LARA Bars

Lara Bar cherry pie

Lara Bar Cashew

lara bar apple pe
Just a few years ago, I was drinking Redbulls, Monsters, and other insane, high sugar, high caffeine energy drinks in order to get me through my day. It seemed like everyone around me was drinking these artificial drinks to find the extra boost they needed during the day as well. Today, it apprears that many people, including myself, are trying to find more “natural” ways to get their energy. So what are our choices?

One of my new favorite things to do is have a LARA bar. LARA bars are simply made with fruits and nuts. No extra sugars, preservatives, or additives! If you ever come across a LARA bar, look at the label of ingredients! No LARA bar contains any more than nine ingredients (most of them have much less). For example, the Banana Bread LARA bar consists of Almonds, Dates, and Unsweetened Bananas. The Peanut Butter Cookie LARA bar contains Dates, Peanuts, and Sea Salt. Very simple ingredients and very delicious flavors. To view all of the different flavors of LARA bars CLICK HERE. On this website it will show all of the different flavors, and when you click on one of the bars that you may be interested in, it tells you what ingredients are used, the nutritional facts, and also some beneficial vitamins and nutrients you get from the bar.

Another great thing about LARA bars is that people with all different diets can still have them. LARA bars are Gluten Free, Dairy Free, and many flavors are Soy Free for people who may have allergies. LARA bars also are Vegan and Kosher for those people who follow strict diets. Every LARA bar consists of Dates and some sort of nut. Because of this, the bars have a good source of dietary fiber, and is high in natural sugars and carbs which give you the energy you need (23-32g of carbs per bar). The nuts give a good source of healthy fats and protein to feed your body, fight hunger, and also provide energy.

Next time you need a little pick me up, consider trying a LARA bar. They are easy, quick, and delicious!

What do you think about LARA bars? Have any other questions? Contact me at corestrengthalec@gmail.com.

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Feature Friday: Johan Stephan

Johan Stephan 1
First name: Johan
Last name: Stephan
City: Johannesburg
Country: South Africa
Height: 1.76m (about 5’9″)
Weight: 75kg (165 lbs)
Profession: TV Producer

Follow Him:
Twitter: @jostephan
Instagram: jostephan
Tumblr: http://jostephan.tumblr.com/

When did you start working out?:
I started working out in 2005.

How many days a week do you work out?:
6 days week.

Johan Stephan 2

How long is your average workout?:
My average workout is about 1 hour.

Do you play any sports?:
I used to play rugby, but now only get time for the gym.

Do you have any fitness goals? If so, what are they?:
I would like to reach an aesthetically balanced physique and build ultimate muscle strength and tone.

What supplements do you take or recommend?:
I don’t take any supplements. I follow a strict diet plan.

Can you give a brief overview of your diet?:
I follow a food plan based on the Mineral Body science. It’s a fairly new and relatively unknown science but I’ve been following it on a trial basis for the last 6 years and have only benefitted from it. It’s a complex eating plan to explain and I will be publishing more details on this science via my personal website and Tumblr blog soon.

Johan Stephan 3

Does your diet consist of cheat meals? If so, how often do you have one?:
No cheat meals really.

What is your personal website?:
My personal website is http://www.johanstephan.co.za although it’s currently being upgraded.

What are you a TV Producer for?:
I produce fitness videos, but this site is also being upgraded. The website is http://www.getfittv.co.za.

How much cardio do you do? (Per day or per week):
I don’t do any cardio.

Johan Stephan 4

Do you model? If so, what have you been featured in?:
I have only done exhibitions for major photographers in South Africa.

What has been your biggest fitness accomplishment so far?:
Launching my own fitness media site GetFitTV, which will soon be completely revamped and relaunched.

Do you have any tips for people who are trying to reach their fitness goals?:
Make realistic, short-term goals and reach them first before giving up on bigger goals that are often unrealistically set.

Did you like this Feature Friday Inspiration? Do you want to know more about Johan Stephan? Do you think you have what it takes to be my next Feature Friday Inspiration? Email me at corestrengthalec@gmail.com

Kombucha

CherryKombucha

“Organic” is a word we hear a lot these days. We try to eat “organic” and “natural” foods to help stay far away from the processed junk we have been so accustomed to eating. Processed foods have been linked to many health issues including obesity, heart problems, diabetes, and even cancer. With organic foods, we hope to ward off such health problems and live a more healthy lifestyle.

