Tracking Progress

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One major way to stay motivated during your journey is with measurements and photographs. Photos and measurements will allow you to see progress, and progress is always empowering. They are also a good way to see if you are just losing fat, or if you are gaining muscle, because just weighing yourself isn't accurate enough. Remember, 10cm of muscle weighs more 10cm than fat, so if you see the scales go up, don't worry, just measure yourself, and if you're exercising and eating healthy food you will probably see the measurements have gone down.

Personally we find that before and after photos are more useful for staying motivated than just regular measurements, but it's still important to record both. Try to take a new photo and measurements every 2 weeks while you are completing our program.
 

We recommend taking your first photos and measurements on the first day of the challenge, in the morning prior to breakfast.

DO
- Make sure the lighting is similar each time you take a photo of yourself for comparison
- Wear figure hugging clothes, or clothes that show your arms/stomach and thighs
- Try to make sure the photograph is from head to toe

DON'T
- Wear baggy clothing
- Take the photo at night with an artificial light
- Only show half your body (how will you see the progress from all over?)

 

Measuring

Weight is a subjective thing to be measuring, but we will record it anyway. Weigh yourself first thing in the morning, not in the afternoon or evening if you can help it. When you re-check your weight later down the track use the scales you originally weighed yourself on. If you can find out what your body fat percentage is do that too - it's more important to know this than your weight, but the tools to measure it are not as easily accessible. 

Get a measuring tape and measure yourself, or if you have another person handy get them to measure you, it will make it more accurate. You are going to measure your chest, waist, hips, arms and thighs.

Chest: measure across the centre of your chest.

Waist: measure around where your belly button is.

Hips: drop your arms by your side, note where your wrist sits, this is where you will measure around your hips.

Arms: we are are measuring the upper arm. To find the middle of your arm each time take the measurement from your shoulder, down to your elbow, divide that number in half, measure around the halfway point on your upper arm.

Thighs: stand up, place on foot up on a low bench, chair, something about 30-40cm off the ground so that your knee is at a right angle. To find the exact middle of your thigh measure from where your thigh meets your hip down to your knee, divide this measurement in half. Take the measurement around your thigh from the halfway point.

Sleep

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Have you ever followed a food and exercise plan only to not get the results you were hoping for?

Sleep may be the missing link.

 

Think about the last time you went to sleep… maybe you’re reading this as you just wake up. Maybe you’re a little tired? Sleep is necessary for energy conservation, brain and muscle rest and repair, and is the means of essential resting time for the whole body and its systems. Quality sleeps helps mental and physical health, improves quality of life and increases safety. They way you feel while you’re awake depends in part on what happens while you’re asleep - your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain physical health.

 

Good health = good nutrition, good exercise and good sleep.

BRAIN HEALTH

Sleep helps the brain prepare for the next day. While you sleep, your brain is forming new pathways to learn and remember information. Not only does quality sleep help you to pay attention during the day, it also helps you make decisions and be creative. REM or relaxed eye moment is where your muscles are relaxed and recent memories may be consolidated in the brain. This is usually when dreaming occurs.

EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING

Sleep deficiency has been linked to depression, suicide and risk-taking behaviour. Lack of motivation has also been linked - have you ever tried dieting when you’re in a bad mood, sick or hungry? Chances are it didn’t work too well. Deficiency is also linked to mood swings, anger, impulsive behaviours and problems with getting along with others.

PHYSICAL HEALTH

Our immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy – ongoing sleep deficiency can change the way our immune system responds against foreign or harmful substances. Quality sleep helps with healing and repairing the heart and blood vessels. Deep sleep triggers the hormone that promotes normal growth in children/teens as well as boosting muscle mass and repairing cells and tissues for everybody. Deficiency can be linked to obesity as it messes with the healthy balance of hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). Not enough sleep causes ghrelin levels to go up and leptin levels to go down. Insulin (blood glucose/sugar) levels are generally higher when sleep is deprived causing higher than normal blood sugar levels that can cause diabetes.

BMR (BASAL METABOLIC RATE)

When resting our body uses a majority of our energy requirements – 60% of our daily calories are burned up just doing this! We use this energy for breathing, keeping the heart pumping, growing and maintaining cells as well as maintaining body temperature. Add 10% for digestion, absorbing and storing food – also known as DIT or diet induced thermogenesis. Add that up and you’re looking at 70% of your total energy used just for maintenance, the other 30% for exercise. Cutting sleep while dieting leads to a decrease in BMR, therefore the ability to lose fat is reduced. Sleep deprivation causes the body to burn lean muscle tissue rather than fat tissue to conserve energy.

SLEEP DEFICIENCY

What you may have already picked up on is that sleep deficiency is definitely not good for us. There are two types of sleep deficiency – instant and gradual/over time. Ongoing deficiency will put you at a high risk of chronic health problems including an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke. Instant is where you’ve maybe had 1 or 2 bad nights of sleep and suddenly how you think, react, work, learn and get along with others is jeopardized. The ability to control your metabolism and appetite are put at risk as the metabolic system is put under stress.

 

Adequate sleep plays a key part in creating and living a healthy lifestyle. Our productivity is lowered, reactions slowed and mistakes can be made easily.

 

So what exactly causes sleep deprivation?

-       Stress (this is number 1!)

-       School or job pressures

-       Family or marriage problems

-       Illness or death in the family

-       Alcohol or caffeine in the afternoon or evening

-       Irregular morning or night schedules

-       Travel (jet lag)

-       Comfort in bed (actual bed itself or habits of sleeping partner)

 

HOW TO GET A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP

-       Exercise to reduce stress

-       Keep a regular sleep/wake schedule

-       Don’t drink or eat caffeinated products 4-6 hours before bed

-       Avoid smoking, particularly near bedtime or if you wake in the night

-       Avoid alcohol and heavy meals before sleep

-       Minimise noise, light and excessive hot or cold temperatures

-       Develop a regular bed time

-       Stop hitting snooze!

Hydration

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Did you know that water makes up more than half of your body weight?

That’s right, approximately 60% of an adults body weight comes from water.

But wait! Don’t ditch it in an attempt to lose weight!

WE NEED WATER TO FUNCTION.

