Understanding Good Fats vs Bad Fats

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I remember back in my university days when my friend and I would go to the cafeteria to get a late night studying snack.  We decided that getting Skittles was a good snack because it didn’t have any fat in it – therefore we wouldn’t get fat – hahahaha!  Seriously.  We thought that.

Well we all know now that fat is essential to optimal health (and that Skittles were probably one of the worst things we could have chosen for a snack – hello sugar!)

Fat is the building block for our cells and key hormones in our bodies!  It is essential for weight loss, mood control, immune system function, brain development and heart health.

Fats can be broken down into 3 categories:

  • Trans fatty acids
  • Saturated Fats
  • Unsaturated Fats – Monounsaturated Fats
                                       – Polyunsaturated Fats – Essential Fatty Acids

Trans fatty acids are man-made.  They are formed when liquid vegetable oils are made into solid fats like shortening and hard margarine through the process of hydrogenation.

Surprisingly, nearly all fried or commercial baked goods have some trans fat – boo! Trans fats are known for raising LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lowering HDL (“good”) cholesterol.  And are considered to be similar to the chemical components of plastic (yes – plastic – not a food!!)

The reason Trans fats are used in many foods is their shelf life and cheap cost.  The shelf life of trans fats is a lot longer than most other fats and therefore used by food manufacturers.  We should try to avoid it completely.  Check the list of ingredients in store bought baked goods and stay away from any “partially hydrogenated” oils or “shortening” in the ingredients.

Saturated Fats are usually sold or almost solid at room temperature such as butter, cheese, cream, coconut oil, palm and palm kernel oil.  You do not need to eliminate these fats from your diet.  Eskimos and North American Indians had 80% of their daily caloric intake from saturated fats.  The key to this type of fat is the source.  Is it an organic, natural source or is it highly processed – that is the question.

Monounsaturated Fats are among the healthiest fast.  They are found in olive oil and nuts and seeds and avocados.

Polyunsaturated Fats are found in vegetable oils such as safflower, corn, sunflower and soybean and fatty fish like salmon.   

There certain fats that are essential to our well-being.  These are called Essential Fatty Acids or EFA’s.  This means our bodies are unable to manufacture them and we absolutely need them in our diet. 

EFA’s are polyunsaturated fats and they come in 2 forms – Omega-3 and Omega-6.  Omega-6 EFA’s come from grain products, meats and cooking oils such as corn, safflower and sunflower.  Omega-3 EFA’s come from leafy green vegetables, Flaxseed, Hemp, Chia seeds, salmon, tuna, cod liver oil, eggs, and nuts.

We tend to naturally have more Omega-6 in our diets so it is the Omega-3 that we need to be conscious of including into our meals.

Here are some simple ideas to add healthy fats into your diet:

  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil or Ghee (clarified butter) on your toast
  • 1 Tbsp of chia or flaxseeds into smoothies
  • Eating 6oz serving of fish like salmon, trout etc 2-3 times per week
  • 8-10 nuts such as almonds or walnuts
  • 1/4 of an avocado on a salad or in a sandwich or wrap
  • 1-2 Tbsp of flaxseed oil in a dressing over a salad
  • 2 Tips of toasted sesame seeds over a salad or on chicken
  • 1 tsp of olive oil to make your morning eggs
  • 1 Tbsp of ground flaxseed in your salad or smoothie or yogurt
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6 Steps To Starting Your Own Yoga Practice

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When I started my yoga teacher training, we were taught that our personal yoga practice was about letting go of judgment and competition.  This was probably the MOST IMPORTANT thing I could learn.  When I started, yoga was unfamiliar and I felt very self-conscious and intimidated.  I quickly learned that I needed to let these feeling go and accept that it was MY journey.  I had only one place to start – as a beginner.

Letting go of competition means you stop comparing yourself to others during your practice.  Everybody will look slightly different in the same pose because every body is different.  Your goal is to make every yoga pose fit your body and not try to fit your body into a yoga pose. Never force, push or shove yourself into a pose.  It’s important to know your flexibility and fitness level.   Challenge yourself to your own limits and don’t compare yourself to anyone else.  You are on your own personal journey of improvement.

Letting go of judgement means to not have an exception of what you “should” be able to do in each class.  Today you may be super bendy and find yourself going deeper into poses than usual and tomorrow you may find you are not.  Today you may have great balance and find each pose easy to hold, tomorrow you may not.  That is ok.   

