Is sitting REALLY the New Smoking?

Sitting is the new smoking In this current day we are spending far too much of our lives being sedentary. Sedentary behaviour is described as a distinct class of behaviours (e.g., sitting, watching TV, driving) characterised by little physical movement and low energy expenditure. But is sitting REALLY the new smoking? Around 15 studies looking at the relationship between sitting and all-cause mortality indicate people who had the highest levels of sitting (around 8-9 hours/day) had ~20% increased risk of premature death compared to those people who sat the least. For smoking, however, smokers had around a 200% increased risk of premature mortality compared to non-smokers, and this risk increased to 400% for those who had the highest rate of smoking! As you can plainly see, the difference between smoking rate and mortality risk is MUCH higher than those who are sedentary. This is not to say that sedentary behaviour is not concerning to health. Risks are said to include:

  • Decreased Metabolism
  • Decreased bone mineral content
  • Decreased vascular health
  • ­Increased cardiovascular disease
  • ­Increased plasma triglyceride levels
  • Decreased levels of HDL (good)  cholesterol
  • Decreased insulin sensitivity
  • ­Increased obesity
  • ­Increased cancer risks
  • ­Increased psychosocial problems

Being seated for long periods of time also increases pressure on your lumbar spinal discs which can increase the chance of disc bulges and herniations.  This position also tightens up your hip flexor muscles and contribute to an anterior pelvic tilt that will lead to lower back pain. So try and break up long periods of sitting, and get up from your seat more often throughout the day. Stand up whilst taking phone calls, do calf raises whilst seated, take exercise breaks every hour where you get up and walk around. Think of creative ways to get up and about. Lots of little behavioural changes can contribute greatly to improving your health and reducing morbidity and mortality.

When eating healthy becomes unhealthy!

Orthorexia nervosaOrthorexia nervosa is an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. It is a “health food eating disorder”. Yes. You read it correctly. When anyone has an exaggerated focus on something – even something healthy, it can become problematic.

Today more than ever we have cult-like behaviour from people following multitudes of fad diets. As a result, they follow strict regimes of eating, not allowing this or that to the point of the ridiculous.  Furthermore, there are extremists who are devoted to cleanses, detoxes, Atkins, paleo, veganism, gluten- free, juicing…….the list goes on and on.

However, don’t mistake my blog….I am NOT telling you that focusing on healthy eating is wrong or that you should throw caution to the wind and eat whatever you like. I am advising you to make educated decisions towards healthier eating behaviour where it doesn’t negatively impact your life. When your healthy eating completely consumes you to the point of obsession, (specifically, where you cannot function without total commitment and are filled with guilt at the very thought of other options), then it is a cause of concern. Clearly it is a problem if it causes a person distress,

Additionally, an unhealthy obsession with food can affect friendships, relationships, and even your own sanity. In particular, it can cause social isolation and mental health problems.  It is important to understand that stress causes many physiological complications too. Consequently, stressing over food can manifest itself negatively by causing health problems in the very body you are trying to keep healthy! Ironic isn’t it?

Focusing on health doesn’t need to be a chore. We shouldn’t constantly try and eat like bodybuilders preparing for competition! I have been around these athletes for many years and trust me, they aren’t happy to be on such restricted eating regimes and don’t eat that way once their comp is over. Make healthier food options whenever possible but don’t let your desire for health stop you from living! Find a balance and don’t make food the primary focus of your life.

 

Healthier Grocery Shopping

Healthier grocery shopping

It is common for people to drop grocery products into their trolleys out of habit…. without arming themselves with the information required to determine if their choice was the best one for their body….or just for their taste buds! So many of us grocery shop blindly…and wonder why our health is compromised. Supermarkets are clever little manipulators. They structure their products to influence your “choices”. Manufacturers pay for shelf positioning, so those who pay the most get their products placed in the most convenient line of sight for consumers…..eye level. The healthier more nourishing and nutritious choices are usually harder to find, and if you aren’t specifically looking for them, they would be easy to miss. And don’t get me started on how they strategically place chocolates and chips at the checkouts to tempt you and your children whilst you are waiting in line! So how do you make healthier shopping choices? Here are some basics to guide you.

  • Get into the habit of comparing items and identify healthier options (see below).
  • Read & understand the nutritional panel. The lowest calories are not always the healthiest options. Check out this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMGUmcveQeg
  • Examine the ingredients list. The order of ingredient represents its amount in the product, i.e. if sugar is listed as the first ingredient, then sugar is the main ingredient in the product. This would be a good reason for returning that item back to the shelf! Look for products that contain healthier ingredients and stay away from those E numbers as much as possible. (There are great apps for your phones that help you identify those confusing E numbers so this is something I recommend).
  • Allow more time on your first few shops to study the products.
  • Avoid grocery shopping when you are hungry. You will tend to make less healthier choices.
  • Compare 100g not per serve. Comparing one product with a 50g serving to another with a 35g serve can be easily misleading.
  • Total energy is important but low HI (Human Intervention) is the most significant factor (meaning the product will be more nutrient rich). Wean yourself off all the processed gunk that is clogging up your body and preventing it from performing at its best. Low energy ≠ healthiest as stated earlier. Use the ingredients list to help you determine this. It is more informative than the nutritional panel.
  • Don’t focus too much on protein or total carbohydrates at first. Gradually work these in later when you are more comfortable with everything else.
  • If plant origin – then ↑ fibre. It is recommended that we have 30-40g per day but this is thought by some dietitians as being too low. Our ancestors were having up to ten times that amount!
  • ↓ sugar (but also be mindful of artificial sweeteners which can have their own negative effects on health).
  • ↓ salt. Sodium is necessary. It is an electrolyte and essential for electrical activity through the body (such as muscle contraction, including the heart). But so many processed foods are swimming in the stuff. The American Heart Association recommends that adults stay under 1,500mg per day and never take in more than 2,300mg per day. To put this into perspective, 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt contains 562mg sodium.

I would like to finish by asking you to ponder the following statement: “The absence of conclusive data demonstrating harmful side effects does NOT mean the product is safe!” As we are still learning about the long term effects of certain food products in our daily diet, proceed with caution and attempt to eat as close to nature as possible. No diet is best for every single person on the planet. Whether you are a paleo, vegetarian, vegan……eat according to what suits YOUR body best and make adjustments accordingly. Tribes throughout history have flourished on very different diets so to think one is the absolute best for all is just ludicrous. The one constant similarity is that they have all eaten from nature. I hope you take the time deserved to involve yourself in healthier grocery shopping. Your body needs you to pay attention. Remember that the absence of disease is not health, so don’t wait for symptoms of illness before you change you behaviour. Prevention is better than cure and we are supposed to be adults who act responsibly………….but are we? Your children are learning from you. Do not “bless” them with a shorter lifespan riddled with disease, because that is the current reality due to increasing sedentary lifestyle and the landscape of food that they have grown up eating. Only YOU can change this! I shouldn’t want your health for you and your family more than you want it for yourself. Take back control and reap the benefits.

Exercise Progression

Exercise Progression

When I look around my gym I am consistently surrounded by people who are performing advanced exercises BADLY! Most assume that they are more competent than they actually are, and instead of gradually progressing their exercises they just jump past the fundamentals and leave themselves open to increased injury risks. Just as most things, exercise technique is mastered in stages. We need to learn the basics to build the motor skills that form our foundation. If we skip these essential stages then our bodies are not as adequately prepared and cannot support us as well. It is like building a house directly on sand! Many exercisers are too impatient and want everything “yesterday” and don’t put in the hard work that is necessary. The result is overloading certain body structures and causing more forces than they are capable of handling. The body works best when it shares the load, and core muscles/stabilisers/neutralisers all need to work together with global muscles. Imbalances will cause postural shifts away from neutral, and this is the best recipe for injury and pain. I’m confident that you have all seen this – a person lifting a weight they should never be attempting right now, or someone performing an exercise with horrendous form. Exercise technique is a skill………and only perfect practice makes perfect execution.

What is sadder is that I also see personal trainers giving the wrong exercises to clients……when they need to be assessing their client’s current capabilities and not just their end goals. The phrase “just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD” always comes to mind when I observe such behaviour.

Correct exercise progression is an important part of skill development. Please be aware that incorrect exercise technique doesn’t always cause immediate problems, but also longer term chronic conditions. Don’t just train for your short term desires. Understand they may cause you a lifetime of misery down the track.

Find a professional trainer who really knows what they are doing and base your exercises and progression in a manner that will show you not only the best gains aesthetically…….but also physiologically. If you can’t perform an exercise properly….then you shouldn’t be performing it at all. Be aware of your limitations and only progress when you have mastered the previous stage. Don’t  let your ego dictate your exercise and weight choices! Take a step back and build up to it gradually. Yes….your body needs to be challenged in order for it to change but this is not what I am talking about. Challenge yourself within your capabilities and not above them. You will experience a longer and more capable training life this way.

