Exercising and Breastfeeding

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Exercising has been a huge part of my life long before I became pregnant. I was so determined to keep exercising while pregnant that I started researching this topic far in advance of my actual pregnancy. I read several books on pregnancy training, started following a few blogs, even be-friended a couple of pregnant athletes and fellow fitness aficionados on Instagram and Fitocracy to follow their routines. Fortunately, I had a healthy pregnancy and was able to stay active throughout my entire journey. I even went to the gym the day before my unwanted planned C-section scheduled for my due date (my baby daughter was breech and unfortunately it was the only option I was given).

After I had the baby and started nursing, I realized that the topic of exercising and breastfeeding is almost just as controversial as exercising while being pregnant. There are many opinions out there, such as training affecting your milk supply, changing the taste of milk, baby refusing breast altogether after mom starts training, etc. Thankfully, my doctor (who fully supported my activity during pregnancy) encouraged me to go back to my fitness routine as I began breastfeeding.

I’m still nursing my 7.5 months old daughter, while fully keeping up with my lifting workouts (3-4 times per week). After her birth, I gained my strength back with lifting heavy weights, started training Olympic lifts and last week, I managed a few sets of my first ever unassisted pull-ups! So, hopefully this post would encourage any new fit moms out there to keep up rocking it at the gym while breastfeeding.

There are definitely a few things you should keep in mind:

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Drink a lot of water before, during and after exercising. While working out should not have any negative impact on your supply, dehydration most certainly will. So, as you’re sweating it off running outside or killing it at the gym, stay hydrated and drink more water than you normally would. On average, I drink as much as about 24-48 oz. per session.

Invest in a good quality sports bra                                  

As I normally have a modest B cup, I’m still not quite used to having full and heavy chest. Investing in a good quality sports bra with a lot of support and coverage is key to being comfortable at the gym! These double layered bras from Victoria’s Secret are great. Alternatively, you can wear a racerback bra (like this one from Calvin Klein that you can score with a 70% discount at TJ Maxx) under a regular sports bra.

Make sure you eat enough calories

It is recommended that you should eat between 300-500 extra calories when you’re nursing to ensure adequate milk production. On days when you’re exercising, you need to eat even more calories! I can’t stress enough how important this is as not eating enough food can definitely affect your supply. It can be tough as you’re most likely trying to get into shape postpartum, but you just have to keep in mind that it’s still possible to lose weight slowly on a moderate calorie deficit.

You can use one of the nutrition calculators to count your daily calorie intake. I love this IIFYM nutrition calculator simply because I love the IIFYM approach (you can eat anything you want as long as it’s within your calorie needs, no “forbidden” foods, isn’t it awesome?!). For example, based on this calculator, I need about 1,700 calories to ensure healthy, slow weight loss (no more than 1 lb. per week). I add 300-500 on top of it for milk production, which means that I can consume anywhere between 2,000-2,200 calories and still lose weight! On days when I exercise, I typically consume around 2,200 calories and I try to stay within the 2,000-limit when I don’t go to the gym. While it seems like a lot, remember that you need extra calories to produce milk. There are various free apps and websites that allow you to easily track consumed calories, such as FatSecret or MyFitnessPal.

Nurse or pump before your workout

This goes without saying, but having your breasts engorged at the gym is awful! Definitely take the time to empty them before working out.

With these tips in mind, here is a snapshot of my weekly routine:

Day 1 – Legs:

Back squats

Romanian deadlifts

Leg presses

Lunges

Step Ups

Day 2 – Rest

Day 3 – Upper body: chest, shoulders, arms

Bench presses (regular and incline)

Chest dips

Barbell shoulder press (military press)

