Why Cardio Alone Is Not Enough!

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Many people, even regular gym-goers, avoid strength training because they fear that it will make them too bulky. Some chose to only do cardio, sometimes for hours on end hoping it’s the best way to lose weight and fat as well as stay healthy. But is cardio really effective in achieving these goals?

In one word – NO. The key to losing body fat and keeping it off is strength training because your metabolism is driven by lean muscle tissue. The ultimate goal here is to burn calories not only during your workout but rather 24/7. Too good to be true? Actually strength training will provide these results. But some may worry it will turn them into the Hulk. For the women that are afraid to get “too bulky” from strength training that is simply a myth. If it was so easy to be huge and muscly, everyone could be a bodybuilder and steroids would not be so popular. So don’t worry about getting bulky. Lifting weights will tone you, improve your posture and physique and make your cardio and every day activity more efficient at burning calories.

When you lift weights you tear muscle fibers which causes your body to use more energy (calories) to repair them. One expert even says that weight training can turn your body into a fat burning machine. Moreover lifting has additional health benefits such as preventing osteoporosis. Your bones as well as your muscles adapt to the stress of weightlifting by becoming bigger and stronger. Muscles surrounding and supporting your spine also become stronger and relieve back ache caused by sedentary lifestyle.

Too much cardio on the other hand can spike your hormones especially cortisol. This stress hormone is ok in small doses, but when you have too much, it can be very detrimental to your health.

When you do too much cardio, your body produces high levels of cortisol which instructs your brain to store fat (especially around your abdomen) and inhibits your body’s ability to process sugar. If sugar isn’t processed properly, you gain weight. Of course moderate amounts of cardio and interval training are healthy and recommended but more does not mean better.

Try out the best combination – weight training combined with cardio a few times a week. It doesn’t mean you have to lift heavy weights – try bodyweight exercises such as pushups, planks etc. This will strengthen your body and focus as well as improve your looks.

Muscles Need Protein!

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When you get into a regular fitness routine it’s very important that you also think about a nutritional approach that will support your training goals! Have you ever heard the saying, “Abs are made in the kitchen”? Well this is partly true and partly false; but the truth of it is that nutrition and fitness go hand in hand. Many people mistakenly assume that it’s best not to eat after a workout in order to maximize fat burning.  Of course this is not the case and can cause more damage than good. So what do you need to consider when planning your meals?

Protein Intake

All macronutrients are equally important and you should strive to balance them for the most optimal results. Let’s focus on protein for a minute. While a physically inactive individual may consume as little as 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, an active adult engaging in sports will need up to 2 grams per kilogram of body mass. In addition to total protein intake, however, the timing of your protein consumption in relation to your workout can influence the effectiveness of your fitness routine.

Protein Timing

During exercise muscle protein breaks down and undergoes repair during post-workout recovery. In addition, synthesizing new muscle fibers occurs between workout sessions. During a hard workout your muscle fibers are ‘ripped’ and after workout they ‘heal’ – grow. Timing your protein consumption to meet your body’s needs for amino acids, the building blocks of protein, allows you to optimize both muscle building and repair. Straight after an intense workout your muscles go into repair mode and that’s when they need protein most. To conclude, in addition to your daily protein intake, add a moderate amount of protein (around 30g) pre- and post workout.

Types of Protein

High-quality protein provides all the essential amino acids your body is unable to synthesize. Milk products can be a good choice for post-workout nutrition because they contain a large proportion of branched-chain amino acids. These amino acids are particularly effective at stimulating new muscle synthesis and can help reduce fatigue and speed up muscle recovery. Even though natural food sources are always preferable to supplements, there are some good products out there such as whey protein or branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) that are beneficial to take and quite affordable. Don’t invest in fancy products. Less is more and simple is key.

Due to the fitness industry focusing so much on emphasizing the role of protein, some people forget about how important other macronutrients are for training. Carbs, for example are responsible for fueling your muscle tissue during exercise, and you can therefore benefit from including carbs along with protein in your pre-workout meal. During intense workouts, you deplete glycogen from your muscle tissue, and including plenty of carbohydrates in the food you eat just after working out helps replenish this storage. Around your workout is the only time when providing simple high GI (Glycemic Index) carbs is good for you, as there can be easily absorbed for energy. Try fruit with whey protein, for example.

While it’s important to make sure you consume adequate protein directly after exercise, especially strength training, don’t forget all macros are important and make sure you have a balanced diet.

