Don’t skip the weights

Don't skip the weights

Ladies - lifting weights will not make you huge! According to the Mayo Clinic strength training is an important part of an overall fitness program and a number of benefits including:

Develop strong bones. By stressing your bones, strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
 
Control your weight. As you gain muscle, your body begins to burn calories more efficiently. The more toned your muscles, the easier it is to control your weight.
 
Boost your stamina. As you get stronger, you won't fatigue as easily. Building muscle also contributes to better balance, which can help you maintain independence as you age.
 
Manage chronic conditions. Strength training can reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, including back pain, arthritis, obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
 
Sharpen your focus. Some research suggests that regular strength training helps improve attention for older adults.

Recipe: Quinoa & feta with roasted vegetables (Gluten free)

Recipe: Quinoa & feta with roasted vegetables (Gluten free)

Ingredients:
 
• 3 tbsp olive oil
• 1 red onion , peeled but left whole, then cut into 1cm thick round slices
• 2 peppers , red, yellow or mixture, deseeded and cut into chunky long wedges
• 200g baby courgettes , halved lengthways
• 3 garlic cloves , unpeeled
• zest and juice 1 lemon
• pinch of sugar
• small pack flat-leaf parsley , roughly chopped
• 200g pack feta cheese
• 200g quinoa
 
Method:
 
Cook the quinoa following pack instructions, then drain really well and set aside.
 
Meanwhile heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Toss the onion and peppers with 1 tbsp of the oil and seasoning on a roasting tray, then roast for 15 mins.
 
Toss the courgettes and garlic with the rest of the veg and roast for another 15 mins.
 
Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins and mash with some seasoning. Stir in the remaining oil, lemon juice and zest and season with sugar to taste.
 
Drizzle over the quinoa and toss together with the roasted vegetables and parsley.
 
Crumble over the feta, toss gently again and serve.
 
Serves 4

What to eat and when on a workout day

What to eat and when on a workout day

 
 
If you're not sure what you should be eating before and after a workout, or when you should be eating it, Livestrong has some helpful information!
 
According to Livestrong.com finding the correct time to eat small meals and snacks is just as important as choosing healthy foods to fuel your body before, during and after a workout. A personal trainer or nutritionist can help you choose a meal plan, including what foods to eat and when to eat them, that will help you reach your personal fitness goals.
 

Timing

Make it a practice to eat large meals at least three to 4 hours before working out. If you have a smaller sized meal, you can work out two to 3 hours after eating. Light snacks are typically fine when eaten right before and even during exercise. When you are done working out, you can enjoy a meal immediately.

Benefits

By waiting to work out for a few hours after eating a meal, you can avoid getting stomach pain, cramping and diarrhea.. Eating lots of food right before exercising can also cause you to feel heavy and tired because your digestive system and the muscles you use to exercise are competing for energy. However, it's important to eat something before you work out and avoid skipping meals. Passing on a meal before you exercise could cause you to become weak or slow your reaction times.

Considerations

Healthy carbohydrates are the best foods to eat before exercising. Get your carbohydrates from whole-grain cereals, pastas and breads as well as fresh vegetables. Avoid eating foods very high in fiber and fructose right before working out. Eating high-fiber legumes before exercising could cause you to develop uncomfortable gas, while fruit that is high in fiber and fructose could cause you to experience diarrhea after working out.

Misconceptions

You should avoid eating fatty foods right before working out since fat takes longer to digest and can lead to stomach upset during exercise. Although fat and protein are important parts of any diet, it's more important that you fuel your body with healthy carbohydrates right before working out.

Expert insight

In an article on the ABC News website, sports nutritionist, Molly Kimball, suggests developing a schedule for eating and exercising that works for you. Kimball claims that you may be able to eat a meal and then work out immediately afterward without experiencing stomach upset or other ill effects. Try doing a test run by eating a meal and then performing moderate exercise. If you experience stomach cramps, stop exercising and try again later.

Pumpkin, spice and all things nice

Pumpkin, spice and all things nice

 
Yep - it's that time of year again! Autumn, Halloween, the sesason of all things pumpkin! 
 
Ever since I tried a pumpkin spice latte from a well-known coffee chain and had a delicious homemade pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving with friends in Canada, I've been a little obsessed myself! 
 
