Monday, May 31, 2010

Blame it on your Hormones!

"Sugar and spice and all things nice, that is what little girls are made of..." but what are big girls made of ? Of course we are still all sugar and spice and all things nice most of the time right? WRONG! For many women every day is a gamble as to whether their hormones will lead them down the sunny, smiley road to Blissville or take the slightly more bumpy route down to HORMONE HELL. Sound familiar? I have to admit that I struggle for about 14 days of any given month and need to dig deep into my bag of discipline in order to function and stay motivated.
Mood swings....bloating.....weight gain....cravings....headaches.....insomnia.....aggresive behaviour.....tears galore.....the list is endless! How lucky we girls are. Yes, this is just part of life and we somehow get through it, accept the cravings, eat the chocolate and wear looser clothes. It can be very frustrating though if you are trying to follow a fitness plan or weight loss plan.  It is during this time that women often give up and accept that things will never change. Not all women are affected in this way but some are extremely sensitive to these fluctuations and monthly changes.

So what can you do to help diminish or even eradicate these feelings. Firstly, it is not a bad idea to go and get a blood test so that you can determine the state of your hormone balance. For the body to function in harmony all our hormones need to be in balance. Sometimes our levels of estrogen dip or go over the chart and likewise with progesterone and testosterone. An imbalance will cause irregular or absent periods, prevent women from falling pregnant, cause miscarriages and give us terrible PMS. I have lived with PMS and although I now manage it well, I still have days when I simply want to stay in bed and block out the world. So, in order to stay on track and stick with the programme it is important to change your routine and nutrition during the different stages of your cycle. Accept that there will be days when you feel great and strong and there will be days when all you can manage is a few gentle yoga poses.

The week prior to our periods we may feel heavy and tired and possibly depressed. Our serotonin levels are low at this time of the month which makes us feel down in the dumps. However, rather than retreat to the sofa, get outside for a long walk, go for a gentle run or do any other kind of exercise that usually lifts your spirits. Exercise naturally increases levels of serotonin, so get yourself up and out there even if you don't feel like it. Your workouts will feel harder during this time as progesterone tends to increase which adds to a feeling of exhaustion. Don't beat yourself up about it, stress will only add to your woes and remember that you will be feeling better in a few days, so push through.The good news is that during the week before your period, your body burns fat more efficiently which is one of the reasons why you crave high sugar foods during this time. If you can fight the urge to devour a whole bar of Lindt your body will start to attack the existing fat and your workouts will be even more effective. There is always some good news amongst the bad!

PMS can start to make an appearance as early as day 14 of our cycle and can turn us into right little monsters! I have found that nutrition can have a big impact on the severity of our symptons. A diet lacking in nutrients and high in toxins can cause absolute havoc. Research has proven that caffeine has a very negative effect on our hormonal system and I personally find that eradicating this alone makes a major difference. It has also been implicated in many fertility problems and many women have managed to fall pregnant by giving up caffeine. I don't just mean coffee when I talk about caffeine. Look at any soft drink ingredients and you will see the inclusion of caffeine. Chocolate and tea are also members of the family so check out labels before you consume. The second most detrimental influence on our hormonal systems is alcohol. Oh NO! I hear you scream. A single glass of wine will increase your levels of estrogen which in turn will tip the hormonal balance in a negative way. Doctors now believe that these increases in estrogen can lead to a higher risk of breast cancer at worst, as well as hinder your chances of conceiving. Obviously this is a very big subject and I am not going to go into huge detail about it, but it is worth thinking about. Adding Omega 3 to your daily dose is also a very good idea. I generally take upto 4 grams a day which is way over what they recommend on the supplement bottles, but there is no harm in it as far as I am concerned and so far I have only seen the benefits on my body. The last bit of advice I will dare to give on nutrition is to eat "Clean".  What does eating "Clean" mean? Well, first of all it is about choosing only organic foods and staying away from processed foods. Anything which has been packaged and contains a million ingredients with un-pronouncable names should be avoided. Our bodies need only pure natural foods...fruits and vegetables, organic meat and mercury free fish, organic dairy produce and wholemeal cereals. I could go on forever about this because I am passionate about eating this way, but that will have to wait for another time. I do recommend you purchase  Tosca Reno's "Eat Clean" book available at Amazon.

Well, that's all from me today. Here's wishing you a happy hormonal week and just remember that you are a strong fit female even on the bad days.

