Category Archives: Diet

Meal of the Week – Alison’s Edamame Noodles

Say hello to my newest obsession: Edamame Noodles. 


I stumbled upon these bad boys at Aldi this weekend while my kids were searching for the perfect noodle. (Unbeknownst to me, I might have found mine too!) They settled upon linguine and I popped these organic, gluten free & vegan noodles in the cart too.  A good gluten free noodle is hard to come by, so naturally I was a little wary.  I’m happy to report that they got a gold star from me!


  • Tastes good
  • Fast cook time
  • Cheap
  • Healthy
  • Versatile


I’m always excited to find a noodle that has a hefty amount of protein and just one serving (about 2 oz dry) packs a massive 24g of protein, only 20g of carbs and 3.5g of fat.  Wins all around!


For lunches this week, I tossed the noodles in about ½ teaspoon of pesto sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, paired with BBQ grilled chicken and fresh from the farm green beans.

Fitness Over the Holidays

It’s mid-December and the holiday season is now fully upon us. What does that mean? Probably a little less time in the gym, a few more cookies than usual, and hopefully a lot more time with friends and family. Good things all around in my humble opinion.

If you’re traveling over the next few weeks, you might be feeling a little anxiety about skipping your workouts and training sessions. Here are a few quick and maybe unexpected tips to help keep you on track:

Stop stressing.

Hey you, when’s the last time you actually took a prolonged rest? Did I hear never? Well, look’s like now is your time! And what better occasion could there be to give your body the rest it needs to recover than when spending lots of quality time with your loved ones? You’ll likely be eating a little more than usual, giving your body some extra fuel to use towards recovery. When January 1 comes around, you’ll feel refreshed and super motivated to get back to your normal training routine.

You can still keep your health goals in mind.

Remember that not every meal in the month of December is a holiday meal – most of the time you’re going to be eating the normal, healthy food that fuels you. Right? If not, give that some thought. Holiday food is delicious and should be savored, and it loses its luster when you’re overindulging. Eat grandma’s famous nut roll and enjoy the hell out of, but not every night for a week. You are capable of moderation, and your body will thank you for it.

Use travel as an opportunity to try new fitness things.

One of my favorite things to do when I go home to visit family is to try out different gyms and studios. Never tried yoga? Find a local studio and rent a mat! Climbing gyms abound recently and are a ton of fun, even for casual climbers. Think spinning isn’t for you? You might be surprised.

If you’re looking for a cool place to lift, don’t hesitate to ask the UF staff! We may know a place that suits you (we’re all meatheads after all).

If you’re going to lift, consider simplifying your training.

Union Fitness is a pretty sweet spot and we have a lot of cool equipment you probably won’t find at your basic commercial gym. Be flexible in your training for these few weeks. It’ll be easier on you mentally to head into the gym and just focus on the basics. This doesn’t mean you can’t push yourself! Maybe this is the week you give try a set of 20 reps on your squats?

No access to a gym? Work out at home with Fitness Blender!

I recommend Fitness Blender to friends all the time for travel workouts. They have tons of workouts that can be done with just your bodyweight (or you can include any equipment you have access to). You can choose how long you want to work out for, what body parts, and what type of training.

When in doubt, do burpees.

They’ll destroy you no matter where you are or what you’re doing.

Happy Holidays from the Union Fitness Team!

To supplement, or not to supplement….

One of my favorite questions- “what supplements should I take?”


Everyone from mom and dad to Ray Lewis have turned to supplements at some point in their lives. Why? Sometimes out of necessity- doctors orders. Sometimes to gain a perceived edge over their competition. And sometimes out of ignorance.


I don’t want to comment on the morals of the fitness industry- it’s a rabbit hole I’m no interested in going down for the sake of this article. The industry as a whole is “OK.” But I’m going to be critical of the supplement industry, and deservedly so.


Supplements ARE NOT regulated by the FDA. They can be made in someone’s kitchen, branded, marketed, and sold anywhere, even GNC. Of course GNC decides what to carry and what not to carry, but no matter what, NONE of the items on their shelves are FDA approved. Do I think the FDA regulations do a good job of protecting us- the short answer is no. But would ANY oversight in the supplement industry be helpful- yes.


