Plant Love

I was invited to St. George, Utah to shoot a new campaign for plant-based protein company, Sunwarrior. I follow a pescatarian diet, but incorporate many plant-based elements into it. I’ve used plant protein for more than seven years. From the minute I switched from whey, I saw the positive changes immediately: easier to digest, cleaner ingredients, alkaline forming, more energizing. Plant protein also promotes the same amount of muscle growth that using whey protein does, so seven years ago it was a no-brainer for me to make the change. That’s how my love affair with Sunwarrior began. From protein powder, to protein bars, to even digestive enzymes, this is a major player in the plant-based world that helps keep me protein levels in check. So you can imagine my excitement when I was asked to do a three-day shoot with my plant-based friends!

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Each day my crew drove deep into the desert to find the most untouched & majestic backdrops for our shoots. Red rocks, sand dunes & steep mountains became my gym in 100-degree heat. On one of the days, we even hiked for an hour to reach a secluded river to capture shots in the water (where a rattlesnake tried to say hello, but I quickly kept hiking)! I’ve never felt more challenged and vulnerable than having to rely on the forces of nature to assist me in bringing this campaign to life. It’s experiences like these that affirm how small we truly are in comparison to our planet, and wow, how humbling is that?

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My photographer, Ben wanted to capture the beauty of the sky during a full moon one night, which only happens a couple times a month. These photos weren’t part of the campaign, but instead a moment to take advantage of nature to create some pretty magical art. This sky is what it looked like thru the lens of his camera, and yes, those stars are real. Honestly speaking, there was an overwhelming force of emotion that came over me when I got back to my hotel room. It was then that I remembered how powerful nature can be.

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I left St. George with a full heart, grateful for the new friends and memories made along the way. I am proud to be fully immersed in the vegan world and to work with brands like Sunwarrior that I share so many values with. Even though I am back in New York, I will forever keep the magic of St. George close to my heart.

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Strength from Plants

For most of my life, I’ve been an athlete. From competitive gymnastics, to years of playing basketball and baseball, to spending hours a week in the gym, I have always been surrounded by health-oriented people. But so many guys always said you can only keep your body strong with a diet comprised of whey, meat, creatine and all those other supplements that you can’t pronounce. Well, I am here to tell you that that you can absolutely build strength and long, lean muscles on a plant-based diet.

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Plant-based whole foods can be even more powerful in building muscle and strength because you aren’t eating toxic ingredients that are found in many non-vegan supplement products. Because of this, you are making room in your body for the nutrients that matter and allowing your internal organs to soak them in, instead of spending energy fighting off the bad cells trying to attack your good ones. Supplements with filler additives may give you more of a “pump” quicker, but the results aren’t derived from natural foods. More often than not, they will either quickly fade, and athletes are potentially doing more long-term damage to their bodies than they realize. Just remember: your body forms complete proteins from amino acids, which plant-based foods are filled with.

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Then there’s oxygen. In order for your cells to work properly, enough oxygen needs to be stimulated throughout your blood. It turns out, eating vegetables helps increase the amount of oxygen pumping through your body. The benefits of vegetables—in particular, leafy greens—are overwhelming. You’ll get increased levels of energy for enhanced workouts, faster muscle growth and recovery, and perhaps most important, decreased inflammation. Inflammation can lead to a slew of diseases, but in the short term, can prevent muscles from developing. Plus, because you are too inflamed, you’ll have a harder time seeing all that hard work you’re putting in at the gym. That’s why people on high plant diets look extra cut. They are eliminating inflammation. Veggies also add protein to your diet, and they’re very low in calories, so load up on these vitamin-packed foods!

