunts fatigue, helps with mental sharpness
  • Muscle Preservation – We work WAY too hard to put on muscle as ladies to lose it! As explained in the overview, BCAAs will help preserve your hard-earned muscle when you workout in a fasted state. Working out fasted is good for fat loss, but can cause muscle loss as well. Having more muscle is great for fat loss. BCAAs can provide the best of both worlds and allow us to workout fasted without the loss of hard-earned muscle. Leucine helps promote muscle (think lean mass) growth while assisting with fat-loss.
  • Lower Cortisol Levels – Cortisol is an important stress hormone that is responsible for increasing blood sugar and aiding in protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism – we need it in proper doses. The problem is most of us produce way too much. When we release cortisol along with low levels of Human Growth Hormone (think when you don’t get enough sleep) or high levels of insulin, cortisol causes muscle burning and fat storing (not good!). BCAAs lower cortisol and therefore help suppress cravings and hunger instigated by stress.

How and when do I take BCAAs?

For best results, it’s recommended to take BCAAs before/after a workout and any time that cravings strike – for many this is mid-afternoon or later in the evening.

While there are may different forms of BCAAs (flavored powders, pills, unflavored powders etc.) Momsanity’s NATURALLY flavored and sweetened BCAAs are THE BEST!

The pills get pricey and require a LOT of pill swallowing for proper dosing. The unflavored powders are unpalatable and VERY bitter. Almost ALL powders on the market are full of artificial ingredients and stimulants. Be cautious of any products marketed for “pre-workout” or even workout recovery as they often contain stimulants like caffeine and beta-alanine. These two things aren’t inherently BAD, just unnecessary and some women will respond negatively.

BONUS – BCAA gummies recipe:

Emily and Debbie are including a recipe book with your purchase! I wanted to share one of the recipes with you. The gummies are easy to make and great for those afternoon cravings.

Ingredients:
  • 1 scoop Momsanity BCAA powder
  • 3 packets of unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup of warm water
  • Optional – drops of lemon or lime juice
  • Optional – pureed fruit
  • Optional – package of flavored jello
Directions:
  1. Mix ingredients in a bowl (if using pureed fruit, add this after mixing).
  2. Microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time until mixture is clear and goopy. OR, cook on a stove top on low heat, whisking frequently, for 5 minutes.
  3. Spoon mixture into silicone candy molds or ice trays,
  4. Place in freezer for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove molds from freezer. Pop gummies out of the molds. Store in airtight container or eat right away.
  6. Enjoy!

Video: Why Use BCAAs


Affiliate Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Your pricing does not go up, but if you register through my link I get a bit for referring you. Thanks for supporting my blog!
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Food Cravings. How do I stop them?

One major struggle that women have is food cravings.

UGH! I know. It’s so frustrating to *want* to eat healthily but have food cravings pop up in the afternoon or evening when your willpower is at its lowest.

As you can imagine, I receive many emails asking the following question:

Q: How do I stop food cravings?

A: Besides eating for fat loss and making good lifestyle choices (like sleeping enough and de-stressing), there 2 primary supplements that I use to control or stop food cravings. Supplementation is rarely my recommendation, but when food cravings are a huge issue, these supplements are worth a try!

At the end of this post, I’ll give a few secondary ways to stop food cravings as well.

  1. Stop food cravings with BCAAs

BCAAs are branched chain amino acids.

Simply speaking they are broken-down protein molecules.

Usually, BCAAs are purchased in powder form and added to water. They can be used for multiple purposes.

Many people use BCAAs when working out fasted. The purpose for this is to provide the body with amino acids so that muscle tissue is preserved. When you workout, muscle tissue can be burned ALONG with fat. BCAAs help to preserve muscle tissue without having to eat protein prior to your workout.

BCAAs can also provide the body with energy similar to ingesting carbs but without the insulin response. This is another benefit to drinking them prior to working out fasted. BCAAs are also great for muscle retention and muscle gain, particularly in the post workout window.  This is why most all commercial protein powders include BCAAs in them.

Note that if you are eating a protein packed meal after your workout, you do not need to also supplement with BCAAs at that post workout time period.

BCAAs have been clinically shown to balance blood sugar (glucose) which makes them an excellent hunger and craving suppressant. Given the fact that fat loss often (not always) requires a lower carb intake than people are used to, BCAAs can become your best friend for achieving leanness. They can help in regulating hunger and cravings by supplying the brain with the energy it needs.

BCAAs can also lower cortisol. These lower levels will offer the overlapping ability to suppress your stress induced cravings.

Dosage is 5-10 grams pre (fasted) workout. If you are taking them to suppress hunger and cravings, 5 grams is a good dose.

