Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Foods to Boost your Mood

Obviously I don't mean grabbing a tub of Haagen Dazs and devouring the whole thing (which of course feels nice at the time, but has many drawbacks as we know)!  Eating a well balanced diet with a variety of foods is not only good for our physical health, but what we eat can also have a significant impact on our mental wellbeing.  More and more evidence is coming to light which shows that what we eat affects our mood and how we feel.  So here's my Top 10 foods that may enhance our mood boosting neurotransmitter 'serotonin' to help increase energy, mood and general well-being.
  1. Oily Fish - On average people are not getting enough EFA's.  Studies have shown that people who are deficient in omega 3 may be more susceptible to depression and low mood.  Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids found in oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies and sardines.  Our brain is 60% structural fat, around 30% in the form of Omega 3's.  Eating a diet high in omega 3 will keep your brain cells healthy and improve mood by keeping the brain's neurotransmitters working more effectively.
  2. Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of the mineral selenium. In recent years, people have been consuming less selenium, but eating just three Brazil nuts a day can provide your recommended daily amount (RDA).   Studies have shown increased depression, irritability, anxiety and tiredness in people with low selenium levels therefore by eating a few Brazil nuts a couple of times a week might help to improve your mood.  Other foods high in selenium include sunflower seeds, fish, shellfish, caviar, some grains (see oats below), liver and bacon.
  3. Oats are an effective mood booster. This is because they have a low glycaemic index (GI), as they slowly release energy into our bloodstream rather than by a quick rush that soon dips. This helps to keep your blood sugar and mood stable. The mineral selenium in oats can also help mood by regulating the function of the thyroid gland.
  4. Bananas contain the important amino acid tryptophan and also vitamins A, B6 and C, fibre, potassium, phosphorous, iron and carbohydrate. Mood-boosting carbohydrates aid in the absorption of tryptophan in the brain, and vitamin B6 helps convert the tryptophan into the mood boosting hormone serotonin. This helps to boost your mood and also aids good sleep.  Because of its ability to raise serotonin levels, tryptophan has been used in the treatment of a variety of conditions, such as insomnia, depression and anxiety. It's the potassium in bananas that make them such a good snack for those feeling stressed or tired.  Just try and make sure you don't eat them if they have over ripened too much.  Softer squishy bananas have a higher Gi than firmer ones.
  5. Eat chicken and turkey breast to increase your intake of the amino acid tryptophan. After your Christmas turkey meal ever felt in need of a little snooze?  If the answer is yes then that's due to the tryptophan bringing on the feelings of happiness, comfort and well-being.  Poultry also contains another amino acid tyrosine, which can help reduce symptoms of depression as well as help avoid feeling the blues in the first place. Tyrosine is used to make the hormone adrenaline, low levels of which have been associated with depression.
  6. Spinach -  Certain deficiencies in B vitamins have been linked to depression and serotonin production can actually be hindered by low B vitamin levels. Important B vitamins to look out for include folate, vitamins B3, B6 and B12.  Eating a variety of vegetables and especially leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, purple sprouting, cabbage, brussel sprouts and broccoli, for example will help keep your levels up.
  7. Lentils are a fantastic kitchen staple. They're a complex carbohydrate, so like bananas, they have the added benefit of helping to increase the brains production of serotonin. This results in a calmer, happier state of mind with less anxiety.  Stabilising your blood sugar level is important to maintain a stable mood. Lentils are also high in folate, deficiencies in this vitamin have been linked to depression and mania. Lentils can also boost your iron levels which will give you energy and therefore put you in a better mood.
  8. Water is extremely important for our bodies to function properly, the smallest degree of water loss can impair our physical and mental wellbeing. It's not only our body that is affected by hydration but also our brain. So when dehydrated, it can affect our ability to concentrate.  Adults should be drinking up to 2 litres of water spread throughout the day.  If you think water is boring, you may dilute a little fresh juice in to perk it up a lttle.
  9. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to many health problems such as depression, osteoporosis, heart disease and cancer.  The best source of vitamin D is sunlight (the action of sunlight on the skin allows our bodies to manufacture vitamin D), but if you aren't getting enough sun, try to include foods that include vitamin D in your diet such as dairy and cheese products, liver and oily fish. Calcium can also help reduce your levels of stress and anxiety.
  10. Iv'e left the best to last - yes its 'chocolate', hurrah, but the darker the better, ideally more than 70% cocoa. The good news is chocolate isn't only a delicious treat, but it can also give your mood a lift as well.  A small square of dark chocolate can cause the brain to release endorphins (our natural pain suppressors) and boost serotonin levels. In a recent study, 30 people were given 40g of dark chocolate, over 14 days. The results showed that chocolate eaters produced less stress hormones and their anxiety levels actually decreased.  Just be sensible, although if you buy very dark chocolate it is often a little bit bitter, so quite hard to chomp through the whole bar, believe me I've tried :)
Here's hoping you find some of this useful, till next time.