Dumbbell lateral raises

Dumbbell rare delt raises

Day 4 – Rest

Day 5 – Upper body: back

Pull-ups

Barbell deadlift

Barbell and dumbbell bent-over rows

T-Bar rows

Day 6 – Full body: Olympic lifts

Hang cleans

Power cleans

Clean and presses

Front squats

Overhead barbell squats

While sometimes I don’t manage to find the time for all four of these sessions every single week, I’m determined to keep up with at least three workouts weekly to ensure that I hit all the muscle groups. I even had to adjust my workout schedule and exercise early in the a.m. which can be tough but makes me stick to this schedule (check out my recent post with five reasons to exercise in the morning). As much as fitness appears to add more things to my plate, it actually makes me feel better, healthier and more active. I hope my experience would help encourage other moms to keep exercising while breastfeeding. Would love to hear your experiences and thoughts in comments!

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

Ice Cream Recipe

I’m so excited to share this recipe! I recently bought an ice cream maker and really got into ice cream making and tasting, which can truly be one’s entire hobby. It’s so addictive and even therapeutic. There is something meditative about watching custard swirl and slowly change its texture – it’s just so mesmerizing. What’s even better is being able to taste it throughout the process. Making your own ice cream is surprisingly effortless. I love customizing ingredients and flavors to my own taste. For example, I used to make dairy-free ice cream with coconut milk and cream when I couldn’t eat dairy for a couple of months due to my daughter’s allergy. I also love being able to control the amount of sugar as I don’t like my ice cream too sweet. This is by far my very favorite ice cream recipe. So rich and decadent, yet not at all heavy. The recipe is adapted from Melissa Clark’s master ice cream recipe, featured here.

Ingredients (makes about 2 pints)

2 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 cup 2% milk

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

6 large egg yolks 

2 vanilla beans

Directions

  1. In a pot, simmer cream, milk, sugar and sea salt, for a few minutes until sugar completely dissolves (do not boil).
  2. Whisk egg yolks for a few minutes. Add some of the milk and cream mixture to egg yolks and whisk thoroughly. Add the yolk mixture to the pot with the rest of the hot milk and cream, return to heat and cook for a couple of minutes until the mixture thickens enough to cover a spoon inserted into the pot.
  3. Cut vanilla beans, scrape their sides thoroughly and add seeds and pods into the cream mixture. Refrigerate for  at least a few hours, overnight is best.
  4. Remove vanilla pods from custard and transfer to an ice cream machine. Freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions, typically for 20 minutes or so.  Keep frozen and remove from the freezer 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

No Sleep? Get Glowing With These Products

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Merry Christmas to everyone celebrating today! I finally have some time to share my recent favorite products with you. If you get plenty of rest and are lucky to live in a tropical paradise, you won’t even need these. Those who are tired, pale and have dry and dull looking skin in winter, read on, this post is for you! As a working mom of an infant, I swear by these amazing products. Anyone who can’t get enough sleep and wants to look rested with a perfect glowing complexion, would love these.

Skin79 SPF25 Super Plus Beblesh Balm

This is by far my absolute favorite BB cream and I’ve tried plenty of them, including drugstore and luxe brands. It has pretty light coverage, so it’s perfect for everyday use, has SPF25, blends extremely well, adapts to your skin tone and really smoothes your skin. Skin79 is a South Korean brand (hence don’t be scared by the name “beblesh balm” – this is how BB creams are called on the Korean market). Let’s face it, South Korean skin care market is years ahead of European and North American markets. BB creams existed in Asian markets for decades now, whereas they weren’t even introduced to Western markets up until a few years ago. Of course this doesn’t mean that you can’t get a great BB cream from a Western beauty brand! However, for the best value, go to the experts. You can get a luxe quality BB cream from an Asian drugstore brand without paying $50+ for it. I’ve tried a few South Korean BB creams, including other types from Skin79, but I keep going back to this hot pink bottle. It works best for me. I have a very fair complexion, however, the manufacturer says that this product adapts to any skin color. I’ve had several friends whose complexions ranged from fair to medium tried this product, and it seems to be working well! You can read more consumer reviews of this product on MakeUpAlley. For the price ($11-15 on eBay), it’s really worth trying it as you won’t break the bank. Plenty of Asian sellers on eBay carry it, I usually get it from these sellers:

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Sing-Sing Girl

RubyRuby Shop

Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector (in Opal)

Becca is a new brand that I recently discovered and I wish I looked into it sooner! It’s pricey, but I’ve been very curious about it as it’s featured in many Lisa Eldridge’s videos. This product is so good, that I’m already eyeing a few more products from Becca. This skin perfector is not your average highlighter as the shimmering particles are so tiny that you just get that glow without having your face look glittery. You can see it in Lisa’s video here (she’s featuring Pearl color when you get to 3 minutes and 30 seconds of the video). Here are also a couple of pics from my look to give you a better idea of how this product looks on the skin – notice how it just gives your skin a glowing shimmer, without making it glittery or sparkly:

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Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Eraser Dark Circles Treatment Concealer

To be honest, I’m still searching for a perfect concealer. I find this one to be very good though and it has been my go to concealer for a couple of months now. I will probably try something else next time, just because I don’t think I bought the same concealer twice! It has a pretty good texture and is easy to apply. I also think that it’s not worse than any of the luxe brand concealers that I’ve tried. It gives you a very good coverage, but isn’t heavy. I usually use the applicator it comes with and then blend it with a wet Beauty Blender or just using my fingers if I’m in a rush.

Tarte Amazonian Clay Bronzer (in Park Avenue Princess)

For the rested glowing look, you can absolutely use your favorite bronzer. I got a travel size of this bronzer as a part of my Sephora Beauty Insider 500 points reward box. I really love this product! It has a light, soft shimmer and gives you a nice glowing tan. However, it doesn’t make your skin orange or too dark – a common problem with bronzers. Apply the bronzer under your cheek bones and blend with a big powder brush. Also, I like to add  touches of bronzer all over my face.

Clinique Moisture Surge Face Spray

I love using spray toners. This Clinique spray is particularly nice if you want to achieve glowing, dewy look for your skin. Just spray this on your face after you’re done with your makeup. Don’t worry about spraying this over the makeup,  it will actually help set it and give a dewy finish to your complexion.

Five Reasons to Exercise in the Morning

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Before I get into why it’s great to exercise in the morning, Let me tell you that you won’t meet a person that loves sleep as much as I do. I’m so not a morning person. Haven’t been my entire life! I love sleeping until late a.m. Or, let’s face it – even early p.m.! I’ve never been one of these people that got up at 5 a.m. for a “quick run.” So, what gives? I had a baby. And everything they say about how having a baby changes everything in your life is actually true. If you told me a year ago that I would be working out at 6 a.m. I would laugh. Little did I know is that not only I would actually do it, but I would thoroughly enjoy doing it! And here is why.

1. It feels incredible knowing that it’s only 7 a.m. and you have your workout over with.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a stay-at-home mom of three or a single busy professional. I guarantee that you’re going to feel amazing knowing that your day has just begun and you already have your gym trip over with! Think about all the great things you can do with your free time in the evening. I read somewhere that you should think of exercising just as you do about brushing your teeth. I couldn’t agree more with this portrayal. Would you skip the gym? Sure, I’m tired. Are you too tired to brush your teeth? Eeek, who do you think I am? Exactly. Only when you start treating working out as a necessary, “must do” routine of your day, it’s when you’ll actually stick to it. And getting it over with in the morning makes it a whole lot easier because you simply won’t have time to contemplate all day about it.

2. You will feel empowered to accomplish anything. 

There’s just something about getting up early and starting your day with a killer workout that will make you feel like you can accomplish anything. Client presentation? New business pitch? C-level meeting? Sure, bring it on! I ran 10 miles/PR’ed my deadlift this morning, so I sure can impress anyone! Remember how you snoozed 10 times before getting up way too late and rushed to get to work? Compare that day to a day which you started with an awesome workout and you’ll know what I mean.

