Herb Hacks!

Herb Hacks!

 

It’s garden season! For those of you who are growing herbs, it can be tricky to keep up with all of them! Although the trainers at Renovo are ALWAYS accepting donations of foods of any kind, here are some other ways to preserve your herbs when they get out of hand.

 

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1)      Make herb-oil cubes. Fill an ice cube tray with whatever cooking oil you prefer and submerge your herbs in the oil, then pop them into your freezer! When you are ready to cook, pop a cube out into your pot or pan for sautéing, drop into a soup, or thaw completely to use in a salad dressing. Suggested herbs to use: rosemary, sage, oregano, and thyme.


2)      For a similar effect, you can make herb-infused oil. Drop a few springs of your favorite herbs into a jar of olive oil that has a good seal. Let sit for 1-2 weeks. Now you have ready to drizzle, infused oil for bread, salads, marinades, whatever!

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3)      Make herb-infused vodka for a fun spin on your cocktails! Add 3-4 springs to a jar and pour vodka over the herbs. Put the lid on and shake well. Let sit for 3-4 days. After the 4th day you’ll want to sample the vodka every day until you reach the desired flavor level. Then remove herbs and enjoy! Suggested herbs: mint, lavender, basil, thyme. Use in vodka sodas, Tom Collins, Gimlets, etc.

 

And of course, you can always dry them! But give some of these a shot and see if they aren’t more exciting than dried herbs!

Healthy(er) Holiday Cookies!

Happy holidays all! Here is a quick round-up of some of my favorite sweet holiday treats! I love to bake, but I’m also super cheap and don’t like having to spend a ton of time in the kitchen. I’ve put together a couple quick and easy recipes you can try out! I heavily use Kodiak Cakes all-purpose mix, it’s a great mix with lots of fiber and some extra protein. Feel free to sub any other kind of baking mix (flour + baking powder) or any pancake mix.

For the chocolate lovers:

Double Chocolate Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

½ cup Kodiak Cakes mix

½ cup cocoa powder

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4 eggs

2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup for sweetness

1 Tablespoon coconut oil

For the frosting:

1 cup of pumpkin puree

1 cup of melted chocolate chips

Directions:

1)      Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2)      Mix all ingredients together.

3)      Pour batter into greased muffin tin.

4)      Bake for 10-12 minutes and let cool completely.

5)      Whip together melted chocolate and pumpkin puree

6)      Pipe onto cooled cupcakes!


For the peanut butter lovers:

Thumbprint PB&J cookies

1 and 1/3 cup Kodiak Cakes all-purpose mix

1/2 cups peanut butter

1/3 cup maple syrup

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Whatever type of jelly or jam you like!

Directions:

1)      Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2)      Combine baking mix, syrup and peanut butter.

3)      Roll into small balls, use your thumb to flatten a little, and place on greased baking sheet.

4)      Fill thumb indent with jelly or jam.

5)      Bake for 10 minutes!

 


For the mint lovers:

Matcha Mint Macaroons

2 cups shredded, unsweetened coconut

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3 scoops Matcha Powder (I used Vital Proteins)

1 scoop vanilla Protein Powder

2 Tablespoons melted coconut oil

2 cups mini semi-sweet morsels

Peppermint extract to taste (I used about 1 tablespoon)

Directions:

1)      Combine all ingredients

2)      Let chill in the fridge for 30 minutes

3)      Roll into small balls

Done!

What's The Deal with Bench Press?

It seems like every fitness video you see these days has the same couple of moves, the squat, maybe some jump rope, and the bench press. But what is a bench press? And why should you do it?

The Bench Press is the ultimate pushing move. When done correctly, the bench press activates virtually all the upper body muscles involved in pushing forward. The Triceps, Shoulders, Chest, and Abs all have a part in the bench press.

What’s the difference between Dumbbell and Barbell Bench press?

This is a question we see often at the gym, and the differences are important!

The First, and most obvious difference is the minimum weight. If a 45-pound bar is too heavy for your press, then your decision has been made for you!