It is called a “yoga practice” because that is exactly what you do – practice.  Think long-term.  Are you getting stronger, more flexible and more balanced over 6 months or a year?  Change doesn’t happen overnight.  Be patient.

6 Steps To Starting Your Yoga Practice

  1. Find a GREAT STUDIO that makes you feel welcome and comfortable.  Some places will allow you a free trial class.  If you can, try it out before you commit.  This is a great way to meet the instructor and the students.  You want to be in a class that leaves you feeling physically challenged, refreshed, centred and happy.

  2. Find the RIGHT TYPE OF CLASS.  There are many styles of yoga.  A Hatha class can be a good place to begin because it provides an introduction to the basic yoga poses in a low key setting.  Vinyasa can also be a good starting point.  It tends to be a more vigorous style based on the performance of a series of poses called sun salutations, where movement is matched to your breath.  Hot yoga or Power yoga are probably not the best place to begin unless you are already very physically fit.

  3. Invest in a GOOD YOGA MAT.  Some studios supply mats and others do not.  There is something empowering about having your own mat.  It becomes your sanctuary for a peaceful retreat from the world. It’s a familiar and comforting place where you can escape your stress and find inner peace.  It is also a great way to continue your yoga practice at home.  The most important aspects of a good mat include adequate cushioning (while still being firm) and a non-slip surface.  Yoga stores will give you the best options.

  4. Start your class with the PROPER MINDSET.  This is your yoga practice.  You will become stronger today.  You will become more flexible today.  You will increase your longevity and improve your health.  Do not look around the room at everyone else.  Just focus on yourself and be aware of what you feel in each pose.  Be inside your own personal oasis on your mat.

  5. Stay in the PRESENT MOMENT.  Focus on your breath.  Be very mindful of what you are doing.  When you feel your mind wandering to your to-do list or what’s for dinner, stop yourself and re-focus.

  6. Keep a JOURNAL.  Write down how you feel after each class.  Record how you feel emotionally and physically.  Track improvements in your flexibility, balance and strength.  Celebrate your accomplishments and regularly look back to see how far you’ve come.

I’ve read a quote that says “Yoga adds years to your life and life to your years”.  Your body will thank you for beginning a yoga practice.  You have nothing to lose and A LOT to gain.

5 Post-Holiday Slim Down Tips

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With all the delicious food that’s available over the holidays, it’s so easy to over-indulge.  If you have, you may feel a little bloated and your clothes a little tight.  Now you want to feel skinny fast!  Here are 5 slim down tips, along with a secret weight loss recipe 🙂

#1 – Start eating regularly throughout the day

It may seem logical to skip meals so that you can save on calories but your body doesn’t work that way.  You will become uncontrollably hungry and you’ll end up over-eating and making bad choices in the end.

Your blood sugar begins to fall after 3 hours without eating.  After 4 hours you’ve digested everything you ate earlier.  Once you’ve crossed the 5-hour mark, your blood sugar begins to plummet, and you grab whatever you can to refuel.

Aim for 3 meals a day with 2 small snacks (morning and afternoon).  Include veggies and protein with each meal.  The veggies will give you fibre that will fill you up.  Foods with protein (even vegetarian options) will slow down digestion and satiate you for longer.

#2 – Stay hydrated – avoid alcohol, fancy coffee and soda 

Stick to herbal teas and water

If you don’t drink enough water, you may think you are hungry when you are actually thirsty.  This will lead to increased calorie consumption.   Plus, mild dehydration will reduce your metabolism.  A study in “The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism” from 2003, showed that metabolic rate increases by 30 percent after drinking 2 cups of water.”

If you feel inexplicably hungry an hour after eating a meal, try having a drink of water or an herbal tea (not black tea or coffee as it doesn’t hydrate you in the same way) and see if the feeling passes.

I love sipping on a good glass of wine and I know a lot of you do too.  Wine is not something that we have to give up permanently but in order to shake off the extra holiday pounds we need to eliminate it for a few days.  When we drink wine, our body stops the fat-burning and calorie-burning processes and focuses on metabolizing the alcohol.

Wine has 7 calories per gram (ounce).  To put that into perspective, protein and carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram so you can see that it is calorie dense.  Wine does not satisfy hunger but actually increases your appetite.  To slim down quick we need to avoid it temporarily.