Every cell, tissue and organ in our body needs water. It regulates temperature, removes waste and lubricates our joints. Water helps our heart to pump blood through the blood vessels to the muscles and helps our muscles work efficiently. We lose water when using the bathroom, sweating, breathing and from sickness through vomiting and diarrhea.

HOW MUCH SHOULD I BE DRINKING?

Different people need different amounts, just like food. People who perspire more will need more water – but also those who don’t sweat may be at risk of already being dehydrated.  Pregnant and breastfeeding women also need to drink more water. Once upon a time someone decided that 8 cups of water per day would keep the doctor away… whilst this was important just in the matter of getting people to drink water, there is a much better way of calculating to suit yourself as an individual.



Metric
Your weight in kilograms ÷ 0.024 = Amount of water you require in millilitres before any physical activity (x1000 to get litres)
Add 450mL for every 30 minutes of exercise.

EG 62kg Female who exercises for 1 hour every day
62kg ÷ 0.024 = 2583mL
+ 1 hour of exercise (450mL) = 3033mL
= ~3L per day


Imperial
Your weight in pounds x 0.67 = Amount of water you require in ounces before any physical activity
Add 15 ounces for every 30 minutes of exercise.

EG 150lbs Female who exercises for 1 hour every day
150lbs x 0.67 = 100.5fl oz
+ 1 hour of exercise (15fl oz)
= 115.5fl oz per day

 

WHAT IF I DON’T LIKE WATER?

Coffee, tea, sport and energy drinks should be kept to a minimum. Caffeine is a diuretic when taken in amounts of more than 200-300mg per day – it’s also not great for our anxiety levels. Eating fruits and vegetables can help with hydration (watermelon, tomatoes, lettuce) and broths.

SPORTS DRINKS.

Avoid drinking ‘sports’ drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade if you’re only having a short workout. If you’re exercising for more than 90 minutes the carbohydrates and electrolytes will help to increase energy – perfect for a 10km run, but not so perfect for a 25 minute HIIT session. Two important things that you should check on the nutritional label are sodium (salt) and carb percentage. Sodium helps the body to regulate how much water a cell can hold. When sodium is low your cells take on too much water and swell which can be fatal. Rule out anything with a carb percentage of 7% or higher (juice, sodas) as a form of hydration as these stay in your stomach for longer. Opt for electrolyte tablets or make your own at home by blending watermelon, water, ice and a pinch of Himalayan salt (1:1 ration of watermelon:water) – this is roughly a 6-7% carb blend.

 

DEHYDRATION.

One of the easiest ways to tell if you are dehydrated is by looking at your urine. Sure, this may be gross to some, but it is crucial. Colourless or light yellow generally means you are hydrated, a dark yellow or amber colour is a red flag! Other signs of dehydration include a dry mouth, sleepiness or fatigue, extreme thirst, headaches, confusion, dizziness/lightheaded and no tears when crying. You are at a higher risk of becoming dehydrated when exercising particularly in hot weather, if you are sick, pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to lose weight.

 

DID YOU KNOW?

Mental and physical performance drops when you’re 2% dehydrated.

 

5 TIPS TO STAY HYDRATED:

1.     Always take a bottle wherever you go – helps to avoid buying coffees and other drinks, not only is it better for you it will also help save money

2.     Add fruits or vegetables to your water to change the taste – our favourites include cucumber, berries or lemon/lime

3.     Drink water before, during and after workouts – this will replenish as you go, aim for 500mL per workout

4.     Think you’re hungry? Have a drink of water first. True hunger won’t be cured by water.

5.     Avoid sugary drinks such as sports drinks, ‘energy’ drinks pre-bottled cold press coffee and alcohol as forms of hydration – this will help you avoid excess ‘empty’ calories.

Heart Rate and Weight Loss

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When we begin a new workout we don’t want it to be too difficult, we need to connect our bodies to our brains properly before we can go hard. These workouts are designed to burn fat, gain muscle and strength, increase co-ordination and encourage a strong mindset towards exercise. For some of you it may be a bit easier, for some still a challenge, but you're here! As the weeks continue your fitness level will advance, and the program will adapt and change too.

What we are focusing on today is making sure you are getting the best out of your work out and targeting your ultimate heart rate for fat burning.

We don’t want too go hard out from the start, we want to build up and peak right at the end so you can complete a session (and not spew).

To determine what your fat-burning zone heart rate is supposed to be use the following simple formula:

Take 220 and minus your current age = this equals your MHR (Age predicted maximum heart rate).
To get the low-end of your fat-burning zone multiply your MHR by 0.6 and to get to the high-end of your fat-burning zone multiply your MHR by 0.75.

E.G. 35 year old Finding MHR: 220-35 = 185.
Low-end of fat-burning zone: 185 x 0.6 = 111 beats per minute.
High-end of fat-burning zone: 188 x 0.75 = 139 beats per minute.
 

When it comes to exercise things can be fun and challenging at the same time! Just make sure you do things that make you feel you are working at your hardest between 10-30% of the time.

Lactic acid is the only thing that will hold you back from going 100% through your workout and the one way to stop it is oxygen intake. So you're 5 mins into your HIIT session and you feel like you're going to throw up…? This is from the lack of oxygen going to your brain, it's too busy making it's way down to the muscles that you are currently using, your heart is pounding and that's a result of your heart's BPM (Beats Per Minute) going through the roof! It's working so hard to get oxygen to your muscles and circulating so fast through your body that it's actually heating up your core temperature, which ultimately results in fat burning.

You can find out your heart’s BPM by using a heart rate monitor from your local sports outlet or by using your phone in your rest time. Place your fingers (not thumb!) on your neck and find a pulse, count the heart beats and starting a timer on your phone for 15 seconds, multiply the number of heart beats in 15 seconds by 4 and you will have a rough idea of the BPM.

Nutrient Timing

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"Do I eat before or after going to the gym?"
Well that depends on what you are doing!

Doing different types of exercise relies on different types of energy, and what you put in your mouth can determine how good of a workout you can get!
 

Weights

When doing weights, your body relies on an energy source called ATP. ATP is the fuel that makes you do big movements, with lots of power and force. Ideally before doing any weights you want to make sure you have plenty of energy in your system, not only to power you through the workout, but for recovery too.

Carbohydrates and sugars are what provide energy to the body and the brain, and if we don’t have enough, we won't be able to perform.
 

