barefoot

Running, Climbing and Transitioning to Vibram Fivefingers

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The past month has been particularly busy, as Spring is finally here in full force and I’m happily spending as much time outdoors as possible while squeezing a ton of activity into each day. The sun stretching across so many more hours of the day means my energy is renewed and I’ve successfully sloughed off the winter urge to hibernate. I even got talked into competing in my first rock climbing comp, The Ring of Fire held by Central Rock Gym (my favorite Boston-area indoor rock gym).

ImageIt was a bit of a last-minute decision as I went in to climb the Monday before the comp and the woman working the front desk really encouraged me to sign up. I didn’t realize most comps have a Women’s Beginner’s division. I had already been planning on coming to watch the pros climb, so I figured why not give it a go. All-in-all I didn’t do terribly well (flashed the first wall, fell on the other two) but I had a lot of fun and learned a ton. I’d definitely do it again! I’m really not a competitive sports person so it was quite a surprise that I both did it and enjoyed it. Also, watching the pro finals that night was outstanding. Ashima Shirashi and Delaney Miller blew my mind, and I was seriously impressed by everyone who climbed.

The real reason I was drawn to blog today though is to address some information that’s making the rounds about Vibram Fivefingers. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you may know I started blogging when I first did the Couch-2-5k program back in the Spring of 2010. I had always hated running and used the excuse of “bad knees” to get me out of even thinking about it. I was encouraged to try running with C25K and Fivefingers as I read there were benefits of running barefoot. The biggest benefits for me were that it encouraged using a more natural stride (mid-sole/fore-foot strike instead of heel strike, working on pushing up/being springier) and increased awareness of the environment (eyes learn to scan the terrain to avoid stepping on sharp objects). I personally experienced both of those pros and also found it was the first time in my life I could run without knee pain and shin splints. I also enjoyed running for the first time as it felt like playing when my feet could really feel the textures of mud, sand, gravel, etc.  It was such a positive experience for me that I’ve bough three pair of Fivefingers in the past four years and I use them for running, hiking, paddling and swimming. I even just ran my first 5K in them last weekend (note, I just started walking at this point so that heel coming down is not my normal running stride):

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While I’m obviously a fan of VFF, I also realize they’re not for everyone. Depending on your foot shape and bone structure they may not be for you. I’ve also seen quite a few people injure themselves due to switching to VFFs and not weaning into them properly. VFF shoes use muscles in the feet, ankles and calves that you may not be used to using on a regular basis. This isn’t true of just VFF shoes, it’s true of beginning any new physical activity or picking up an activity after months without it. For example, how many of us know people who have become injured after heading to the gym and doing the same weight routine they did four years ago when they haven’t touched a weight in months?

So to me, it was no surprise when this research study came out citing the potential for increased foot bone marrow edema in those transitioning to VFF shoes. The thing is, some people are seriously misinterpreting this study to mean VFFs are terrible and horrible and, as one post mentioned, “will fuck up your feet”. Whereas in reality the study clearly states: “CONCLUSION: Runners interested in transitioning to minimalist running shoes, such as Vibram FiveFingers, should transition very slowly and gradually to avoid potential stress injury in the foot.” Well, that makes sense.

But let’s take a moment to break down the study. It involved 36 experienced runners, 17 in the control group ran in their normal shoes, while 19 transitioned to Vibrams. The transition plan sounded reasonable. Runners continue their normal running routines (which are 16+ miles) and use Vibrams for 1-2 miles to start and gradually increase. The thing is, the study gets a little wishy-washy from there. “It should be noted that some subjects stopped logging their runs prior to the 10th week of training and 4 of the 19 Vibram subjects did not document their training at all, though they did participate in both pre- and post- testing and therefore, were included in the statistical analysis in this study. This lack of documentation presents a limitation to this study.”  That’s kind of a big strike here. The people running the study also don’t note how runs were tracked. It’s alluded to that the runners all self-document, which leaves quite a bit of room for error. I was surprised they didn’t have them at least track their run with a smartphone app. Not that those are perfect, but it would be a bit more scientific than giving them a logbook and sending them on their way.