Best abdominal exercises for getting a six pack

Best ab training

One of the most common questions I have been asked over the past 30 years is “Gina….what are the best abdominal exercises for getting a six pack?” For any of you other fitness professionals out there you will understand my reluctance to answer such a complicated question with a few word answer. It is so frustrating for me to comprehend that so many people would think the human body is such a simple machine, where-as in reality it is quite the opposite. There are so many considerations to make before giving an adequate answer to such a complex query, and yet I hear so many trainers give inadequate advice as if there is only one way. That is just pure ignorance and something that I struggle with ignoring if I experience it.

OK, so when I put my exercise physiologist hat on, my first consideration is “what are your current limitations/injuries/abilities?” An exercise that is quite safe for one person can be absolutely destructive for another. Lets take crunches….an exercise I have done for over 20 years when instructing my group exercise classes, but one I never program to clients today nor do anymore myself. My concern with crunches is the amount of disc pressure caused during spinal flexion, and the gradual wear and tear of the disc rings (annulus fibrosus) that can lead to deterioration and eventually predispose the person to a prolapse. But does that mean that no one should ever do a crunch? No! But lets be honest here….no exercise is quite done to death like the crunch! It’s the excessive repetition that causes concern.

Lets look at planks…..the gold standard exercise for developing core strength. Well I occasionally perform dynamic planks (moving from forearm to hand and vice versa) but even planks have their risks. In a horizontal position the vertebrae are not as stable as when in a vertical position (where gravity provides a compressive force from one to the other keeping facet joints more stable) and this can also provide increased risks. So should planks be banned for everyone? No!

As a functional strength trainer myself, I have my OWN favourite exercises that I choose for MY abilities and injuries, and I have to admit I don’t really work my abs in isolation. I prefer to choose exercises where the body works as a unit, so I may not implement abdominal exercises specifically. In every strength training workout I always perform some kind of uni-lateral exercise (i.e. one arm, one leg) for example a one arm cable or dumbbell row, lunges, cable wood-chops, half kneeling single arm overhead dumbbell press. Any exercise where my torso has to stabilise itself in order to perform the exercise properly, and trying to stay in the vertical as much as possible (except for the one arm dumbbell row of course). Explosive exercises are also great for activating the abdominal muscles – box jumps, stair runs, sprinting, boxing, kicking (the last two are awesome as they are explosive through rotation). Rope training is also amazing for working the abs, as too are some kettle bell exercises…..and it can go on and on.

So do your WHOLE body a favour and train the WHOLE body harder and you may be surprised at how much those abs turn on!

My biggest deciding factor when choosing exercises for a person (and for myself…remember I also have a chronic disc injury that I have to live with), is what is the benefit to risk ratio? If an exercise gives me greater benefit and has lesser risk I will choose it over another that is higher risk with less benefit. Elite athletes and a lot of bodybuilders will sacrifice risk to gain that little bit more benefit – so can you see that yet again, one size does NOT fit all. So what ARE the best ab exercises? It will be different for everyone, but yes…… some are definitely better choices over others.

Oh and lets not forget the biggest deciding factor for determining whether you can SEE those abs……your eating habits! If you want to see all that hard work then you will need to do something about your food and drop some body fat.

So that’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. If your trainer thinks everyone should train the one way….then it might be time to upgrade to a more understanding trainer.

The Great Cholesterol Myth

The Great Cholesterol Myth

There are many myths surrounding health, nutrition, and fitness as most of us know, but there are none quite as big as the one on cholesterol! A little while back I came across a three-part Catalyst documentary on the ABC – it covered the truth on sugar, cholesterol, and statin drugs. It was hugely controversial and the ABC were even forced to remove these videos from their website. The other day I again saw a TV interview with two of the men on the afore-mentioned documentary who have since published a book called “The Great Cholesterol Myth”. The authors are Dr Stephen Sinatra MD who has been a cardiologist for most of his long life, and Dr Johnny Bowden PhD who is a well-respected nutritionist. What they have to say is important to help us at the very least question our beliefs and hopefully nudge us into some further investigation for ourselves.

As a society we largely believe information that is regurgitated without even looking into the facts. What I am encouraging is to at least make your opinions educated ones. It takes a long time to change perceptions, but remember we all used to believe the world was flat! We believed the myth that cholesterol caused heart disease as fact. We were taught this based on research done in the 1960’s and 70’s which has since been shown to be extremely faulty. That sort of research wouldn’t even get published if done today.

Most well-meaning doctors don’t have time to actually read the details of the research and in that research it shows pretty clearly that cholesterol doesn’t really lead to heart disease. It’s a bad predictor.

Here is some information that you may not have been aware of.

Cholesterol is an essential component for health. Here are some of its important protective uses:

  • It is vital for cellular function
  • Makes vitamin D in the skin
  • It assists with cerebral-vascular function
  • It helps with neurotransmitter function so we can think better
  • It lubricates the skin
  • It protects from diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and lungs

Framingham studies have shown that increased cholesterol over the age of 40 correlates to increased lifespan. (The Framingham Heart Study is a long-term, ongoing cardiovascular study on residents of the town of Framingham, Massachusetts. The study began in 1948 with 5,209 adult subjects from Framingham, and is now on its third generation of participants. It is the longest running study on heart disease).

The root cause of heart disease is inflammation, and inflammation causes the plaque that leads to heart problems. So what causes inflammation? Being overweight, what we put into our body, and SUGAR! Sugar is the villain. Sugar in your blood causes oxidative stress and plaque and you get an enormous insulin response.

Ok so what about stain drugs to reduce your cholesterol? Well they DO reduce cholesterol. But remember cholesterol isn’t the problem. By reducing it in your body you are also reducing the protective properties that cholesterol is responsible for. Plus statins have huge side effects. For the general population, for women and children, statins tend NOT to be useful. They do seem to work well with ONE population however….middle aged men with coronary disease, primarily with reduced HDL’s. Statin drugs have been shown to predispose women to diabetes and have also been linked to cancer. It has been linked to coronary calcification, memory loss, sexual dysfunction, muscle pain, and liver problems. In children statins can interfere with development….especially cognitive! Statin drugs are amazing at making pharmaceutical companies VERY rich by using their scare tactics on uneducated people.

The best things to do to reduce the risk of heart disease and to keep the heart healthy are:

  • Reduce inflammation.
    • Processed foods, sugar, trans fats, alcohol, omega 6 rich foods (vegetable oils) when not balanced adequately with omega 3, ALL encourage inflammation.
    • Look for natural foods that have anti-inflammatory properties such as those rich in omega 3, dark leafy green vegetables, nuts, berries, apples, garlic (which helps to reduce blood pressure). Doing a google search will give more specifics.
  • Get rid of toxic relationships
  • Lower stress in your life (stress is a very high risk factor for heart disease)
  • Getting adequate sunshine and Vitamin D (see earlier blog for information on this)
  • Getting enough fresh air
  • Regular exercise/physical activity
  • Saturated fats CAN increase cholesterol, but more of the GOOD cholesterol (yes there is ANOTHER myth). Remember though that there are both good and bad foods that are high in saturated fats so choose the healthy natural ones like coconut oil, nuts, oily fish rather than ones like processed meats.

Keeping the heart healthy is NOT the same as lowering cholesterol!

For 99% of the population cholesterol in the diet has virtually NO effect on anything of importance! Can you hear the eggs screaming out in victory? 🙂

As far as tests are concerned, the number one medical test that could predict your risk of heart disease is the “Particle Size Test”. This test measures specifics about the bad cholesterol in your body. It measures LDL (low density lipoprotein) but not all LDL is as harmful as commonly believed. The small LDL’s are the ones that tend to attach themselves to artery walls (they are oxidized LDL’s). The large ones are not the monsters they are labelled. The small LDL’s get into the nooks and crannies of the arteries and when they bore in they explode, This causes inflammation and contributes fundamentally to the plaques and to the risk of a heart attack.

So if you are someone who likes to think for themselves, I ask you to do some further research and actually investigate the findings. Don’t just been sheep who follow the others in front who have no idea where they are going. Remember….a million wrong people are still wrong.

Happy self-awareness everyone.

 

Sleep and Health

Sleep and health

Sleep is absolutely crucial to your health. Sleep is just as important as nutrition and exercise when it comes to improving your health, performance, and body composition. Good sleep helps our bodies and minds recover, keeping us lean, happy, mentally focused, and healthy. But chronically bad sleep slathers on body fat, screws up our hormones, ages us faster, increases chronic illnesses, and drains our IQ and mojo.