CAVEAT EMPTOR (Buyer Beware)

Fat burners, Testosterone boosters, Weight gainers, Detox pills…the list goes on.


Fat burners raise your heart rate, period.
Test boosters lower your estrogen levels so your testosterone is higher (relative).
*FYI gents, we need estrogen just as much as we need testosterone.
Weight gainers are typically loaded with sugar.
Detox pills…how about let your liver and kidney’s do their job?


So we’re back to the question that almost everyone asks- “What supplements should I take?”


How about this- “Should I consider taking a supplement?”


A supplement is defined as something that completes or enhances something else when added to it.


Answer these questions honestly, and you can very quickly determine what, if anything, you should be taking:


  • Are you getting 8+ hours of sleep per night?
  • Are you hitting your caloric maintenance number?
    (A surplus will cause you to gain weight, a deficit will cause you to lose weight- obviously goal dependent)
  • Have you had blood work done to determine if you may be deficient in any vitamins or minerals?


If you aren’t eating well balanced meals or are getting a lot of processed foods, you’re missing out on essential micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). If you aren’t getting 8 hours of sleep, your body’s hormones are already out of whack. And if you don’t know what, if anything, you’re deficient in, why supplement? You don’t even know what you’re supplementing.


And supplementing poor habits is a waste of money. Eat healthy. Sleep more. If you can’t take commit to those things, put your wallet back in your pocket and save your money.


Now, I realize most of you will not go through all of this before supplementing. So I’ll give you the basics, as I see them. This is not a recommendation and I am not a doctor.


Zinc, Magnesium, B6
One of the greatest supplements ever invented. It will help you sleep and provides two minerals that the majority of the population is deficient in. *the most bang for your buck


Vitamin D3
We don’t get enough sunshine in Pittsburgh, so this is likely another area where you could be deficient. It will take months after starting supplementation to see a significant improvement in levels, but this should all be checked through blood work. Remember, it is fat soluble, so it needs to be taken with food that contains fat.


I prefer glycinate because it is absorbed easily with little GI discomfort. Too much magnesium will having you running to the bathroom, so start with small doses. Again, most people are deficient here. Magnesium is used in over 300 chemical reactions within the body…it’s important. And if you go to the gym regularly, you need more than the average none gym goer to put it technically.


This is one of the most studied supplements ever. It helps with athletic performance by facilitating ATP production (ATP, if you remember from high school biology, is cellular energy). If you dose this too high, it will strain your kidneys.


Moral of the story- don’t try any of these without consulting your doctor.
Sleep more.
Eat better.
Then supplement, maybe.

Holiday Healthy Habits


I would bet that during the days after Thanksgiving, Google sees a sharp increase in searches for weight loss tips and tricks. Most of us have been there: maybe went a little too hard on the sweet potato casserole and pie, feeling a little bit bigger than we’d like after, and hyperaware of the 5 holiday parties we have just around the corner. It can be tempting to let those negative voices push us towards some quick fix juice cleanse we found on Pinterest in a desperate effort to shed the 5 pounds we supposedly gained since Thursday. I’m here to gently push you in the opposite direction. We’re here for lifestyle change, and a normal healthy lifestyle necessarily includes (over)indulgence sometimes.


Our main goal here at Union Fitness is to encourage all of our members to adopt healthy, maintainable habits for the rest of their life. That means that sometimes we’re going to have days where we eat whatever we want (and a lot of those days come during the months of November and December). There is no shame in that, and it’s truly not something to worry about. The key is getting right back to your normal routine, avoiding those quick fixes you’re seeing in your Facebook ads. Here are a few “dos and don’ts” to keep in mind this holiday season:


DO: go right back to your everyday diet.

