Showing posts with label sponsored. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sponsored. Show all posts

May 30, 2018

Why I Trust NOW Foods for my Natural Products


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Fitfluential, LLC on behalf of NOW Foods. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.



In health and fitness, there are lots of claims and labels being thrown around by brands and people. As a former chemist (who will always be a science nerd at heart), I’m the type of person that finds the actual research article when I read a headline about a new study. Sometimes there are small samples for the study, bias, or parts of the research aren’t addressed. The same thing goes with labels such as “natural” not being a regulated label or even their being specifics about what constitutes “organic”. Before visiting NOW Foods headquarters just outside of Chicago for the #NOWGetFit influencer event this month, I hadn’t considered myself super brand loyal, but now I can tell you I trust NOW Foods!

NOW Foods #NOWGetFit Day 1
After a travel snafu (ugh American Airlines WHY) I made it out to the event on Thursday starting with a trip to the Cooking Skills Academy for an “Iron Chef Challenge” using NOW Foods ingredients. 

Chef showing us how it's done.

My team won with a take on an avocado toast-clearly all those years watching Iron Chef and the Food Network have paid off! 

The winning dish!
Also forgot to mention that the before our challenge the night before, Kasey from Powercakes made us DELICIOUS protein donuts. I don’t throw around the word delicious paired with protein donuts ever.
Girl, I'd watch your Food Network show. 
I’ve bought many NOW Foods products in the past because it seemed to be good quality and has been a very affordable option for me for supplements, essential oils, and baking products. I’ve bought their products in natural food stores like Whole Foods, on Amazon, or on iHerb. All of their products are free of preservatives or artificial ingredients.

Getting to listen to the NOW Foods CEO Jim Emme talk about the company and hear about its history was really eye-opening. Today it is one of the largest independent manufacturers of natural products in the U.S. with over 1500 different products including foods, supplements, sports nutrition, essential oils, health & beauty products, and a new pet supplement line. 


The company spends very little money on marketing which helps them keep their cost so low for consumers which may be why you’re unfamiliar with the brand. You may recognize their signature orange and white label from health food stores or your own pantry!

NOW is still family-owned since Elwood Richard started the company in 1968 and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It still continues its original goal of making healthy, quality, and affordable products. 

When I made it back to my hotel room at the Eaglewood Resort & Spa that night (which was fabulous!) I sifted through two giant bags of NOW Foods products including protein powder, a diffuser and essential oils, and supplements (psst…you can win the same gift bags valued at $520 on my Instagram)

Swag on swag. 

NOW Foods #NOWGetFit Day 2 

The next morning we got up bright and early for a tough group tabata workout with the lovely Kasey from Powercakes. 

The group post-workout

This lady is so much fun and knows how to lead a killer workout. 

After our workout, NOW Foods had created the smoothie bar dreams are made of so we could refuel with our own smoothie creations. 
Can I have this in my apartment every day? 

I got to try out NOW Foods protein powders, MCT oil, amino acids, and more. While enjoying my smoothie, I learned more about the sports nutrition which I was very interested in as an athlete.


NOW Sports uses quality ingredients that are heavily researched and tested. This year NOW Sports will have the Informed-Sport certification which is a globally recognized assurance program by the LGC for anti-doping that certifies that every batch of a supplement product and raw material with the certification logo has been tested for banned substances. Professional and collegiate athletes can use the 150+ products in the NOW Sports line without worrying about the ingredients. I even met a couple awesome Olympic athletes at the event who were NOW Foods ambassadors!  

All the proteins and MCT oils-with the new labels coming out soon!
Later in the morning we headed over to the NOW Foods Operations facility to take a tour of the plant in Bloomingdale, IL (they do public tours monthly FYI!). I was honestly blown away by the level of quality, documentation, and testing. NOW tests each and every batch of raw materials and finished products that come into and leave the facility. All of their products are non-GMO, and their products in the Living Now line are produced in a dedicated gluten-free and allergen-friendly facility. These products are made without the 8 major allergens (including dairy, eggs, soy, wheat, nuts, and fish).

Looking chic in my factory gear and hairnet!
So clean and organized. 




As someone who spent the last 7 years working in research labs, I was excited to learn about their Quality Control and Quality Assurance programs as well as see their labs. NOW has an A rating from the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and is one of the first to seek GMP certification in 2000. Their testing goes above and beyond this as I mentioned earlier, making sure that everything that they say is in their products is actually there, free of contamination. 

I used to work with these LCMS machines-but look how many they have!
Also without geeking out too much, their labs were immaculately clean and organized (and yes some of these labs had people working in them). Learning a little about their research to make a stevia that was complete but not bitter-tasting was interesting too.