The study goes on to explain that they used a MRI before and after the study with each included participant to check for bone and soft tissue damage. There was a noticeable increase in edema and a small incidence of stress fractures with those using VFF shoes. Incidences were higher in women than in men. This is certainly concerning and not something to brush off. I do personally feel this warrants more study, since the control group was small and there were issues with the data collected, but their conclusion draws upon common sense.

“Although most runners will not know about the presence or degree of bone marrow edema, our results suggest that if a runner transitioning to VFF feels pain, they should modify their running regimen.” Yes, this. They also concluded that if you are a long-distance runner, it’s advisable to transition over a period of time greater than 10 weeks. I’m totally down with those conclusions. Not only do these rules apply to running with VFFs, but they’re common sense rules for exercise in general.

Rebecca’s Simple Rules to Avoiding Injury

  1. If you feel pain make modifications to your exercise.
  2. Transition slowly into new exercise routines.
  3. Properly warm up the body before engaging in physical activity.
  4. ALWAYS stretch and cool down after physical activity.
  5. Support your body with proper nutrition to fuel your workouts and support your recovery.

And lastly, since our society is so friggin’ litigious, Vibram Fivefingers was sued for making unsubstantiated claims about their footwear (basically saying it was a healthier way to run). So if you purchased VFFs after March 2009 you may be eligible to collect from this class action suit. So if that applies to you and you’d like to be a part of it, keep an eye on this page for updates on how to register. For the record, VFF still claim they did nothing wrong, so this is a settlement, not an official ruling.

As for me, I’m going to continue rocking my Vibram Fivefingers. And I’m especially excited to use them for paddling season!

 

Raising The Bar

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I started week two of C25K this week. So far it’s noticeably easier this time around and I feel that’s a testament to how my level of fitness has increased over the years. It’s also a huge help that I’ve kept up with a daily yoga practice. My legs were sore last week but daily stretching with yoga, plus a longer class on Thursday night, has really helped make the soreness barely noticeable. This week I also upped my speed in half of the segments that I’m running. The program this week has me alternating running for 1.5 mins and walking for 2 mins for a total of about 29 minutes. I was excited to break the two mile mark yesterday and will try to up my speed when I run again tomorrow. I will say I’m missing my HiiT workouts. I had to shift things around to make room for running so I’m taking a break from HiiT and Kettlebell 2-3 days/wk to running 3 days/wk. While running is great to build my cardio, it’s also a bit boring (especially when compared to HiiT), and it’s not dynamic so it’s uber-focused on legs and core so the rest of my body is just happy I’m continuing to climb and do yoga to keep it active.

I reached a new height in climbing today by killing a 5.9+ route. Regular climbers may not find this impressive, but for me it was a big deal. I specifically chose the route because it had very few jugs and was mostly slopers, pinchers and globes. I hate all of those, though slopers and I have become friendly lately. I’ll also admit the two globes thrown into that route proved to be really nice resting points. But pinchers? We’re still not cool, pinchers. For the non-climbers that read my blog I will eventually explain more about those different holds so sorry if you feel left in the dark for now.

I realized it’s been a long time since I’ve posted a new smoothie recipe, so here’s my current favorite:

Pineapple Mango Smoothie
Pineapple Mango Smoothie

Pineapple Mango Smoothie:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup vanilla coconut milk (recipe here)
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1 tbsp flax seed (if your blender won’t pulverize this buy it ground)
  • handful fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup frozen mangos
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple

Blend it up in the mixer of your choice! I still love my Vitamix and make smoothies for myself and my partner every morning. If you’d like to indulge in the rest of the meal pictured above, make yourself some Scrambled Eggs with Spinach!

Scrambled Eggs with Spinach (yes, this may sound simple but I’m posting the recipe because I believe my scrambled eggs are recipe-worthy)

Ingredients:

  • two eggs (preferably free-range organic, even better if they’re local)
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened coconut milk (recipe here, omit vanilla and sweetener)
  • handful baby spinach
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (or fat of your choosing)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Melt oil in pan over medium-low
  2. Beat eggs with milk, salt and pepper until slightly frothy.
  3. Add eggs to pan and move continuously. This is the biggest trick to making light, fluffy eggs; keep them moving constantly. I like to use a heat-safe silicon spatula to keep folding them in on each other.
  4. When eggs are barely firm (maybe 20-30 seconds in the pan) add the spinach.
  5. Continue moving constantly until they reach desired firmness and spinach has wilted.

