Fitness & Health: What next? Setting new goals

Where to go when you reach your fitness goals

Now, I’m not a fitness or nutritional professional (pending, you see), however I would describe myself as knowledgeable about the former and educated on the latter.

Without delving too much into my fitness past (you can read about it all HERE), I will tell revisiting and new readers that I begin what turned out to be a life altering fitness journey if February of this year. I recently finished up 14 weeks training with the most wonderful trainer you will ever find, and I am happy with the results.

I have lost 7.5% body fat, bringing me down to 23.5%, 12 inches and gained a lot of strength and confidence. I was thrilled with my before and after pictures; noting that my legs and bum look a lot more toned than they ever have been, that my waist is noticable smaller and that my back looks strong.

Before and after fitness pictures

*source

 I wouldn’t say I smashed my goals but I certainly achieved them through various nutrition and fitness regimens and I was left thinking “what next?”

Here are some things I have thought of in relation to creating your post-achievement fitness goals, that you might find useful.

Be realistic

Losing body fat gets tougher and requires more meticulous nutrition and more intense workouts the further you go on.

When I started off I had 31% body, to drop down as far as 23.5% is a significant personal achievement and one that took a lot of work and time. I realise that to get to my desired 20% body fat I am going to have to be particularly strict with food and drink and up my weights game, even though this time I am only looking to lose 3.5%.

Don’t put unrealistic pressure on yourself by saying you are going to lose the same amount of pounds, or the same amount of inches of your waist as you did in your recently completed programme; it’s not likely to happen and you want to avoid being unfair to your body.

Set yourself a challenge. 

Set yourself a fitness challenge, whether it is completing a fun run, running a marathon or squatting 80kg.

Focus yourself on achieving these goals and your body will respond accordingly. Not only will it be good for your physical strength but also your mental strength, and as well as that, the sense of achievement when you do it will be incomparable.

Look beyond your physical stats.

As much as you might want to lose inches and body fat, when you are reassessing your goals it might be time to look beyond those figures.

Look at the things you want to achieve in fitness instead; maybe you struggle to run for longer than 20 minutes, or you can’t lift heavier than an 8kg dumbbell or you might even struggle to hold a plank for more than 30 seconds; discover ways of getting better at these things, ask a trainer or look for advice online. Once you go beyond how your body looks and focus on what you want it to do, the inches and percentages will take care of themselves.

Consider what you could have done better

While we may have achieved our goals, there is usually something that we could have done better. Maybe you could have reached your goal quicker, maybe you could have improved in certain areas a little more. Whatever it is that you feel could have done differently, make the effort to incorporate the improvement into your new programme. Make doing one or two things better part of your next line of goals.

For example, I probably could have improved on the food aspect and hence would have seen even more inches disappearing. Yes, I eat nutritious foods and I am quite strict on myself but sometimes the lure of cream crackers or a cocktail gets too much for me! One of the goals on my list is not to give in to cravings, not matter how infrequent, and to give up alcohol three months; it will be interesting to see the physical results.

These four tips are just my opinion but you might find that they are helpful when considering the goals you set for your next fitness campaign.

Have you got anything to add? Head to the comments, I love chatting to you all! 

Fitness & Health: The best protein powder for sensitive tummies.

I’ve found this to be the best protein powder for sensitive stomachs/IBS

When increasing your activity Protein Powder is a great way to meet your requirements. A bigger demand on nutrition due to a jump in the exercise you’re doing requires extra protein in your daily food consumption in order to meet energy demands and help repair muscles.

Really though, people often neglect to tell you that they can wreak havoc if you have IBS or a sensitive stomach. As someone with IBS I can vouch for the debilitating pain that can come along with taking the wrong type of protein powder.

I’ve tried four products prior to finding my holy grail of sensitive tummy powders.

 My first foray into the world of protein powder was before I had any notion of what nutrition was actually about was the Sculptress Maxitone “Weight Loss System” shake.  The less said the better; do not use anything entitled “diet”. I’ve also tried Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard Whey which, in fairness to the brand and product, is a fantastic shake, one of the cleanest you can buy and with a very palatable taste, I would recommend it to anyone who wants a simple, clean whey protein.

After discovering that Whey inflamed my IBS, I opted for a vegan protein formula from Raw Fusion; this was the nicest protein I have ever tasted and I am very disappointed to say I can’t take it any more because the incredibly high fructose content effect my tummy terribly.

