Archive | April, 2012

Sweet sweet holidays (and returning home to even sweeter motivation)

14 Apr

Is it weird that one of the things I most look forward to when going on holidays, is returning from holidays?

As strange as that sounds… in the day’s leading up to the departure date I get a little giddy, not because I am about to jet set off to a previously unexplored country (ok yes that is really exciting) but because I feel an inward smile forming as I know that when I return, that ‘reset’ button will have been pressed. You know, the one that deletes any misdemeanor you have had earlier in the year and  is replaced with a sense of new possibilities, where your newly formed motivation to take on the world kicks your (former) weary self in its lazy questioning ass.

It’s true, returning from holidays for me is just like the first day of a new year (possible hangover aside..). My mind is clear and my goals seem so much more achievable. Surely I am not the only one?!

It is importance to keep this feeling alive post holidays (and also to prevent the well documented ‘post holiday blues’). We have covered this point previously (https://fitnessinthecity.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/the-early-bird-really-does-get-the-worm/) but let’s take it a step further and explore something that not all Fitness In The City readers may admit to being in touch with… your inner self. And lets make this ‘inner’ you god dam friken healthy!!

Take a moment and think what you want to achieve? What changes do you need to make for this to happen? Only you know this. Then, lets reassess your health.

Step 1: Tighten up the diet. Yep, you have been on holidays so chances are so was your diet. Was there pancakes’ for breakfast instead of your usual omelets and green tea? I assume so, hey you were on holidays after all so I hope you enjoyed it!

Get back to basics with your eating. Ignore fad diets. Actually ignore anything that features the word ‘diet’ – I prefer ‘lifestyle changes’ – as fad diets have a 95% failure rate, it makes sense to approach your food choices in a practical yet holistic view that can actually be sustained long-term.

Look at reducing as much man made food as possible and increase anything and everything that is from nature – meat/protein options, salad, veges, fruit, seeds and nuts, good oils like avocado.. or think of it as staying away from anything that comes in silver foil! I would encourage you to look into the paleo style of eating.

Once your body is working in harmony by eating correctly, it is amazing how different you feel and function. What food you put into your body (and what you leave out) affects your hormonal response,  in a nutshell.. your hormones are responsible for how you feel, how you handle stress, your energy – everything!! Once you have this step down packed, everything else will slowly fall into place.

Step 2: Consider a cleanse.

This doesn’t have to be with lots of potions and powders (although the structure of a good cleanse can be very helpful to get back on track). Simply eating as per above can do the trick – we need to alkalize the system, cut out alcohol, grains, sugar and coffee for 15 days + and you will feel amazing – those pesky few kg that crept on over the holidays will be gone – eating paleo style also has this benefit of fat loss (without loosing muscle) whether you like it or not!.

Step 3: Move that body, break into a sweat and get that heart rate up – it may have been awhile in between workouts but stick with it. After a week of eating clean (meaning no man made rubbish) you will have more energy to assist with exercise.

Everyone is time poor today so don’t waste yours with hour-long workouts. The key is short duration but high intensity. HIIT (high intensity interval training) is the fastest way to torch fat, build muscle fast, and get fit even faster! This training style shocks your system and body,  and best of all you only need 15 – 20 minute a day. Be sure to include resistant/weight-bearing exercises.

Check out www.crossfit.com and www.facebook.com/fitnessinthecity for workout ideas.

Step 4: Do something you enjoy and often. Sounds lame and obvious, but once you get caught up in working again and stress takes over, this step often gets pushed to the sideline.

Step 5. Plan your next holiday…you have to have something to look forward to next!

Me? I am going to go pack and get ready for my yoga/trek in Nepal. Yes I am excited to go and you know I am excited to get back to that fresh slate!

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Nirvana, Nepal and Probiotics ..?

10 Apr

How long does it take to discover peace, clarity and Nirvana (the spiritual place not the band..)?

A while you say? Well I don’t have the luxury of time on my side to spend several months travelling throughout India, so instead, I have to find my inner zen in the space of 12 days on an amazing yoga/trek in Nepal.

Totally possible right..? We live in a fast paced world where everything is immediate so I have this in the bag. Peace here I come.

And by bag I mean back-pack (yet to be purchased/borrowed/stolen).

I am not going lie, I am defiantly not as prepared as I’d like to be. I leave in 5 days and I can still feel the sting in my arm from my travel needles, the ink is drying on my freshly stamped passport for my entry visa and I have 1 pair of hiking socks to go with my newly purchased shining hiking boots – they ARE out of the box, but well worn as recommended? Defiantly not.

Enter panic mode.

To compensate I have been ‘hiking’ home in my boots from work (yes on a flat surface) looking more like a tradie than seasoned traveler, while hoping to hell that this is enough to wear them in. Fitness is not an issue here, blisters on the other hand may be.

While I might not have the material contents to take yet (hey I can buy them there) I have been preparing my body to ensure I am healthy to decrease every possibility of getting sick while I am there. I am in the middle of a 30 day cleanse (more on that later) so already I have more energy, I have also upped my leg work outs to make sure I will be able to handle all the stair climbing, I am taking my Vital Greens to ensure I am getting extra nutrients along with liquid fish oil and a strong probiotics to increase my good gut bacteria to help ward off baddies.

You may be asking what probiotics are and do I need to take them?

Have you taken antibiotics lately? Are you on the pill? Do you eat badly? Do you have digestive or bowel issues? Then yes, maybe you do. In order for us to maintain a healthy digestive system we need to ensure we have enough bacteria (the good kind) as they play a very important role such as:

  • Improving your digestion;
  • Producing vitamins;
  • Relieving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS);
  • Detoxifying chemicals;
  • Producing nutrients to repair the gut lining;
  • Increasing resistance to infections and regulating the immune function;
  • Preventing the overgrowth of bad bacteria.

While there are plenty of great over the counter (or more correctly – in the fridge) brands of probiotic supplements you can take (you can read further about them here http://innerhealth.com.au/) let’s not forget the age old saying ‘let food be your medicine’.

Although yogurt is the most commonly published probiotic food, there are a whole lot of other anti-inflammatory fermented foods out there which will give you the same benefit and have been used all around the world for thousands of years.

And I am also sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but sugar kills the probiotic in most yogurts, unless you get natural plain organic yogurt and then add your fruit/honey to it after – much better for you and your digestive system.

Other food to include in your diet to help encourage good gut flora includes: Tempeh, Kimchi, Natto (a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans. It contains the bacterial strain bacillus subtilis used to be known as bacillus antto) and Miso.  (http://theconsciouslife.com/top-probiotic-foods.htm for more info).

Miso is now available to buy in most supermarkets and has additional health benefits of supplying good amounts of Vitamin B12, zinc, copper and manganese.

Like most probiotic foods, miso should only be added to soups or other dishes just before they are removed from the heat. This is to preserve the live koji cultures in miso and also to retain as much nutrients as possible.

Try this recipe which includes both miso and tempeh for some good gut bacteria (and delish) goodness!

Vegetable Curry with Miso and organic Tempeh   

350 g broccoli

350 g pumpkin

250 g sweet potato

3 celery stalks

Handful of long beans

1 onion chopped

1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger

2 garlic cloves, smashed

1 carrot

1 heaped tablespoon miso

1 lime

350 g organic tempeh or firm tofu

1/4 tsp ground turmeric

½ teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoon mirin (this is a Japanese sweet rice wine. If you need a substitute you need a combination of acidic and sweet flavors. Add between 1 and 2 tablespoons of sugar to 1/2 cup of white wine, vermouth, or dry sherry to replace 1/2 cup of mirin.)

1 handful coriander or flat-leaf parsley to serve.

Sauté: grated ginger, chopped garlic, onion, celery and carrot in a large pot/pan for 4 minutes.

Add: turmeric and cinnamon and cook for another minute then add 2 cups water (add more water throughout cooking as needed.)

Cook: on a low head slowly cook for 30 minutes.

Add: broccoli, pumpkin, sweet potato and cook for another 20 minutes or until tender.

Make: a paste with the Miso (with water until it dissolves) and add to curry, followed by adding the herbs, lime juice and mirin.

Just before you are ready to serve curry cook the tempeh or tofu separately then add to curry.

 

 

Need an iron boost? Popeye was onto a good thing

8 Apr

I had a question via www.facebook.com/fitnessinthecity this week, which is very common so it makes a perfect post: I just found out that my hemoglobin levels are low so I need to get my iron levels up. What would you recommend?

First things first – you need to make sure there is no underlying health issue causing your low hemoglobin levels, so I ALWAYS recommend seeking a medical practitioner for a full consultation to get the whole scope of your health history.

So let’s cover (the bare minimal) basics: Hemoglobin is the part of your blood that carries oxygen to your tissues. Iron is an essential part of hemoglobin.

Low hemoglobin is the main cause of anemia. When the hemoglobin level is slightly below normal, it is possible that the symptoms may not even get detected at all. Feeling of tiredness, headache, dizziness, fatigue and lack of concentration are some general symptoms that cannot be identified as symptoms of low level of hemoglobin in particular.

There are three recommended ways to increase your iron:

1. Eat a variety of foods rich in iron (more on that below)

2.Take iron supplements containing ferrous sulfate

3. Take plant base supplement like Spirulina as it is an iron rich superfood, scientifically proven to be beneficial and easily absorbed. It comes in powder or tablet form and it is a great option if you are vegetarian.

We obtain iron from a both plant and food sources – iron from meat, fish and poultry (called heme iron) is said to be absorbed 2 or 3 times more efficiently than iron found in plant sources (nonheme iron). The best sources of iron-containing foods are lean red meat, especially beef, oysters, salmon, tuna, liver, egg yolks, whole grains and dark poultry meat.

Plant/vegetarian options include prunes, raisins and apricots, legumes, especially lima beans, soy beans and kidney beans, almonds, Brazil nuts and vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, kale, collards, asparagus and dandelion greens

Another hot tip is to eat foods that contain vitamin C as it also increases absorption of iron. While drinking tea, coffee or milk with a meal can decrease iron absorption – so no downing your vitamins with your morning coffee…

Sources Of Iron:

Fruits and Vegetables

Green leafy vegetables

Tomatoes, Broccoli

Brussels sprouts

Red capsicum, Beans

Cabbage, Peas, Beets

Asparagus, Corn

Orange, Cantaloupe

Pineapple, Grapefruit

Banana, Raspberry

Strawberry, Guava

Papayas, Kiwi fruit

Black currants, Mango

        Lychee, Sprouts

Other Foods

Poultry, Eggs

Shellfish, Fish

Red meat, Liver

Molasses, Lentils

Fortified cereals

Dry fruits, Nuts

Sunflower seeds

Soymilk, Jaggery

Whole bread

Whole grains

Baker’s yeast

Oat and Wheat bran

             Peanut butter

Vitamins and Herbs

Iron

Vitamin B6

Folic Acid

Vitamin B12

Vitamin C

Fenugreek seeds

Dandelion greens

Nettleleaf

Dong Quai

Aswagandha

Spirulina

Yellow dock root

             Carao fruit

Include a daily meal of a colorful salad full of dark green veges, sprouts, beets, tomatoes, dandelion leaves, sunflower seeds, nuts topped with your choice of meat. Try the below from www.taste.com.au for inspiration!

Thai Beef Salad Ingredients (serves 4)

600g beef rump steak

1 quantity lime sesame dressing

1 tablespoon Alfa One rice bran oil

250g grape tomatoes, halved

2 Lebanese cucumbers, halved lengthways, thinly sliced diagonally

2 long red chillies, halved, deseeded, sliced diagonally

1 cup fresh mint leaves

1 cup fresh coriander leaves

1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves

1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped steamed rice, to serve

Lime sesame dressing

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2cm piece fresh ginger, finely grated

Method

  1. Make dressing: Whisk lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil and ginger together in a jug until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Place beef in a glass or ceramic dish. Drizzle over half the lime sesame dressing. Turn to coat. Cover. Refrigerate for 1 hour 30 minutes, if time permits.
  3. Heat a barbecue plate or chargrill over medium-high heat. Drizzle beef with oil. Cook for 2 minutes each side for medium, or until cooked to your liking. Transfer to a plate. Cover. Set aside for 5 minutes to rest. Thinly slice.
  4. Place tomato, cucumber, chilli, mint, coriander, basil, and beef in a large bowl. Toss to combine. Divide between plates. Drizzle with remaining dressing. Sprinkle with peanuts.

References and extra reading on the subject:

National Institutes of Health: Iron

MedlinePlus: Iron in Diet

USDA: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Iron

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Iron and Iron Deficiency

http://gotblood.ucla.edu/workfiles/Documents/Iron_Source_PF.pdf

http://www.buzzle.com/articles/how-to-increase-hemoglobin-levels.html

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.

To (Easter) binge or not to (Easter) binge – that is the question…

4 Apr

With Easter just around the corner it is very hard not to fall into the obligatory binge: chocolate (anything) hot cross buns and, let’s be honest – everything in sight to compensate and offset the sugar come down.

Now I am not a heartless wench who excepts you NOT to indulge.. but let’s get a grip before the long weekend begins.

You will eat chocolate, that’s a given.. but let’s talk portion control and quality.

First, step away from the cheap and cute foil wrapped bunny and exchange it for some dark chocolate and for god’s sake, splurge a little!! Ideally I would like you to select your Easter treats with at least 85% dark cocoa (I love Green & Black’s), but if your taste buds are not at that point yet (I understand it is an acquired taste if you are used to 100% sugar, I mean dairy milk chocolate) so 70% cocoa will be just fine and taste just as good. That means there is only 30% sugar in the remaining (better than 90%!), and the antioxidants are much higher in dark chocolate – where regularly has none. The high levels of cocoa have also been shown to lower blood pressure due to the large amounts of flavonoids.

If you are being ‘good’ and want to take your health kick a step further over Easter, head to your local health food store and get yourself some Raw Organic Cacoa NIBS –  these cocoa beans are straight from the source and is what all chocolate and cocoa products are produced from.

According to http://www.powersuperfoods.com.au/cacao-power-raw-nibs.html the nutritional benefits of raw cacoa products include:  being a source of beta-carotene, amino acids (protein), Omega-3 EFA’s, calcium, zinc, iron, copper, sulphur, potassium, and one of the best food sources of muscle relaxing and also stress relieving magnesium.  Other good news is that it is only 92 calories and 0.54grams of sugar per 15grams serving!

Suggested uses – eat as raw nibs or add to your cooking (use instead of chocolate chips), add to your smoothies or grind with your coffee beans. You can even make the Almost Chocolate Bliss Ball (see older posts for recipe) and add the nibs to the mixture – delish!

If you would like to make your own healthy dark chocolate Easter eggs (ambitious yes but it is a long weekend so you have time to try something a little different) then check out the below:

In a blender:

  • Add 5 tablespoons of organic cocoa powder
  • Add 5 tablespoons of organic virgin coconut oil

Blend until thoroughly mixed.

  • Add 5 tablespoons of raw cacoa nibs (Power Super Foods Cacoa Power Nibs is one good brand but you will be able to find several different brands)
  • Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of a sugar substitute (honey or palm sugar)
  •  Add a pinch of Himalayan Salt

Mix well.

Place the mixture into Easter egg moulds and refrigerate.

You can also add a few drops of stevia, vanilla essence or cinnamon to your mix.

Enjoy your chocolate whether it is dark chocolate from the store, few nibs, homemade batch or almost chocolate balls, and use the extra time to move your body on at least one of your days off!!!

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