At Home Abdominal Workout

Did you accidentally sleep in an miss your morning workout? Did you not get the opportunity to sneak away on your lunch hour to get in your Reformer Express Class? Or did the work day drain you and the thought of hitting up the gym just sounds too exhausting? Just because the day through you for a loop doesn’t mean you have to get off track with your daily exercise routine. It is possible to get in a workout in the comfort of your own home! You would be surprised how many exercises you can perform at home. This abdominal workout is simple and can be done from your bedroom! It is very important to make sure you work out your abs and core as these muscles support your spine and support good posture. So dress comfortably, put some music on and get those abs to work!

1. Plank

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Get into the beloved Plank position and challenge yourself to hold 3-5 sets of 60 second planks. Vary the style of plank. Start in a traditional plank and move on to side planks. If you are advanced try one-legged planks, of try lifting one leg and lifting the opposite arm at the same time. These advance moves really challenge your stability and force your core to work extra hard.

2. Feet To Heaven/Leg Raises

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In this exercise you raise your legs to the sky and then lift your bottom up towards the ceiling by using your lower abs. Try not to jerk up, but rather use the control and strength of your lower abs to raise you up and lower you down. After doing three 30 second sets of Feet To Heaven move on to leg raises. Simple lift and lower your legs a few inches from the ground. It is very important that you contract your abs and ground your lower back in the ground. If you are having a hard time with this then simply do not lower your legs lower than where your back can comfortably stay grounded.

3. Teasers

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In this exercise you will begin by lying flat and you will use your abdominals to contract you up into a V position. The goal of this exercise is to have your lower body and upper body meet in a V position at the same time. If this is too advanced for you then you can modify by having your fight leg V up to meet your left arm and visa versa.

4.Crunches

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The regular crunch is a good exercise, spice it up by adding resistance. Hold a bottle of water or dumbbell behind your head or on your chest. Keep your neck straight, don’t bring your chin to your chest to avoid injury. Focus your eyes on the ceiling and raise your head towards it when you crunch. Perform 20 slow crunches, then 20 pulses in the air. Repeat this set 4 times.

These basic exercises will not only tighten your core but also support your spine and posture. Make sure you perform them in a controlled way and keep your form in check. Otherwise you may injure your neck or lower back. Perform these exercises correctly twice to three times a week and you will feel and see tighter abs after as little as a few weeks. Have fun and don’t forget to stretch afterwards!

It’s Stone Fruit Season!

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Whether you prefer a soft, deliciously sweet peach, a few tangy plums or a bowl of fresh red cherries, now is the time to enjoy stone fruits. July and August are season for stone fruits — and orchards, local markets, and grocery stores alike are practically bursting at the seams with them.

Stone fruits are ones where the seed is hidden in a hard, stone-like pit like those in the Prunus family (like plums, apricots, and nectarines etc).  These yummy little summery gems are packed with nutrients and unexpected benefits, so with peak season upon us, let’s take a look at all they have to offer.

Obviously they are a great snack material in the summer as not only are they juicy and refreshing but can help replenish water and vitamins during the summer heat. Also, they are small and don’t require peeling or preparation so they are handy to carry around for easy consumption.

Let’s take a look at the health benefits of stone fruits.

They help create collagen and fight off cancer

A cup of sliced apricots or plums has 25 percent of your daily vitamin C needs. Vitamin C helps the body form collagen—the main protein in connective tissue—in bones, cartilage, muscle and blood vessels. It also increases iron absorption. When eaten in its natural for or applied topically, can reduce wrinkles, improve overall skin texture and help to fight skin damage caused by the sun and pollution.

As an excellent source of the strong antioxidant vitamin C, peaches can also help combat the formation of free radicals known to cause cancer. While an adequate vitamin C intake is necessary and very beneficial as an antioxidant, the amount necessary to consume for treatment purposes for cancer is thought to be beyond oral intake (mediacalnewstoday.com)

They are high in potassium and Vitamin K

Two small peaches have slightly more of this essential mineral than a medium banana. Two plums contain about one tenth of your daily vitamin K, which helps maintain strong bones.

Contain Fibre 

Eat peaches and nectarines with the skin. It contains insoluble fibre that helps prevent constipation and ensures gastro-intestinal health (www.besthealthmag.ca). It also helps reduce appetite and hunger which is a great help for weight control. High fiber intakes from all fruits and vegetables are associated with a lowered risk of colorectal cancer.

When it comes to ways of incorporating them into your diets, there are many uses. Obviously you can snack on them raw but have you considered making a smoothie, juice or add them to your yoghurt, cereal or dessert? Furthermore, many world cuisines use dried or cooked peaches and apricots as well as plums and prunes in savory dishes – with meats and in stews etc.