How long before training should I eat?

If you are eating a balanced diet, you will consume many Low GI and High GI foods. Timing is everything and if your energy is peaking at the right time, it will produce optimal results. Your Low GI should be consumed 1.5-2 hours before a session, this gives your body time for the energy to peak and sustain at your point of training. High GI between 45-30 mins prior to training will cause an insulin spike and produce an extra boost to your session. After you have done your training you have a 20 min window called your anabolic phase. This is when the body is pumping blood and switching from burning energy to hunting for energy, usually protein and carbohydrates are recommend in this window, any thing after can store as fat, and not be efficiently consumed.
 

Cardio

Cardio relies on a less efficient energy source, and you can solely perform on glycogen and oxygen. Your goal with cardio is to increase fat loss, not so much to perform to lift weights, but you still need to fuel your system. When we want to burn our fat cells, we need insulin levels to be lower, so it has the chance to burn the fat from exercise. Having food before cardio is not absolutely necessary, but before HIIT training it is recommended.
 

How long before training should I eat?

Prior to HIIT training making sure you have a meal 1.5-2 hours beforehand that is Low GI will insure there is energy in your system, but not too much to block your catabolic burning of fat.
Fasted cardio is another option, mainly done in the morning before breakfast, your body has a higher chance of burning fat stores, due to the lower blood sugar levels in the morning. Done at a low to medium intensity for no more than 45 min will insure that your body doesn’t go in to catabolysis, where your body burns your muscle mass for energy. In the morning your body is at its highest state of stress,  which means cortisol levels are high naturally, but putting your body under high stress from exercise can cause the release of extra cortisol if done for too long, and producing extra belly fat caused by the stress hormones, drinking a Branch Chain Amino Acid supplement well help keep your muscle intact, and not used as energy!
 

Summary

Weights
1.5 Hours before – Low GI
45 mins before – High GI
20 mins after - High GI & Protein

Cardio
1.5 hours before – Low GI
20 Mins after - High GI

Fasted Cardio
20 Mins after – High GI
 
 

Let’s Eat!

Oestrogen

When it comes to getting in to shape and living a fit and healthy lifestyle, it's not all black and white. We encounter some road blocks, or weight loss blocks, that stop us from having the bodies that we want and desire. Our Oestrogen levels play a large part in losing weight, being strong, energy levels, mood,  skin and much more, here is a quick guide to where your oestrogen will visibly react with your body!
 
Oestrogen dominance is something found not only in women, but men too. Making sure that your hormonal levels are balanced is incredibly important. If you are high in oestrogen that doesn’t mean you need to over load your body on testosterone to get results. Oestrogen is produced several ways, genetic, chemically and nutritionally. To understand how to help balance your hormone and oestrogen levels, you need asses where the dominance is coming from.

For most females the common place oestrogen is stored on the hips and thighs, but also for some the back of the arms along the triceps, you will find that these are isolated areas that will feel colder... they are pretty much just isolated cells of fat produced by oestrogen synthesis. If you suffer, or commonly get cellulite, headaches and migraines, cramps, poor circulation, over worrying, fear and sadness, and most commonly prompted, fat growth, you could be an advocate for an oestrogen imbalance... not to forget, man boobs for men.

External factors that can contribute to the imbalance can come from environmental exposure, toxins, pesticides, fertilizers, paints as well as plastics.

A lot of you who do meal prepping may not be aware, but the plastics that are heated up can produce xenoestrogen that contributes to oestrogen dominance. To live a healthy balanced lifestyle is not that hard, but to be ultimately healthy at an extremist level and cut out anything that can harm your body is impossible, but what you can do is try a few simple changes.

Adding androgen effective foods like broccoli, kale, bok choy, cabbage, sprouts, rosemary, turmeric, grape fruit, green tea & grapeseed are a few nutritional ways of boosting your hormonal profile. There are many ingredients that you can get from naturopaths that can help, but getting the right combinations and doses can be tricky to trigger the right pathways.

Some other symptoms people suffer from are those similar to fear, negativity and depression. When our bodies encounter a stressful situation it releases noradrenaline, which acts as a fight or flight mechanism. Having an oestrogen imbalance throws the signals off and can alter the way the body handles situations. In my own experience I've seen people come to tears over some of the silliest things, things that have no general affect on a happy or sad outcome. It can truly put a negative spin on anything. That’s why some females on the contraceptive pill can see huge changes in their mood.

For females who also have a lot of cellulite, this can be an effect of oestrogen dominance too, your body has a collagen mesh tissue that is created by periods, these periods are controlled by the amount of oestrogen we have in our bodies, as you get older you enter in to menopause and create more testosterone and little oestrogen, which means less collagen in your skin and more wrinkles.

After all of this there is still another challenge that most women and men will face, the oestrogen/fat "circle of death" (not really death, but it's a pretty annoying circle). Oestrogen is created in fat cells, but then those fat cells start to produce more oestrogen, they then move on to the fat cell 'next door' and tell him to produce more oestrogen too. Oestrogen is great for causing growth in the body, unfortunately it's not muscle growth, it's fat growth. So in conclusion we need to eliminate or restrict the toxins that cause us to produce oestrogen from an external point, increase our androgen levels from food, exercise and eat a health calorie effective diet to stop the fat cells over-producing oestrogen.

There are a few steps you can take to help your body naturally balance it's hormones:

  • Supplement with adaptogen herbs (these are herbs that contain the nutrients your body requires to achieve normal hormone production, such as Maca Root).
  • Improve gut health and leaky gut (we will cover this later)
  • Reducing alcohol intake
  • Reducing caffeine intake
  • Ensuring correct levels of Vitamin B and D in the body
  • Exercise
  • Reducing environmental toxins
  • Sufficient sleep
  • Reducing stress

Alcohol

It's pretty common knowledge that if you're trying to lose weight you shouldn't be drinking alcohol... but do you know exactly what it's doing to your body? We'll break it down here:

  • Alcohol hits you with about 7 calories per gram, so each drink is roughly 100-150 calories, and that's not including any mixers - that's straight alcohol.
  • After the consumption of alcohol the production of human growth hormone (HGH) in the body is slowed by up to 70% (study conducted by Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine). HGH is responsible for regulating body composition, muscle growth, and the metabolism of sugar and fat. 
  • Alcohol can impair protein synthesis, which is the process that helps build new muscle.
  • For a few days after drinking alcohol your body is focusing more of it's attention on removing those toxins you've put into it, as a side-effect from that if you do exercise during this time your muscle soreness will be much more noticeable.
  • The human body prefers to burn alcohol as a fuel before anything else. So that means it will try to burn off the calories from the alcohol before it opts for your carbohydrate or fat storage. As a result your metabolism slows down, 2 drinks will slow it down by 73% (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition), which can lead to weight gain.
  • It can lead to overeating (drunk McDonalds trip anyone?)
  • When you are consuming alcohol you body is producing a substance which is toxic to the release of testosterone. Testosterone is needed in both women and men for muscle growth.