But as you can imagine, many of these amazing pumpkin recipes aren't too diet friendly! That's why I wanted to find a recipe that was not only full of those autumn flavours but wouldn't send you off the rails if you're counting calories!
 
This recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie (http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2011/09/23/pumpkin-cream-cheese-bars/) fitted the bill perfectly! They're simple to make, flavoursome and only 68 calories per square (without the cream cheese and based on the recipe making 12 squares). 
 
They're definitely worth a try if you are craving that warm spiced flavour. 
 
I'd love to hear from you if you give this recipe a go - let me know how it turned out or if you make any substitutes that worked a treat 🙂
 
ps. If you're not sure where you can get canned pumpkin from - a quick Google search should bring it up.
 

Smoothie does it

Smoothie does it

 
I've been experimenting a bit with protein smoothies lately. I wanted to find a more exciting, flavoursome, satisfying way of getting my daily protein intake rather than drinking plain shakes with water.
 
I also wanted to try and up my fruit consumption as I've found that trying to balance my macros, I can sometimes neglect my fruit and veg. Tut tut I hear you say! 
 
Anyway - I've been trying out a few combinations, and as a chocolate lover I wanted to try and get some of that sweet, brown goodness in there somewhere! The result? A chocolate & raspberry shake....OMG! It was delicious! Adding ice made it really thick and creamy which also made it feel rather indulgent! I'd definitely recommend giving it a go...
 
So what was in it?
 
80g frozen raspberries
1 1/2 scoops of chocolate protein powder (I use MyProtein Impact Whey Chocolate Brownie)
200ml unsweetened almond milk
1 tbsp cocoa powder
10 (ish) drops of MyProtein raspberry FlavDrops
Ice
 
Blend and voila! 
 

Chocolate, coconut & banana bread that won’t break the diet…

Chocolate, coconut & banana bread that won't break the diet...

Sunday’s seem to have become my baking/general food prep day for the week ahead. I’m not sure how that happened, but actually I quite enjoy searching the internet for healthy recipes, sticking some music on and having a bit of “me” time in the kitchen!
 
So when I planned my week’s meals this afternoon I was a bit disappointed to realise that there was no baking required!
 
You’d think I’d be happy to spend the afternoon relaxing, watching some TV or reading my book…but no! For anyone who knows me, they’ll know that sitting still isn’t something I’m particularly good at!
 
I had some bananas left that were a bit past it so I went about searching for a healthy cake recipe that would make use of them and somehow incorporate one of my favourite foods…chocolate!!
Hurrah – I found this recipe on www.yummly.co.uk that looked just the job. I tweaked the ingredients slightly (I didn’t have applesauce so used coconut oil, and I reduced the sugar and coconut and I took out the canola oil and added a tablespoon of cocoa powder).
 
It smelled absolutely delicious when it was baking and rose beautifully (I couldn’t resist having a few sneaky peeks!) and I’m pleased to say I’m rather happy with how it’s turned out!
 
 
 

Stepping out of my comfort zone

Stepping out of my comfort zone

For a while now I've felt like I've been coasting a bit with my diet. I love training and don't have any problems getting myself to the gym to pump some iron or pound the treadmill! But my love for food has always been my "weakness" and where I let myself down when it comes to staying on track.
 
I'm a real creature of habit and tend to work best when I have structure and routine in my life, and when I have a real goal to work towards.
 
So, I went on the hunt for a challenge - something that I would need to really dedicate myself to if I was going to achieve it and not give up at the first hurdle and that would keep me motivated for longer than a few weeks.
 
And what did I come up with? In 2016 I have decided I am going to enter a bikini fitness competition! Now, I've never been one for having oodles of body confidence, so the thought of parading around on a stage in a bikini and high heels isn't a particularly fun one for me, so that's challenge enough on it's own! But to get to that point I'm going to need to train hard and really stick to a proper nutrition plan.
 
When I told my personal trainer my intention he was really excited (even more than me I think!) Honestly? I was a bit dubious and hadn't completely convinced myself that it was a good idea - after all, I know what I'm like and I could see me setting myself up for a spectacular fail - but his faith in me really spurred me on. He's since written me a new training plan and worked out my macros so that I can still have some flexibility whilst hitting my weight loss goals. There's a lot of training to fit in each week too but since I love that part, I'm actually looking forward to seeing my progress as I get stronger. 
 