Often the real reason for lack of sleep is rarely long work hours or physiologic abnormalities; rather, most people lose sleep due to voluntary bedtime delay. If we were to remove forms of artificial stimulation and excessive work/life demands, humans would likely sleep for about 8 hours per night, based on the natural sleep/wake cycle of the brain.

“Sleep loss due to voluntary bedtime curtailment has become a hallmark of modern society… Chronic sleep loss, whether behavioural or sleep disorder related, may represent a novel risk factor for weight gain, insulin resistance, and Type 2 diabetes.”

Spiegel K, Leproult R, Cauter EV.  Impact of sleep debt on metabolic and endocrine function.  Lancet 1999;354:1435-1439.

While there are many reasons that lack of sleep could influence body fat, one of them may be the decreased growth hormone (GH), thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), and increased cortisol, most notably in the evening.  Moreover, chronic sleep restriction results in elevated sympathetic nerve activity and a slow insulin response. Pragmatically speaking, lack of sleep may lead to more body fat simply because more time spent not sleeping means more time to eat. And those junk food commercials start looking pretty appealing at 1 a.m.

Getting less than 7.5 hours of sleep each night also means that you’re at greater risk of heart attack, stroke, and sudden cardiac death than your pals who get plenty of snooze time.

Here are 8 reasons why getting a good night’s shut eye will set you up for a brighter day.

1. Weight Control

2. Increase Concentration

3. You’ll be in a great mood

4. You’ll look more attractive

5. Increased ability to make better informed decisions

6. You’ll live longer

7. Improved athletic performance and reaction time

8. You will reduce your risks of getting ill (as lack of sleep can suppress your immune system)

 

With a few simple strategies, you can get the high-quality, restful sleep your body and your mind deserves.

CREATE A SLEEP ROUTINE

Just like you can’t go from 0 to 100 first thing in the morning, you can’t do the reverse at night — going from “on” to “off” in a few minutes. Your body needs transition time and environmental cues to wind down.

  • Keep a regular schedule – If you’re consistent, your body will know when to release calming hormones before bed, and stimulating hormones to help you wake up. You’ll feel sleepy when it’s time for bed and wake up more refreshed, often without needing an alarm.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine intake – Even though it seems like alcohol is relaxing, more than 1-2 drinks in the evening can interfere with deep sleep, as can too much caffeine. Although you may “sleep” for 7 hours, your sleep won’t be high quality, and you won’t get the recovery benefits.
  • Eat and drink appropriately – Having a large meal immediately before bed can disrupt your ability to fall and stay asleep.  Instead, eat a regular-sized (or even smallish) meal a few hours before bedtime. In addition, try to limit your fluids 2-3 hours before bedtime to prevent frequent waking for bathroom breaks. While total sleep time is important, uninterrupted sleep time is even better.
  • Do a brain dump – We’ve all done it: Stared at the ceiling, long after lights-out, obsessing about all the things we’re supposed to do tomorrow, tossing and turning and getting more and more stressed by the minute. Whatever is in your brain, get it out and on to paper. It clears your mind for genuine relaxation
  • Turn off electronics – Digital devices stimulate our brain with their light, noise, and mental demands. Unplug from allscreens — TVs, computers, phones, tables — at least 30 minutes before bed. Our brain produces melatonin as light levels decrease. This ensures deep sleep, and may also help regulate metabolism. If we have too much light at night, we don’t get proper melatonin production.
  • De-stress before bed – What de-stresses you? Do that! Gentle movement — such as stretching or yoga; Reading before bed — but make sure it’s not too engaging; Meditation, deep breathing, or other relaxation exercises.
  • Sleep at least seven hours – Most people need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. 7 should be your baseline. Also factor in transition time. Don’t stop what you’re doing at 9:29 and expect to be snoring by 9:30. Start moving in the direction of bed by 9:00.
  • Exercise regularly – Exercising regularly helps normalise circadian rhythms, tone down the sympathetic nervous system, and regulate endocrine function. However, some people report being “revved up” by intense exercise so if this is true for you then you may wish to save the higher intensity exercises for during the day if possible.
  • Take a bath or shower – Warm water before bed can help us relax and de-stress, which is key for falling asleep. A short, very cold shower may also do the trick. The logic is that cold water stimulates a strong parasympathetic nervous system response once the initial shock has passed.

OPTIMISING YOUR SLEEP ENVIRONMENT

  • Keep the room as dark as possible
  • Create a relaxing sleep area that is quiet and free of clutter
  • Set your room at an appropriate temperature
  • Use white noise if needed

CONCLUSIONS

  • Good sleep is crucial for good health. There are no short cuts, despite what the “sleep hackers” say.
  • Make good sleep a priority. Your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing will thank you.
  • Think about good sleep as a 24-hour process. What you do during your waking period will affect your sleeping period, and vice versa.
  • Reinforce your natural circadian needs. When it’s supposed to be dark and quiet, make things reallydark and quiet. When it’s supposed to be bright, noisy, and stimulating, get moving with some bright light.
  • Give your body and mind transition time. Allow at least 30 minutes (and preferably an hour) in the evening to slowly wind down and prepare for sleep.
  • Stick to a routine. Bodies love routines and consistency. If your body knows what to expect in your day, it’ll help you wake up and doze off at the right time.
  • You can’t control your actual sleep. But you cancontrol your sleep behaviorsand environment. Take charge of your actions and surroundings, be consistent, and enjoy the Zs.

 

 

 

Quality of Life!

Quality of life

It would have been my late fathers birthday a few days ago and reflecting back on his life gave me the idea for content for today’s blog. Coupled with a Precision Nutrition reading that finished with the words “Don’t just survive – THRIVE!” I was compelled to discuss this subject matter in detail.

Ok, so firstly let me set the scene with some family history. Both of my parents were born early last century – my father in 1920 and mother in 1926. Sad;y, both have now passed and each of them lived to around the age of 80 (so lifespan was very similar). However,  they lived their lives VERY differently. By the time I was born my mother was in her early 40’s. All I remember growing up is her sitting in her chair watching TV and smoking like a chimney. She suffered depression quite badly and never left the house. Whenever she did anything remotely active she would be in pain for days afterwards. In my eyes, my mother was always old and frail, and though I loved her with all my heart I cry for the life that she had. My father, on the other hand, was forever out and about. He never smoked and was always out taking numerous walks or scenic drives. He was strong and capable and forever present with life and nature. Clearly, their lives were completely opposite to one another.

Quality of life is something that is very precious and often people neglect to make the effort to enhance theirs. Genetics is an important indicator for longevity and disease but your behaviour matters! Your genetics will not counteract bad behaviour. Quality of life principles are really quite simple, but like anything worth having, it requires dedication and effort.

  1. Physical activity. Get moving! Move more, and move with intent. Work the heart and lungs, strengthen muscles, and improve range of motion by stretching regularly.
  2. Nourish your body. Eat natural healthy foods with a balance of nutrients amongst all food groups; drink plenty of clean water; get adequate sunlight (without burning the skin); enjoy quality replenishing sleep;
  3. Nurture your mind. Take time out to relax and unwind the mind; be present with nature (earth yourself on grass, sand, sea). Explore ways to de-stress and be at peace.
  4. Avoid toxins. Minimise toxic foods (processed, high sugar, trans fats, additives and preservatives); give up cigarettes and control intake of alcohol. Look for other alternatives to prescription medications if needing to take them long term (some medications can be alleviated by change of lifestyle!). Research toxins that surround you everyday – your toiletries, sunscreen, household cleaning agents etc and see if there are healthier alternatives.

Yes this all takes time and effort and it isn’t going to happen all at once. But once you start focusing on health and see the results healthier behaviours can yield then the snowball effect will stem into other areas of your life. I don’t just want to exist. I want to enjoy the time I have on this earth. If quality of life is something that you are lacking, then look for ways to make improvements and bit by bit you yourself may find yourself starting to thrive!

 

Facts About Vitamin D

Facts about Vitamin D Web Canva 19Oct2014Marketing is the main way people expose themselves to information, yet what people neglect to understand is that marketers have only ONE objective – to sell you on their point or product. Unfortunately, they often neglect to give you ALL the information and just focus on the points that will convince you to be a consumer of their product.

We live in a scare-mongering time where snippets of information can powerfully cause public behavioural shifts. Obviously, we need to be mindful of the damage that sun-abuse can cause to our bodies, but our sun-smart ways may not be as “smart” as we think!