The holiday came and went, and it’s time to get back to your normally scheduled routine. Sometimes one day of total indulgence leads to a weekend, a whole week, or even a whole month of full-on binge eating, especially if you’re prone to black-and-white thinking patterns. If you find that you can either stick with your diet and training routine 100% or not at all, this is probably you. Remember that just like eating one salad won’t magically make you healthy, overeating one day won’t magically make you unhealthy either. Our health is determined by what we do regularly, and hopefully for you that means a diet with lots of whole foods!


DO: be realistic about weight gain.

Yes, I’m sure we’ve all put on a few pounds since Thanksgiving. Most of that weight is likely due to increased water retention and bloat (that’ll happen when you load up on carbs and sodium, like most of our favorite Thanksgiving foods). By getting back to  your normal routine, you’ll see that weight drop back down to normal ranges very  quickly.


DON’T: ever use a Pinterest cleanse or detox.

Just don’t. They’re all terrible. Your liver is really, really good at removing toxins from your body. A magical drink is not going to fix anything, and in reality will just make you more predisposed to binge when you’re “allowed” to eat again. Think long term.


DON’T: let the holiday season be an excuse to binge eat.

Humans are really great at rationalizing. “Well our work holiday party is next week, then my family holiday party is the following weekend. May as well just live it up for the next  month and get back to it for the New Year.” While this line of thinking is tempting to our baser instincts, it will absolutely set you back in your performance and aesthetic goals. In addition, the habit of binge eating is incredibly difficult to break: eating lots of food does make us feel good in the short term, but makes us sick in the long term. Humans are also really bad at long term thinking, so do yourself a favor and nip this one in the bud now. Every meal is an opportunity to feed yourself well and progress towards the health and fitness you want. Don’t let one or two meals stand in the way of that.


DON’T: turn to overexercising or fasting to negate your holiday eating.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you may feel the urge to fast or exercise a lot longer/harder than usual following a big meal. While these methods may feel logical in the moment (especially for black-and-white thinkers), they fall under the category of purging behavior. Despite what some chart equating a piece of pie with the exercise that will burn it off suggests, you don’t need to punish yourself for being indulgent over the holidays. It’s ok to enjoy your meal a little more than usual sometimes. Like getting in the binge habit, breaking the purge habit is similarly difficult, and can lead right back to binge eating. These are opportunities to practice some self-compassion.


Finally, DO: thoroughly enjoy the holiday season!

Food is far from the most important part of this season. We get to spend quality time with friends and family, give (and receive) gifts to those we love, enjoy the earliest and prettiest parts of winter, and take some time to relax. Every day is a gift. Enjoy it. Enjoy   every part of it, right down to your mom’s Christmas cookies and the champagne toast on New Year’s Eve. We only get so many.




Kickstarting Your Fitness Routine


The holidays are a highly inconsistent time of year. Between attending parties, traveling, and cooking, staying in a routine seems almost impossible. If this is the case for you, take your wins where you can get them. Getting a full 8 hours of sleep, drinking enough water throughout the day, getting 10,000 steps, or eating 2 servings of vegetables per day are small but can keep you on track throughout the holidays.



Maybe it’s been awhile since you had a good workout but you’re feeling less than motivated to get back to the gym. Each day that passes is another hurdle to overcome in getting active again, so don’t let one more day pass! Being in a slump is normal this time of year and you’ll probably have to go through the motions for a little while to get back in the swing of things. Know you’re not alone.


The best way to kick-start your fitness goals and keep them rolling:


  1. Don’t miss a Monday workout. Committing to your Monday workouts and starting the week on the right foot is just the motivation you need to stick with your schedule for the rest of the week and make healthier choices.


  1. Schedule your workouts in Google Calendar. Exercise is usually the first thing to go by the wayside when things get hectic. On days you know it’ll be tricky to squeeze in a workout, wake up early or plan a quick HIIT workout.


  1. Don’t do a workout you hate. Don’t like running? Don’t do it! Find alternatives that make you look forward to coming back, there are a million options to choose from!


  1. Go a little slower than you normally would and focus on form and technique. If you want to do push ups, do as many as you can with great form and finish with a modified push up to complete the set.


