Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Getting the edge

I don't think of myself as a competitive person but this morning when I found myself in a bit of a race with another running commuter I definitely picked up the pace and pushed myself, getting to work quicker and alot hotter than usual!

Olympians are obviously the most extreme example of individuals motivated by competition, not just to beat each other but also beat outstanding records.  However even for us non-Olympians, tapping into your competitive streak can be a great tool in motivating yourself to be more physically active. 

For some people this is as simple as entering a 5k race to get them motivated to start running. For others this is as extreme as completing the Etap tour de France hill stage, which is open for all to enter ahead of the tour itself (a friend of mine just did it - insane and ridiculously impressive!). Still having a goal to work towards or people to beat can be a powerful motivator to get off the sofa and put in some work at the gym!

Getting the competitive edge isn't just about training - nutrition is so important in sports performance, as evidenced by the fact all Olympic sports people have specifically designed diets.
Even if you're not trying to set any world records, anyone regularly exercising should factor this into their diet to reduce the stress and ageing effects of exercise on the body and minimize the chance injury.

Sports nutrition can get very complex but it doesn't need to be, here are the basics:

- Make sure you always have protein within 30-60 minutes after training, you need amino acids to repair your muscles and these are most needed and most efficiently used after your muscles have been worked. Easily absorbable proteins such as whey protein powder are best, but any lean protein is good such as fish, skinless chicken, soy beans, tofu etc. The consensus is the body can't use more than 30-40g of protein in any three hour period, so there's no athletic benefit in eating a huge quantity.  Instead it's better to have a moderate amount of protein with every meal.
- You also need carbs after training to replenish your muscles glycogen levels. Again this is most efficiently done straight after exercise and also helps the uptake of protein into the muscles post-training. For one hour of tough training this is 1g per kilo of body weight, so for me this is 50 grams of carbs for a one hour spinning class - you should have these within 30 minutes of finishing your training.  This is the one time you can have more refined carbs such as sugar or refined white bread and white rice as these will be taken up more quickly into the muscles and carry the protein with them.  I choose not to have sugar in my diet due to it's health downsides so use rice, potatoes, gluten free bread or fruit for my post training carbs, but this is not going to give me the fastest post-exercise recovery.
- For optimum training you should have some carbs an hour before your training session. I don't always do this as I also train to burn fat rather than for sports performance, but unless you train as soon as you wake up you shouldn't do any exercise til you've eaten some carbohydrates to minimize the stress load on your adrenal glands.
- Stay hydrated. Everyone says this all the time and we all know it, but rarely do enough. Don't just drink before and after training, you should be drinking all day. If training is intensive you may need up to 3 litres a day.
- Get your good fats - essential omega 3 fats are anti-inflammatory so help muscle recovery.  I take Eskimo 3 fish oil
 after training and also add flax seed to my post-training shakes to help reduce muscle soreness and risk of injury.  If you're serious about reducing inflammation and recovering quickly for your next training session you should have an ice bath or a cold shower to cool the muscles you've used quickly. It sounds unpleasant but even a 20 second blast under a cold shower can make a big difference to how your legs feel the next day!
- Antioxidants are extremely important for helping muscle cell recovery and repairing muscle cells damage.  Therefore you should eat plenty of foods high in antioxidants, so make sure you have two portions of fruit or veg in every meal and add a load of berries to your post training smoothie, a favourite of mine is:
200ml water
1 scoop of protein powder (natural whey or rice)
1 handful of ice cubes
1 handful fresh or frozen blueberries
A small banana
One handful of spinach
1 tsp ground flax seeds (essential fats)
Blend together and drink
I also have a shot of CherryActive
 after training, which is super antioxidant rich and means I can train the next day without muscle stiffness.
- Help your red blood cells. Energy is produced in the mitochondria in your cells using sugar, water and oxygen so it's important that your blood can efficiently transport oxygen to your muscles. Beetroot has been shown to increase blood oxygen levels so if you enjoy it start eating it or juicing it! You should also eat plenty of iron rich foods to boost haemoglobin levels, such as wholegrains, pulses, seeds. Meat is a rich source of iron so if you're meat free then you might need a supplement. I use Spatone
 as it's easily absorbable and gentle on my digestion.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Ask Emilie

Firstly a quick apology if any of you have tried to reply to the blog recently. It was forwarding to an old email address so if you haven't had a reply please resend your message.

