• Christmas Time – Protein Bars and Wine

    Christmas fitness workout exercise

    Christmas is upon us. I'm still trying to figure out how fast it comes around every year. This is the time of year where we start to wind down. Training seems to get interrupted thanks to parties and shopping and on top of that, we are indulging in all our favourite food and drink because, why not? It’s Christmas! So why do we feel so guilty when it’s all said and done?

    The pervasive diet culture has much to do with this and even more so through social media. The messages regularly peddled out from articles and fitness accounts end up creeping into our psyches insidiously and embed themselves there. Leading us to manifest obsessive behaviour and to have feelings of guilt or shame when we haven't trained hard or eaten ‘clean.’ This eventually forms a damaging mental and emotional relationship with food and exercise. This is no less prevalent during the festive season. You may see articles promoting healthy swaps such as sweet potato mash instead of Yorkshire puds, encouraging readers to make ‘smart’ choices to lessen calories and not fall victim to ‘bad’ foods like chocolate or alcohol etc.

    As a trainer, I’m finding an increase in responsibility towards clients to overturn the harmful programming they have been exposed to – re-educating them in order to build a healthy alliance between food and exercise. Fitness is not exclusively about aesthetics, this is why I emphasise rest days, eating a balanced diet that includes so-called ‘unhealthy/sinful/naughty’ foods, and an overall appreciation of fitness as a long term process. By doing so, the goal is to procure feelings of motivation, strength, health and accomplishment along the way.

    Furthermore, what I want my clients to understand about training is that it’s cyclical by nature, not linear. It’s not constant, incremental progress from the day you start until the day you stop. You will have peaks and also troughs. You will take three steps forward only to find you have to take two steps back. This is down to a multitude of reasons, such as illness, injuries, holidays, work and yes, Christmas!

    This is why I want to let you guys know that it’s perfectly okay to indulge yourselves during the festive season. If this time of the year means it’s your chance to relax and prioritise time with your family and friends, then do so. Alternatively, if you love training like me and you do have time to fit in exercise, then go for it! This article isn’t intended to dissuade you from exercise. What I am trying to remonstrate against is the notion that you need to train in order to earn your Christmas dinner and feeling the accompanying anxiety and unhappiness that abounds when you can’t.

    There is a fine line between your love for training and your addiction to it. If guilt underpins your motivation rather than love, you may need to explore why it’s the former and not the latter. It may well be the social media messages you are exposing yourself to. So rather than forcing yourself to follow a script that social media has set out for you – relax! If Christmas means your foot is off the training gas and you lose a bit of strength or fitness or put on a few kgs, it’s okay. You can jump right on the band wagon when you return to your regular scheduling. This concatenation is perfectly normal and in fact, it allows you to learn and master your physical, mental and emotional correlation to food and exercise. This is why it’s so important to enjoy the long journey because it becomes part of who you are.

    So please put down that article with the recipe for the gluten-free, protein packed, chia seed mince pie alternative and look forward to having a proper one instead. With brandy butter AND a glass of wine. Why not? It's Christmas after all!

    About the author: Natasha Jawad is a personal trainer and Sundried ambassador.

    Posted by Guest Account
  • What Is Mindfulness And How Can Mindful Eating Help You?

    Mindfulness mindful eating healthy diet lose weight

    When you think of 'mindfulness', what comes into your head? A monk-like figure, sitting crossed legged in a garden, spending their days meditating and generally being totally zen? At Mindful Bites, we strongly believe that it doesn’t have to be that extreme. We can all fit mindfulness and meditation into our lives in a real and accessible way.

    Some of us are able to allocate a proportion of our day to dedicated meditation and we’re sure that the benefits of that are amazing. But if that’s not for you or you don’t have time, it doesn’t cut you completely out of the picture. In every action or choice we make there is an emotion to experience. We see a beautiful tree that triggers a childhood memory of a neighbour’s tree-house, we hear a piece of music and it takes us back to a holiday romance, or we experience something new for the first time and it creates a new memory, a new perspective on the world. Taking a moment to meditate on these things, to reflect and create a connection is an important tool of mindfulness and will ultimately reap huge rewards. We can all fit these moments of meditation into our day and we can all be more present.

