Thursday, 29 November 2012

A Cheat Meal for weight loss.......

Now we were always told not to cheat, but when it comes to weight loss a 'cheat meal' once a week could actually help re balance everything and aid weight loss.  Please note that I've said 'cheat meal' that doesn't mean a whole day of cheat meals, just have the one and only once a week.  Also don't make this an excuse for 'an all you can eat meal' be sensible, see my suggestions below.

It often feels so wrong to give in to temptation, and how guilty do we feel if we've popped into the petrol station and given in to picking up a so easily accessible bar of chocolate on the way out, had a cheeky couple of biscuits with our elevenses, or couldn't be bothered to cook so ordered an Indian instead!  Well don't feel guilty anymore, experts are saying go ahead, give in to temptation and 'plan to cheat'. 

If someone came along and told you to never eat your favourite (naughty) foods again to lose weight (fat) would you?  Short term answer I expect not, especially if these foods had been part of your long term eating habits.  But knowing you could include your favourites in a meal once a week, even if that meal was 7 days away will keep you on the right track. 

Our body is a very clever machine and aims to keep us in a state of equal balance or 'homeostasis'.
Most of the time your body is doing what it should be doing to keep you well and functioning.  Although during fad diets your body is thrown into a state of confusion and one very important fat burning hormone 'leptin' decreases dramatically.  Your body is going to start conserving its fat stores as it thinks famine is just around the corner.  So that's where are once a week cheat meal is put in place to increase leptin levels and bump start the fat burning process again.  And the bonus news is that apparently carbs send a rise in leptin levels more than any other food group. 

Well there you go, who'd of thought that!

Rules of your Cheat Meal

  • Drink a glass of water 10 minutes before your cheat meal to stop you from over doing it.
  • If your cheat meal is in the evening, then leave a minimum of 5 hours before bedtime so the food doesn't lay on your stomach.
  • Never have 2 cheat meals in a week.  You don't want to sabotage your weight loss results just give them a helping hand :)

When I was thinking of meal idea's the first one that sprung to mind was a pizza.  Yum pizza, who doesn't love a pizza.  You could buy a shop bought one, or make your own.  Just buy a pizza base from your local supermarket, tomato sauce or passata for its base and whatever you want to put on it.  Tomatoes, peppers, onions, cheese, avocado, meat, chicken, fish, veg, the list is endless.  Secondly a spaghetti bolognese or lasagna dish with a salad on the side and garlic bread (not the whole one!).  Thirdly, fish and chips from the chippy! A slice of lemon drizzle cake with a hot chocolate!  And lastly a big ole (but within reason) Sunday roast beef, yorkshire pud and all the trimmings! 

My mouth is watering as I'm typing this blog!  But as its Thursday today, a sensible clean eating day, I'm just about to have a fruit bowl followed my favourite lunch of poached eggs, avocado, tomatoes and toast.  This will be my main meal of the day, as I'm off to work shortly for my graveyard shift 2 - 10pm.  No cooking facilities so will have a shake with some fruit and nuts to see me through. 

So now you know you really can have your cake and eat it (and still lose fat)!!

What's your favourite cheat meal, leave me a comment.

Till next time, all the best

Monday, 26 November 2012

The Good, the Bad & Ugly World of Carbs........

Carbohydrates, the word that can instill fear into anyone, particularly if you are loosing or trying to maintain your weight.  But it need not be the case, carbohydrates can be your friend (ah friend, you'll get that if your an Inbetweeners fan, sorry if you do not get it, I'll move on swiftly!!). 

Carbohydrates are our bodies preferred and easily obtained source of energy in the form of glucose.  Not only are they essential for energy but our brain, heart and nervous system need a constant supply of carbohydrate in order to function properly.

All carbohydrates contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.  They vary in size, structure and the speed to which they are broken down into sugar (glucose) and absorbed into the bloodstream.  From here they can be distributed to cells and muscles for immediate use, or stored as glycogen in the muscles or liver as an energy reserve or and not ideal be stored in your 'fat banks'.

The key is to eat low to medium Gi carbohydrates which release their sugar slowly into the bloodstream rather than refined over processed carbs that release their sugar quickly causing an energy peak and spike in insulin levels, followed by a crash then an urge for more sugar! 