"With hard work come results. The joy in life comes with working for and achieving something"


Monday, May 24, 2010

The Power of Words!

Have you ever read a quote that really struck a chord with you at that moment in your life.  Maybe there was something that happened in your life at that particular time which could have made you feel lost, dejected, depressed, or lonely.  Then all of the sudden, upon reading a few inspirational words, your life was put into perspective and something inside of you changed.

Quotes are powerful in their purpose and in their meaning.  They are words either penned or voiced from someone that has gone before us and experienced one of the many things that life has to offer, whether it was a hardship or a victory.  It takes more than just reading a great quote for it to have the right effect.  It must be applied into your life for it to make a difference. Leonardo Da Vinci puts it eloquently:

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”

Quotes can serve to be inspirational enough to get us going in the right direction of our goals and dreams as well as re-align us on the path when we might have strayed.  "What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals:" (Goethe)

Taking this and applying it to Health and Fitness, quotes can be a powerful tool in your journey towards that dream phyisique or healthy lifestyle.  When  that alarm clock rings and you know you have to get up and train before work but the only thing you feel like doing is hitting the snooze button, a great quote that you keep close to you will give you that kick to wake up and take care of business!  Carrying a quote with you or having it posted around areas of the house, that you see several times throughout your day, will keep it fresh in your mind, thus keeping you focused on the achievement of your goals. For example, if a problem arises in your life some words from Hugh Miller could be the right recipe for you at that time, "Problems are only opportunities with thorns on them."

In closing, the purpose of this post was to get you thinking more and more about how powerful quotes are and how they can be used as a great tool in this journey we call life.  I will leave you with one last quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt, but before that I just wanted to say that we would love to hear the quotes that have had the most impact on your life in the comment section below:

"There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still."

Go Forward,

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The trouble with booze

Today's post comes from a great friend of mine, who is a UK Athletic Trainer, Jav Dar! It might cause you to re-think about how much alcohol you consume on a daily or weekly basis. 999Z67M4RJQC

Some useful facts about alcohol

Let’s face it, many people enjoy an alcoholic beverage every now and then. Whether it be at the end of a long day, when socialising with friends or celebrating a victory, the taste and/or effect of alcohol can sometimes be just what we crave. In fact, alcohol consumed in moderation is associated with a lowered heart disease risk due to its ability to increase levels of ‘good’ HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and reduce blood platelet stickiness. Red wine contains polyphenols, saponins and a compound called resveratrol, all of which can help lower ‘bad’ cholesterol and protect from heart disease.

However, there are some key points which will help you understand what happens to the alcohol once you take a drink. Alcohol is absorbed into your body through the stomach and small intestines. Food slows down the rate of absorption, that’s why alcohol affects you more quickly when taken on an empty stomach. Alcohol travels through the intestines to the liver and then onto your heart, brain, muscles and other tissues. This happens very quickly, all within a few minutes.

As you drink, the alcohol passes into your bloodstream. Ethanol is the intoxicating part of alcohol and its molecules are so small that they can actually pass into the gaps between brain cells. Here they can interfere with the neurotransmitters (the brain’s central post office) that govern all the brain’s activities. If you drink faster than one standard drink an hour, alcohol will start to flood the brain. Depending on how much and how fast you’re drinking, it can affect the brain stem (even causing it to shut down) and this can interfere with vital body functions.

The body is unable to store alcohol, so it breaks it down in the liver. The liver firstly changes alcohol into acetaldehyde (this is toxic), then into acetate (harmless), which is then broken down into carbon dioxide and water. About 90-95% of alcohol consumed is broken down by the liver, 5-10% is excreted through urine, breath and sweat.

Your body breaks down alcohol at a rate of roughly one drink per hour. However, the body’s ability to process alcohol depends on your age, weight and sex. Women have less body water than men so the concentration of alcohol in their blood stream is proportionally higher. So, if a woman weighing 60kgs drinks a double gin then a man of the same size will hypothetically need to drink a triple gin in order to reach the same blood alcohol content (BAC) level. There is also some evidence that women may have smaller amounts of the enzyme ADH (alcohol dehydrogenase – responsible for breaking down alcohol in the liver and lining of the stomach) and this might contribute to their higher BAC levels.