    What is mindful eating and what are the benefits?

    What better opportunity to take these meditative pauses than when we eat? There is a misconception that mindful eating is just sitting quietly or chewing slowly. Some of the latest trendy diet books may even have us believe it’s a weight loss tool.

    At Mindful Bites we don’t buy into this. For us, mindful eating is a real art; it’s not about the health of the individual. Isolating yourself and purely thinking about your own health isn’t mindfulness and it isn’t going to get you very far. We must allow ourselves to be part of the bigger picture. We must connect to our food, where it comes from, and also the people we are sharing our eating occasion with.

    We should be examining where our food comes from, how it gets to our plates, who was involved in putting it there. We should be finding out if any of these processes have been harmful to the planet. By eating this particular food are we contributing to the solution or the problems facing the food industry? By taking this moment to meditate on these thoughts you will be able to make your choices count; you will make them mindful.

    How to practise mindful eating

    We have broken this down into a simple process for you. With each food we choose to eat, we ask ourselves questions:

    • What is our intention?
    • Are we actually hungry?

    With so much choice on offer to us these days, it’s easy to confuse our ingrained hunger signals.

    Attention: What am I actually eating? How will it interact with my body? Will it nourish me adequately and in a positive way? Will it fuel me well for whatever I’m planning on doing next – be that a workout or writing an important essay?

    Gratitude: What can I be grateful for in my choice of food?  Where have the ingredients come from? By paying attention to not only the choice of ingredients but also how and from where they are sourced, there should be a good reason why you chose this over another food or product.

    Pleasure: Last but not least, you should always enjoy your food! Otherwise, let’s face it, what’s the point?

    So, if meditation has always seemed out of your reach, why not try this approach? Just ask yourself those questions each and every time you eat something and see what happens. Amazingly, by shifting our focus from ourselves and our own weight/nutrition/body fat percentage to the wider issues of sustainability and high quality ingredients, our bodies will naturally benefit and so will the planet. 

    About the author: Stephanie Peritore is the founder of Mindful Bites. She actively campaigns for the future of food and a fair, more sustainable and secure food system.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Metabolic Efficiency: What It Is And How To Achieve It

    Metabolic Efficiency refers to the measure of how well the body utilises fat as an energy source. The human body is able to store around 1,200-2,000 calories in the form of carbohydrates (glycogen) split between the liver, muscles, and blood. These stores would allow us to exercise at a low to moderate intensity for around 2 or 3 hours.

    However, there is another source of energy that the human body can store that could provide up to a staggering 80,000 calories: fat. What would happen if we were able to teach our body to use fat stores for energy instead of depleting our carbohydrate resources? 

    metabolic efficiency training

    The benefits of Metabolic Efficiency Training

    Metabolic Efficiency Training was a concept developed by Bob Seebohar in 2003 and refers to teaching our body to use fat as a primary energy source. This has a number of positive implications:

    • If the body is able to use fat to produce energy, racing athletes can become less dependent on carbohydrates.
    • Less carbs means a lower probability of GI distress (stomach cramps being a common issue among endurance athletes).
    • More fat burnt means less body fat and a leaner frame, a positive impact on performance for endurance athletes.

    It's key to understand when the body uses fats or carbohydrates as its primary energy source. Typically, short-duration exercises will use carbohydrates, while longer endurance exercise will cause the body to start burning fat. This happens during aerobic training when the intensity is close to the aerobic threshold or lactate threshold.

    In order to be 100% accurate, Bob Seebohar described a lab test known as “crossover point”.  This is the exact point during an aerobic session when the body stops using fat as an energy source and moves to burning carbs as its energy source.