The Second, is the stability difference. A barbell bench press is a more linear motion, and really only changes on one axis. With a dumbbell bench press, the arms can move independently, which will decrease the overall stability. This can be an advantage when looking to train the maximum number of muscles but doesn’t allow for as heavy a weight as the barbell bench.

The Third difference is the overall range of motion. Some people find that dumbbell bench press allows them to fully squeeze their chest muscles at the top, and truly stretch them at the bottom, as the arms can come farther back. This is an individual preference, and something we are always happy to go over with our clients!

Where should my hands be when I am bench pressing?  

—> Short answer: That depends on what you want to accomplish!

Narrow grip bench press.

Narrow grip bench press.

—> Long answer: A bench press can be most closely associated with a push up. Do you want to develop your triceps? You are going to want to keep your hands close, but more importantly keep your elbows close in at your sides. (Like all triceps exercises the flexion through the elbows is the key, not hand placement).

Do you want to develop your chest muscles? You’re going to want to have a wide grip, and make sure you have a full range of motion through your press.

Wide grip bench press.

Wide grip bench press.

Do you want to do as much weight (or as many reps) as possible? You’re going to want to make sure all your muscles are engaged and find a distance with your hands that engages the shoulders, chest, and triceps, (Generally a little wider than shoulder width).

How should I be breathing on the bench press?

Like many other exercises, the core is best suited to help during the bench press if you exhale while pushing the bar/dumbbells up. As in, deep breath on the way down, big exhale on the way up!

            There are many other things to learn about the Bench press form, and we are here to help! So, stop by and ask us how you can improve your bench press!

Breaking Down Supplements

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Hey all!  Eric here with another installment for Renovo Fitness! Today, I want to look at a variety of supplements that could help you stay on track during this tough holiday season.  

 As we all know, this time of year arrives complete with holiday parties, indulgent drinks and plenty of delicious foods. We encourage you to take part and enjoy yourselves, have a slice of pie, have that glass of wine, just remember your goals! One of the biggest elements to success in your health and wellness journey is being consistent. If you can consistently eat well and exercise regularly, then having one extra glass of wine or a little scoop of ice cream with dessert won’t derail you from your goals. On top of consistency, there are a few tricks you can use this season to stay on the healthier side of the holidays and avoid a belly like a bowl full of jelly!

 

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One trick to try to satisfy a sweet tooth is to check out supplements that have a delicious flavor to them. A good place to start is a glass of water with BCAA’s (branch chain amino acids) with a fruit flavor added to it.  BCAA’s are the essential building blocks your body uses to help stimulate the building of protein in the muscles.  This can help prevent muscle breakdown and fatigue during or after a workout.  BCAA’s can be found naturally in foods like meat, legumes, and dairy but finding a flavored supplement that you like can be a good way to satisfy cravings. One of our favorite products is made by STAUNCH supplements. I personally use their BCAA’s because they not only have a small, simple ingredient list, meaning they don’t add a bunch of nonsense to their product, they also have amazing flavors that are sugar free! Their product also has added coconut water for a boost of hydration and with flavors like Peach Mango, White Grape, Pineapple, and Strawberry Coconut, you’re sure to find something to satisfy your sweet tooth!

 

Another good option for getting around that sugar craving is to make hot cocoa using chocolate protein powder.  Depending on the brand you use, you could relax and enjoy some hot chocolate that’s delivering anywhere between 15 and 30 grams of protein.  Not too shabby!  If this is more your speed than the BCAA’s, I would still recommend heading over to STAUNCH and checking out their Hot Chokkie flavored protein. Packing 24 grams of protein per serving, zero fats, and only 1 gram of carbs, it’s a crazy delicious way to sip hot chocolate and still stay on track for your nutrition and fitness needs!  The people at STAUNCH really know their stuff, providing a small ingredient list again, and other flavors like Vanilla Ice Cream and Carmel von Mocha.  

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With these quick and easy options, you should be able to stay on track this holiday season. If you want to go a little fancier, send an email over to our trainer Liz and ask for one of her awesome recipes she’s been creating!  She’s got everything from no-bake Matcha Mint Bites to Chocolate Pumpkin Muffins!

