Friday, 31 January 2014

My Staples for a Healthy Diet

With so much info out there about what health is and how to get it I find it so hard to decide what's legit and what's another health fad. What to eat, what NOT to eat, when to eat it, how to cook it...or not cook it at all, how and when to work out, how hard/fast/intense you should exercise, even what you should consider as healthy at all. I've come up with a few basic rules to follow for a healthy diet. Or at least my version of a healthy diet.

1. Eat at least 5 fruit and veg a day... but aim for 8. This seems like the most obvious and it's the first point for a reason. Eating 5-8 portions of fruit and veg a day provides a good basis for getting all the vitamins and nutrients you need, I use the Foodle app on my iPhone to get an idea of the vitamins each food provides. Try to eat a mix of different coloured fruits and veggies as each represents a different nutritional profile and try to steam your veggies whenever possible as this retains the most vitamins.

2. Eat sources of Omega-3 fatty acids like nuts, seeds, oily fish like Salmon and Mackerel and eggs. You really want to get enough Omega-3s as our diets are already too high in Omega-6 fatty acids as these are far easier to come by. Omega-3 fatty acids help to lower blood pressure, prevents blood clots, maintain heart health, reduce inflammation and help brain and nerve function... to name just a few benefits! Chia seeds are one of the best sources, containing roughly 3 times the Omega-3s per gram than Salmon! You can get them health food shops or I get mine from

3. Eat enough protein (includes you too girls- it won't make you bulky- Testosterone will). This obviously depends on who you are and what you do (your weight and activity levels, for example). A rough guide for sedentary people is 0.8g of protein for every kg of body weight or 0.36g per lb of bodyweight. So a 10 stone inactive person should aim for around 50g of protein a day.

Those who exercise a lot need more protein, exactly how much is a bit more complicated though. A rough guide for peeps trying to add muscle a guide is 1.8g protein for every kg of bodyweight or 0.8g for every lb. So a 10 stone person would need over 110g of protein a day to maximise muscle protein synthesis (welcome to the gun show in other words).

It is really important to eat enough protein if you are wanting to lose fat too as it keeps you fuller for longer and will reduce the risk of you losing muscle rather than unwanted fat. Here's a great blog post all about protein and how to much to aim for from Mark's Daily Apple.

Extra points on protein = eat a source with every meal, make sure some is a complete protein with all 9 amino acids and eat more after training. Boost your daily intake with a whey protein shake like Pro-10's Whey Protein Concentrate. Post on protein to come soon.


4. I try to eat some complex carbs with every meal. These can be non-starchy veggies like broccoli, lettuce, onions and celery. We digest these carbs slowly and so they also keep you fuller for longer and don't create huige spikes in blood sugar like simple carbs do, so you will maintain consistent energy levels throughout the day= no mid-afternoon slump.

5.  Try to reduce the amount you eat as the day goes on as your energy requirements also decrease. If you are hungry before bed then it's best to eat something high in protein because it will digest slowly and help repair your muscles overnight while you rest.

6. I aim to drink at least 2 litres of water a's nearer to 3 litres in really. Water lubricates your whole body so you'll work like a well-oiled machine, the brain is 75% water, blood is 92%, muscles are 75% and bones are 22% water, you get the idea. You need to replenish those stores throughout the day because it helps lubricate joints, protects vital organs, delivers nutrients throughout the body, converts food to energy, cushions joints and more but to save this blog post turning into a lecture into how bloody great water is, I'll leave it there. I carry my Bobble water bottle around with me so that I am sipping away at the good stuff all day (it has it's own in-built filter so you can keep fresh water that's free of impurities with you all day!).

7. Follow the 80/20 rule. Living by the 80/20 rule means that 80% of your food is healthy and nutrient-dense and isn't high in sugar and calories. You're then free to eat pretty much what you want for the rest of the time. I find this a great way of thinking about your food because it pushes you to eat a healthy diet most of the time and gives you some leeway to indulge too.

8. I take a multi-vitamin and omega-3 supplement every single day, regardless of how well I ate or otherwise (supplements are only meant to fill in the gaps of the nutrition your diet provides, they are not designed as a food replacement). I also have a daily Probiotic containing at least 5 billion cultures and a vitamin D3 tablet every other day (I knock this down to just twice a week during the summer months). I will also do a full post about my supplement routine soon!

So, that's it. My basic rules for a healthy diet. It's not rocket science and I am not an expert either, these are just a few guidelines I find useful to stick by to ensure I am getting a decent level of nutrition. I hope you find some of them (or all of them!) useful too! What do you see as healthy and what things do you do to reach it?