Fancy coffees and soda (along with juice) will add sugar to your diet.  It is just empty calories that offer no nutrition – it just adds fluff to your waistline.

 

#3 – Eliminate sugar for at least 3 days

Sugar has nothing good to offer your body.  I’ve seen it labelled the “anti-food”.  It is calories with no nutrition.  Sugar leads to weight gain, imbalanced hormones and immune deficiency.  Eliminating sugar and artificial sweeteners will allow your hormones to become balanced and your body to start shedding excess weight.

If you are dying for something sweet to satisfy that craving, try frozen grapes, figs or almond butter (natural, whole foods).  But be careful not to overindulge.  I’m speaking from experience – a soup spoon full of almond butter is NOT a good idea!!

If you are ready to CRUSH your weight loss goals this year, check out my 28-Day LOVE YOUR BODY Transformation Program.  

Click Here to Read More

 

#4 – Get back to your regular exercise program

Get back into your HIIT workouts.  High-Intensity Training is FAR better for fat-burning than conventional aerobics.

Here’s proof that HIIT training is THE BEST:

Participants in a study were divided into two teams. Group A did 20 weeks of conventional aerobics and Group B did 15 weeks of HIIT.  Group A burned 48 percent more calories DURING the workout than the HIIT group, but Group B burned 900% MORE FAT in 15 weeks than Group A burned in 20 weeks.

This goes to show that the EPOC (exercise post-oxygen consumption) is huge AFTER your workout.  Your metabolism is on fire for hours after an intense HIIT workout.  This makes HIIT the best choice for boosting your metabolism and shedding fat.

Click Here to go to my Two-Week Tone Up Videos

 

#5 – Fill your meals with unprocessed, whole foods.

Choose, lean proteins, whole grains, healthy fats, fresh fruit and vegetables.  Design your plate with a palm-sized serving of protein, 1/2 cup whole grains and 2 cups of vegetables.

Tip for eating out:
If you are eating out at a restaurant, ask for a doggie bag before your meal comes.  Place 1/3-1/2 of it in the doggie bag before you start to eat.  This keep you from over-indulging and will give you lunch for tomorrow 🙂

 

Weight Loss Leek Soup Recipe

Here is a recipe from Tosca Reno that will help restore balance to your body.  It will assist your body in eliminating the bloated feeling you have and shed excess water.

Drink this soup as often as you’d like for 3 days.  One cup is one serving.

Ingredients:

  • 6 good-sized leeks
  • 1 fist-sized onion, peeled and chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and passed through a garlic press
  • 6 cups of water

Directions:

  1. Chop and rinse leeks.  Place looks in a soup kettle or large saucepan.
  2. Add chopped onion and garlic to leeks.  Add 6 cups water.  If vegetables are not totally covered, add more water
  3. Bring soup to a boil on the stove.  Once mixture is boiling, reduce heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and puree mixture using an immersion blender or a high-speed blender.  Do not add seasoning or salt.
  4. Serve soup hot.  Store in refrigerator for 3 days.

 

CRUSH your weight loss goals this year, check out my

28-Day LOVE YOUR BODY Transformation Program.  

Click Here to Read More

A Quick Solution for Stress

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I want to share a simple technique with you that has been titled “The Super Stress Buster”.  Our lives are filled with stress and we are often told we need to “manage” stress for health reasons.  What does that even mean????  For the most part, it’s impossible to eliminate our stress.  It’s just there – daily tasks to be done, bills to be paid, kids needing our attention, deadlines at work, sickness and injuries, the list goes on.  We need simple solutions that are quick and easy.  Solutions that don’t add to our stress – haha!

The American Institute of Stress says there is one “Super Stress Buster” that is so easy even kids can do it – BREATHING!  Although breathing is an autonomous function, we need to be taught to do it properly to experience it’s relaxing effects.  Most often we take shallow breaths that keep us feeling uptight. 

Recently research has shown that in our tech-crazy world we actually HOLD our breath.  Surprisingly there is something called “screen apnea”.  We actually stop breathing while working on our computers or smart phones!  Simple activities such as texting and emailing will cause this to happen and it leads to added tension and stress.  Learning simple techniques to help us relax and rest is key.