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is essential for absorbing calcium and phosphorous for strong bones. Furthermore it is now believed that this vitamin D is also needed for:

  • Immune system, which helps you to fight infection
  • Muscle function
  • Cardiovascular function, for a healthy heart and circulation
  • Respiratory system –for healthy lungs and airways
  • Brain development
  • Anti-cancer effects

How To Get Enough Vitamin D

The two main ways to get vitamin D are by exposing your bare skin to sunlight (ultraviolet B rays) and by taking vitamin D supplements (the best form is Vitamin D3). You can’t get the right amount of vitamin D your body needs from food and your body cannot make this vitamin on its own.

Important facts on skin exposure:

  • The more skin that is exposed the faster the body absorbs Vitamin D – so larger skin areas such as legs and back are better then smaller areas such as face and arms
  • You don’t need to tan or to burn your skin in order to get the vitamin D you need. Exposing your skin for a short time will make all the vitamin D your body can produce in one day. In fact, your body can produce 10,000 to 25,000 IU of vitamin D in just a little under the time it takes for your skin to turn pink.
  • Skin type determines how much exposure is necessary. Fair skinned people produce less Melanin so do not need as much time in the sun as darker skinned people who produce more Melanin. Melanin protects against skin damage from too much UVB exposure, so darker skins with more melanin allow less UVB to enter the skin. With less UVB getting through the skin, less vitamin D is produced each minute.
  • Your skin produces more vitamin D if you expose it during the middle of the day.
  • Solariums (tanning beds) also help the body produce Vitamin D. As with sun exposure it is recommended to get half the amount of exposure that it takes for your skin to turn pink. Using low-pressure beds that have a good amount of UVB light, rather than high-intensity UVA light are also best.
  • As we get older our skin has more difficulty producing Vitamin D so supplementation may be a better option
  • Supplementation is also recommended for those who have little to no skin exposure to the sun during the week (i.e. indoor jobs or outdoor jobs where you are largely covered up)

What About Sun Damage & Skin Cancer?

Research to date shows that moderate but frequent sun exposure is healthy but overexposure and intense exposure can increase your risk of skin cancer.

Using sunscreen is not as recommended as using shade and clothing to protect your skin, because it hasn’t consistently been shown to prevent all types of skin cancers. But if you do want to use sunscreen, use a sunscreen that blocks both UVA light and UVB light.

If you are still anxious and concerned about skin exposure then your next best options is daily supplementations. Just ensure you are getting a good quality product supplement so do your homework.

The individual recommendations are dependent on numerous factors and it can be complicated. To read more and get a better understanding please click the following link for more in depth information:

http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/how-do-i-get-the-vitamin-d-my-body-needs/#

Skipping Breakfast & Weight Loss

Skipping breakfast & weight loss

I wanted to cover a highly misleading concept today about the “importance” of eating breakfast for weight-loss and health. Why do we believe this as “fact”? We have to stop going with the flow of the masses and remember that “a million wrong people are STILL wrong!” Try and do some thinking for yourselves by reading and analyzing credible information. The moment someone reads that something has been scientifically supported through research they blindly follow without understanding anything ABOUT the research. As a scientist myself I personally understand just how much misconception there can be around it all.

As I am an avid supporter of Precision Nutrition I did not want to reword their article and thought I would just cut and paste the basics. The full article can be read at http://www.precisionnutrition.com/skipping-breakfast-and-obesity.

Here is a snippet….

The importance of a “healthy breakfast” is nutritional gospel. Everyone from your grandma, to your personal trainer, to your favorite fitness magazine “knows” a morning meal will help you lose weight and stay lean. But is “what everyone knows” actually true?

Sure, most research on breakfast and body comp shows that breakfast eaters tend to be leaner than non-breakfast-eaters. Unfortunately, a lot of scientific research doesn’t quite “prove” what people think it does. 

Yes, science is our main pathway to genuine discovery. But it’s also a human endeavor, and fallible. That’s right, despite their expertise, scientists are people too. As such, they (and their research) can be influenced by many factors, including:

  • Worrying about where their next research dollars are coming from.
  • Their own deeply rooted assumptions.
  • Who’s running their lab or overseeing their work.
  • What’s “hot” or “trendy” in their field.
  • Sticking it to their arch-rival, Dr. Smug Loudmouth.
  • Getting published in The Bigname Journal.
  • Their upcoming tenure file review.

Yep, even though we like to think of the scientific process as distant from the petty inter-social nonsense of daily life, it’s not. In fact, it can sometimes resemble a soap opera. That’s why, when it comes to interpreting the results of their own studies, or other peoples, scientists might mess up.

Their needs and their beliefs can distort the way they see the evidence, and what they make of it. This can lead to biased reporting and faulty recommendations. An even bigger problem? This can lead to wide-spread mistaken beliefs among non-scientist people. But is this a rare occurrence? Not really. It happens more often than you think. Take, for example, breakfast. While study after study may appear to support the idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, it turns out there has never been a properly randomized (causal) study that “proves” the positive effects of breakfast!

Generally, scientists are just as prone to error as anybody else! We see it time and time again. Small biases, and tiny language differences, cause a whisper-down-the-lane effect. And “truths” are accepted that were never true in the first place. Specifically, there’s very little evidence to suggest that skipping breakfast will cause you to get fat. Sure, we can establish a correlation between skipping breakfast and being overweight. But many factors — from genetics, to a general lack of interest in health — could explain this relationship. We just don’t know that one causes the other.

What to do

For those of you looking to lose or control your weight…should you eat a big breakfast or not? Well, here are some guidelines.

First, remember that you’re unique. We don’t know all the relevant factors yet. You may be someone who thrives on breakfast. Or you may not.

Observe your own body’s cues. Experiment on yourself. Does eating breakfast make you feel better and more in control of the rest of your day’s consumption? Or does it make you weirdly ravenous later on? When it comes to making decisions, your body’s actual response is the only evidence that counts.

Try different breakfast types. What happens if you exchange one food source (say, processed carbs) for another (say, lean protein)? How do you feel? How does your body react?

Whatever you eat, whenever you eat, stick with your fundamental healthy habits. Eat slowly, watch your portion size, avoid distractions, and pay attention to how you feel. And, of course, try not to get carried away by rumors. Even if they seemed backed by scientists. Because those same scientists may be struggling even more than you are.

Are YOU nutritionally deficient?

Are YOU nutritionally deficient?

When we set upon another weight-loss journey our primary focus is generally JUST that…..”weight loss”. Unfortunately it is often at the expense of our health. We become so tunnel-visioned that we neglect areas that are screaming for our attention, and then we wonder why we feel lethargic and have no energy.

It has been found through research that even when NOT focusing on a weight loss diet, the majority of the population are deficient in four major things:

* Water

* Protein

* Vitamins and minerals

* Omega 3 FFA’s

As a nutrition coach my first point of attention is to identify my client’s nutritional deficiencies, then work with them towards addressing each one at a time to rectify the body’s imbalance. What is commonly found as a result is that the client achieves their goals more successfully than if they just generally deprived themselves of food because the body cannot function effectively when it is starved of nutrients, and this transfers to weight loss capabilities.

Now those who know me know that I do not easily recommend supplementations. The main reason for this is that people often use supplements as a “magical quick fix” to their problems and they don’t focus on trying to get natural healthy foods into their body. BUT….we can’t always get everything we need through dietary means alone and as long as you are using good food to nourish the body some supplementations on TOP of that can assist.

The major supplements that I would recommend in addition to a healthy dietary intake is vitamin and mineral supplements (the superior the form the better) and Omega 3 fish oil liquid (liquid is better than capsules because it is easier to get higher doses in this form, and attempt to find a purer oil that is high in EPA and DHA). You will need to do your research to determine which supplement brand to use as there are good and bad just like with everything else.

So before you go on a diet to lose your excess kilos, first ask yourself what you are nutritionally deficient in and focus on fixing THAT problem first. You just may be pleasantly surprised to find that your weight loss goals are easier to achieve.

The Truth About Protein Powders

The truth about protein powders

Australia, America, and the UK spend billions of dollars on nutritional products with the most popular being protein powders. They are purported to be the magical ingredient for building muscle mass and also assist with fat loss and weight loss. Health and fitness practitioners abundantly promote its usage but is this another out of control money-making fad or is there truth to all the highly-publicised claims?

Many protein powders unfortunately contain MSG, as well as a multitude of additives, sweeteners, and other chemicals! So it is not really the health food it is often thought to be.

MSG EXPLAINED

MSG (monosodium glutamate) is a flavor enhancer and preservative often added to processed food, and yes, protein powder is a processed food! MSG is the salt form of the amino acid glutamic acid. Glutamic acid (and not MSG) is found naturally in our bodies and in food protein sources. MSG is made when a salt combines with a hydrolysed glutamic acid molecule, which occurs during many food manufacturing processes.