Amy x

Monday, 30 December 2013

Interval Training

What is it?

Interval training alternates between bursts of intense exercise followed by slower recovery phases. You use both your aerobic and anaerobic systems by varying either the resistance or speed you work at for different periods of time. Interval training can be done for almost any type of exercise, from cycling to bodyweight exercises to kettlebells, and there are so many benefits in making interval training your new workout...

1. It's efficient- it takes as little as 15 minutes a session depending on the length and number of intervals you do.

2. It burns sooooo many more calories than your standard steady-paced endurance workout because the intense exertion kicks your body into overdrive and kicks starts you metabolism.

3. It increases your cardio efficiency.

4. It improves performance- you will be able to train harder for longer ad your body uses its anaerobic system and adapts by becoming m ore efficient at removing lactic acid build-up. 

5. It mixes speed and intensity so there's less chance you'll get bored.

6.  There's variety- You can play round with the duration of your intervals or recovery periods, the speed you work at, the resistance and the number of repetitions you do of each interval. E.g. One popular type of interval training called Tabata involves working at 9/10 of your maximum effort for 10 seconds, with 20 seconds of complete rest. 

Interval training is great for people who are short on time, who get bored doing cardio or those who want to get the most out of their workouts. Here are the main benefits in summary:

  • Short and sweet- can be done in as little as 15 minutes
  • Bang for your buck- burns a lot of calories in little time
  • Quick but effective- improves both aerobic and anaerobic systems
  • Less chance of boredom
  • You put in more effort because each interval is fairly short (usually about 30-60 seconds)
  • There's variety because you can play around with variables like speed and resistance

Friday, 6 December 2013

Boost your Immunity

Hi guys! Everybody knows it's easy to get ill during Winter as bugs are in full swing and you're maybe not looking after yourself as well as over the warmer months. This doesn't make sense, although we all end up doing it! It's easier and feels natural to whip up a fresh, cool salad in the middle of July and to get a big pot of stew on the stove during January.

What we should be doing is taking better care of ourselves before we're more likely to start feeling "run down". Ramping up the vitamin intake, eating lots of fresh fruit and veg and making sure we don't skip the gym just because, baby, it's cold outside.

I've put together some easy steps you can take towards better protecting yourself from infection this Winter...

1. Exercise- during and after exercise your body makes more germ-fighting cells called T-Cells and studies show these get to work faster in peeps who exercise regularly. Here's an interesting post I read from on how regular moderate exercise can increase immunity.

2. Probiotics- Those who regularly take a Probiotic supplement are 42% less likely to get the sniffles. Either take them in supplement form or eat natural, live yoghurt which is a great source of protein too.

3. Boost your Vitamin D intake, either by getting 20 minutes of sunlight a day or by taking a vitamin D supplement (look for vitamin D3). Examples of food sources are milk, oliy fish e.e. Salmon, Mackerel and Sardines) and fortified cereals.

4. Cruciferous veg like Broccoli, Kale, Spinach, Cabbage and Lettuce all boost your immune system by increasing the liver's ability to flush out toxins.

5. Ginger- add it to teas and stir fries to cleanse your airways and lymph system.

6. Get 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Researchers aren't 100% sure why yet but studies show getting this amount seriously reduces risk of infection.

7. What your Granny said is true! Wrap up warm!! Your immune system works better in a warm environment so turn up the heat.

8. Get eating garlic. Your friends might not thank you but your immune system will It's anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.

9. Get plenty of fresh fruit and veg which are high in vitamins A, C, E and Zinc. Aim to eat a variety of colours as these represent a different nutritional profile. Some good examples are berries, sweet potato, broccoli, tomatoes and carrots.

Basically, the bugs are always there, it's how well you look after yourself which will determine whether you catch a cold!

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Friday, 29 November 2013

Tips on beginning to exercise

Accepting that there are changes you want to make in your life and taking the first step towards change is often the hardest. Well, it shouldn't be! When I began eating better and exercising regularly I... just did it. You sometimes need to dive right in at the deep end with both feet and see how it goes. The hardest part, I've found is the habit-forming part of change and keeping it up, but that's another post for another time, so today I want to share with you a few ways I found the motivation to start working out regularly, so here goes...

1. Be open minded. Be patient. Realise most benefits won't appear overnight after your first session, but things will improve for you, for sure. Remember, even if you can't visibly see the positive ways in which your body adapts to exercise, they will definitely be happening.

2. Plan it into your current routine. You don't have to spend hours exercising at a time, especially if you're starting out- begin small and build on it. Even 20 or 30 mins at a light-moderate intensity will bring about improvements. Write down times for exercising in your diary and stick to them.