Remember, whether you use these little tricks or not, consistency is key and finding fun little things to help along the way like tasty supplements or homemade health food makes this journey not only easier but a lot more enjoyable!

Happy Holidays!

The Breakdown: Thanksgiving Edition!

The holidays are often a hard time to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Between the food, drinks and social obligations, it is difficult to find time and motivation to get to the gym or eat well! Fortunately, we have a couple tips to help you out!

1)      Fill at least half of your plate with veggies and eat them first.

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You don’t have to deny yourself that slice of pie or scoop of mashed potatoes but making healthier choices a priority can help you maintain your healthy habits and avoid that overly full feeling. The fiber and water in vegetables will help keep your digestive system on track too!

2)      Be aware of your portion sizes and don’t go in hungry!

Using a smaller plate or even smaller serving utensils can be really helpful in keeping portion sizes in check. In the same vein, having a healthy, protein and fiber rich breakfast before your big meal is important. If you go into Thanksgiving dinner starving, you are way more likely to over eat!  Start with small servings, eat slowly and then you can evaluate whether you are still hungry and want to go back for more!

3)      Move for 30 minutes a day, every day.

Whether it’s a walk with your family, a quick at home workout or a full-blown sweat session, make a concerted effort to spend 30 minutes a day doing something. Make it a priority, get your family involved (or not, depending on your family!), and make it fun!

4)      Alternate water and all your other drinks, stay hydrated!

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With all the dense foods and alcohol that often accompany holidays, you can easily find yourself dehydrated. Even mild dehydration can lead to headaches, fatigue and bloating. Getting enough water can be a really simple way of feeling better during the holidays.

5)      Don’t stress over the little things.

Easier said than done, but try not to stress over your diet or trying to maintain the “perfect” regime. You should enjoy yourself and the holidays free of guilt! Have a slice of pie, have a drink, life is all about balance! 

Happy Thanksgiving from your Renovo Fitness Family!

Breaking Down Core Muscles

Few things are as important for mobility, stability, and longevity as a strong core.

The core consists of the abdominal muscles, along with the lower back, and oblique muscles.  In the exercise world, we tend to get so caught up thinking about ab workouts that we rarely take the chance to think about all the other structural components surrounding them, and how beneficial a strong core can be. If longevity is your goal (and it should be!) a strong core is the key to a lifetime of healthy exercise.

Why do them?

Everything builds from the core. Stability is the key to strength in overhead moves, twisting moves, and moves away from the body. Building a strong core will improve your stability, and therefore strength in these movements. Reducing the risk of injury by increasing core stability should be a goal for anyone interested in any form of exercise.

Are core exercises necessary?

While keeping the core strong should be a priority, doing abs every day is most likely not necessary. This is because many compound motions (motions with lots of moving parts) already demand attention from the core and can strengthen our backs and abs just fine. If you are already engaging your core during exercises, chances are you are already providing enough work for you core.

One of the most common challenges new clients bring to us is a weak, aching, or angry lower back. Inn these cases we may suggest targeted lower back exercises to help strengthen that area. But lower back exercises can be easily overdone, or done incorrectly, and should be supervised if possible.

I’ve heard putting my hands under my back can be useful during ab exercises,  is this true?

Your core consists of your abdominal and your back muscles, which work together to stabilize the spine among, other things. When doing exercises like leg raises, bicycles, flutter kicks, etc., the abs contract to counter the movement of the legs. This contraction can often make your back arch and cause lower back pain if done incorrectly. Hands under the lower back is NOT the solution, but hands under your butt may be.  Putting your hands under the lower back can actually cause more pain because it changes the weight dispersion, makes your legs feel heavier, and can arch your spine even more. With your hands under your butt, you can keep your spine supported by the ground, and still tire out your abs. 

Any other tips for core exercises?

Just one! The importance of breathing during any core exercise cannot be overstated. Because your core helps to push air out of your lungs, breathing with intent can be critical in keeping your core tight while exercising. The easiest rule to follow for breathing during abs, is to breathe when you’re fighting gravity. For example, during a leg raise, exhale when the legs are on their way up. 

