Category Archives: Get Your Body Right

How to Exercise and treat your body right

Is Kale really good for you or is it just a fad?

Click here for my published InShape News article.

What is Kale?
Kale is a green leaf annual or biennial vegetable, similar to cabbage, but a variety that doesn’t form a ‘head’. It’s from the family Brassica oleracea, reaching heights of 6 or 7 feet, but is generally known for its high fibre content. It has a number of different varieties with either flat, curly, or bumpy leaves, or the ornamental variety that varies in colour but is not as palatable.

Kale was one of the most common green vegetables in Europe up until the Middle Ages when it fell out of favour. After recent introduction to America and Asia-Pacific, kale was grown for the beauty of its curly leaves, which added much needed decoration for salad bars all over the world. Its resurgence in popularity for ingestion and nutrition is relatively recent.

Why is Kale So Popular?
Eve Turrow of MindBodyGreen did a deep dive into the creation of the cult status of kale. Her fascinating kale article, a product of weeks of research, reveals that kale’s rise to stardom was actually a brilliant PR campaign of Oberon Sinclair, founder of My Young Auntie PR, masquerading as the American Kale Association (which isn’t real). That campaign produced a worldwide phenomenon that puts production pressure on farmers, downward pressure on prices, and plenty of kale on everyone’s plates, all of which is good for the consumer.

Hype Aside, is Kale Good For You?
Kale, like most vegetables is good for you. WHFoods.com lists a range of amazing health benefits, as does Helen Nichols of Well-BeingSecrets.com who lists 23 science-backed benefits including an aid for depression, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, obesity, as well as eye, heart, bone, skin and hair health – common with many other cruciferous vegetables. One reason that kale is promoted over its cruciferous compatriots, apart from the marketing, is that it has been far more heavily researched than say broccoli or cabbage.

What’s The Nutrient Value of Kale?
One hundred grams of raw kale yields 84% water, 9% carbohydrates, 4% protein, and 1% fat. According to Wikipedia it also contains a large amount of vitamin K: several times the Daily Value (DV). It is a rich source (20% or more of the DV) of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, and manganese (see table “Kale, raw”). Kale is a good source (10–19% DV) of thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, vitamin E and several dietary minerals, including iron, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. Kale is also a good source of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as glucosinolate compounds such as glucoraphanin, which contributes to the formation of sulforaphane, a compound under preliminary research for its potential to affect human health. Obviously cooking kale diminishes these benefits.

What Makes Kale Better Than Spinach or Broccoli?
Kale is one of the most nutrient-dense plants on the planet for its calorie count, according to Kris Gunnars, Bsc. It’s also high in antioxidants, which is why it’s often turned into a superfood-style powder. And whilst these powders can have their place as part of a busy modern lifestyle, they do contain less nutrients than the real thing due to nutrient loss during processing.

It is difficult to compare the nutritional content of kale, versus broccoli or spinach (from the chard family) due articles reporting different values for different weights with some reporting raw values and others cooked. Fortunately, NutritionalValue.org gives you the low down.

The site shows raw kale has more than twice the calories of spinach, but half the sodium; and 47% more protein and niacin. Spinach is 37% higher in folate than kale; 48% more lutein and zeaxanthin; and a whopping 68% more phosphorous. Broccoli seems to have less of every nutrient than the others, with the exception of selenium, which is crucial for thyroid function. Interestingly broccoli has almost three times the selenium content of kale and spinach.

After analysis I reached the same conclusion that the HuffingtonPost did – that kale and spinach are nutritionally very similar – and “kale is a better source for some essential vitamins and minerals … [while] spinach is a richer source of folate and an equally good source of iron and fibre.”

So Is Kale A Superfood?
The term ‘superfood’ is actually a marketing term created to promote products. There is no strict definition and the term is open to wide interpretation and misuse. For more information read my previous article “Superfoods: Fact or Fiction”.

It is important to remember that any vegetable in its raw form is packed with macro and micronutrients, vitamins and minerals, which means it’s exceptionally good for you, including kale. Rather than following the latest ‘Superfood’ trend and over indulging in what may turn out to be an ineffectual (or harmful) dose, a better option is to eat a diet wide in variety that’s rich in raw natural ingredients and low in processed foods.

Why is Kale Bitter?
Some people find kale bitter and others don’t. This is because different classes of phytochemicals in varieties of kale (alkanoids, phenols, terpenoids, alkaloids, flavonoids, glucosinolates and isothiocyanates) can trigger a bitter taste.

Further the ‘bitter’ phenomenon of green leafy vegetables (including Brussels sprouts) may have a genetic link. Compound Interest’s Andy Brunning explains that some people are especially sensitive to naturally occurring chemical compounds called glucosinolates, which are broken down into isothiocyanates when cooked, and which taste bitter to around 70% of people.

How Do I Get The Bitter Taste Out of Kale?
If you’re worried you have the ‘bitter gene’ and can’t eat kale, think again. Stephanie Eckelkamp reports that salting, roasting and all can all help to block the bitter taste. Christine Gallery adds acid, braises or adds strong-flavoured ingredients to mask bitterness. But Chef Cary Neff, author of “Conscious Cuisine”, explains the best way to remove the bitter taste is by blanching the kale before use.

How Do I Blanche Kale?

  1. Wash your kale and cut the stems off
  2. Fold your kale in halves or thirds and push the kale firmly into a pot that they barely fit in
  3. Fill the pot 1/3 with water and bring to the boil
  4. Reduce to a simmer and let cook for up to 20 minutes, occasionally stirring
  5. Drain the kale, and wash or plunge in cold water to prevent further cooking

How Much Kale Should I Eat Per Day?
Eat as much kale as you like without going overboard, especially when it’s raw. Raw kale is packed with fibre so you’ll fill up quickly and stay full for a long time. Having said that too much of any good thing is a bad thing. And there is such a thing as eating too much kale. Fast Company’s Jessica Leber reports kale fails can include low-level poisoning of the toxic heavy metal thallium even from organic kale, however this is very unusual and medically unproven.

