Your winter waistline

I’m sure you’ve noticed the increasing number of articles flying around the net about ‘fighting the holiday bulge’ or ”what NOT to eat during the holidays’… and being a bit of a health-freak it’s making me anxious!! I don’t want to feel like this!! Holidays should be about relaxing and indulging with friends and family. Letting your hair down and enjoying these precious times together. You only have one life to live and it would be SO boring without treats along the way. Now I’m not saying forget about all the hard work you put in keeping yourself fit and healthy, what I’m saying is don’t stress too much about having a mulled wine (or two) and a christmas pie! My view is if there is a time in your life that it’s OKAY to put on a few pounds, it’s the Xmas holidays (or your honeymoon!!) You’re all wrapped up anyway in your cosy clothes, hibernation sets in and that little bit of extra fat will keep your body a little more insulated. So try NOT to freak out over what you’re going to eat and drink over the holidays and follow some simple pointers –
  • Portion control. Enjoy all the trimmings of your Xmas dinner but opt for smaller portions. Avoid overeating. It’s hard I know. 
  • Workout! Complete a 30-45 minute circuit targeting the entire body in the MORNINGS and get the metabolism fired up. This will leave you the rest of the day for fun times with the family and reduce those guilty pangs when you pick up a glass of red!
  • Make your own desserts and treats! Have fun with your family cooking clean and delicious Christmas delights to enjoy with half the calories. There are endless websites/blogs out there with recipes that provide healthy alternatives without all that added sugar. Get creative. 
  • Eat filling healthy snacks throughout the day as you normally would. Don’t starve yourself prior to having a large meal or you definitely will overeat. Your body will also be in starvation mode and will cling onto every ounce of fat that you eat during that meal. 
  • Don’t stress! When you’re stressed your body releases the hormone cortisol which will increase your cravings for comfort food and BAD treats. Relax and enjoy.
With a drop in temperature your appetite will increase. I know I’m craving warm, high-carb foods like there’s no tomorrow! The temperature rarely drops to freezing in Houston, but you definitely feel the colder weather after such a hot and steamy summer. I’ve been making hearty soups to keep me warm and full and as soon as it’s a little cold I’m armed with a scarf and hat. But getting all wrapped up isn’t quite enough to keep your body protected from the cold. With colder temperatures, comes colder bodies. This is what encourages the cravings for warm and comforting foods. 
Fox News reported that a study from Texas Tech University followed 48 men and 100 women between the ages of 18 and 65 for the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. At the beginning and end of the study, researchers measured the subjects’ weights and body fat percentages. On average, the volunteers gained one and a half pounds (men about two pounds each, and about a pound for the women), far less than the 7 to 10 pounds often cited this time of year!! So cheers to the holidays everyone and enjoy!!

Sets & Reps – what’s right?

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Here’s a simple guide to follow when selecting the number of sets and rep ranges for resistance training. Ultimately the GOAL of your training will determine the number of sets, reps and rest time.
Building MUSCLE (Hypertrophy): 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps, resting 0-60 seconds between each set.
In order to increase the size of your muscle you MUST lift heavy. Aim for 75-85% of your maximum. The last three reps of your set should be really tough. No amount of body weight lunges will build a juicy butt!
Increasing STRENGTH: 4-6 sets of 1-5 reps, resting 3-5 minutes between sets.
Strength exercises should be performed fast and explosive at 85-100% of your maximum. So go heavier and do less!
Muscle ENDURANCE: 1-3 sets of 12-20 reps, resting up to 90 seconds between sets. 
To build endurance, keep the intensity lower than your strength and hypertrophy training at approx 50%-70% of your max. This will allow you to perform a higher number of reps. This is a good range for beginners to resistance training. Exercises should be performed slow and controlled!
BUT WHAT ABOUT FAT LOSS I HEAR YOU CRY!!!
Fat reduction is generally what the ladies are aiming for. Reduction of body fat will be a result of combining strength and hypertrophy training… and absolutely your DIET.
FAT LOSS: Aim for 4 to 5 sets of 12 to 15 reps of each exercise. Keep the intensity high with shorter rest periods of 30 seconds between sets. 
Incorporate circuit training into your strength-training program for increased fat loss. Circuit training consists of performing a series of exercises, back-to-back, with little rest. Because of its intense, fast-paced layout, circuit training can help your body burn calories throughout the day. Utilise a high rep range and multi-joint exercises for maximum caloric burn and efficiency. Try a full-body circuit-training routine.
Engage in resistance training 3-5 times per week with a couple of cardio sessions on your off days AND of course a rest day is compulsory! Do not forget that increasing lean muscle mass will result in more calories being burned during exercise and throughout the day, promoting fat loss. Do not be afraid to pick up some heavy weights and keep your workouts varied. Try alternating days between hypertrophy and strength using  the ranges described above to keep your workouts challenging!  I hope this helps!!