3. Your evenings will actually become relaxing.

Whether you’ll be spending your time with your kids, grabbing dinner with friends or just relaxing on the couch catching up on your favorite TV show, your evenings will seem way more relaxing if you don’t have to rush to and from the gym. Trust me, when you don’t have to plan your evening around squeezing in a workout session,  even your busiest evening will seem much less stressful.

4. You will feel less tired and more energized. 

It’s a paradox really, because you will have to get up earlier and technically get less sleep . But it’s true – you will feel less tired. In fact, when I went back to work after my maternity leave, I always felt exhausted until I started going to the gym crack of dawn. Because you get up earlier, you will go to bed earlier and the most rejuvenating sleep actually occurs before midnight. I used to think of myself as a night own, who is simply not capable of falling asleep at 10. Now, when I actually get up at 5-5.30, I have no issues whatsoever with falling asleep at this time.

5. Breakfast will truly become the most delicious and satisfying meals of your day.

I’m not arguing with intermittent fasting folks and I know that it works for some people. I do believe though that breakfast should be the most important meal of the day.  Your body was starving for at least 10 if not more hours. I just think it’s just wrong to not give it some so much needed nutrition. Having just exercised, you will feel so hungry that you’ll actually find time to make yourself a scrumptious breakfast. And it will be ten times more enjoyable because you will feel like you earned it! Now, I also have a quick meal before working out in the a.m., but this will be a topic for another post. Stay tuned!

Fluffy Lemon Buttermilk Pancakes

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This is probably my favorite pancake recipe that I’ve recently tried. Buttery, fluffy, with a slight hint of lemon flavor, they will really brightened up your morning and set a great mood for the rest of the day! I used slightly modified recipe found here. Instead of buttermilk, I actually used plain kefir. I made the batter the night before as recommended and added about 1/2 cup of 2% milk to it in the morning as it seemed too thick.

Ingredients (for 2-4 servings)

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup  sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups buttermilk or kefir
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup lemon juice, fresh
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest

Directions

1. Make the batter a few hours in advance, ideally, the night before and refrigerate overnight. In a large bowl, combine all the powder ingredients together. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, lemon juice and zest and add to the powder ingredients. Stir everything and set aside. 

2. Cook pancakes in batches (I used about 1/4 cup of batter per pancake) on medium heat on a slightly greased pan. They’re usually golden brown just under 2-3 minutes per side. 

Enjoy! 

Shrimp Stir Fry with Vegetables

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As you noticed, I haven’t been devoting a lot of my time to this blog. Perhaps, because when you’re addicted to gourmet food, you’ll typically have to deal with consequences! I’ve been boring lately, eating healthy and spending time at the gym prepping for the summer season (if it ever gets to New England)!

I know what you’re thinking now but before you unfollow my blog forever, I promise to still post delicious guilty pleasure recipes! I typically indulge over the weekends and still make all the good stuff. As for eating healthy…I’m surprised that a lot of people still associate healthy food with dry and plain chicken breast with a bowl of lettuce with no dressing. There are a variety of dishes that are flavorful and delicious, yet won’t affect your waistline! Stir fry is one of them. It’s been my staple lately just because it’s so versatile. Take the recipe below as just a suggestion for ingredients. You can make it with the veggies you have in your fridge and omit broccoli if you hate it. Hate shrimp? Make it with chicken, beef, fish, scallops, mushrooms or what have you! It’s super quick too. 15 minutes on a Tuesday night and you have a filling healthy dinner? Yes, please. Love this over brown or wild rice! OK, now when you’re convinced (hopefully!), let’s get to the recipe!

Ingredients (for 4 servings)

1-1 1/2 lb. shrimp (peeled and cleaned)
1 cup broccoli florets
2 cups snap peas
1 cup grape tomatoes
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 red onion, sliced thick
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped finely
3-4 tablespoons stir fry sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 lime
1 tablespoon coconut oil
Salt, pepper and red chili flakes to taste
Handful of cilantro leaves

  1. Heat a wok pan or any large pan on medium/high with coconut oil. I don’t have the wok and just use a large non-stick pan for this.

