Sometimes it’s hard to motivate yourself to go to the gym solo, especially in these cold winter months. When I feel like that, I go along to group classes, to up the motivation-factor! This week, I was invited to an all-singing, all-dancing, all-sweating, all-girl fitness class in London’s West End. With a catchy, cheeky name like ‘The Skinny Bitch Collective‘ how could I decline?! The class was held just off Baker Street, and is led weekly by the founder, Russell Bateman. Under his enthusiastic guidance (and stern yelling!) all ten girls had to put in 110% to keep up with this very demanding routine. The class is basically an intense metabolic workout including some unusual ‘primal movements’, and is set to classic Ibiza house mixes, which marks the aim and tone of the session!
Be inventive and make your own protein powder recipes! But rather than some horrific chemical-tasting ‘banana’ concoction, why not try adding almonds, oats, chia seeds, hemp seeds, frozen or fresh blueberries, blackberries and plain yogurt to thicken the texture, diversify the flavour and inject some nutrients! In this post, I run through my two personal favourite protein recipes. They’re a great way to start the day, a strong boost before/during a workout, as well as an excellent reload after a tough session!
WHY PROTEIN? Protein enables so many vital functions in our bodies; it helps to regulate hormones (e.g. insulin to control blood glucose levels), maintains and repairs the body, regulates enzyme release (including that for digestion), and stimulates antibody production and muscle growth, to name just a few. In that light, it’s worth making sure you’re consuming not only the the right amount but also the correct quality of protein on a daily basis. If you’re a veggie it’s worth taking particular care to ensure you have enough ‘complete proteins’ in your diet (most plants are incomplete proteins meaning one or more of the essential amino acids are missing). One way to tackle this is to combine certain plants as they aren’t missing the same amino acids, and thereby forming a complete protein (such as beans, lentils, grains, nuts & seeds). If you’re not a veggie, then apart from what I just mentioned, then meat, dairy and eggs are the obvious sources of protein. A foodstuff will never be absolutely pure protein, so check into the quality quantity and saturated fat content of the product.
HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED? Your daily protein requirement will depend upon your body weight and lifestyle, upon how active you are, and upon what type of training goals you have. Training puts the body under an increased amount of stress, following which it’s in need of repair and recovery. Almost all muscle growth takes place outside the gym (especially whilst you’re sleeping) and depends upon what and how much nutrition you provide your body with to initiate muscular repair. This is the time to ‘up’ the protein intake. I often get healthy stuff from the store next to my gym, Holland and Barrett. They have a vast selection of protein powders and offer good deals with things like their penny sale (buy one, get another for a penny). I do want to emphasise that these powders are supplements, meaning they are additive to an already existing complete and healthy diet – they are not replacements for meals! There is no precise science, but typically, nutritionists will calculate the min. daily protein requirement by taking your body weight in kg and multiplying that by 0.8 (if lbs, it’s x 0.37). The number you get is the number of grams of protein you should be eating as the daily minimum. So if I weigh 55kg, I should be consuming a minimum of 44grams of protein every day.
What a stunning day it was in sunny London – to celebrate it, I did a high intensity interval training (HIIT) session this morning in lovely Primrose Hill, which almost killed me! This workout is not for the faint-of-heart (literally). It involves alternating between intense bursts of activity and relatively relaxed action – the constant motion keeps your heart rate elevated. You set the level, but the main point is that you push into the anaerobic zone. Listen to your body; if you haven’t trained for a while you may find that your interval training may be alternating between power walking and jogging. Others will sprint and run. Finding your level and then slightly exceeding it is the whole point of HIIT for me.
Why HIIT? If you’re bored of endlessly running on a treadmill HIIT is for you! 15 minutes is all you need – it’s time efficient, burns more calories in a shorter amount of time, maintains muscle whilst toasting fat, and it stimulates the production of human growth hormone (HGH) which increases calorie burn even further! You don’t even need a gym membership because it can literally be done anywhere and doesn’t require any equipment. Finally if you’re looking for a challenge this heart-healthy session will push you into the dreaded anaerobic zone leaving you huffing and puffing (probably not for more!).
I did a sprint up the (steep) hill followed by a super light jog back down the hill. I did 8 rounds which took c 15min. That was c. 30 sec up the hill, and then 60sec down the hill. The last bit of the hill getting up is definitely the worst!! I would love to hear what you guys think about in those seconds when all you want to do is give up. For me, it’s cupcakes!
One thing that really gets me going is listening to awesome music. I’m really loving Disclosure at the moment especially the songs “What’s in your head“, “Running” and “Latch“.
Check out this extremely fluorescent H&M pink top I’m wearing. I think it’s quite fun, great value and plus when else can you get away with wearing Barbie pink ?! Also, H&M running tights looks fitted, feel comfortable and breathable, and won’t break the bank too!
Since I gave up coffee last year, Green Tea has become my caffeinated new-best-friend! I probably drink 2 cups a day, on average – it warms me up, has plenty of flavour (especially with a sprinkle of cinnamon) and most importantly gives me that extra boost to keep me going throughout the day! I wouldn’t recommend drinking much more than that though, as too much caffeine can increase blood pressure, cause you to shake, induce headaches as well as stain the teeth – so perhaps don’t start your day with a triple shot of green tea!