Guilt-free CARROT CAKE

IMG_4648So I’ll start by giving full credit here to my hubby, who whipped up this AMAZING carrot cake yesterday whilst I was out at CrossFit. It’s SO good that I had to post and share this wonderful recipe to all those that love to eat clean but still get that sweet sugary hit. After indulging quite a bit over Thanksgiving, we were both craving a sweet to follow our Sunday dinner! Ross is a dab hand at baking so I put in a request for a clean recipe that was free from added sugar and butter so we can treat ourselves, GUILT FREE. He adapted a recipe from a fellow bloggers site – Amy’s Healthy Baking
I had another slice earlier and I’m blown away at how bloody good this cake is. It’s moist, fluffy and sweet with warm spices. I guarantee a lot of happiness when eating this cake! 
Cake Ingredients:
  • 1 ½ cup whole wheat flour – be exact with measurements
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup nonfat milk
  • 3 medium carrots, grated
  • 1 small orange (cut in half and squeezed)
  • Large handful walnuts
  • Large handful raisins
Frosting ingredients:
  • 8 oz nonfat ricotta cheese
  • 3 tbsp plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp agave
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350°F, and coat your baking tin with olive oil or non-stick cooking spray.
For the cake, whisk together the flour and next 5 ingredients (down to and including the salt) in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, egg, and vanilla. Stir in the maple syrup and Greek yogurt, thoroughly mixing with a whisk until it’s lump free. Alternate between adding the flour mixture and milk, stirring just until incorporated, Add in more milk if the mixture is too dry. Fold in the carrots, walnuts and raisins and add the squeezed orange juice. 
Spread the batter into the tin, and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes, using a knife insert it into the middle of the cake and if it comes out clean it’s ready. Ross’s needed another 10 minutes or so to cook right through. Cool in the tin before removing the cake from the tin. Cool completely to room temperature before adding the frosting. 
To prepare the frosting, stir together the ricotta cheese, Greek yogurt, agave, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Spread on top of the cake and let it set for at least 1-2 hrs. We couldn’t wait beyond the 2hrs mark! We put it in the fridge overnight and I swear it tastes even better today and the frosting has really set. 
The frosting is really sweet and balances the cake out perfectly. Enjoy a slice with a hot cuppa!! YUM!!

5 reasons why fats are FAB!