Research poster on NOW and stevia
Everyone I met from the company and in the factory was friendly too, which is nice to see in a company.



After the tour we headed to the corporate headquarters for lunch catered by Whole Foods which was a dream-like a Whole Foods hot/cold bar without having to weigh your plate! I learned more about NOW Food’s body care products and essential oils and also made my own fitness cleaning spray and sports soak. 

All the Mediterranean goodness on one plate. 



NOW Solutions, their health and beauty care line is made of pure and natural ingredients. Besides being affordable, their essential oils are certified organic and 100% pure, which is tested using strict quality standards. I learned that their essential oils are some of their top-selling products!



One of the fellow influencers asked the CEO Jim why fly a bunch of influencers/bloggers out here and take the time to put on such a nice event for us when he could pay for marketing. He said that we shouldn’t undervalue ourselves and that visiting the company in person is more valuable to him because we can see it all for ourselves and share our experiences with other friends, family, and followers. To him that was more important than any TV commercial. So I left the weekend 100% trusting the NOW Foods brand and knowing that when I’m buying their product, I’m getting exactly what the label says.

Some of my swag that YOU can win too!
Again, I’m partnering with NOW Foods for a giveaway to win the same amazing swag bag I received with over $520 worth of products including an oil diffuser, body care products, protein powder, baking products, and more. Head over to my Instagram to enter!


What decides what natural products you purchase-quality or price, or both? What is a brand you trust? 

April 26, 2018

Post- Boston Marathon Recovery Tips

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Fizzique through a campaign with Fit Approach. As always all thoughts and opinions are my own. 



I’m still finishing up my big Boston Marathon race recap (so much rain/wind/cold! so many thoughts!) but have really been focusing on my recovery since the race over a week ago. I talked about how my marathon training has been different since my injury , but I’ve also been more conscientious of my recovery as well. With travelling to Boston and an out-of-state wedding right after I haven’t been doing any foam-rolling or exercising. Now that I’m over a week out I’m focusing on getting myself recovered and reverse tapering back into running. I’ve talked on my blog about some broader post-marathon tips, but today I’ll share what I’m focusing on this week specifically for recovery!  

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REST

I’m still trying to get plenty of actual sleep during the week, especially the couple days post-race. With the weather conditions along with regular hills on the Boston course, I read from some others that they felt they needed more rest after this race than previous ones. It is important to give your body proper time to fully recover, even if you are feeling better a few days after. This article from Runners Connect  talks about the physiological changes in your body after a marathon including how it takes your muscles about 2 weeks post-marathon to return to full strength. 

After the Philadelphia Marathon I really didn’t run except for a couple miles while coaching for 2 weeks and am doing the same after the Boston Marathon, especially because I had some foot pain the last few miles.

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Mid-walk coffee break in Boston

LIGHT CROSS-TRAINING

Last week with travelling in Boston and then to an out of state wedding I really did not have time to workout anyways. I walked around Boston a lot the days post-race which helps with blood flow and getting my legs moving. This week I’m adding in some cross-training such as cycling, yoga, and some strength training (mostly upper body focused!). I took a spin class yesterday, and it felt so good to get sweaty again. 

HEALTHY EATING

After some carbloading and eating more to help my body recover post-race (along with plenty of celebratory treats and good food in Boston!), I am trying to get back into more of a routine. That means including more greens and veggies back into my diet as well as balancing more proteins with carbohydrates. 

For me that includes more salads for lunch as well as being more conscious of trying to eat balanced meals. I’ve been loving these Fizzique sparkling protein water drinks as yummy afternoon pick-me-up that isn’t a sugary protein bar or shake.

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TAKE CARE OF YOUR LEGS

With travelling this is the one area I neglected and need to focus on this week. That means adding in extra foam rolling and stretching. I also want to get back into doing my physical therapy banded hip and glute exercises. After my travelling I have gotten back into my once or twice weekly Epsom salt baths to help with recovery. If you can get a massage like I have after a couple previous marathons, that can be a big help with recovery as well.

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I love warm Epsom salt baths after a hard workout.

I mentioned Fizzique before which is a clear, sparkling water with 20g of whey protein for only 80 calories (0 net carbs) that contains no sugar, artificial flavors or preservatives, and is free of many things people care about (GMOs, soy, gluten). I was able to try it out via a sponsored campaign through Fit Approach. 

I like it because it’s easy to pop one open for some extra protein in a refreshing sparkling water instead of making a big shake after a workout or eating a protein bar on-the-go. Obviously you should be trying to get lots of natural sources of protein but with a busy lifestyle, I find that some supplements and snacks can be helpful.

