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Exercise, Sleep and Your Waistline

Date:  4th March 2019         Category:  Fitness, Health,

When it comes to managing your health and your weight, it’s no secret that exercise and sleep are huge factors.

 

You know that exercise will help you burn off some extra calories and boost your metabolism. But you also know that sleep is essential for your overall health and well-being.

 

Better to skimp on sleep and get up early to workout?

 

Or better to sleep in and skip the gym for another day?

 

Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that. We need exercise to sleep better but we also need sleep to exercise. And when it comes to weight management, we need both.

 

So let’s take a closer look at how exercise and sleep affect each other and which one takes the lead when it comes to managing your weight.

 

The Exercise & Sleep Connection

 

If you’re looking to get a better night’s sleep, it’s time to lace up those running shoes.

 

A study by the National Sleep Foundation found a 65% improvement in sleep quality for participants who performed 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a week. [https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/study-physical-activity-impacts-overall-quality-sleep]

 

That means that something as simple as a brisk walk for 30 minutes, 5 times a week can help you feel more rested and refreshed.

 

Want Muscle? Get More Sleep!

 

If you want to see big results from your workouts, you’ve gotta catch some zzz’s!

 

Sleep is crucial when it comes to exercise recovery…and recovery is where the post-workout magic happens!

 

As we rest, our body is busy repairing the microscopic muscle tears from our last weight training session. As these muscles repair, they come back bigger and stronger; increasing your strength and boosting your metabolism.

 

If you’re not seeing the results you’d like from your gym sessions, the answer may be an earlier bedtime. Make sure that you’re getting adequate sleep to help your body repair and recover.

 

Does lack of sleep affect gym performance?

 

If you’re still thinking of hitting that 6am spin class after a late night out, you may want to reconsider.

 

An ACSM study showed that sleep deprived participants had a slower response time and fatigued much quicker than when they were well rested. [https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2013/12000/Does_Central_Fatigue_Explain_Reduced_Cycling_after.5.aspx]

 

The study participants also reported a higher RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) and were more likely to quit their workout early.

 

The conclusion? This doesn’t mean that you should skip activity altogether on those groggy days. Instead consider a lower intensity activity such as walking or yoga and leave the high intensity training for days when you’re well rested.

 

To sleep or to train? Which one will help you button your jeans?

 

When it comes to weight management, both exercise and sleep are important. But if you had to focus on one thing only, it turns out sleep trumps exercise.

 

One study compared weight loss efforts of sleep deprived adults versus those who were fully rested. The sleep deprived group rested for only 5.5 hours while the fully rested group got a full  8.5 hrs of shut-eye. [http://annals.org/aim/fullarticle/746253/insufficient-sleep-diet-obesity]

 

The results? Those with limited sleep lost less body fat and more lean muscle mass.

 

So does this mean you should just forget about exercise?

 

In a word…NO.

 

Exercise still has tremendous health benefits so you don’t want to quit altogether. You may need to temporarily reduce the intensity of your workouts if you’re not getting adequate rest.

 

Once your sleep game is strong, you can resume those higher intensity workouts and have energy to spare.

 

Having trouble winding down at night?

 

Add some sleep hormones to your diet!

 

In fact, did you know that it has been suggested that foods that contain naturally occurring Melatonin (dubbed the “sleep hormone”) may be a better alternative than over-the-counter supplements? [https://sleepjunkies.com/tips/can-cherries-enhance-sleep-quality/]

 

This Sleepy Time Cherry Smoothie Recipe is made with tart cherry juice – an ingredient that contains Melatonin, and has been proven to help you sleep better. Plus, it just happens to taste pretty great too!

 

RECIPE:

 

Sleepy Time Cherry Smoothie

 

60ml of pure tart cherry juice, unsweetened

240ml of coconut milk or almond milk

½ banana (frozen adds a bit more texture)

2-3 ice cubes

 

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Sip and enjoy a better night’s sleep!

 

REFERENCES

 

https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/study-physical-activity-impacts-overall-quality-sleep

 

https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2013/12000/Does_Central_Fatigue_Explain_Reduced_Cycling_after.5.aspx

 

http://annals.org/aim/fullarticle/746253/insufficient-sleep-diet-obesity

 

https://sleepjunkies.com/tips/can-cherries-enhance-sleep-quality/

HIIT: what is it – and is it really the best fat burning workout?