Here’s FIVE reasons why you should be including fat in your diet:
1. FAT IS THE MOST CONCENTRATED SOURCE OF ENERGY IN YOUR DIET. EAT MORE AND RAISE YOUR ENERGY LEVELS.  
2. FAT FREE FOOD IS STRIPPED OF THE TASTE AND REPLACED WITH CHEMICALS. FULL-FAT OR ‘LIGHT’ PRODUCTS WILL MAKE YOUR FOOD TASTE BETTER. A FAT FREE DIET IS SAD AND BORING.
3. FAT WILL RELEASE A HORMONE CALLED CCK (CHOLECYSTOKININ) FROM YOUR TUMMY AND SIGNAL TO YOUR BRAIN THAT YOUR SATISFIED, FULL AND IT’S TIME TO PUT THE FORK DOWN.
4. FAT WILL KEEP YOU FEELING FULLER FOR LONGER AS IT SLOWS DOWN THE DIGESTION OF FOODS (CARBS) INTO YOUR BLOODSTREAM. 
5. FAT IS ESSENTIAL FOR GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT. IT SURROUNDS AND PROTECTS YOUR PRECIOUS ORGANS! 
If you’re unsure what I mean by ‘healthy’ fat, here’s a list to take on your next grocery trip:
These fats are rich in MONUNSATURATED FATS (GOOD)
  • Almond butter/Peanut Butter
  • Almonds, Macademias, Cashews, Peanuts, Brasil NUTS
  • Avocado
  • Olive oil, Peanut oil, Grapeseed oil, Canola oil
  • Olives
These are less favourable fats containing SATURATED FAT (BAD). These are fine as long as you’re not consuming them everyday – moderation is key!
  • Walnuts
  • Sesame Oil/Soybean oil
  • Butter
  • Half and half / Cream
  • Sour cream
  • Cream cheese
  • Mayonnaise light / vegannaise

Hello foam roller, goodbye knots

A wee while back I posted some info on foam rolling onto my Facebook page. Since then I’ve encouraged several clients to treat themselves to a foam roller and incorporate it into their regime, so I thought I’d repost.  The foam roller is used for self-myofascial release – self massage to you and I! It’s an inexpensive tool that will have a huge impact on improving your mobility. By foam rolling and applying gentle force across the body, you will loosen up tight knotted areas that may impact your range of motion and flexibility. Exercise, sitting at a desk, poor posture and old injuries can and will lead to adhesions (tight spots). This will affect how other muscles in the body function, causing pain and eventually injury. Foam rolling is highly effective before and after exercise. Target the entire body starting with the calves, working your way up, roll back and forth 10x – hamstrings, quads, glutes, back, lats and shoulders. When you come across a tender spot, hold the pressure there for AT LEAST 60 SECONDS. It will hurt to begin with but I promise you it will become less painful the more you do it. It only takes a few minutes each day and can be done whilst watching TV! It feels awkward to begin with but there’s really no wrong way to foam roll – just avoid going over your knees.
My shoulders and back house rock solid knots from poor posture and no doubt years in a desk job. This has helped with pain relief and has improved my mobility massively. There are great youtube videos on techniques if you’re stuck. If you need any further help, let me know!! 
 