Today I was finally able to drink an entire bottle of an Organic Kombucha drink. I have seen these around for a while now, but whenever I had a chance to try one, I honestly could not get passed the disgusting taste. Today I was able to find one of the Synergy Kombucha drinks, a juice variety of the Kombucha tea, that I was able to finally enjoy. I will admit it wasn’t the most delicious thing I have ever tasted, but it was not bad.

Many of you may be reading this thinking, “What is Kombucha? I have never heard of it.” Kombucha (pronounced kom-BOO-cha) is a fermented drink made of live bacteria and yeast that supposedly has many health benefits. Some claimed benefits have been increasing your immunity, lowering your cholesterol, and improving your digestion.

Kombucha drinks do have helpful probiotics, prebiotics, antioxidants, and nutrients. In the bottle of Raspberry Chia Synergy Kombucha drink I had today, the only ingredients were organic raw kombucha, raw chia seeds, and raspberry juice. With only these three ingredients, the label still claimed that there is more than 8 times the omega-3s found in salmon, more fiber than oatmeal, and more antioxidants than blueberries. That is very impressive for such a simple drink. Because of the Chia seeds inside, this drink also provided some “Raw Energy.” I will admit that I drank the Kombucha before my workout and it did give me a nice energy boost in order to hit the gym full force.

SynergyKomucha

According to Janet Helm, a Chicago-based dietitian and nutrition communications consultant, “It is a new way to get the beneficial bugs that people are looking for in yogurt, kefir and other probiotic dairy drinks. Kombucha also provides a source of prebiotics, which helps fuel the growth of helpful microorganisms in your digestive track. The black and green tea in kombucha also offers some beneficial antioxidants and polyphenols — although you could get the same with a simple tea bag.”

SETBACKS
Now Kombucha also does have some possible downfalls. Although you can buy Kombucha drinks in the bottle at a natural grocers, it is also possible to make this fermented drink in your home. People sell kits in order to make your own Kombucha, but this can lead to some problems since sterile environments and how the bacteria is incubated and kept is unknown. Kombucha teas, specifically home brews of Kombucha, have been linked to some health issues including liver damage and acidosis because of the high levels of different acids. With this in mind, nutritionist suggest drinking Kombucha in moderation. You should not be drinking a Kombucha tea every day, but rather weekly or a few times a month.

One other issue is the taste. Many people who try Kombucha can not get past the harsh taste which is why I was only able to drink the Synergy drink which mixes juice with the Kombucha tea. Although some people find Kombucha to be refreshing, many others find it to be down right disgusting. Kombucha is also not a drink that goes down easily like a glass of water, but rather more like a glass of Orange Juice with pulp. Kombucha tea has floating strings of bacteria in the tea, and the Raspberry Chia tea I had today had many chia seeds floating inside, making it a very weird consistency.

REVIEW
So my overall review of Kombucha is mostly positive. If you can get passed the taste and consistency of the drink, I suggest that you should try drinking it in moderation. It does appear to be a nice natural health source and it contains a good amount of antioxidants, just be sure not to drink too much.

Do you like this review of Kombucha? Are there any other foods you would like me to try reviewing? Do you have any other questions or concerns? Email me at corestrengthalec@gmail.com

Leg Lifts with Alternating Stability Ball

I obviously like to use the stability ball in many of my core exercises and this exercise is no different. I like to do this exercise almost every time I do a core workout! I can feel it really working and strengthening my entire core from my upper abs, to my lower abs, obliques, and even lower back! Similar to the regular leg lift exercise with the stability ball I posted a few days ago, this exercise adds more difficulty to the standard leg lift exercise and really helps tone the “V” cut in your lower ab/hip region.

Leg Lift (w. alt. stability ball) - Position 1

Leg Lift (w. alt. stability ball) – Position 1


Leg Lift (w. alt. stability ball) - Position 2

Leg Lift (w. alt. stability ball) – Position 2


Leg Lift (w. alt. stability ball) - Position 3

Leg Lift (w. alt. stability ball) – Position 3


Leg Lift (w. alt. stability ball) - Position 4

Leg Lift (w. alt. stability ball) – Position 4

To Perform a Leg Lift with Alternating Stability Ball:

    1. Lie flat on the ground with a stability ball between your feet.
    2. Extend both arms straight back behind your head.
    3. With the stability ball between your feet, raise the stability ball a few inches off the ground (Now you are in Position 1 as shown in the first picture to the right).
    4. While still squeezing the stability ball between your feet, lift your legs up so the stability ball is above your lower torso and lift your arms to touch and grab the stability ball (You are now in Position 2 as shown in the second picture to the right).
    5. Grab the stability ball with your hands, and let go of the stability ball with your feet.
    6. Bring the stability ball back behind your head so that it is a few inches off the floor while lowering your legs back down, leaving your feet a few inches off the floor. (This is Position 3, shown in the third picture to the right).
    6. While still holding the stability ball in your hands, raise the ball back up over your toso and raise your legs straight up to wrap around the sides of the stability ball (You are now in Position 4 as shown in the fourth picture to the right).
    7. Switch your grip of the stability ball from your hands to your feet.
    8. While squeezing the stability ball between your feet, lower your legs back down having the stability ball only a few inches off the floor and lower your arms back behind your head. (You have now returned back to Position 1)
    9. Repeat the exercise for the recommended amount of reps (I usually do three sets of 15 reps).