Best Sports Bras – How do I choose?

Ladies, let’s talk about “the ladies”, shall we!?

The fact of the matter is we women have 2 friends on our chest that can make working out,well, difficult. No, not all women have to find a place for their large breasts when it comes to working out, but all women have to wear a sports bra big or small. I think we can all agree that sports bras are super comfortable and these days are looking super cute, but the question is how do you choose the correct sports bra for YOU!?

A sports bra provides additional support to boobs during physical exercise. Sturdier than typical bras, they minimize breast movement and discomfort, as well as reduce potential damage to chest ligaments. Many women wear sports bras to reduce pain, and physical discomfort caused by breast movement during exercise. Some sports bras are designed to be worn as outerwear during exercise such as jogging. Larger breasted women may be prevented from taking part in sports or exercise when their breasts move excessively.

We know that comfort is the key when it comes to exercise. Many of us ladies don’t feel very comfortable whether it’s our first time at the gym, or we are regulars due to issues such as being larger size, having large breasts, or generally worrying about how we feel and look during exercise. A good sports bra will not only reduce the risk of injury and take stress of off your back, but they will give you a boost of confidence and serve as a fashion accessory.

For larger breasted ladies, we suggest a sports bra with firm cups for that extra support, a think elastic band, and large straps. We recommend the INCREDIBLE by Victoria’s Secret Front-Close Sport Bra. The front closure will give you that extra support you need.

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For ladies with less firm or saggier breasts we recommend a full coverage sports bra with a thick elastic waist band and cups for the extra shape. We recommend COOBIE sports bras for their foam cups and center rushing for that extra lift.

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For ladies with smaller breasts you are definitely at an advantage when it comes to fitness. Since any sports bra will serve it’s purpose when it comes to smaller breasts, we suggest you pick one for its fashionability! We recommend LULULEMON

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Hopefully the guide will help you select the right sports bra for your next workout!

Lifestyle: How Health Friends Support A Healthy Lifestyle

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For many of us it’s hard enough to stay on the straight and narrow when it comes to healthy habits and diet. But are your friends or your social life completely clashing with your personal goals? Of course, I’m not going to tell you to ditch everyone you know and join a fitness cult, but let’s think about it for a moment. From a personal experience, most of  health and diet mistakes are made during social encounters (drinking, smoking or fast food binging). Unfortunately it has become a popular thing to be a ‘social’ smoker or drinker. But how does that affect your life when you look at the bigger picture? Isn’t it like taking one step forward and then two backwards, every weekend? Why does spending time with family and friends have to sabotage your good habits?

Try talking to your close friends and family, and let them know that maintaining a healthy diet and consistent exercise routine is important to you . You will be surprised how receptive people are if you just share your goals or concerns with them. If you come across someone trying to ridicule you or tempt you with bad choices – then they are not a true friend with your best interest or happiness at heart. Move on from such people, you don’t need them. But on your way, you will find people who will listen, encourage and maybe even follow in your footsteps. And then it will all be worth it.

Also note that you have friends and colleagues for different reasons. As soon as you know how to classify the people in your life then you will know and respect their purpose. So if your besties from when you were younger do not care about an active lifestyle it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be friends; it simply means that you should make additional friends who love to go to workout like you do so that you can enjoy your active lifestyle with others.

Find a role model or a person who shares your beliefs and dreams. Try to make friends with them, they will support and inspire you.

Like everything else in your life, fitness is a goal and a ton of hard work, if you let being surrounded by the wrong people ruin it, you will never achieve the healthy and happy life you want.

Unlike other goals in your life, being fit and healthy can, and will save your life from sickness, disease and premature aging. Your true friends and loving family will see how good your healthy habits are for you and they will support you. Should this not be the case, you need to avoid their company as they will always bring you down.

There is more to life than drinking, clubbing and eating out, so find ways to spend time with your friends in more beneficial ways. Go for a smoothie, a walk,  or a workout session. Having a healthy lifestyle will go in favor of finding real and supportive friends, just be patient.

Eating Healthy: When carbs are good carbs

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Everyone loves carbs! Because really what is not to love? After all what would life be like without a bag of potato chips, girl scout thin mints, movie popcorn, cheese pizza, and sour patch kids? Recent years have brought carbohydrates a very bad name, blaming illnesses and conditions such as diabetes and different cancers on that particular food group. Furthermore, people completely blame their weight gain or attribute their weight loss to carbohydrates. But are all carbs truly bad for you?