My personal experience:

Although I’m personally a huge fan of getting all of my nutrition without supplementation, BCAAs is one of my exceptions. Most days, I work out fasted first thing in the morning. Working out fasted is good for fat loss, but can cause muscle loss as well. Having more muscle is great for fat loss. BCAAs can provide the best of both worlds and allow me to workout fasted without the loss of hard-earned muscle. I also use them successfully for my own cravings. When clients report having cravings, this is one proven way I can recommend that regulate body functions that fight those cravings.

Here are 3 of the name brands that I have used that taste great!

  1. Momsanity BCAAs are my top choice. It has all natural ingredients, perfect ratios of leucine, isoleucine, and valine, and has a nice fruit punch flavor. This one is my top pick because of the ingredients and ratios of the BCAAs plus it mixes well in my water bottle! I featured this product in a blog post on the benefits of BCAAs for women.
  2. The MRM Reload is watermelon flavored. It is sweetened with stevia and xylitol which I prefer over artificial sweeteners. It stirs well with a spoon. They make a version sweetened with artificial sweeteners, so be sure to check the label in the picture before purchasing. The one I have linked was the correct version at the time of this blog post. 🙂
  3. The Scivation Xtend needs a little shaking to get it mixed well. It’s sweetened with sucralose (same as Splenda) and can cause some people GI issue (mainly gas and bloating) if used often. It’s very tasty in the green apple flavor (think: Jolly Rancher).
The science:

If you’re interested in the science behind BCAAs, here is a great article from Metabolic Effect which is where I received my nutrition coaching certifications as well as one of my personal training certifications.

2. Stop food cravings with 100% cocoa powder

Obviously, if you can get a handle on food cravings, you are less likely to grab that unhealthy food that’s calling your name. Consuming baking cocoa will also release serotonin in the brain causing you to feel happy and euphoric. 🙂 As a bonus, it has almost no calories, it’s high in fiber, and it contains compounds that blunt hunger and reduce cravings. Through research studies, it has been shown to lower blood pressure and balance blood sugar. Good stuff for the fat loss lifestyle!! Check out this blog post about cocoa by Metabolic Effect if you are interested in reading more.

Here is a way to incorporate cocoa into your daily fat-loss lifestyle. Grab a mug of this yummy drink as an after dinner treat or to curb an afternoon craving!

Hot Cocoa Drink

Ingredients:

  1. Hot Water
  2. 1-2 Tbsp of 100% baking cocoa
  3. Stevia to taste
  4. Optional: add a pinch of cinnamon or cayenne pepper to the drink, add a splash of almond milk, or even flavored stevia drops (like Sweet Leaf Sweet Drops English Toffee), add coffee to make it a mocha.

Directions: Heat a mug of water. Stir in a 1-2 Tbsp of 100% cocoa. Sweeten w/ stevia or Truvia to taste (approximately 3 packets but depends on your preferences). Enjoy!

Another pre-mixed option is Metabolic Effect’s Craving Cocoa. It has excellent reviews from many followers of Metabolic Effect!

food cravings

Additional Ways to Stop Food Cravings

  • Eat small amounts of protein regularly
  • Make sure you’re getting an adequate amount of sleep
  • Add flavor to water (lemon, lime, Vitamin Water Zero)
  • Unsweetened almond milk with cinnamon sprinkled on top
  • Drink hot tea
  • Chew gum
  • Brush your teeth
  • Eat a pickle
  • Have a piece of lower sugar fruit (sweet craving)
  • Have celery with peanut butter (crunchy craving)
  • Make an effort to avoid things that you KNOW trigger temptation and cravings
  • Go outside —> Get busy.
  • Give it time to pass
  • Know that success breeds success. Giving in will sabotage success.
  • Assure yourself that it WILL get easier the more you succeed!!!

Have you tried any of these methods? If so, comment below with what works best for you!

xo -Jill

p.s. If you haven’t already, sign up for my newsletter to receive a free copy of my Lean Lifestyle Guide for Busy Women. The included meal plan is designed to help balance out your hunger, energy, and cravings. I know you’ll enjoy the guide!
p.p.s. For more “Q&A” style blog posts, click here. http://jilljacobs.me/category/qa/

Affiliate Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Your pricing does not go up, but if you register through my link I get a bit for referring you. Thanks for supporting my blog!

 

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{Recipe} My Go-To Chocolate Banana Protein Shake

By Jill Jacobs

I’m often asked about what in the world to eat after a strength training session. I covered that HERE but wanted to share with you EXACTLY what I eat post-workout most days. 🙂

It’s soooo yummy, so I encourage you to give it a try!