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Muscle growth is also fueled by complex carbs. Yes, it's okay and necessary to eat some carbs to building strength and muscle. Some of my favorite complex carbs are sweet potatoes, seeds, nuts, brown rice, and quinoa. Complex carbs recover and rebuild lean muscle tissue, are high in fiber, and naturally boost energy levels. They even assist in cutting fat and inflammation. Some are packed with protein. Plant-based protein can, of course, be incorporated into your pre and post-workout shakes. It’s a great way to instantly boost your levels of protein for the day with clean, natural ingredients. I’ve been using the Sunwarrior Classic Chocolate for years and love it. In fact, I have turned a lot of my guy gym friends onto it (they swore by whey). Now they say they feel so much better using a plant-based protein. There are also a ton of great foods on the market to explore, like the Beast Burger from Beyond Meat. It’s packed with 23 grams of protein and is soy-free and gluten-free (pea protein based), so don’t be discouraged about finding more plant-based products that contain high protein—they exist!

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Many products that include traces of meat can trigger weight gain, issues with blood sugar, and other dangerous diseases. I’m not telling you to become a vegan (I myself am pescatarian, but eat no other animal products) because I know everyone is on their own food journey. But I am telling you, eating a predominately plant-based diet can help enrich the quality of your life and build muscles and your strength (and shred) in perhaps more meaningful and powerful ways. I urge you to explore more plant-based foods that can replace some other things you’re eating and see how your body feels with this change. I have never felt better! I will continue on my own journey, exploring how I can keep reaching those fitness goals through the healthiest ingredients possible.

*Head over to Sunwarrior see some of my healthy recipes.

Claims in this post have not been evaluated by the FDA. Information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of a medical professional before making significant changes to your diet or lifestyle.

Outdoor Training 

*This post was sponsored by my friends over at Zappos

Hot summer days are slowly coming to an end as slight hints of fall are in the air. With the transition of seasons comes the most comfortable weather to train outdoors. I crave fresh air, so what better way to enjoy the outdoors than by breaking a sweat? Living a healthy and balanced lifestyle is important to me so I try to make time to workout five to six times per week, even if its a busy day and has to be short and sweet. If you don’t have time to get to a gym, city streets or nature can be the perfect replacements. With a little creativity, you can use things in the environment surrounding you to get in a fantastic work out. 

Running on a treadmill is one of the most painful things for me. I get easily bored, distracted, and find myself looking at the time, second by second as I wait for it to hit zero. When I want to get in a run, there is no better place to do so then outside. Put on your favorite playlist, blast your music and let your adrenaline fuel a run through the crisp air. When running on pavement, what you wear on your feet is especially important for the performance of your workout. Non-supportive shoes can produce blisters and cause excruciating pain in your ankles, which hinders how hard you can push yourself. To prevent this, I suggest wearing a pair of flat-knit runners like these sneakers from Brooks to make sure you're set up for success. What I love about these sneakers is that they are made so that the underfoot of each shoe adapts to the runner and your levels of impact. They provide flexible cushioning and extra security to ensure proper form while pounding the pavement.

Exercises like leg lunges, squats, burpees and drop kicks can be done anywhere outside as long as you have a flat surface. I suggest that after you run, create a lower body routine that incorporates some of your favorite leg exercises. Your shoes shouldn’t be the only thing providing maximum comfort when working your muscles. High performance athletic gear like this tank top and shorts from Brooks are made with DriLayer® fabric that is cooling and extra comfortable. The shorts are designed to draw perspiration off of your skin and push it out to the exterior of the fabric, keeping pockets of sweat from overheating your body. Its so hard to find comfortable clothes to workout in, but everything I am wearing can be found over at Zappos - and they offer free shipping and returns which is something I always look for when shopping because you can try out many different styles until you find the one you love.

One last outdoor workout tip for you is that you can even work your arms and upper body without bringing weights outside. Find a bench, stairwell, or anything you can safely prop yourself up on to do a range of exercises like pull ups, dips and push-ups. Don’t forget to finish off your workout with stretching to help prevent injuries and keep your muscles loose and limber. With some outdoor training and comfortable clothing to maximize your fitness sessions, you are on your way to being in fighting shape this fall!