So the question to ask yourself throughout this challenge, and continuing afterwards, is the drink really worth it? Things like this are fine in moderation, but binge drinking is a habit that you should train yourself to avoid.

Cortisol

Stress that occurs in our body and minds is an adaption of change in any form. Pressure at work, training hard at the gym, unhappy relationships, these all cause stress, and it's affecting your life. Your stress control centre is the hypothalamus, and it’s the one who decides what needs to happen, instead of your body thinking about how to cope with this change, it sends a chemical to your adrenal cortex to have an answer to the situation, whether it’s the right or wrong answer cortisol still gets released.

The chemicals send a signal to the brain usually saying that it's dealt with the stress, and we can go back to living our lives, but if this stress is ongoing, it comes back and blocks other neural transmitters like noradrenaline and the use of serotonin (the 'feel good' ones). Chronic Cortisol response is what causes things like anxiety, depression, and insomnia, and because the cortisol doesn’t know if its an internal or external stress, eventually the chemical triggers a response that creates fat to help cushion an injury, sometimes this can happen even if the injury doesn't actually exist.

In other external circumstances, your body starts to shut off different energy sources and will catabolise muscle and bone as energy, that’s why when we see people like long distance runners after putting their bodies under so much external stress without enough nutrients in their system, their bodies will eat away at their own muscle tissue (which contains glycogen) for a source of glycogen which can deplete muscle.

We can also alter our cortisol by stressing our cardiovascular system, having things like caffeine, coffee, and pre-workouts can increase your adrenal receptors to pump signals and chemicals to your brain to keep you alert and focused. The downside of adrenaline being released from your adrenal cortex, is that it also crashes, and that’s why you always perk up after your first coffee and then crave another an hour or two later to help give you that 'energy' back.

Another thing that cortisol is responsible for is helping you get to sleep and waking you back up. For those who have a perfect nights sleep, you usually find that you start to get sleepy between 9-11 and wake up between 5-8.  When people suffer from anxiety, stress and insomnia there isn’t a linear pattern of stress, it pretty much goes up and down waking you up at all different times of the night. Depending on peoples lifestyles and careers, this can also affect when your cortisol peaks and drops.

There are different ways that we can overcome excess cortisol:
- either by eliminating its external sources,
- ending bad relationships,
- keeping a work/life balance,
- relaxation,
- correct nutrition, and
- herbal supplementation.

Macronutrients

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Macronutrients are nutrients which your body requires in very large quantities in order to function. The three macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats (lipids). Each of these macronutrients contain a different amount of calories, and fuel different tasks throughout the body. Carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram, proteins contain 4 calories per gram, and there are 9 calories per gram of fats.

In a standard diet carbohydrates are what humans require the most of (provided you don’t have some kind of health condition which inhibits the use or effectiveness of carbohydrates). Carbs are the most easily metabolised nutrient, which means that your body is able to break them down quickest, making them a viable source of energy, brain fuel, as well as for tissue growth and repair.

Proteins create the majority of your cells, and while it is important, having too much can lead to excess fat storage. It’s important to aim for around 1.2g-1.5g of protein per kilogram of body weight, which is easier to achieve than you might think. Proteins are used to produce new tissue in the body, as well as regulate digestion, protect your immune system, and maintain other bodily functions.

Fats are necessary for survival. The average recommendation of healthy fats in the diet is 20-35%, but the ratio of fats to carbohydrates can be adjusted depending on any pre-existing health conditions, or any weight loss goals you may have. Fats are a high density energy source, and can help you feel full for long periods of time. Because they are slow-burning, they help your body maintain more stable blood sugar levels. Fats are incredibly important for brain function, eye health, good skin, and correcting hormone function.

Macro breakdowns we suggest (by body type)
Please note this does not take into consideration health conditions which may alter your requirements.

Please note, these are different than what we have provided on the 'weight loss', 'tone up' and 'combo' meal plans, if you wish to maintain, this is typically what you would go for (excluding health condition requirements).

Ectomorph
Tall/lean body type/has difficulty gaining muscle
70% carbs / 20% protein / 10% fats

Mesomorph
Hourglass figure
35% carbs / 35% protein / 30% fats

Endomorph
Usually shorter, has difficulty losing and keeping off weight
20% carbs / 30% protein / 50% fats

Low Intensity Training

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How you burn fat: the science

Using energy comes from breaking down carbohydrates, or glycogen, into simple glucose molecules -- this process is called glycolgenolysis. Your body breaks down fats into glycerol and fatty acids in the process of lipolysis. The fatty acids can then be broken down directly to get energy, or can be used to make glucose through a multi-step process called gluconeogenesis. In gluconeogenesis, amino acids can also be used to make glucose.
In the fat cell, other types of lipases (enzymes) work to break down fats into fatty acids and glycerol. These lipases are activated by various hormones, such as glucagon, epinephrine and growth hormone. The resulting glycerol and fatty acids are released into the blood, and travel to the liver through the bloodstream. Once in the liver, the glycerol and fatty acids can be either further broken down or used to make glucose. Once the glucose has travelled through the blood stream and through the body they remove the lactic acid which turns in to carbon dioxide and out through the airways, so ideally the better you are at breathing and passing oxygen through the body, the better your body will be at burning fat!