    How to achieve Metabolic Efficiency

    As not everyone has access to a lab where this test can be performed, there is a way to teach the body to be more efficient. There are a few rules that everyone can follow. This is best performed at the beginning of the training season, when the athlete is building an aerobic base.

    • Avoid high-calorie carbs such as pasta, rice or white bread. During this period, all carbs should come from vegetables and fruit. Also during this phase, more good fats (omega 3 or 6) and proteins should be consumed.
    • Avoid sport supplements such as gels or bars which are high in carbs.
    • Practise training in a fasted state, building up the duration of the training sessions slowly until you're able to complete up to 3 hours on only water. These session must be endurance-based and performed at a low intensity.
    • After training, avoid recovery drinks and high glycemic index carbs. If the training session was easy, theoretically the body used fat as its primary fuel source and so carbohydrates won't need to be replenished. 

    By following the aforementioned rules, the body will become more efficient and better at using fats as an energy source.

    Which foods to eat when training for Metabolic Efficiency:

    • Protein: poultry, tuna, salmon, mackerel, eggs whites, whey protein or plant protein.
    • Low glycemic carbs: spinach, tomatoes, kale, lettuce, cauliflower, carrot, beans, sprouts.
    • High glycemic carbs: oats, quinoa, potatoes, whole wheat bread, rice, pasta.
    • Fats: avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, egg yolk, nuts, peanut butter, almond butter.

    About the author: Cesar Martinez is an Ironman athlete. 

    Posted by Guest Account
  • BCAAs: What They Are And Why You Should Be Taking Them

    BCAAs what they are why you should take them protein strength training

    If you regularly go to the gym or are serious about your training, chances are you've heard of BCAAs. We answer all your questions about BCAAs so you can decide if they're right for you.

    What is BCAA and what does it do?

    BCAA stands for Branched Chain Amino Acid and is a compound found in protein. All protein is made up on amino acids and there are essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids.

    Essential amino acids are named as such because the human body cannot make them, so we need to get them from food. The 9 essential amino acids are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

    There are 11 non-essential amino acids, which are amino acids that the human body can make itself. There are 11 non-essential amino acids: alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.

    Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, a substance that plays a crucial role in many biological processes and functions. We need protein to build and repair muscle, and if you workout hard and often get DOMS, protein is what will help you recover and stop feeling so achy.

    Related: Can You Exercise When You Are Sore

    BCAAs what they are protein recovery workout fitness

    Is BCAA good for weight loss?

    Taking a BCAA supplement won't facilitate weight loss specifically. The only healthy way to achieve weight loss is to eat in a calorie deficit, meaning you are eating fewer calories than you are burning in a day. What BCAAs do is help your body recover quicker and better after tough workouts, as they supplement your amino acid intake which are building blocks of protein.

    If you eat a rich and varied diet, you may well not need to take BCAA supplements because you will be getting all the essential amino acids from food. However, if you eat quite a restrictive diet and do a lot of weight/strength training, you may find that a BCAA supplement can help you take on all 20 amino acids, both essential and non-essential.

    protein BCAA supplement fitness weight loss

    Do I take BCAA before or after a workout?

    You can consume a BCAA supplement either 30-45 minutes before a workout or immediately afterwards. It's ideal to take on a hit of protein within 30 minutes of finishing a strength workout so that your body can absorb the protein and use it to help build and repair your muscles.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Popular Fitness Terms Explained

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    If you’re a keen Instagrammer you may well see all number of crazy fitness terms thrown about, especially in lists of endless hashtags. You may also be trying to find articles of weight loss or muscle building and struggle to understand half of what is being said! That’s why we're here to explain a few of the more common fitness terms which you may not have come across before, and which may help you to reach your fitness and nutrition goals once you understand what they mean!