Tips:

    1. When lowering your legs, both with and without the stability ball, it is important to activate your core and keep your back flat on the ground. Try not to create any sort of arch in your back during this exercise
    2. Try to make this exercise one fluid motion; don’t do each position one at a time. Instead, flow through the motions and make them nice and controlled.
    3. Exhale while lowering your legs down toward the floor.
    4. If you have never tried this exercise before, first try doing the exercise without the stability ball. If you can comfortably perform the exercise, then add the stability ball into your workout.
    5. Start with 8-10 reps of this exercise and work on reaching more reps as your core becomes stronger.
    6. To increase the intensity of this workout, you can also wear ankle/wrist weights for increased resistance.
    Hope you enjoy this exercise as much as I do. Let me know if you end up using it in your core workout routine. Have any questions or concerns? Email me at corestrengthalec@gmail.com

Obesity in the USA

I was reading about nutrition tonight and came across a website that I thought was very interesting. It is obvious, based on the media we see and hear every day, that obesity is becoming a very big issue in the United States. There are countless reasons and theories as to why this is true, but did you ever wonder where the highest percent of obese people were in the USA? Do you want to know where your state racks up in the rankings? Check out http://healthyamericans.org/reports/obesity2011/ (Click Here) to see where your state ranks among the others. You may be very surprised!

Obesity Map from 2011

I was happy to see that my home state, Connecticut, was the third leanest state of the 50, but I was still surprised at how high some of the numbers were.

    – 15 years ago, Connecticut had a combined obesity and overweight rate of 45.2%. 10 years ago, it was 52.1%. Now, the combined rate is 59.8%.
    – The diabetes rate in Connecticut was determined to be 6.9 (up from 5.5 fifteen years ago).
    – 15 years ago, Connecticut had a hypertension rate of 21%. Now, the rate is 25.7%.

These are some scary numbers, and the sad part is that these are the numbers from the third leanest state! I can not imagine some of the numbers in the more obese states.

If you were wondering, the most obese state was determined to be Mississippi, and the leanest was determined to be Colorado. Where does your state rank?

Do you have any questions or concerns? Email me at corestrengthalec@gmail.com

Feature Friday: Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas 1

First name: Dylan
Last name: Thomas
City: Toronto
Province: Ontario
Age: 22
Height: 6’0″
Weight: 210lbs (throughout the year) 195lbs (competition weight)
Profession: Trainer/Online Training Coach

Follow Him:
Twitter: @DylanThomasfit
Instagram: Dylanthomas_fitness_toronto

When did you start working out?:
When I was 16.

How many days a week do you work out?:
While prepping for competition, I’m training 5 days a week with weights and on my off days from weights I will do HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). Throughout the year, if I’m not doing a show, I typically train 4-5 days a week.

How long is your average workout?:
About 45 minutes.

Favorite muscles to exercise:
Legs (I’ve always admired people with great leg development. It’s a sign of true fitness.)

Dylan Thomas 2

Least favorite muscles to exercise:
I dont have one. I enjoy training my entire body.

Do you have any fitness goals? If so, what are they?:
I would like to earn my Pro card this year.

Do you have any fitness inspirations? If so, who are they?:
Arnold, Steve Reeves, Bob Paris, Frank Zane, and before I was into bodybuilding I was inspired by a rugby player, Gavin Henson. I greatly admired his strength and physique, as well as skill, and it inspired me to go to the weight room for the first time.


What supplements do you take or recommend?:
Whey protein, creatine, multi, fish oils.

Can you give a brief overview of your diet?:
It changes from day to day, but at the moment I’m carb cycling so every 3rd or 4th day I’ll have a re-feed day. My Typical day is 230g carbs/275g protein/80g fat and every 3rd day my day would be 470g carbs/250g protein/75g fat.