Our breath is the gateway to activating our parasympathetic nervous system.  This is the part of our nervous system that is responsible for calming and healing effects.  Shallow chest breathing (as opposed to deep belly breathing) activates our sympathetic nervous system.  This initiates our “fight or flight” response and creates higher heart rates, excess cortisol and more tension in our bodies.  Slow breathing does the opposite and studies have shown that it reduces stress, blood pressure and heart rates.   Deep breathing gets more nourishing oxygen into our bodies.  Blood that is rich in oxygen will help you feel better, and give you more energy. 

Here are 2 techniques to master your breathing, reconnecting your body and mind and stopping the stress response.

Three-Part Breath:

  1. Start lying down or in an easy seated position.  Make sure your spine is straight and your abdomen is not restricted.
  2. Close your eyes. Relax your face and body, and breathe naturally through your nose.
  3. Place one hand on your lower abdomen and place your other hand on your chest
  4. Begin to focus your awareness on your breath as it moves in and out of your body through your nose.
  5. Inhale through your nose and feel your belly lift followed by the expansion of your ribs.  Your breath fills right up till you feel it up to the back of your throat.
  6. Exhale completely feeling your chest contracts and your belly lower.
  7. Continue at your own pace and gradually let the 3 parts of the breath flow.  Inhale and your belly lifts, your ribs expand and your chest rises.  Exhale and your chest drops, your ribs contract and your belly softens.
  8. Using full inhalations and exhalations and repeat for as long as you feel comfortable

Teddy Bear Breathing (Three-Part Breath for kids)

Teaching your kids how to calm themselves down by using their breath is a valuable tool.

  1. Have your child lay on their back and place one hand on their chest and place their favourite teddy bear on their belly button.
  2. Have them close their eyes and relax your whole body. Breath in slowly through their nose. The teddy bear should slowly rise, but their chest should not.
  3. When they have taken a full deep breath, hold it, count to three then slowly breathe out. Repeat a few times, until they feel relaxed

Enjoy the relaxation of deep breathing.  Even a two minute breathing break  will make you feel better.  Just try it!

5 Simple Ways To Add Fitness Into Your Busy Schedule

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Fitness does not need to consist of an hour workout at the gym.  There are creative ways to add in extra quality fat-burning movements into our days.  Here are a few ideas to make sure you “find” time to exercise.

# 1 Schedule a recurring appointment with yourself

You need to protect yourself from yourself.  Scheduling time in your calendar to workout is imperative.  There will be so many distractions that will keep you busy and keep you from your workouts.  Make yourself a priority and book your workout times in advance.

The other reason you need a recurring appointment with yourself is to avoid decision fatigue.  Yes, it’s a thing.  Think of your willpower as a muscle.  The more you work it (make decisions), the weaker it gets.  After a long day at work, you feel drained and your brain is tired of making decisions.  You may want to go to the gym but your brain can’t make anymore decisions and the default is to veg on the couch.  Side note: This also explains why you are eating chips on the couch when your goal is to lose weight 😦  Our decision-making quality deteriorates the more decisions we make throughout the day.

An appointment also makes you accountable.  At NC Fitness, we schedule your weekly workouts in advance.  This way, you are relieved from making a decision (you made it at the beginning) and you are accountable to your coach (ME!) and your fitness family.

#2 Exercise in your spare moments. 

Extra movements matter.  All your activities accumulate and add to your metabolic fire – the calories your burn.  Here are a few ideas of adding activity into your spare moments:

  • watching your favourite tv show, do jumping jacks, crunches etc
  • talking on the phone, walk the stairs, do squats or lunges
  • doing laundry, pound out a couple bicep curls with that heavy laundry basket
  • standing at the sink doing dishes – do calf raises or plies
  • waiting for a pot to boil or your nails to dry – do some push ups from the counter, or chair toe taps (or toilet toe taps – haha)
  • blow-drying your hair – do knee lifts or rear leg lifts

The possibilities are endless, just use your imagination!

#3 Go for a 10-minute power walk

Take a “walking break”.  Studies have proven that walking regularly will increase your lifespan.  It also improves your metabolism, memory and immune system.  Walking increases your energy and enhances your creative juices.  Is there a problem you are trying to solve? Go for a walk and you’ll be surprised at the ideas that will come to you.  Walking has so many amazing benefits and it’s so easy. 

Want to burn more calories while you walk?  Make your 10 minute walking break a HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout.  Take 20 seconds out of every minute and walk as fast as you possibly can.  This will definitely fire up your metabolism.