  1. Do a fraction of the workout you would normally do so that you don’t lose momentum before the workout is over. That way you feel a sense of accomplishment in completing what you set out to and know that tomorrow’s workout will be that much better.


  1. Go with a friend. Having a support system to encourage each other and be accountable can be a great way to get in a good rhythm.


  1. Remember that you ‘get to’ workout. You’re physically able to exercise, which is not true for everyone. Next time you’re tempted to complain or quit, keep that in mind!



Our Union Fitness Family wants you to succeed with your goals, big or small. Check out our Holiday deals! 


Black Friday Class Intro Pack- 6 classes/ $15 ($90 value)

*For use of each class type

November Special: Personal Training Pack- 5 sessions/ $99 ($250 value)

Gift Cards Available!



What to expect in our classes:


Yoga Foundations- A class for beginners looking to learn some yoga basics


Vinyasa Flow- All levels yoga class for strength, flexibility, and stress relief


Happy Hour Yoga- Get your down dog on at the end of the week (and head to that other happy hour after)


Spin- Fast-paced indoor cycling with instructors from Steel Revolution


U.Fit Bootcamp- 45 minutes of HIIT cardio and strength building using just your bodyweight


Fatbell Revolution- Strength training AND cardio in one class using our favorite implement – the Fatbell


#powerful- Get stronger and learn how to utilize the big barbell lifts in your training


Strength Foundations- A class for beginners looking to learn some strength building basics


Cardio Lab- A class for all levels who want to incorporate HIIT and bodyweight exercises

At Home Workouts for the Holidays

The holidays are fast approaching! Between family & friend gatherings, work get togethers, traveling and holiday shopping we know how difficult it can be to make it to the gym.  Whether you’re stuck in a hotel or stuck wrapping presents, you can still stay on track by doing some bodyweight workouts at home.  Below are a few workouts designed to get the blood pumping and sweat a-flowing and the best part is, no fancy equipment required.


For Time:

100 Burpees


3 Rounds:

100 Jumping Jacks

50 Jump Squats

20 Burpees

100 Mountain Climbers


Intervals: 60 seconds work/ 30 seconds rest, 5 Rounds

Sit ups

Side Plank (R)

Side Plank (L)

Bicycle Crunches

Straight Leg Mountain Climbers


20 mins As Many Rounds As Possible:

5 Push Ups

10 Sit Ups

15 Air Squats


Intervals: 30 seconds through each exercise, 4 Rounds. Rest 1 minute between rounds

Lateral Lunges

Glute Bridges

Squat & Kick


Front + Reverse Lunge



There’s no place like home for the holidays but don’t let them get in the way of your gym progress! Remember, sweat first then pie!

Importance of Hydration


Hydration is important whether you’re highly active or enjoy the slow paced side of life. In general, staying hydrated tends to be overlooked as a method of fueling workouts before they begin. Rather than feeling so thirsty you have to chug water, the goal to keep in mind is to sip on water throughout exercise.


How to fuel up on water before hitting the gym:

  • Keep a reusable water bottle on hand wherever you go
  • Add a no calorie water flavoring to your drinks –lemon, lime, or mint are great additions!
  • Set recurring alarms if you have trouble remembering to drink


When you feel hungry, drink water first. Sometimes hunger is confused with thirst, but true hunger will not be satisfied by drinking water. For exercise lasting longer than 90 minutes, it may be beneficial to have a sports drink on hand. Taking in excessive amounts of water without sodium dilutes the body, creating an electrolyte imbalance. A sports drink can help regulate how much water the cell holds to maintain hydration. Note: the caloric and sugar content of sports drinks tend to be similar to that of drinking a soda and there are fewer benefits of consuming a sports drink during short duration or non- exercise.


Why hydration matters:

  • Maintain and control body temperature & calorie intake
  • Lubricates & protects joints, eyes, tissues, and spinal cord
  • Helps your body remove waste products and toxins
  • Aids in digestion
  • Keeps skin healthy and vibrant


How much water you should drink depends on height, weight, and activity levels. Thirst isn’t always a good indicator of hydration especially in higher altitudes or dry environments that don’t cause sweating. Pay attention, rather, to the color of your urine. Other foods and drinks can help you stay hydrated, too! Fruits, vegetables, soup, tea, and coffee can all contribute to your daily water intake.