What are carbs?

Carbohydrates, next to protein and fats, are a main type of nutrient. They are claimed to be the most important source of energy for your body and definitely the most easily accessible one. Your digestive system processes carbohydrates into glucose which your body uses for energy, all life processes and to sustain vital organs. It stores any extra sugar in your liver and muscles for when it is needed and the rest is stored as fat.

Depending on their chemical structure, carbs are divided into simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates include sugars found naturally in foods such as fruits, vegetables, milk, and milk products. They also include sugars added during food processing and refining. Complex carbohydrates include whole grain breads and cereals, starchy vegetables and legumes. Many of the complex carbohydrates are fiber rich.

Which carbs are good for me and when?

It may be confusing to start with but choosing the healthiest carbs is not so difficult. While it is important to read the food labels and pick foods with the highest amounts of fiber and lowest amounts of sugar (this means your body will process the carbs for fuel in a slow and beneficial manner), here are some simple rules to stick to.

  1. Eat as few processed foods as possible. Shop organic and cook. Know what goes into your mouth. Processed foods such as most breads and fast foods contain added sugars and preservatives.
  2. Fruit is NOT bad for you! Incorporate fruits into your diet instead of refined sugars.
  3. Learn about foods with low GI (Glycemic Index). These are the foods that release sugar slowly without spiking your insulin levels and not only reducing risk of obesity but also limiting risk of the diseases mentioned earlier. Some examples include wholegrain products, oatmeal, quinoa, farro, brown rice, and spelt breads.
  4. Eliminate all added sugar such as in your tea, coffee, sodas etc. Use natural sweeteners such as Stevia.  Remamber that most cereals and yoghutrs as well as dairy in general are high in sugars and generally not very healthy for you.
  5. If you consume high carb meals or simple carbs, do it around a workout or physical activity time, it will increase your body´s ability to use it in a constructive manner (muscle building, energy), rather than storing it as fat.

Sometimes it may be good to try and introduce a low carb day to let your body regulate its insulin management but generally sticking to wise choices should help you remain healthy.

Ways To Add A Workout To Your Daily Routine

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Life gets busy and sometimes there are just not enough hours in the day! Some days are good while others are bad. Plans will always changes, things will always come up last minute and life will always get in the way, but we MUST find time to give back to our bodies for at least 20 minutes everyday. Our bodies are ours and we only get one so let’s take good care of them. After all they take a beating from us day in and day out!

The key to finding the time to work out is to make is part of your daily routine. If you incorporate exercise and fitness into your daily life then eventually it will not feel like a chore, but instead it will feel as though something is missing from your day if you skip your daily workout. But more and more studies show that even a small amount of physical activity each day can save and prolong your life! This fact alone should be reason enough for your to spend time on you! Consider exercise to be just as essential as water and oxygen.

Here are a few tips to help you incorporate exercise into your daily routine.

  1. Use time wisely: take the stairs instead of elevator, walk instead of driving. These are smart ways to get some exercise without going out of your way.
  2. Devote a small part of each day to exercise, even if it’s just 20 minutes. Whether it’s in the morning or before bed time, maybe during your lunch break – simply put: move. Try some yoga, walking, jogging, dancing or cycling. If you go to the gym, stick to a time efficient but consistent training plan. Tip for the more advanced gym goers: Use supersets to save time and get that extra pump. For example alternate a set of bicep exercise with a set of tricep, it will reduce the amount of breaks and save you time!
  3. After meals try to go for a walk around the block or even just down the stairs and back up again. Moving after meals aids in digestion.
  4. Take advantage of weekends or days off, plan for a relaxing activity. Kayaking, cycling, yoga, a dance class or whatever you like, but keep it regular.
  5. While watching TV work on your abs: crunches, planks, bicycles, etc.
  6. Parking – park as far away from the entry so that you have to walk further to and from the door
  7. While on work calls do bicep curls with a water bottle
  8. While at the computer sit on a stability ball to engage your core and work on your posture
  9. Clean the house!
  10. The dentist says brush your teeth for 120 seconds – try doing a wall squat while brushing.

Best Stress Relievers

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We live in an extremely stressful environment and whether it’s work, home, money, partner, children or other things stressing us out it turns out that many health problems are related to stress. Stress seems to worsen or increase the risk of conditions like obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and asthma. According to one study, even though there is no evidence that stress is a direct cause of cancer, there is evidence of a correlation between stress and developing certain kinds of cancer, as well as how the disease progresses.