As I write this I'm a week into my preparation. Small steps, but the number on the scales is slowly coming down and I'm starting to get used to the eating plan. Seriously - who new it was so difficult to eat carbs? That's been a revelation and one I NEVER expected to discover!
 
But, so far so good. I'm feeling positive and once Christmas and New Year are out of the way it will be all systems go go go! I plan to post to this blog every few weeks so you can keep up with my progress and it'll be a great way of me keeping motivated!
 
I'd love to hear about your goals and challenges for the coming year - and if you have any comments or messages you want to share with me, please get in touch! 
 
Caroline x
 
 

Are you getting enough?

Vitamin D that is!
 
Vitamin D plays a vital role in many processes in the body, supports the immune system, and aids the absorption of nutrients such as calcium.

Ideally, we should get enough from around 30 minutes exposure to the sun on a daily basis (depending on factors such as skin type, location, time of year). Hard to achieve in the UK.

 
Although vitamin D is stored by the body, we can become deficient in winter months, as well as through wearing sunscreen and some moisturisers and cosmetics that contain sun protection factors.
 
Data gathered by Public Health England says one in five people have low levels of vitamin D (1), and the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recommends we need 10mcg (400 IU) per day (2).
 
Deficiency can lead to tooth decay, muscular weakness and a softening of the bones (osteoporosis, rickets), and vitamin D is increasingly being studied as a contributing factor in conditions such as heart disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and some cancers. A recent study suggested there is a direct relationship between increasing body mass index (BMI) and falling vitamin D levels (3).
 
So, how do you know if you are getting enough?
 
Get a blood test to determine your current vitamin D levels. Ask your GP, or alternatively there are simple home finger prick tests available from reputable labs such as City Assays at www.vitamindtest.org.uk
 
If test results show you to be deficient, you can consider:
  • (safely) increasing your sun exposure – this needs to be outdoors as it is the UVB rays which are needed to produce vitamin D
  • ensure you eat foods which naturally contain vitamin D, mainly oily fish and egg yolks, although these contain relatively small amounts which makes it difficult to achieve adequate levels through diet alone
  • supplements -  choose one with a GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) mark, and ensure it is D3 ( cholecalciferol), which is 87% more effective in raising and maintaining vitamin D levels than D2 (ergocalciferol) (4)
If you'd like to know more, you can find details of the full reports in the references below...
 
References
 
(1).Vimaleswaran KS, Berry DJ, Lu C, Tikkanen E, Pilz S, et al. (2013) Causal Relationship between Obesity and Vitamin D Status: Bi-Directional Mendelian Randomization Analysis of Multiple Cohorts. PLoS Med 10(2): e1001383. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001383
 
(2). Public Health England and the Food Standards
 
Agency. National diet and nutrition survey: results from years 1, 2, 3 and 4 (combined) of the rolling programme (2008/2009–2011/2012). London: PHE, 2014. Available at: www.gov. uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/ attachment_data/file/310995/NDNS_Y1_to_4_UK_report.pdf
 
(3). Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. Draft vitamin D and Health report (2015) Available at: www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/447402/Draft_SACN_Vitamin_D_and_Health_Report.pdf
 
(4). Houghton, LA and Vieth R (2006)The case against ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) as a vitamin supplement. Am J Clin Nutr, October 2006
vol. 84 no. 4 694-697

What a Difference 3 Months Makes

 A lot can change in just a few short months!
 
Since January some huge things have happened that have literally changed the direction of my life.
I had been feeling unfulfilled in my job for a while so when, in December, the opportunity to apply for voluntary redundancy arose I took it. It wasn’t guaranteed that I would be accepted for it, but in January this year I found out that I had in fact been given voluntary redundancy and in March I said goodbye to some good friends and colleagues and the office that had been my second home for the last nine years!
 
It was a strange feeling leaving the building that Wednesday afternoon but I knew there were exciting things ahead and I was not looking back!
 