    Monday, 20 February 2012

    Are you the next Million Dollar Baby!

    Searching for a fun, class that gets the heart pumping, every muscle involved, and allows you to take out your frustrations on your partner pads without anyone getting hurt?  Well grab your gloves and try some 'Thump Boxing'. 

    Now before you ladies completley dismiss it, with thoughts of  people knocking ten bells out of each other!  Let me tell you it is nothing like that, this is 'boxing for fitness' instead it is a total body workout, couples work together someone holds the pads while someone throws combination punches for time then swap over roles.  We also incorporate moves such as squatting, lunging, twisting. stepping, and skipping for functionality and variety.

    Boxing can be performed by anyone as it is low impact.  Overweight and very unconditioned people will often not think twice about going for a run, thinking it is best for weight loss, sadly this is not the case and in time may lead to ankle, knee, hip and or back injuries.  Boxing on the other hand as mentioned is low impact, weight bearing so you are putting positive (not negative) stress through your joints, conditioning your heart and lungs (during boxing you work both aerobically and anaerobically, the latter means you cause an afterburn effect which leads to burning more calories for longer after you've finished your class).  Boxing also requires some co-ordination, focus and thinking.  For example a three minute round of jab, cross, duck, cross, uppercut, hook and a squat does require a little thought and planning!  Don't panic the example is an advanced combo, we start off with easier combinations, but however you look at boxing it is fun and a great challenge, people always put in 100% effort and the benefits you receive from boxing are well worth it:)

    Small, friendly, mixed abilities classes are held at the Sports Hall at Cranleigh School, Horseshoe Lane, Cranleigh, Tuesday evenings 7.15 - 8.15.
    Just £7 per class or 4 for the price of 3!

    Visit my website for more information
    Also if you quote 'THUMP2012' you'll receive a taster session free!

    Sunday, 19 February 2012

    In the News...........How to have a Happy Heart

    Okay a little bit late as seen as Valentines has been and gone, but lets talk about matters of the 'heart'.  And having just completed my St. John's Ambulance Refresher, heart attacks, angina and what to do if someone was about to have one, being just one of the many topics got me to thinking about this subject.

    Being a Personal Trainer I need to be (and am always) very aware of how people react to a new exercise regime especially if the client is overweight and/or unconditioned.  Now the heart is a muscle and needs to be worked like any other muscle in the body, for it to be able to adapt and respond.  Obviously a unconditioned person is not going to be able to work at the same levels as a much fitter person.  If you have been fortunate enough to have survived an angina, or heart attack or any other life threatening disease my suggestions would be to start off slowley, gradually becoming more independent and responsible for yourself.  Within reason you need to be able to get back to some degree of normality both for yourself and your family, you will feel so much better for it.  Follow the link below for some more useful tips.

    Monday, 13 February 2012

    Thought for the day........... girls does using weights make me big and bulky?