Other than eating large amounts of leafy green vegetables leading to gas, bloating, and constipation, the main danger is for those on beta-blockers, blood thinners or who are prone to DVT and clotting. Kale contains a high amount of vitamin K, which aids blood clotting. If this is an issue then switch to other vegetables.

Kale also contains oxalates, which are substances sometimes linked to kidney stones and gallstones. It also affects those with lower kidney functioning. Those with kidney conditions should instead eat a low-oxalate diet.

What Are The Best Kale Recipes?
Recommendations are always the best, so look for recipe sites that include user ratings to determine whether a recipe is good or not. Here’s a smattering of recipes I found to tempt even the fussiest tastebuds.

bbcgoodfood.com’s Chicken, kale & mushroom pot pie

BBCgoodFood.com lists 34 kale recipes, of which the most highly rated are Kale Tabbouleh, Spicy Clam and Kale Linguine, Kale Pesto, Kale Salsa, and Chicken, Kale and Mushroom Pot Pie which looks completely delicious (see above).

GoodHousekeeping.com has a lovely slide gallery of 16 recipes linking to blog sites featuring recipes like Kale Pesto Pizza, Sweet Potato Kale and Quinoa Fritters and Kale Slaw, great speedy share plate recipes for impromptu gatherings.

JamieOliver.com claims to have eight killer kale recipes like Sesame-Roasted Kale, Super Noodle Ramen With Kale and Barbeque Mushrooms, and Kale And Ricotta Omelette perfect for any time of day.

Finally Meghan Telpener has put together 8 Kale Chip flavour recipes almost guaranteed to obscure even the most bitter tasting kale, with oven and dehydrator options, as well as a number of tips to ensure your chips get really crunchy.

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I’m a Beginner – What Gym Routine Should I do to Lose Weight?

Click here for the original InShape News article.

Deciding to get your ‘gym’ on is one of the best things you can do. The health benefits for all aspect of your body, mind and spirit are well researched. But going to a gym is a little different than just grabbing your runners and going for a quick jog. No going to the gym is a completely different environment … and you want to ensure you see a return for your often big bucks.

Gym First Timers
Attending a gym for the first time can be quite daunting … there are often so many different classes on offer it’s hard to know where to start. And all those machines … you might be wondering what they all do and how you’re ever going to learn how to use them.

Gyms are great places to get some expert tuition or to just get your workout done when it’s cold, raining or just plain dark outside. And the recent proliferation of 24×7 gyms makes that task so much easier. So before you head into a gym, let’s spend a few minutes getting your head into the right space so you’ll be a bit more relaxed.

Gym as a Way of Life
First things first … the main thing you need to know is that whatever you end up doing, to maintain your results you need to be prepared to do it for the rest of your life. Exercise is not a fad. It’s not something you do solely to lose weight and then the weight miraculously stays off. No, as soon as you stop doing whatever you did, the weight comes right back on. Exercise … love it or loathe it … really is a life-long commitment. It’s a way of life.

That said, you can now understand why it’s important it is to select a gym routine that works for you: the location, time, type and duration all have to work. So choose something that you can fit (or squeeze) into your normal schedule. Keeping it interesting and fun will make it easier to commit to it long-term. And grabbing a partner to workout with can not only increase your commitment and motivation, there are also a whole host of additional benefits according to Mirel Ketchiff from Shape.com.

Gym is Not a Dirty Word
As a beginner, don’t be scared of the word ‘gym’. You’re not going to be hurled head first into a weight lifting only routine … in fact quite the opposite. Gym staff will usually recommend you do a mix of activities so have a chat with them and ask them to suggest a routine. Staff at the best gyms will do a thorough assessment on you, and only recommend things that are comfortable (and possible) for you to do.

Before you become a gym junkie it’s worth knowing that the most effective workout seems to be a combination of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Resistance Training (RT) as opposed to the straight cardio fad of the 19080s – so Richard Simmons has officially left the building.

HIIT and You
You can read all about why HIIT works so well at Nerd Fitness. And HIIT’s effectiveness is also investigated in ABC Catalyst’s 2015 report “Fit in 6 Minutes a Week”. HIIT is a sensible exercise approach for making long-term gains with minimal effort. And it’s got a solid pedigree…

HIIT’s not new. It actually originated informally in the 1970s and was used by track and field athlete Sebastian Coe. It has since morphed into a number of regiment including, more recently, the Timmons regimen (2012) used by Dr Michael Mosely in his BBC documentary the “Truth about Exercise”.

HIIT aside, if you’re looking for guided DIY information about specific routines then Shape.com has their “Best Fat-Loss Workout of All Time” and it’s pretty good if you have all of the equipment and plenty of time. If you are time short then check out Women’sHealth Mag’s “5-Minute Fat-Blasting Workout” which focuses on Interval Training (similar to HIIT, but not quite as effective). It will take longer to get the results but it is a good routine, especially if you add some free weights where you can on alternate days.

Mix it Up
Just keep in mind that research has shown that after performing the exact same routine for three weeks your body switches off, and the effects of doing the same program start to diminish. To avoid this simply change your program every 3 weeks by selecting a different cardio exercise (rowing instead of bike), changing the work out time (15 or 25 minutes instead of 20) or the intensity (use interval programs and change out the interval duration). When it comes to resistance training simply change out your sets and reps – instead of 3 sets x 10 reps, do 2 sets by 15 reps.

Don’t Go Over the Top
Oh and there’s no point going overboard. According to Haroon Siddique of The Guardian doing more exercise won’t necessarily lose you more weight. There’s apparently a sweet spot for the ‘exercise to calorie burn’ ratio. And like anything, consistency is the key to getting (and keeping) good results. That and a solid commitment to your routine, and your body. After all this is not a 6-week affair, it’s for life.