Unfortunately, many protein powders contain hidden sources of MSG. How do companies get away with not listing MSG on the ingredients label? If an ingredient is less than 99% pure glutamate, then the FDA does not require the manufacturers to list MSG on the label! If MSG is produced as a result of protein hydrolysis or a byproduct of protein processing, the FDA does not require MSG to appear on the label. Moreover, a product labeled “No MSG” may still have MSG or free glutamic acid as a result of protein processing, as long as pure MSG was not added. The truth is that protein-hydrolysis-based glutamates or MSG are found in just about every highly processed food. Even “health foods.”

Click on the following link to see a full list of Hidden names for MSG and free glutamic acid http://www.truthinlabeling.org/hiddensources.html

If you feel you cannot live without your protein powder (I come from a weight-training background so I know protein powders are like oxygen to most body builders) then look for one that is ‘undenatured’ or ‘cold processed’. Most protein powders are exposed to extreme heat when they are being processed. Protein powders contain the normally healthy glutamic acid, which becomes a problem when it is exposed to heat. When protein powder is manufactured, it is generally exposed to extreme heat, which converts glutamic acid into free glutamic acid or MSG.

Look at the product’s ingredients list. Do a bit of research and check to identify what it actually contains. Many have neurotoxins and other undesirable additives. If it has a long ingredients list full of confusing names then avoid it! Also try to find a protein powder where the milk comes from organic grass-fed animals. Grass-fed milk has an impressive 5X more conjugated linoleic fatty acid and contains more vitamins than its grain-fed competitor. Lastly, a protein “concentrate” is healthier than a protein “isolate” which are devoid of many nutrients.

I personally do not recommend taking protein powders and have never done so myself, BUT if you must consume them then be selective and do your homework. I have researched a few and the following “seem” to be healthier options for those who cannot do without them: One World Whey, Upgraded Whey Protein Powder, Mercola Pure Power Protein, and Miracle Whey. Unfortunately, many protein powders contain forms of soy and whey protein that will always contain processed free glutamic acid so it can be difficult to find a protein powder that does not potentially contain them. So focus on one that has lower concentrations of glutamates.

“At the end of the day protein supplements (including bars and drinks) are a processed food product and many of the ridiculous claims made on the ones with a whole load of extras added have no scientific backing. Often a glass of milk would be just as good.” Dr Joanna McMillan – Dietitian

Try not to be conned by products where the marketing is ahead of the research. My tip? Eat your protein from proper food sources and keep them as natural as possible.

Is your comfort zone working for you?

Is your comfort zone working for you?

I often hear people tell me they feel flat and need someone to help motivate them – but motivation comes from within. When we hear something “motivational” it is because the words resonate deep within us and we relate to what is being said in such a way that it drives us to action. The “trick” to staying driven is to frequently seek out things that push us forward. WE need to do the work on a daily basis. Remind ourselves “why” we chose our goals and if we have sparked within ourselves a strong enough desire….. then we act. Ask yourself, “Is what I am doing right now WORKING for me?” If the answer is “no” then do something that DOES work for you. I know it sounds as though I am over-simplifying things but it is just learning a new habit and this takes a little time and persistence. We need to shift our mindset so that it works for us, whether it be for weight-loss, health, fitness, or just to take that much needed time out and rest our minds.

A work colleague of mine read me an excerpt from “Baron Baptise: 40 Days to Personal Revolution” and I thought it was perfect for today’s post, and I also recommend you visit the website http://www.baronbaptiste.com/40days/. I hope these words find their way with you as they did with me.

“Law 3: Step out of your comfort zone.

The question for anyone on a transformation journey is not “Will I survive if I step out of my comfort zone?” The real question is “Will I survive my comfort zone?” When we choose our comfort zone over growth we get stuck, because ultimately we are either awakening and growing or numbing and soaking downward. Life is never static-we either grow or we die. A comfort zone is a state of mind, body and soul that we reach out to when we find ourselves unable to deal with the pressures of the world. It’s a place we can go to coast in life and not have to face the challenges that arise. The doorway to the comfort zone is anything that affects us emotionally – confusion, anger, fear or the primal need to escape. But by escaping into a comfort zone, we render ourselves vulnerable to all kinds of sabotaging behaviour, addiction and stagnation. Stepping out of our comfort zone means dropping the patterns and stories of the past. Our patterns don’t have to go on forever; we can leave the past behind us if we are truly willing. If we don’t step out of the known – the comfort zone – we bring yesterday’s limited thinking into the present, therefore dooming the present to be just like the past. We will keep repeating and doing the same things again and again, getting the same results and then complain “Nothing ever changes in my life”. We gather evidence to justify all the things that we bring into the present with us. We seek proof of why we can’t change, and all the reasons why we won’t let go of our dramas, stresses, resentments, fears or self-destructive ways of being. So many of us would rather cling to the familiar than risk the unknown. But we must push forward in order to grow. Often stepping out of our comfort zone has more to do with the simplicity of forgiveness and self – honesty than it does with a grandiose breaking out of some box.

Often we veer away from taking the journey inward and therefore out of our comfort zone not realising that the way out is in. Once we’ve gone inward, we can then step out beyond our comfort zone and find the courage to flow from our hearts. Going out on the ledge of our existence we have no choice but to be real and drop the lies and phony stuff. It can be tempting to keep our masks firmly in place, maintain the status quo and hold firmly to the boundaries of our comfort zone. Life is about letting go of everything and anything that blocks wisdom from shining through. We cannot transform without leaving our comfort zone; there’s no secret escape from this basic law.”

The Dangers of Caffeine

The Dangers of Caffeine

Caffeine is one of the most highly abused substances of modern day. There have been numerous health claims over the years of increased metabolic rate, increased weight-loss, improved sports performance, and concentration and awareness. Yes these claims in part can ring true but they certainly are not associated with improved health! All of these effects occur because caffeine contains a chemical called benzoic acid which is a toxic and addictive chemical that acts as a drug stimulant. Stimulants are “sympathomimetic’. What this means is caffeine mimics the effects of the sympathetic nervous system, or drives your “fight or flight” response. Adrenaline and cortisol (along with noradrenaline – a neurotransmitter) are stress hormones that the endocrine system releases in times of danger. They are strong hormones that stimulate the body to respond and cope with an immediate threat. When the body is constantly stimulated to release these hormones, the chronic result is causing more harm than good. Caffeine users are seen to have elevated blood pressure compared to non- caffeine consumers and regular consumption is believed to be a risk factor for heart disease.

 

Reported effects of caffeine

The following effects are commonly attributed to over-use of caffeine – while reading them bear in mind that what is true for one person may not be true for someone else. Note: Heavy use is considered greater than 350mg or three cups of coffee per day.

  • Stimulates your heart (causing rapid heart rate and palpitations)
  • Stimulates your respiratory system (speeding up breathing rate).
  • Stimulates the cortex of your brain heightening the intensity of mental activity
  • Immune system suppression
  • Increased body temperature
  • Frequent urination and dehydration as caffeine is a diuretic.
  • Increased blood viscosity due to dehydration and increased level of fatty acids
  • Increases calcium loss. The American Medical Journal has reported a correlation between caffeine and decreased bone density or osteoporosis in women.
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Dizziness and headaches (due largely to dehydration)
  • After the energy burst, an even greater feeling of fatigue
  • Restlessness and excitability
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Trembling hands
  • Sleeplessness or light sleep patterns
  • Increased stomach acid production which may irritate the stomach lining
  • Makes digestion less effective by relaxing the muscles of your intestinal system
  • Increased pancreatic activity causing overproduction of insulin and decreased insulin sensitivity. This can lead to chronic tiredness due to hypoglycaemia.
  • Decreased absorption of magnesium. Magnesium is an essential mineral utilised in more than 300 enzyme reactions and physiological processes in the body including energy metabolism, effective utilisation of glucose, hormonal balance and proper heart function. Magnesium deficiency is a contributing factor in diabetes and the development of diabetic complications. Low levels of magnesium increase the development of insulin resistance and alter the ability of cells to take up glucose.
  • Studies suggest that caffeine ingestion contributes to insulin resistance (pre Type II diabetes) and impairs glucose and insulin homeostasis (the constant state of internal environment). Even coffee in moderation has this effect.

The effects of caffeine can last throughout the day and into the night because the body takes a long time to break the substance down. After 12 hours of consuming caffeine the body can still contain up to 12% of the original amount.

 

Caffeine content

The approximate amount of caffeine found in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola, energy drinks, and caffeine tablets is shown in the table below.