Date:  5th January 2019         Category:  Fitness,

If you follow the fitness industry, you’ve probably heard of the benefits of HIIT (or High Intensity Interval Training).

 

The short, yet powerful workouts are touted as the best way to improve your overall conditioning, burn fat, and even balance hormones! (but that’s another article!)

 

So, what is HIIT anyway?

 

HIIT workouts involve working at an intense effort level for a short period of time followed by short recovery periods.

 

Tabata workouts are one great example of a HIIT style workout.

 

A Tabata session involves 20 seconds of intense all-out effort, followed by 10 seconds of recovery. This is repeated 8 times through for a workout total of 4 minutes only and is said to promote fat loss and increase aerobic power – all in a very short period of time.

 

Seems a little too good to be true…

 

But, is HIIT really all it’s cracked up to be? And does it actually burn fat or is that just a myth?

 

When it comes to the research, the answer is YES!

 

One study compared MICT (Moderate Intensity Continuous Training) vs. HIIT and the effects that it had on visceral abdominal fat. The study found that both types of training reduced overall body fat; however HIIT did this in half the time. Half the time!! [1]

 

Another study from the International Journal of Obesity compared 2 groups of exercisers to determine the benefits of HIIT for women. [2]

 

 

The women were divided into two groups: the first group did 40 minutes of steady state aerobic exercise for 15 weeks. The second group did 8 second sprints followed by 12 seconds of recovery for 20 minutes.

 

The results of the HIIT study?

 

HIIT participants lost up to 7.3lbs and the steady state exercisers gained up to 2.7lbs. HIIT participants also saw significant reduction in overall body fat as well as subcutaneous abdominal fat – the is the fat just beneath your skin.

 

Other key benefits of HIIT

  • Reduces fasting insulin levels and decreases risk for Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease
  • It significantly improves your cardiovascular fitness. The International Journal of Obesity Study also found that HIIT participants improved their VO2 max (aerobic power) by up to 23% [2]
  • It balances your hormones! Research shows that high intensity exercise boosts Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which is a powerful anti-aging hormone that helps us maintain lean muscle mass (think revved up metabolism!) AND bone density, which reduces risk of osteoporosis. [3]
  • It’s easy to fit into a busy lifestyle since it doesn’t take a lot of time.
  • They’re portable. You can get an effective HIIT workout using minimal or no equipment whatsoever which makes it great for staying in shape while you’re on the road.

How often should you do HIIT workouts to achieve these results?

 

HIIT workouts do have a lot of benefits, and it has been documented that they only need to be done 2-3 times a week.

 

But, because they require such a high level of effort, they can put more strain on your joints, thus increasing your risk of injury if done too frequently.

 

This 15-minute bodyweight HIIT workout “recipe” is a great way to burn fat and stay fit when you’re tight for time and space.

 

The Workout “Recipe”:

 

Ingredients

  • Jump Squats (beginners can do a regular bodyweight squat without the jump)
  • Press-ups (beginners can start from their knees)
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Burpees

How to perform

 

Beginners: Do 30 seconds of each exercise followed by 30 seconds of rest. If needed, modify the jump squat to a basic body weight squat (no jump). Pushups can also be modified by performing from knees rather than toes.

 

Once you’ve completed all 4 exercises, rest for 1-2 minutes.  Repeat for 2-3 sets total.

 

Intermediate:  Do 40 seconds of each exercise followed by 20 seconds of rest. Once you’ve completed all 4 exercises, rest for 1 minute to 90 seconds. Then repeat for 3 sets total.

 

Advanced: Do 50 seconds of each exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest. Once you’ve completed all 4 exercises, rest for 1 minute and repeat for 3 sets total.

 

REFERENCES

 

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5237463/

[2] https://www.nature.com/articles/0803781

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12797841

Fitness Fuel: What to Eat Before, During & After Your Workout

Date:  26th November 2018         Category:  Fitness, Nutrition,

You’ve just finished your workout and you know you need to eat something. But what?

Workout nutrition may seem rather complicated but it doesn’t have to be.

 

Here’s the latest on how to fuel your body before, during and after your workout so you can improve your performance, maximise recovery – and feel better!

 

Fuel your machine

 

You’d never head out on a long road trip without filling your car with petrol, right?!

 

Skipping your pre- workout fuel is the equivalent of hitting the road with an empty fuel tank. You may get off to a good start, but you’ll likely be running on fumes in no time.