Low Intensity Cardio

Walking, swimming, running and jogging fall in the category of low intensity cardio. When trying to keep a slower pace your body focuses on your aerobic system to produce energy from fat stores and your oxygen. We don’t really need large stores to explode like phosphate energy does, so this means that it is localised to burning fat. Just because it burns fat doesn’t actually mean that it is the better option for losing weight, but mainly an optimiser for increasing your cardio abilities, so in turn your body can use its energy better. Low intensity cardio is a good option for getting fit, rather than using it just to burn calories. When doing any long periods of exercise your body goes in to a stressed state that releases a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol plays a part in catabolism (the body eating it's own muscle) and is a reason why some people don’t see muscle gains and can stereotypically explain why you don’t see too many bulky runners or joggers. The ideal length of time for a low intensity cardio session is between 30 and 45 minutes.

Micronutrients

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Micronutrients are essentially just vitamins and minerals, and they are called ‘micronutrients’ because they are needed in smaller amounts than macronutrients. They play a large role in your overall health and nutrition, as well as mental functioning and disease prevention. Often micronutrients are neglected when it comes to information online about what you eat, it’s much easier for people to discuss macronutrients and ratios that you should stick to, however micronutrients should not be left out! Foods which contain lots of micronutrients are considered to be ‘nutrient dense’, this is common of fruits and vegetables.

There are two kinds of vitamins which you can find: water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins are easily expelled from the body as they are lost through bodily fluids, which means they need to be replaced on a more regular basis. These are B vitamins, folate, biotin, panthotheic acid, and vitamin c. Although they are expelled from the body more quickly, they are only needed in small amounts. Fat-soluble vitamins include A, D, E, and K, and are stored in the body for longer periods of time, meaning they usually do not need to be replaced as often, and excess supplementation of these vitamins can lead to toxicity or negative side effects.

Here are some examples of where to find some of the common micronutrients in your diet:

Calcium: dairy, broccoli, dark green vegetables, sardines
Potassium: banana, cantaloupe, raisins, fish, spinach, green vegetables
Magnesium: spinach, almonds, black beans, peas
Vitamin A: sweet potato, carrot, milk, eggs
Vitamin C: orange, strawberry, tomato, kiwi fruit, broccoli, capsicum
Vitamin E: avocado, whole-grains, spinach, dark green vegetables, nuts, seeds
Vitamin B12: beef, fish, cheese, eggs
Zinc: beef, cashews, garbanzo, turkey

PCOS

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Eating large amounts of refined carbs (think: simple sugars) and processed food does a lot more harm to your body than just making you gain weight and feel bloated. The risk for many girls is PCOS, especially if women in their family also have the condition. Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome is an imbalance in your hormonal profile which can be caused by insulin resistance, and/or family history. Genetics are usually the main suspects for the cause, but there are many factors that can lead up to the hormones not producing the right blood sugar levels.

If you find that you grow a little more hair in places you don’t want, you get a little more acne than usual, highly irregular periods, inability to lose weight, weight gain, fatigue and depression, then there is a possibility you have PCOS (scans or surgery also must also be done to confirm growths on the ovaries, and blood tests will usually show a high level of testosterone or androgens). Your hormones are the chemicals that make your body work, and having too little or too much can cause a lot of problems, and the main one we are discussing in this article is weight gain.  After a long period of time of bad eating, your body starts to reject insulin that is manifested in the pancreas and ends up storing around the side of your belly and lower back (love handles). Insulin usually enters into the blood stream and feeds the body its energy by allowing glucose to enter the cells, however, when the insulin is not processed it can be responsible for type 2 diabetes, and can feed cancerous cells.

Links have been made between hypothyroidism, PCOS and insulin resistance, and a good way to help avoid these symptoms is to temporarily eliminate processed foods, sugars, starches and complex carbs for a minimum of 14 days, this will give your body time to reset and give your metabolism a kick up the butt, and you will see a major difference in your midsection in 2 weeks.
 
If you have been following a high carb diet and not seeing results (or if your results have been going backwards) you definitely look in to switch your meals up a little bit to include more polyunsaturated fats, EPA & DHA  (your "good fats"), which can help with insulin resistance, depression and anxiety. In reality, it’s hard to deny a nice carby pizza, fries and pasta. But we have to try and be mindful of things that can damage our bodies, I never recommend totally eliminating a food source, but take it in moderation. Being a nutritional extremist can throw out your bodies hormonal profile and set you up for failure in your weight loss journey.

Pain Management

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Pain is usually one of three kinds: neural, muscular or skeletal. 

When doing a workout routine it's always important to make sure your body is mechanically sound enough to complete the exercise. Whether its preventative, maintenance or repair it’s a good idea to get yourself checked out by a professional.

Most injuries are caused by overloading a muscle or joint, which in turn causes trigger points or inflammation. Commonly a lot of these injuries occur before even stepping into a gym. One we see quite a lot is usually caused by office or retail work, sitting at a desk all day or standing at a counter serving people is one way to create problematic postural abnormalities. Even for me right now typing this I know that I'm putting my neck under stress as I look down at my Macbook, which can cause a lot of back issues and then create pain in my shoulders, chest, neck, arms and much more. So next time you are doing work, study or even just flicking though Instagram, think to yourself, what is your posture doing to your spine?

I’m going to provide some tips on how to prevent pain from occupational hazards.

1. If you’re on your computer you’re more than likely using a mouse, this can create tightness in your upper traps, rotator cuff, arms and back.  Make sure your chair isn’t too high that it makes you raise your shoulders up, switch mouse from hand to hand every now and again, stretch your arms, go for a short walk, or at least stand up and move around every 30 mins. Be aware of your posture, if you feel yourself slumping, sit up straight and squeeze your shoulders together for 10 seconds. Not only will this remind you that you have poor posture, but will also strengthen the back muscles that cause slumping in the first place.

2. If you are standing at work, most probably you are leaning to one side, loading up your hip. This one may seem unlikely but it can cause a lot of pain in the future. Loading up your hip creates little contractions in your glutes, that can then tighten up your lower spine, for a lot of you who get a “Sciatica” pain that travels down your lower back, bum, and all through your legs, this is usually the cause. This is a nerve pain that is caused by the impingement of your sciatic never in your lower spine and through a muscle called your piriformis. It’s technically not sciatica, but can cause the same symptoms. Switch from leg to leg, be mindful of your posture, awareness is the key! Try and stand on both legs as evenly as possible, walk around, and when no-ones looking, stretch.