If you’re not sure when to squeeze in a walk, think about what you do every week.  Do you wait for your kids at a music lesson or sport activity?  Step out for 10 minutes and power out an invigorating walk.  Can you park your car 5-10 minutes away from your work?  That’ll make you walk 10-20 minutes everyday!  An awesome and easy way to add in some exercise!  Can you walk your kids to school everyday instead of driving?  Take some time to examine your calendar.  I challenge you to schedule in a 10 minute walk every day.

#4 Don’t use modern conveniences

As I mentioned in point #2, every movement matters and adds up to your metabolic burn.  Think of ways you can avoid using our modern conveniences.  For instance, take the stairs instead of the elevator (you’ve heard that one a million times). 

Here’s something I like to do.  If I am popping into the grocery store to pick up a couple of things (let’s face it, a couple of things ALWAYS ends up being more) I never use a cart.  I always use a basket.  Those baskets can get mighty heavy when you add things like fruit, veggies, almond milk, eggs – hello burning biceps!!!

The other thing I do is close my own trunk.  You know they have a button for this now on some vehicles??!!  Use your muscles for crying out load!!  Grab hold of that door and close it like you mean it.  Your latissimus dorsi will thank you!

#5 Join a fitness challenge with a friend

You gotta love a good fitness challenge, especially if you do it with a friend.  Having a partner who will keep you accountable is probably one of the top ways to stay on track and be consistent. 

I have just created a new fitness challenge that you can do anywhere, anytime.  You can do it all at once or break it down into smaller chunks.  You don’t need equipment and you don’t need to wear your workout gear.  You just need to move and that’s why it’s called the Move It More Challenge. 

Click Here For The Move It More Challenge 

16 Ways To Eat More Fruit & Vegetables

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Vegetables are the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.  Ideally we should aim for 10-12 servings of vegetables and fruit per day at a ratio of 5 vegetables for every 1 serving of fruit.  Vegetables have the nutrients we need to keep our metabolism functioning properly and fibre that will keep us full longer. 

Not eating enough fruits and veggies can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies which can result in a decrease of the following:

  • our energy
  • our metabolism
  • our motivation
  • our mood
  • our performance
  • our ability to shed fat

Yikes!  That’s a list of things I want more of – not less.  It’s a great reminder when meal planning for your family.  We NEED to eat plenty of fruits and veggies!!

Here’s a few tips on how to increase our daily intake:

  1. Top off your breakfast oatmeal with sliced bananas or fresh berries or use bananas in your pancake batter.
  2. Put a bowl filled with washed fruit on the top shelf of the refrigerator so it will be the first thing you see
  3. Keep a bag of pre-cut veggies in the fridge with hummus, guacamole or nut butter for dipping
  4. Aim to eat at least one veggie or fruit with every meal and snack
  5. When eating at a restaurant include a tossed salad or a side order of veggies (and skip the fries)
  6. Explore new foods and cook one new vegetable every month until you find ones that you like and want to eat regularly
  7. Practice Meatless Mondays and cook vegetarian meals loaded with tonnes of veggies
  8. Hide more veggies – grate/chop veggies into your smoothies, soups, meatballs, pasta sauce and put them into your baked goods like loaf bread, scones and muffins
  9. Double the amount of veggies that a recipe calls for (it usually will make it tastier!)
  10. Mix cauliflower into mashed potatoes
  11. Make an on-the-go veggie snack bag for you and your kids (if they are hungry enough they will eat anything)
  12. Replace a bun on your burger with a lettuce wrap (you can even request this at McDonalds)
  13. Stock your freezer with frozen veggies.  They don’t spoil and you will always have something for dinner
  14. If you are super busy and pressed for time.  Splurge on pre-cut veggies so they are ready to eat.
  15. Sweeten your baked goods with dates instead of sugar
  16. For those of you with a big sweet tooth, try eating a couple of dried figs for dessert.  They sell yummy ones at Costco

A serving of fruit/veggies is:

  • 1 medium size fruit or vegetable
  • use your fist as a reference – 1 fist is one serving or 1/2 fist is one serving for starchy vegetables such as potatoes
  • 2 cups or 2 fists is one serving of leafy greens (spinach, kale, romaine etc)
  • 1/4 cup of dried fruit which is about the size of a small box of raisins
  • Do not include fruit/veggie juice (unless you use your own juicer) as a serving of fruit/veggies.  It’s missing too much of the beneficial fibre and nutrients.