 

Product                                            Caffeine content

Typical tablet                                  100 mg

Cup of instant coffee*                   60-80 mg

Cup of brewed coffee*                  60-120 mg

Cup of black tea                             10-50 mg

Cola drink                                        13 mg per 100 mL

Can of cola 375 mL                       48 mg

Bottle of cola 600 mL                   78 mg

Red Bull 250 mL                            80 mg

‘V’ 250 mL                                       80 mg

Guarana tablet 1000 mg              40 mg

Cup of hot chocolate                     5-10 mg

*amount of caffeine is depends on the type of coffee bean and size of cup

 

Every time you drink tea, coffee, cocoa, chocolate, or cola you are giving your body a ‘hit’ of caffeine. Along with nicotine and alcohol, caffeine is one of the three most widely used mood -affecting drugs in the world. If you have more than two or three caffeine drinks per day your ‘habit’ may be affecting you emotional and physical health much more powerfully than you might first expect.

Which diet is best?

Which diet is best?

Everywhere you turn there is some “expert” promoting another magical diet that will help shed the excess kilos lightning fast, or else they are raving about a miracle super food that can cure any disease known to man! When we are desperate to achieve our goals it is easy to be hypnotized by these marketing magicians and their fantastic claims. So….which diet IS best?

There are countless diets all purporting to be the “best”. Paleo, Atkins, Vegetarian, Vegan, 5:2……….. How do we mere mortals know which one to choose? The promoters use scientific terms and claim that “research has proven………” whilst further supporting their recommendations with numerous testimonials of people who have tried their method and loved the results! Before and after shots are used to lure us in because if others have done it…then so can we! But it’s really not rocket science. The basics are quite simple. When someone puts in less calories than the body uses, the net result is usually weight loss! If you add resistance training to the equation then the body will reshape and the results can be amazing. Individual results are varied due to a wide variety of factors including genetics, hormones, sex, age, health, and physical activity.

If we look back in history we will see that tribes around the world have all flourished on very different diets. Inuits have a base diet of fish, and jungle tribes have a base diet of plants. Some have high fat diets whilst others have low. Some higher in carbs, some higher in protein. To think that there is only ONE right diet for every person on the planet or there is ONE magical super food that will cure all our health problems is just ludicrous! The one thing they all have in common is their diets are “natural” and free of processing and high concentrated sugars. I am a nutritional “atheist” and I believe that the diet best for YOU is the diet that WORKS for you. We have to be our own guinea pigs and experiment with different foods to see the ones that work for us. Variety IS important with food to ensure we get a good range of not only macro but micro nutrients as well (vitamins and minerals). How often we eat should be determined by our bodies and activities and not on misinterpreted scientific data.

It is important to note however that whatever you DO decide to do with your eating, gradual alterations are best for making lifetime behaviour changes. The way you eat (i.e. your diet) shouldn’t have an end date. It should be something you attempt to achieve every day for the rest of your life. Stop making it more complicated than it has to be.

 

 

 

Exercise & Weight-loss Motivation

Exercise & weight-loss motivation

Ok so you have decided to get healthy and/or lose weight. You purchase new workout clothes, restock your fridge and pantry, possibly join a gym and may have even bought some exercise equipment. You are going to finally make this happen! Woohoo for you! But your good intentions may hit a brick wall down the road. You may feel tired so miss an exercise session (which turns into two, then twenty). Food temptations linger to lure you off your path and you convince yourself that “one won’t hurt” or “I’ll burn it off tomorrow”. And after a short while when you don’t see any results you just think “what the hell – I give up!” Sound familiar? So how do we keep motivated to do the right thing? Well it is different for everyone and you will need to try a few different things to find which motivational strategy/ies works for you. Here are a few ideas that I have found quite successful for my clients:


1.  Visualisation.

SEE your goal self. Put up a picture of what you want to look like and have it where it constantly reminds you what you want to achieve.

2.  Practice positive self-talk.

Avoid putting yourself down and saying condescending comments to yourself. When we are in this state of mind it is difficult to practice positive habits. When we feel emotional and low we often adopt behaviours that are self-sabotaging. Identify when you are saying something negative – stop – and replace it with a positive statement about yourself instead.

3.  Use affirmations.

Affirmations are powerful positive statements that can guide your behaviours. It can be difficult to buy a chocolate bar when you are consistently telling yourself “I eat healthy wholesome foods”. Affirmations can reprogram your thoughts.

4.  Surround yourself with like-minded people.

It is difficult to stay focused on health when everyone around you is doing the exact opposite thing to you. Find a group or person who has similar health interests and motivate one another to do the right thing.

5.  Be accountable to someone.

This could be the same person/people in the above point, or it can be a partner, family member, friend, or even a personal trainer. Let this person know your goals and what you are trying to achieve. You are less likely to do the wrong thing if you have to tell them you have done so.

6.  Make your health a priority.

This is MY main motivational strategy that I use to keep myself on track. As I have a history of weight gain and injury I remind myself how horrible it was when I was overweight and unhealthy. I would rather endure a few hours pain a week to exercise than suffer the life I had when I was unhealthy. I see my exercise sessions as “not negotiable” and view them as part of my normal day whether I want to do it or not. I see it the same as my job. I HAVE to do it. It is all about changing your mindset. Don’t give yourself an option.

These are just a few strategies that I have found extremely effective. Try one and see if it works for you. You CAN achieve amazing things if you really want to.

The importance of managing stress

Stress Management for health and weight-loss

Stressors are inevitable. Life can produce the never-ending pressure of chronic stress. When this happens the body constantly releases the stress hormones of adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol.
If this is not controlled, chronic stress can lead to diminished health, disease, and can eventually kill us.

Stress can manifest itself by increasing the risk/s of:
* Obesity/weight gain
* Insulin resistance/type II diabetes
* Hypertension
* Hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol)
* Cardiovascular disease
* Chronic pain
* Depression and anxiety disorders
* Eating disorders (both under AND overeating)
* Drug & alcohol abuse (including smoking).

Stress tolerance has an important influence on your ability to sustain the quality of your life. If you cannot tolerate stress, then you cannot enjoy a high quality of life. One of the most important factors for achieving this is the ability to choose coping behaviours where you can influence the stressful situation by keeping calm and maintaining control.

Most people don’t realise that there is a strong relationship between stress management and impulse control. When you control your impulses, you are reducing your potential stress factors. Controlling stress can also contribute to your weight-loss goals as well as your general health and wellness.

Some stress management strategies include:
* Meditation
* Include optimistic visualisation
* Adopting positive self-talk
* Controlled Breathing
* Exercise
* Relaxation
* Take time out daily. Include holidays
* Take up an enjoyable hobby
* Get a dose of humour
* Distraction (NOT with food, drugs, or alcohol!)
* Having a support network to share thoughts & feelings
* Talk to a psychologist 1 on 1 (therapy sessions are NOT just for mental illness but also for your mental health which high doses of stress can deteriorate).

Ensure you pay as much attention to stress management as to your weight-loss, nutrition, health, and exercise goals as the relationship between them all is more important than you might think!

The best ways to speed up metabolism

Burn fat fast with explosive exercises

Burn fat fast with explosive exercises

 

Metabolism is the energy required by your body to maintain itself. There are a few things that contribute to this. Genetics of course … but there ARE ways to increase your metabolism.

First and foremost – exercise! But the greatest metabolic burn occurs with high intensity-type of exercise. Interval training (HIIT), power training (explosive), and strength training are the BEST methods. These recruit all your muscle fibre types and use the most amount of calories to do so. They are anaerobic therefore they are high intense with shorter duration periods (meaning they require rest in between sets). They are MY favourite cardio exercises to do and in fact I am dressed ready to head to the gym to partake in my own HIIT session. 🙂 The great thing about these types of training is that you aren’t just burning extra energy whilst performing the activity itself, but you have the added benefit of burning more energy during the recovery period. Because these activities are so intense, the recovery period extends for a longer period and requires much more energy to repair the body than lower intensity activities.

Remember though that the workout is only a small part of fat loss. Don’t ruin your hard work by putting low quality food into your mouth after. If you want your body to use stored fat as fuel for your workout – then stop overfeeding it otherwise it has all the fuel it requires and doesn’t need to tap into its stored sites.

Please note: Some explosive exercises can be contraindicated for injuries (depending on the injury and the exercise being performed) so be aware and consult with a reputable musculoskeletal specialist (such as a physiotherapist) if unsure. Then get an exercise program designed by a reputable Exercise Physiologist (….I can refer a great one!)

Secondly, the types of foods you eat will determine the metabolic response. Natural foods take more energy to digest than their processed counterparts – as too does protein. It is largely believed (and actually promoted by a lot of fitness “professionals”) that “grazing” throughout the day helps to stoke the metabolic flame that helps you to lose weight. Specifically, that eating smaller meals more frequently will raise their metabolism enough to lose weight.

