Saturday, 24 March 2012

If you do one thing today, do this................

If you you care about yourself and what you eat you must click the below link.  The presentation lasts for over an hour, but please find the time, it could save your life!

Please leave me a comment below, I'd love to know your thoughts.

Friday, 23 March 2012

What a beautiful day - get outside and get some exercise!

Hurrah, feels like Spring is in the air!  Take advantage of this lovely weather by getting out there, just being outside will increase 'serotonin' levels, which are responsible for feelings of well-being, happiness and contentment.  Here's my to do list of active outside things that will increase heart rate and put your body through a functional range of movement.  See how many you can fit into your week.

  • OK pretty obvious, but go for a walk.  You can go by your self or make it a more social occasion by meeting up with friends.  Now a little word on intensity, ideally your walking should be at a pace that gets you a little out of your comfort zone, you should be breathing a little harder than normal.  If you are on a social walk you can still add some intensity (and have a chat) by perhaps striding out or power walking for say 20 paces then recovering slightly at conversation pace for 30 strides.  Repeat these hard to easy intervals for the duration of your walk.
  • Get on yer bike!  Great way to clock up the mileage, see some lovely countryside and get a workout in too.  Plan a route, take some money or lunch, water, a phone and perhaps a puncture repair kit (to be on the safe side) and away you go.
  • Gardening - again great active exercise, that uses a lot of muscles depending on what your doing. If you don't own a garden and perhaps your neighbours do, and especially if they are elderly or sick, volunteer your services.  You'll get a workout and feel proud of the fact your doing a good deed for someone else.
  • Washing windows, washing and polishing the car etc.  Put in some effort and you'll definitely know you've been working!
  • Many boroughs are providing 'Outdoor Green Gyms' in lots of their parks.  There is one at the back of the Leisure Centre in Cranleigh.  They feature equipment such as X-Trainers, Chest Press, Chest Fly, and Leg Press and its free to use them!  So next time your passing, try a quick circuit, say as many reps as you can on each for a minutes duration, rest for a couple of minutes then repeat the circuit two more times.
  • Try something different such as Tennis, Badminton, Stoolball, Dancing, Aerobics or fitness class, the list is endless.  Many clubs will allow you to try a taster session first.  You've got nothing to lose but everything to gain.
  • Get active with the kids - encourage family time. Sadly we all seem to lead busy lives we sometimes forget about each other.  Mum doing her routine, dad doing his, kids either watching telly or play station or facebook (my daughter's favourite straight after school)!  Try and find a 15 or 20 minute gap in your day to do something together, whether to be on the Wii Fit, play fight, chase, footy, walk, ride, swim whatever it is have a laugh, enjoy, life is too short, live for today but also live a long and happy life :)

    Monday, 19 March 2012

    Easy & Healthy Snack Ideas

    As we know our bodies and brains work more efficiently if we eat 'little and often'.  So here’s some between meals snack idea’s for your desk draw, or could easily have on the go.
    A large wedge of pineapple, melon or grapefruit.

    A large piece of fruit such as an apple, orange, banana, pear, kiwi, mango or similar and a small plain, low fat (but watch for high sugar content), Greek or ‘live' yogurt.

    Small bunch or red or green grapes

    Small handful of small fruits including strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, raspberries etc served with a plain, low fat or ‘live’ yogurt and a sprinkling of seeds such as flaxseeds, sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

    2 Satsuma’s and a small handful of nuts

    Small handful of mixed dried fruit and nuts

    A small slice of malt loaf

    A protein and carbohydrate shake

    2 oatcakes, rice cakes or Ryvita’s served with any of the following;
    Mashed avocado, cottage cheese, peanut butter, fish or meat pate

    Cereal or fruit bar (check labels)

    Fruit or vegetable smoothie

    Raw vegetables and low fat dip or hummus

    A hard boiled egg, peel it and tuck in like it was a Cadbury's creme egg!

    Left over cold chicken or meat, eat straight from a container or plastic food bag.

    All washed down with a bottle of water.

