“Just one more episode”.... Nek minute its 2:30am and your 14 episodes deep in to season two of Gilmore Girls and you have to get up for work in 3 hours!!! Sound familiar??
Along with a few other key components, sleep is often one of the most neglected aspects of a great training program. “Looking after yourself by staying fit” is not just about how many hard sessions you can fit into each week. There is only so long that your body can run off of 5 hrs of sleep each night and 6 coffees a day before it starts to shut down and all of your hard work goes out the window.
It is so important to include active recovery sessions, adequate rest time, good nutrition and quality sleep into your program as it all allows your body time to repair and strengthen it self between workouts. It also allows time for you to recover both physically and psychologically.
The duration of your recovery time should also not be over looked as this is when the body is adapting to the stress associated with exercise, replenishing muscle glycogen (energy stores) and allows time for body tissue to repair itself.
Adding in recovery sessions to your program is a great way to look after your body and to ensure that it gets the vital care that it needs. Recovery also helps you to prevent injury from muscle fatigue and overuse and will help you to get rid of any niggles or aches and pains from your body between your harder sessions. Activities like going for a swim, walk or bike ride, attending a yoga class, getting a massage, doing a session that consists of light weights/high reps or loaded movements at a low intensity will all aid in your recovery. Active recovery work helps to get blood flowing and deliver fresh oxygen (the catalyst for repair) to the muscles. Another benefit is that it will also help you to get moving again taking tight & sore muscles through a full range of motion to get some dynamic stretching & lengthening.
Sleep is the most important time to recover, it provides benefits to your mental health, hormone balance and muscular recovery. In order to perform at your best you need to get enough sleep which is generally between 7 to 10 hours. As everybody's lifestyle is different, their individual needs may vary, so find out what works for you and how much sleep your body really needs.
While we are sleeping we are doing more than just dreaming about winning tatslotto or winning your weight in Oreo filled doughnuts......... Our bodies are actually using this time to restore organs, bones and tissues, replenish immune cells and circulate human growth hormone. Sleep has an enormous effect on muscle growth and physical well being. So without getting enough sleep you could be hindering your own results without knowing it.
The quality of your sleep also matters, so when its approaching bed time start to unwind and switch your brain off. Developing your own bed time routine can be one of the best things you can do for your self in regards to your physical and mental wellbeing. Here are a few tips as to how you can ensure a better night sleep.
Avoid consuming stimulants like caffeine and alcohol. If necessary try have your last coffee no later then 4pm. While coffee is a beautiful and magical, great tasting, great smelling cup of happiness, it really messes with our body clocks. Consuming coffee too late in the afternoon can prevent us from getting to sleep but can also cause restless, unbroken sleep and can make it harder to get out of bed in the morning.
No screen time 1hr before bed. Turn off your television, ipad and phones. The light from the screens of these devices act as a cognitive stimulant increasing your brains electrical activity. This means, instead of calming down to go to sleep, you start to become more alert.
Another reason is by simply reading a work email or responding to a text, it can increase tension, stress and anxiety which is the last thing you need right before bed.
Try to do something relaxing like having a bath, meditate, read a book or foam roll, these things will help to get your brain and body ready for bed and help to fall asleep easier. You can include these tips to form your own bed time routine. Going to bed at the same time each night will also help you to be more consistent.
Stress management- Not getting enough sleep can also cause a number of hormone imbalances and can lead to higher levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) being released, chronically elevated levels of cortisol can prevent both fat loss & muscle gain. So make sure you are getting in 7-10 hours.
The quality of your sleep also matters. Make sure you are getting a deep sleep that is not unbroken. Meaning that you are not awake half the night, tossing and turning, thinking about work or stressing about an unpaid bill. (You can not do anything about those things at 3am any way, so you can deal with in the morning). This is where your sleep routine will help your brain to 'switch off' and get ready for sleep.
Remove any extra lighting stimulus from your room, the red light on your TV when it is off, LED alarm clock screens, try to block out any street lighting that may enter your window. If all else fails wear an eye mask. This will help to increase melatonin secretion, which will increase the quality of your sleep and may potentially aid in the prevention of disease * sleep disorders.
Rest, recovery and sleep are all just as important as the work out so make sure you find the time time for it.
Happy Nap Time Peeps.......
Simple, fast & the perfect pre or post training breakfast to kickstart your day!
1 teaspoon coconut oil
Cinnamon / Berries / Peanut Butter
1. Place banana in a bowl & mash with a fork until liquified
2. Crack eggs into bowl
3. Wisk together until combined
4. Heat coconut oil in a fry pan
5. Once warm; add banana & egg mix
6. Add berries & cinnamon if you desire
7. Once heated through flip omelette carefully.
8. Serve & enjoy.
You can smear or spoon peanut butter over the top once served.