Eat Lean and Clean
And sorry … there’s also a bit more bad news. Even if you work out like a mad person, your eating regime could actually undo all your hard work. Yep, a critical part of your workout is actually what you put in your mouth. Who knew?

If that’s the case then when should you eat, and what should you eat? A while back I gave some advice in my article What Are The Best Foods to Eat Before Working Out. But the big take away from the article is that most people load up before a workout, and it’s simply not required. You have enough reserves … trust me.

Instead, to burn the most fat from a diet perspective, don’t snack and follow a Ketogenic diet. According to Wikipedia high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate Ketogenic diet forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. DietDoctor.com has lots of good information on it and a helpful searchable database of recipes. And Kyran Doyle has a whole host of yummy ketogenic snack recipes here. Lastly, Authority Nation also lists the foods to avoid here.

Beginner or not, in the end it is all about doing what works for you and your lifestyle – there’s no ‘one fits all’ solution when it comes to health. Keep trying different things (both diet and exercise) until you find what works for you. What works for you won’t be the same for everyone. But what is the same is that the most important bit of any workout or gym routine is that you actually do it.

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How Do Personal Fitness Trackers Work, and are They Any Good?

Click here for the original InShape News article.

Fitbit®, Garmin, Apple Watch, Misfit, Jawbone®, Smartwatch?
About 20% of us are using personal fitness trackers – so what’s the skinny on these mini devices?

What is a personal fitness tracker?
A personal fitness tracker, sometimes also called a smart band, is generally a wrist-worn electronic device that contains a watch as well as various tracking sensors to measure exercise metrics such as your steps, flights of stairs, exercise sessions, calories burned, heart rate and even your sleep patterns.

How do personal fitness trackers work?
In simple terms wrist-worn devices all measure motion with the use of 3-axis accelerometer (measuring movement in each direction) and sometimes a gyroscope that measures rotation. This data is then fed into custom-written software (depending on the brand of device) that analyses and converts, to the best of its ability, the data into more meaningful statistics like steps, distance, calories and stairs climbed.

Devices that monitor heart rate also include an optical sensor (aka ‘the green light’) that shines to illuminate the capillaries under your skin, measuring the rate at which your blood is being pumped through.

Similarly sleep patterns are measured using an actimetry sensor which essentially measures wrist movement, sometimes combined with other sensor inputs, and analyses it to determine your wake, sleep and restless periods.

Some trackers (especially those designed for long distance sports like running) also have a GPS to track your actual position on the planet via satellites (much like sat Nav for your car). Others include galvanic skin response sensors to measure sweat, thermometers to measure temperature and ambient or UV light sensors or bioimpedance sensors to gain input data for analysis.

To check what’s in an individual brand check out the following Wearable and Digital Trends articles to see how various fitness trackers work.

The skinny: Various sensors in the fitness tracker provide raw user data that is then interpreted by software (that uses basic assumptions and calculations) into more meaningful data.

Are personal fitness trackers accurate?
Yes, and no. Personal trackers use varying technology to gain and analyse user data but all rely on user inputs including weight, stride length, wrist dominance and sometimes height and age to provide more precise reporting. So if you don’t change the default factory settings your readings may be incorrect.

One University of Pennsylvania study found the step count on fitness trackers could be as much as 22% out when compared with old-style pedometers and accelerometers. But the University of North Carolina’s Professor Kelly Evenson says lab and field tests revealed trackers were reasonably accurate, but tended to overestimate distance with slow speeds, and underestimate when moving fast.

In a test of 10 fitness trackers, CBNC’s Eric Chemi reported all devices were close to reporting accurately but each device did vary slightly. Fitbit® Charge HR (which also records sleep patterns) was the most accurate when it came to step counts; Apple Watch for heart rate; and Withings Pulse O2 for distance. But most of these devices record additional activities that were not subject to testing.

What is most useful about any fitness tracker is the daily comparison of results by the same user. Just like any gym routine or fitness program you’re only in competition with yourself and your results are the only ones that matter (despite many trackers having the ability to join virtual groups and compete in weekly competitions). Personal fitness trackers are a way of setting targets, and tracking and recording your gradual improvement, or the lack thereof.

And most reports like The Guardian’s Amy Fleming  and Shape’s Paige Fowler tend to agree: it’s about the user being able to monitor their own data, even if it’s just feedback or a guide to make incremental improvements.

The skinny? All fitness trackers vary in results slightly.

What are the best personal fitness trackers?
Right now the best fitness tracker, according to TechRadar, is the Fitbit® Charge 2 which connects with the GPS on your phone, particularly good for joggers and runners. Second is Samsung’s Gear Fit 2, third is Microsoft’s Band 2 and fourth is the Fitbit® Flex 2. However the TechRadar report excluded Smart Watches which are reported separately here.

Wearable on the other hand rates Garmin’s Vivosmart HR+ the best tracker with Fitbit® Charge 2 coming in second as the best general fitness tracker. They also rated the best trackers for a range of categories including simplicity, style, parents, getting in shape, tight budget, losing weight, multisports and screen quality. Check out their full report here.

PC Magazine’s assessment put’s the Fitbit® Surge at the top of their list, with the Fitbit® Charge 2 and Garmin Forerunner 735XT runners up.

The skinny? It really depends what exercises you regularly do and what you want to track.

How do I pick the right personal fitness tracker for me?
Mens Journal quizzed fitness tracker researcher, the University of Pennsylvania’s Dr Mitesh Patel, who likened fitness trackers to a gym membership – the novelty often soon wears off. What was most important, says Dr Patel, is that wearers already had a high motivation towards improving their own health and fitness. It would seem that motivation and personal responsibility for one’s own health are huge pre-requisites when it comes to fitness trackers, but these aren’t the only factors.