    You can most definitely add to the list.  Remember snacking is okay as long as its a nutrient dense food (like the ones listed) rather than a refined over processed energy dense (sugary) food.  So do your body a favour and think twice before heading into a McDonald's or Subway!

    Wednesday, 14 March 2012

    Healthier Choices for Eating Out & Takeaways

    Meals out with friends and the occasional takeaway should not be a source of added anxiety.  If you eat out or have takeaways regularly then it is important to have a practical action plan to help you make a healthy choice.  Here's my top tips for eating out and takeaways.

    • Try a light starter such as grapefruit, melon, soup (less the bread), lean meat, fish or a small salad.
    • Limit yourself to two courses, i.e. a starter and a main or a main and a dessert.  Or if not too hungry why not ask for two starters instead, one as your starter and the other as your main.
    • Go continental - no bread or butter.
    • Ask for oils, dressings or rich sauces to be served in a separate dish so you can decide on how much you have.
    • Ask for a small serving size of starchy moorish foods like potatoes, chips, pasta and rice.  This is usually possible, just ask your waiter.  At the end of the day the restaurant wants your custom so most will accommodate personal preferences.
    • If possible ask for skin to be removed from your meat before cooking, i.e. skin off chicken breast or fat from your steak.  Or remove yourself before eating.
    • Do not add extra salt to your plate.
    • If drinking wine with your meal, mix with sparkling water to make a long drink or for every glass of wine you have also drink a glass of water.
    • Try the vegetarian option, if you've never eaten vegetarian before it may make a pleasant change and remember your not getting the saturated fat like you would from a meat course.
    • Take some time to digest your meal before you order dessert (if your having it).  If the waiter appears with the dessert menu as soon as they've cleared your dinner plates, feel free to tell them you'd like an extra 10/15 minutes to let everything go down. You never know you actually may be full and not want dessert or a healthier option could be to share one, how romantic!
    • In relation to the above, it actually takes around 20 minutes for your stomach receptors to tell your brain that your full so eat slowly. Enjoy your meal, savour each mouthful and chew it several times, don't bolt it down. 
    Next a few ideas when it comes to your takeaways;
    • Choose thin crust pizza over thick crust.
    • Burgers without the cheese.
    • Forget the Naan bread, each one could be costing you around 300 calories!
    • Curry opt for something in a spicy tomato sauce rather a buttery creamy sauce.
    • Fish & Chips, opt for a fish cake and small chips for around 500 calories compared to a whopping 1,400 calories for a large haddock and chips!
    • If possible walk to pick up your takeaways.
    Here's to happier choices for eating out, again remember its all about moderation.  I'd love to hear your comments on how healthy you are eating out.

    Till next time,

    Sunday, 11 March 2012

    Protein - why eating it will help you lose weight

    Protein is our body's foundation and is essential for the functioning and development of our bodies, it makes up our muscles, organs skin and hair.

    High protein foods act as a mild suppressant and decrease hunger more than any other food.  So including a protein source in your meals is a good idea for weight loss.  I am also a big believer that your breakfast (yes you should be having this, shame on you if your not!) should contain some protein, after all protein means 'first'.  So having it within around 20 minutes of waking will help stabilise blood sugars.  Examples, a bowl of high fibre cereal with some fruit, a low fat or live yogurt with some berries, seeds or nuts, an omelet made with 2 whole eggs with a rasher of lean bacon and a baked tomato or scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on toast to name just a few.

    Probably the best advantage of eating protein is that it has the highest Dietary Induced Thermogenesis (DIT).   In other words protein requires more energy to process itself than any other food type.  The thermogenic effect of protein is around 25%, this means that 25% of the calories of protein are used in its own metabolism.  Compare that to carbohydrates thermogenic rating which depending if they are simple or complex is between 8 - 15% and fat is the lowest at just 3%.