    The answer to this question is most definitely NO.  Lets have a look at why all women should make weight training part of their workouts and some of the myths associated with strength training.
    1. Men have 10 - 20 times more testosterone than women, we are just not made to get massive ripped muscles (unless of course you had a helping hand such as anabolic steroids).  We are just not able to bulk up to the degree that men can.
    2. You Will Lose Body Fat   -  Studies found that the average woman who strength trains two to three times a week for two months will gain nearly two pounds of muscle and will lose 3.5 pounds of fat.  As your lean muscle increases so does your resting metabolism, you'll burn more calories all day long. Generally speaking, for each pound of muscle you gain, you'll burn an extra 35 to 50 more calories each day maintaining that muscle.  Fat on the other hand is quite lazy, it needs around 10 calories or less to be maintained.  I know which I'd rather have working for me!
    3. You will reduce your risk of Injury, Back Pain and Arthritis  -  Strength training not only builds stronger muscles, but also builds stronger connective tissues and increases joint stability. This acts as reinforcement for the joints and helps prevent injury. A recent 12-year study showed that strengthening the low-back muscles had an 80 percent success rate in eliminating or alleviating low-back pain. Other studies have indicated that weight training can ease the pain of osteoarthritis and strengthen joints.  And you'll also decrease your risk of Osteoporosis.
    4. You'll reduce your risk of Heart Disease  -  strength training coupled with some moderate to vigorous cardiovascular exercise has been known to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (good cholesterol) and also lower blood pressure.
    5. You will reduce your risk of Diabetes  -  strength training may improve the way the body processes sugar, which may reduce the risk of diabetes. Adult-onset diabetes is a growing problem for women and men. Research indicates that weight training can increase glucose utilization in the body by 23 percent in four months.
    6. You won't get bigger because you don't eat enough calories   -  Women don't eat enough calories to create mass.  At the best of times women don't eat enough calories, their always putting themselves on restricted diets, low calorie, low fat, cabbage soup, south beach diet etc etc.  The massive men you see in the gym have not become that big over night, they'll be eating upwards of 6,000 calories per day plus supplements and train with heavy weights perhaps twice a day most days of the week.  Ask yourself, 'is this you'? I'm guessing probably not.
    7. Many of the models you see on the front covers of magazines have dedicated many years sculpting and honing their bodies.  They will follow rigorous gym programmes that will take them out of their comfort zones.  Generally speaking many ladies do not push themselves to the max or the point where they feel they may not be able to get there last two reps out on the bench press for example.  Working this way or using the 'force factor' means again ladies won't generate large volumes of mass.
    8. By lifting weights you'll become much stronger  -  day to day activities around the home will seem so much easier.  Where you've previously had to have help in moving sofa's or turning mattresses, you'll easily be able to manage these jobs alone. 
    9. By strength training you'll also feel much better about yourself, you'll be a capable and confident person who is ready to tackle just about anyone and everything.  In fact a Harvard study found that 10 weeks of strength training reduced clinical depression symptoms more successfully than standard counselling did.

    So ladies come on do not fear working with heavy weights any longer. Instead fear what it may be like feeling old and weak. Stop wasting your time training in a way that just won't get you where you want to go.

    Push your body - you are stronger than you think!

      Friday, 10 February 2012

      Thought of the day................Will starving yourself help you lose weight?

      In the short term yes, but I AM NOT suggesting this as an easy fix to reduce your weight, its very unhealthy and you will most definitely regain any weight lost plus more.

      If you drastically cut your calories, you will slow down your metabolic rate, your body will realise this and it will think 'famine' is on the way. Anything you do start to eat will be stored in your 'fat banks'.  Fat is very precious to your body and it will not give it up easily, long periods of fasting or periods of not eating will send your body into a catabolic state which means it may start to feed from muscle while it is conserving your fat stores.  In some cases this approach may lead on to, yo-yo dieting, binge eating and/or eating disorders.

      The body needs a certain amount of energy for its daily activities.  If more energy is consumed than the body requires for its basic functions and additional activities then weight will be gained.  Therefore to achieve weight loss we need to expend more calories out than what we take in.  We have to cause an energy deficit or a positive energy balance.  This is a greater calorie output over calorie input.