The ABC’s Joel Werner and Tegan Osborne report that around 50% of people stop wearing their fitness tracker within 12 months of purchasing it. So it seems that selection of the right device for the right purpose is crucial to any device’s longevity of use.

When I asked my fitness-tracking friends what they liked about theirs the responses varied. Some liked the technological features like the Fitbit® Alta which vibrates with incoming calls, receives SMS and calendar reminders on the watch face; some wanted a tracker that looks more like a conventional watch rather than a band; others talked about the importance durability like the Garmin Vivoactive being waterproof, even in sea water (which might have been helpful for me when I fell into a French canal last year).

For me it’s the sleep tracking function of the Fitbit® Charge HR that won me over. Being able to see how many times I ‘wake’ and how many times I’m ‘restless’ and my combined sleep total for the night gives me a lot of information to proactively improve my quality of sleep.

What did seem to be a common theme was to consider the comfort and look of the unit (as you generally wear them 24 hours a day), the battery life/recharge time, ease of device use as well as the user interface (via smartphone or laptop apps).

Other friends use a non-band fitness tracker like Google Fit which uses advanced sensors in your smartphone to work out when you’re walking, jogging or cycling – good if you are a regular ‘wearer’ of your phone (probably better suited for men. Why don’t they put pockets in women’s clothing?).

Fact: there are a heap of different devices out there at a huge range of prices from the cost effective to the insane. Finding the right device is a personal choice and it may take you a few goes to find the device that’s right for you. Do your research and talk with your friends who use fitness trackers, find out what they like and dislike about their units and see if you can try theirs on. And if in doubt handy services like USA-based Lumoid provide devices for rental so you can ‘try before you buy’.

The skinny? Decide on what’s important for you, set a budget and do your research before you buy.

Tips for getting the most out of personal fitness trackers?
Once you’ve chosen your personal fitness tracker the first thing you’ll want to do is customise it. Add in your personal user settings (height, weight, stride, etc.) according to the app to ensure more accurate results.

Next, and most importantly, is to decide on what you want to track and set some goals, like hours of activity, heart rates and daily steps. If in doubt use your tracker for a week first to know what your baseline is, then set realistic goals that stretch you a little more each week.

To keep your motivation you might want to join a virtual group. Many brands have virtual groups in the apps that allow you to connect with others and share selected statistics (like step count). If a friend has the same brand of device then you may be able to create a group of your own, which is more fun and definitely more motivating. But remember, it’s your week on week results that count – you are your only competition.

If you’re on a weight loss mission many apps allow you to log your food and water. This can be time consuming but also a very sobering experience when you realise how little water and how many calories you’re actually consuming. Still it can be a very beneficial and educational exercise.

And when it comes to burning off those extra calories don’t believe everything you read (or track). Fitness trackers aren’t 100% accurate. In fact, a study from Iowa State University found that there’s more than a 15% margin of error in most trackers. Take the results as a guide and don’t get too over zealous.

If you’re prone to sitting or being inactive for long periods of time then set a regular reminder to move. Reminders and alarms are a great way to make sure you’re moving more, but they can also reduce your battery life requiring more regular recharges.

Consistency and routine are the keys when it comes to tracking. Make sure you wear your device for the same hours, or better still keep it on 24 hours a day – especially for devices that track your sleep patterns. Simply recharge your device when you’re not moving much, like sitting at your desk or when you’re in the shower. Most devices fully charge in around 20 minutes and last for 3 to 5 days.

The skinny? Personal fitness trackers can be a great way to monitor your health and wellbeing. But they require commitment, consistency and routine.

Do I Need To Take Supplements?

Click here for the original InShape News article.

If you’re asking this then you’re probably asking the wrong question ….the real question here is “why do you think you need to take supplements?”

I’ve sure done a lot of research over the years, and my book goes into a lot of depth about every vitamin, mineral and trace element your body needs to stay healthy, the recommended dietary intake of each, what happens if you have too little (or too much), the best natural sources and what effects their uptake by the body. But the truth is it’s difficult to comprehend holistically …and even if you can make sense of the complex web of vitamin-mineral relationships it’s a lot to put into practice.

You know the warning …that dietary supplements may only be of benefit if your dietary intake is insufficient or lacking. But there is more to the jigsaw puzzle of dietary supplements than meets the eye. Manufacturers are well aware that this complex topic can yield them big bucks. In fact, the global dietary supplements market is expected to reach USD 278.02 billion by 2024, according to a recent report by Grand View Research, Inc. So with everyone trying to grab their piece of this health-driven pie you can understand why companies are spending huge wads of cash to tell you why you need their product …and why theirs is better than their competitor’s.

The sad truth of our time is that most people spend more money on pharmaceutical medicines than herbal remedies or supplements. People would rather use a manufactured pharmaceutical ‘pill’ to treat their symptoms, than find a natural cure to treat the root cause. And therein lies the issue …it’s the biggest health care scam of our generation. (You can Google it later, and trust me you’re going to want to.)

Think about it. How many times have you grabbed a paracetamol or aspirin to treat a headache? An anti-inflammatory to treat a body ache? When have you instead aimed to decipher and treat the cause, rather than the symptom?

Life has sped up; it throws us daily curve balls, pumping our bodies with adrenalin to which we use a cocktail of substances, including coffee and alcohol, to manage our daily highs and lows. We’re on a road to somewhere, but it’s not the utopia of health and longevity we’re all hoping for. Almost each new study that comes out shows we’re getting sicker. We might be living longer than our ancestors, but not healthier. Our bodies are massively deficient …lacking in nutrients but more importantly lacking in water. We are chronically dehydrated and malnourished.