All fruits and vegetables contain Phytonutrients.  These are natural, protective substances found in plants that give them their unique colour and gives us nutritional defences to fight disease. To get the full range of health benefits associated with phytonutrients, try to eat a rainbow of colours every day. Try to eat at least one fruit or vegetable from each colour. Here are the colour groupings with the nutrients and benefits of each:

Red – containing lycopene and ellagic acid for heart, cell and immune health

Orange/Yellow – containing alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, hesperidin, beta-cryptoxanthin for eye health, healthy immune function, maintaining skin hydration, and healthy growth and development

Green – containing EGCG, lutien/zeaxanthin, isoflavones, isothiocyanate for cell health, supporting arterial function, lung health, and maintaining healthy liver function

Blue/Purple – containing resveratrol and anthocyanidins for cognitive health, heart health, supporting artierial function and antioxidant protection

White – containing allicin, quercetin for healthy bones, circulatory health and supporting arterial function

Eating real food like fruits and vegetables makes us feel good and keeps us healthy.  Nobody ever said “I regret eating healthy today”.  You deserve the best!  Fuel your body with the best food.

Are Sore Muscles The Sign Of A Good Workout?

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You’ve probably experienced muscle soreness after an intense workout. The reason for this is that during strength training there are microscopic tears within our muscle.  Scientists believe that the tears in our muscles, along with inflammation are what cause muscle pain after a hard workout. 

Do not worry – these tears are actually good and make you stronger.  They occur most often on the eccentric (the lowering) movement of our exercise.  Think of a bicep curl.  Lifting the dumbbell is the concentric movement and lowering it is the eccentric movement.  It is the eccentric movement which causes the muscle to tear and then your body initiates the repair  and re-building response to develop the muscle.  The repairing process results in muscular growth and increased strength.  .  Have you ever wondered why your trainer wants you to lower your weights down slowly instead of letting gravity pull you down?  This is why.  Tears lead to repairs which leads to more strength.

DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is your body’s way of telling you to rest and recover.  Listen to your body.  If you have muscles that are very sore after a particular workout, rest those muscles.   After you repeat a workout over several weeks, you will notice that you are no longer sore.  This is your body adapting to the stimulus.  This is why it’s important to constantly change your workouts by adding extra weight, changing the reps, rest, timing or movements.  Our bodies are always adapting to change and we need to continually alter our fitness program to see progress.

DOMS usually hits the hardest 24-48 hours after exercises.  Some people live for it and others dread it.  For some, the feeling of muscle soreness after a hard workout feels like an achievement and a reward for pushing hard.  If you are in this category then you may feel discouraged if you are pushing really hard in your workouts and not feeling that soreness the next day.

The truth is that DOMS is not an accurate gauge of an effective workout.  If you feel DOMS then yes, you have successfully damaged your muscle which leads to growth and increased strength but it is not a definitive measurement of improvement.  You could have an awesome workout and not be sore the next day.  According to Brad Schoenfeld, an internationally renowned fitness expert, “You don’t need to experience muscle soreness after a training session to build muscle, and you probably shouldn’t rely on it as an accurate indicator of productiveness.”

There is still a lot of unknowns when it comes to DOMS.  Genetically some people feel it more often than others.  Some muscle groups are more prone to it than other.  As long as you are pushing yourself to your own limits and constantly challenging yourself then you are on the right fitness path. 

If you have DOMS and need relief, there treatments that can ease your discomfort. Foam rolling is one great way to reduce muscle soreness.  Other treatments include Epsom Salt baths, sleep, increased protein intake and omega-3 supplementation (to reduce inflammation).  These are simple ways reduce muscle soreness after a hard workout.

3-Step Guide to Buying The Healthiest Food

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There is no denying that plants are the healthiest foods on the planet.  According to The Institute of Integrative Nutrition we should consume 3-6+ servings of vegetables per day and 2-4 servings of fruit per day.  We should make sure that we eat a rainbow of colours in our fruits and vegetables.  Each colour offers our bodies different nutrients and anti-oxidants.

But buying fruits and veggies has gotten more complicated.  Is it better to buy organic and what does non-GMO even mean?!  Here is a quick guide to choosing the best fruits and veggies for your family.