 

When you feed your body with the right nutrients before your workout, you’ll be able to lift more, run longer & faster, and speed up the benefits of exercise . Plus you’ll feel so much better doing it!

 

So, what should you be eating Pre-workout?

 

Since our body’s preferred energy source is carbohydrates, your pre-workout fuel should be higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein and fat.

 

Protein and fat are harder for our body to digest, and this uses up extra energy that we could be putting toward our workout.

 

Aim to eat about an hour before your workout to give your body time to digest and absorb the nutrients.

 

 

Here are a few Pre-Workout options that work well for pre-strength or pre-cardio workouts:

  • Wholegrain rice cake with 1 Tbsp peanut butter
  • Small apple and a handful of raw nuts (or nut butter)
  • A Banana

Sports Drinks or Water?

 

Just plain water will do the trick during your workout.

 

Also, i would advise you should avoid sports drinks as they are full of sugar.

 

What to Eat after a Cardio Session

 

It is still recommended that you eat your post-cardio snack 30-60 minutes after finishing up.

 

However, you’ll be using more carbohydrate stores during a sweaty cardio workout (think running or spinning).

 

Try one of these snacks after your next cardio workout to replenish your carbohydrate stores (glycogen) used and to help you recover faster:

  • Natural Yogurt, Fruit and 6 Nuts
  • 5-10 whole grain crackers & 2 Tbsp hummus
  • Small banana and a small handful of raw nuts or seeds

What to Eat After Strength Training or Lifting Weights

 

Once you finish that last rep, pat yourself on the back and then fuel up on the protein!

 

Aim to eat within 30-60 minutes post workout to help your body recovery and to build those muscles you’ve been working so hard for.

 

Here are a few examples of a balanced “post-lifting” meal:

  • Grilled chicken breast with roasted vegetables
  • 2 hard boiled eggs and whole grain crackers
  • Avocado on Whole Grain Toast

You’ll also love this delicious smoothie – packed with protein, fibre and the anti-inflammatory benefits of tart cherries!

 

Recipe

 

Mixed Berry Recovery Smoothie

 

300ml of coconut water

2 handful of  frozen Berries (frozen will have a thicker consistency)

1-2 tbsp of chia seeds

1 handful of greens (spinach or baby kale work well here, i use a frozen spinach cube )

 

Blend, enjoy and watch those muscles grow!

 

REFERENCES

 

LiveStrong: Post Workout Carb-Protein Ratio

 

The Washington Post: The Best Way To Eat Before & After Exercise

 

CBC.ca: Sports Drinks Unnecessary, Counterproductive For Most People

How Exercise Impacts Your Energy Levels

Date:  21st November 2018         Category:  Fitness,

When you’re completely exhausted, the last thing you want to do is lace up your shoes for a workout. But if you’re tired of being tired all the time, you may want to rethink the idea of regularly exercising.

 

Exercise is one of the most powerful tools we have for increasing our energy levels and you don’t need to do a lot to reap the benefits.

 

In fact, a University of Georgia study found that performing 20 minutes of low intensity exercise could decrease fatigue by up to 65%!

 

Link to study: https://news.uga.edu/low-intensity-exercise-reduces-fatigue-symptoms-by-65-percent-study-finds/

 

A physical activity as simple as walking, yoga or a leisurely bike ride (for only 20 minutes!) can do so much more for your energy than a cup of coffee or an energy drink ever could.

 

So how does exercise actually increase energy?

 

There’s a lot of amazing things going on in your body during a workout session. When you exercise, your body increases its production of serotonin, endorphins and dopamine — all of which are powerful mood boosters.

 

Dopamine, in particular, has been found to make us feel more alert and motivated. This is exactly why it pays to take that 20-minute walk during your lunch break instead of scrolling through your social feeds.

 

In addition to releasing these helpful neurotransmitters, exercise has been found to help us sleep better.

 

Link to study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2992829/?tool=pubmed

 

 

When your body gets the rest it needs on a regular basis, you will have the energy to get through your busy day.

 

But, can exercise actually work against you?

 

While a regular sweat session is typically a great thing for your body, there are some circumstances where a workout can actually affect your energy in a negative way.

 

Working out at night can make it very difficult to wind down and get a restful sleep. Experts recommend avoiding vigorous exercise up to 3 hours before bedtime.