Warning Signs Your Body is Lacking Water:

  • Headaches & Lightheadedness
  • Joint and Muscle Pain
  • Accelerated Heart Rate
  • Fatigue and Lethargy
  • Constipation or other Digestive Issues
  • Dry Mouth or Bad Breath

Perks of Protein Powder

We all know how important protein is, but making sure our body has enough of it can often times be challenging. Of course, the best way to ensure protein in our bodies is through solid food, but finding the time to prep all of our meals is never easy. That’s why protein powder has become so popular over the past couple of years. It’s the perfect and quick substitution for solid food that ensures protein for our muscles. But is it safe?

There are risks, but if you consume protein powder correctly, you shouldn’t run in to any big problems. It is simply an easy way to take care of your muscles without stressing in the kitchen and the benefits are great!

Weight Control

Protein shakes are often times used as meal replacements when paired with the right ingredients like oats, peanut butter, fruits and vegetables. This helps you control your calorie intake and makes you feel full enough to not indulge in an big meal. When it comes to dieting and weight control, it’s all about portion control. Replacing a meal with a protein shake will give your body the nutrients it needs, in a good portion size.

Muscle Building

Every time you work out, your muscles tear. Protein shakes help rebuild them faster to make them stronger. And because your shake is in liquid form, it goes straight to your blood stream and works faster. Solid food is always great, but it takes longer to break down. Protein shakes get the job done at a faster rate.

Stress Relief

Protein powder has been proven to relieve stress. It’s no secret that taking care of your body makes you feel better all around. When your body feels good, your mind feels good too. We are all prone to stress, but eating the right foods and adding the right nutrients to our diets, can strongly and positively affect our stress levels.


Protein shakes are easy and fast. Finding time to prep our meals in between school, work, and our workouts is very hard. Some of us really struggle with the balance between the gym and the kitchen because we simply do not have the time. That’s the beauty of a protein shake, you can make it in seconds and the long term effects are great!

So, what are the best kinds of protein powder?

Some of the best kinds are whey, casein, egg, pea, and hemp protein. All five of these different types of protein rebuild and maintain muscle fast. But It is important to understand what you are taking before you take it. Be sure to read all of the ingredients and ask around for second opinions. Protein powder isn’t for everyone. Since a lot of the powder does come from dairy, people are lactose intolerant may struggle more when consuming a protein shake. Understand your body and understand what you need to do to take care of it.

The Best Fitness Advice I’ve Ever Received

There’s a wealth of free fitness “advice” floating around out there.  Now distinguishing the good from the bad is a little bit trickier because there is no one size fits all approach to fitness.  All of our bodies are different with varying goals and plans in place. Unfortunately in the fitness world, a lot of ugly myths continually make their way into the minds of gym goers. As professionals, we see these myths play out on a daily basis. These include but certainly are not limited to myths like:


  • Exercise only works if it’s painful
  • Lifting weights will make you bulky
  • There’s only one way to (insert exercise here)
  • If you only had more (time, equipment, personal training sessions, etc) then you’d be more (fit, beautiful, healthy, etc)
  • It worked for me, so it’ll work for you too


There’s nothing worse than unsolicited advice except perhaps terrible advice. So when I was thinking about the best advice that I’ve ever received I couldn’t quite narrow it down to just one.  What works for me may or may not work for you because each and every person’s fitness journey is different.  Learning how to appreciate my own body and my own mind was perhaps my first lesson and the foundation on which I built my health and fitness journey. Some other helpful advice I’ve received include but are certainly not limited to things like:


  • Listen: Listen to your body. Listen to your coach. Read books and articles. Listen to podcasts. Keep your ears open and your mind discerning.


  • Train with a plan: Imagine trying to drive in an unfamiliar place without GPS? Yep, working out without a plan is pretty much exactly like that. You may eventually (if you’re lucky!!) get to where you want to be but with a lot of added time and frustrations.