3. If your job involves lifting, your lower back is probably pretty sore, if you haven’t been to the gym, or been taught how to deadlift properly, chances are you are lifting wrong. If your back feels like that of a camels, then straighten that guy up and bend at the hips and knees, keeping a tight tummy and getting down low will help you lift any item safely, if it's too heavy get a friend to help.

4. Got pains already? These are some people to see:
Physiotherapist: For joint pain, niggling injuries, or sports injuries are the best.
Chiropractor: For joint pain, stiffness, nerve pain, mainly through the spine.
Massage therapist: For sore stiff muscles, tight necks, and shoulders, and lower backs.
Osteopaths: For sore joints, poor mobility.
These are just the basics, but there are also many other natural healers, everyone is different and different methods work for different people. So try a few and see what works best for you.

A few things you can do yourself is to do isolated stretches, which you can find in the stretching guide, trigger pointing with a ball, or a friend. Self-massage, and foam rolling. Natural remedies and minerals, that can help with inflammation and soreness like magnesium, glucosamine, turmeric, and many more.

Creating a pain management routine will not only help through your workouts, but your work and lifestyle too. Always remember to exercise safely, and if you're not sure on a technique, research or ask a professional.

Caffeine VS Adrenal Glands

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You wake up, well, you hit snooze 2 or 3 times then you wake up and you need to get ready for the day ahead, but it really doesn’t get started until that first cup of coffee hits your lips. The caffeine gods have answered your plea, and it's time to get to work, you hit go, and your mind is sent into a time vortex where every task you have to do is done at the speed of light, you have reached max overdrive. 

Hours later you start to drift off, you feel drained, what the hell happened? What happened is that your adrenal cortex has been fatigued, when our body is stimulated by an external source, say something like your long black that you had at 8am before you got to work, it sends a signal to the brain, and releases a chemical that blocks all of your 'sleepy hormones'. After a few hours have past your sleepy hormones are re-activated, and you're searching for your next hit.

The initial cup you have has drained your adrenal glands, and trying to get them restored is a bit harder than having another cup,  your body has been under extreme stress and the hormone cortisol is released, which means that if there is fat production, that fat gets stored on your belly. It's not just coffee, but things like energy drinks, pre-workouts and thermogens can cause high adrenal stress and leave us fatigued, not only causing fat to store on your belly, but increasing your chances on anxiety, stress & depression.

Taking a break from coffee or any other stimulant is an optimal way to reduce fatigue, stress & anxiety and belly fat. After 14 days your body can reduce the cravings and addiction for coffee, as it is a psychoactive drug and you will see an increase in ability to sleep too. Be aware that if you decide to detox yourself from caffeine that you may feel extreme fatigue and even get headaches for the first 3-7 days. This is your body adjusting to functioning without the input of caffeine. Your adrenal glands will begin to naturally produce the energy you need again, and are less likely to be drained.

Long term adrenal draining can eventually lead to adrenal fatigue, so it's important to properly manage your body's level of stress, and what stimulants you're choosing to consume.

How To Stay On Track

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If you're here and reading this, congratulations, you're taking a good step. Even if you've slipped up in the last few weeks, missed some workouts or had a couple too many treat meals, it's about negotiating with yourself to stay on track and bounce back after a slip up. 

Here are some short and simple tips that we have learnt along the way that may also help motivate you:

1. Remember the original reason you started, write it down or place it somewhere you will continue to see it.

2. Track your measurements. You may have noticed the six tasks that have been assigned to each week, every second week is taking your measurements. This is to ensure you have some kind of tracking in place to show you the positive effects exercise and good food is having on your body.

3. Track your progression. Seeing your fitness level progress is very rewarding.

4. If you're exercising and not seeing any results at all it may be time to start a food journal. Start noting down what you're eating, you may surprise yourself.

5. Remember that progression is not always straight forward. It's great when things are going the way you want, but remember, that may not always happen. There may be periods of time where you're run down, or where you are injured, or sick. It's times like these that you need to learn how to get yourself back on track afterwards. In the mean time, look after yourself and ensuring you're getting the best recovery possible.

6. Find a support network. This is one of the reasons we have the Facebook group, it's great to find people with a common goal. Try doing some of the workouts with a friend, or find someone who you can share meal prep ideas with. It doesn't have to be anything major, but finding a support network who have a common goal will help keep you on track.

7. Failure is normal. Don't beat yourself up about any small failures you may have had, you're just learning things that are challenges, or things that don't work for your body. Take the failure on board, assess why it happened, and correct the action for the future.

8. Encourage yourself. The words you speak to yourself form a majority of your self-image. Be kind to yourself.

9. Seek motivation daily. Motivation won't always hang around on it's own, it's up to you to keep finding it and finding things that inspire you on your journey.

Shoe Choices For Training

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Sneakers
Running Shoes
Sand Shoes
Gym Shoes
Cross Training Shoes

Wait… aren’t they all the same thing?

Unfortunately, they’re not.

Warning – you may need to make some space for a new pair of shoes!

 

TRAINING SHOES

Commonly known as a ‘cross-training’ shoe, training shoes are designed to provide protection for a variety of fitness activities. Training shoes are multi-directional, multi-functional, more flexible and offer greater ankle and heel support. The lower heel drop (distance from heel height to toe height) puts the wearer closer to the ground to push off, pivot, cut, stop and jump. They are highly versatile, from high-intensity training, weight lifting, strength training, agility and even short distances on the treadmill – perfect for ERL12! Having a pair specifically for training can give you both the stability of a lifting-specific shoe and lightweight flexibility of a cross-trainer for HIIT.

 

WALKING SHOES

Walking has a different demand on your feet compared to running - your body weight is distributed more evenly than running with your weight rolling from the heel, through to the ball and continuing to the toe in one foot after the other. The gentle motion requires the feet to absorb the shock of 1 to 2 times your body weight with each step. Walking shoes are designed with the specific body mechanics and strike path of walking in mind. Flexibility through the ball of the foot of the shoe allows a greater range of motion through the roll of the forefoot and a greater arch support where the force is heaviest on the foot.

 

RUNNING SHOES

Usually lightweight, running shoes support the natural shape of your feet and provide an energy return. Running is a heel-to-toe movement therefore the right support is extremely important. Cushioning in the heels where impact is greatest and less through the ball means better protection of your feet when pounding the pavement. Mesh panels are often part of the design to allow heat to escape, creating a lighter feel.  Whether you’re a long-distance marathon runner, trail runner, track runner or a casual runner – the right amount of cushioning and support is important for peak performance.