    Endomorph

    Endomorph refers to a specific body type. There are three basic body types: endomorph, ectomorph, and mesomorph. These three terms describe different body types and their distinguishing features. Someone who is an endomorph will generally store more body fat and will have a thick or stocky build. Endomorphs have a low tolerance to carbohydrates and will easily gain weight and muscle but struggle to lose body fat. Other characteristics include wide joints and hips as well as shorter limbs. Endomorphs make great bodybuilders or powerlifters due to their short levers and blocky stature.

    muscles back strength

    Ectomorph

    An ectomorph is the opposite of an endomorph. People with this body type are characterised by a smaller frame and physique and a lower body fat percentage. These people will struggle to gain muscle mass or even fat and will have a higher metabolism. Characteristics include narrow hips, small joints, and long limbs. These people are well suited to endurance sports such as marathon running due to their long legs and light body weight.

    Mesomorph

    A mesomorph is essentially a balance between an ectomorph and an endomorph. People with this body type will have a typical ‘hour glass’ figure and will find it easy to both gain and lose weight. You can also be a combination of mesomorph and one of the other body types, as many people do not fit into one single category. Your training should be based upon what works best for you and your body type as you cannot change your genetics! For most people, it is clear which body type they fit into just by looking at them.

    Macros

    This is a very common term in the fitness industry. It is short for macronutrients, which are simply the building blocks of our diet. There are three macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrates, and these are the only sources of calories for humans (although alcohol is sometimes considered ‘the fourth macro’). Fat is the most calorie-dense macro, providing 9 calories per gram, with carbs and protein both providing 4 calories per gram. This means that a 500 calorie meal made of fatty foods will be smaller than a 500 calorie meal made of carbs and protein. However, each of the three macros are just as important as the next and none of them should ever be cut out of your diet completely. You can adjust the ratio of macros that you consume according to your training and physique goals.

    Weight Training Barbell Gym

    IIFYM

    This term stands for If It Fits Your Macros which is a trend in the fitness industry claiming that so long as you stick to your calorie and macro goals, you can eat whatever you want and still see results. However, this is something that is subject to a lot of criticism and certainly would not work for everyone. People who glorify this lifestyle may find that their micronutrient intake (vitamins and minerals) may suffer and other factors such as fibre, sodium, and sugar are not taken into account either.

    BCAAs

    BCAA stands for Branch Chain Amino Acid and these are the building blocks of protein. There are 9 essential amino acids and 11 non-essential amino acids. Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body and as a result must come from food. Non-essential amino acids can be made by the body and so it is not as important to consume them in your diet. Eggs are considered the ‘perfect’ protein source as they contain all 20 amino acids and are high in protein and fat which allows your body to absorb them well. Other sources of all essential amino acids are whole foods such as quinoa and hummus. You will often hear about people taking BCAAs as a dietary supplement, which just means they are increasing their intake of essential amino acids to better aid muscle repair and growth as well as promoting healthy circulation and blood pressure.

    HIIT

    HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training and is a very popular form of training at the moment. It consists of short bursts of intense activity such as sprints, burpees, or mountain climbers. It promises to burn fat more effectively than low intensity exercise and to increase your metabolism in such a way that you will continue to burn fat long after you’ve stopped exercising. It is popularly used by people who want to burn fat fast and improve their cardiovascular fitness and explosive power.

    Weight Training Dumbells Free Weights Gym

    LISS

    LISS stands for Low Intensity Steady State and is essentially the opposite of HIIT training. This type of training consists of longer duration workouts at a much lower intensity, such as uphill walking. This type of training is sometimes favoured by bodybuilders as it is less likely to tap into the body’s muscle stores. It is also good for endurance athletes such as those who compete in half marathons and marathons.

    Fasted Cardio

    Fasted cardio is simply a cardiovascular workout such as running which is completed on an empty stomach. It is usually done in the morning before breakfast and promises to burn fat more effectively than if you train after a day of eating. However, it has never been scientifically proven that fasted cardio is more beneficial than non-fasted cardio, and different people will see different results. It does work for some people, but is not as effective for others.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
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