Now have your smoothie and scramble and go take over the world! 😉

C25K Redux & Climbing for the Top!

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In spite of it being 0ºF at my doorstep this morning, I’m thinking towards Spring! This year I signed up for my first official 5K. For anyone who’s been following my blog for a while, you know I began running back in April of 2010 using the Couch-to-5K program with the Get Running App. I also chose to run close to barefoot with Vibram Five Fingers (first KSOs, then the Treksports and now the Spyridon LS). I’ve continued running off and on since then but I generally don’t run much in the winter because I’m neither a fan of treadmills nor am I a fan of being cold. I also honestly don’t enjoy running as much as I enjoy climbing or yoga or HiiT workouts, so it tends to fall near the bottom of my list.

All that said, my school is involved in a 5K so I’ve decided to support them by participating. This is a big deal for me because I really don’t enjoy crowds so while I love obstacle courses and trail running, I haven’t been competitive about it. While I probably don’t technically need the C25K program this time around, since I’ve maintained good physical fitness, I want to take it slow so I can work on my form and rebuild any running-specific muscles that I may have been neglecting in the winter months. Unfortunately, this means using my treadmill right now (at least until all this %&*@# snow melts), but that does give me the ability to maintain consistent speeds and challenge myself to go faster in my runs. I specifically like to alternate running speeds, which is not part of the C25K regimen, because it both helps keep me engaged and builds better cardio by keeping my body guessing.

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In addition to the running, I’m working on leveling up in climbing! I’ve been climbing off and on for a couple years now but became a member at Central Rock Gym in January and have been hitting the walls 2-3 times per week since then. It’s amazing how addictive it is. I’ve found myself devouring climbing videos on YouTube and the more I watch others climb the more confident I’m getting in my own climbing. Above you’ll see my first bouldering route with a heel hook (which was super fun!) and since then I’ve been working more on my technique and was stoked to kill a couple V2’s at the gym yesterday!

My top roping has also improved. I went from climbing a 5.6-5.7 to now successfully completing 5.9’s. Once I get confident with the 5.9/5.10 range I can begin learning lead climbing, which means I’ll be responsible for hooking in my own rope on several preset lead carabiners along the route. This will help prepare me for outdoor climbing, which I’m hoping to try this summer.

For a girl who’s afraid of heights I’ve come a long way! The thing I really gain by climbing is when the confidence I have in myself is greater than my fear of heights. I’m not afraid of falling when I know I can hold myself up. Obviously, this can be applied to many facets of life, which I’m finding is the real thing I seek with physical fitness. Yoga teaches me to find moments of calm even in the most stressful situations. High intensity trainings and climbing both help me gain confidence in my body and mind and challenge me to push further.

They’re not kidding when they say “strong is the new beautiful”. 🙂

Day 82, 7380 Burpees, 55 Miles and a 5-Mile Obstacle Course!!

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Yesterday was truly an adventure!  I should have expected no less at Shale Hill Adventure Farm where my friend Rosie (of Rock Bodies) decided to bring a small group for her birthday.  Only a personal trainer would choose trekking through five miles of brutal obstacles as a way to celebrate another great year!  I’m really thrilled I was invited along!!

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The group, pre-run and our very-muddy post-run shoes (I’m on the left).

We didn’t bring our cameras on the trail so unfortunately you can’t see us all muddied up, but definitely take a look at Shale Hill‘s site for some great videos and pics of their course.  They have the first fixed obstacle course in the country!  We spent our time belly-crawling through mud under barbed wire, scaling walls, climbing ropes and poles, hurling ourselves over hay bails, carrying logs, sand bags and buckets of rocks, swinging from ropes and jungle gyms and doing so so much more.  It was INTENSE, but really fun!  Think of it as a playground for adults, and if you go get ready to feel like a kid again!