    Now I hate to burst the bubble, but there have always been controversial health risks associated with too much protein such as:
    • Over consumption of protein can be a burden on the kidneys and liver.
    • High protein often (but not always) means low carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates are the only fuel that the brain can use and very high protein diets can deprave the brain of energy.
    • High protein foods such as meat and dairy products sometimes have high levels of saturated fat.  Saturated fats are one of the main causes of Coronary Disease.
    • A diet high in meat and low in plant foods will be lacking in phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that delay ageing and fight cancer, heart disease and other health problems.
    • High protein diets are low in fibre and may cause constipation and colon problems.
    My advice would be to adhere to a diet eaten little and often including a variety of foods from all the groups, ie protein (lean meats, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs, pulses, soya, nuts), complex (slow release) carbohydrates (wholegrains, vegetables, fruits, rice, pasta, and good fats (including Omega 3 & 6) such as avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds and oily fish. Drink plenty of water, ideally carry a litre bottle (minimum) with you and sip throughout the day, more if exercising. And have the 'naughty' things, we all know what these are, moderately, not every day. 

    So next time you visit the supermarket, remember to include some foods from the lovely protein group and see the weight drop off!

    Monday, 5 March 2012

    Cooling down, Stretching & Flexibility Part 2

    In Part 1 we discussed the benefits of warming up next we look at the 'cool down’, again we are all guilty of skipping this.  We are also going to discuss the benefits of stretching and flexibility.

    Cooling down or ‘warming down’ as it is sometimes known is like warming up, but in reverse.  Instead of preparing our body for exercise we are now preparing it to stop.  You may be aware that most gym’s cardio machines (if you put in an allotted time) includes a 5 minute cool down at the end.  During this time the machine will reduce the intensity accordingly to allow your heart rate and breathing to come down to pre exercise levels.  Not everyone will use the cool down, but if you have worked very hard on your bit of kit, your body will probably appreciate some recovery time.  If you use the cool down, well done, if not read on to see why you should be;

    ü     It helps your body recover and gently allows you to come back to your pre-workout state.

    ü     Breathing and heart rate start to come down to normal levels.

    ü      It will speed up the removal of ‘lactic acid’ from your muscles, reducing the likelihood   of cramping and muscle soreness.

    ü It prevents ‘blood pooling’ in your lower extremities.

    ü      It reduces the risk of ‘hypotension’ and dizziness.

    Stretching & Flexibility

    Flexibility is an essential component of fitness which you’ve guessed it, also gets neglected.  Flexibility refers to the range of movement possible at a joint.  The best time to stretch is when your muscles are warm, so 5 – 10 minutes after your cool down is good.  Although that said there is nothing to stop you stretching at home, first thing in the morning within a few minutes of getting out of your nice warm bed, or after a warm bath or shower or as and when you need to, such as at work, especially if you are office or desk bound. 

    There are various types of stretching, but what we call ‘static stretching’ where the muscle being stretched, is placed in a lengthened position slowly with control and held just to the point of slight tension (not pain) for 15 – 30 seconds is deemed safe for the majority of gym users.

    ü     Stretching allows us to take our joints through their full range of motion, which is important for keeping cartilage nourished and healthy.

    ü     Stretching reduces stiffness and maintains correct musculoskeletal alignment.

    ü     Stretching helps co-ordination by allowing for freer and easier movement.

    ü     Stretching helps develop body awareness, as you stretch various parts of your body, you focus on them, and you get in touch with yourself.

    ü    Stretching allows us to holistically de stress, good for mind, body and soul.

    ü    As we get older, flexibility becomes even more important, because a reduced range of movement can make everyday tasks such as reaching up to a high shelf, doing up our shoe laces or even putting a coat on difficult.

    So that in a nutshell is why we should all be including these three very necessary components to our exercise regime. 
    Till next time,

    Sunday, 4 March 2012

    Warming Up, Cooling Down & Stretching Part 1

    The above three components are a very important part of your exercise regime.  But a little like going to the dentist, we know we should, we skip it as often as we can!  So to clarify, here’s why we should be including all three, starting with the warm–up.

    Let’s look at what the warm-up can do for you:

    ü  It raises muscle temperature, increasing their elasticity making them more pliable and less likely to tear.