I’m often asked whether I think it’s a good idea to track calories. I usually give the same roundabout answer I do for most questions – it depends. There are many benefits to monitoring your meals - conversely there are some downsides. Calorie tracking is just one of many tools that can help people improve their eating habits.
Rather than having a blanket statement it is best to make a call based on the personality of the client (see the end of the blog) weighed up against their goals but let’s clarify what exactly it is, how it can be done and then you can decide on whether it’s worth undertaking.
What is it?
The basic premise is that each of us has a daily energy expenditure. This number is comprised of the number of calories we burn just being alive (at rest), combined with the calories burnt moving and eating.
Tracking how many calories we chow down vs the number of calories we’re burning a day, gives us a rough guide as to whether we are burning more than we’re eating, or eating more than we’re burning. As you can imagine, the general idea for most people is to ensure they aren’t eating more than they are burning.
What’s the point?
Some of the main benefits of tracking/monitoring your eating patterns include – Creating accountability, understanding serving sizes, learning about calorific value of certain foods, an awareness of how much food to eat each day, making better food choices and manipulating your diet for a particular goal.
Is it accurate?
The short answer is no. The better answer is it doesn’t need to be - Accurately assessing how many calories are in your meals would involve you taking each of those meals down to a lab and having it burned beyond recognition. Not ideal. So, we use estimates -just like the treadmill or rower guesses how many calories you’re burning while you’re slogging it out.
What we do have though, is numbers we can begin to manipulate to see changes.
How to use it?
This is a two-step process. The first involves identifying how many calories you should be consuming.
Many calculators exist on how many calories we should consume, depending on our goal. Any easy method for calculating can be found at https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/node/add/calculator-energy. (the calculator suggests inputting your goal weight - if trying to lose weight)
The second involves finding a method to track what you are currently eating. This could be as simple as a written food journal, or as detailed as an App, like My fitness Pal. Thankfully apps have made this process much easier. From here, we can then track how many calories we eat against how many we should be, and make changes to our diet accordingly. E.g. Eat slightly less than you’re burning to lose weight (keep in mind that drastically under-eating and over-eating have negative consequences)
Do I need to do it?
No. Losing or gaining weight isn’t an overly complicated process (it might not be an easy process – but it’s normally not complicated)
Tracking your food intake is akin to tracking your lifts at the gym. It just provides insight into why or why not you’re progressing. This also tends to make life a little easier when things aren’t going the way you planned.
Wrapping it up
Calorie tracking can be an incredibly useful and insightful tool, even if only for the short term. It may help educate people new/or uncertain on where to start. It can also be time consuming, and for some a little constrictive. Hopefully you have a little insight into the process and the pro and cons, and can decide yourself. If it all still seems a bit confusing - hiring a coach, trainer, nutritionist or dietitian to help shed light on how this all works may be a good place to start
Suggestions based on personality
If you are the obsessive compulsive type, and takes things too far – probably no. Plenty of people live by their food diaries, at the exclusion of just about everything else. I’d argue that this no longer falls under the term ‘healthy’
If you like structure, number crunching, learning and are inquisitive – probably yes. People that enjoy the process and learning along the way will probably find tracking their eating habits a joyful experience. Yes, these people are strange...
If you are the carefree, go with the flow type – probably no. Conversely, some people will feel completely overwhelmed with the rigidity and restrictiveness and may feel a little stifled.
If you are completely unsure on where you currently stand, or where to start – maybe. Will you get a better understanding of how to eat better – yes. At that point, you can decide whether you want to dig a little deeper, or just stick with the basics (what’s healthy, serving sizes, etc) and then DIY.
If you’re an elite athlete, or your appearance (and health) is your number one priority in life – probably yes. Given your appearance is either a high priority or may even be tied in to your occupation, you may find that this becomes a useful tool. You may also already have a grasp on how all this nutrition stuff works, and have no need to use these anymore.
Staying hydrated may be more important than you think when it comes to your own wellbeing. It is recommended that we should be drinking at least 6-8 glasses of water a day, however everybody is different so listen to your body as you may need more then 6-8 glasses especially if you are working out on a regular basis.
A good way to check if you are drinking enough water is to check the colour of your urine. If it is colourless or light yellow, you are well hydrated. If your urine is a dark yellow or an amber colour you may be dehydrated.