My Go-To Chocolate Banana Protein Shake

For a voluminous shake use a large blender. 🙂

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 to 1 cup ice or more if you prefer
  • 1 cup water
  • Unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk
  • Stevia to taste
  • 1-2 scoops Chocolate Protein Powder (I use this one.)
  • 1/2 – 1 small to medium banana (frozen is nice but fresh is great, too)
  • More chocolate-y option: 1 or more Tbsp of cocoa and 2 additional packets of stevia or Truvia
  • Optional: A scoop of Barlean’s Chocolate Silk Greens Powder (so healthy!)
  • Optional: 1/8 tsp xantham gum (thickens and keeps it mixed when you aren’t drinking the shake right away)
  • Optional: a handful of spinach that I PROMISE you won’t taste 🙂
Directions:

First, I add the water and ice to the blender. Next, I add the rest of the ingredients saving the almond milk (unsweetened/plain) for last. Blend until smooth. ENJOY! (THIS is the blender system I use. LOVE IT!)

I LOVE this healthy “milkshake”!

Chocolate Banana Protein Shake

I get 2 full glasses like the one in the photo of my chocolate banana protein shake using a large blender with lots of water and ice. It takes me a while to eat it and keeps me full for about 3 hours. I rarely stray from this recipe because it’s so delicious. When I use another recipe, I miss this one so much that I’m tempted to have a 2nd shake later for my snack. Haha!

For more protein shake recipes, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. You get my Lean Lifestyle Guide plus 9 protein shake recipes. For more high protein recipes on this blog, go here.

Do you drink post workout shakes? If so, what’s your favorite combination? Let me know below! I love finding new recipes to try.

xo -Jill

 


Affiliate Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links. If you buy through the link, the price is still the exact same for you, but I make a small percentage for recommending the product. The opinions expressed in the post are my own and all products shown are those I have used and truly believe in. Thanks for supporting my blog!

 

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{Recipe} Healthy Breakfast Casserole

By Jill Jacobs

Healthy Breakfast Casserole is a Jacobs family favorite and my clients love it as well. It’s great for a crowd (think: company during the holidays), and it keeps well for a “fast food” breakfast at home. Just heat for a few seconds in the microwave, and you’re good to go!

#FitMom Tip #1: Center your meals around protein to keep your hunger in check. Shoot for 20 or more grams of protein at each meal and snack.

#FitMom Tip #2: Prepare recipes like this healthy breakfast casserole ahead of time to have easy protein source ready to grab in a pinch.

Healthy Breakfast Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 6 Whole Eggs
  • 2 cups 100% Liquid Egg Whites or 10 Egg Whites
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 3 cups chopped Spinach
  • 1/2 cup chopped Onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped Bell Peppers
  • 1 lb Turkey Sausage, Chopped Canadian Bacon, or ground 99% lean turkey breast
  • 12 Tbsp of shredded cheese (optional)

Note: You can add or take out ingredients to make it fit your needs and preferences. Use meat and veggies that your family will love.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350*. Spray 9×13 pyrex dish with cooking spray. Saute’ onions and peppers with sausage in a saute’ pan w/ a little cooking spray. Pour mixture into 9×13 pan. Sprinkle chopped spinach on top. Combine whole eggs, egg whites, and almond milk. Beat until fluffy. Pour over sausage and vegetable mixture in the 9×13 dish. Top with black pepper, paprika, or any spice of your choosing. Bake 30-35 minutes until browned to your liking. Cut into 12 pieces. Top each serving with 1 Tbsp of shredded cheese if desired. Serve with a side of berries. Enjoy!

This is a great choice for re-heating on a busy morning… No need to run through a drive through when this is prepared in your refrigerator! 🙂

For more recipes, all you need to do is click HERE!

xo ~Jill

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How to Make Your Own Safe Sunscreen

Being a fitness, nutrition, and wellness coach, the health of myself and my family is super important to me. I always consider the things I allow inside of our bodies and on our bodies. While I don’t sit around and obsess over it incessantly, I do take ingredients of our food and personal products into great consideration before a purchase.

One product that is known for questionable ingredients is sunscreen. There are shelves upon shelves of it available this time of year, so it’s important to be able to decipher what ingredients are best for our bodies and pose the least risk to our health.

I’m not a doctor or a scientist, so I took a look at what Dr. Weston “Wiggy” Saunders, an Integrative Medicine Doctor had to say. Dr. Wiggy and his wife, Emily, co-founded Raise Them Well with a mission to help families navigate this exact type of stuff!