Sidenote, I am skeptical of protein-infused things as a trend, but as a fan of seltzer and La Croix waters, I was intrigued. I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy the Strawberry Watermelon and Tropical Limon flavors. Upon first taste I could tell it was not just a normal water because the flavor is a little stronger and slightly weirder than some sparkling waters, however it’s clear and bubbly as well as really easy to drink when served cold.

You can try Fizzique for yourself by ordering on their website and using my code LAURENSFIZZIQUE to save 10% or order it on Amazon.  

There is also a Fit Approach & Fizzique “Curb Your Cravings” Instagram Challenge running April 16- May 4 with three weekly Instagram photo prompts and a chance to win a case of Fizzique.

How do you recover after a big race or event?

March 30, 2018

At-Home Teeth Whitening for a Coffee Drinker

Disclosure: Smile Brilliant sent me a complimentary whitening kit to use. My before & after photos are not retouched or filtered. As always all thoughts & opinions are my own.


Something that I haven’t really shared with anyone is that I’m self-conscious of my teeth. They are nice and straight after many years and lots of money as a child/teenager with top & bottom palate expanders and then braces (thanks Mom & Dad). However as someone who loves coffee and tea and other staining foods (like beets and red wine!) my teeth are kinda yellowed. This has come more apparent in the age of selfies and posting photos online. Also the increase in coffee consumption with graduate school and studying for my board exam did not help! Who doesn’t want whiter teeth when showing of those big happy smiles? Don’t worry coffee, I still love you.


daily-grind-Baltimore-coffee

I was really happy to recently try out Smile Brilliant, an easy custom fitted whitening system. This post is obviously sponsored because Smile Brilliant was nice enough to send me complimentary product, but I also truly did have a good experience. At first I was skeptical about the product, but then I actually saw fellow pal and running blogger Hollie’s results and knew I needed to take advantage of this opportunity to help my smile. 


home-teeth-whitening-coffee-drinker

How does Smile Brilliant compare to other teeth whitening systems?  

Smile Brilliant is a custom whitening treatment for your teeth that you can do at home. Many of the options out there are largely temporary-like the whitening strips I used in high school & college. Unlike strips, charcoal is not ADA-approved and can be abrasive for teeth while also being temporary.  The Smile Brilliant method uses custom molded trays which is similar to the treatment at a dentist but way less expensive. It’s more expensive and a longer process than say whitening strips, but it is better at removing stains more permanently.



How does Smile Brilliant work?

First Smile Brilliant sends you a kit with your whitening gels along with base and catalyst paste and supplies to make your impressions. You pretty much follow the instructions to mix the pastes together and press into trays which you then put in your mouth and bite into for 2+ minutes. Unlike the anxiety attacks I would have at the orthodontist during impressions when my mouth was full of a giant tray, this was a bit more pleasant. I was worried I would really eff this part up, but it was easy!


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After mailing the impressions off in the prepaid envelope, it took just over a week for my custom molds to be mailed back to me.  These molds fit perfectly and were super comfortable. They were flexible and soft so it was easy to keep them in with the whitening gel for 1-2 hours at night before bed (Smile Brilliant recommends using whitening trays for 1-3 hours).  Basically there was gel in a little syringe that held 3-4 applications and I just squeezed some into the molds and popped them in.


teeth-whitening-smile-brilliant-1

With the strips or other systems I tried I felt like I was constantly trying to keep them in place and not bump them around with tongue.

There was also a desensitizing gel to use after the whitening gel for 15-2 minutes. I could feel some sensitivity for the first 3 applications, but it was minimal.


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Did it actually work?

I tried to be good and avoid consuming staining foods or drinks for 24 hours after a teeth whitening session. I couldn’t give up my coffee so I was drinking it with a straw!


teeth-whitening-smile-brilliant-before-after
Taking and posting photos of your mouth is weird. 
 I have spent some time staring at my teeth this week, and I definitely see some results. It looks subtle in the photos, but I'm hoping to do a few more treatments since I did about 6 applications between these photos. My boyfriend even commented that he thought they looked whiter. I’m going to continue to use up my gel and get this pearly whites looking sharp. I don't plan on drinking any less coffee soon so I'm happy I can do a little whitening maintenance on my teeth.  Smile Brilliant recommends after the initial use (daily applications, 7-10x) to use it once or twice every 2-3 months for maintenance.  

I totally recommend Smile Brilliant for an easy way to give your smile some self-care!