In terms of your training, moderate drinking probably won’t affect your exercise performance too much (provided you don’t consume alcohol before training) but you need to account for the calories it provides if you’re keeping an eye on your waistline. Two 175ml glasses of wine will give you roughly 240 calories on top of your daily food calories – the same as a big doughnut. A can of premium lager contains the calorie equivalent of a Danish pastry (260 calories). It is also important understand that drinking alcohol does not supply energy for exercise. Although a concentrated source of kilojoules (29kJ), alcohol does not contribute to glycogen stores and thus, does not fuel muscles.

We are not the alcohol police, we only hope that you better understand the effect of alcohol on the body and do not jeopardise achieving your training goals. Our advice is to:

· avoid binge drinking

· avoid alcohol in the 24 hours prior to competition

· avoid alcohol if injured (dilates the blood and increases swelling)

· avoid refuelling after exercise with an alcoholic drink

· rehydrate with water or a sports drink and a nutritious meal

· alternate alcoholic drinks with a glass of water

· be aware of the dehydrating effect of alcohol

· drink a glass of water before gong to bed

· continue to drink responsibly and keep training hard

Stay en forme,


“If you are young and drink a great deal it will spoil your health, slow your mind, make you fat – in other words, turn you into an adult.

P.J. O’Rourke


My Top 4 Worst and or Funniest Pieces of Exercise Equipment

I was just thinking back today to a time when I was in university and I had a roommate/flatmate who had purchased just about every ab gadget that was currently on the market. That was the time of the ab swing/chair, and the electric shock ab belts and my roomie had both of those beauties. Of course, in University at that time, studies were furthest from our minds and girls were at the forefront. So ofcourse some well defined six pack abs were the number 1 priority on our list, next to partying. We were playing American Football at that time so we were training hard but our nutrition was terrible. Many of us had a bit of a pooch, gut or spare tire that we planned on zapping and swinging away with our new gadgets. Needless to say it only took one treatment of the electro shock therapy to the abs, and the burns to match, to spark a light bulb, pardon the pun, in our thick heads.

The ab swing didn't help us much in our quest for sizzling six pack abs, but it did give us major lower back pain, with a side of dizziness. Our search continued but only until we found out that diet was the culprit did we lean down. This memory, however, triggered thoughts on what other crazy bums and tums equipment was out there and it lead me to a treasure trove of junk that makes you laugh and cringe at the same time. Below are a few of my favorites and I would love to hear about some of yours as well:

Hawaii Chair: This is simply one of my most favorite ones of all time and I laugh everytime that I see it. I can clearly picture all you busy business men and women having the Hawaii Chair at work:) Ellen Degeneres has a great time on the chair on her show, so funny!

Shake Weight: This one definitely has to have some sort of warning label attached to it because if this gets away from you, it could shake a hole through your floor or even jump out of your hands right into your face :0

Ab Circle Pro: This is another one that I found interesting. I will let you judge how well this could work for you. Some of the exercises look a bit inappropriate to do in a large gym. Which leads me to my last piece of equipment and it is one that I have considered trying on numerous occasions:)

Pole Dancing
: The first video is one that, yes, could get you a great workout if done properly but with the technique involved and with a teacher like the one in the video you would get a better workout boxing the teacher after, than you do from falling from the pole, hilarious. This other video is a funny pole dancing beer commerical I thought I would add for a few more laughs.

The one thing these gadgets can gurantee, besides six pack abs, toned sexy arms and bums, is a trip to the hospital room, physio, or chiropractor.

Yours in Good Health,

Are you Fit to Run?

For many years I believed that running was the only thing I needed to do to keep myself in shape. It was simple and apart from buying a pair of running shoes, cheap. So off I would go and pound the streets for an hour or more every day. The term "Runner's high" is very true as I couldn't let a day go by without getting my fix. Indeed the feeling of elation and well being after a long run fired my appetite for more which inevitably led to a great big injury. I have been plagued with these injuries over the years...knee pain, calf strain , shin splints, stress factures... wow something is definitely wrong with this. Sound familiar? I have recently been asking myself a lot of questions as to why it is that around 80% of runners are injured at any given time. That is a lot of people and also a very frustrating fact because it doesn't have to be this way.

You may be running in order to get fit, but my question for you is "Are you fit to run?". Yes, running is probably the number one favourite weight loss exercise. It strengthens our heart, our joints, our bone mass and burns many calories. However, before we can throw ourselves into the world of running we have to condition and strengthen our bodies in preparation for the high impact stress that running puts on us. So, what should we do in order to stay injury free? This is a big question with a very long answer but there are a few simple things we can do to start with.