Our metabolism is also directly affected by how hydrated or dehydrated we are. As water is involved with almost every biological function within the body, if we are not getting enough water in and our body is in a dehydrated state our metabolism will slow down. The rate at which our muscles then burn calories will also dramatically slow down. Over 70% of our muscles consist of water and when they are not fully hydrated their ability to generate energy is severely reduced.
Another important and slightly scary factor to take into consideration is that when you are dehydrated your body's ability to utilise fat as a fuel source also becomes restricted. So with these two factors alone you will have one slow metabolism!!
Dehydration can cause a number of negative side effects to your metabolism and your body which can then effect your weight loss or performance goals, so staying on top of how hydrated you are should never be over looked and should be one of your priorities along side your healthy diet.
Here are some simple and easy tips to help ensue that you stay on top of your water consumption and keep your body hydrated.
Always carry a water bottle
Having a water bottle with you during the day is a great reminder to drink water. By taking small regular sips throughout the day, your body will be able to hold on to the fluids and absorb them as opposed to drinking whole glasses of water at a time and then needing to pee them out every 20 minutes.
Keep your water bottle in your handbag while shopping, in your cup holder in the car, on your desk at work and especially keep in on you before, during and after the gym.
Also buy a larger water bottle, 1 - 2L and aim to get through the whole thing once or twice per day. Filling up and having your own bottle handy will also save you $4 every time you feel like having a sip from the over priced store bought water.
Coconut water not only tastes great but also contains natural electrolytes including potassium and sodium which are great to help you rehydrate after a hard gym session. Sports drinks like Gatorade contain a lot of unnecessary added sugars, calories and artificial colours so replacing these drinks with coconut water is a much healthier option. While coconut water has many other added benefits such as Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Calcium, Magnesium and Manganese, most of the calories in it are made up of natural sugar so limit the amount of coconut water you do end up consuming.
Drinking a nice hot cup of herbal tea is another way to drink more water and is also great substitute for coffee. Herbal tea has been proven to help with a variety of things such as relaxation, digestion, bloating, soothe the stomach and alleviate cold symptoms while also providing antioxidants. A few great tasting and aromatic teas to have on hand are peppermint, camomile, lemongrass, cinnamon, ginger and lavender. You can also make up a jug of iced tea and enjoy some refreshing flavour on warmer days.
As the weather is starting to warm up a ditch the soft drink and grab an ice cold sparkling water. It still gives you the bubbles without all the extra calories. Try adding a squeeze of citrus like lemon, lime or orange and a couple of ice cubes or some summer fruits like strawberries, watermelon, lychees or peaches.
Being adequately hydrated throughout the day will help you to get through your training sessions without needing constant water breaks. It will also help to prevent dizziness, a dry mouth or headaches during your sessions.
Aim to drink small portions 100-200ml consistently through out the day. Realising you haven't had a drink all day and downing a whole litre before you go to bed will do nothing but have you getting up to pee in the middle of the night.
Just as drugs of abuse such as nicotine, cocaine and heroin can hijack the brains reward pathway and make us dependant, sugar does the same.
If you are sick and tired of feeling like crap physically and emotionally, changing what goes into your mouth could actually be life changing.
Eating sugar may be doing more harm than good.... and we're not talking about weight gain!
How many times have you reached for that block of chocolate or packet of chips after a long day at work or used food as a way to deal with stress and told yourself that your new diet starts on Monday?
Have you ever found your self craving sugary treats or greasy take away foods and being extremely grumpy until you have those items in your hands and are happily devouring them?
If this happens to you, you are not alone and the reasons that this may be happening are not as black and white as you may think. If you would like to spare the sanity of yourself and those around you when those sugar cravings and mood swings hit, and want to stop the “Hangy Bitch” inside from being released, then read on and maybe we can help keep those demons at bay.
Eating highly processed foods like sugar and junk food, may be causing a lot more damage to your body than you may think and the effects are not always related to weight gain and here's why.
Within your gut live hundreds and thousands of tiny communities of good bacteria and each of them play a very important role in your body. These bacteria help with detoxification, inflammation, nutrient absorption, they determine if you feel hungry or full and how your body utilises carbohydrates and fat.
These bacteria, which are known as micro-biome also affect your mood, libido, the way in which you view the world and the clarity of your thoughts. A dysfunctional micro-biome could also be the root of your headaches, anxiety, inability to concentrate or negative outlook on life.
(So pretty much) nearly everything about our health, how we feel both physically and emotionally can stem from the state of our micro-biome and what we have put into our bodies. Cue the never ending circle of.....
Scientists have learnt that the link between the gut and the brain is a two-way path. Think back to the last time you felt sick because you were nervous or anxious... just as your brain can send butterflies to your stomach, your gut can send back signals of calmness or alarm back to the brain. So an unhappy gut is an unhappy mind.