    ü  It increases blood flow to the working muscles, bringing in oxygen and nutrients and removing metabolic waste products such as carbon dioxide.

    ü  It increases body temperature and body awareness.  Preparing our self mentally, physically and psychologically for the session ahead.

    ü  It enhances neuromuscular pathways (the link between the muscular and nervous system), thereby increasing the speed and efficiency of muscular contraction.

    ü  Reduces the risk of injury.

    ü  Enhances performance.
    So now we know that warming up is good for us, how do we go about it?  Your warm up should be a gradual process and depending on age and fitness level will take somewhere between 5 and 15 minutes.  This simply could mean the first bit of cardio you start on gradually build your intensity till you feel your body becoming warmer thus preparing yourself for the speed, incline or effort to come.  How many times have you got on the treadmill and pushed yourself straight into a full on sprint with cold muscles?  You know who you are!

    Similarly with the resistance machines or free weights. Surely nobody would attempt a 1 rep max with cold muscles! So again, in this scenario, perhaps a 12 to 15 rep max to warm the muscles you are about to use should suffice. 

    Another alternative is to do the following dynamic warm up, should only take about 5 minutes and it will mobilise all your major joints and release any tension or tightness you may be carrying. This is a good one to do before getting on any of the cardio kit or before a run or cycle ride.  So here we go, starting from the top of the body. 

    Stand with feet hip distance apart, engage your core muscles (that is gently pull your belly button back towards your spine).  Place your hands on your shoulders, now using a circular motion, do 8 circles forwards then 8 circles back.

    Now place your hands on your hips and gently rotate at your waist side to side. Try to look over your shoulders as you rotate. Aim for 8 times each side.

    Next stand on one leg (hold on to some support if necessary).  Now bend your other leg at the knee and gently swing this knee forwards and back 12 times.  Now make that movement larger so the movement is now coming from your hip.  So straighten out that leg (but don’t lock it) and now continue swinging back and forth.  Do these 12 times then repeat both the knee swings and hip swings with the other leg.

    Now pull that knee gently up to the chest, release then switch knees.  Lastly circle the ankles 8 times in each direction.

    Also nice to add some sideways movement or frontal plane movement incorporating both upper and lower body (and one that I always include).  So from standing, legs together, take a large step out to the side while simultaneously bringing both hands towards the floor or mid shin if flexibility won’t allow on that same side.  Come back to the centre then repeat on the other side.  Do this 12 – 16 times.

    Finish by dropping your head to your chest and gently roll down through your spine, take your arms with you, hold them loosely in front, knees slightly bent until you reach the ground.  Pause then roll back up, stacking each vertebra back on top of each other.  Caution if you have back problems, ask your instructor if you are unsure.

    This is a great dynamic mobility session by itself that puts your body through a good range of

    Stay tuned for Part 2 Cooling Down.

    Saturday, 3 March 2012

    Tasty Chicken, Tomato & Vegetable Pizza


    1 x Wholemeal pizza base or pita bread

    Small jar of Passata or tomato base equivalent

    6oz diced cooked chicken breast

    2oz sliced mushrooms

    2oz each of green and red pepper

    2oz chopped red onion

    2 oz low fat mozzarella cheese

    Pinch of salt and black pepper

    Drizzle of olive oil

    Small handful of spinach leaves


    Cook chicken separately.

    Spread Passata over the base of your pizza or bread. Top with the chicken and veggies. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, salt, pepper and finish with a drizzle of olive oil. 

    Bake in Oven at 375F / 190C / Gas mark 4/5 for 15 minutes or until crust looks golden brown and cheese has melted.  Take out of the oven and sprinkle with spinach leaves.

    Nutritional Facts

    • Calories: 410
    • Protein: 44g
    • Carbohydrates: 36g
    • Fat: 10g

    Perfect post workout meal, serve with a healthy salad on the side.  Who needs Pizza Express when you make your own, no sweat!

    Give it a go and let me know what you think.
    Till next time,