I personally have never done something like this before.  People often use their course to prep for obstacle races, like the Spartan Race which is held fairly-close by.  Those who have trained for the course can do it in 1-2 hours or so.  Except for Rosie, we were all new to this type of exercise and we went through the course at a more casual pace, ending in three hours flat.  We took our time on the obstacles, really trying to get a taste for them even if we couldn’t beat them.  It was great that everyone in the group tried just about everything.  

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Pics from the trail head, could it be anymore beautiful here?! Thanks for letting me use some of your pics, Rosie!

My absolute favorite was climbing ropes set up in a grid going quite high into the air.  The objective was to climb it, go over it and climb down the other side.  As someone who is afraid of heights, this was a pretty big deal.  In fact, many of the obstacles challenged my fear, but thanks to rock climbing for the past year and a half I’m getting much better at gritting my teeth and getting through it.  I also rediscovered my love of jumping over things.  The hay bails were far too high to actually hurdle, but I used my old high-jump technique to propel my body on top of them and roll over; or in some instances just get up high enough that I could claw my way over.  My shins are pretty pissed at me for wearing shorts as they’re covered in scratches today.  

The only very-minor bummer of the day for me was that my Vibram Trek Sports that I wear pretty religiously for outdoor fun, ripped at one of my big toes, causing my toe to jut out bare at times.  This mostly bother me because I only bought them two years ago and my KSO’s ripped a bit at some of the toes only about a year after buying them.  So my track record with Vibrams is 1-2 years right now.  That’s a bummer considering how much I love them and how expensive they are.  Any tips from others out there on either another brand of minimal shoes or ways to repair my current Vibrams?

If you’re in the VT area or are vacationing up here I highly recommend checking out Shale Hill Adventure Farm.  You won’t be disappointed…but you will have your ass kicked!

Day 48, 4320 Burpees, 25 Miles, Healthy Meatloaf!

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I’m past the halfway point on my 90 day challenge and the burpees are starting to get easier, but they’re still pretty terrible.  My running is getting better and yesterday I was really reminded how much I prefer running outside to running on a treadmill.

ImageI hadn’t been running outside due to my extreme distaste of the cold.  Ok, maybe not “extreme”, I mean I do live in Vermont, but running in minimalist shoes outside hasn’t been a fun experience for me in the past.  However, after a very trying week I woke up yesterday craving something new.  It was beautiful out!  Fresh powder on the ground and the sun was pouring down.  I decided to buck up and head out trail running.  I popped on my Injinji socks and my Vibrams and downloaded ZombiesRun! to my iphone.  I was waiting for Spring to try that game out but this seemed like the perfect time, plus they were having a 50% off sale on it this weekend!

I won’t lie, my feet got cold, but not too cold to stop me.  Plus once I got about half a mile in they seemed ok, though when I got home and popped my shoes off my toes were pretty icy.  The Zombies game kept me motivated and I ended up running farther than my goal and, what’s more exciting, I ran continuously instead of taking speed-walking breaks like I do on the treadmill.  While the game may have helped motivate me, the soft snow and fresh air is really what kept me running and engaged.  It was just beautiful out and I was finally able to bring my pup running with me again; we both had a great time!  I’m excited for real Spring to hit VT so I can get out there more often.

Lastly, let’s talk meatloaf!

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I’ve had many people ask me what I can eat on my elimination diet.  Really, I’ve been eating very similar to how I was eating before: smoothies and then a protein and veggies for dinner. The thing I have to be strict about is not adding gluten or dairy to my meal, along with the slew of other allergens that I mentioned in my previous post.  I’m also still watching my full nutrition intake and keeping things low-carb since I was doing that before I found out I had a bunch of food allergies.