Dr. Wiggy stated this in a recent blog post,

“Some of the potential health risks of chemical sunscreens include:

  • Some chemicals mimic estrogen and potentially increases risk of breast cancer
  • Builds up in tissue and organs (97% of us have these chemicals in our blood)
  • Found in mother’s milk so can also be passed to infants”

That doesn’t sound good to me. 🙁

The cool thing is that Dr. Wiggy and Emily have a safe alternative that they generously allowed me to sample – Raise Them Well Zinc Oxide Powder. If you’ve had babies, you have most likely heard of zinc oxide. It’s the only sunscreen product approved for babies under 6 months old.

Raise Them Well Zinc Oxide is a non-nano zinc oxide. In other words, the particles are larger than nanoparticles which are believed by many experts to be absorbed into the skin and bloodstream which could potentially lead to an array of problems. I love having a safe alternative!

When I first received the product along with a PDF recipe book, I thought, “This is going to take me hours to make some of the recipes. Ugh!” I was proven wrong! I made acne cream and sunscreen in less than 5 minutes!

How to Make Your Own Safe Sunscreen:

I didn’t want to just inform you about zinc oxide and its benefits, I wanted to show you how to make your own safe sunscreen. It’s easy! All you need is:

Mix. Pour into a container. I used a cute mason jar. 🙂

sunscreen

 

I love that I can put this on my boys and myself as a natural, safe barrier to the sun! I was able to control the amount I put into my recipe to get the best barrier possible for our fair skin. The 5 minutes it took to make this (as well as the acne cream) was well worth the effort. Honestly, it didn’t take much effort at all!

With your purchase of Raise Them Well Zinc Oxide, you’ll receive a PDF recipe book with several varieties of sunscreen recipes. I picked the easiest one since that’s how I roll. 😉 The recipe book has other recipes besides sunscreen including acne cream, diaper cream, and lip balm. Using this product, you can make so many awesome things!

The acne cream was equally easy to make as well. Just add the zinc oxide to aloe vera and done! The next recipe I’m trying is the lip balm. I can’t wait. 🙂

 

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Let me know if you have any questions!

xo -Jill


Affiliate Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links. If you buy through the link, the price is still the exact same for you, but I make a small percentage for recommending the product. The opinions expressed in the post are my own and all products shown are those I have used and truly believe in. Thanks for supporting my blog!

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{Recipe} Zucchini Lasagna

By Jill Jacobs

Zucchini Lasagna is a dish that I began making about 2 years ago. It’s a huge hit at our house! Every time we make it, we can’t get enough of this lasagna!! I found several healthy versions of lasagna online and came up with the easiest possible way to make it. (I’m ALL ABOUT EASY when it comes to food!) I hope you enjoy it as much as my family has 🙂

A serving of zucchini lasagna with fresh zucchini and casserole dish in background.

Yummy!

Ingredients for Zucchini Lasagna:

  • 1 lb. lean meat of your choosing (ground beef, bison, turkey, chicken, or shredded chicken – I used extra-lean ground beef)
  • 1/2 – 1 medium onion diced (We like a lot of onion, so I used a whole onion)
  • 1-1.5  jars of spaghetti sauce (I used 1.5 jars of Ragu “no added sugar” tomato and basil because I like it SAUCY)
  • 3 large zucchini squashes sliced into 1/8-1/4″ slices, longways
  • 1 egg
  • 1.5 cups of low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350*.
  • Spray a 9×13 (or larger) pyrex dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Bring a large pan of water to a boil. Boil zucchini “noodles” for 3-5 minutes, until tender. Set them aside to drain in a colander for 10 min. Blot them dry with a paper towel to allow as much water as possible to be removed.
  • Meanwhile, saute the diced onion with the ground meat. Drain.
  • Add spaghetti sauce to meat and onion mixture. Bring to a boil, then simmer around 5 min.
  • Mix the egg in with the cottage cheese until well incorporated.
  • Spoon a small amount of meat sauce on the bottom of the pyrex dish.
  • Add a layer of the zucchini “noodles” to the bottom.
  • Top the zucchini with the cottage cheese and egg mixture.
  • Layer with 1/2 the remaining meat sauce.
  • Continue with another layer of noodles, cottage cheese, and meat sauce.
  • Top with mozzarella cheese
  • Bake on 350* for 30-45 minutes. Take it out when it starts to bubble and the cheese begins to brown. Remove and cool for about 10 minutes.
  • I cut it into 12 slices of lasagna and ate 1-1 1/2 as a serving size.
  • Serve with a side salad for a yummy dinner!

Variations:

  • Vegetarian version – remove meat
  • Sprinkle with crushed red pepper (I can vouch for the deliciousness of this variation)
  • Sprinkle with a little parmesan cheese

Enjoy!

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xo -Jill