The doom of DOMS

unnamed-4We’ve all had those days where we’ve woken up the day or the second day after a heavy workout and can barely walk as your body is in bits. I used to like those days, not because I couldn’t move without wincing, but because I felt like I must have worked so hard to be feeling this way and I’m on a fast track to hitting my goals. Maybe not so wise.
That pain is known as DOMS – Delayed-onset muscle soreness. It can appear about a day or so after exercise and can last up to 4 days. A strong indicator of DOMS is extreme tightness/soreness in your muscles and joints – sitting on the toilet, walking down the stairs or brushing your hair can be a real struggle. Generally DOMS will occur when you’re new to exercise, trying out a new form of exercise, increased the intensity of your training or you’ve had a nice long break from your regular routine. What’s important to know is that it is NORMAL, however DOMS is not necessarily a sign of having had a great workout! The reality is that you’ve traumatised your body somewhat and it hasn’t been able to heal and repair itself. Muscle tears, tissue damage, muscle spasms or inflammation can produce DOMS. None of the above are favourable. At times it can be unavoidable as yes you should be ramping up the intensity of your workouts, switching it up and trying something new and obviously taking breaks to allow the body to fully rest. My point is that this feeling of soreness shouldn’t be something that you strive for after every workout. If it is, and you feel this way then it’s likely you’re overtraining. It’s completely normal and OKAY if you have an awesome session in the gym and then wake up the next day feeling great and not sore at all. It doesn’t mean that you didn’t work hard enough. NOT AT ALL. Your body can’t handle continuous stress (overtraining), at some point it will crumble under the pressure and you’ll injure yourself. We want to avoid injury at all costs as it only leaves you out of the game for weeks on end whilst you recover. If you’re a fitness junkie, taking time to heal an injury is SO FRUSTRATING! It feels like the world is going to end.
Here’s a couple of things you can do to either help prevent a serious case of DOMS or help with the aftermath..
* FOAM ROLLING – Get your foam roller out before and after your workouts. It’s a form of self massage that’s amazing for releasing tension in muscle tissue across the body. Here’s a good article on how – FOAM ROLLING
* PROGRESSIVE TRAINING – Take things slowly. If you are increasing the intensity of a workout, progress at a reasonable pace, introducing increases gradually. Rome wasn’t built in a day.. you won’t look like the Rock either after one big session lifting weights.
* EAT EAT EAT – Repair and recovery of the body will ultimately depend on what your feeding yourself! Eat a snack 30mins-1hr before your workout – click here for some ideas to FUEL YOUR WORKOUT. Post workout – eat a balanced meal as soon as you possibly can – ideally within 30minutes. Shakes are a convenient method of replenishing your muscle stores. Hit the gym prepared with a shake containing protein, carbs AND fats.
* ACTIVE RECOVERY – Yes you’re body needs to rest, but it can be worthwhile engaging in some form of active rest such as yoga, light jog or hike to loosen up some of the tension.
* SPORTS MASSAGE – A personal favourite of mine but it comes at a cost. Not only can they be expensive but they are painful and not for the faint hearted. The feeling afterwards however is second to none!
* STRETCH – It’s easy once you’ve finished a workout to want to get the hell out of there and relax.. I feel that way too. But it’s so important to allow the body to cool down slowly and take your body into a relaxed state. Stretch your major muscle groups, holding your stretches for 30secs min and then finish off with a blast on the foam roller to maintain and improve flexibility. 
SO take it easy, make sure that not all your workouts are hardcore and eat an abundance of unprocessed nutritious foods so that you body has a chance in hell of recovering from those sessions that you do end up killing it!!

Get toned.

clementine_pumpitup_barbellWant to build some muscle and create a lean and toned physique? If you do, then you’re going to have to ditch the daily cardio routine and pick up some weights for strength training. For any physical changes to occur and increase muscle size, you will need to focus on high levels of volume with short rest periods. Increasing the intensity of your training as you progress will be fundamental to seeing results. I speak to lots of women that are afraid to lift weights as they don’t want to get ‘bulky’ – they just want to be toned. The ‘toned’ look that you see, admire and want IS muscle. So to see it you need to build it. The reality is that you can’t and wont build muscle doing cardio.  You also need to eat a substantial amount of the right foods to ‘bulk’ up. So if you’re going to pick up some weight, KB/dumbbells/barbell, select exercises that target multiple body parts – multi-joint exercises. i.e. man makers, renegade rows, squat to press. You want to hit your shoulders, arms, chest, back, legs and core. The more muscles you use, the more calories you will burn. The amount of time you have to train will dictate the number of exercises you can get through. I would suggest spending UP TO 45mins per session on your weight training, plus 15 mins for a good warm-up and cool-down.There’s no need to spend any longer. Any longer and you’re risking overtraining. Plan your workout and keep your session intentional. Hit the following variables –
  • 6-20 reps (big variable, dependent on the weight selected) Super heavy = less reps.
  • 3-5 Sets / Rounds
  • 75%-85% max effort weight – so quite heavy and uncomfortable! You’re last 3 reps should be a real struggle. If you are doing a high number of reps, the load will need to be lighter.
  • Perform your chosen exercises in a circuit fashion – performing 1 set of an exercise and then moving onto the next with as little rest time as possible between i.e. 12 reps squat to press > 12 reps renegade rows 
  • Allow 1-2 minutes rest between circuits
  • Do circuit training every other day
These circuits will be intense and will build strength as well as improve your cardiovascular health. I like short and intense circuits that hit my entire body. IF IT DOESN’T CHALLENGE YOU, IT WON’T CHANGE YOU!!!

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Try this simple circuit out –
5 Sets / Rounds:
12 Dumbell squat, to press
12 Renegade Rows
20 Full KB Swings