3. Know why you're doing it. What is it you want to achieve? How will it make you feel when you get there? What is your motivation? Think of a few realistic goals to achieve (and preferably specific and measurable, e.g. to lose an inch of your waist). By having something in mind to work towards you can see how much progress you make and find motivation from getting closer to reaching your goals. 

4. Write them down. I mean, I'm a stationary and notebook obsessive geek anyway, but writing goals down and reminding yourself of them regularly will ingrain them in your brain and hopefully give you an extra burst of motivation at times when you need reminding of why you're getting sweaty bouncing around on a swiss ball in the first place. 

5. Don't compare yourself or your progress and goals to others. Everybody is different. Our bodies and how they work are all slightly different, so the rate you lose fat or put on muscle will be different to the next person. Try not to get caught up in whether or not you are doing better or worse than someone else. Do it for YOU. 

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Bit nippy out.


It's been a while! Happy 2013!

January is always a month of mixed feelings for me- a new year brings with it the urge for a fresh start and an opportunity to gather some perspective on life. It also brings more cold, grey, miserable weather which doesn't seem quite so festive post-Christmas.

I secretly revel in the chilly weather thought because I love making my surroundings super cosy with candles, blankets, fluffy socks and hot baths. So, I thought I'd do a quick post on how to warm up this winter...

• Munch on some garlic as it boosts circulation. If you don't like the taste (or smell!) then you can buy odourless garlic capsules from health food stores such as Holland & Barrett. Nature's Best do a good version which contains 2mg of Allicin per capsule- the property which gives garlic its amazing anti-bacterial and heart healthy properties. You can buy it here .

• Run the taps until the water is as hot as you can stand it and wash or rinse your hands, switch the water to as cold as you can handle, and then back to hot, then back to cold etc etc. This is more effective than simply holding your hands under the hot water for a few minutes because it causes blood to flow towards the hands and away again which, if done a few times, means that blood flow is increased without loosing too much heat to the surroundings.

• Take a nice hot bath. Although, body heat will be lost through the skin once you get out the bath or the water cools down, so wrap up after to minimise this.

• Brew up! A hot drink warms you from the inside-out but will cool you down in the long run because it raises your body's internal temperature which signals to the brain that you must need cooling down, which is what the body does.

• Eat. Eating revs your metabolism which warms you up when it is working hard. Although it's obvious enough to suggest that no one plops down on the sofa and scoffs down ten bags of Maltesers to warm up!

• Exercise! Exercise boosts your metabolism and gets your heart working harder as it tries to deliver oxygen to your lungs and muscles.

• Tensing the muscles in your hands and feet can increase blood flow to the area. Really tighten the muscles and hold for 5 seconds before relaxing them again. Stretching also directs warm blood to the area and so both stretching and tensing muscles will warm up your extremities! Repeat tensing/stretching and relaxing until you notice a difference.

So there's a few simple ideas to get you warm and hopefully keep you warm on this snowy January afternoon. Hope you find something useful here!

Until next time,

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Let me introduce myself

So I thought my first post should be a brief intro me... I'm Amy, I live in Cheshire in the UK. I have been finishing a degree in Communication part-time whilst living between my childhood home and my boyfriend's house. I have a disability which affects my left leg a which saw me in hospital for surgery 16 times in as many years. Being a young woman with a disability has a complex, confusing, yet ultimately (I think) enriching effect on my identity.

 I LOVE dogs. I like animals of all kinds and have been vegetarian  for about 8 years or so, but I especially love dogs. I have two dogs at my parents' (Lhasa Apsos called Maisie and Lester), two cats (Mickey and Minnie) at my boyfriend's and tropical fish tank that roughly forty fish call home. I have always had pets growing up and my parents have always encouraged me to develop an interest in animals. It worked.

I like to read and hope to write about some of the books I'm reading in this blog. I like to read a lot of fiction and to allow my imagination to wander. I like to read about people and their experiences. I also read a lot of doggy-related material in books, magazines and online.

So far this year I have achieved two out of three of my new year's resolutions- I have lost a stone and gained a 2:1 for my degree. Things aren't going too badly at the moment. I work part time for a gym which is run by my brother and parents and, although I love contributing and being a part of it (I have gained invaluable experience) I am on the look-out for full time work. I want to get a dog of my own in the near(ish!) future, move house with my boyfriend Ben to somewhere with a garden, and one day in the future I want a nice kitchen with granite work tops and a big dining table in  the middle.

These are just some of the things that spring to mind when, feeling sleepy in bed one night, I think about me, in a nut-shell. See what I'm tweeting here .

Thanks for reading if you're down here.