The first thing you can do is to make a postural assesment of your body. Stand in front of a mirror and really analyse how you are standing. Are you leaning to one side more than the other? Are you knock kneed or bow legged? Are your shoulders rounded and is your lower back arched...these are just a few things that need to be checked because if you are un-able to stand up straight and hold your head up high, you are probably going to be suffering from bad running form too. Many people find that taking a Pilates class really helps them correct postural mis-alignment and it also strengthens the core which is one area that runners are particularly weak in. It is hard to see yourself running unless you plan to run along a street with shop windows where you can catch your reflection. However, you could ask a friend to take a video clip of you in action and then watch it later or show it to a professional trainer who can help you correct any problems.

The second thing a lot of runners forget about is strength training. And I am the biggest sinner where this one is concerned! Shifting weights and holding the plank for a minute was never my cup of tea as I wanted to use my precious time for the run and nothing else. was a mistake to ignore this very important area of my fitness regime. By improving your core strength and overall balance you will be building a strong foundation for whatever else you want to do and help you avoid the annoying injuries that set you back . A strengthening session need not take more than 20 minutes and the benefits will last throughout the day.

Lastly, consider your running load. How often do you run and for how long? I used to believe that if you wanted to be a good runner you simply had to run... and run a lot! And I wondered why I was getting injured? Yes, there are some super human beings who seem to run endless miles every day without much issue...but they generally belong to some obscure mountain tribe in a far away land! My advice would be to have a rest day in between each run so as to allow your muscles time to recover and repair and strengthen. On the days that you don't run you can strength train and throw in 20 minutes of basic pilates moves, both of which will help you get stronger, leaner and correct any postural mishaps that you may have.

I realise that I am just scratching the top of an iceberg with this article and there will be more detailed articles to come regarding this subject. Until then I hope that this gives you some food for thought and encourages you to be mindful about your body and your training.

Yours in health,

Organic Food Debate

In the last several years there has been a big push towards picking organic, free range, or bio foods as opposed to those grown with pesticides and other chemicals. Organic foods are foods that are grown with no synthetic chemicals or pesticides, farmers aren’t allowed to use bioengineered genes (GMOs) or petroleum-based fertilizers and sewage sludge-based fertilizers. Organic food must also be grown in safe soil, have no modifications and must remain separate from conventional products. Those in favor of eating organic foods argue that organic farming practices have also been shown to benefit the environment by not exposing local wildlife to the harms of synthetic pesticides, as well as sustaining diverse ecosystems through practices of crop rotation. Per unit area, organic farms use less energy and produce less waste. Organic farming also lowers the exposure risk to farmers and farm workers. Scientific studies have been made with farm workers who use pesticide and correlated a link between this usage to brain cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple myeloma, leukemia, lymphoma, and cancers of the stomach and prostate. A recent study has also linked low levels of pesticides in foods with later development of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

Lastly, proponents state that going organic benefits the food consumer by limiting the amounts of chemicals consumed on a daily basis. According to the Environmental Working Group eating the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables exposes one to about 20 pesticides per day on average. Eating the 12 least contaminated foods exposes you to about 2 pesticides per day on average.
Those that are on the other side of the argument believe that the amount of pesticides found in non-organically grown foods are in relatively low levels and there isn’t enough evidence to suggest the negative effects of such small amounts. These scientists are in agreement that humans are in contact and ingest an innumerable amount of other natural chemicals that are shown to have a higher toxicity and are present at higher doses, compared to the very minute amount of pesticide residue that remains on food. In an article from Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of “Eat for Health,” animal studies establishing carcinogenic potential in synthetic chemicals are done at doses a thousand-fold higher than what is ingested in food. Any chemicals consumed in high doses become toxic and lead to some of the diseases stated earlier. Therefore, the little amounts of pesticides found on produce give us little evidence of possible disease hazards. The farmers are exposed to extremely high amounts of these chemicals, which could explain the link to the different cancers.

Needless to say, an extended period of consuming foods that have higher pesticide levels than others could potentially contribute, in the long run, into something the body might react negatively towards. Awareness of those foods that typically contain high levels of pesticides gives you the choice to avoid these foods or not. We don’t want to restrict our diet of fruits and vegetables, which are the staple of any healthy diet, but make the right choices in produce when it comes to potential risk factors. It makes common sense to peel fruits, if possible, and not to eat potato skins, unless you are able to purchase them pesticide free. Remove and discard the outermost leaves of lettuce and cabbage, if not organically grown, and other surfaces that cannot be peeled can be washed with soap and water, or a commercial vegetable wash. Washing with plain water removes 25-50 percent of the pesticide residue. If you are concerned about pesticides and chemicals, keep in mind animal products, such as dairy, fish and beef, contain the most toxic pesticide residues.