I write this blog for the benefit of the readers and so am more than happy to answer any of your questions.

One friend and reader recently sent me the following question which may apply to some of you also.

Q: I don't have a lot of time to eat breakfast in the morning so have something small and find by the time I get to work I'm starving. I then get headaches if I don't eat enough breakfast and I can't shift them once they start. Why is this and what should I do about it?

A: Headaches can have lots of causes but the main candidates are:
Low blood sugar
Food allergies

Given you're getting headaches early in the day, the first two are most likely explanations, although if you're having dairy with breakfast every day that could also be a cause.

Overnight is the longest we go without food or drink during a 24 hour period so we wake up dehydrated and with low blood sugar - not a great way to start the day. As a result we need to start our day first with a big glass of water and then with some food fairly early after waking.

If you don't drink enough water when you wake your appetite will also go up as food is a major source of water which may explain why you are so hungry. So firstly I'd check you were drinking a big glass of water before you have any breakfast. Also avoid caffeine first thing, as it is dehydrating, if you get headaches that are only fixed by drinking some coffee or tea then it means you actually need a caffeine detox.

Make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day so you don't build up a deficit before you go to bed.

On waking your stress hormones increase to your highest level in the day to wake you up so balancing blood sugar first thing is very important, especially if you have a stressful job/commute to work.

Start with a low allergy but sustaining breakfast. Some wheat-free sugar-free muesli would be a good quick breakfast but have it with soy or rice milk or apple juice rather than milk.

You can have a more substantial second breakfast when you get to work including some protein, but the key is to eat some carbohydrates within an hour of waking and before you leave for work.

Also if you wake very hungry you may benefit from an evening snack about an hour before bed. Some low GI carbs with some healthy protein would be ideal such as some oat cakes topped with nut butter, a poached egg on wholegrain toast, or a protein shake and a piece of fruit.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Fats for fitness

I've been well and truly caught up in Olympic fever and consequently spent more time watching tv this weekend than I ever have (other than my misguided attempt to watch the full series of band of brothers in one weekend - not recommended)!

Not only was I avidly spectating but I was also reading up on the diets of some of our UK olympians.

Like most athletes Rebecca Adlington trains twice a day so eats seven or eight meals a day, with a high carb content, to provide a quick and regular source of energy plus having lean protein after every training session.

This is pretty typical and most athletes eat very low-fat high carb diets in an effort to keep down their body fat percentage. I was however pleased to read that British triathlete Vanessa Raw makes an effort to eat plenty of essential fats in oily fish, nuts and seeds - these fats are all involved in the energy production process so eating a very low fat diet could be counter-productive if you're avoiding healthy fats.

The pressure to be lean must be huge if you're a professional athlete, but just avoiding fat is no guarantee to keeping the fat off. The body very easily turns excess carbohydrates into fat, especially refined carbohydrates such as breakfast cereals and sports drinks.

This applies for all of us, buying and eating only lowfat foods is no guarantee to a slim waistline. Avoiding saturated fats is a good idea as these can interfere with fat burning and our hormonal fat regulation, but healthy essential fats found in nuts, seeds and oily fish should be a part of everyone's diet, olympian or not. If you're worried they'll make you fat, just do a google image search for Vanessa Raw!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Olympic inspiration

The Olympics are nearly upon us, as Mayor Boris keeps reminding me as I pass through bank station, but I have to say I'm not yet that excited about it. This is mainly as I don't have any tickets to the events, but maybe when I've seen the cows doing their business in front of the Queen during the opening ceremony from the comfort of my living room I may feel differently.

I am actually very happy the Olympics are coming to the UK, but was disappointed to read in an article in this weeks Economist that hosting the games has not been proven to increase in physical activity in the host nations in the long term.

To be honest seeing the impressive physiques of the athletes should be more than enough inspiration for most of us to do more sport. I've already taken Olympic inspiration to vary my activity by taking up tennis and going dinghy sailing. In addition - as Bank station becomes unbearably full - I'll be running to work and walking home whilst the Olympics is on.

Obviously we're not all going to take up clay pigeon shooting and rhythmic gymnastics, but lots of Olympic sports are very accessible so whilst you're enjoying being a spectator and eyeing up the enviable abs of those taking part have a think if there are any Olympic sports you might enjoy and give them a try.

Monday, 23 July 2012

The invisible man

There was an impromptu party going on the Thames path outside my flat tonight, complete with some seriously loud music.  I was encouraged by the fact my instinctive reaction was to smile, enjoy the music and wish I was young enough to join in ... rather than start moaning about the 'racket' going on outside!

Still there are some times that uninvited noise can be very stressful, for example if you're trying to concentrate on reading or trying to sleep.  Another place I find it stressful is if I'm on the tube or bus in the morning and someone is playing some annoying music with rubbish headphones that mean the rest of the bus/tube gets to hear a muffled but still irritatingly loud version.

I like to keep my mornings as relaxed as possible so I don't arrive into work all flustered and keep my cortisol levels nice and even.  If you let yourself get worked up before you even get to work your blood sugar levels will be all over the place and you'll feel frazzled before you've even had your morning coffee.

For me keeping things relaxed involves leaving early enough so I don't have to rush and then doing some relaxed reading on the tube or mindless gazing out the window. It certainly does not feature any hard core drum and base music, however for some commuters this is part of their morning routine and therefore I have to endure it  whether I like it or not.

I used to get really stressed and sometimes even move out of my coveted seat just to get away.  However I picked up a great tip from the wonderful Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle for dealing with these unwanted audio assaults.  His tip was to pretend you were invisible and that the noise was passing through you without resistance.  

You'll have to read the book to get the full concept of this and how to do it, but honestly it works - when the usual crazies start ranting on the tube I just pretend I'm an invisible observer and they stop being so annoying.   This isn't just limited to commuting, try it out at work if you have any noisy colleagues, or even at home if a family member has gone on a rant!!  

Remember if something is winding you up it's producing a stress response in the body which is bad for your health ... so having a conversation with someone who stresses you out is also actively bad for you. Obviously it's hard to pretend someone is invisible in a one to one - so on these occasions make your excuses and get out the conversation as soon as poss.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Sometimes its the simple things....

Well what a fantastic weekend of sunshine! I hope everyone has been enjoying the rays and the happy mood they bring....

When warmer weather like this comes out of the blue though, we should be even more aware of keeping hydrated whilst we are out and about making the most if the day...

One way to start the day hydrated and clear headed is the simple ritual of lemon in hot water. I make sure I have half a lemon squeezed into a large mug of hot water as my first drink of the day. (Put some cold in it so you can drink straight away if you are time restricted).

Not only does the lemon contain vitamin c for immunity and potassium for nerve function, with the warm water it will also help to lubricate the intestinal tract and encourage morning peristalsis in the gut.

Even though the lemon is acidic, once inside the body it actually has an alkalising effect. An alkaline body is a very important element in building health and wellbeing. There is also research into how the alkaline body seems to loose weight easier than the acidic body. Apparently the pectin fibre of the lemon can also help curb cravings.

Making this part of your day will start you off hydrated, and normally by starting the day well people tend to make better choices during the rest of the day. I know that is true for me - mostly :o).

Even if the sun goes in, this sunshine in a cup is a super simple, cheap and effective way to start your day...may the sun keep his hat on for a while longer though!

Zen Dog

Thursday, 19 July 2012

A little bit of love for the weekend....

I am piloting an ear acupuncture protocol to the staff members of a childrens charity to help with stress management, and before starting work there I had to attend one of their inductions the other day.
As well as being a charity supporting vulnerable children in London, they are also undertaking a huge research project investigating brain changes in children who have suffered significant mental and/or emotional trauma.  One of the main things they are concentrating on is how consistent high levels of cortisol being released into the body have huge effects on child brain development and function, setting them back years.  Cortisol is being released due to the fight and flight mechanism as their brains are processing that they are in constant danger - which they are.  This is a primal reaction that has helped the human race survive from Savannah and beyond.
When 'danger' is perceived a hormone called ACTH is released to create strength to fight the lion and cortisol is released to shut down all unnecessary functions in the body - including some brain functions - as we don't need to work out the colour of the lions' eyes or how thick its fur is, we just need to assess do we fight or run!....
Even though this research is on children and these children are in extreme situations, as adults we are also susceptable to the affects of cortisol (which Emilie has mentioned before).  I am sure we have all experienced, to a certain degree when we are under pressure, how we can sometimes forget the simplest of things in an important presentation or exam.  The reason for this is we have perceived this situation as dangerous and the primal hormonal processes have started to kick in and parts of our brains have shut down to protect us.
Even though we can use tai chi, yoga, meditation, other relaxation techniques and sometimes supplements (with advice) to help calm the fight or flight reaction, one very simple way of countering it is kindness.
In a video about the charity, the founder said, 'come and get high on compassion!'  What she was actually getting high on is oxytocin, a natural chemical released during moments of kindness and love.  Oxytocin will not only help to lower your own cortisol levels but also it will help to lower those of the person you are showing kindness to.
So something as simple as a hug, listening to someone who is having a hard time, giving someone a beaming smile, holding the door open for someone or volunteering your time with a charity - all these sorts of things can actually help to keep us healthy.
Sending all you NITC'ers some love for the weekend :o)
Zen Dog
P.S there will be another blog on the ear acupuncture protocol for stress management soon...

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Roll with it....

A highly effective, if a little unlikely, tool to add to our toolbox of health is a foam roller!

In current economic times having a regular massage to de-stress and relieve tight muscles may have had to go out the window, but that is where the humble foam roller can help.

Personally I used to see them piled in the corner of the gym and not go near them, choosing to do yoga stretches as part of my cool down, but the foam roller has now become something I use daily to combat tight and tired muscles.

Our bodies hold both physical and emotional stress which manifests itself in shortened muscles, rising shoulders and tight hips amongst other things, so a cheap and easy way of working on these areas on a daily basis to prevent injury is with a foam roller.

Fascia has been the bodywork buzz word for a while now and put simply fascia is the network of connective tissue that holds everything in place in your body. It runs from your head to your feet continuously. Fascia is made up of collagen and elastin fibres. Like anything in the body fascia is prone to weakness or injury when put under stress by both physical and emotional factors. The fascia can become glued up which can lead to tight spots and sometimes pain as other parts of the body start to be pulled and strained to compensate.

You can do your own myofascial release with the foam roller in the comfort of your own home and without spending a fortune. Myofascial release is about time, so find the painful spot and lean your body weight into it on the foam roller and breath. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds depending on what you can take but breathing deeply during this process will really help the spot to release and the pain start to dissipate.

The roller can be rolled up and down the muscle to aid in lengthening and also you can use it to stretch, spending up to a minute relaxing in certain positions to stretch areas like the quads or the pectorals.

I have found using a foam roller regularly has definitely helped to increase my stability, balance, body awareness and alignment as well as keeping tight muscles in check. It is a cheap tool to have on hand so tensions and tightness don't get a chance to build up and impact your normal activities or your health.

So next time you are in the gym go and liberate a foam roller from the corner and experiment with it - below is a link to some examples to get you started. Happy rolling!


Zen Dog

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Disaster recovery

As part of my day job I have to make sure our disaster recovery systems are all in place and setup so that if some disaster befalls us and we can't use our main office.

This is critical to keep the show on the road, but got me thinking about what we should have in place to keep ourselves on the road in the face of our own health disasters!

Disaster: We all have times when we fall off the food wagon or go crazy at the buffet table and get home feeling bloated and sluggish.
What you need:
Lots of water (either bottled or filtered)
Fruit and veg (keep a stock of these in the freezer so you never run out)
What to do:
Firstly drink lots of water - this will help your liver process/detox all the cr@p you've eaten! And if you're still on a splurge will also stop a binge in it's tracks. 
Once you're properly hydrated don't eat again until you have a proper appetite - that could be some time! 
If you can face it go for a jog to burn off some of the calories.
When your appetite comes back (this could be the next day) eat a detox friendly meal of purely fruit/veg to mitigate the damage and get you back onto healthy foods.

Disaster: you wake up horribly hungover but need to get yourself to work.
You need: water, fruit, fruit smoothie
What to do: drink a big glass of water, have a shower to wake yourself up and wash off any alcohol sweat!  Have another glass of water and eat a piece of fruit if you're hungry (if you're not then just have a glass of fruit juice).
Head to work and buy a big bottle of fruit smoothie - sip it throughout the morning alternating with plenty more water. Have a low GI carb rich lunch with some brown rice or new or sweet potatoes or pasta and fresh salad. Follow with a green tea if you start flagging and have another one if you need it to get you to home wime.

Disaster: you've burnt the candle at both ends and feel exhausted and run down but have a full day at work
You need: B vitamins, a fresh fruit smoothie (I love Prets vitamin volcano for this), oat cakes spread with nut butter or low-fat cheese or hummous and a lime
What to do:
You need to ttake in as many vitamins as you can to compensate for the lack of sleep whilst snacking on wholegrain snacks with protein to keep energy levels up. Start your day with a fruit smoothie (preferably with some protein powder) and take a B complex. Eat little and often snacking on oat cakes or rye crackerbreads with some protein. Also drink plenty of water and squeeze the juice of half a lime into a cup with your breakfast and lunch for a vitamin C fix. 
Sleep as soon as possible, if you're really struggling you might want to try and grab a twenty minute cat nap either at the gym or in your first aid room during the day, otherwise have as early a night as possible - there's nothing wrong with going to bed at 8pm if that's what you need!  In this circumstance ready meals are acceptable as a quick no effort dinner, go for something clean though like an 'innocent' veg pot or an m+s steam cuisine dinner.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Tell tails - sleep disturbances

I love my sleep, infact sleeping is one of my favourite past times and I love to get 8-9 hours whenever possible.

Still it wasn't always so easy and I used to suffer from insomnia, the classic kind where you can't get to sleep. By taking up running to burn off my nervous energy I managed to bat that into touch, but I still suffer from early morning waking if I'm stressed which is a classic sign of stress, as is not sleeping soundly or not waking feeling rested.

If you're not sleeping well there are a few tips you can follow to try and improve your sleep patterns, but this is also a strong sign that you need to address your stress levels before you get exhausted.

Eat a snack rich in magnesium and potassium and hour before bed such as bananas and oatcakes with nut butter . Magnesium is a relaxant but this will also top up your blood sugar levels to avoid a blood sugar drop in the night which could wake you up.

Turn off the tv and computer an hour before bed time, these both are too stimulating for the nervous system. 

Have a cup of herbal tea before bed, and steer clear of caffeine from 2pm onwards. Caffeine is infact best avoided totally if you have any kind of disturbed sleep as is alcohol.

Spending 20 minutes doing something truly relaxing every evening such as soaking in the tub or doing some stretching and breathing exercises can help turn the nervous energy off and send you to sleep.

Go to bed an hour earlier and preferably by 10pm, this will get you to sleep cycle before cortisol levels go back up again, and help you sleep for longer. Ideally you'll go to bed early enough to wake naturally 15-20Mins before your alarm clock.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Tell tails - immunity

One of the main systems to suffer when you're pushing your stress limits is your immune system. Getting more colds or cold and flu like symptoms is a classic sign, as is suffering from more allergies or intolerances.

However it isn't as cut and dried as that. You see the stress hormone cortisol is a steroid so it suppresses the immune system.  Therefore if you're stressed all the time you may suppress any immune symptoms that you should be showing and not realise you're ill when you are. 

That might sound odd but if you're running from a tiger (what your stress response is meant for) then it's not a convenient time to be feeling a little peaky!

You'll know if this applies to you because firstly you'll probably be feeling somewhat invincible (party all night, work all day and never get a cold - definitely too good to be true), but also because every time you get any extended period of relaxation such as going on holiday you'll more than likely get sick and feel dreadful as your cortisol levels will have dropped.

If this sounds like you it's time to take action, before you push yourself over the edge. In particular you need to address all sources of stress and work on relaxing - you're probably not the type of person who likes to relax so it may take some effort!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Tell tails - Bs

The family of B vitamins are vital in the bodies stress response. They are also an essential input in the Krebs cycle - the chemical reaction in your body that produces energy.

Therefore if you're stressed you'll use up your B vitamins more quickly and so find it harder to generate energy.

For me the tell tail signs I'm low in Bs is a general lower energy level and fatigue/reduced stamina when exercising.

B vitamins are also important for skin health so dry skin and flaking or split nails can also be a sign - I tend to get dry circles on my upper arms when I'm stressed which is my prompt to have the brilliant Nutri Muscleze supplement which is rich in Bs and Magnesium.

Food wise you need to eat plenty of brown rice and other wholegrains, leafy greens, oily fish and eggs, so if these aren't a regular part of your diet they should be, especially when you're going through a stressful time.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Tell tails - Vit C

Vitamin C is a vital nutrient for your adrenal glands, and if you get low your ability to deal with stress can quickly diminish.

It's also a water soluble nutrient so isn't stored in the body which means you can get depleted pretty quickly and is why you need to eat fruit and vegetables daily.

Vitamin C is also very important for the health of endothelial cells such as those found in the lining of the mouth so early indicators of low vitamin C status are mouth ulcers, cold sores or cracked sore lips.

If you get any of these it's time to take action - for me this means drinking some fresh fruit and vegetable juices, I'll also add half a squeezed lime to every hot drink I have. 

Remember also that sugar inhibits vitamin C absorption so cut out sugar til you've recovered.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Tell tails

I think you need to be somewhat masochistic to do most city jobs - burning the candle at both ends, juggling jammed schedules of meetings, work schmoozing and fitting in friends and family, usually with some added hardcore exercise on top.

So it's no surprise that city folk are pretty prone to 'burning out', extended exhaustion brought on by a combination of stress, lack of sleep and poor nutrition.

Burning out can put people on long term sick leave and be debilitating and career ending, but your body does give you a few hints along the way that you're pushing you're pushing your limits and you need to scale things back, before it gets that far.

For me the first major clue is a sore throat without any other symptoms - so no cold or temperature. My glands in my neck often swell at the same time.

Another clear sign for me is a reduced tolerance to stress - if I find myself getting upset or annoyed more easily or feeling overwhelmed it means I'm overloading my body with stress.

These are both cues that I need to back off from my hectic schedule, get more sleep and make more time to wind down.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Wimbledon wobble

Watching women's wimbledon these days is enough to make most ladies feel a bit out of shape, especially with the stream of leggy blond Russians who somehow manage to look elegant whilst packing a real punch.

So when I watched a recent game I was surprised to see that beneath her tennis whites Russian player Kvitova had a bit of a muffin top.

Obviously this was relative, if I stood next to her I'd probably feel fairly fat, but it's still rare to see any spare fat in professional sports people given their determination to do anything they can to win.  

That being said it is easy when doing a very high amount of sport to use that as an excuse to either over-eat or eat lots of sugary foods in the interest of taking in enough calories, or to 'reward' yourself for your efforts.  

However even Serena Williams doesn't eat chocolate during a tournament and I'm sure she burns off a lot of energy!  

Certainly you'll need more calories but you should get these from naturally good sources such as wholegrains, fresh and dried fruits and nuts. Sugar and recovery drinks should be saved for during and immediately post exercise to maximise performance and recovery.

Thankfully most of us don't have to wear lycra to work so we can get away with a bit of a muffin!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Amino action

A supplement I should have included in yesterdays blog on making life easier is Tyrosine.

Tyrosine is an amino acid, so a component of protein, that is used to make dopamine, the neurotransmitter that makes you feel motivated.

Not only can tyrosine therefore help with general motivation to make positive healthy changes or to be physically active, but it can also help improve mood reducing the likelihood of comfort eating.

I personally find that if I take it regularly I don't get the usual carb cravings that I get if I'm stress or tired.

5-HTP is another neurotransmitter precursor that also may be indicated by carb cravings and sleep disturbances.

Certainly for anyone with unhealthy anxiety or comfort eating habits, a targeted amino acid supplement can help naturally break those habits without having to exercise huge amounts of will power.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Making things easy

I appreciate that changing your diet can take some effort and that most of us are creatures of habit so trying to break unhealthy habits can be pretty challenging.

Most nutritional therapists will tell you that you should always start with changes in your diet rather than relying on supplements, but when you're struggling to make healthy changes actually laying some ground work with some supplements can make it so much easier to make changes.

My favourite example of this is Chromium which you can get as a liquid supplement. Just taking one drop in water with your breakfast (basically zero effort) can reduce sugar cravings sugar for the rest of the day, so instead of having to put a lot of pshycological effort into resisting the temptations of the vending machine you may find that you don't even feel like eating anything sweet for your mid-afternoon snack.

If there's some area you're struggling with it's always worth seeing if there's an easy way to deal with it, another example is that if you crave fatty foods then start your day with a high dose essential fat supplement or pour some olive oil onto your salad or pasta and you might find these healthy fats are enough to stop your cravings.

It's popular to think being healthy is hard work ... but it doesn't have to be.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Excuses excuses

Apparently there's a heat wave in New York right now, but here it still feels like Autumn. Still in a summery spirit a colleague bought the desk a round of ice creams this afternoon.

I felt bad turning down the Magnum he offered me, given that I really appreciated the sentiment, but at the same time the sugar/lactose combination is a total nightmare for my sensitive digestive system so I eat ice cream very rarely.

Still even if you don't have an intolerance, saying you do can be a great way to resist peer pressure when other are trying to push unhealthy foods on you and is much harder to argue with than 'I want to eat healthily' or 'I'm on a diet'.

Here are my top get outs when declining unhealthy treats:

I'm lactose intolerant - gets you out of ice cream, cheese and anything with cream in it.

I'm wheat intolerant - gets you out of cakes, biscuits and pizza

I'm detoxing til Friday - gets you out of most unhealthy foods and drinks including caffeine, alcohol and anything with sugar in it. The short time frame makes the goal seem close enough for you not to cave easily under pressure

I'm driving - permanent excuse for not drinking alcohol, if you don't have a car say you're on antibiotics - most people won't want more details at that point!

It gives me migraines - easy excuse for no cheese, alcohol, caffeine or cocoa, but don't then be seen eating these at your desk two weeks later!

If all else fails accept the food, put it on your desk, say you're saving it for later and then throw it away when no ones looking. Although don't do that with ice cream - you'll end up with a melted mess on your desk!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Green goodness

With the weather as offensively bad as it is right now, I find myself eating much more cooked food and much less salads that usual.  Eating your veg raw can have big benefits in terms of the level of nutrients you can get from the food but also the raw enzymes and water content that you get from them.

However frankly right now lettuce just doesn't appeal and I found myself ordering a delicious vegetarian shepherds pie on a recent visit to the pub instead of a salad.

However even if you can't face a whole bowl of salad, green salad leaves are extremely beneficial in terms of chlorophyll, mineral, antioxidant and fibre levels so you should make sure you incorporate them daily.  For me this means:

- adding rocket or watercress to sandwiches or wraps -they add a tasty kick to any filling and are alot more nutritious and tasty than iceberg.

- adding any leafy green to soup just at the end of cooking so it has a couple of minutes to wilt and then blending it immediately

- Stirring a handful of torn spinach leaves into any pasta dish I'm having just when I've finished cooking it

- Putting spinach through the juicer with some carrots and apples for a weekend breakfast juice
-blending up a power smoothie of banana, protein powder, water and a big handful of spinach - the banana makes it totally delicious and not at all spinachy!
-if I can't be bothered dto make one myself grabbing a green goddess juice at Crussh for a green top up

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Welcome home

Two weekends away from home on the trot and I find myself feeling pretty tired and ready for a very early night!

We all need some proper downtime and whilst getting away from London may seem like a good way to do it, travelling can really take it out of you and leave you starting the week exhausted. It's even worse if you're coming back from a different time zone and have jet lag to contend with.

But there is a way to avoid starting the week wiped out after you've been away.

Firstly aim to get home 3 hours before your usual bed time - getting late flights/trains might be cheaper but will leave you sleep deprived and quickly kill the post holiday feel good factor.

Pickup some very easy to prepare food on the way home, preferably vegetarian/dairy free as this will be easy to digest before you go to sleep (I had a dinner of steamed veg with new potatoes and fruit salad). Most airports have an m+s simply food where healthy ready prepared veg are easily available.

When you get home don't worry about unpacking and sorting your luggage, just unpack the essentials and then cook dinner whilst drinking plenty of water (travel is always dehydrating). Any non-essential tasks can wait til Monday night.

After dinner do the minimum prep you need for work the next day whilst running a bath - check you have a clean ironed outfit and get your handbag together.

Have a 15 minute soak in the tub to make yourself feel fresh again and at the same time super relaxed. Pop on some clean PJs.

By this point you'll probably feel ready for bed and by all means hit the sack, if you're not quite ready then chill on the sofa with a cup of herbal tea and maybe watch tv (but limit it to 30Mins of something relaxing/funny).

You should be aiming to go to bed an hour before your usual bedtime, so check the clock and make sure you get your early night. It's a good policy for every sunday if you can manage it as an extra hour can make the difference between feeling fresh or frazzled on Monday morning!