Giveaway & Coupon  

Click on the link to enter to win your own Smile Brilliant kit here
Giveaway open to USA, UK, Austrailia, and Canadian Residents. It is open for 1 week and ends on April 6, 2018. 

You can also save 15% on your own Smile Brilliant purchase with code: breathedeeplyandsmile15


Have you ever tried a whitening treatment for your teeth?
Are you a big coffee or tea drinker like me?

March 2, 2018

Take an Active International Vacation with STRIVE Trips


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by STRIVE Trips who offered me a discount for their programs. As always all thoughts and opinions are my own.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve found that a great way to satisfy your sense of wanderlust is by taking race-cations. I’ve ran some races and planned some trips around the country and Canada in the past few years including the Seawheeze Half Marathon in Vancouver, Ragnar Las Vegas, and the Chicago Marathon (multiple times!).  

Ragnar Las Vegas home stretch!
This year and the next I think it’s time to add some more stamps to my passport and get out of North America. I was excited to recently be connected with this awesome company STRIVE Trips which organizes trips for adults featuring a balance of cultural immersion, active exploration and sightseeing, as well as daily options for athletic training (a.k.a RUNNING!). Don’t worry, if you aren’t a runner you can choose to walk or bike these excursions (or even skip out to spend time as you please).
strive-trips-logo1

For 2018, STRIVE Trips is offering two adult programs-one to Kenya and one to Peru. 

Let’s be honest, a mix of running, eating amazing food and travelling to a new country sounds like a perfect vacation to me! It’s pretty much what I do anyways, although a bit more heavy on the food and less so on the running part. Planning an international trip can be intimidating so it’s awesome that STRIVE Trips takes care of all the planning and also provides 24-hour-a-day support on the ground in the country and from the US based staff.

For the athletic portion on each trip there is a daily opportunity to get out and exercise. You can walk, bike, or run as much or as little as you want because the group has a van trail behind the group that can pick you up whenever you’re done. There are also at least 2 staff members running with the group. Besides just running in a new country, there are some awesome opportunities such as staying at the high altitude training center run by Olympian & World Record holder Lornah Kiplagat on the trip in Kenya.  LITERALLY running with Kenyans like a BOSS. Running with and talking to elite Kenyan runners is an amazing opportunity for any amateur or serious runner.
 
strive-trips-kenya-runners
Running with Kenyan runners
Besides the athletic portion, the trip organized by STRIVE Trips includes everything but your flights, meaning it includes noted meals, lodging, transportation, and activities. STRIVE Trips makes sure you get all the fun of sightseeing and cultural immersion of a country. For example with the Kenya program you also get to participate in a tea ceremony with a local family or spend time at local zoos along with a 3-day safari. It’s on my bucket list to go on a safari and visit a giraffe sanctuary so I definitely was hyped to read that.  

The Peru program includes fun activities including visiting Machu Picchu, zip-lining, and hiking in the Incan Cloud Forest. Back to the food, the Peru trip also includes a chocolate class where you learn about how chocolate is made and then get to mix together your own style of chocolate as well as a Pisco Sour making class which is the national drink of Peru. SIGN ME UP! 

strive-trips-peru-pisco-sour-class
Pisco Sour class in Peru
Besides programs for adults, STRIVE Trips has unique service-learning programs designed for high school and college students. These trips mix running, service-learning projects, and adventure in an international setting. If I was in high school this would have been maybe the COOLEST way for me to get service learning hours for graduation.

strive-trips-peru-zipline
A photo from a recent STRIVE trip in Peru on an excusion
You can find more information about the trip to Kenya in July here or the trips to Peru in May or August here. The max group size for the trips is 12 participants so get more info and get signed up! With my career shift and current planned vacations, a STRIVE Trips program may not be in the cards for me for 2018, but I’m hoping to definitely take advantage in 2019.

October 31, 2017

10 Favorite Things from the Runner's World Half Festival 2017

So I've been stalling writing any blog posts about the Runner's World Half Festival because I had such an amazing time and there is so much to say. It was an absolute honor and pleasure to be invited as part of the RW Half Run Crew. I left with sore legs, sweet bling, and new running friends! Since I love lists, I figured I'd start out my post-race weekend recap the way I blogged about what I was most excited about pre-RW Half Festival! Spoiler alert: some of the things I was excited about beforehand DID turn out to be amazing.

10 Favorite Things from the Runner's World Half Festival 2017

My Top 10 Favorite Things from the RW Half Festival Weekend (not in order!) 

1.  The people: The RW Half Run Crew and all the Runner's World employees I met were so nice (Oh and RUNNING WITH RYAN HALL WAS PRETTY FREAKING COOL TOO). We had a such a great group of people in the RW Half Run Crew. 