What does your diet consist of during a Bulking Phase?:
During a bulking phase I am not nearly as strict with my eating habits. I’ll eat over 5-600 grams of carbs a day and about 275-300 grams of protein with 70-80 grams of fat. These types of numbers allow me really to eat whatever I’d like whenever I’d like.

Dylan Thomas3

What does your diet consist of during a Cutting Phase?:
During a cutting phase, I’ll begin weighing my food out and counting everything I eat against my allotted macronutrients breakdown for the day so I do not over eat.

You say you load on carbs every few days… What foods do you eat during these times to load on good carbs?:
My go to carb sources are in no particular order as I don’t view one being better than another: basmati rice, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, Ezekiel cereal, Ezekiel bread, fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and bananas, as well as my green veggies favorites being asparagus, broccoli & green beans. The important thing is usually to count all the carbs in everything you eat. For instance, you’re eating oatmeal and it is a “carb” source, but you still need to count the protein and fat in the oatmeal otherwise you’ll likely go over what you should be eating for the day without even realizing it!

Do you have any workouts that you specifically like, that you believe are very affective?:
Higher volume on lower body (15+ reps) and between 10-12reps on upper body. At the moment I’ll incorporate a lot of supersets and dropsets though as a means to increase the intensity of my workouts while getting ready to compete (April 27th).

How much cardio do you do? (Per day or per week):
Two times a week I do 20 minutes of high intensity interval training (all out sprints). I also like to walk for about 30 minutes each day on weight training days just to burn a little more calories.

Dylan Thomas 4

Do you have any tips for people who are trying to reach their fitness goals?:
Stay consistent and diet over everything else will determine your success in achieving your dream body.

How do people get ahold of you for your online training?:
If people our interested in my online training services they can reach me at dylanthomasfitness@hotmail.com.

Do you have any other things you would like to say? (Comments, Suggestions, etc)?:
“mens sana in corpore sano – a healthy mind in a healthy body”

Did you like this Feature Friday Inspiration? Do you want to know more about Dylan Thomas? Do you think you have what it takes to be my next Feature Friday Inspiration? Email me at corestrengthalec@gmail.com

Leg Lifts with Stability Ball

Leg Lift (w. stability ball) - Position 1

Leg Lift w. stability ball – Position 1

This is another variation of a leg lift that I personally love doing in tandem with the Reverse Crunch exercise with the Stability ball (Click Here to see the Reverse Crunch stability ball exercise). Using the stability ball adds some resistance to the traditional leg lift which will activate your core muscles and your hips flexors. This exercise specifically helps target your lower abs and help create that “V” cut in your lower ab/hip region.

To Perform a Leg Lift with a Stability Ball:

    1. Lie flat on the ground with a stability ball between your feet.
    2. Place both hand at your sides (Make sure to keep your back flat on the ground).
    3. While squeezing the stability ball between your feet, raise the stability ball a few inches off the ground (Now you are in Position 1 as shown in the picture above).
    4. While still squeezing the stability ball between your feet, lift your legs up to create a 90 degree angle with the floor (You are now in Position 2 as shown in the picture below).
    5. Lower your legs back down to Position 1 with the stability ball a few inches off the ground.
    6. Raise and lower your legs between Position 1 and Position 2 for the recommended amount of reps (I do 3 sets of 15 reps).
Leg Lift w. stability ball - Position 2

Leg Lift w. stability ball – Position 2

Tips:

    1. As I said earlier, this is an exercise I like to do an tandem with the Reverse Crunch stability ball exercise. I usually do 25 reps of the reverse crunch exercise straight into 15 reps of the leg lift exercise, both using the stability ball. This gives my core a nice burn!
    2. Keep your back flat on the floor during this entire exercise. It is common to want to lift your lower back off the floor, but in order to target your core muscles to their fullest potential, your traps all the way down to your tailbone should be on the floor.
    3. Exhale while lowering your legs from Position 2 to Position 1 to activate your abdominals.
    4. You must use controlled motions during this exercise! Focus on using your core muscles to lift the stability ball.
    5. Try holding your legs in Position 1 for a second before raising your legs to Position 2. This will increase core strength and cause you to activate your core muscles affectively.
    6. If you are just beginning this exercise, first try doing Level 1 leg lifts. If you can comfortably perform level 1 leg lifts, move on to try level 2 and level 3 leg lifts. If you can perform those exercises, then move on to this exercise with the stability ball. This exercise is definitely harder than the other variations of leg lifts so start with 8-10 reps of this exercise and work on reaching more reps as your core becomes stronger.

Hope you enjoy this exercise as much as I do. Let me know if you end up using it in your core workout routine. Have any questions or concerns? Email me at corestrengthalec@gmail.com