 

Link to study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20673290

 

For those with especially hectic schedules, this can be a challenge since it may be the only time of day they can fit in a workout.

 

However, consider moving your workout to the morning to increase your energy for the whole day. But if you simply can’t, try sticking to a lower intensity nigh t time exercise routine so you can wind down when it’s time to sleep.

 

Too much of a good thing

 

Yes, you can get too much of a good thing. Exercising too much can actually have the opposite effect on your energy levels.

 

One study looked at the effects of over-exercising. Participants were put through a rigorous physical training regime for 10 days followed by 5 days of active recovery.

 

Link to study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7894955

 

 

Not only did participants notice a decrease in performance, they also complained of extreme fatigue and difficulty sleeping.

So how much exercise is enough?

 

 

It is recommended that you get approximately 150 minutes of moderate-vigorous exercise each week to maintain good health. You’ll know you’re getting the right amount of exercise if you notice your energy levels are increasing.

 

If, after increasing your exercise efforts you’re (still) feeling lethargic or are having difficulty sleeping, there’s a good chance you may be overtraining.

 

One last point about Exercise & Energy — the food you eat also plays a huge role in your energy levels! In addition to getting regular exercise, be sure to fuel your body with whole foods throughout the day to keep your energy levels up and maintained.

 

Recipe

 

Energising Power Balls

 

This Energising Power Ball recipe is a great way to fuel your body pre-workout or to give you a mid afternoon energy boost.

 

Ingredients

 

35g sesame seeds

35g sunflower seeds

35g Salba (optional)

70g organic raisins or organic dried cranberries

70g dried figs, chopped into small pieces

70g organic raw almond butter

1 tsp. agave nectar

2 tsp. rice milk or coconut milk, *optional, but helps to bind if you have some around

 

Preparation

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Roll dough into balls, approximately the size of 1 Tbsp.
  3. Chill and enjoy; place a few in the freezer and enjoy them frozen for a slightly different taste experience!

The True Health Benefits of Exercise

Date:  26th March 2018         Category:  Fitness, Health,

Exercise. It can improve your health on all levels. We’re not just talking about being fitter and stronger. We’re talking about overall health and longevity.

 

Regular exercise improves your heart health, brain health, muscle and bone health, diabetes, and arthritis. Beyond those, it also reduces stress, boosts moods, increases your energy, and can improve your sleep. And exercise prevents death from any cause (“all cause mortality”).

 

Convinced yet?

 

The benefits of exercise come from improving blood flow, and reducing inflammation and blood sugar levels. They come from moving your muscles (including your heart muscle) and pulling on your bones.

 

You don’t need to go overboard on exercise to get these amazing health results. As little as 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days/week is enough.

 

And you don’t have to do a particular kind of exercise. All four types of exercise have health benefits. They are:

  • Endurance (brisk walking, jogging, yard work, dancing, aerobics, cycling, swimming)
  • Strength (climbing stairs, carrying groceries, lifting weights, using a resistance band or your body weight, Pilates)
  • Balance (standing on one foot, Tai Chi)
  • Flexibility (stretching, yoga)

 

Don’t forget, all exercise counts, even if it’s not doing a sport or in a gym. Weekend hikes, walking to the shop and doing household chores also count towards your weekly exercise goal.

 

Let me take a minute to prove to you how healthy exercise really is. Here are a few key points.

 

Exercise for heart health

 

Exercise reduced cardiac mortality by 31% in middle aged men who previously had a heart attack.

 

Regular exercise reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension (high blood pressure).

 

Exercise for brain health

 

Exercise can improve physical function and quality of life in people with Parkinson’s disease. It also reduces changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Exercise improved mental functions by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is involved in learning and memory. It also increases the size of the part of the brain for memory and learning (the “hippocampus”); this was shown mostly with aerobic exercise.

 

Exercise for muscle and bone health

 

Regular physical activity can help maintain strong muscles and bones; this is particularly true for strength exercises. As we age, we naturally start to lose muscle mass and bone density. So, to prevent osteoporosis, exercise regularly.

 

PRO TIP: And don’t forget that balance exercises and Tai Chi can help prevent falls.

 

Exercise for diabetes

 

People with diabetes who exercise have better insulin sensitivity and HbA1C values (the marker of glycemic control).

 

Exercise does this because by contracting your muscles, you’re fueling them with sugar in your blood. This helps to manage blood sugar levels better than without exercise.

