1. Don't stretch before you workout.
The days of static stretching before exercise are pretty much gone. Studies have shown that static stretching before a workout can actually decrease your performance. This is especially true for strength training and has limited ability to prevent injury.
Dynamic stretches are a much more effective way to prepare for a workout. You take the body through dynamic movements, using full range-of-motion and getting the nervous system switched on. By the end of your warm-up your heart rate should be elevated with a bit of a sweat on.
For example, if you are going to do some squats...
- Jog on the spot
- High knees
- Jumping jacks
- Body weight squats
(complete each one for 20-30 seconds)
Research has shown that this type of dynamic warm-up can reduce the risk of injury, improve flexibility and strength.
2. Do a workout specific warm-up.
Once you have completed a good dynamic warm-up, its time to get specific. If for example you are about to squat (as above) then you could do some squats with very light load at a higher rep range. Not only does this get the body switched on for the exercise, you can use this time to focus on good form and correct movement patterns. Or another example could be to do a set of push-ups before a bench press.
3. Stretch after your workout.
After your workout is the time for stretching when the muscles have been worked (cold muscles are less supple). Static stretching is what you will be familiar with and should be held for at least 30 seconds, breathe deeply and relax into the stretch. It makes sense to focus on the muscles you have just been using which will help to prevent injury, speed-up recovery and reduce D.O.M.S (delayed onset muscle soreness).
4. Use a foam roller.
It's common knowledge that massage is one of the most effective ways of recovery from exercise. It will get blood flowing and help keep muscles, facia and connective tissues healthy. But what If you can't get a soft tissue or sport massage?
You can get a foam-roller for those aching muscles and use a technique called 'self-myofacial release' (SMR). You can help release those tight spots and knots, helping to rejuvenate muscles and tendons. I would recommend getting some advice on how to use a foam roller properly.
5. Rest & recover.
Unless you're a pro athlete or competitor, rest and recovery is probably one fo the most overlooked parts of training. It's tempting to think you need to go heavier and heavier or faster and faster even when your knees are aching or your shoulder is nagging you. Get advice on proper progressions and how to plan your workouts at the correct intensity.
Muscles and joints need recovery after exercise and the amount of rest needed is probably determined by your genetics. But as general rule leave at least 48 hours before training the same muscle groups. Make sure you get plenty of sleep and proper nutrition before, during and after your workouts. Overtraining is one of the biggest barriers to getting the results you're looking for, so listen to your body and get some sound advice on post-workout nutrition.
Stop guessing & start progressing...
Recently there has been studies that suggest eating breakfast may not be as important for weight loss as we thought. In my opinion eating a healthy breakfast will give you energy, nutrients and curb cravings which leads to better food choices for the rest of the day.
Here are 7 of the most common breakfast choices that will not be helping your waistline (and 7 healthier alternatives!)
1. High street speciality coffee
It is becoming more and more popular to have a speciality coffee as a substitute for breakfast. This is especially true for city workers and commuters. Something like a regular 'frappuccino' or 'macchiato' has up to 7-8 teaspoons of sugar (depending on add-ons) and way over 300 cals. Don't be fooled by some of the 'healthier' options as well. Some of the 'tea lattes' can have up to 14 spoons of sugar. Thats more than a large bowl of sugary cereal! These drinks lead to an almighty sugar spike and then crash, leaving you feeling hungry and increasing cravings for more sugar!
Healthy alternative: Go for a small rather than a large or super-large. Skip the added whipped creams, syrups and sprinkles. Choose soy or almond milk if you like them.
Juices can be lower in calories and have as many vitamins as a traditional smoothie but they can also contain more natural sugar than a can of coke. These natural sugars cause a quicker insulin spike than when you get the sugar from whole foods. Also they tend to lack fibre so won't fill you up so by mid-morning you are feeling really hungry.
Healthier alternative: Stop juicing everything in your blender and eat whole fruits. Or have fresh fruits in Greek yogurt or a higher protein breakfast.
3. Pancakes and waffles made with refined flour
Starting your day with pancakes and waffles made with refined flour isn't the best approach for weight loss. They don't contain much protein or fibre that will help make you feel full. Bagels and muffins also fall into this category. An egg-based breakfast or something higher in protein has been shown to be more effective than a carb-heavy breakfast for shifting belly fat.
Healthy alternative: If you really must have some pancakes or waffles then try using a whole grain flour. You could also try having a small portion as part of a more healthier breakfast.
4. Flavoured yogurt
Some yogurts could now be classed as junk food because of the amount of added sugars. As well as 5-7 spoonfuls of added sugar, these flavoured yogurts can contain artificial thickeners and other nasty's.
Healthier alternative: Get plain Greek yogurt that is high in protein and flavour yourself with fruits, nuts and seeds.
