Thursday, 28 April 2011

5 Healthy Changes to Make Today

The way that we live our lives is determined by the choices we make. Some of us are lucky to have a life full of good health and happiness. Many other people struggle with health issues and mental problems on a daily basis. We are all given many opportunities in life and it is how we take these opportunities that determines how well we succeed. We are also thrown challenges or curve balls on a regular basis. How well that we deal with these problems can play a big part on our success or failure.

We also make choices every day on how well we treat our bodies. The food that we eat, the drinks that we consume, the stresses that we put on our body and the amount of rest that we have are all determined by our own choices. The person that you are now is a perfect picture of all the influences and choices you have made in life. It is never too late to make some changes. Making a few simple lifestyle changes could have a massive impact on living a more positive life. Here are 5 that I think are important:

1. Change Your Workout: there is a good chance you have been sticking with the same program for months if not years. Your body quickly adapts to a routine and unless you are progressing with your workouts on a regular basis then you may be stuck in a rut. It might be as simple as swapping the treadmill for a run outdoors, or trying a new resistance program. If you have been working hard for a long time. then maybe your body is in need of a rest for a few weeks. Perhaps you could take up Yoga or Tai Chi. Most importantly if you don't do any exercise then it might be time to add 3 or 4 walks each week to your schedule. Your body and mind will love the changes and the results will follow!

2. Eat More Fresh Fruit and Vegetables: unless you already have a very strict diet then adding more fresh fruit and vegetables will go a long way towards a healthier you. Fruit and vegetables fuel us with lot's of vitamins and minerals that we cannot get from the processed foods that we buy down the shopping centre aisles. Why not swap the boring lunch time sandwich for a healthy salad or skip the ice-cream at dessert and enjoy some fresh fruit and yoghurt. When you replace the processed and packaged food for fresh fruit and vegetables I guarantee you will feel better!

3. Drink More Water: water is the fuel for almost all of our bodily functions. About 70% of the human body is water and when this level drops by just 5% we can become dehydrated. Dehydration can cause us to feel fatigued and sluggish and have a big impact on the quality of our lives. Good hydration is the foundation of good health and minor dehydration is the hidden cause to many illnesses. That annoying headache is probably a sign of dehydration and a big drink of water will probably do more than popping a couple of pills! Drinking more water will help in fat loss, improve the quality of your skin and even help prevent some cancers. 

4. Get More Sleep: unless you are already sleeping for more than 8-10 hours per night, then it might be time to have a look at your sleep schedule. I know that the majority of us have busy lives that don't always allow us the luxury of early nights and a good sleep in, but I am sure that we could all find an extra hour or so if we made some smarter lifestyle choices. Sleep plays a vital role in promoting physical health, longevity, and emotional well-being. Sleeping helps to repair the body from all the stresses that we have. It can improve our stress levels, improve our memory and help to control body weight. On the other hand, over time, chronic sleep deprivation may lead to an array of serious medical conditions including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even early mortality.

5. Lower Your Stress Levels: stress plays a big part on our happiness and health. Chronic stress can seriously diminish our ability to enjoy life, accomplish our goals, and maintain healthy relationships, all of which can affect our emotional well-being. Stress is directly linked to anxiety and depression, heart disease and stroke, weight gain, sleeping problems and even pain. We can reduce stress by making some simple changes. Including exercise in our day. There is nothing better than a vigorous workout to help clear your head. Getting a little sunshine each day can help lift your spirits and this could be a great time to take 10 or 20 minutes to be alone and have some time to yourself. Go easy on yourself and be realistic with any goals. Setting unreachable goals will only leave you open to heartbreak. Other ways to beat stress in include deep breathing exercises, massage and guided imagery.

So why not try and make a few changes to your life and see how much better you will feel!

Monday, 25 April 2011

Fat Loss for Women

Hey guys! Here is a recent email conversation I had with a "Facebook Friend" of mine. She is a hard working 40 year old, mother of 3. She set some goals to change her body shape and her transformation has been amazing! Check out the conversation and maybe you can get some pointers! It's never too late to start!

Mike: Just to pick your brains a bit - What is your workout schedule for a week? As in weights/cardio, how much of each. What sort of weights program do you follow? Whatever it is, it works well!
Clarissa: Sure! Am happy to share my approach to training (BTW I've become my own experiment - it isn't a fixed thing!)
Did you want to know my 'regular' approach and/or how I tweak things leading up to figure competition time?
Mike:  I stick to something for about 4 weeks now and then change it again. I've been getting awesome results too! Ok, well what is your regular approach and then what do you change leading in to a comp?
Clarissa: Good to hear! Well I should start of by saying that I am very new to this (only began lifting a year ago) so am not an expert by any means.This time last year I was 8 kgs heavier with very little muscle and was feeling very blobby and lethargic. I'm 40 and have 3 kids, 2 step-kids,  and a desk-job as an academic - so am pretty time-poor and unfortunately spend a lot of my time sitting! I'm 5'2" and a very 'girly girl' with no desire to look hard or masculine....I also reckon that my results are about 80% food-related.... (We can talk more about that later!). But anyway, with the disclaimers out of the way, here goes!
  • My training focuses on building and maintaining muscle, paying balanced attention to all muscle groups - not just the ones I can see in the mirror! I try to build my lean muscle mass so that takes care of my fat for me - rather than focusing on the fat itself or trying to 'burn off' calories with cardio, if that makes sense?!
  • I track my progress via measurements and the fit of clothes, rather than bathroom scale weight.
  •  I keep my cardio and lifting separate (by at least a few hours), and if doing cardio on an empty stomach I pop BCAAs in my water to preserve muscle.
  • I don't try to keep my heart rate up when lifting, and I don't try to load my muscles when doing cardio. I do basically all of my cardio listening to music, particularly (no I don't have any association with the company I just love their product LOL) because I get bored easily and it keeps me motivated.
  •  I don't do any steady-state cardio at all - it's always interval style, and usually not more than 45 minutes at a time. I increase and decrease the pace or incline (or both) if on a treadmill, or do something like pedal flat-out or skip flat-out during the chorus of songs if biking or skipping!
  •  When lifting I do about 4-6 different exercises per muscle group, and I mix these up on a regular basis. For my heaviest set of any exercise I try to go heavy enough so that I can only just manage 6 reps with good form. I also do a lot of drop-sets and supersets.
  • I try to allow at least 24-48 hours recovery time for each muscle group between training sessions and have a post-training protein shake (with a little l-glutamine added) within 30 mins of finishing lifting.
 My 'regular' routine is basically confined to my lunch-hour and looks something like this:

Mon - Chest, tri's, abs (about 45 mins)
Tues - lunchtime Cardio only (30 mins)
Wed - Legs/glutes (about 45 mins)
Thu - lunchtime Cardio only (30 mins)
Fri - Back, biceps (about 45 mins)
Sat - Rest
Sun - Rest

So you can see, there's not of lot of time spent on cardio (and what there is is pretty intense), and there's no 'full-body' workouts. As competition time gets closer I transition to lifting 4 days per week, then 5 days per week. Leading up to the comp I also do more cardio (though still short intense sessions, well away from lifting). I'm competing in one week (eeek!) and for the last couple of weeks I've been doing something like the schedule below . It's pretty gruelling but I'm still managing to work, look after the kids and house etc, AND stay relatively sane - though my 'hubby' may beg to differ... ;-)

Mon-Wed - 30 mins pre-brekkie cardio with BCAAs, lunchtime weight training, after-dinner 30 mins cardio
Thu - Cardio - 30 mins pre-brekkie cardio, 45mins after-dinner cardio (no lifting)
Fri - Sat - 30 mins pre-brekkie cardio with BCAAs, lunchtime weight training, after-dinner 30 mins cardio
Sun - Rest. No exercise. Nothing. Zip. Aaah!!!

I've cut out my post-training protein shake in the last fortnight (in fact it's all wholefoods now) and replaced it with a little fresh pineapple and some tuna. (Hmmm. Can't wait to return to shakes!!). Oh dear sorry this has turned into a bit of an essay LOL. Anyway it should give you the idea. All the best and keep up the wonderful work, Clarissa
Mike:  Thank you so much for taking me on the "inside" of your training schedule. Firstly, congratulations on having the committment and determination to put in an effort like that with everything else that goes on in your life (work, kids, husband). I am sure you would be an inspiration to so many people!

I have been training at gyms for almost 10 years, but it has only been more recently that I have started to train properly. It's amazing how putting in that extra 10% and watching what you eat can do for your body shape. I don't have any plans at the moment to go in to competition (I'm quite shy!), but in saying that, if the results keep coming I would probably consider it! I have tried a few supplements (carnitine, creatine, protein, BCAA's...) but now I generally stick to the protein powder and creatine.

I really agree with your philosophy on building muscle to burn the fat. Trying to get that point across to my clients can be hard, but I am getting there with most of them. The scales never tell the full story and I know how much of an effect that "magic number" can have on how good or bad someone feels about themselves!

Thanks again for all the information. It's good that you have pretty much confirmed what I already new was the best way to train (for my female clients!) Best of luck next week, stay focused, 99% of the work has already been done!  Keep in touch! Mike
Clarissa: No worries at all, Mike. Thanks for asking! Yes competing is fascinating. I would never have considered it in a million years - but I met a lady who has competed and she really encouraged me. I'm so glad she did encourage me and showed me the ropes - and now I do the same for others : )  And I love the results - it feels so good to be lean, fit and strong!

Before I was involved in bodybuilding, I assumed that only 'athletes' who are 'serious' about the whole thing go in competitions (and therefore would be annoyed/offended by the presence of newbies or wannabes) - whereas in reality (at least in the smaller regional comps) you can really just 'have a crack at it' and see how you go.

There is a lot to be said for having a date to mark in the calendar. So if you're at all interested, make a point of getting in touch with the INBA or ANB people in your state.

Have a great Anzac Day. Cheers, Clarissa
We'd love to hear peoples' reactions to this Note - and please feel free to re-post to others who might benefit.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

The Benefits of Chocolate

It's Easter time, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It's a special time of year, shared with friends and family and plenty of time off work. We also devour more chocolate than normal, with the Easter Bunny leaving us a collection of eggs. Although I wouldn't suggest that we over-indulge in chocolate, it is nice to know that there are a number of benefits to eating chocolate!

Dark chocolate in particular has been shown to improve our health in many ways. Dark chocolate has a higher cocoa content of 65% or more and also contains less fat and sugar than milk or white chocolate.
Cocoa is made from plants, which means it contains many of the health benefits of dark vegetables. These benefits are from flavonoids, which act as antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from aging caused by free radicals, which can cause damage that leads to heart disease. Dark chocolate contains a large number of antioxidants (nearly 8 times the number found in strawberries). Flavonoids also help relax blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide, and balance certain hormones in the body.

Dark chocolate is good for your heart. A small bar of it everyday can help keep your heart and cardiovascular system running well. Two heart health benefits of dark chocolate are:
  • Lower Blood Pressure: studies have shown that consuming a small bar of dark chocolate everyday can reduce blood pressure in individuals with high blood pressure. 
  • Lower Cholesterol: dark chocolate has also been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) by up to 10 percent.
Apart from helping with our heart health, chocolate also tastes really good! eating chocolate stimulates endorphin production, which gives us a feeling of pleasure. It contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant. Chocolate can also act as a stimulant as it contains theobromine and caffeine.
So as you happily eat away on your chocolate, rest easy knowing there are some benefits of chocolate. If you have a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables then enjoy in moderation and reward yourself with this yummy treat!
Happy Easter!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Top 10 Superfoods

The term "superfood" is usually thrown around by marketing companies that are trying to sell a certain product. I don't think we could live on Acai Berry juice forever! There truth is, we need to eat a lot more than just one food to nourish our bodies with all the essential nutrients. A healthy and balanced diet with will go a long way to achieving this.

Not all foods were created equal - some are so packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, essential fatty acids and other beneficial substances that they've been deemed "superfoods". Superfoods have incredible health benefits, with a high nutritional content that helps protect against cancer and heart disease, lower cholesterol, protect the organs from toxins and improve digestive health. After browsing over many different lists I have come up with my list. Here are my Top 10 Superfoods"

1. Broccoli: This cruciferous vegetable is loaded with vitamin C, folic acid and carotenoids, which are packed with vitamin A. Broccoli can enhance your immune system function and improve reproductive health. Just one serving (1 medium stalk) provides 175% of the recommended daily value of vitamin K, which helps build strong bones and plays an important role in blood clotting. Broccoli is also said to help prevent cancers of the lung, colon, rectum and stomach.

2. Blueberries: Packed with polyphenolic compounds such as flavonoids and proanthocyandins, blueberries help protect memory and cognition. They are also full of antioxidants, vitamin C, manganese, and dietary fiber and may help by lowering oxidative stress and inflammation, thereby reducing the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease. Frozen blueberries are a great choice and can be bought all year round. The best part is they taste so good!

3. Oats: They contain large amounts of the soluble fibre beta-glucan. Evidence suggests that beta-glucan can lower high levels of cholesterol in the blood and has anticoagulant properties, making it heart-friendly. Oats can also improve your bowel health and their low GI (glycaemic index) also means it’s a perfect way to start your day.

4. Wild Salmon: Packed with omega-3 fats, wild salmon can help reduce the risk of sudden-death heart attacks and contains lots of vitamin D and selenium for healthy hair, skin, nails and bones. It can be eaten with little fear of mercury or excess contaminants and is more nutritionally rich than farmed salmon. Wild salmon also has a smaller environmental impact. Try including two servings a week for the most benefits.

5. Spinach: Spinach and other dark, leafy greens are rich in bone-fortifying calcium; folic acid, which may help protect against heart disease and birth defects; and vitamin K, a nutrient necessary for proper blood clotting. It is a low calorie, low carbohydrate vegetable full of fibre for digestive health. Spinach is good either cooked or fresh and is a great base for a salad!

6. Yoghurt: a great source of calcium, protein, vitamin B12 and riboflavin, but it’s the probiotics found in some yoghurts that make it particularly beneficial for your health. Probiotics are healthy bacteria with many benefits including promoting a healthy gut and protecting the immune system. Why not have Oats, Yoghurt and Blueberries for breakfast!

7. Garlic: Although no one likes to smell garlic breath, including it in your diet can have a range of benefits.
It's most powerful nutrient, Allicin an amino acid present when garlic is cut, pressed or chewed. Allicin is responsible for garlic's odor, its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well. In addition to Allicin, garlic's healthy compounds include phosphorus, potassium, zinc, selenium, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, arginine, flavonoids and polyphenols. That's 10 powerful agents in one of the 10 Super Foods. Maybe you should skip the buttered garlic bread though!

8. Tomatoes: adding tomatoes to your pasta sauce is a great way to boost your antioxidant intake and lower your risk of developing chronic diseases. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant carotenoid that fights against the damage of free radicals. This cancer-fighting potential is increased if tomatoes are cooked, which allows these natural compounds to be absorbed more easily.

9. Avocadoes: although they are high in fat, but it's the "healthy" monounsaturated kind that may in fact help lose weight. Research shows that avocados may protect against heart disease by lowering your LDL levels. Monounsaturated fats also help make your skin softer and your hair shinier. Try adding avocadoes to a salad or mush it up as a healthy alternative to a dip. To be even more healthy, try using fresh vegetable sticks rather than corn chips!

10. Green Tea: some evidence suggests that regular green tea drinkers have lower chances of heart disease and of developing certain types of cancer. Green tea is full of anti-oxidants and can also help lower blood pressure. Although green tea does not raise the metabolic rate enough to produce immediate weight loss, a green tea extract containing polyphenols and caffeine has been shown to induce thermogenesis and stimulate fat oxidation, boosting the metabolic rate 4% without increasing the heart rate.

So why not try and add some of these Top 10 Superfoods to your diet. They can all be prepared to taste delicious and your body will thank you for it. Maybe I should come up with a Supershake with these Top 10 Superfoods. Time to get out the blender!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

8 Foods to Avoid

Whether your goal is to lose weight or simply maintain a healthy weight then you really need to focus on your diet. While exercise and recovery are very important to your weight loss goals, a healthy eating plan would be 70% of the equation. Everything that we stuff in to our mouths either has a positive or negative effect on our body. Unfortunately some foods can completely ruin a healthy meal plan. Here is a list of some of the foods that we should avoid or limit in our diet:

1. Trans Fats - These factory made hardened oils are what we find inside many processed and deep fried foods. While a small amount of saturated fat can be good for certain hormones, trans fats offer us no nutritional benefit at all. They can be found inside cakes, biscuits, margarine's, pastries, fried foods and even chocolate (Dammit!). Trans fats interfere with the good oils in our body and also wreak havoc on the levels of good and bad cholesterol. Avoid at all costs!

2. Sugar - White, brown, corn syrup, glucose or fructose. There are many special names for sugar that may be included in the ingredient list of an item. Get to know these names and try to limit them in your diet. Sugar is hidden in lot's of 'healthy' foods too, so take note of what you really are consuming. Processed sugars do nothing other than add calories and inches to our waste line. Think of orange juice. A small glass can add 200 or more calories to your diet, including 8 teaspoons of sugar. Eat a piece of fruit instead!

3. White Refined Flour - This includes bread, pasta and noodles. White flour has had the bran and germ removed which contains all of the good sources or vitamins and minerals. This carbohydrate is rapidly absorbed and causes fast changes in sugar/insulin balance which leads to the storage of fat. White flour also has little fibre compared to wholegrain flour. Limit your intake and switch to whole grains.

4. White Rice and Potatoes - Much like the white refined flour, white rice and potatoes cause spikes changes in our sugar and insulin balance. Their high GI levels cause a spike and then carbohydrate 'crash' that leads to more fat storage. Limit these foods to after your workouts or simply swap for brown rice and sweet potato, which are lower in GI and offer more nutritional benefits.

5. Excess Salt - The recommended salt intake is between 3-8 grams depending on your size and activity levels. However the average salt consumption is 10-15 grams a day. Salt dehydrates the body and can also stress your heart and arteries. To cut your salt intake in half, limit table salt and avoid chips, salted nuts and popcorn and most prepared, canned and packaged foods. Salt is hidden in almost all canned and packaged food to add flavour and to increase shelf life. Opt for reduced salt varieties when possible or simply eat fresh produce instead!

6. Liquid Calories - Apart from water and tea and coffee (in moderation), anything that we drink simply adds calories to our diet without much nutritional benefit. Soft drink, fruit juices, milk shakes and alcoholic beverages contain a lot more calories than you may think and they tend to not satisfy our hunger as much as healthy food. A banana milkshake can contain over 600 calories, so try to order a coffee or tea minus the sugar next time you catch up with friends! Also be sure to drink water regularly during the day, starting off with a big glass of icy cold water when you first wake up!

7. Dairy - While some dairy is good to add calcium to our diets, the majority of it should be avoided or limited. Cut out cream and any cream products, such as full-fat cream cheese, sour cream, cream sauces, whipped cream and ice cream. Limit the use of butter and full-fat cheeses and eliminate whole milk. Choose low fat or skim milk when necessary and use low fat/no added sugar yoghurt.

8. Red and Processed Meat - Limit red meats high in saturated fats and other fatty cuts of meat.  Ribs, bacon, sausages, hot dogs, pepperoni, salami, bologna and other packaged meats, plus most hamburgers should be avoided. They contain lots of saturated fat, high levels of salt and often fillers to help bind them. Also avoid fried fish, meats and poultry, as well as poultry skin. A healthy alternative which should be included in your diet is lean chicken and fish. Make sure your cooking methods don't undo all the benefits!

While it might seem all too much to cut all of this from your diet at once, why not start off with just one and then slowly make more changes. You will find yourself feeling healthier with more energy before you know it. The most important thing is to enjoy your food and if you love of a certain food (chocolate for me), then make sure you reward yourself when you deserve it. Just keep it to special occasions and eat healthy the rest of the time! Enjoy!

Monday, 11 April 2011

Clear Skin Tips

Whether you are 18 or 80, we all like to have healthy looking skin. It is important for both men and women to take good care of their skin to help slow the processes of ageing. There is no real secret on how to get clear skin, it just depends on the amount of care that you give to your skin, your lifestyle and what you put in your mouth. Here are some tips to help improve the quality of your skin:

1- First you need to know what type of skin you have and then buy the specific skin care products for your skin.

2- Stay away from Processed and Fast Food. Instead prepare healthy clean meals at home with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit. Fruit and Vegetables are rich in antioxidant vitamins and minerals which help improve the quality and sagging of your skin

3- Drinking plenty of water every day will help get rid of toxins that build up in the skin due to poor diet. It will help to improve the skin’s complexion. Aim for at least eight glasses a day, or  more when doing regular exercise. If you find water boring, try adding a slice of lemon or lime for flavour.

4- Wear sunscreen EVERY DAY to protect the skin from the sun. The sun is the main cause of premature skin aging. Use at least SPF 15 or more if you stay outdoors for long.

5- Stress is bad for our health and can affect your skin too. Deal with stress with exercise, meditation, visualization, deep breathing or yoga.

6- Having an exercise routine, even if is moderate will help improve circulation and blood flow, which will give you glowing skin. Exercise will help improve your body shape as well!

7- Sleeping seven or eight hours each night is crucial for healthy and clear skin. Sleep is when the body is able to repair itself. Adequate sleep is very important. Sleeping on your back can also prevent sleeping wrinkles.

8- Your lifestyle plays an essential role on how your skin looks. Excess alcohol, late nights, drugs and smoking are one of your skin’s worst enemies. Consider this next time!

9- For women (and some men). Keep your make up tools really clean. Wash them once a week with water and a mild soap. Rinse them well and dry excess of water with a towel or leave to air until totally dry.

10- Don’t be tempted to touch your skin or squeeze any spots because you will carry bacteria from your fingers. Always wash your hands before applying skin care products.

11- Don’t mask the skin with heavy make up. This will only clog the pores and suffocate the skin. Remember that less is more. Use lighter foundations or tinted moisturizers if you have mature skin.

12- Never ever go to bed with your make up on. Always cleanse your face at night, even if you haven’t used any make up product. Following a routine that is the best for your skin- cleanse, exfoliate once a week, use a facial mask at least once a week after exfoliating the skin, use a moisturizer during the day and a nutritive at night.

While changing all of these things at once may be hard, if not impossible, then try to include one change to your lifestyle each week. Healthy, glowing skin is just around the corner!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

The Benefits of Fasting

If you are struggling with your weight loss plans then maybe you should consider Intermittent Fasting. Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that alternates between periods of fasting (usually meaning consumption of water only) and non-fasting. A typical fast is about 24 hours which enables you to still eat every day. An example would be to eat up until 4pm and then fast until 4pm the following day.

There is some evidence that intermittent fasting may have beneficial effects on the heath of humans that are similar to the effects of caloric restriction. The best option to lose weight would be to healthy in between fasts you will turn in to a fat burning machine. . . literally!

There are many reasons why intermittent fasting works so well, below is a list of my top 4 reasons.trans Top 3 Reasons Why Fasting to Lose Weight is so Effective.

1) Intermittent Fasting Cuts Calories
By doing an intermittent 24 hour fast, you will cut your calories significantly, while still being able to eat each day. Obviously cutting your calories is the key to losing weight and keeping it off. Remember there are two key components to losing weight, eat less and exercise more. Intermittent fasting takes care of the eat less part of the equation.

2) Easy To Stick To
Fasting is effective because when done properly, it is incredibly easy to stick to, which is the hardest part of most diets. If you don’t stick with a diet, it’s not going to work long term, regardless of what you are eating. Most diets are incredibly hard to do more than a few weeks or a month at most, and most people don’t last longer than a week! They soon quit and are off to find the next biggest fad diet, only to do the same thing over and over again.

3) It Allows You More Freedom With Your Diet
In between fasts, you can eat whatever you normally would. Of course, the better that you eat, the more weight you will lose and the healthier that you will be. That being said, if you change nothing about your diet and just fast two times a week, you are going to lose body fat. It’s that simple. You will lose weight and still be able to eat the way that you like to eat. That means you don't have to say no to an ice-cream or the odd piece of cake.

4) It Increases Growth Hormone
Short-term fasting can increase growth hormone levels by up to six times. Hollywood celebrities are taking growth hormones because it helps them burn fat, build muscle, and supposedly keep them young because of their anti-ageing affects. Fasting triggers the “growth hormone response” and this response is what prevents us from losing muscle while we fast keeping our metabolism elevated.

Besides the positive mental benefits, such as improved focus and mental clarity, fasting can help with many medical conditions. Fasting is one of the fastest ways to increase elimination of wastes and enhance the healing processes of the body. It has been used with success in clinical research on people who suffer from asthma, and has been shown to lower inflammation, one of the major factors for aging. Short-term fasting can help improve your immune function by lowering the blood sugar levels, particularly during the first 24-48 hours. Some scientists believe fasting can also achieve the same ends of delaying or preventing cancer and other degenerative diseases. That's a win!

Why not challenge yourself and see the results yourself. I love food, but I am surprised at how easy it really is to do. Mentally it is very refreshing to not have to think about food for 24 hours.

Check out Eat Stop Eat program:

Eat Stop Eat

Friday, 8 April 2011

The Truth on Alcohol

We have all heard the terms "Beer Belly" and "Beer Gut". So why is it that alcohol makes us fat?

Alcohol is a calorie dense nutrient that is used by the body for energy. Alcohol contains 7 calories of energy per gram; this is close to the caloric density of fat, at 9 calories per gram. If you also take into account that many alcoholic drinks contain added sugars then drinking alcohol can add a substantial amount of extra calories to your diet. For this reason many experts recommend limiting consumption of alcohol when trying to lose weight.

But how does alcohol make you fat?

The energy from alcohol cannot be stored so it must be oxidised and converted into energy for immediate use by the cells. While our body uses up all the alcohol circulating in the blood, the oxidation of fats, carbohydrates and protein comes to a halt. These macronutrients are forced into storage while your body uses the alcohol as energy.
Is it possible to lose weight with a diet that includes alcohol?

Like with everything in dieting, losing weight is mainly based on a calorie controlled intake, that is, providing you consume less energy than your body needs then weight can be lost. In other words, it would be possible to lose weight even if alcohol is consumed daily. The problem here is maintaining your target calorie intake; including alcohol regularly would require little food consumption to account for the high energy content of the alcohol, and a lower intake of essential nutrients could be bad for your health. Deficiency in vitamins would eventually result in low energy levels for activities which burn the fat from stores, plus lower protein consumption would eventually result in loss of even more lean muscle thus lowering your metabolism to a point where you simply cannot maintain a negative energy balance required to lose further weight.

While there is nothing wrong with having the odd drink, my advice is stay away from bingeing on alcohol as much as possible while attempting to lose weight. Eat more nutritious whole foods that have a high nutrient and low energy ratio.

Sugar Makes Us Fat

When it comes to losing weight, most of us decide to lower our fat intake. While some fats are not good for our waist line, the truth is sugar makes us fat.

Sugar is what we call an empty food. It means the food adds calories, without any other nutrients. Sugar happens to be such a food. Sugar does not contain minerals or vitamins. However, it does contain calories, in fact a lot of calories. A 375mL can of Coke has about 10 heaped teaspoons of sugar and offers little nutritional value.

Most of us do not realise how much sugar we eat in a day. We might remember adding sugar to our coffee, but did you know that sugar is present in nearly all processed food. Cakes contain sugar. Doughnut contains sugar. Canned drinks contain sugar. Ice cream contains sugar. Peanut butter contains sugar. Jam contains sugar. Chocolate contains sugar. Desserts contain sugar. Some soups also contain sugar. Nearly everything that comes in packet contains sugar.

The problem is that the manufacturers have so many names for sugar. That is why we do not really know how much sugar is in the food. There are more than 20 names for sugar in commercial world? Lactose, syrup, nectar, fructose and raw fruit concentrates all mean sugar? That is why sugar makes us fat in the first place. All these sugars are hidden in the food.

Sugar isn't inherently evil. Your body uses sugar to survive, and burns sugar to provide you with the energy necessary for life. However many healthy foods are actually broken down in to glucose to provide this energy.

There are two ways that sugar can sabotage your body and cause fat storage. Excess glucose is the first problem, and it involves a very simple concept. Anytime you have filled your body with more fuel than it actually needs (and this is very easy to do when eating foods with high sugar content), your liver's sugar
storage capacity is exceeded. When the liver is maximally full, the excess sugar is converted by the liver into fatty acids (that's right - fat!) and returned to the bloodstream, where is taken throughout your body and stored as fat. Most commonly in the popular regions of the stomach, hips and bums! This can also wreak havoc on your vital organs raiseing blood pressure, decreasing metabolism, and weakening the immune system. Not good!

Excess insulin is the second problem. Insulin is a major hormone in the body, and is released in high levels anytime you ingest what would be considered a "simple" carbohydrate, which would include sugar. Two actions occur when the insulin levels are spiked. First, the body's fat burning process is shut down so that the sugar that has just been ingested can be immediately used for energy. Then, insulin takes all that sugar and puts it into your muscles. Well, not quite! As soon as the muscles energy stores are full, the excess sugars are converted to fat and, just like the fatty acids released from the liver, stored as fatty tissue on our waistline.

So what kind of carbohydrates can you eat to avoid de-stabilizing blood sugar levels, constantly sabotaging your weight loss, and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in health care as you get older? Here is a list of carbohydrates do not trigger such a strong insulin response and instead provide long-term, stabilized energy: apples, oranges, pears, plums, grapes, bananas (not overly ripened), grapefruit, oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat spaghetti and egg fettuccine, whole-wheat pasta, bran cereal, barley, bulgur, basmati, Kashi and other whole grains, beans, peas (especially chick and black-eyed), lentils, whole corn, sweet potatoes,
yams, milk, yogurt (preferably low-fat or fat-free) and soy.

That is why it is good to eat natural fruits and vegetables. The sugar content is not so high. Just remember that sugar makes us fat. If you want to lose weight successfully, the first thing is to get rid of sugar from your diet.

Check out this healthy Diet Plan

The Diet Solution Program

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Muscle Building Tips

If you're frustrated with your muscle gain or fat loss goals, I sympathize with you completely, and understand exactly what you are going through. I worked out for years before finally figuring out the correct ways to build muscle and lose fat. I finally figured ou that the routines and body building tips touted by professional bodybuilders and the muscle magazines just aren't going to work for most people. But take heart, you can reach your muscle mass and fat burning goals. Putting together a program that incorporates the following body building tips will point you in the right direction and get you making gains you hadn't thought were possible.

Tried and True Body Building Tips

Train Intensely - You must work each set until you can't do another repetition in good form. There is no point in stopping at a set number of reps (such as 8), if you are capable of doing 12. Your body needs to be challenged or it will not adapt by building new muscle or burning off body fat.

Cycle Your Intensity - In order to prevent burnout and overtraining from training intensely, it's important to take a week off from training every 8 - 12 weeks. If, like me, you can't stay out of the gym that long, you should train for a week at a very low intensity level.

Train Briefly - Your workouts need to be short. This is a very important weight lifting tip. You should never need to do a weight lifting routine that takes over an hour. If you are in the gym that long, you aren't working intensely enough. You can workout hard or long, but you can not do both. And to succeed in building muscle, you need to workout hard.

Train Infrequently - Your body needs time to recover from your weight training routine, so that in can adapt and grow. If you train with weights before your body is completey recovered, you won't add new muscle and will eventually over train, a big no no.

These are extremely important body building tips. It seems that your body's potential for strength increases far outweighs your body's ability to recover. What this means is that as you grow stronger, your body needs more time between weight training sessions in order to recover. Bench pressing 300 pounds is a far greater stress on your body than bench pressing 50 pounds, even if both were maximum attempts
at the time.

Train Progressively - You need to constantly challenge what your body can do by continuing to add more weight and/or repetitions to your previous best effort as often as possible.

Following is a sample weight training routine that incorporates the above weight lifting tips. If you put the other pieces in place, such as your nutrition plan and supplementation plan, you'll be well on your way to great gains and transforming your physique.

1 - Squats
2 - Deadlifts
3 - Chin Ups
4 - Dips
5 - Bench Press
6 - Military Press

Here's another weight lifting tip - break in to this routine. For the first few weeks, try working out 3 times per week on nonconsecutive days, performing 2 working sets of each exercise, doing 12 - 15 reps per set.
Don't train to failure. After about a month, you can lower the reps on everthing but Squats and Deadlifts, to the 8 - 10 rep range. Start training to failure on some sets. After another month, begin training to failure on all working sets and consider only weight training two times per week to accomodate the higher level of intensity and strengh that you've developed.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The Benefits of Interval Training

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIIT, Interval Training, Power Cardio.... whatever you want to call it, has become a top pick for fitness trainers and fitness lovers and it is helping in fat loss for everyone. Why? HIIT is right for EVERYONE! Whether you are a beginner or an experienced bodybuilder or athlete, you can reap the benefits of HIIT.
The four major benefits of HIIT are:
  1. Burn more calories by elevating your metabolism so you lose fat faster and in a shorter time.
  2. Increase your power
  3. Increase your speed
  4. Increase your endurance
We are all searching for better workouts and ways to get the most out of our workout (especially in the shortest amount of time) and HIIT can really provide those results.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the concept of training in intervals, each interval at a different intensity. Different HIIT programs work best for different people, but everyone can benefit form working out at varying levels of intensity (see example programs below).

When you complete a cardio session at a steady intensity for the duration of a workout your body enters a 'steady state'. This is a state at which your body has adapted itself to the speed you are going and conserves energy. When you complete HIIT you do not allow your body to enter this state and the result is you burn more total calories in less time. As well as this, HIIT training is performed at a higher intensity which raises your heart rate faster and raises your metabolism long after your workout finishes.

The overall length of your workout can then be much shorter in duration than your typical cardio session. Some studies state that HIIT cardio helps subjects lose/burn nine times more fat than those who trained the traditional way. It makes you wonder why anyone told you to train at a slow pace for a long period of time!

Example workout:
  1. Pick any type of cardiovascular method (running, swimming, bike, rower, skipping rope,treadmill, elliptical machine, etc).
  2. Make sure you take some time to warm up to get your body temperature raised before you begin.
  3. Now begin your cardiovascular training at 75% of your maximum ability, stay at this pace for MHR intensity for 30 seconds
  4. Now bring your intensity down to 30% for 90 seconds.
  5. Now raise your intensity to 80% for 30 seconds.
  6. Now bring your intensity down to 30% for 90 seconds.
  7. Now raise your intensity to 85% for 30 seconds.
  8. Now bring your intensity down to 30% for 90 seconds.
  9. Continue to repeat these steps, each time bringing your intensity level up.
The key step to HIIT is not allowing your body to adopt, adapting to a certain level of intensity will allow your body to fall into steady state and it will begin conserving rather than burning fat. Keep changing your pace, and pushing yourself through each interval.

No matter what your fitness goals, HIIT is one of the best ways of helping you achieve them. And the variations are endless. You can vary the times of exercise to rest ratio or number of intervals to make the workouts harder or easier, depending on what you are trying to accomplish.

Fartlek Interval Training (FIT) is the future of HIIT. While both HIIT and FIT use changes in intensity, the major difference is that Fartlek training uses a RANDOM changes in both time and intensity. You won't know what is coming, machines will be programed to create random workouts (some aerobic machines are designed to do this already) The Fartlek doesn't give you body (or your mind) any time to adopt, you don't know whether a faster interval or a slower interval is coming, so your metabolism and enegery stay on high!

Why not give it a go next time you train. Let me warn you, it is tough. However the results will show!

Negative Calorie Foods

Negative Calorie Foods
I have some great news for anyone who is trying to lose weight (fat). Every time that we ingest any food or drink, our body needs to metabolise, digest and absorb the food in order for us to get the nutritional benefits from it. Your body burns calories during this process which can actually help you lose weight. There are some foods named “Negative Calorie Foods” which burn more energy while being digested than they actually contain. By including these foods in your diet you will dramatically increase your bodies natural fat burning capacity.

Here is a list of some Negative Calorie Foods:

Apples, cranberries, grapefruit, lemons, mangoes, oranges, pineapple, raspberries, strawberries, tangerines.

Asparagus, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage (green), carrot, cauliflower, celery, chilli peppers (hot), cucumber, garden cress, garlic, green beans, lettuce, onion, papaya, radishes, spinach, turnip.

As you can see all of the foods are either fruit or vegetables. A healthy diet should always consist of a large range of fruit and vegetables because they also provide our bodies with all of the vitamins and minerals that we need. It is also important to include portions of lean protein (chicken, fish, nuts, legumes) to provide us with enough protein to sustain our muscle mass.

Processed foods such as cakes, biscuits, pastries and pretty much anything that you find down the supermarket aisles should be kept to a minimum. You will notice that the borders of supermarkets are lined with all the fresh produce and the aisles are stocked with the processed food. When you look in your trolley 80% should be from the fresh produce departments (fruit, veg, meat, protein) and the other 20% from the inner aisles.

Final Word: Fresh is Best!

Check out the Diet Solution Program

The Importance of Strength Training

When I look around my gym it is quite funny who is using the different equipment. The free weight area is full of men staring at themselves in the mirror while doing bicep curls. Then over on the treadmills, cross trainers and exercise bikes are women and the older generation who are trying to burn off that slice of chocolate cake. Most of these ‘cardio junkies’ are scared of bulking up if they include resistance or weight training into their programs. Resistance training is defined as any method or form of strength training used to resist, overcome, or bear force. Put quite simply it is lifting weights.

There are a number of benefits of resistance training. Here are 10 benefits just to start:
1. Prevent and/or rehabilitate injury and osteoporosis.
2. Control body weight.
3. Enhance athletic performance, balance and coordination.
4. Strengthen bone .
5. Increase metabolism (More Fat Loss!!).
6. Manage stress.
7. Improve posture.
8. Improve body shape.
9. Strengthen the heart and lungs.
10. The most important of all is that we become stronger and more functional for life’s everyday challenges.

Diet and cardio are equally important for a balanced program but when it comes to changing how your body looks, weight training wins hands down. If you want to lose body fat and more specifically keep it off forever, you need to perform muscle strengthening and building exercises such as weight or resistance training. You see muscle is a vital component in your body’s furnace. Basically the more muscle you have, the more your body is working in burning energy or food. In fact putting on around 0.5 kg of muscle will allow you to eat an extra 300 calories per week without affecting your weight. This allows you to control body fat by allowing you to eat more and still stay lean. Winning!!

I suggest to include at least 2 strength training workouts per week in to your routine. 30 minutes to 1 hour per session would be ideal and aim to increase the weight or resistance every week. Your body will quickly adapt to your workload so it is important to progress as you become stronger. Be sure to work both your upper and lower body when exercising and try to include compound (more than one muscle group) exercises as much as possible.

So when it comes to burning more fat, the answer doesn’t lie in a 30 min cardio session. Stop looking to burn calories or severely reducing them. Instead help yourself in building a better body that allows you to eat more and stay lean, thus supporting your eating habits. Building muscle is perhaps the most fundamental component in staying lean.

So just do it!

Here is a great Strength Training Program

The Adonis Effect

Cardio Before Breakfast

I have always been a morning person (job permitting) when it comes to exercising. I like to get my workout out of the way so I can enjoy the rest of day, knowing that I have put in the hard work. This often means a VERY early breakfast because until recently I had not contemplated exercising on an empty stomach. I decided to give it a go a few weeks ago and I am amazed at the results. Let’s take a closer look at this and see what the benefits are of doing cardio before breakfast.

Many people don’t realize just how important a well-timed cardiovascular program is when it comes to eliminating body fat. Whether its early morning, late evening, the most important thing is that you just do it. Continuous cardiovascular exercise, such as running, walking, jogging, stair-climbing, or cycling, sustained for at least 30 minutes, will burn body fat no matter when you do it. However for the maximum benefits of fat loss you MUST ensure that you are performing your cardiovascular training first thing in the morning. You should consider getting up early and doing cardio before breakfast – even if you’re not a “morning person.” Early morning aerobic exercise on an empty stomach has three major advantages over exercising later in the day.

Early in the morning before you eat, your levels of muscle and liver glycogen (stored carbohydrates) are low. If you eat dinner at 7 p.m. and you eat breakfast at 7 a.m., that’s 12 hours without food. During this 12-hour overnight fast, your levels of glycogen slowly decline to provide glucose for various bodily functions that go on even while you sleep. As a result, you wake up in the morning with depleted glycogen and lower blood sugar – the optimum environment for burning fat instead of carbohydrate. How much more fat you’ll burn is uncertain, but some studies have suggested that up to 300% more fat is burned when cardio is done in a fasted, glycogen-depleted state. 

So how exactly does this work? It’s quite simple, really. Carbohydrate (glycogen) is your body’s primary and preferred energy source. When your primary fuel source is in short supply, this forces your body to tap into its secondary or reserve energy source; body fat. If you do cardio immediately after eating a meal, you’ll still burn fat, but you’ll burn less of it because you’ll be burning off the carbohydrates you ate first. You always burn a combination of fat and carbohydrate for fuel, but depending on when you exercise, you can burn a greater proportion of fat relative to carbohydrate. If doing cardio first thing in the morning is not an option for you, then the second best time to do it would be immediately after weight training. Lifting weights is anaerobic (carbohydrate-burning) by nature, and therefore depletes muscle glycogen. That’s why a post lifting cardio session has a similar effect as morning cardio on an empty stomach. The second benefit you’ll get from early morning cardio before breakfast sessions is what I call the “after burn” effect. When you do a cardio session in the morning, you not only burn fat during the session, but you also continue to burn fat at an accelerated rate after the workout. Why?

Because an intense session of cardiovascular exercise can keep your metabolism elevated for hours after the session is over. If you do cardio at night, you will still burn fat during the session, so you definitely benefit from it. However, night time cardio fails to take advantage of the “after burn” effect because your metabolism drops like a ton of bricks as soon as you go to sleep. While you sleep, your metabolic rate is slower than any other time of the day.  
You might find it hard to wake up early in the morning and get motivated to workout. But think back for a moment to a time in your life when you tackled a difficult task and you finished it. Didn’t you feel great afterwards? Completing any task, especially a physically challenging one, gives you a “buzz.” When the task is exercise, the buzz is physiological and psychological. Physiologically, exercise releases endorphins in your body. Endorphins are opiate-like hormones hundreds of times more powerful than the strongest morphine. Endorphins create a natural “high” that makes you feel positively euphoric! Endorphins reduce stress, improve your mood, increase circulation and relieve pain. The “high” is partly psychological too.

The Verdict: Cardio before breakfast is worth it!

The Effects of Stress on Weight

Negative Calorie Foods

Negative Calorie Foods
I have some great news for anyone who is trying to lose weight (fat). Every time that we ingest any food or drink, our body needs to metabolise, digest and absorb the food in order for us to get the nutritional benefits from it. Your body burns calories during this process which can actually help you lose weight. There are some foods named “Negative Calorie Foods” which burn more energy while being digested than they actually contain. By including these foods in your diet you will dramatically increase your bodies natural fat burning capacity.

Here is a list of some Negative Calorie Foods:

Apples, cranberries, grapefruit, lemons, mangoes, oranges, pineapple, raspberries, strawberries, tangerines.

Asparagus, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage (green), carrot, cauliflower, celery, chilli peppers (hot), cucumber, garden cress, garlic, green beans, lettuce, onion, papaya, radishes, spinach, turnip.

As you can see all of the foods are either fruit or vegetables. A healthy diet should always consist of a large range of fruit and vegetables because they also provide our bodies with all of the vitamins and minerals that we need. It is also important to include portions of lean protein (chicken, fish, nuts, legumes) to provide us with enough protein to sustain our muscle mass.

Processed foods such as cakes, biscuits, pastries and pretty much anything that you find down the supermarket aisles should be kept to a minimum. You will notice that the borders of supermarkets are lined with all the fresh produce and the aisles are stocked with the processed food. When you look in your trolley 80% should be from the fresh produce departments (fruit, veg, meat, protein) and the other 20% from the inner aisles.

Final Word: Fresh is Best!

10 Ways to Burn More Fat

10 Fat Loss Tips!

We all know just how hard and confusing it is to lose weight and burn fat. The truth is it takes a lot of effort and that using just one technique won’t get you results. You can diet all you want or exercise like there’s no tomorrow, but without incorporating the two, you’re actually just delaying your progress. It’s time to separate the myths from the facts and find the 10 best ways to burn that unwanted fat.

1. Exercise on a regular basis. Walking, stair climbing, jogging and aerobics can burn calories. It’s important to do this at the same time everyday. For maximum effect, do as much as physically possible every time.

2. Strength and weight training. Studies have shown that building muscle through strength and weight training can increase your metabolism and, as a result, burn belly fat fast.

3. Know your body fat percentage. Before solving the problem, you need to know what it is. Or, in this case, HOW MUCH it is. Once you get your fat percentage, you will be more aware of your body and ultimately be able to burn belly fat fast. Do not always trust the scales! You may not be losing weight. Lean muscle may be replacing fat, which is exactly what we want!

4. Eat five small, healthy meals a day. Include lots of fruits and vegetables in the diet. This ensures the body is receiving the needed calories to function in small, healthy portions, preventing build-up of fat.

5. Drink more water. Be sure to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day. Water is necessary for all of the bodies natural functions, including fat oxidation (fat burning).

6. Stop eating foods that are high in calories. Fat is basically stored calories and are burned when exercising. Taking in extra calories means that there are many more to burn before getting to the fat.

7. Watch what you drink. Any sweetened beverage such as soft drink and fruit juices just add up the calories without giving you any real nutritional benefit. Your calorie intake could drop up to 1000 calories per day if you replaced these drinks with water.

8. Sleep well. Make sleep a priority and get between 7-9 hours per night. If your body is not well rested it produces higher amounts of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol leads to fat accumulation, particularly around the stomach area.

9. Stress less. Living a stressful life also increases fat accumulation. Excess cortisol results in more fat. Exactly what we don’t need! Try not to stress about the small things in life, including your weight. Be happy with who you are and make the changes to become a better person!

10. Try short term fasting. Fasting for short periods (24 hours) has been shown to dramatically burn fat, while not slowing down your metabolism or losing muscle mass.

For more information on Fasting try this link!