The food that’s grown for us by big conglomerates clamouring for profit in a competition rich environment where genetic modification and low-cost-high-yield growth techniques are designed to produce the cheapest prettiest products, means our fruit and vegetables are now only half as nutritious as they were 100 years ago. And as a bonus they are jam packed with an array of toxins to prevent pests and blemishes, toxins that our bodies just aren’t designed to handle. Further with the ever expanding waistline of fast food and manufactured snacks (the processing of which destroys almost all nutritional value in food) we’re now eating as little as 8% of the fresh produce that our parents ate.

Our convenient ‘big gulp’ drinks and soy lattes are packed with sodium, sugars, colours, caffeine and flavours in insurmountable quantities and we’re drinking less water than ever before. Who do you know that drinks half a gallon or 2 litres of water a day? And even that amount is grossly insufficient for the average person. It’s no wonder we’re all dying of ‘lifestyle’ diseases.

So I ask you again “why do you think you need to take supplements?”

Looking for a panacea? The solution really is very simple. Rather than spending your hard-earned cash on the majority of supplements that have very little chance of making any real impact on your health, start with the basics. Eat a diet of 70% whole fresh fruit and vegetables. Keep them as raw as possible. Juice daily. Thoroughly wash your produce before consuming, or better still, buy organic where possible to reduce the amount of toxins your body ingests. Get yourself tested to check your vitamin levels, or buy a Vitastiq and test them yourself.

Read all ingredient labels. Avoid all processed food (anything that can sit on a shelf unrefrigerated for days, weeks or months, or any ingredient you can’t pronounce). Reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake to one shot or two standard drinks a day. Eliminate all added sugars, simple carbohydrates and unhealthy fats. Drink 45mls of water per kilogram (0.7floz per pound) of body weight, per day …minimum.

If after doing that for 2 weeks you still feel like you need a supplement then start taking a natural super greens supplement made from dehydrated and powdered fruit and vegetables. The most you should need above that is a good quality multi-vitamin from a GMP Certified manufacturer – remember it’s quality not quantity.

Food is medicine – millennia of evolution have designed our bodies that way. In fact there’s a growing amount of evidence, including one recent study led by Dr. David Suskind published in the December 2016 Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, that a change in diet alone can cure many ailments and diseases, including Crohn’s.

Whilst a change in diet will work for the majority, there are some natural herbal supplements that can be good for individual conditions (especially hormone-related conditions and detoxification). And it’s best to see a qualified Naturopath or Herbalist to ensure you get the right compounds in their most natural state in the right quantities for your particular circumstances. Remember, everyone’s ‘body’ is different and responds to different treatments and diets.

So if you think you need a supplement because of some advert, a friend told you, or it just seemed like a good idea, then think again. Get back to basics and give your body all it needs, naturally.

#inshapenews #goodadvice #dontbefooled #spendmoneywisely #backtobasics #healthylife #healthydiet #foodasmedicine #supergreens #vitamnins #minerals #traceelements #macronutrients #micronutrients #water #drinkmorewater #eattolive #naturalfood #lovelife #behappy #doinedtotakesupplements

What are the best foods to eat before working out

Click here for the original InShape News article.

Essentially WHAT you should eat depends on the aim of your workout – are you building muscle or improving your fitness through cardio? Also, WHEN you eat is just as crucial; it’s timing dependent on what foods you’ve chosen to use to fuel-up.

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BUILDING MUSCLE

If building muscle is your game, as well as losing fat and increasing your metabolism at the same time, then you’ll want a pre-workout meal which focuses on lean proteins. Some of the best lean proteins are grilled meats, eggs (or egg whites), low-fat Greek yoghurt or cottage cheese – anything low in fat and high in protein.  These foods contain Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) which help increase the rate of protein synthesis and decrease protein breakdown during and after your workout, minimising muscle wastage and maximising muscle-building opportunities.

CARDIO WORKOUT

If you’re going for a high-energy cardio workout, then you’ll need to consume items that are higher in complex carbohydrates, to give you enough slow released energy to push yourself through an energetic workout. Low Glycaemic Index (GI) carbohydrates like quinoa, mushrooms, eggplant, tomatoes, cauliflower, zucchini and green leafy vegetables help to fill up your glycogen stores and also create a more anabolic effect.  Avoid carbohydrates like processed foods, grains, wheat, sugar and high-starch root vegetables (no potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potato, carrot or beetroot) which convert to sugar and negatively impact on the results of your workout.

INTERVAL TRAINING

If you’re doing a combined workout, like interval training, then simply eat a balance of the two – protein and carbohydrates – focus on fibre, this will fill you up so you don’t get hungry. Don’t over-eat and keep your calories to between 200 and 350 depending on your weight and workout plan.

WHEN TO EAT

Also, remember that WHEN to eat is just as crucial. Eating on an empty stomach (unless it’s first thing in the morning to kick start your metabolism with a post-work out breakfast) is generally not recommended, although it does work for some people. Knowing how long to eat before your workout helps is the key to maximising your results and minimising any pre or post workout fatigue.

FOOD DIGESTION TIME

Different types of foods take different times to digest, from the stomach to the small intestine, which is when its nutrition is available for absorption and use by the body in your workout.

PROTEINS

Proteins take around 3-4 hours to digest, muscle-building workouts benefit from eating a high-protein low-fat meal containing 100 to 250g of raw protein weight (size depends on your body weight) 3-4 hours before working out. Mix your high protein up with some non-starchy vegetables for a boost of low GI energy.

CARBOHYDRATES

Carbohydrates take around 2-3 hours to digest but simple carbohydrates like sugar, grains, flours and starchy vegetables convert quickly and, while they release energy, it’s a short burst that can also throw your insulin balance out. Low-GI complex carbohydrates give you sustained slow release energy that lets you power through your workout.

DIETARY FAT

Dietary fat takes 6-8 hours to digest, so it’s best to consume high-fat (good-fat) foods like nuts, avocados, and salmon in the meals following your workout.