5. Store-bought smoothies
The smoothie has a reputation for being a health food and If done properly they certainly can be. However, the store bought or high street versions can be anything but healthy. With clever marketing and packaging you can be easily duped into thinking you have the holy grail of health food in the palm of your hand. Having looked at some of these off-the-shelf smoothies I can tell you that some have more calories than a burger and fries! Some also contain over 15 spoonfuls of sugar in a large bottle. Even some smoothies that have natural sugars can contain as much as fizzy drinks, so be mindful of that.
Healthy alternative: Make your own 'Super-shake' with healthy protein like Greek yogurt and add fruits, veggies, healthy fats (no added sugars).
6. Cold 'whole grain' or 'high-fibre' cereals
Whole grains and high fibre foods are of course important. Again, be aware of other stuff they put into the mix as they may not be of good quality. There will be hidden sugars in a lot of these cereals as well as a low carb to fibre ratio. Look for 3 grams of fibre per 30 grams of carbs.
Healthier options: Try plain whole oats, oat-bran or original shredded wheat.
7. Breakfast rolls
We are all a sucker for a good old bacon and egg roll sometimes but they could be adding a lot of low quality extra calories to your day. The problem with these breakfast rolls or sandwiches is that they will contain low-quality carbs and not enough protein. For example you may have a bacon and egg in a white bap. This will usually only have one egg, be made with low quality bread full of sugars and additives and fall short of your protein targets.
Healthier option: Homemade whole-grain English muffin with lean bacon and two eggs. You could also try whole-grain bread or wraps.
Stop guessing & start progressing...✌
Have you heard about Apple Cider Vinegar?
I have had a few people ask me what I think about it and what it claims to do for your health. So, I have researched it and looked for studies that back-up the things being said.
Apple cider vinegar has been touted to cure-all, purify blood and help you lose weight. However, just like a lot of these new 'super-foods' some claims are over-hyped and exaggerated. That doesn't mean that you should chuck yours away, as there are some potential benefits.
Firstly, let's look at three of the things that ACV can't do that you may have been told it can.
Now let's look at some benefits that are backed-up by science.
How much ACV to take.
Stop guessing & start progressing...
My favourite thing about this time of year is the inspiration I get from all the amazing food that's in season.
Here are 10 superfoods that you should be using in the kitchen this autumn!
Be Happy, Be Healthy...Nick
Ok so pumpkins are part of the 'winter squash' family but it deserves a little mention of its own. This halloween decoration is also a superfood packed with carotenoids, fibre, vitamins B, C, E, iron, potassium and folate. You could use pumpkin for soups, muffins, flavoured rice and cous cous.
2. Winter Squashes
As with the pumpkin, winter squash is full of nutritious goodness and carotenoids which may give protection against heart disease and cancers. Probably the most well known is the butternut squash but there are a huge variety of these autumn veggies for you to try. Think of tagine, risotto or roasted when you come to cook them.
This one is a bit controversial but I love sprouts! Sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable the same as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. They are high in anti-oxidants thought to reduce the risks of diseases. Don't over cook these until they're all mushy, sauté with some bite, add garlic, onions, ginger or chestnuts.
4. Sweet Potato
Like all these foods listed you can get them all year round. However if you get them locally and when truly in season you will get the best out of them. Sweet potatoes are what I like to call a 'smart' carb and contain vitamin A, C, calcium and potassium. As well as the usual mash or wedges, try using them in curries, soups or even as a dip.
This little beauty has a whopping 40% of your recommended intake of vitamin C and is packed full of anti-oxidants. Pomegranate makes a great snack on its own, sprinkled in salads or yogurt and it goes great with salty cheese.
The humble pear has to be one of my favourite fruits and are a great source of vitamin C and copper. Pears are a good choice if you want to increase your fibre intake. Getting enough fibre aids digestion, improves gut health, controlling blood sugar, helps weight management and improves skin health. You could blitz them in smoothies, slice on yogurt or toss in salads. Check out my'pear & halloumi'
These nutty, sweet, white root veggies contain high amounts of potassium and are very versatile. Potassium helps to balance the negative affects of salt and lower blood pressure. As well as making good mash they work well in soups and stews. Roast some off and use them as a handy snack.
This may be an obvious one but apples most certainly a food you should be eating ("an apple a day...") Eating plenty of these during the autumn will give your anti-oxidants a big boost. Make sure you eat the skin as this contains the most nutrition, much more than the flesh alone. I put apples in smoothies, salads or healthier gluten-free crumble.
The grapefruit is a good choice to start eating during the autumn months. It is high in vitamin C and can give your immune system a real boost. Some studies suggest this fruit can help lower stress levels and lower cholesterol levels. Great on it's own but goes well with cumin and coriander.
I was actually surprised when I researched the health benefits of dates (yes those little brown things your nan would try and feed you!). As well as being a good source of protein, potassium and fibre, they contain 23 types of amino acids and 15 different minerals. You can use dates as a binder or natural sweetener. Eat dates sparingly because they are high in fructose (sugar).
Author, Nick Lower
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