#1 Organic

Organic is the best choice but you may find that it is killing your budget.  If you want to trim your grocery bill then check out the “Dirty Dozen” list.  These are the fruit and vegetables with the highest level of toxins from pesticides and herbicides.  You can stick the buying the Dirty Dozen fruits and vegetables from the organic section and know that you are reducing your toxic load.  This list will change every year so to find this year’s list CLICK HERE.

There is also something called the “Clean Fifteen”.  These are the fruits and vegetables that contain the least amount of toxins.  You do not need to bother buying them organic if you want to save some money.  CLICK HERE to get this year’s list.

#2 Local

Another consideration when buying fruits and vegetables is to buy locally farmed food.  We can easily do this a the Farmer’s Markets because everything there is local but pay attention at the grocery store.  Look at the signs in the produce section.  Where is this food coming from? 

It is best to avoid food that comes from foreign and distant countries.  There are 2 reasons why you should.  First of all, this food is travelling a LONG way and therefore the nutritional content of the food will be diminished by the time you eat it.  Second, these countries do not have strict enforcement of the toxic load that is being applied to these foods.  You do not know what is being sprayed on these fruits and vegetables – BEWARE!  Try to stick to North American produce.

When buying fruit and vegetables, consider purchasing from the frozen aisle.  Freezing preserves most nutrients and some frozen foods will actually contain more nutrients than fresh.  This may be the case in any fresh food that has come from a foreign country and has traveled a long distance.  The longer the time from harvesting the food, the lower the nutritional value.

#3 Non-GMO

GMO’s — or genetically modified organisms — refer to the plants or animals created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology.   It is food created by merging DNA from different species.  It is best to avoid the GMO foods and opt for non-GMO.  Unfortunately our food is not always labelled so we may not know we are eating it.  The safety of GMO foods is unproven and there is an increasing amount of research that connects these foods with health concerns and environmental damage.

When shopping, choose local (Canadian or American – for foods that can’t be grown in Canada) produce.  Supporting local farmers also supports the local economy and reduces the environmental impact of food transportation.

Happy Eating 🙂

A Quick & Easy Way To Detox Your Body

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Yoga Detox With Twists & Bends

After an over-indulging holiday like Thanksgiving, you may be feeling a little sluggish and lacking energy or maybe you feel a little bloated from all the excess food.  There are conflicting opinions on how and most importantly IF you actually can assist your body in the detoxification process.

How Our Body Detoxifies:

Our bodies are designed to get rid of waste.  The organs of detoxification include the colon, liver, lungs, kidneys, skin and lymph glands.  The body cleanses itself of environmental pollutants, food waste, poison, harmful bacteria and other substances such as alcohol, medications and parasites on a daily basis.

The liver is our primary filter.   It processes virtually everything we eat, drink, breathe in or rub on our skin.  Our colon and kidneys filter the food we eat and detox our bodies everyday through urination and bowel movements.  Our lungs filter the air we breathe.  Our skin eliminates toxins through sweating.The lymph collects unwanted “debris” in the body such as fats, bacteria and other harmful materials and filters them through the lymph nodes.

How We Can Help The Process

Regardless of all the debates on various methods of detoxing, there is one way FOR SURE that will enhance our body’s natural detox process.  It’s not through a special diet or juicing (they may help), it’s through exercise.  This is something that can NOT be disputed.  It is truth.

Exercise helps flush out toxins by increasing sweating and circulation.  The lymphatic system needs help to circulate lymph through our body.  It has no “pump” and relies solely on our body’s movement for circulation.  Exercise increases circulation in our bodies which improves the effectiveness of the liver and lymph nodes at cleansing and purifying. 

Exercise also helps eliminate toxins over a long-term because toxins are stored in our fatty tissue.  Once we reduce our body fat, we can release the toxins and our cleansing organs can eliminate them.

Yoga is a great way to enhance our body’s natural detoxification process.

3 Reasons WHY Yoga Works Best:

 1) Twists & Bends

A flow of yoga poses that consists of twists and bends and forward folds will compress and squeeze the internal organs which will improve elimination of waste by enhancing digestion and improving bowel function.

2) Inversions & Heart Rate

The simplest inversions (such as legs up the wall) will improve circulation.  Inversions use gravity to “pump” the blood back up to the head and heart.  As we know increasing circulation is key for the detoxification of our lymphatic system. 