If it’s been longer than 3-hours since your last meal and you’re soon to hit the gym consider adding a pre-workout snack, such as an orange or an apple, or strawberries, raspberries or blueberries with a little low-fat Greek yoghurt a couple of hours beforehand. Most fruits, including convenient bananas, are too high in simple fructose sugar which reduces the benefits of your workout; slows your metabolism and raises your body’s natural weight set point.

WORKOUT FOODS
Work Out Type Foods to Eat Eat Before Workout
High Energy Cardio Complex Low-GI carbohydratesIncluding green leafy veggies 2-3 Hours
Resistance or Weight Training Lean Protein 100g-250gGreen leafy veggies 3-4 Hours
Combination Workout Mix of the two above 3-4 Hours
Emergency Fuel Apple, Orange, Berries and/or low-fat Greek yoghurt 2 Hours

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When’s the Best Time to Workout

Click here for the original InShape News article.

Many people swear by morning workouts, but is there a ‘best’ time of day to maximise your exercise efforts? Science says there is, but is science right?

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Yes, science apparently has the answer, but it’s not the same for everyone. Studies reveal that to get the most out of your workout means you have to be at your ‘best’ – both physically and mentally – to be able to put as much into your workout as possible, as consistently as you can.

Your Biological Rhythm

But what time of day are you at your ‘best’? Well science says this entirely depends on your biological rhythm, and it’s not the same for everyone. Rhythms are influenced by your sleeping and waking habits, so your peak exercise time will vary usually in-line with the time of day you are at your most alert.

However, when it comes to working out there are many other factors to consider other than how alert you are. These include:

  • The consistency of your workouts.
  • How effective you sleep at night.
  • Your stress levels.
  • The environmental conditions of exercise.
  • The convenience.
  • Location and availability of your workout.
  • How your workout influences your day-long performance.
  • Your workout’s relative safety.

Any one of these factors, or a combination of them, can seriously reduce the effectiveness of your chosen workout, not to mention the impact of the type of workout you choose to do.

Morning Workouts

Many report that the morning workout is high-effective, especially before eating a healthy breakfast, as it encourages an all-day fat burn. Others proclaim that an evening workout will help you to continue to burn calories while you sleep.

And science again reveals some more influencers. Generally speaking morning workouts can assist with fat loss or fat storage prevention as well as increased serotonin levels improving your mood and fighting depression all day long. Plus once your morning work’s done, it’s done for the day.

Evening Workouts

Evening workouts can be best for high strength work, help tire you out for a better night’s sleep as well as be part of a convenient after-work schedule. But end-of-day lethargy may cause your enthusiasm to wane and for you to skip your workout.

Midday Workouts

And, like you would expect, day-time or afternoon workouts sit somewhere in the middle. It’s a bit like Goldilocks and the three bears. Everyone is different.

Workout When You Feel Your Best

Look, there’s no ‘one fits all’ answer to this complex question. The simple answer is if you feel better working out in the morning, then do that. If you’d rather use exercise to de-stress during or just after a long day in the office then by all means, go for it. And if you’re a night-owl and hunger for that pre or post-dinner surge then why not take advantage of all those new 24-hour gyms opening up.

In the end it’s all about personal choice. Do what works for you best. If you’re not sure then alternate the time of your workout and see what feels best. In the end, the most important bit of any workout is that you do it.

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Can I Do Exercises at My Desk that Burn Calories?

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It’s no secret in this age of information that we are sitting more, and moving less. If you spend 9 or more hours sitting each day then it could be literally shortening your life – even a 60 minute workout won’t counteract the effects of a long day of sitting.

Your body was designed for regular movement. Sitting for extended periods of time causes a reduction in blood flow, leading to organ damage, sluggish digestion, brain damage and a reduction in muscle and bone density – and that’s not to mention the postural issues and reduced calorie burn that comes hand in hand with long stints of inactivity, and increased stress levels leading to overeating. Yes your ‘desk job’ is actually making you fat and shortening your life.

However there are several ways to counteract the desk job, and burn valuable calories in the process.

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1. Get Up Often

Whether it’s to the photocopier, meeting room, kitchen or even the rest room, set a timer on your computer to ensure you get up and move around for 10 minutes of every hour. Walking around burns 3-5 times the calories that sitting does, so take every opportunity you can to get up and move. This might sound like you’ll get less done, but actually you’ll be refreshed by regular short breaks, think more clearly and be more energised to power through your work more effortlessly. Odds are you’ll be even more productive.

2. Drink Lots

We should be consuming 45mls of fresh filtered water for every kilogram of weight – more if we’re exercising or drinking dehydrating beverages like coffee and alcohol. This may seem like a lot of water to get through in a day but it will counteract the drying effects of office air conditioning and will get you more active with frequent trips to the restroom.

3. Ergonomics

Ergonomics used to be limited to ensuring your screen height and chair height were correct and using tools like a foot rest or wrist rest to aid correct posture. More alternative options include using a kneeling chair or a ‘bounce’ ball instead of a regular chair. But research shows that the best ergonomic option is a standing workstation with an ergonomic mat, and these are slowly becoming more popular. And new innovations are continually being developed like a movable height desk and a ‘hamster wheel’ desk that keeps you on the move.

4. Posture

Ensuring your posture at your desk is correct is key. But what does this mean? When sitting you should ensure your spine is ‘stacked’ by sticking your bottom out behind you to form a ‘J’ shape – simply wiggle your ‘big booty’ back in the chair and push your coccyx back. It can feel a bit awkward at first and takes a bit of practice and constant self-monitoring, but it’s a much less stressful position, more comfortable and also helps prevent you from slouching or hunching over.