Another major factor about how you feel about yourself and why it is so hard to control your diet, and your cravings, is sugar. Eating processed sugar does more damage to your body than just make you gain weight and the side effects it can have are a lot scarier then you may think.
Food is something called a “natural reward”. In order for us to survive (as a species), things like eating, having sex and nurturing others must be pleasurable to the brain so that these behaviours are reinforced and repeated. Not all foods are as equally rewarding as most of us prefer sweet over sour and bitter foods. Evolution has reinforced that sweet things provide a healthy source of carbohydrates for our bodies. Back in the day when our ancestors were scavenging for berries sour was an indication of “not yet ripe” and bitter would mean “poison”.
Due to how easily accessible highly processed sugary foods and treats have become, we are consuming alarmingly huge amounts of sugar. As sugar is highly addictive, we have become hooked. Just as drugs of abuse such as nicotine, cocaine and heroin can hijack the brains reward pathway and make us dependant, sugar does the same.
Sugar has the ability to create a vicious cycle of intense cravings. When a person consumes sugar, just like any food, it activates the tongue’s taste receptors. Signals are then sent to the brain, lighting up the reward pathways and causing a surge of feel-good hormones like dopamine to be released. So stimulating the brains rewards system with a piece of chocolate every now and then is pleasurable and probably harmless but when the system is activated (to much and) to often, thats when we start to run into problems. Over-activating this reward system kickstarts a number of unwanted side effects such as loss of control, cravings and an increased tolerance to sugar.
Sugar also contributes to any feelings of depression or anxiety that you may have. If you have ever experienced a sugar crash, then you know that sudden peaks and drops in blood sugar levels can cause you to experience symptoms like irritability, mood swings, brain fog and fatigue. Thats because eating a sugar filled donut or drinking a soft drink can cause our blood sugar levels to spike once you have consumed them and then inevitably plummet. When your blood sugar dips back down again (sugar crash), you may find yourself feeling anxious, moody or depressed.
The good news is that you can easily correct this by changing the foods that you are consuming. If you are choosing the right foods as well as incorporating exercise into your routine, you can start to feel the benefits in as little as 7 days. Don't get me wrong, quitting or limiting sugar is not going to be easy, but if you are truly sick and tired of feeling like crap physically and emotionally, changing what goes into your mouth could actually be life changing.
You can do this by avoiding sugary and highly processed foods. A diet that keeps your blood sugar balanced will also keep your gut bacteria balanced. A diet high in fibre sourced from whole vegetables and fruits, feeds good gut bacteria and helps keep the intestinal lining in check.
Diets that are high in sugar and low in fibre only fuel unwanted bacteria and increase the chances of intestinal upset.
Fibre rich foods to include in your diet are spinach, broccoli, peas, carrots, pairs, apples, prunes, raspberries, legumes, barley, quinoa, almonds, peanuts, ect.
Also, include foods that are rich in probiotic's like:
Live-culture yogurt - make sure you avoid products that are heavily sweetened - Coconut yogurt is also a great alternative for people who are sensitive to dairy.
Kombucha Tea- A cold fizzy fermented black tea.
Kefir - A fermented-milk product that has more of a liquid texture than yogurt.
Miso Soup - Miso is one of the mainstays of traditional Japanese medicine and is commonly used in macrobiotic cooking as a digestive regulator. Made from fermented rye, beans, rice or barley, adding a tablespoon to some hot water makes an excellent, quick, probiotic-rich soup, full of healthy gut bacteria.
These foods provide probiotic bacteria that help maintain the integrity of the gut lining and serve as natural antibiotics, antivirals and anti fungals. They also regulate immunity and control inflammation as well as improve nutrient absorption.
Water!! A magical clear liquid. Consuming plenty of water is important to intestinal health and has a number of beneficial qualities. Since your brain is mostly made up of water, drinking it helps you to think, focus and concentrate better and be more alert. As an added bonus, your energy levels are boosted. Water also helps to flush out any toxins through sweat and urination which reduces the risk of kidney stones and urinary track infections.
So.... the next time you are about to reach for that block of chocolate or bag of chips, stop and ask your self a few simple questions. Are you hungry? Are you stressed? Are you anxious? If you give in to those cravings and temptations, will it actually be worth it in the long run? Try having a glass of water, a piece of fruit or a healthy snack or go for a walk to help clear your head. Once you start developing new and healthy habits to deal with your stress and sticking to them, stressful situations will be easier to manage and you will be on your way to a happier and healthier life and thanking yourself for it.