Hundreds of studies have measured how stress impacts our immune systems. At Ohio State University, researchers concluded that students under pressure had slower-healing wounds and took longer to produce immune system cells (http://psychcentral.com/lib/stress-a-cause-of-cancer/). Other studies show that women who experienced traumatic life events or losses in recent years, had significantly higher rates of breast cancer risk.

Now you’ve had your dose of science, are you really stressed about…being stressed?

It shouldn’t be the case! A psychological study found that the group of people that cared the least about both potentially stressful situations, as well as stress itself, were the healthiest and most relaxed individuals.

What is the solution to this vicious circle of stress? This solution may not be easy to start with but it is 100 percent effective, tested, cheap and fool-proof.

Our bodies as well as minds have been designed to be active. That’s why exercise is an essential part of good body function. The problem is that we have become so brainwashed into sedentary lifestyles where we drive to the gym only to exercise, that we convince ourselves that we have no time or ability to be fit and healthy.

Physical activity keeps our cardiovascular system healthy and prevents obesity but also enables depletion of stress hormones (lowers cortisol) and even releases mood-enhancing chemicals (commonly known as endorphins), which help us cope with stress better. When it comes to combating anxiety, not only endorphins, but also finding a new focus in exercise as well as the sense of accomplishment can become your antidepressant. ‘Throw’ some mediation and healthy diet into the mix and you’re on the certain path to general wellness and happiness, not to mention looking your best.

Know what you eat, be aware of you macronutrients and how they affect your body and mind. Eat clean, organic and unprocessed foods and learn to meditate. Sit, stand or lie in a basic position, close your eyes and try to focus on ‘now’. Forget all the ‘what ifs’ and switch off. Feel your body, the air on your face, relax. As trivial as it may sound, try it – it really works!

It may take some effort to learn this holistic approach to health and wellbeing but your determination will pay off!

Superfoods

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‘Superfoods’ is a popular term often used by the media recently. But what exactly does it mean and how can it help you improve your health?

The Macmillan Dictionary defines ‘superfood’ as a food that is considered to be very good for your health and that may even help some medical conditions. The Oxford Dictionary definition states a superfood is “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being. Some health organizations define the term itself as a marketing ploy, but they also promote a healthy diet as a main prevention tool for many diseases. So it’s reasonable to think that superfoods may be a great addition to your diet, with little to lose (even if they are half as effective as their marketers claim, you still benefit from them). Cancer Research UK warn that superfoods are often promoted as having an ability to prevent or cure diseases, including cancer; they caution, “you shouldn’t rely on so-called ‘superfoods’ to reduce the risk of cancer. They cannot substitute for a generally healthy and balanced diet.” We can therefore conclude that superfoods as part of a healthy diet are definitely the way to go! Drinking five gallons of cola and hoping a superfood will fix the damage later is a whole different approach!

Here are some superfoods worth adding to your diet:

Algae 

Chlorella and Wakame – they are full of protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. According to some studies, a diet supplemented with chlorella may reduce high blood pressure, lower serum cholesterol levels, accelerate wound healing, and enhance immune function. Other recent studies have found that fucoxanthin present in wakame can help burn fatty tissue.  It has high levels of sodium, calcium, iodine, thiamine and niacin.

Fruits 

Berries – Acai berry, Blueberries, Strawberries, Goji berry (wolfberry), Citrus, Coconuts. Berries are rich in antioxidants, anti-inflamatories and vitamins A, C, B1 and B3.

Vegetables 

Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, kale, watercress, spinach, sauerkraut – they are high in vitamin C and soluble fiber and contain multiple nutrients and phytochemicals. Sauerkraut is a source of vitamins C, B, and K. The fermentation process increases the bioavailability of nutrients rendering sauerkraut high in calcium and magnesium. It’s a very good source of dietary fiber, folate, iron, potassium, copper and manganese. Not to mention low in calories!

Legumes 

Beans, lentils, peanuts, raw cocoa, and sweet potatoes (yams): Raw cocoa, for example, has anti – aging properties and promotes cardiovascular health. It can be consumed as a yummy bar of organic chocolate.

Fatty fish 

Mackerel, salmon and sardines – great sources of healthy fats essential for wellbeing and youthfulness.

Seeds and whole grains

Chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, amarantus, quinoa – they are excellent sources or good carbs and seeds in particular, are high in fiber and have anti cancerous properties.

Oils

Coconut oil, flaxseed oil, olive oil – similarly to fish they provide healthy fats and have anti-cancer properties. Be careful with this one and use sparingly!