Also, Yoga (along with most forms of exercises) increases your heart rate and as such induces sweating – another way your body cleanses itself.

3) Para-Sympathetic Nervous System

Yoga has a unique way of inducing our para-sympathetic nervous system.  In our busy world we often live in a state of “fight-or-flight” (triggering our sympathetic nervous system), it’s important to purposefully induce the “rest-and-digest” state so that our bodies can heal and detoxify.  Living with constant stress keeps our cortisol levels high which interferes with the detoxification process. 

Click Here for Instant Access to My Yoga Detox Video for a short flow of poses to help detox your body!

12 Tips To Enjoy Thanksgiving Without Gaining Weight

thanksgiving

I love our Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend!  I love the food, the festivities, the fall colours, and visiting with family and friends.  The hardest part of the weekend is not over-indulging in all the delicious food.  I have 12 tips for you that will keep you from over-doing it but still enjoy the celebration.

1) Wear tight clothes

We all know this to be true.  If we wear loose fitting clothes it is easy to over-indulge.  That elastic waist conveniently expands with excess food and it accommodates that post-meal bloat.  Don’t do it.  Forget the spandex and yoga pants.  Wear something with no give and no forgiveness.

2) Do a HIIT Workout BEFORE you go to your event

Even if all you have time for is a 5 minute Tabata – do it!!!  Your metabolism will rev up and your body will be ready to use those calories for repairing and rebuilding your muscle tissue rather than storing fat.

3) Start your day with a balanced breakfast

Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that not eating breakfast will allow you to eat more calories later in the day.  Your body doesn’t work that way.  You need to stabilize your blood sugar right away in the morning.  Eat a breakfast with fat, carbs and protein.  Having all 3 macro-nutrients will ensure you start your day with balance blood sugar which will prevent you from overeating and having cravings later in your day.

4) Eat a small high-protein, high-fibre snack before you go to your event

Protein and fibre stabilize your blood sugar (preventing cravings) and keep you full longer.  A small snack could be just 100-200 calories.  For example, you could have 1/2 cup of roasted chickpeas (homemade or store-bought); 1 cup of raspberries (only 32 calories and 8g of fibre!!) along with 3 Tbsp raw pumpkin seeds (150 calories and 9g of protein).

5) Hydrate!

We often mistake our thirst for hunger.  Start your day with water, lemon water, or herbal tea.  Keep water with you throughout your event.  Being well hydrated will also help if you do over-indulge in alcohol.  It will help flush out toxins and prevent hangovers. 

6) Focus on your friends and family, NOT the food

Don’t stand and socialize close to the food table – staring at it while it mocks you.  Move to a place where you are NOT going to be looking into the face of temptation. 

7) Hold a glass of sparkling water

Find something healthy and low calorie to hold in your hands.  Having the feeling that you are participating in the food and drink will eliminate that fear of missing out and will help prevent people from offering you food and drink (that you don’t want).

8) Host the event yourself

Obviously this is a lot of work but if you want to be in control of the menu and the healthy food that keeps you on track – host it yourself.  If people want to pitch in for a potluck – you are in control of what becomes part of the buffet.

9) Do NOT drink on an empty stomach 

Enjoy your wine but eat something with it, otherwise you may end up making bad decisions as that wine clouds your judgment 🙂

Also, try to alternate between an alcoholic drink and a glass of water.

10) Stop and Plan before you eat

Take a quick survey of the food available in the meal.  Figure out which choices would be best before you pile up your plate.  Skip the starchy carbs like bread, pasta, rice etc and choose vegetable dishes and protein.  This will help keep you from overeating.  And remember, it takes your body about 20 minutes to send you the satiated feeling.  Do not go back for seconds right away.  Wait and see if you truly are still hungry.  Another helpful tactic is to use a smaller plate.

11) Indulge…a little

Michelle Vodrazka (who has tones of nutritional certifications and lives in Ottawa) has a great strategy.  Choose a treat that you REALLY want.  Take a small amount (she suggests a 3 bite rule).  This allows you to eat something that you really want without feeling deprived all night.  Plus it will appease your host – nobody likes it when you don’t at least try something they slaved over all day!!

12) Be Mindful

Be present when you eat.  It’s so easy to wolf down your food and then realize you don’t even remember how it tasted.  Sit down, chew slowly, enjoy each bite and all the flavour.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving Weekend!!  Eat, drink and be merry!!

Cheers!

Natasha