Make carbs work for you by applying the following rules:

  1. Get the majority of your carbs either at breakfast or lunch time, they'll fuel your activity in the afternoon.
  2. Match your intake of carbs to how active you are, on sedentary days eat less carbs, on active days eat more carbs especially pre and post workout.
  3. Eat carbs and protein together.  The protein will help slow down the overall digestion process and avoid an insulin spike.
  4. Avoid refined processed carbs and eat more fibre rich carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, legumes, beans and pulses, nuts and seeds.
  5. Watch your portion size, as a rough guide use one cupped hand for a portion of fruit, starches and grains for women, and two cupped hands for men.  For vegetables use a fist sized portion.
Carbs are also paramount to fat loss (I hear you doubters but yes they really are!) especially in the form of a cheat meal, but more on this on a blog to come soon.

So as you can see, carbs need not be the enemy, just be sensible.

Till next time,


Thursday, 15 November 2012


It's finally here, my take on an indoor Boot Camp, without the inclement weather, endless press ups, running around fields and brutally be shouted at by a drill sergeant!

This class is also just for girls, come and join a like minded group all wanting the same thing, to be fierce, fit and fabulous!

The Spare Tyre Fitness Workout is based on circuit style intervals ranging from 30 seconds to 1 minute using an array of fitness equipment such as kettlebells, sledgehammers, tyre flipping, suspension trainers, ladders and more.  The equipment may not be typical of what you would find in many gyms, that's why this class is a must especially if you do the same old routine. 

Think out of the box and live a little!

This class is based on functional movement patterns, it is low impact and suitable for most abilities (although high blood pressure and CHD may be contra-indication's, if you are unsure please get in touch). 

From participating you will also receive the following benefits:
  • Fire up your metabolism to boost long term fat burning.
  • Burn fat while building muscle.
  • Build strength and power.
  • You'll reduce your risk of injury as your body will move more efficiently.
  • You'll save yourself a lot of time, one of these workouts will burn more calories than two long slow cardio gym workouts!
  • You'll leave feeling exhilarated, strong, empowered and excited for the next session!

So where, when and how much is it?

Where - Warnham Health & Fitness, 16 - 18 Church Street, Warnham RH12 3QW (just 3 minutes from Tesco, Broadbridge Heath)

When - Sunday's at 11am.  How much?  Just £6 per hour session.

So now you have a good reason to come to the gym on a Sunday morning, plus you can have a couple of extra roast potatoes with your Sunday lunch :)

So if you want to be fierce, fit and fabulous I'll see you there.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Functional Medicine Ball Workout

As promised here it is, a medicine ball workout that can be performed in the gym, at home or outdoors (in fact if you have laminate floors you may want to take the ball outdoors especially for the slams).

Make sure you are prepared by completing 5 - 10 minutes mobility and a warm up (see my blog Stability Ball Workout dated 30th July) for ideas on joint mobility.  Have some water close by and rest as and when needed.  When I mention 'core switched on' I mean being aware of the muscles around your torso and lower back.  Think of gently pulling your belly button back towards your spine and sending your ribs down towards your pelvis.  Sounds complicated but if you imagine someone is about to punch you in the stomach, breathe out and brace or tense your abdominals. You should feel a contraction or a shortening / tensing around your middle. (Keep posted as I want to do a blog on getting in touch with your deep core muscles soon).

Medicine Ball Overhead Slam

An all round exercise that gets all muscles both upper and lower including heart and lungs.  And its functional because it includes both flexion and extension of the knees and hips (which is what we do when we sit and stand).  Start position, feet hip to shoulder width apart, core switched on.  Hold the ball overhead (if this is difficult you can hold the ball somewhere between shoulder and head height).  Take a breath in to prepare then expel the air as you slam the ball down with as much force as you can before catching it in both hands and repeating. Remember the lighter the ball the quicker and higher its going to come back up so I would suggest a weight 4kg or more.  But experiment and find what works best for you.  Teaching points - as you slam the ball down keep your knees soft with a slight bend in them to counter balance the force of the ball.  Try and keep the ball quite close to you, not so close that it hits you in the face nor to far away that you have to over reach.  Progressions, use a heavier ball or longer duration sets.

Try a 20 - 30 seconds round repeated 4 times.