      In order to lose 1lb (0.5kg) each week a deficit of 3,500 calories is required, that is 500kcals per day.  The best way of achieving this is by reducing the amount of energy eaten or by using up more energy through physical exercise or activity.  Ideally a combination of both, i.e reduce the amount of calories consumed and do more exercise - simple!

      This is proven the most effective way to lose weight and maintain weight loss. 

      Read more on the dangers of starvation, The Body Neglected  nervosa link.

      Thought of the day..........Loads of sit ups will give me a flat belly!

      I would have to say this is a very big MYTH! And the amount of people that ask me 'If I do 100's of sit ups will I get a flat belly'? the answer I give is usually something along the lines of 'more than likely you'll end up with a hernia'!

      Although sit ups do work the rectus abdominus (the long, flat muscle that extends vertically at the front of the abdomen between the pubis and the 5th, 6th and 7th ribs). Sit ups also work the hip flexors (front of thighs).  Sit ups alone will not flatten out the stomach.  The only way to get a ripped stomach where you can see definition is to reduce the amount of fat overall in the body, do HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training, see 26/11/11 blog) and have a clean sensible diet.

      Also why do people think it is necessary to do 100's of sit ups (I've heard of some trainers advocate a minimum of 1000 sit ups!!).  The rectus abdominus is a muscle just like say our biceps or our chest muscles. But I rarely see someone doing 100 bicep curls or 100 barbell chest presses!

      As I mentioned earlier sit ups use the hip flexors more than the stomach muscles especially if you sit up past 90 degrees.  This creates a pull on the lumbar spine which may exacerbate an already weak back or may well create a new injury.

      What else can we do?

      Well for one stop doing sit ups!  Find an experienced trainer (like myself) to give you a 'core' programme to work on your deep stabilising muscles.  Your Transverse Abdominus (TVA) acts like an invisible corset, when this is strong we have a better supported and protected back.  You'll also notice differences in your posture and how you carry yourself, this too can give the illusion of a flatter stomach.

      Nutrition - over processed and refined foods, wheat, potatoes, sugars, too much alcohol and takeaways can add inches to our bellies.  Cutting a lot of these foods or completing ditching them will make a difference to ones stomach.  Don't take my word for it, try it and see.

      De stress - too much stress will cause too much cortisol, this stress hormone will cause your body to store fat rather than use it! 

      HIIT as mentioned earlier, and PHA (see 22/01/12 blog) training moves that incorporate whole body movements rather than isolated ones such as your bicep curls and tricep kickbacks, will have a profound effect on your body composition all over.

      Do these things and in time you may start to see a 6 pack rather than a 6 barrel showing through!

      Wednesday, 8 February 2012

      Thought for the day...........Are you stuck in the same routine?

      Does this sound like your workout, 10 minutes on the cross trainer, rower, bike and or treadmill.  Then over to the mats for a few sets of sits up ending with a couple of stretches.  Done in around 30 possibly 45 minutes max.

      Now if this has been your routine for the last 3 months or longer, your body is more than likely pretty fed up and you'll reach a plateau!  Yes its true that your body responds and adapts to what you are doing, it will get to a point when you've gone as far as you can with that particular workout. You'll stop noticing improvements, you'll get annoyed, lose motivation and may stop working out altogether.

      Also as your body responds and adapts it also becomes more efficient at what your doing.  Therefore less calories burnt than when you first learnt the exercise.  Another reason to change it up.

      I change my and my clients programmes every 8 - 10 weeks. 

      What is also missing from the above workout is resistance exercise (if you've read my previous blogs you'll know how important this form of training is).  Resistance or strengthening training uses resistance in the form of your bodyweight or weights such as dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, balls, suspension straps or boxing the list is endless. 

      Remember its easy to get stuck in a rut, variety is the spice of life.  So next time your about to hit your regular cardio machines, think twice!  Are this machines going to help me achieve my goals, or is my body crying out for a bit of variety!