Protein Guide

Handy guide to different types of protein powder. Credit: http://www.sensualappealblog.com/protein-powders/
 

Enter Sunwarrior; a clean, vegan protein powder that is just as good, if not better, than Whey shakes. Favoured by the Paleo obsessors, you can bet that this is the cleanest protein out there.

Note: I am 100% positive that the Paleolithians did not have protein powders so I reckon you’re cheating if you are on the Paleo diet and taking any protein powder, no matter how clean they are. Also they didn’t avocados. Just saying.

Anyway… *clears throat*

First off I tried the vegan blend; a rice protein shake  with an okay flavour, is a very loose, messy powder that I was happy to take because, at last, I found a protein powder that didn’t make me bloated to the point were people were asking me when I was due (you know who you are and yes, I hate you now), caused me to double over in pain and made me feel generally awful.

Thankfully I discovered Sunwarrior’s much more palatable, completely nutritional packed-out Warrior Blend, which not only has it got 15g of protein per scoop, it’s also packed with Branched  Chain Amino Acids which regulate blood sugars, supposedly increase your metabolism and overall benefit your health and immune system. It’s easy to digest which is key when you suffer with IBS or any tummy issues.

Sunwarrior Protein Reviews

The Warrior blend is composed of Hemp, Cranberry, Pea and Coconut protein, as opposed to the rice protein that makes up the vegan blend. Its flavour is delicious by comparison to its Vegan Blend counterpart, making it a nicer addition to pancakes, porridge etc. It’s also nice for smoothies as it blends a little thicker, making the need for yogurt null and void.

I cannot recommend this beauty of a protein powder enough to anyone looking for a good one to supplement their nutrition and go easy on their tummy.

Where can I buy Sunwarrior Protein?

The cheapest place to buy Sunwarrior Warrior Blend in Ireland is Discount Supplements, honestly, I wouldn’t buy it anywhere else; at just €44.98, it’s a good €5 cheaper than most places AND they have been kind enough to give me a discount code exclusively for Musicandeverything.com readers.

Shop Sun Warrior Products here

Discount code 5%: mae5

 Nutritional Note: I wouldn’t recommend you take protein supplements unless you have a balanced, healthy diet and partake in physical activity/exercise on a regular basis; if you are not enjoying additional activity on top of your usual daily grind, you do not need to add more protein into your diet unless recommended by a doctor.

I also cannot stress the word Supplement enough. Protein shakes are not a meal replacement; you need solid, digestible food in your diet for weight loss and replacing proper meals with protein shakes defeats their purpose; they are supposed to add further nutritional value to your diet, not replace what you are already in-taking. 

It’s quite fitting that my only post this week is a nutritional one; perhaps it’s because I have a one track mind this week. I won’t be posting until next week because I’m taking my final Nutrition Exam at the end of the week. 

So tell me, will you be trying Sunwarrior Protein? Or do you have your own recommendations? To the comments

Fitness and Health: My progress and how I do it Part 1 – Nutrition

Nutrition tips for losing body fat

People who follow the blog or follow me on the various social media sites I jam up with my mindless drivel and pictures of my food/cat/latest make up purchase will know that I have been embarking on a fitness journey since the beginning of the year.

Unlike my other fitness campaigns, which lasted no more than a couple of months before I gave up, I have stayed with it, missing only one week of training out of 26 and having a few dips in my nutrition every now and then.

Since sharing the picture below on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook a few people have been in touch with me to ask the rather unanswerable question: “What’s your secret?” I say it’s unanswerable, but really, I don’t have a secret. I’ve had amazing guidance from a professional trainer and the most knowledgeable nutritionist out there.  and I’ve been working hard.

Progress pictures

In Part 1 of  2 in this “how I’m doing it”  series, I’m going to talk about what I feel is the most important aspect of my lifestyle change; nutrition.

So what do I eat and what do I not eat? 

Sugar, dodododo, aaaaah honey, honey

It’s all about sugar, baby! Your body’s insulin levels react to the amount of sugar you have in your diet, and sugar, as is commonly mistaken, doesn’t just mean jellies, chocolate, donuts and so on, it means any carbohydrate; fruit, veg, rice and so on.

Carbs are our friend, but we also have to realise that some carbohydrates are not good for us and simply store as fat in the body if not used up as energy.

Your body burns energy in this way:

Carbs

Protein

Fats

Glycogen

When you want to lose weight, you want to get to the glycogen quicker, so if you are eating heaps of porridge in the thought that it will give you energy for your workout, you are hindering your body’s ability to get into the “fat burning zone”. This is why the mentality that you can eat as badly as you wish because you exercise doesn’t work; your body is burning off all starchy carbs before it gets to your excess body fat.