RW Half Run Crew with Ryan Hall

2. Meeting Ryan Hall: See above re:running with Ryan Hall. It was great to hear him talk about his kids and biggest tip about marathoning is to relax! He said he races best when he is relaxed. 

RW Half 2017 Ryan Hall photo

3. Meeting Bart Yasso and hearing him talk: So apparently everyone likes Bart Yasso because he is actually an awesome and super nice guy! He gave a little talk after our lunch with him that brought me to tears as he read letters from young kids who were inspired by him and "wanted to be Bart Yasso, without all that running crap". Runner's World isn't going to be the same without him when he retires! 

He also said something was really inspired me-"you never know who you're connecting with or influencing, so keep doing it". This relates to me on a professional, personal, and social media level!

Lauren_2017_RW Half-Bart Yasso

4. The dog "race": It was just as amazing as I imagined and the best run of the weekend. I spectated and then got to pet SO MANY DOGS after the race. A few people were serious and ran the 1 mile race with their dogs. Some weren't born for racing. 

RW Half 2017 dog race1

Some decided that 1 loop or 0.5 miles was enough and needed a break. 

RW Half 2017 dog race2

5. The half marathon on Sunday: Doing the grand slam (4 races in 3 days) I was kinda dreading how I'd feel on Sunday for the half marathon and last race of the weekend. I started out slowly and was going to use it as a marathon training pace run but ended up running around 8 minute miles. I was so happy and full of gratitude running. I had so much fun stopping for a couple photos, stopping for some beer from spectators, and taking in all the beautiful scenery.  Running along the tree-lined streets of Bethlehem with perfect weather was absolutely beautiful. 

RW Half Marathon 2017_race1
Photo on the run

RW Half Marathon 2017_race2
Post-half marathon happiness

 6. Free race photos:
Because all races should have them. Seriously though I got a few nice photos during and after the races like this one below after the 10K on Saturday. 



RW Half Marathon 2017_10K-racephoto

7. Exploring the city of Bethlehem (on foot!): As I mentioned before, Bethlehem is a beautiful city. I had only visited once before so seeing a lot of the city on foot via the races. 


I mean look at this sunrise on Friday morning:  
RWHalf_2017_Bethlehem-1

Having all of the races start and finish at the SteelStacks was really cool too. They are really stunning and massive. It's a cool part of history of the town. 

RWHalf_2017_Bethlehem-2

Running over this bridge over the Lehigh River multiple times over the weekend was a highlight as well. 
RWHalf_2017_Bethlehem-3

 8. Learning about Altra Running company and shoes from founder Golden Harper: Golden Harper, the founder of Altra Running gave a whole talk about how the company was founded and how the idea of zero drop shoes came about (you can read a little bit of the story here).  He then gave a very informative seminar about efficient running form (information also available on their website-check it out!). I love trying out the Altra Running HIIT XT shoes we were given before participating in a tough HIIT workout as well as a trying pair of the Escalantes that I ended up running the half marathon in them!   


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RWHalf_altrarunning-HIITXT


 9. Pizza at the end of the trail run: A beautiful site to see after the 3.6 mile trail run on Friday afternoon-that was super fun! 


I repeat, finishing a trail run and seeing all of these boxes of pizza: 
RWHalf_trailrun-pizza

This is the look of true happiness on my face right here. I couldn't even wait to take a photo before taking a few bites. Shout-out to Lehigh Pizza! 
RWHalf_trailrun-2

Oh, and this view after the race was nice too. 
RWHalf_trailrun-3

10.The Bling & Swag: The Grand Slam was my first running challenge of doing multiple races as part of the same event. It was definitely exhausting but was a really fun experience. All of the medals were cool and SteelStacks-themed. It was EVEN COOLER that the Grand Slam runners received a larger half-marathon medal that 

RWHalf2017_medals-1

As part of the RW Half Run Crew, Runner's World hooked us up with an awesome bag of goodies from the vendors including The Stick, Janji, Balega, MoJo Socks, and Altra Running

I also like the long-sleeve Altra race shirt we got as well as the blue backpack I received for registering for the Grand Slam. 
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 RWHalf2017_medals-2

So the Runner's World Half Festival gets two big thumbs up from me. Running the Grand Slam was a blast, and I loved the other challenge options for doing multiple races. Everything was well-organized and the race courses were fun. 

Thanks to Runner's World you have the chance to win a sweet RW Tote full of running goodies too. Just enter using the Rafflecopter below. U.S. residents only. Giveaway open until 11/7/2017 12 AM. 
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