  2. Add onion and garlic to the pan, and cook stirring for about 1 minute. Add bell pepper, mushroom pieces and tomatoes and cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add broccoli, soy sauce and about 2 tablespoons of stir fry sauce, cook stirring for another 3-5 minutes. Add shrimp, snap peas and the rest of the stir fry sauce. If you’re making this with chicken or beef, add the meat earlier in the process. Season with salt, black pepper and red chili flakes. Stir well and cook until shrimp is cooked through (about 3 minutes). Squeeze lime juice over the stir fry and garnish with your favorite herbs (I typically use chopped basil, parsley or cilantro). Serve over rice and enjoy!

Simple Eggs with Sweet Potato Home Fries

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Lately, I’ve been obsessed with sweet potatoes. Not only are they delicious, but they’re also so versatile, easy too cook and loaded with healthy nutrients! I find their flavor much more complex compared to regular potatoes and they make a very tasty and sophisticated side. I typically mash them, adding cottage or ricotta cheese, lemon juice, spices, caramelized onions – you name it!

Today, I’ve tried roasting them on a pan, home fries style and they turned out delicious. Loved them with avocado and sunny side up eggs – try this easy, hearty and balanced meal this weekend!

Ingredients (for 1 serving)

2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 shallot
1/2 and 1/4 tablespoon coconut oil, devided (or any vegetable oil)
2 large eggs
1/2 avocado, sliced
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
Handful of fresh parsley leaves
Black pepper and salt to taste

1. Heat coconut oil in a small pan on medium, add shallot and sweet potato slices. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover the pan and cook stirring occasionally for about 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are completely soft. You may need a few tablespoons of water half way through the process if the vegetables look too dry. I also sprinkle them with a few drops of lemon juice to balance the sweetness.

2. In a separate skillet, heat the remaining vegetable oil and cook the eggs until the desired doneness (is this even a word?!). Season with salt and pepper.

3. Arrange sweet potato fries on a plate, garnish with parsley, lay eggs on top of them and serve immediately with avocado slices.

Loaded Banana Bread

banana bread, baking, recipe

Because of the winter storm Nemo, we’ve been snowed in for two days now. I’m actually really enjoying this quiet and lazy time at home! Finally, I have a perfect excuse to be a couch potato all day and catch up on the latest episodes of Downton Abbey, Portlandia and Girls. I know that these shows couldn’t be more different, but I love them all! Ok, I did get a bit of air today too, having to dig the cars out of the piles of snow. So, I thought we needed a sweet reward after all that hard work. Who cares if I barely did some of the shoveling? Even walking through the snow surely burnt a ton of calories! 

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I’ve never made a banana bread before, but we had a lot of bananas and the recipe seemed easy enough, so I gave it a try. I actually found a few recipes online and combined a few of them. I don’t like plain cakes and breads, so I added raisins, dried cranberries and walnuts to this bread. It turned out so tasty! I could barely wait for it to be done, it smelled so good in the oven. This recipe is definitely a keeper, I hope you’ll enjoy it too!

What do you like to make when you have a lot of spare time on your hands?

Ingredients (for a 9×5 loaf pan)

3 large ripe bananas

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

3/4 stick butter, melted

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup walnut pieces

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1 1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. In a large bowl, mash bananas with a fork. In a separate bowl, gently whisk eggs and sugar; add melted butter, vanilla extract and cinnamon, and whisk for a few more seconds until smooth. Add the egg mixture to the bowl with bananas, add raisins, walnuts and cranberries and mix with a fork.

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2. In another bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add the powder mixture to the bowl with banana mixture and mix everything together with the fork until smooth. Transfer to a buttered loaf pan and bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes until the bread is nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let it cool for half an hour, transfer to a cutting board or a plate, slice and serve warm.

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