Because cows and steers eat large amounts of tainted feed, certain pesticides and dangerous chemicals are found in higher concentrations in animal foods. Dioxin, which is predominantly found in fatty meats and dairy fat, for example, is one of the most potent toxins linked to several cancers in humans, including lymphomas. By centering your diet on unrefined plant foods you will automatically reduce your exposure to the most dangerous chemicals.
The aim of this article to give you both sides of the coin with regards to eating organic foods or their alternatives. Organic foods are typically more expensive than their counterpart but by eating the organic versions of the 12 fruits and vegetables with the most amount of pesticides you can reduce your exposure by about 90 percent, see table below. In my opinion these organic foods have a better taste and are better for the environment and farmers. Your local farmers market is a good resource for finding your organic fruits and vegetables. Local foods are the freshest and are picked when ripe. Buying locally also benefits the local economy.

Rank Produce with Most Amounts of Pesticides Score
1 Strawberries 189
T2 Green and red bell peppers 155
T2 Spinach 155
4 Cherries 154
5 Peaches 150
6 Cantaloupe 142
7 Celery 129
8 Apples 124
9 Apricots 123
10 Green Beans 122
11 Grapes Imported 118
12 Cucumbers 117

Be aware that the term “natural” does not equal organic. Other labels can be deceiving and try to trick you to believe that what you are buying is organic when it is not. It is always a good idea to see where your actually organic foods come from. As mentioned above with regards to farmers markets, the organic food grown closer to home is fresher and usually has a better taste than food that is shipped in from Uruguay. Here is a great link to help keep you informed on organic farming here in Switzerland, SwissBIO, along with a few other links to your local stores Bio websites, MIGROS, BIO SWISS and COOP. In the end the choice is up to you to whether or not you choose to eat organic foods or not but the first step towards change is knowledge and awareness!

Yours In Health,

Go Green and Use Your Legs!

The benefits of walking for your health and well being.

For many people the most walking that they get in a day is getting to and from their cars. If you look at our pre-historic ancestors it is plain to see that our bodies were built to walk. Everywhere that ancient man went they walked. They walked on hunts or while gathering their food. They walked to get their water. They walked to explore new lands. Walking was the major mode of transportation.

In today’s busy world one of our major problems is that we as a society aren’t moving enough throughout our day. When we are faced with the option of walking or driving, the majority of us take the car. The car gets us to farther distances quicker so why not take the car? But by walking less we miss out on the many health benefits it provides our bodies. Walking is a low impact, safe and simple way of adhering to your body’s most innate needs.

The benefits of walking are numerous and can greatly improve your overall well-being.

Walking can help:

· With weight management

· Control your blood pressure

· Decrease risks of heart disease

· Reduce levels of bad cholesterol

· Improve your mood/state of mind

· Improve muscle strength and joint health

Frequent walking, along with a balanced diet, can help you gain control of your weight. Walking can help overweight people shed the excess and return to a trim figure. If weight loss is an issue for you, it may help to know that the calories burned by walking are considerable, especially if you walk briskly. On average we burn around 100 Kilocalories for every mile we walk. The key factor is the intensity of the walk. If you're breathing too lightly, increase your pace. If you can't catch your breath, slow it down. It is recommended to spend at least 30 minutes a day doing intentional exercise like brisk walking. However, even 10 minutes a day provides you with some benefits.

At first it might not be easy to find the time during the day to walk with our busy lives and work schedules. But by scheduling a slot for your walks during the day you will be more committed to keeping that appointment with yourself.

There are a few things that you can start implementing into your day to get you moving even more. If you take the bus to work get off a few stops earlier than you normally do. Or if you take the car, park a little farther away from your final destination. Our canine companions are also a great excuse to get out and walk no matter the weather. You could also start a lunch time walking group at your work, which could build some camaraderie as well as help to de-stress from the rigors of the work day. One way to increase the intensity of your walks, thus increasing your fitness, is to add in some hills or stairs in your route.

So what are you waiting for? Do your body a favor and get those shoes on, grab some comfortable clothes and get those legs moving today!

Yours in Health,


P.S. "I have two doctors, my left leg and my right."

- George Trevelyan, 1913