This ancient wonder-brew has its origins in China and has been consumed (and used medicinally) for thousands of years. It’s said to have several health benefits including potentially lowering the risk of developing heart disease and certain types of cancer as well as lowering cholesterol. However, for me, the main plus is that green tea contains not only caffeine to wake me up (!), but also plant extracts called polyphenols which have been shown to stimulate thermogenesis and fat oxidation, & therefore increase metabolic rate. That’s short-hand for ‘burn more calories, quicker’.
This green tea that I had earlier today weighs in at a featherweight 1 calorie/200ml, with no saturated fat, no sodium, no cholesterol etc. and only 0.2g of total carbs! So it’s a pretty safe pick me up, whilst simulating the sensation of being full, and ultimately hydrating! So instead of starting your day with a vanilla latte (c. 250 calories, 12g sugar and too much fat) make it a far healthier caffeine choice!
Drink up 🙂 Faya x
(P.s. If you’re wondering why black tea isn’t as healthy as green tea, it’s down to the production process. Making black tea involves fermentation, however green tea skips this part and therefore retains maximum polyphenols and antioxidants!)
I see it all the time – guys in the gym who have colossally sculpted upper bodies and miniature chicken-legs. Not only does this look absolutely ridiculous (no symmetry whatsoever), but failing to train your legs is a physiological mistake. Yes it’s true that the glutes are the largest muscle in the body, but being the largest muscle group in the body, skipping over your legs just won’t do! I’m not going to talk about the muscles you train in this post, rather my reasons for training them in the first place:
1) Aside from the cosmetic reason of creating body-symmetry, legs are worth keeping conditioned (something your body will thank you for as it matures). Strength training of the legs stimulates bone re-calcification, enhances tendon and ligament durability and improves overall joint strengthening.
2) Larger muscles boost the metabolism and burn more calories, so legs therefore can potentially burn the highest number of calories at rest. Most serious bodybuilders seem to believe that a 30min leg session will burn anywhere from 500-1000 calories depending on intensity (that’s 25-50% of your recommended daily calorie intake!). Also, a lot of cardiovascular exercise involves using your legs so by increasing strength and/or size, you’ll help fuel your workouts while burning more calories too!!
3) Being the largest muscle group in the body, training your legs encourages the release of natural testosterone and other growth hormones, promoting overall strength and mass throughout your whole body, not just the legs.
4) And finally it’s good to keep your body guessing. By training your legs, it’ll add yet another important variation to your regime, stimulating optimal muscle adaptation and growth.
Introducing the runner up to ‘champion superfood’ Quinoa… it’s Spelt, a weird cross between emmer wheat and goat’s grass. I picked some up the other day at the lovely Daylesford Organic in Notting Hill (there’s one in Selfridges too). The spelt is easier to digest than many other wheats, because of its brittle gluten structure. It can be an aleternative for some people with a wheat intolerance though it’s not gluten free (unlike quinoa). But just like quinoa it’s high in protein (10g per 100g vs 15g in quinoa), low in sugar (1.3g per 110g vs trace in quinoa), has plenty of fibre (7.4g per 100g vs a mere 3g in quinoa) and is mercifully low in fat (1.1g per 100g, of which saturates 0.2g, vs quinoa at 2g). As a tasting note, it’s quite nutty, mildly chewy, pretty neutral in taste, but decent for adding texture to a dish.
SO I put it into practise, with my high-protein, high-fibre, low-fat, low-sugar vegetable dish – pictured above! Aside from spelt, I’ve added:
– broccoli (full of vitamin C and antioxidants for immune health, dietary fibre to aid digestion, and vitamin A for healthy vision, as well as other minerals like manganese, calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc and phosphorus)
– carrots (rich in dietary fibre to aid digestion, vitamin A as above, and to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease)
– leeks (rich in antioxidants to promote immune health, and calcium to condition muscles and strengthen bones)
– pine nuts (contains plenty of vitamin E to maintain skin by protecting it from free radicals – whilst its fairly high caloric content is mostly from fat, (hence why I only used half a 100g bag) it’s rich in mono-unsaturated fatty which also helps to lower cholesterol in the blood)
– chilli powder (for a metabolic boost, and a flavoursome kick!)
If you find you want even more flavour try adding a vegetable stock to the boiling water. However try to pick a stock that’s relatively low in salt. I made it for friends and they loved it thankfully. The below recipe serves c. 4 people.
I trained on sunny Primrose Hill today (click here to see the pics)! If like me, you love the outdoors & don’t always feel like going to the gym – but still want a proper workout – first consider the following 3 different training techniques, and then check out my suggested routine to put the techniques to use, which requires no weights!
STEP A – TECHNIQUE:
1) CONCENTRIC CONTRACTIONS: A concentric contraction takes place when a muscle contracts, develops tension and shortens. When you stand up, the quadriceps shorten and contract – this is concentric activity.
2) ECCENTRIC CONTRACTIONS: Now sit back down; that’s an eccentric contraction (the opposite), when a muscle contracts, develops tension and lengthens. This eccentric phase is often forgotten in training, because people put a lot of effort into lifting a weight, but just let gravity do the work when lowering the weight. By embracing eccentric activity, you can transform your set, and get so much more out of it.
3) STATIC CONTRACTIONS: Static contractions (also called isometric contraction) are when a muscle contracts, develops tension but the muscle length doesn’t change. For example, sit-up, if you stop half way point and stay in that position, then only static contractions will take place in the abs – you’ll feel fatigue setting in, but there will be no lengthening/shortening.
Combining all three of the above is the park-workout holy grail! Click ‘more‘ for my suggested routine…