Medicine Ball Standing Twist

Now adding in some twisting and a balance challenge. This exercise will promote core strength, hip and back mobility and a greater range of movement in this area.  It also works the obliques, butt and legs.  Start position, feet shoulder width apart, core switched on.  Hold the med ball at chest height, elbows at your sides.  As you twist the ball to your right simultaneously raise your right knee. 
Do 8 - 10 reps this side then swap sides, twisting to the left while raising your left knee.  Repeat 2 more rounds.  Teaching points - use your range of movement, especially if you sit a lot such as in the car or at work.  We tend to do a lot of things front and back and not so much twisting, although I believe it's important to do some twisting and rotational movements for a healthy spine.  Progressions would be to increase your speed as confidence grows and/or use a heavier ball.

Medicine Ball Throws

A little more pushing type exercise that will test your hand to eye co-ordination and cardio fitness.  Throws can be done with a partner, throw both underhand, overhand or push the ball with as much force as you can at chest height to each other.  You could also work the legs a little more by adding in a squat to push overhead, you may need some distance between you for this. 

If you do not have a partner but have a wall then try throwing the ball at the wall, again you can throw at chest height, overhand, underhand or side on so your adding a little rotation into the exercise.  Teaching points - core engaged, try and soften the knees when catching the ball.  Keep an eye on the ball, if tired rest, you don't want to end up with a black eye!

Try 20 - 30 seconds each exercise with a 10 second rest in between exercises.

Squat with a Medicine Ball Bear Hug

Squatting, yes we do it a lot, hate to think just how much of our lives is seated, heck of a lot I reckon.  And all that sitting around can sometimes hinder the way we perform the squat correctly.  You could say I'm in a squat position while I'm seated and typing this blog for you.  But not for long as I've got pilates and spinning later :)

But I am an advocate of the 'squat' it's one of my favourite exercises to do, and even more so when we add some weight to it like a dumbbell, kettlebell or in this case the medicine ball.  Start position, feet hip to shoulder width apart, core switched on.  Cross your arms and hug the medicine ball to your chest, now push your hips and butt slightly out behind you like your about to sit in a chair.  Go down as far as you comfortably can go, try and keep the weight down through the back of your heels. At the bottom of the movement, breathe out and stand quickly pushing your hips forward and squeezing your butt.  Repeat 12 - 20 reps 2 - 4 rounds.  Teaching points - as I've said only go as low as you can comfortably go, you shouldn't feel it directly at your knees.  If you do, don't go as low.  But if you are a desk jockey your knees are probably not used to going any lower than a 90 degree angle until your body gets used to it.  Pain isn't always indicative of something wrong, it may be like I've said you need to try these things. 

If you are unsure please get a qualified instructor like me to check your technique first!

So there you have it four exercises that put your body through a functional range of movement while also working your cardiovascular system.  Give it a go and let me know how you get on.

Till next time, all the best


Sunday, 11 November 2012

Workout Tools - Medicine Balls

Whether your training for a specific sport or looking for something to use when coming back from injury or a tool for general fitness the 'medicine ball' is a great bit of kit to have in your repertoire.

Typical 1 - 5kg medicine balls
on a stand.

The medicine ball is a weighted multi purpose, take any where tool that can be used alone or with a partner.

Medicine balls come in different weights anything from 1kg to 10kg.   You can also find medicine balls with one or two handles moulded into them.  These types are great for rehab purposes or the elderly or infirm.  Then at the other end of the scale for hard core 'med ballers' we have the 'tornado' ball.  This is a medicine ball with a length of rope running through it.  Here you can rotate the ball around your head (a little like a lasso) or slam it on the ground or on a wall.  Plus there are other weird and wonderful ball varieties out there which I may well buy and use, but for the moment lets back to the med balls.

By using medicine balls you'll increase your flexibility, functional movement, co-ordination, core strength, reaction times, and overall strength and cardio-vascular fitness.  While all these elements are important I want to focus on functional movement a little more.  Functional movements are similar to movements we do in every day activities such as bending and extending (eg. sit to stand), reaching, twisting, lifting and carrying, and pulling and pushing.  Obviously we want to be able to perform these functional movements with ease and confidence.

To appreciate how important these moves are, study people around you, it could be on the train, bus, at the supermarket or at the office. Notice how some may have trouble standing from a seated position, lowering themselves towards a seat, or simply tying shoe laces, picking something up from the floor, reaching for something on a high shelf, putting something in a low cupboard, carrying the shopping etc.. The list is endless, and it's because functional movement patterns have been lost through age, inactivity or injury. 

This is where the medicine ball is a very useful addition to your home kit or your gym routine.  Stay tuned for a functional medicine ball workout coming next.