5. Regular Movement

There are literally dozens of exercises you can do at your desk to ensure better blood flow and combat the harsh effects long periods that sitting has on our bodies. These are my top 10 to do hourly, relatively undetected.

  1. Deep Breathing – Start with 5 deep breaths, exhaling as much air as possible to void the build-up of carbon dioxide in your lungs
  1. Foot Twirl – rotate your feet clockwise for 5 twirls, then anti-clockwise for 5 twirls
  1. Full Calf Flex – white seated roll each foot onto your heel, then onto your toe. Repeat 5 times for each leg.
  1. Thigh Pump – Simulate a ‘football-style’ run by rapidly tapping your feet on the floor for 30 seconds while seated.
  1. Thigh-High – While sitting in your chair, lift your right foot a few inches off of the floor. Keep your knee bent at a 90 degree angle and hold the position for 5-10 seconds each site. Repeat 5 times for each leg.
  1. Chair Shrug – Sit upright, grab side of the chair and try to lift yourself off the seat. Pausing at the top of the movement for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
  1. Desk Biceps Curl – Sit close to the desk, place your open palm under the desk and ensure your elbows are bent at 90 degrees. Push up against the desk pausing at the top of the movement for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
  1. Desk Triceps Pushdown – Sit close to the desk, place your open palm on top of the desk and ensure your elbows are bent at 90 degrees. Push down against the desk pausing at the top of the movement for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
  1. Hand Stretch – Tense and relax the muscles in your hands by first making a fist, then opening it and spreading your fingers. Repeat 5 times.
  1. Plié Squat – Stand up and point your toes outwards and take a wide stance. Slowly bend your knees in the direction of your toes as far as it comfortable, hold for 5-10 seconds and stand up. Repeat 5 times. While plié squats are more graceful than regular squats, give them a miss if your work attire includes a fitted skirt.

And lastly, get a pedometer or FitbitTM on to ensure you reach at least 10,000 steps a day.

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What are the Biggest Mistakes People Make When They Start Exercising?

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Avoiding mistakes isn’t hard – here’s my top eight to watch out for.

Exercise Mistakes

1. Not warming up. If it’s been a while since you exercised or you’re planning on an increased level of activity, then why not give your body every chance at not being sore the next day? Start by warming-up rather than jumping straight into high intensity activity. There’s no need to go all techo with warm-up routines, just a bit of walking, a few star jumps and some stretches to get the muscles warmed-up and ready to go will reduce your risk of injury and pain the following day.

2. Going like a bat outta hell, like you’re 16 again. Often when the decision is made to embark on a higher intensity exercise regime there’s a lot of vigour involved … gotta get it done …. gotta do it now. Day one – made it! But the subsequent days can be a challenge as the zest for your new program wanes and you find the motivation (and sometimes even the energy) hard to muster. Over-exercising is just as bad as not doing any at all. So start slowly, and gradually build on each day. Maintaining balanced workouts for the long haul is your key to success.

3. Not choosing the right exercise activity. Does running make you thin? Or do thin people run? If you hate running but think this is the only cardio exercise you can do to get results, then think again. Choosing a cardio exercise that continues to motivate you, or holds you accountable (like a team sport or a buddy system) is going to get you much better results in the long run. In fact doing something that you find un-fun will quickly lead to boredom or loathing and you’ll ending up hating every minute of your work out.

4. Focusing on cardio or resistance training. If you want real results, real fast, you need to combine cardio fitness with weight training – the two work synergistically to get you much faster results than either would alone. Cardio can be done in as little as a 20-minute workout three times a week – even if this workout is three times that 7-minute work-out at a full on pace. A well-designed resistance training (RT) program can be effective with just two 30-minute sessions in a week – your muscles need rest in-between RT workouts to recover and grow. That’s five days a week, leaving you the weekend off.

5. Choosing load-bearing rather than non-load-bearing. Performing load bearing exercise when overweight or obese can cause injury and joint issues later in life, especially to your hips and knees, putting you in the queue for a walking stick and replacement surgery. Instead, select non-impact activities like yoga, Pilates, swimming, orbital trainer, stationary or recliner bike or water aerobics to get your cardio in, and, as you reduce your weight, gradually add more load bearing activities if you like.

6. Not properly stretching afterwards. Failing to adequately stretch after working out is the biggest cause of injury and body pain. Spend some time developing a good comprehensive stretching routine (should take about 10-15 minutes) that covers every muscle group and ensure you hold each stretch for a minimum of 40-seconds.

7. Not drinking enough water. Or worse still, drinking sports drinks. In the normal course of existence we lose about 45mls per kilogram of body weight a day – more if we’re exercising. So work out you base level of pure H2O that you need, then add more if you’re exercising or sweating excessively. And those sports drinks? They’re made for elite athletes who push their bodies to the limit every day. I don’t care how hard you think you’re working, you’re not in that category, and you don’t need the added nasties, colours, salt, and sugar which are going to undo all your hard work. Tap or filtered water – no additives – is all you need. And if you hate the taste of water, add fresh lemon.

8. Not mixing things up. Research has shown that after performing the exact same routine for three weeks your body switches off and the effects of doing the same program start to diminish. So if you’re doing the same cardio exercise at the same intensity for the same period of time, and/or performing the same number of reps and sets for the exact same resistance training program then those results you get over the first three weeks won’t continue indefinitely.

Instead change your program every 3-weeks by selecting a different cardio exercise (rowing instead of bike), changing the work out time (15 or 25-minutes instead of 20) or the intensity (use interval programs and change out the interval duration). When it comes to resistance training simply change out your sets and reps – instead of 3 sets x 10 reps, do 2 sets by 15 reps. The possibilities are endless, and so are your results!

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Is Yoga or Pilates Better for Your Body than Weights?