Meatloaf is definitely a comfort food, but with the millions of meatloaf recipes out there it’s important to remember you CAN make a healthy version of it.  I spliced together a few recipes and made this omgyouwillwanttoeatthewholepan meatloaf that’s less than 300 calories per slice and packed with veggies and protein!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2lb Lean Ground Beef (I used local grass-fed beef and highly recommend you try to do the same)
  • 2 large carrots shredded 
  • 1 zucchini shredded
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano, minced
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 jar pasta sauce (try to choose a low-carb version with no or low sugar, or make your own!)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Sautée carrots, zucchini, onions, and garlic in olive oil until soft (~10 mins).  Set aside to cool, or put in the fridge for a few minutes.
  3. Beat eggs/egg whites in large bowl.  Add veggie mix, all herbs/spices, ground beef and 3/4 of pasta sauce jar.  Mix well.
  4. Form mixture into a loaf (it will be wet and won’t hold shape very well, that’s ok!) and put in large loaf pan.  Top with remaining pasta sauce.
  5. Cook for ~1.5 hours or until thermometer reads at least 165ºF.  Let sit for 10 minutes. Enjoy!

Now I’ve made a lot of meatloaf in my day and I have to say in full honesty that this was the most delicious meatloaf I’ve ever made!!  It trumped my cheese-filled bacon-wrapped meatloaf…seriously.  Granted, my boyfriend (who is not on my diet) fried the leftovers in bacon fat, so obviously the recipe could be improved on if you’re not counting your calories.

 

 

Day 40, 3600 Burpees, 19 Miles, Food Allergy RESULTS!

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I completed my third Hot Yoga/Bikram class at Geezum Crow Yoga last night and it was AWESOME!!  I really feel much more supported there than at Bikram Stowe and I’m going to try to make a point to go there more often.  In the meantime, to make things a bit more affordable I’m looking for a good iOS app for Hot Yoga.  After scouring reviews it looks like Hot Yoga Doctor is the most robust app with actual full spoken classes, despite their website being abhorrent.  I wish I could find an actual video.  I was surprised that My Yoga Online doesn’t have one (I highly recommend that site, btw).

Yesterday I received back the results of my food allergy testing.  I had IgA, IgE and IgG testing done against 96 foods.  It was done by Green Mountain Natural Health (processed at US BioTek) and I’m extremely grateful that my insurance covered the test in full.

I had the testing done because I’ve always had digestive issues and for the most part I’ve just accepted that and try to ignore it.  I’ve had acid reflux since I was a kid and that’s the only condition I really had diagnosed and treated.  I used to be on daily prescription meds but got off them with the help of a change in diet, and adding in yoga and abdominal massage (speaking of which if you are ever in the NH area I highly recommend seeing Kym Feltovic for Maya Abdominal Massage).  That was probably one of my first forays into the power that a change of lifestyle has.

On top of the acid reflux, I also struggle with bloating, stomach pains after eating and lower GI inflammation.  Those things have become so common that I thought they were part of life.  I’ve been on many types of diets.  Some due to dating partners with diet restrictions, some for fun, and more recently some elimination diets.  I’ve done two elimination diets (cleanses) and both times I found I had sensitivities to dairy and gluten.  Dairy was no surprise, I eat sundaes with the full knowledge that I’m entering a world of pain.  Gluten was annoying to find out but it makes sense.  I also noticed from those diets that I do much better with very little sugar.  This was also no surprise as both my Mom and I struggled with an overpopulation of yeast and my Dad and his Dad struggled with issues with diabetes.  Since those diets I’ve significantly cut back on dairy, gluten and sugar.

Yesterday I was handed a large booklet and finally got the results in full technicolor:

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I only photographed what I was allergic to.  I’m thankfully not allergic to any meat/fowl/eggs or any vegetables.  I am allergic to all dairy, coffee, sugar cane, brewer’s yeast, cranberry, clam, crab, kidney bean, corn, all wheat, oat, rye, sesame seed, spelt, and sunflower seed.

I posted the results to Facebook yesterday and had the most comments I think I’ve gotten to a post ever.  Food issues really rowel people up.  I’ve learned nutrition is a very personal thing with lots of different opinions and if you’re not already used to a restricted diet it can seem like the end of the world.  Let me be clear, this is not the end of the world at all.  I’m actually super-excited that I can now start working on these allergies and see how they will change my body!