 

Still unsure of what shoes you should be wearing?

Consider these three factors: StabilityDurability and Cushioning

Choosing the right shoes for your training style is important to avoid injury and perform at your peak. Make sure to see a shoe specialist if you are unsure – they are always helpful and will ensure the right style and fit for you!

Locking Out VS Time Under Tension

You’ve probably seen the viral video of the lady in the leg press machine getting her legs bent inside out, making you question yourself using a leg press machine ever again. Now the belief and myth for leg press, in fact, every exercise, is not to lock out your joints, otherwise you're going to turn into an accordion. The fact is that she wasn’t even paying attention, being distracted by the cameras and the crowd around her, she didn’t respect how dangerous the equipment was. It doesn’t have to be dangerous, if you know what you are doing and how you need to do it, kind of like anything that requires a bit of skill. What I’m going to take you through, is the difference between locking out for strength and control, and time under tension, for muscle mass and endurance/cardio.
 

Strength

Creating ultimate strength is called Myofibril Hypertrophy, tearing the muscle that does the movement of the joint and repairing it through recovery so it is stronger. Placing high loads of weight under short amounts of reps and full range of motion, is needed to create a stronger, functional body, which ultimately means locking out.

The myth is you never lock out. I’m not sure whether this originated from people getting injuries from hyperextension of the joints, or that purely for creating muscle mass, like what most people do whilst at the gym, depends on this technique.

I could go into the science of it, but basically when you take your time with any exercise and focus on form you get yourself the best results and are less likely injure yourself. Training for strength is what’s relative to you in terms of going heavy. You want to be doing between 3-7 reps for men and 5-9 for women, and working between 80-90% of your 1RM (a 1RM is how much you can lift for 1 rep... 1 Repetition Max). This is called Myofibril Hypertrophy (the extreme version of this is powerlifters) and requires a lot of energy (carbs) called ATP which is a highly explosive energy. ATP lasts for about 10 seconds so you want to get the most out of it. When lifting for strength you want to lengthen your muscle from point A to point B with perfect form, and lock out to take time off the tension, so you can reserve energy for another solid lift, and regain control, form, and stability.

Most commonly, as explained in the lock out part above, people are introduced to training in the gym via doing muscle building exercises, with form commonly known as “time under tension”. Creating size, or mass in muscle is called Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy (think: body-building style training, ie. 'figure sculpting'), this is basically your muscles lengthening and contracting from point A to point B, without stopping, and not going to full lock out (e.g. you're doing a pushup, and you don't lock your elbows at the top, as soon as you're almost at lock out stage you start another rep), which means the muscles are under tension for a longer period of time creating micro-tears through the muscle belly from glycogen, blood and water being pumped into the muscles.
 

Lactic Acid

The by-product of muscle from this style of training is know as lactic acid (that burning feeling from working out), which results in fat burning. The Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy rep range is between 8-15 for men and 10-15 for women at 50-80% of your 1rm. The form on sarcoplasmic is most commonly a bit quicker with the count on reps, so generally doing the exercises quicker, mainly because there is less weight to create injuries, but like all exercise they must be done with caution. Body weight exercises fall under this rule too, but yet again, some are still hard to do, and your technique always depends on what your goals are. 

Doing 16+ reps comes in to the cardio/endurance section, where your body is just burning left over fuel, and using your oxygen supplies, making you fitter + leaner. You don’t have to just do 1 style, you can combine all of these in one workout, generally starting with strength (myofibril), size (sarcoplasmic), then endurance. 

Real Foods

Non-GMO
GMO
Organic
Natural
Fresh Local
Light
Low Fat

How are we meant to know what is the best type of food to fuel our bodies with so many labels? Let’s break down what we already presumably know about real food vs. processed food.

 

Real Food

-       Ideally a food with one ingredient (i.e. apples, cucumber, eggs)
-       Product of nature
-       Seeds & nuts

 

Processed Food

-       More than one ingredient
-       Additional sugars, preservatives, dyes and bad fats (saturated & trans)
-       Altered from natural state (usually for convenience)

If that wasn’t enough to make you think about what you’re eating, let’s look further in to exactly what processed foods are.

 

Processed foods have multiple ingredients and contain the likes of refined sugars, refined grains and even ingredients that are hard to pronounce. If you wouldn’t cook with that ingredient at home, why is it in your food? Artificial flavours, refined sweeteners (white sugar, brown sugar, sucralose), refined oils (canola oils) and other additives are all processed foods, also known as a ‘product of industry’.

Cutting out processed foods will lead to an array of health benefits including more energy, improved cholesterol levels, reduced sickness and weight loss. One of the biggest culprits in processed foods is fructose. Fructose cannot be converted; our livers convert it into stored energy (mostly fat). It’s terrible for our organs, triggers constipation and encourages all kinds of medical issues including obesity, heart disease, fatty liver, PCOS and depression.

We have become addicted to these fake foods as we have become accustomed to eating with our brain, rather than our gut! Your brain processes sensory information (sweet, sour, etc.) and tells us if it’s yummy or yucky… it’s our gut neurons (enteric nervous system) that process the natural serotonin and dopamine that comes from food.

Think back to a time where you’ve had to get something ‘on the run’, you’ve stopped in at a petrol/gas station and picked up a snack. You’ve eaten it really quickly and chances are it didn’t taste that great anyway so now you’re feeling a little disappointed… and that’s it. Maybe it was a ‘healthy’ muesli bar. I want you think back to when you had it for the first time - maybe your grandma made it for you, her special oat slice. Our brain is forever searching for that ‘ultimate’ flavour – to ignite our dopamine sensors. I can tell you now that 95% of the time that you have had that dopamine sensation it came from whole, real foods. Grandma might have added that extra tablespoon of maple syrup, but she sure didn’t use sulphur dioxide as a preservative.