      Better still get yourself a trainer, you won't get time to be bored!

      Tuesday, 7 February 2012

      Thought for the day.....Will skipping breakfast help me lose weight?

      The answer to this is most definitely NO (in my eyes anyway).

      There has been such a lot of controversy on the subject of why we should or should not eat breakfast over the years, and no doubt it will probably continue for many years to come. One thing we do know about breakfast is that people who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight than people who skip breakfast.  Data collected by the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) tells us that over 90% of successful dieters usually eat breakfast. These people had lost a significant amount of weight and had also kept it off for a long period of time.  The NWCR also revealed that those successful dieters, the ones who always ate breakfast also exercised regularly. Maybe eating breakfast every day is simply a common trait among people who are disciplined about their health and eating habits all day long.

      So why eat breakfast?

      One theory suggests that eating a healthy breakfast can reduce hunger throughout the day and help people make better food choices at other meals. While it might seem you could save calories by missing breakfast, this is not an effective strategy. Typically, hunger gets the best of breakfast skippers, and they'll more than likely give in to rumbling tummy's around 11 o'clock and reach for the biscuit tin!

      Breakfast has long been said to be the most important meal of the day, it fuels the body and brain for the rest of the day. During sleep or your fasting period which ideally should be 7 - 9 hours your blood sugar levels drop to their lowest levels.  It is a breakfast that kick starts your metabolism and stabilises blood sugar levels.

      So what constitutes a healthy breakfast?

      My good morning shake (see 31/01/12 blog)
      2 x poached (or boiled) eggs with slice of wholegrain toast and baked beefsteak tomato
      bowl of porridge oats made with coconut, soya or almond milk (failing that semi skimmed milk), serve with a sprinkling of cinnamon and or seeds.
      Low fat, low sugar yogurt such as 'Yeo Valley' or natural Greek yogurt served with a sprinkling of cinnamon, nuts and or seeds and a piece of fruit such as banana, pear, kiwi etc.  Use your imagination when it comes to fruit and think out of the box.
      Natural wholegrain breakfast cereal such as Weetabix, Shredded Wheat or Bran Flakes that have little or no added sugar or muesli topped with yogurt and or fruit.
      Goes without saying, but add a glass of pure fruit juice (ideally) or a glass of water, milk or tea (preferably green) to your breakfast to.

      You'll have your favourite breakfast ideas to add to the list, just try and make sure that your breakfast consists of some healthy fat, carbohydrates and protein which all the above examples do.  Together these macro-nutrients will kick start your day, stabilise blood sugars, and give you an energy boost to tackle what your day brings.

      Saturday, 4 February 2012

      Get active on World Cancer Day

      Today Saturday 4th February 2012 is World Cancer Day.  This year will focus on how one in three cancers can be prevented through lifestyle changes, such as exercising regularly, eating healthily, not smoking and reducing alcohol consumption.  Read more follow the below link.

      Thursday, 2 February 2012

      Essential Cupboard, Fridge and Freezer Staples

      We should all have our cupboards and fridges stocked with essentials. We can't always guarantee the weather in winter, if we're snowed in, we need to know we can make a quick casserole at short notice and keep our bellies full!

      I've stumbled across this great site

      You''ll obviously be able to add your favourites to the list and possibly change some such as white rice for brown, and if you are trying to lose weight you may want to disregard some altogether such as the hard cheese and mayo! 

      There's also handy tips and storage ideas, portion guides, recipes and also very important information regarding 'food watse'.  If you are a food waster or even if you think your not a food waster this is an essential read.

      Enjoy, let me know your comments.

      Over-55s do 'half an hour more exercise a week' than the young

      Over-55s are more active than people half their age, putting in half an hour more exercise a week.

      They do an average of 726 minutes of physical activity – 12 hours, six minutes – compared with the 698 minutes done by 18 to 25-year-olds, or 11 hours and 38 minutes.

      The most popular exercise activity among over-55s was walking, with 80 per cent saying they went for a regular stroll.

      Read more: