Are you bored of waking up on a Sunday morning, feeling like rubbish and regretting that extra glass of wine that lead you to finishing a whole tub of Ben and Jerry’s? We’ve all been there and during this time of lockdown, it’s been hard to stay on track when it comes to nutrition.
Now that lockdown restrictions are easing and life seems to be getting back onto the path of normality, it’s now time to focus on what we put into our bodies and feeling we get from eating the right foods. We all know which foods to avoid and which foods will nourish us, but as humans we often choose the path of convenience and think we are saving time. However, with a little bit of preparation and know how, nourishing the body is cheaper and will satisfy your nutritional requirements far greater than snacking on the sofa or hitting up Domino’s
What are Amino Acids?
The body needs 20 different amino acids to maintain good health and normal functioning. Out of these 20, there are 9 essential amino acids that the body must obtain. Amino acids break down enzymes from your food. They’re vital for functions such as protein synthesis, tissue repair and nutrient absorption. A healthy body is able to manufacture 11 of these amino acids but it is imperative that we nourish our body with the other 9 through out diet.
Foods that contain essential Amino Acids
Lean meats such as turkey which is high in amino acids and relatively low in saturated fat when compared to red meats. Cuts of pork such as loin chops, tender loin and cutlets are also a good choice. One of the amino acids found in pork is lysine. This particular amino acid is required for the formation of collagen which essentially repairs our skin and hair and promotes the formation of new blood vessels. Lysine also improves your body’s ability to heal itself. Lean cuts of beef to go for are rump and flank steak. If you’re really craving bacon, try to go for a Canadian bacon or a lean cured ham with a low fat content. These are all high in essential amino acids.
Fish such as salmon, pollock, mackerel, halibut, sole and haddock are all great sources of complete proteins. Fresh fish is preferable so if you can, get to a fresh fish counter.
Legumes such as edamame beans chick pea’s and lentils, kidney beans, black beans and peanuts are great sources of plant based proteins. However, they are not great for getting all the essential amino acids so it’s important to combine legumes with grains such as chia and flak seeds as together they will provide the right nutrition.
Nuts and Seeds such as brazil nuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts and macadamia are a great source of proteins. However, they are highly calorific but will, when eaten in small portions provide you with satiety. All nuts and seeds have different beneficial properties. Sesame seeds, for example, contain tryptophan which which help your body to build proteins and also strengthen the synapses and enable a more natural flow of serotonin which will lead to a better feeling of well being. Serotonin helps to control your mood and sleep. Sleep is the most important part of the day as this is when your mind and body is able to repair.
Eggs contain complete proteins and contain all 9 amino acids. They also contain vitamins A,D,E,K, B2, B6, B12 and minerals such as zinc, copper and iron. They are an energy boosting food and they help to reverse muscle atrophy. One of the amino acids within eggs is called histidine, which is responsible for maintaining a natural PH balance within the body. It is also vital for promoting higher oxygenation of the blood which leads to a happier mind and body.
Probiotics, yogurts, and kefir are fantastic sources of protein. Kefir, for example, contains isoleucine which is known for it’s ability to help endurance and assist in the repair and rebuilding of muscle. Other dairy choices that provide essential amino acids are cottage cheese, parmesan and mozzarella. If you can can get your dairy from a local trusted source, the products will be more likely to contain a higher concentration of amino acids than a block of cheap cheddar from the supermarket.
Grains such as wild rice, quinoa, buckwheat, hemp seeds, beans and pulses are all high in essential amino acids. They are also high in fibre, protein, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, calcium and many other essential vitamins.
Flavanoids come from fruits like apples, strawberries, blueberries and 80% Cacao Solid Chocolate. These guys are great for boosting the libido and positive mental health. You can never eat enough of these bad boys and once you get them into your diet on a regular basis, you will feel the difference.
I know from experience that getting the right nutrition into the body will exponentially speed up the healing and recovery time that the body requires in order to function efficiently.
There is no magic potion to reverse the aging process but eating well, exercising and providing your body with the essential amino acids will help to give you longevity, freedom of movement and a provide you with a deeper connection to your own body. Once you are in tune with your body, you will start to become more intuitive with your eating habits. You will feel the benefits of eating well both physically and mentally, you will have more energy and this will inspire you to build a better relationship with food and think twice about that tub of ice cream.
Feel good recipie’s
Breakfast – Yogurt, Oat and Fruit Pot
Take one glass and fill up to a quarter with probiotic yogurt.
Sprinkle toasted oat and corn granola
Top with banana’s and berries
Add toasted sesame and flax seed
Tbl spoon of honey, drizzled over the top
This can all be done in advance, the night before and left in the fridge to provide a delicious, nutrient packed, slow energy releasing start to the day.
Toasted oat and corn granola
Equal quantities of rolled oats and corn flakes
Crush the corn flakes with a rolling pin
Add oats and corn together
1 tsp of tumeric per 100g oat/corn mixture
2 tbl spoons of honey
Combine all ingredients, lay on a grease proofed baking tray
Bake at 140C for 10-15 minutes
Be aware this will harden as it cools
It can be made in advance and will keep in an air tight container for 2-3 months
Lunch – Salmon Salad with Onion Marmalade
Ingredients – 2 green chilli’s
1 lceberg lettuce
125g cherry tomatoes
2 salmon fillet’s
2 tbl spoon balsamic vinegar
1 tbl spoon caster sugar
Finely dice 1 onion, cook on a slow heat until translucent
Add 1 tbl spoon of sugar and 2 tbl spoon’s of balsamic vinegar
Allow to simmer away until it reaches a nice sticky consistency
Finely slice the lettuce, wash and drain. Add spinach leaves
Finely chop the spring onions. Save the green leaves for garnish
De- seed the chilli’s and finely slice, quarter the cherry tomato’s
Dress with half the zest and juice before serving.
Season salmon with salt, pepper, the rest of the lime
Allow to marinate for at least 10 minutes. You should see the citric acid change the colour of the fish. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds onto the salmon apart from the skin. Oil the skin and cook in a smoking hot pan to get a lovely crispy skin, reduce the heat and cook halfway through, finish in a moderate oven.
Add the remaining zest and juice to your salad
Toss and enjoy!
Dinner – Spicy Tofu with Mung Beans, Chard, Green Beans and Garlic
Ingredients – 150g black lentil (urad dal)
50g mung beans
480ml/17fl oz water
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 green chilli’s, finely chopped
1/4 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
Salt and pepper
1 large tomato, chopped
1 tsp caster sugar
Squeeze lemon juice
Handful of chopped coriander
Ingredients part 2 – 1 packet fermented tofu
1 tbl sesame oil
1 tsp sambal olec
1 tsp Tahini
Chilli and garlic paste
4 cloves finely chopped garlic
Method for the beans
Place the black and green lentils into a medium saucepan, add the water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain, then mash the lentils and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the onion and fry until it starts to colour. Add the garlic and fry for a few seconds.
Stir in the finely chopped chillies, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook for one minute, stirring constantly.
Stir in the chopped tomato, the sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add the mashed lentils and bring to the boil.Stir in a large handful of chopped coriander and serve.
Slice fermented tofu into 1.5 cm cubes
Combine chilli and garlic paste with sambal olec, sesame oil and tahini
Cover tofu with marinade and leave in the fridge for 12-24 hours
Fry off tofu. Once mung beans have cooked, roast tofu in oven to finish.
Gently fry off green beans with garlic and wilt in chard to finish
Enjoy nourishing your body with fresh, whole foods!
Two weeks ago I put myself on a juice detox. It was a 5 day detox as I wanted to kick start my new healthy eating regime as I found I had started to go a bit wayward with my eating habits. It was extremely hard and after 3 days I found that I started to cheat a little bit and added in some yogurt and fruit. As soon as the detox finished, I basically carried on as I was before so the end result was I had spent a lot of money to end up exactly where I started. Now I’m not ruling out juice cleanses as something that can be used to kick start a healthy eating regime but I certainly wasn’t mentally prepared for it.
The problem with harsh detoxes is they can be extremely restrictive and lead to dangerous deficiencies and basic biology shows that the body needs to detox efficiently every day and not just the odd week here and there. Balanced healthy eating is the way forward.
Here are my top dietary tips that will ensure the body is sufficiently nourished so the body can function efficiently and with energy.
Go for Low Calorie Density Foods
Fill up on veggies such as broccoli, cabbage, sprouts, kale, onions, garlic (some of these foods can affect people with IBS so consult a nutritionist of you have concerns). These foods can be consumed in big volumes and are packed with goodness but without too many calories. Nutrient dense foods include fish, seaweed, spinach, salmon. Other foods to consider that are nutrient dense are nuts and avocados. These foods provide good essential fats but are high calorie so should be consumed in small amounts
Eat Plenty of Fibre
Aim for 5-10 portions of colourful veg or 2-3 fruits per day. Nuts, seeds and wholegrain carbs and pulses are great too, bearing in mind that only a small quantity is necessary. These foods help to remove toxic waste from the body. Soups, big salads and casseroles are the easiest way to get this all in.
Drink Herbal Tea
Try switching your coffee for a herbal tea. If the thought of that turns you off, just remember that it takes 21 days to form a habit. The first few days may not be too exciting but after a while, your taste buds will change and your body will adapt and enjoy the new way of doing things. Fresh lemon and Ginger are a wonderful way to start the day.
Support your digestion
With the current climate, it’s more important than ever to build a healthy immune system. Improve your good gut bacteria by including fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, kimchee and kombucha
Have a back up healthy snack drawer
We all love to snack and although it’s best to stick to three healthy meals a day, there will be times when the snack attack monster rears up! During low blood sugar times it is almost impossible to resist and it’s during these times that we are hard wired to crave sugar. Do yourself a favour and have some readily available healthy snacks. These can be sweet or savoury. There are some really healthy protein rich bars out there and you can also prep little pots with small amounts of nuts and raisins or cut up carrots and cucumbers. Prepping for the snack attack is the way forward as it will stop you popping down the shop for a packet of biscuits.
Use common sense
We all know which foods are generally good for us and which ones have absolutely no nutritional value what so ever. Before you reach for the pastry or biscuits, ask yourself- how is that going to make me feel long term. It goes beyond what the scales say. Eating well and nourishing your body with vital vitamins and minerals will not only reduce your waistline, you’ll feel more energised, your immune system will be stronger, your skin will be clearer, you’ll sleep better and have tons more energy.
Keep it clean and keep it real!
Often when the stresses and strains of life are upon us, the last thing we want to do is exercise but the reality is- it’s exactly what we should do. Even just 30 minutes of exercise is enough to shift you into a better mood.
Exercise should never be a chore, it should be something you enjoy, so find the thing that works for you and get involved! Your physical health will improve through fitness and you’ll also be releasing those sweet endorphins which will elevate your mood, increase self esteem and reduce anxiety.
Here are my top tips for boosting your mood
Notice what’s going on in your body
When you tune your senses inwards and take note of any tensions and whether you’re feeling calm or stressed, you can choose your workout accordingly. If you’re super tired and your body is aching, you may find that a high octane HIIT class isn’t going to work for you but a gentle beginner’s Pilates or a restorative yoga based stretching class may benefit you during that time. On the other hand, you may have had a full on day in the office and the way you let steam off is by hitting an intense cardio workout.
Nourish your body
We get cranky when we are tired, hungry or stressed. Nourish your body with exercise, good food and sleep. This will all help to lift your mood.
Improve your posture
It is scientifically proven that standing tall and promoting good posture elevates your mood and provides you with confidence. Feelings of depression are linked to poor posture. Better posture allows your body to expand and signals to the brain that you’re in a stance of power. This can lead to a productivity boost and better self esteem.
Nothing is permanent. Chemical changes occur in the body all the time but the great thing is, we can choose to shift our mood and it can be done very quickly. Next time your feeling stressed or low, look to a form of movement whether that be a run, Pilates class, dynamic stretching or HIIT, for example; nourish your body with whole foods and make sure you get enough sleep.
Notice how things shift – fast!
We all know that exercise is good for us but even the most hardcore fitness fanatics lose motivation from time to time and when that happens, it’s always useful to remind ourselves of the reasons why we should do it; and let’s take aesthetics out of it. Yes we all want to look good but that’s really just a by product.
1) THE ENDORPHIN RUSH
When you exercise for 30 minutes or more, feel good endorphins flood your body and give you a natural high. The best part is that the fitter you get, the more intense the rush. They give you an overall sense of wellbeing and help to bring you clarity. They reduce the perception of pain, acting as natural pain relief. When we are getting our blood pumping and producing these happy hormones, we are less likely to feel depressed or err on the side of negativity.
Exercise helps to clear your mind. Have you ever experienced ‘brain fog’? You have work to get on with or errands to run and you just can’t focus. 30 minutes of exercise a day improves your brain by raising your focus for 2-3 hours after exercise. Which is why early morning and lunchtime classes are perfect for helping you get through your working day with efficiency.
3) SLEEPING WELL
Have you ever experienced insomnia? Trying to get to sleep when you can’t is possibly one of the most frustrating and agitating feelings of all. Regular exercise can improve your quality of sleep, enormously. Because exercise reduces stress, it tires you out and therefor aids many sleep disorders. Sleep is the most important job of the day so this is a great one to focus on.
Have you ever finished a workout and felt anything other than happy and rather proud of yourself? Exercise is a great confidence booster. When you’re feeling low, it’s easy to find alternative ways of comforting yourself, and those methods will usually perpetuate the problem. Turning to exercise during low points will help you to turn things around and help to improve your self esteem. You’ll have a much more positive outlook after exercise.
Have you ever felt back pain, hip or knee pain during or after a run? This is usually because there are imbalances in the body. When it comes to running, the movement is so repetitive that even the slightest imbalance will go on to create big problems. Small adjustments in your stability and control will make a huge impact in terms of performance and longevity.
I often hear the phrase ‘I’m getting old’ and that’s why problems are occurring, and while age does have certain drawbacks, it isn’t usually age related when it comes to poor posture and stability, it’s more a duration of time where it wasn’t addressed. The great thing is though, your body is a magnificent piece of machinery that will adapt to change given a period of time.
Pilates is a mind and body conditioning technique that improves core stability and improves posture. The exercises not only strengthen your body but they encourage a healthy posture, improve spine mobility and therefore nourish the body, and most importantly for runners, they bring the body back into balance.
Pilates works on symmetry and bringing the body back into balance. It works on correcting hip, knee and ankle alignment which improves the tracking of the knee. Pilates focuses on the vastus medialis obliquus, which is one of the quadriceps and super important to stabilise the knee. Runners usually have strong quads but this particular stabilising muscle can often be weak and lead to knee problems.
Pain in hips when running is often down to weak glutes. Good running techniques means you should drive from the glutes but often runners pull from the hip flexors rather than push from the glutes. Over time, the hip flexors become extremely tight through overuse and this can in turn pull the pelvis into an anterior tilt which attributes to lower back pain.
Good postural alignment is vital for safe and effective running. The reason is that we want our body to function efficiently and with balance. Poor posture means that some muscles are working harder and picking up all the slack. With a good posture and your spine in neutral, your body will run more efficiently and there will not be any unnecessary pressure going through the joints.
Pilates is a cross training exercise. It can help improve your speed and endurance by building strength in the stabilising muscles and the breathing techniques taught in Pilates allow for more oxygen circulation in your muscles. By bringing an awareness to how you move, your body will become more efficient in it’s strides.
Neck and shoulder pain can also be an issue with runners and this is the area that we tend to hold our tension. Pilates teaches you how to engage the muscles of the shoulder girdle in the correct way so the spine becomes more balanced when you run.
Focusing on posture and engaging the smaller stabilising muscles of the body will lead to greater success when running and decrease your risk of injury.
Pilates is the most incredible thing one can do for their body. I realise that’s a bold statement, but for me, it’s the absolute truth. I see a lot of people on a weekly basis that have been referred to me by medical professionals such as GP’s, physios or Osteopaths and many of them have been told they need to come to Pilates to build their core strength; and this is where I want to start this blog. Pilates is so much more than just building core strength!
But before I begin to divulge a myriad of benefits and reasons as to why Pilates is the Holy Grail, lets first explore the term ‘Core Strength’.
For many, the term core strength is extremely confusing.
I mean, what does it actually mean? It’s a subject that would require a lot more in-depth exploration and explanation than this blog will allow so I’ll make it brief. The core is not your six-pack! Ok, technically the rectus abdominis (six-pack) is part of the core make up but so are the obliques, latissimus dorsi (lats), erector spinae (back) and glutes.
These are the major muscles but there are also many smaller muscles that make up the core. When we talk about the deep core, we are referring to the transverse abdominis (your deepest layer of abdominals that wraps around you like a supportive belt), pelvic floor, multifidus and diaphragm. The deep core muscles tend to be ones that become lazy and weak as the larger muscles dominate, reason being, they are much harder to find and activate. It’s easy to do sit ups and work the six pack and feel those bigger muscles working, but to find the deep core; it takes time. Time and patience.
If you’re someone who is new to Pilates, it can be really difficult to engage those muscles at first. I’ve seen many a frustrated client furiously trying to engage the deep core and in doing so, perpetuate the problem of the bigger muscles dominating.
Patience is key when first starting Pilates. It’s a process that cannot be rushed. Pilates can get you really strong and able to perform the most advanced exercises with poise and composure. Many people want to get there quickly and in doing so, actually, hinder their true potential.
Performing something like a double leg stretch with a doming belly will only set you back and actually create a weakness rather than strength. Pilates is all about regressing in order to progress. The most incredible clients that I have the pleasure to teach are the ones that have been with me for a few years and have gradually built not only their strength but their understanding of how to engage their muscles in the correct way and two years later, they are performing advanced Pilates exercises well, having started from a very basic level.
I could go on forever with my enthusiasm of why we need to understand how the core works but let’s move on for now!
You are only as young as your spine feels
“If your spine is stiff at 30, you are old. If it is flexible at 60, you are young” The spine for Joseph Pilates, was the key to physical and emotional wellbeing.
Pilates develops the deep muscles of the back and abdomen to support your spine and focuses on breathing to promote better posture. Everyone’s posture is different and some say there is no such thing as perfect posture but I disagree. When you are in neutral alignment, you feel incredible. And while it’s true that our posture can change on a day to day basis, depending on our daily habits, when we practice the art of bringing the body into balance, we feel good.
No, not good- Amazing!
I was doing some spine stretches this morning; moving my spine through flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation and during a particular spine extension I thought ‘WOW’ this is absolutely magnificent! I can actually feel the blood flowing around my body. When we stretch the spine, we create space between the vertebra, we allow room for the discs and we literally feel as though we are returning to life! And what is the one thing we need to live- breath! Breathing!
In Pilates we learn how to breathe deeply into the thoracic spine; the lower lobes of the lungs where the gaseous exchange takes place. Breathing this way puts us into the parasympathetic state. It relaxes the body and slows our heart rate. It allows the body to, in lay-mans terms, fire on all cylinders! When the body is in a state of stress, which is many of us due to a product of society, it literally cannot do anything other than focus on surviving. Think running away from a tiger. So the heart rate will be high and the body is unable to function efficiently. Focusing on breathing is vital and once this art is mastered, the feeling is second to none.
Pilates is essentially about re-educating your body and undoing the damage that years of stress and mobility inflict. Your body will respond to what you tell it to do. Whatever posture you adopt, over time, will become the ‘normal’ posture for you and your brain will keep you in that ‘normal’ posture until you decide to rewire the nervous system and make changes.
By repeatedly holding certain corrective positions, our musculature starts to retain a memory of how they feel and in time will automatically adopt them without us having to think about it. It doesn’t happen overnight but it will happen and everyday activities and daily living will become so much more joyful. Happy body, happy mind.
The joy of the thigh stretch!
The benefits of Pilates are tremendous and far-reaching. Pilates is not just about great posture and a rock- hardcore; it’s so much more than that. It can greatly improve one’s mental, emotional and spiritual well being too.
Pilates is a process. It takes time to understand it and make the connections, but once you do, you’ll understand how incredible you can feel.
“Pilates is complete coordination of body, mind and spirit”– Joseph Pilates
About a year and a half ago I was invited to attend a course which would enable me to become a Control Practitioner. My first thought was ‘What the hell does that mean?!’.
I was then informed that the system had been designed by the marvellous Tim Box who had trained as ahypnotist and over the course of his career he had developed this system which can help people overcome a myriad of problems such as anxiety, fears or just simply help them to change something about themselves that they are unhappy with. At the time I was unable to commit to the course and politely declined. However, over the course of the next year, I had been thinking about this opportunity that had been presented to me; I had been following Tim Box on social media and had become fascinated with his system and was extremely eager to find out more. Two weeks ago, fate intervened as I bumped into Tim at a networking breakfast and found out that he was starting a new course this weekend! It was full but I pretty much begged my way into him squeezing me in and this weekend my journey to becoming a control practitioner began!
All I knew about the system (from sources who had tried and tested the method) was that it was about accessing the subconscious in order to make a change. My concerns were that I wouldn’t be a very good candidate for hypnosis and also that I would perhaps not be able to become the hypnotist. As it turns out, I was wrong on both accounts! The first exercise Tim did with us was brilliant and I’ll never forget the feeling of ‘OMG! My hand is floating up to the ceiling. How the hell is that happening?!’ Of course I was very vocal and excitable about this and, from that moment on, I realised I was, in the words of Tim himself- ‘skilled at accessing my subconscious’, which of course filled me with confidence. But the bigger question was – could I hypnotise someone? It turns out, I could do that too!