For this reason I get most of my carbohydrates from fruit and vegetables, I don’t eat bread, I don’t eat potatoes (sometimes I’ll have sweet potatoes) but I do eat brown rice after a workout with a high protein meal. I was never a potato fan so cutting that out was easy, and as for pasta, I cut that out long ago due to IBS, so I guess I’m lucky that I’m used to not eating it already.

Post workout dinner

Post workout dinner

I also only eat bananas after a workout because of their high sugar content. It’s often pegged as the best food to eat before exercise but the truth is actually the opposite; Bananas are a great post-workout snack because they are filled with the electrolytes you need to restock on after a sweaty session.

Protein is king

Because of the assumption that protein foods are high in calories, I always avoided them when I was restricting myself in order to lose a few pounds. I would have a meatless salad, plain porridge in the mornings, tomatoes on rice cakes and I would struggle to keep the weight off; largely because I wasn’t eating enough to kickstart my metabolism and also because eating in that way is absolutely not sustainable.

Now I try to get protein into every meal I eat. Why? Not only does protein help repair muscles after an intense workout, it helps create lean, toned muscles therefore defining them (I check my abs daily, still no luck yet), it’s essential for energy and physiological function and your body just needs it; it’s in our DNA and keeps your blood healthy and your hair, skin and nails in good condition. It’s the original “superfood”.

Calories and portion control be damned

Calories should be accounted for not counted.  Counting calories has never worked in a sustainable way for me because my body was never fuelled enough for a decent workout, my metabolism was most likely slowing drastically and let’s be honest with ourselves, calories don’t determine the nutritional value of the food.

We have become so obsessed with the numbers on food packaging, we have forgotten about what’s in them. Next time you go to pick up an 89 calorie cereal bar, look at the amount of chemicals and sugar present and reach for an apple instead. Not eating your dinner so you can have a massive slice of chocolate cake will not help your body in anyway. It doesn’t work like that.

Portion Control

Hows that for portion control?

The same goes for portion size; eating the same as you always have but smaller might make a temporary difference but again, that’s not sustainable. Eating a teeny, tiny salad every day is also not sustainable. As long as you are eating foods free of chemicals and high in nutritional value you can slap as much of it on the plate as possible (within reason, of course). So I eat big, but I eat clean; honestly I have never eaten so often or so much in my life and not worrying about calories is freeing.

Chemical counting

I have three general rules when it comes to what I eat:

  If it has more than 6 ingredients, put it back.

If sugar is a main ingredient, put it back.

If it has any scientific sounding ingredients I can’t pronounce, put it back.

The extra salts, sugars and god knows what they are additives you see in a lot of convenience foods and “diet” or “low fat” products are probably what are holding you back in your progress. Kick the chemicals and you will see a huge difference.

So those are the basic rule I follow and I credit my new-found knowledge and passion for nutrition with pushing the progress along. I will never forget after a bad food St. Patrick’s Weekend (my birthday weekend) I put on four pounds. Four pounds over four days. I was still training but the food cancelled out the hard work. Says a lot!

Exception to the 6 ingredient rule are Quest Bars – they keep me from binging on junk food and they have 20g of protein and only 1 gram of sugar. It’s a win.

I cheat!

A lot of people have a lot of different opinions about “the cheat meal”. I say, if it’s good enough for The Rock, it’s good enough for me.

The idea behind the cheat meal is that you are treating yourself to something you have been dying for all week; it makes “eating clean” that little bit easier knowing you don’t have to completely restrict yourself forever. It also reboots your metabolism, is great for your insulin levels and makes you feel warm and happy inside.

I have a strong disbelief in denying yourself of things you love for good, even if they are bad. If you have a favourite “bad” meal, save it for your cheat meal and you will enjoy it more than ever, without going back on the hard work you have put it. If you are “good” with your food 98% of the week, one carby, sugary, cheesy meal  should not make you feel bad; it should make you feel good.

My two favourite cheat meals are A big ol’ messy cheese burger and garlic cheese fries from the chipper OR cinema nachos and popcorn with a massive diet coke (I enjoy the taste of aspartame. Go on- judge me).