  • Be patient: This one is so important! Expecting six pack abs after one core workout just isn’t realistic! Progress takes time. Don’t get discouraged when things are moving slower than you’d like. Remember to track your progress so you can see the whole picture.


  • Rest and recovery is just as important as training: I know it’s tempting to go into overdrive to accomplish your goals. But sleep and recovery is equally as (if not more!) important than the time you spend in the gym.


  • Find something you enjoy Don’t like boxing classes? Don’t take boxing classes! Hate mindlessly running on the treadmill? Don’t run on the treadmill! Take every single in Pittsburgh if that’s what it takes but find something that you actually enjoy doing and it’ll make your fitness journey that much easier!


  • Be consistent: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit! – Aristotle


What’s the best fitness advice you’ve ever received? Let us know in the comments!

Featuring: Nutrition Speaker, Andrew Wade

Save the Date!

Who: Registered Dietician, Andrew Wade

What: Nutrition Seminar

When: Thursday August 24th 6-7pm

Where: Union Fitness


Keep reading for some background!


Andrew first dreamed of starting his own nutrition and wellness company at 15 years old. At this time, he was a passionate year-round high school cross-country and track athlete from York, PA. Being an athlete was a catalyst for his weight loss as a freshman and equally responsible for his sparked interest in nutrition. By his junior year, he knew he wanted to study nutrition and was known by his friends as a “nutrition expert.”


He chose The University of Pittsburgh to further his education for many reasons, in part because of their highly regarded Nutrition Program. His freshman year he took pre- med courses and at the end of his sophomore year he was one of twenty five students accepted into the Clinical Dietetics and Nutrition Program, taking his first step to becoming a Registered Dietitian.


The coursework within the program included very specialized nutrition courses such as Medical Nutrition Therapy, Nutrition Assessment, and Micro and Macro-nutrient Metabolism that continued to fuel his interest in the world of nutrition. Throughout his studies, however, he was keenly aware of his specialized interest in Human Performance.


During his sophomore year of college, he became interested in supplements while working for GNC as well as weight lifting which was around the time that an injury took him off the track and restricted him to the gym for 8 months. He continued working at GNC part time for 4 years and was kept up to date with the latest products, but was often concerned with the claims made by the supplement industry that were based on little to no clinical evidence. This motivated him to become an expert in as many supplements as possible to better help clients navigate the very confusing supplement world.


When senior year arrived, it was time for Dietetics students to select a post-graduate option. For those wishing to become a Registered Dietitian, there are two main options: a Coordinated Masters or a Dietetic Internship. Both require 1200 hours of supervised practice and 600 hours of coursework to sit for the RD exam. Keeping in mind his interest in Human Performance and his desire to specialize, he chose the Dietetic Internship. From August 2012 through May of 2013, Andrew worked within Adagio Health as a Dietetic Intern. It was a non-traditional Dietetic Internship that provided him with a very condensed educational format as well as exposure to business management. He completed his Dietetic Internship and knew the next steps were to take the RD exam and get a Master’s Degree.


He passed his RD exam in the summer 2013 and became licensed to practice in the state of Pennsylvania. He started Case Specific Nutrition part time in August of 2013 while working in the Food Industry. In January of 2014, he began working full time as a Case Specific employee, and began devoting all of his time to his dream.


In December of 2015, he completed his Master’s of Health and Rehabilitation Science with a concentration in Wellness and Human Performance at The University of Pittsburgh. This Master’s Program combined nutrition and exercise physiology which helped him serve as a better resource for athletes, those interested in weight loss, as well as the role of diet and exercise in chronic disease management. The additional coursework in his program contributed to his focus in eating behavior, particularly in those struggling with eating disorders and disordered eating.


In addition to creating and running CSN, he is part owner of the Pittsburgh Fitness Council, sits as the Diversity chair on the Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Board, writes for the Post-Gazette’s community voices nutrition blog, speaks frequently throughout the Pittsburgh area, and remains active in multiple professional groups.


We’re so excited to have you at this event to learn more!

Hope to see you Thursday August 24th!