Some faster ab moves may leave the breathing pattern up to your discretion. Just keep that core tight!

In Conclusion

—> A strong core is essential to a healthy, strong, and stable body.

—> Doing compound motions while focusing on your core may be enough core exercise for you! 

—> Don’t forget about your back!

—> And always ask for help or an exercise if you need it. That’s what we do!

Breaking Down The Spooky Truth of Pre-Workouts

With all the ghosts and ghouls and scary stuff out there this week, I want to talk about another scary product you see in fitness facilities and gyms all over… PRE-WORKOUT SUPPLEMENTS. There are several types of supplements you can take to impact your exercise routine.  Some are used for post workout recovery, others for hydration, and some for energy.  Today we will look at supplements used before (pre) a workout, meant to enhance your performance and give you an edge in the gym.

Pre-workout supplements have a large range of vitamins and ingredients that are geared towards promoting better, stronger, and faster results from your workouts.  I want to be very clear, pre-workout is not steroids! The goal of pre-workout is to put your body in a better state to reap all the benefits from exercise, and to hyper focus your mind to stay motivated and determined during a workout. Most of the time, this is accomplished with either caffeine, B vitamins, Coq-10, or some combination of those.  These ingredients tend to be the main drivers behind the mental focus aspect of pre-workouts.  

              When it comes to prepping the body for intense exercise, pre-workouts will use all types of synthetic or natural ingredients.  A few common ingredients you may see are Citrulline-Malate, Beta-Alanine, and Creatine.  There’s no need to fear all these big fancy names, I happen to have a handy little table that will help keep them straight!

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You may be thinking, “Wow, Eric can really make a chart! That thing is good! But what does it all mean?”  I’m glad you asked!  Whenever someone asks me whether they should be taking a pre-workout supplement, the first thing I ask them is about the brands and products they are interested in. Some products are packed with “filler” ingredients, and nobody needs to spend their hard-earned cash on “filler”.  The other thing to look for is how much of each ingredient there is.  For example, some pre-workouts have about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee (about 95mg).  Some have almost 3 times that amount!  If you need that much help from a stimulant to get you motivated through a workout, there are other things we need to look at!  

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Supplements are generally unregulated by the FDA, so they have scary leeway when it comes to disclosing their ingredients.  If you ever see “proprietary blend” followed by the amount per serving with a long list of ingredients, that usually means that the amount per serving represents some mixture of ALL of those ingredients!  

I don’t have any issue with pre-workout supplements, in fact, I use them myself. The biggest thing to remember is to research what you’re taking, ask your trainer, doctor, nutritionist, someone that may have more knowledge about it. Please follow the directions, and more than anything, remember that YOU DON’T NEED THEM!  If you take a pre-workout supplement and you feel like crap, STOP TAKING IT!  Maybe try a supplement that doesn’t have caffeine if you get light headed or your stomach hurts.  If it feels like your skin is crawling, try a supplement without Beta-Alanine! Just like exercise and diet, proper supplementation is going to take a little trial and error to figure out what works best for you!  So, don’t be afraid, at least not of pre-workouts!

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!






Breaking Down Macro Nutrients

What are macro nutrients, why they matter, and how to track them.

Most people are pretty comfortable with the idea of calories by now. We know how to track them, how to burn them, and why that balance is important. Calorie count information is increasingly accessible, often posted next to menu items, or easily found online or in apps.  But is counting calories really the best way of meeting your nutrition and health goals? Is a calorie really just a calorie? Let’s discuss!

Is a calorie just a calorie?