Fitness has been my passion for some time and that passion has only grown since I began teaching group exercise in 2009. I knew I wanted to work in the fitness industry but until now hadn’t really worked out what exactly I wanted to do.
 
However, with each weekly session I spent with my personal trainer, the more interested I became in going down that route myself. I have a good, solid background in teaching fitness, I like talking to people, I’m always keen to learn new things to improve mine and others’ health and fitness – it was a no brainer really!
 
So in January, whilst waiting on a decision about the redundancy I started my Level 3 Personal Training qualification and two weeks ago successfully completed it. Woohoo! I must admit, I was a little apprehensive about the exams (I mean seriously, who likes exams?!) but I was sooo relieved when my tutor told me I’d passed both the written exams and the practical assessment.
 
Since then my time is spent rather differently than the standard office hours I’ve been used to! I can be up at 6.10am to go and teach a 6.45am spin class, then be teaching again at 7pm. My days are longer in that respect, but now I have to be more disciplined about how I manage the time in between classes until I establish myself as a personal trainer and are training more clients.
 
I’m pleased to say I already have a couple of people signed up and I’m excited to help them achieve their very personal goals. One size definitely does not fit all when it comes to fitness and it’s a challenge for me to learn about the different ways to work with different people; from complete beginners to new mums looking to regain their pre-baby body and fitness.
 
Oh, and I should mention – I’m now only two weeks away from competing in my first bikini fitness competition! This has been my own personal diet and fitness journey and it’s awesome to see the changes take place. You don’t always see it yourself, but when I compared my start photos to the ones I took just yesterday…wow, now I see it!
 
I’ll be sure to keep you updated on how the competition goes and whether I decide to compete again (I’m already thinking of another that’s six weeks after this first one…not sure my Gym God likes the idea of more chicken/turkey and sweet potato meals! But life is short and we have to do what makes us happy right?)
 
And if, after reading this, it’s inspired you to make a change – whether it’s to your career, home life, diet, fitness or whatever…remember – take that leap of faith. Even if you fall you will always get back up.
 
For more information about personal training with Gym Goddess click here.
 
Love Caroline x

Posing in Heels

I’m now just under 12 weeks away from my competition date. My weight is coming down (albeit slowly) and I’m definitely seeing more muscle definition as a result of my training programme.

Just last weekend I was in Manchester at a posing workshop (yes, there are workshops to teach you how to pose!) hosted by the lovely Nina Ross, and boy, who knew there was so much to learn about posing! It was actually a really useful session, not only did I learn the poses I’ll need to adopt when I’m on stage, but I also discovered how uncomfortable said poses can be! But mostly I met some other lovely girls, some who’d competed before (Chloe – you look amazing!) and others who, like me, are competing for the first time. Nina also had some fab little hints and tips that she’s picked up over her years competing that will really make a difference to the way you look and move on stage.

So, armed with my new posing knowledge I made the journey back up to Newcastle to show my other half what I’d learnt!!

One thing I’ve discovered during my journey to the stage so far is just how much there is to do, learn, prepare…and it’s not cheap either. I’ve had to buy a bikini, shoes, tan, make up, the workshop…not to mention petrol, food and the mountains of protein powder I’m consuming!! Preparing for competition could easily become a full time occupation…if I didn’t already have one! Trust me when I say the amount of time and effort that goes into getting stage ready is fairly epic – thankfully I love being in the gym and as a creature of habit I find meal planning quite easy (well, I do now, it was hard to get into the swing of it at first).

And there are sacrifices to be made – going on an all-inclusive holiday where you don’t drink and have to resist the endless supply of food was my first real challenge, then going on a friend’s hen do and sticking to soft drinks was something I never thought I’d have to do, or survive if I’m honest! But I did and I even braved the karaoke!!

But despite the aching muscles, the lack of social life (no alcohol and food restrictions doesn’t make you want to be hugely sociable!) and the dwindling bank balance – I wouldn’t change anything. I’m really enjoying the challenge that getting stage ready is presenting me with and I’m determined to dedicate the next 12 weeks to getting my body in the best shape of my life…

To find out more about Nina Ross you can find her on Facebook (search “Nina’s Secret”), Twitter “@NinasSecretTM” or visit her website www.ninassecret.co.uk