The big surprises were cranberries and sesame seeds.  That means no more cranberry juice in my smoothies and I have to find another gluten free cracker that isn’t sesame-based.  I already knew dairy and gluten would be on there.  Brewer’s yeast is unfortunate, especially since that rules out making nut cheeses with nutritional yeast.  Crab and clam is annoying, but I eat them so infrequently that I’m not going to let it bother me (and I’m still going to rock soft-shell crab season).  And thankfully I had already quit coffee, despite my undying love for both roasting and drinking it.

Since I had already intuited a good chunk of these allergies and started being very strict about my diet since March 1st, I’ve actually lost 7lbs and my belly isn’t sticking out like a pregnant woman anymore (still a bit poofier than I’d like but, meh).  So I already know there’s truth to this test and I will feel better if I eat the foods that fuel and nourish my body.  I really didn’t mean to lose weight that quickly, just strictly cutting out dairy, gluten and sugar made an enormous difference.

The next step now is to do an elimination diet with the foods I tested as allergic to.  I let the doctor know that I’m going to cheat on St. Patrick’s Day and on a long weekend I might have coming up in Boston.  But, I don’t intend to cheat excessively.  After that I’ll be doing two solid weeks of elimination.  Then I need to add in one allergen at a time and note my reaction.  What surprised me is that my doctor said once I know how each effects me there are treatment options so it’s possible that I won’t have to cut these foods out of my diet for good. I don’t yet know what the treatment options are (one of my packets mentioned acupressure), but I’m curious to find out.

I was asked by a couple people if I’m actually allergic to these foods or if I just have a sensitivity to them.  I technically have an allergy to them, but not a fatal allergy.  The consequences are bloating, acid reflux, lower GI inflammation, fatigue and insomnia…with possibly more symptoms to discover as I do the elimination diet.  Dairy also gives me some respiratory issues, coughing from phlegm.  As far as food allergies go, I do consider myself very lucky.  My throat doesn’t swell up, I don’t have trouble breathing, etc.  So if you want to call it a sensitivity I suppose that would be accurate, but this test sitting next to me is calling it an allergy.  It’s basically all semantics. 

I’d love to hear from others out there who have been through this or who are curious about it!  I’m also on the hunt for more recipes that fit my diet, have anything good?  The first on the docket is a recipe for hummus without tahini.  Must go Google now!

33 Days, 2970 Burpees, 13 Miles and a delicious new smoothie!

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On top of my normal workouts I headed out to hike Elmore mountain today with my man and my trusty pup.  While the grey days of winter really seem to stretch on far too long, today was one of those special Vermont days when the weather was fair and the mountain tops were covered in a fresh dusting of snow.  It really was a beautiful hike and it’s a shame I didn’t think to snap a picture.

Afterwards we were starving!  Neither of us had really eaten enough to support the level of exercise we did today, which is always dangerous.  We headed to the grocery store and it was a real fight for both of us to not leave with a cart full of frozen pizzas and pastries.  We made it out with the veggies and eggs we went in for and quickly ran home to make what has become the most amazing smoothie I’ve ever had!  Chocolate lovers, this baby is for you!

In searching for new green smoothie recipes I came across this great post featuring 4 recipes under 400 calories.  I added protein powder to it and it was seriously incredible!

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Chocolate Covered Raspberry Green Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (original recipe uses almond milk)
  • 2 cups organic spinach
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries (original recipe uses fresh and adds 1-3 ice cubes)
  • 2 tbsp flax seeds (original recipe calls for ground, I like using whole seeds)
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 1 scoop of Fat Flush Body Protein

If you love chocolate and raspberries this is for you!  I also just got a jar of the Fat Flush Body Protein, which I’ve reviewed previously.  Now that I’ve been using several different protein powders I can make a better comparison.  It’s texture is closer to Plant Fusion powder I reviewed, in that it’s a very fine light powder.  It dissolves pretty well with minimal grit.  It does contain stevia which is a con for me, the stevia aftertaste annoys me.  While the powder itself has that sweet smell, the flavor in the smoothies hasn’t bothered me like it has with other powders.  I’d be happier if it didn’t have stevia but it meets all of my other protein powder requirements so I’m actually going to raise the rating on this from a B+ to an A-.  I’ll definitely finish the jug.