There is some truth to this statement in that our metabolism increases each time we eat, as our bodies have to use energy to break down the food we have put in. But what isn’t taken into consideration is how MUCH it increases. The more you eat at one meal, the more digestion and work needs to be done by the body and the higher the metabolic increase. If you eat less at each meal but eat more frequently, your metabolism increases more OFTEN….but not as much as with a larger meal. So which is better?
Bottom line: Choose the eating pattern that works best for you.

So we need to consider the TOTAL amount of metabolic increase over the entire day’s eating. If you were to eat 2000 calories over three meals, and the SAME calories (and types of food) over six smaller meals, your metabolic increase is roughly the same! Interestingly, adding protein to every meal does in fact increase energy expenditure because protein is harder to break down (see https://www.thehealthytruth.com.au/a-calorie-is-not-a-calorie/)

Enjoy, and don’t forget to put some quality into your training AND into your food choices and you will find your metabolic rate firing on all cylinders.

 

Does sweating help you lose weight?

Sweating and weight loss

There are a few myths and misconceptions about sweating when exercising:

Myth #1. “If I sweat loads I will lose weight.”

Fact: Well yes I guess this is in PART true. But the weight you lose is water weight NOT fat weight, and will be replaced when you replace the necessary fluids during hydration!

Myth #2: “If I sweat excessively then that means I am unfit.”

Fact: Sweating is a way to thermoregulate (i.e. regulate your body temperature) and some people are more efficient at dissipating body heat than others, and this is NOT indicative of fitness levels.

When you exercise your body creates heat (when muscles contract the fibres slide over one another creating friction) and you have four methods to release this heat. Radiation, Convection, Conduction, and Evaporation. Now sweating comes under evaporation, but if it is actually dripping off you then it isn’t evaporating and therefore not really assisting you in cooling down. To help this along you will benefit from adding some convection (movement of air) via a fan as when airflow is added to a wet body it cools much faster than when it is added to a dry body.

Myth #3. “If you aren’t sweating whilst you exercise then you aren’t working hard enough”.

Fact: This is also incorrect. The explanation is the same as myth 2.

Your body loses as much as 1.5 litres of water a day and as much as that per hour during strenuous exercise in a hot environment.

As a general guideline, aim to drink around 8 cups or 2 litres/day (more if you exercise) and keep hydrated. However, this is just a guideline and each individual has different hydration requirements that will determine their specific intake.

Note: Fluid intake can also occur when consuming foods that contain water such as fruit and vegetables and this contributes to your required daily intake.

Exercise & injury management

Exercise injury

We have ALL been there I am sure (I am STILL there). We finally get ourselves motivated to getting fitter and healthier then all of a sudden life thinks it is funny to put an obstacle in our way, and watches from the sidelines as we try to figure out how to get around it. I’m talking about injuries. Aaaargh! Frustrating!

Often injuries make great excuses to putting our health and fitness goals “on hold”. But what happens if our injuries are chronic and life-long? Do we just avoid health at ALL cost to accommodate? I hope not. I certainly don’t let it run MY life.

We need to stop focusing on what we CAN’T do, and find out what we CAN do. In other words, stop finding excuses and look for solutions. I am not suggesting that it is easy by any means, but it IS possible. I have worked with many clients who had debilitating injuries. Some could barely walk! But if we become sedentary as a result….we lose capabilities in OTHER areas (especially our muscles). Now these past clients were determined not to let their injuries rule their lives and many are now living more mobile lives and enjoy the associated benefits.

I myself prolapsed a lumbar disc in 2007. It and the linked neural sciatic pain were the WORST pain I have EVER experienced. I couldn’t walk without excruciating pain for almost a year. Admittedly though I DID let it take control of my life for another year afterward and if that continued, then I shudder to think of my condition today. It was hard but I got back into fitness – specifically my weight training. I had to change around my program and accommodate my injuries.

Chronic injuries will always be painful. Anyone who has them knows that there is rarely a pain-free day. BUT if we don’t keep our body’s strong that pain will escalate and other areas will become injured to compensate until we are completely unable to move anymore.

There are musculoskeletal specialists that can assist with injury management. General practitioner doctors are very limited in this area so there is little benefit going to see them (unless asking for a referral to a specialised musculoskeletal or orthopaedic doctor). You will need to research a credible and capable physiotherapist (who are regarded as GOD’S in my line of work) and even certain Chiropractors. Just like any occupation there are good and bad and you DO have to do your homework. Once you have been assessed and a rehab program is suggested…a specialised trainer such as an exercise physiologist would be best at assisting. (Please note that basic Personal Trainers are NOT qualified nor usually competent at dealing with injuries!)

The important thing is that all professionals need to be working as a TEAM and each person’s expertise needs to be respected by the other. This will ensure the best possible outcome for the poor injured patient.

Depression & mental health

Depression & Mental health

Mental Health problems are a very prominent part of our society, and something that many sufferers experience a stigma with. I myself am a lifelong sufferer of severe clinical depression and let me share this with those of you who are oblivious to it – depression is NOT something I choose nor is it something I can “get over”! It is a very real disease and requires daily management just as other diseases often do.

I would also like to explain that there is a distinct difference between depression as a disease and depression as a phase someone goes through when life throws them a curve ball. Though the symptoms are often the same, one is for a shorter term by comparison and is often the result of a trauma (of any kind) whilst the other is for life and can still affect the person even when everything is going well. Now for just a brief moment (if you dare) imagine how life is for a person suffering depression as a disease when THEY experience trauma! It’s absolutely horrific let me tell you.

In my experiences people who have had a hardship are often very judgmental over me because they were able to recover and therefore I should also have the ability to do so “if I really wanted to”. Sigh! This is a topic that frustrates me so much and the ignorance of others makes life even more unbearable for those of us who are plagued with this dark and often devastating and debilitating illness. Isolation KILLS….and yet people who have depression often isolate themselves for fear of judgment, misunderstanding, and ridicule when they are the ones who most need support, care, and nurturing.

Health is not just about the physical. It is about the mental and emotional self as well. So it would be nice if our society were a little more accepting and not make our lives harder than they inevitably already are.

I absolutely LOVE this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vr3x_RRJdd4) and it always brings a tear to my eye (plus the song is from one of my favourite bands which is a nice touch) 🙂 It really isn’t that difficult to bring a smile to someone’s face. Please…..Be kind to each other.

I wish you all love, health and happiness for now and always.

 

Cardio vs Weight training. Which is best ?

Cardio Versus Weights

Cardio VS weights. Which is better? Well it greatly depends on what it is that you are trying to achieve, what your capabilities are, and what you like to do.

People are forever asking me what is the BEST method of training for weight loss….cardio or weights. Well the answer isn’t so simple. My first response would be “well neither. Weight loss happens in the kitchen”. But watching what you eat AND including physical activity in your life IS better than just watching your food intake alone when it comes to losing weight. So as far as the activity is concerned, BOTH can assist. The biggest deciding factor is the intensity with which you do it!

Remember though that intensity is inversely related to duration. I.e. if one goes up, the other goes down.

It would be difficult for most people to do a high intensity session every single day…..but some people COULD in fact do this quite safely. You could risk over-training and causing your body harm rather than doing it any good if you are inexperienced and unaccustomed. A combination of both are good for most people. My exercise prescription isn’t a “one size fits all” approach. I would consider a number of individual factors for each person before recommendations are given. But resistance training AND cardio both have their benefits for more health related areas than just weight loss. Refer to the table below.

Cardio VS weights Table

Changing your body shape requires effort

Exercise with intensity

I was training my legs at the gym on Monday night and as I rested between sets I was looking around to see a lot of people just going through the motions. It still amazes me how many people think they are going to get results by putting in a half-hearted effort. When I train, I am obsessed with the workout (and no that doesn’t mean I am obsessed with the gym because that couldn’t be further from the truth). But as the saying goes (and those who know me know I LOVE my inspirational sayings)…..”nothing will work unless YOU do!”

When I was a combat instructor there were times I would get so frustrated with the lack of effort from my class that I would go into a rant about how there isn’t magic pixie dust that falls on their heads when they walk through the gym entrance door that would magically give them their desired results! If you want your body to change then you need to create an internal environment which is conducive of change! How do we do that? Well you have to train BEYOND what you are currently capable of – otherwise your body is “coping” too well. If it isn’t coping – then it has to adapt. Adaptation = change! So the whole “what doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you” statement is exactly what we need to focus on.

If your body is coping then it is efficient. The only active person who benefits from efficiency is an athlete because they want to get the maximum benefits possible for the least amount of effort for their best outcome. This enables them to have more in the tank for further performance.

Those who wish weight loss or muscle shape or growth don’t want to be efficient. They benefit more from using as MUCH energy as possible so that their body is forced into creating change.

It isn’t rocket science. The basics are quite simple. But too many people are stuck in old habits that produce no results and they continue to do it! God knows why! Doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result is the definition of stupidity!

Train smart and listen to those who have the proper scientific understanding guide you! Don’t be easily impressed with the trainers who rave about their own six pack who only did a four week online training course!

Is stretching before exercise necessary?

Pre-Exercise Stretching

Warming up before exercise is the essential preparation needed to supplement the workout. A warm-up can be any physical activity that increases blood flow to working tissues, speed of nerve impulses to muscles, and delivery of oxygen and nutrients for energy release. This increase in blood flow also enhances the removal of waste products from muscle. Combined altogether, these changes prepare the body for vigorous exercise by enhancing the muscle’s metabolic properties and enhancing the mechanical efficiency of muscle contraction and force production.

Warming up is an imperative pre-exercise injury prevention component because it increases the elasticity of the muscle-tendon unit.

Contrariwise, the purpose of stretching is to increase the range of motion about a joint and group of joints. Pre-exercise stretching does NOT assist with injury prevention. It IS an extremely important part of fitness and crucial to include as part of a well-balanced exercise program BUT the timing of it should be reconsidered. You would be better off waiting until AFTER the workout is complete to conduct your stretching routine. Muscles are best stretched warm so this is an ideal time to also get the maximal stretching benefits.

Stretching after each vigorous workout also encourages mind and body relaxation.

Alcohol, health, & weight-loss

Alcohol, health, & weight-loss

The liver is our major detoxifying body organ. Whatever toxins we ingest, our poor liver has to deal with it (though other organs do too). Alcohol is a toxin. The liver breaks down alcohol at approx 1 standard drink p/hour.A standard drink is any drink containing 10 grams of alcohol:

* 100 ml wine
* A middy of beer (285ml)
* A schooner of light beer (425ml)
* One nip of alcohol (30ml of high strength 40% alcohol)

Yet many people drink WAY more than that.

Alcohol:
* Impairs digestion (leading to malnutrition of essential nutrients)
* Can cause insulin resistance
* Is a testicular toxin thereby increasing the activity of an enzyme that converts testosterone to oestrogen
* promotes fat storage around the abdomen

It increases the risk of:
* liver disease
* neurological damage
* cancer
* heart disease
* damage to the gastrointestinal tract
* injury

Its also very energy dense – yielding 7 calories per gram (though to be fair 2 of those calories are used up during digestion – this is the TEF) but these calories are preferred over all others so it will use it before it uses anything else (thereby making fat removal much harder)

A schooner of full strength beer (450ml) provides 714 kJ (170cals) ie. four beers equals 2856 kJ (680cals)

A Spirit and coke (one 30ml nip) provides 504kJ (120cals per glass)

1 bottle of wine (approx 4 large glasses) provides 2,352 kJ (560cals)

1 hour of walking burns around 1,050 kJ (250 cals). If you had 4 glasses of wine you would need to walk for over 2 hours just to burn it off (that’s just to get back to square one), then you need to complete your regular exercise to remove your stored fat.

I’ve heard so many people tell me they “burn off” their alcohol and this is just ridiculous thinking. Alcohol doesn’t just consist of calories – it is a poison! It’s all about health – not just about your clothing size! Don’t make silly choices and understand the risks you are taking.

That one was for you Scott. 

Childhood obesity

Childhood obesity

It is predicted that the children of today will have a lifespan ten years LESS than their own parents! This is due to their sedentary lifestyle and toxifying their bodies with processed foods high in sugar, trans fats, and additives. And this is often occurring in foods that people “THINK” is healthy too, such as fruit juices and yoghurts…which are riddled with sugar. This is unacceptable! These “sometimes” foods have now become part of everyday eating….and it is the cause of the alarming growth of disease statistics. As a child I can’t remember a day that I wasn’t outside roller skating, riding my bike, playing hopscotch, elastics (wow….remember elastics? lol), doing handstands, heading down to the ice-rink etc etc. And this was on TOP of all the sport I played in school.

Today most kids are living sedentary “virtual” lives where they are hypnotised by video games of all sorts. Parents are so time poor that they often feed their children “quick & easy to prepare” food that is harming them. Cardiovascular disease risk factors are now being observed in children in primary school (and some even in infants school) and this is something that is easily preventable. Who would wish that sort of life for their child? Have a look at the kids in the pics on our Facebook Page (facebook.com/thehealthytruthsydney). That is NOT “puppy” fat. It is downright child abuse to lead a child down this path. Wake up people! We need to take control of what we feed our family and be responsible for the consequences of our negligence. I am not here to pull punches. I am here to tell you the cold hard facts. I’d rather you be annoyed with me now reading this than sorry later when you see the outcome affecting your children’s health and wellbeing. Oh and please don’t think that your child has “gotten away risk free” from all the bad food just because they exercise and don’t put on weight. These foods are damaging them on the inside and the result will eventually reveal itself when it is often too late.

A calorie is NOT a calorie!

A calorie is not a calorie

A calorie from one type of food is NOT equal to a calorie of another! That undermines everything there is to know about nutrition! A protein calorie is different to a carbohydrate calorie which is also different to a fat calorie. Specifically, the thermal effect of food (TEF) is different for each one. Protein uses the most amount of energy to digest (around 20-30% of its calories). Carbohydrates on the other hand, uses only 5-10% of its calories, with fats even lower at 0-3%.  Furthermore, processed food calories are NOT the same as natural food calories. The body processes them VERY differently.

There may have been a time you ate more calories than you thought you should… but got leaner. Or you ate fewer calories than you thought you should… and gained weight. (Or you didn’t lose that last stubborn 5 kgs.). Or you started eating breakfast instead of skipping it… and dropped a couple of cms off your waistline. According to the simplistic “all calories are the same” view or the “food is fuel” view, none of this should be possible. Yet it happens all the time.

Everyone has a “set point” weight, and that is determined by genetics and hormones. It’s the QUALITY of the calories we eat, and the QUALITY of exercise we do that allows us to change our hormones. In order for us to do that, in order for us to lower our set point weight, we have to understand what determines the quality of a calorie; so we can eat the highest quality calories possible.

I was listening to a podcast last night that explained this perfectly:
“Four main areas that determine quality calories:
1. Satiety – how quickly calories fill us up and how long they keep us full.
2. Aggression. – how likely calories are to be stored as fat.
3. Nutrients – things like protein, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids
4. Efficiency – how many of the calories we eat can be stored as body fat.
The more satisfying, unaggressive, nutritious, and inefficient a calorie is, the higher its quality. These calories trigger body fat burning hormones when we eat them. They also clear our metabolic clog and prevent us from overeating. They’re a bit like metabolic Drano”.

Suggested reading: https://www.precisionnutrition.com/digesting-whole-vs-processed-foods

 

Keep moving for health!

Keep moving for health

A recent meta-analysis showed that greater time spent sedentary increased the odds of metabolic syndrome by 73%. Furthermore, the relationship between sedentary behaviour and the metabolic syndrome may be independent of physical activity.

To put it more clearly, even if you exercise like a mad person every single night BUT you sit down and barely move during the rest of your day (e.g. at a computer, driving etc), your cardiovascular disease risks are STILL increased!

Solution?
Have regular “exercise” breaks during your day. Set an alarm on your phone or a reminder on your computer and get up and move around for a few minutes. Use the stairs to really get the blood flowing. Your cardiovascular system is meant to be constantly active. Why do you think you are given leg exercises on long flights? To prevent DVT right? Well that rule doesn’t just apply to plane trips!

FYI:
Metabolic syndrome is a combination of the medical disorders that, when occurring together, increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

“The five conditions described below are metabolic risk factors. You can have any one of these risk factors by itself, but they tend to occur together. You must have at least three metabolic risk factors to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.

• A large waistline. This also is called abdominal obesity or “having an apple shape.” Excess fat in the stomach area is a greater risk factor for heart disease than excess fat in other parts of the body, such as on the hips.
• A high triglyceride level (or you’re on medicine to treat high triglycerides). Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood.
• A low HDL cholesterol level (or you’re on medicine to treat low HDL cholesterol). HDL sometimes is called “good” cholesterol. This is because it helps remove cholesterol from your arteries. A low HDL cholesterol level raises your risk for heart disease.
• High blood pressure (or you’re on medicine to treat high blood pressure). Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage your heart and lead to plaque buildup or a stroke.
• High fasting blood sugar (or you’re on medicine to treat high blood sugar). Mildly high blood sugar may be an early sign of diabetes.”

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/ms/

Medication is highly overprescribed. Regular physical activity and a healthy diet can address ALL of the above conditions. Stop making yourselves sick and the pharmaceutical dogs rich. Take control of your health and stick it to the medical drug dealers!

Health and Happiness to you all.