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Having practiced yoga for several years, lately I’ve found it essential to do so more regularly. I’ve tried core-strengthening Pilates, preferring Reformer, but it’s just not my bag, baby. Instead my 35-minute Hatha yoga routine provides me with all I need – resistance training, stretching and meditation all-in-one-session. And having recently being diagnosed with adrenal fatigue, this complete mind-body discipline is now at the core of my recovery program.

So is yoga, or Pilates for that matter, more important than weights? Pumping iron, as it used to be called, has seen quite a revolution over the years. No longer an exclusive club for Arnie wannabe’s, resistance training (RT) is seen as a vital way to maintain a high quality of life, particularly in the elderly.

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The truth is I also incorporate some RT into my exercise routine. Studies have shown that as we grow older our bodies become less efficient at building muscle mass and our muscles tend to shrink. Less muscle mass means not only a loss of strength, but it also dramatically increases the likelihood of injuries from falling. RT is the best way to prevent muscle waste and maintain life-long strength.

Remember that tight young butt or perky chest you had when you were young? Odds are unless you’ve been pushing weights they’ve become a little saggy over time. But the good news is that much of this sag is reversible with three 20-minute sessions a week. See your local personal trainer to develop a safe and tailored resistance training program for the best results.

But, if you could only choose one, which is more important?

For me it’s yoga – a physical, mental, and spiritual practice dating back thousands of years which incorporates the benefits of resistance training. But it’s not for the feint hearted. Anyone who’s done an intensive yoga session knows that you can generate a full-on sweat.

The benefits of yoga are well advertised – improves flexibility, builds muscle strength, corrects posture, maintains your nervous system, boosts your immune system, keeps sickness at bay, boosts sexual performance, improves sleep – and the long list goes on.

Resistance training is great, in fact, I’d recommend you include it in your weekly routine along with some high-intensity cardio or interval training. But if you can only choose one, then go with the flow and embrace yoga.

Superfoods: Fact or Ficton?

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I feel the question here that needs to be asked is, “Do ‘Superfood’ actually have a scientific basis, or is it just some marketer’s ‘wet dream’ trying to con you into buying more of something?

Let’s see if I can answer this for you. I believe that a ‘Superfood’ is an unscientific label used in different ways, depending on the slant of the article or promotion, for marketing purposes. Generally it’s used to describe foods with high nutrient or phytonutrient content that, if consumed in the right quantities, may lead to ‘suggested’ health benefits. Unfortunately there is no real regulation around the claims of ‘Superfoods’ and many are based on discussion papers or inconclusive and very limited research at best, or purely theoretical suggestion and hypothesis.

The issue with reported ‘Superfoods’ is not necessarily whether they contain health giving properties but rather that there is often no discussion around how much of it you need to ingest to show a marked change, or how much this consumption contributes to, or defeats, a natural healthy diet.

The truth is no one can tell you how much per day, or week, you should be consuming of these so called ‘Superfoods’ because it entirely depends on what other foods you are eating, as well as your body size, genetic factors and your predisposition to disease. However, more is not necessarily better when it comes to ‘Superfoods’ because some ‘Superfoods’ if taken in excess can actually be harmful. Confused? I don’t blame you. Let’s take a closer look at the top eight so-called ‘Superfoods’.

Nuts and Seeds
Form: Raw, not roasted or salted, and preferably organic.
Contains: Calcium, antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, omega-3 fatty acids and insoluble fibre.
Claims: Reduces heart disease and colon cancer. Boosts brainpower and balances moods.
Take: A daily dose of 200g. You can find a recipe on my website.

Berries
Form: Raw and preferably organic, or at least well washed.
Contains: Phytonutrients, antioxidants and fibre.
Claims: Reduces cancer and premature ageing.
Take: 250g per week or more of darker coloured berries like blueberries, blackberries and loganberries.

Omega 3 Fish
Form: Fresh oily fish, lightly cooked and not fried.
Contains: Omega 3s (EPA & DHA).
Claims: Essential for brain, heart and immune system health.
Take: 150g of oily fish, such as salmon, at least twice a week or a fish oil supplement.

Seaweed
Form: Fresh or dried.
Contains: Iodine, magnesium and ocean minerals and vitamins.
Claims: Natural metabolism regulator and promotes good health.
Take: A quarter of a cup of kelp, nori, hijiki, or wakame every 2 or 3 days.

Tomatoes
Form: Fresh and ripe, organic if possible.
Contains: Lycopene, as well as vitamins C, A, B and K, potassium and fibre.
Claims: Powerful antioxidant that reduces risk of chronic diseases.
Take: A cup, or more, of raw tomatoes each day.

Beans (Legumes)
Form: Dried, rehydrated, canned and sprouted.
Contains: High nutrition food with phytochemicals, protein, fibre, EFA’s and complex carbs.
Claims: Promotes good heath that prevents ageing and diabetes.
Take: Three cups of beans per week. Anasazi beans are the lowest ‘gas producing’ beans.

Broccoli
Form: Fresh and crisp, organic if possible.
Contains: Lutein, isothiocyanates, Vitamin C and K and Folate.
Claims: Delays age-related poor vision, prevents cancers and repairs DNA, as well as combats heart disease.
Take: At least ½ a cup five times a week of cruciferous vegetables raw or lightly steamed, not boiled.

Soy
Form: Natural soy products like tofu and soy milk.
Contains: Isoflavones and phytoestrogens which mimics estrogen.
Claims: Combats cell damage, reduces menopausal symptoms and prevents prostate cancer.
Take: No more than 30g per day due to its hormone altering properties.

Rather than following the latest ‘Superfood’ trend and over indulging in what may turn out to be an ineffectual, or harmful dose, a better option is to eat a diet that’s rich in raw natural ingredients and low in processed foods.

For a comprehensive list of daily vitamin, mineral and trace element requirements and their best natural sources consult my book “Half The Woman I Was.” It contains a complete directory of everything the human body needs for optimal health.