 

Conclusion

 

These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the health benefits of exercise.  By doing just 30 minutes 5 days/week, you can vastly improve your health. Since there are different benefits for different types, try mixing up what you do throughout the week. You don’t even need an “official” workout. Walking to the grocery store or doing household chores can count too.

 

If you’re just starting, then pick something you enjoy, get some accountability, and start.

 

What’s your favorite exercise and how often do you do it?

 

Recipe (exercise recovery): Coconut Water Refresher

 

Serves 2

 

250ml coconut water

sliced watermelon

½ tsp lime juice

1 dash salt

1 cup ice

2 tbsp chia seeds (optional)

 

Instructions

 

Blend the first four ingredients until well mixed. Add ice and pulse until ice is crushed.

 

Pour into glasses or water bottle and add chia seeds. Shake/stir before drinking.

 

Serve & enjoy!

 

Tip: The chia seeds add extra fiber, protein, and omega-3s.

What is Metabolism?

Date:  28th September 2017         Category:  Fitness,

The word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days.

 

You know that if yours is too slow you might gain weight. But what exactly does this all mean?

 

Well technically “metabolism” is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body. It’s how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do.

 

Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive. And without this amazing biochemistry you would not be possible.

 

Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:
● Allow activities you can control (e.g. physical activity etc.).
● Allow activities you can’t control (e.g. heart beat, wound healing, processing of nutrients & toxins, etc.).
● Allow storage of excess energy for later.

 

So when you put all of these processes together into your metabolism you can imagine that these processes can work too quickly, too slowly, or just right.

 

Which brings us to the “metabolic rate”.

 

Metabolic rate

 

This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories (yup, those calories!).

 

The calories you eat can go to one of three places:
● Work (i.e. exercise and other activity).
● Heat (i.e. from all those biochemical reactions).
● Storage (i.e. extra leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat).

 

As you can imagine the more calories you burn as work or creating heat the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.

 

There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate. One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) which is how much energy your body uses when you’re not being physically active.

 

The other is the “total daily energy expenditure” (TDEE) which measures both the resting metabolic rate as well as the energy used for “work” (e.g. exercise) throughout a 24-hour period.

 

What affects your metabolic rate?

 

In a nutshell: a lot!

 

The first thing you may think of is your thyroid. This gland at the front of your throat releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism. Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you’ll burn.

 

But that’s not the only thing that affects your metabolic rate.

 

How big you are counts too!

 

Larger people have higher metabolic rates; but your body composition is crucial!

 

As you can imagine muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than fat does. So the more lean muscle mass you have the more energy your body will burn and the higher your metabolic rate will be. Even when you’re not working out.

 

This is exactly why weight training is often recommended as a part of a weight loss program. Because you want muscles to be burning those calories for you.

 

The thing is, when people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down which you don’t want to happen. So you definitely want to offset that with more muscle mass.

 

Aerobic exercise also temporarily increases your metabolic rate. Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they’re doing “work”.

 

The type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate!

 

Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolise your food. This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).

 

You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently.

 

Fats, for example increase your TEF by 0-3%; carbs increase it by 5-10%, and protein increases it by 15-30%. By trading some of your fat or carbs for lean protein you can slightly increase your metabolic rate.

 

Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow. By working them out and feeding them what they need they will help you to lose weight and keep it off.

 

And don’t forget the mind-body connection. There is plenty of research that shows the influence that things like stress and sleep have on the metabolic rate.

 

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase (or decrease) your metabolic rate.

 

Recipe (Lean Protein): Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken Breasts

 

Serves 4

 

2 lemons, sliced
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 tablespoon thyme
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
dash salt & pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive old

 

Preheat oven to 220 Degrees. Layer ½ of the lemon slices on the bottom of a baking dish. Sprinkle with ½ of the herbs and ½ of the sliced garlic.

 

Place the chicken breasts on top and sprinkle salt & pepper. Place remaining lemon, herbs and garlic on top of the chicken. Drizzle with olive oil. Cover with a lid or foil.

 

Bake for 45 minutes until chicken is cooked through. If you want the chicken to be a bit more “roasty” then remove the lid/foil and broil for another few minutes (watching carefully not to burn it).

 

Serve & enjoy!

 

Tip: You can add a leftover sliced chicken breast to your salad for lunch the next day!

 

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