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Yes and no. Calorie balance is important for all health goals. If you are looking to lose weight, you need to ingest fewer calories than you burn, putting you in a calorie deficit. If you want to gain weight, you need to ingest more calories than you burn, to be in calorie surplus. That part is simple. But consider for a minute someone who gets all their calories from Twinkies. You could stay under a 2,000-calorie goal and still eat 11 Twinkies in a day, if you were on an all Twinkie diet! But how would you feel? How would you perform? Would you still be hungry? You would probably feel pretty bad, and pretty hungry! But, you might still lose weight, if that’s your goal. Now consider someone who has just 1 Twinkie a day, and uses the rest of their calories on veggies, fruit, whole grains and lean protein. Who do you think will feel and perform better? The difference between these examples comes down to the macro nutrient content of these foods.

So, what’s a macro nutrient?

The main macros are fat, carbohydrates, and protein. They are the building blocks of our nutrition and despite some bad raps, they are all important to our health and well being. The key is finding a balance that works for you. If you only eat Twinkies, you only get 1 gram of protein per Twinkie, compared to almost 40 grams of protein in a cup of tuna, both of which have about 180 calories. Protein will help keep you full longer and helps rebuild muscles and power workouts. Twinkies probably won’t get you through a tough sweat session! Similarly, proper ratios of healthy fats and carbs will help keep you full and fueled for your day and your workout!

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What you need to know about macro tracking:

While the focus of macro tracking should be on hitting your macro nutrient goals, getting enough protein, fats and carbs per day, it is important to keep the overall number of calories in check as well. Protein and carbs both have 4 calories per gram, while fat has 9 calories per gram. Many programs will assign you a daily percentage of calories per macro, for example 50% of your calories should come from carbs, 30% from protein and 20% from fat. This can be tracked in an app but can make it a little hard to plan for the whole day since most of us don’t think in percentages. Another method is to have a certain number of grams of each macro as your goal. For example, 120 grams of protein, 160 grams of carbs, and 20 grams of fat for a total of 1,300 calories. This can be a little easier to manage since nutrition information is presented to you in grams on the packaging. Either method allows you to be flexible in your dieting and never involves strict restrictions on food. At 26 grams of carbs, 5 grams of fat and 1 gram of protein, you can definitely fit a Twinkie into your macros if you choose to!

How much do I need?

This is where opinions start to differ. A basic, well rounded diet is suggested to include 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight, 3-5 grams of carbs per pound body weight and the remaining calories from fat, about 20-30% of total calories. These will differ depending on your goals and workouts. Endurance athletes, runners, triathletes, etc, will likely need more carbs than those who only train for strength. If you are cutting calories to lose weight, it is recommended that you increase protein intake. Finally, every body is different, some people may require lower carbs and higher fat to see the results they want, some may do great on a high carb, low fat diet. It takes some patience and some tweaking to find what works best for you!

The takeaway:

Focusing on getting your macro nutrients in tends to lead to overall better food choices. Not all calories are created equal, and while we are huge proponents of balance, it is important to get most of your calories from nutrient dense sources. Try tracking your macros for just a day and see what happens, you may be surprised by how little protein and how much fat you are eating! If you have more questions or would like to try our Virtuagym macro tracking app, ask a trainer! We are happy to make recommendations on high quality foods, tracking apps, or nutritional supplements.

Breaking Down the Squat

Chances are, you have seen some variation of a squat in the last week. Whether it’s sitting at a desk chair or getting out of your car, the natural motion of a squat can be found throughout daily life.

In the gym, squats are a focal point of many workouts. Due to the number of muscle groups activated, and the numerous benefits, squats can be found in almost any lower body, cardio, or full body workout.

Despite what you may see on the internet, depth is not the most important factor in a squat. Don’t get me wrong, depth is key to getting maximal benefits from a squat, but without the proper form, depth can be detrimental. FORM FIRST. Speed and/or weight should be one of your last concerns if you are squatting on your own.

While we always recommend having a professional help you with your squats, here are a few tips you can use if you decide to practice on your own:

  • Keep your weight on your heels, try lifting your toes off the ground and see how that changes your weight distribution.

  • Focus on a point in front of you to keep your head and chest up.

  • Break from your hip first, not your knees. Your butt should be the first thing out.

  • For beginners, watch your knees and try to keep them from pushing out in front of your toes, this may change with supervision, but it is a good rule of thumb on your own.