An example of my daily nutrition

Breakfast: 2 Poached Eggs with Flaxseed and a mixed berry protein smoothie

Snack: Almonds and a Nectarine

Lunch: Homemade Chilli Con Carne

Pre-workout snack: Greek Yoghurt (not Greek style!) with blackberries and protein (note, no starchy carbs)

Post-workout: Protein Shake

Dinner: Fish in an Almond flour batter (egg and sparkling water) with brown rice and mixed veg

The one thing I really want to make clear is that this isn’t a diet. This is how I eat all the time. Not for 6 weeks before I go on holidays, not for 2 weeks to “cleanse”- it’s my lifestyle and it’s much more sustainable than any fad diet you’ll see out there.

Easy enough to follow? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Fitness & Health: A Green Machine Smoothie that tastes nice

Green Machine Smoothie recipeGreen is so in right now, isn’t it? Everyone drinking and eating everything green, sure wouldn’t our mothers be delighted.

Thing is, though, if we’re really honest with ourselves, green things are not the most paletable. I’ve got a handy little recipe that is high in protein, high in fats (good ones!) and lots of friendly nutrients.

Green Machine Ingredients

300mls of Water

Half an Avocado

 1/4 cucumber

Tablespoon of Meridian Peanut Butter

Teaspoon of Coconut Oil

Few drops of Almond Milk, depending on how thick you want it

Ice

The nutritional value

Water and Ice keep you hydrated

Avocado; The healthy fats in avocado are good for your heart, your skin and your hair. It also has 4 grams of Protein, more than most fruits or vegetables.

Cucumbers; energy boost – cucumbers contain B Vitamins, Antioxidated (your skin and your hair again), aids digestion which is good for getting a flat tummy.

Peanut Butter: High in protein so its great for muscle repair after a  workout, it’s got potassium, which again is great after a workout and generally good for your energy. It fills you up for longer which means less snacking!

Coconut Oil; Coconut oil is the oil of the moment right now. People use it as a moisturiser, a hair conditioner and so on. Or, you could use it in food! Zapped up in this Green Machine smoothie it lends yet more healthy fats, a bit of creaminess and it helps you burn more fat and fight infections! Hurray.

Green Machine Smoothie recipe

Almond Milk; Oh almond milk. As someone who has to stay away from dairy Almond Milk is a godsend. A dash of this adds some calcium to your smoothie, and also lends some other vital minerals and vitamins.

So there you go, this is a bit of a power house smoothie. It takes no more than a couple of minutes to chop, blend, pour and enjoy and the best bit; no overly pungent greens that make it harder to drink. There is plenty of protein and fat to nourish your body and minimum natural sugars; you don’t need nasty tasting greens to make a machine of a smoothie.

Have you got your own Green Machine Recipe? Maybe you’d add something else in? To the comments… 

Fitness & Health: A healthy treat – Coconut Pancake Recipe

I like being healthy and fit; I also like stuffing my face with sweets and nachos and watching Bob’s Burgers and Adventure Time Marathons. Sometimes I like to strike a balance and make something sweet but full of nutritional goodness. These are perfect if you are craving something sweet and tasty but don’t want to waste your cheat meal just yet!

Here is my recipe for some pretty tasty Coconut Pancakes

Healthy Pankcake ingredients

1/4 cup of Almond Milk 

2 table spoons of Nua Naturals Coconut Flour

2 eggs

(*throw in some powdered protein for an extra umph and a tasty post-work out treat)

Literally all you have to do is put these simple ingredients in a bowl, whisk them up and cook on a small frying pan in coconut oil.

This is enough to make three small pancakes.

Healthy Pancake Recipes

The taste

This is a real treat, without the horrific fat and sugar intake; the coconut flavour lends a macaroon taste to it, especially when you serve it with Keen’s Dark Chocolate Hazelnut butter.  They are similar to ordinary pancakes in texture and serve as a nice alternative to the other healthy pancakes everyone has been talking about over the past few months.

How is it healthy

Well we all know eggs are good for us; they are high in protein, low in sugar and stuffed with that all important vitamin D which is good for you skin and bones. The almond milk is a light alternative to cow’s milk and it so much better for you than soy, which can cause many health issues despite the idea that it is a superfood. Other than that, Almond milk has plenty of calcium, lots of micronutrients and a decent proportion of protein.

The coconut flour is the real gem in the mix, though. Nua Naturals Coconut Flour can be bought in a lot of health food stores, my shop of preference is bodyfirst nutrition in Clontarf, Dublin. It is a suitable alternative to flour in most baking ( it doesn’t rise on its own though), and it’s easily digested by the body. Because it is 100% pure coconut flour, it is free from any of the nasties that harm your body and hold back your weight loss and fitness progress. What’s more is, it is high in protein; much higher than many of its mainstream alternatives.

Will you be trying out the pancakes? Let me know what you think of them!