Real food has curves! Let’s put a number on it – if there is more than 5 unrefined ingredients, forget it. Here’s a quick list of real foods:

-       Dairy: whole milk, unsweetened yoghurt, eggs and cheese

-       Fruit & vegetables

-       Nuts & legumes

-       100% whole grains and flours (if it doesn’t say whole, forget it)

-       Wild-caught seafood

-       Locally and humanely raised pastured meat (chicken, pork, beef, lamb)

-       Honey, maple syrup

 

We could write a list of what benefits come from real foods, but we’d be here all day. Here’s a quick list just to get you started:

-       Reduces cholesterol

-       Regulates blood sugars

-       Reduces risk for diabetes

-       Constipation/bowel problems reversed

-       Change in palate

 

Feel as though you don’t have the time to cook nutritious wholesome meals? Try to bulk meal prep when you have a spare hour or cook extra on the nights that you do have the time. A good meal is the best reward for your hard work.

It’s easy enough to go tell you to buy everything raw – but in reality, well, it is actually that simple. If you’re not already buying seasonal food from your local markets, have a think next time you are at the supermarket. Check the perimeters! This is where you’ll find the fruit and vegetables, the meat cabinet, dairy, and usually the bread aisle/bakery. Of course, they’ll still try to trick you with their trigger words such as low fatlow sugar or low calories. Have a try at growing your own garden – even if it’s a bunch of herbs and lettuces on your windowsill – your food will taste great and have vibrant greens throughout.

 

Leake, L., 2014. 100 Days of Real Food. 1st ed. North America: Harper Collins.

Gillespie, D., 2015. Eat Real Food. 1st ed. Australia: Pan Macmillan.

Rehab & Recovery

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When beginning a training program the first few weeks may be a bit of confusion. You’re in pain, and you’re trying to figure out if its from training and if you have busted something. 9 times out of 10 its just muscles soreness from your first couple of training sessions. DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) usually takes over a period of a week to recover but on most cases as you get used to your program it only takes a couple of days or nothing at all! Now, if you still feel like you are getting pain, and usually not a symmetrical pain, for example your left shoulder is sore but your right not, you may have a problem. It's not that you have trained wrong, but to be honest, occupation and lifestyle play a big factor into how your muscles function. Loading up a hip from standing at a counter all day can hurt after a leg session, looking down at your computer screen can put strain on your neck and can result in having a pulled muscle or tight neck after doing an upper body work out. Its important to make sure your recovery after training also includes being preventative to such matters.


Seeing a physiotherapist...

...can help with the understanding of where the problem starts and how you can help stop it. It can be from an accident when you were 7 years old that is catching up, wearing heels out all night over the weekend, or having bad form when exercising. Stretching, foam rolling and regular massage are all staples in helping with an injury that is setting your training back, as we get older we get more frail and we need to be pro-active in making sure we are structurally sound. If you have an injury don’t stop your training, work out what you can do, not what you can't, focus on diet and replace those missed sessions with big recovery and stretching sessions.
 

Make your rest days count!

You may want to see more results, and train again to see change, but stressing your body all the time does not help. Rest days don’t necessarily mean just laze around the house and not be active, get on the floor and spend a good 20-30 minutes stretching and roam rolling or doing rehab exercises your Physio or health practitioner has given you.
 

Another great way to reduce inflammation, or swelling...

...is supplementing with turmeric and magnesium. When the muscles are sore or injured they will swell, but the body doesn’t always know where the pain or inflammation is, so when you are stressed it can make you store fluid everywhere and feel bloated. Topical application of bentonite clay, or baths in epsom salts can also help.

If you are in pain for longer than a week after training, or if you feel like a part of you isn’t getting better, see a health professional and start making a program with them to get you training like a well-oiled machine again.

Gut Health

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Gut health is another topic which we see glossed over so often when it comes to articles online and fitness information given to people. You’re always told, “just exercise and eat healthy”.. but what if it isn’t that simple. If you have poor gut health, or leaky gut, your body isn’t even going to absorb the nutrients from your food correctly, which is why it’s so important to fix any problems in your gut as soon as you notice them.

Poor gut health is often associated with other illnesses such as fibromyalgia, and PCOS, where the stomach has gone on to develop food intolerances, most commonly seen are gluten intolerance and lactose intolerance. It can also eventually lead to IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), and other food sensitivities and bacterial imbalances.

So what does your gut depend on to stay healthy?

  • A balanced intestinal bacteria;
  • A fully intact mucosa lining; and
  • A healthy immune system.

 

Leaky Gut

When the gut wall is irritated or has become inflamed it can lead to a condition called Leaky Gut. Leaky Gut is exactly as the name suggests, and the stomach mucosa lining has become permeable. This can lead to malnutrition, a bacterial imbalance, and as mentioned previously, food intolerances: gluten, casein, lectin, fructose, lactose. This lack of nutrients isn’t the only problem, the Leaky Gut can also act as a ‘vacancy’ sign to bad bacteria looking for a new place to stay, and once those guys are in your body is going to signal and immune or inflammatory response, and you can end up getting quite ill. Leaky Gut is often tied to other conditions such as allergies, type 1 diabetes, mental illness (depression, schizophrenia), skin inflammation, poor insulin signalling (leading to PCOS and type 2 diabetes), and even asthma.

Things that can cause a leaky gut include prolonged use of antibiotics (leading to the destruction of too much ‘good’ bacteria, excessive consumption of sugar or refined carbohydrates, bacteria, parasites, yeast, stress, and excessive alcohol consumption. The symptoms that your body will use to attempt to alert you of Leaky Gut will show up on the outside of your body and may be hard for a GP to diagnose because your new complaints seemingly don’t have a source. These symptoms include: joint pain, fibromyalgia, sleep disturbances, fever, anaemia, skin irritations, prolonged fatigue, regular headaches, arthritis, and nutrient deficiencies.

How to repair your gut

The following is a list of some things you can do to ensure the integrity of your gut good/bad bacteria balance and make sure that your body is absorbing all the nutrients possible from your food:

  • Eliminate inflammatory foods or drinks: highly processed sugars, and alcohols are the best place to start looking.
  • Balance your gut bacteria: speak to your naturopath or nutritionist about this one, but naturopaths will be able to find out which specific brands of bacteria your body needs to help repair itself, a general ‘probiotic’ is not quite good enough for this.
  • Remove sugar alcohols from your diet: these are found in chewing gum, ‘sugar free’ products, some protein powders, and protein bars.
  • Relax: consider slowing down. Stress can alter the state of your body dramatically.
  • Bone broth: consuming bone broth in the morning prior to eating can help repair the mucosa lining in your stomach.