At Renovo, we hear concerns and field questions about squats on a daily basis, and hopefully I can clarify some of the most common ones today!

How do I increase depth in my squat?

The short answer is to keep practicing with correct form!  The long answer is that you may need to work on your hip/ankle mobility. Oftentimes, tight hips can keep you from taking full advantage of a squat, and stretches that work to open the hips can be beneficial both before and after your squat workout. Likewise, if you find your heels coming off the ground, or feel like you can’t sit back in the bottom of your squat, you may need to work on your ankle flexibility.

We are always happy to recommend some stretches for both hips and ankles!

Why do my knees hurt when I squat?

More often than not, (excluding a pre-existing injury) if your knees are hurting during a squat, it's because you’re asking your knees to do more work than your hips.

Remember that tip about breaking first from your hips instead of your knees? Your hips are more suited for a heavy load than your knees and they want to help!  

If you need practice breaking from your hips, try the box squat!  Box squats are great for practicing form and keeping the load off of the knees!

If you need advice on how to do a box squat, just ask us!

Are there any substitutes for a squat?

There are plenty of exercises that can reach the same muscle groups as a squat, but none that can work them all at the same time quite as well.

If you just want a good quad burn, try a wall sit or leg extensions!  

If hip mobility, and small muscle group work is what you seek, try a lunge!

It's worth noting that squat substitutes tend to miss the mark on core and stability.

So, in conclusion:

Don’t be afraid to squat, and don’t be afraid to let us help you!




Breaking Down Collagen Peptides

Welcome to the Breakdown, and the first installment by me, Eric!  I will be discussing and reviewing various products that you may be seeing in the health and fitness world, some you may even see at Renovo Fitness! I will be breaking down what they do, why you should (or shouldn’t) take them, and why we recommend them!  We care immensely about the health and well-being of our clients, so we are very selective about the types of products we carry. My aim is to give you an honest review of products that we love, or maybe don’t love, ranging from nutritional supplements and cooking aids, to clothing and exercise equipment.  

This week’s review is on a brand and product that we at Renovo Fitness have loved for many years now.  Vital Proteins specializes in collagen-based protein supplements and is continually expanding their collagen based products.  The product we love and recommend the most is their flagship product, the Collagen Peptides.

The Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides is a flavorless powder that delivers 20 grams of collagen-based protein per serving.  The powder dissolves incredibly well in all liquids, hot or cold making it super easy to use on a regular basis. If you are a morning coffee drinker all you need to do is remember to add a serving of Peptides in your coffee and go! Your coffee will taste exactly the same, have no added texture, and have a 20-gram protein boost!  You may be thinking, “Yeah, that sounds cool but collagen? I thought that was something I rubbed on my face or people get injected into their lips.” You’re not wrong, but it’s so much more than that. According to the Vital Proteins website, “Collagen is the vital building block of our bodies including skin, hair, nails, bones, and joints. Our bodies cannot synthesize enough collagen on their own and our diets today contain minimal collagen.”

So what does that mean? Collagen is a naturally occurring protein that has tons of benefits, that your body makes on its own until about your mid 20’s.  After that, the body makes less and less which is a major contributing factor to signs of aging like wrinkles, achy joints, and poor mobility. By ingesting collagen, it is synthesized in the body much more efficiently than topical creams, and your body recognizes it and can instantly put it to work! Collagen powder is a more holistic protein compared to whey protein that tends to target muscle cells first. Collagen can diversify and spread throughout the body, leading to improvements in your skin, hair, nails, muscle tissue, joints, and even your bone density and digestive track! Best of all, Vital Proteins Collagen is made with one simple, clean ingredient; collagen!

Vital Proteins is extremely up front and transparent about the process used to hydrolyze their product, making sure everyone who purchases it knows that it comes from a natural source, either New Zealand free range bovine or wild caught Hawaiian red snapper, and exact what type of processing plant the supplement travels through.  If you are looking for a holistic, easy to use protein product, well, we haven’t found a better one yet! Ask your Renovo Fitness trainer next time you’re in and get a free sample and try it yourself