If, like me, you’re passionate about a healthy lifestyle and you love to read to indulge the habit, then stay tuned; from now on I’ll be impartially reviewing fitness books which have struck a chord with me for some reason or another. I love discovering new and exciting fitness / health ideas – whether it’s a different system of eating, training or thinking, there’s always something new to consider. However, there’s far too much ‘ego’ in the fitness industry and whilst some might claim otherwise, I do think that you never stop learning, even if you already know alot, as perhaps somebody’s story can inspire and motivate you to try something different & get off your bum! Pick and choose the bits you do agree with, and leave the rest, like a little pick-n-mix bag of fitness ideas (yum, sweets!).
Click MORE below to read about the radical change methodology I’ve got in the picture above, written by one of the world’s foremost body composition experts – a very good read!
Time for a guilty confession… I LOVE chocolate. I always have done, and always will do. I realise that chocolate doesn’t necessarily go hand-in-hand with your ‘fitness goals’, but I’ve been experimenting with simple but effective ways to legitimately work a modest amount of chocolate into my training diet. This post contains a real ‘cheat day’ treat which satisfies my cravings, whilst providing my body with the protein, essential fats and antioxidants that it needs. Guilt neutralised, body nourished!
Regardless, there are actually health benefits to be gained from eating high-quality, dark chocolate – as long as you don’t overdo it! Dark chocolate is high is antioxidants which work to reduce free radicals in our bodies and aid cellular repair. Dark cocoa, being densely calorific, is also said to improve energy levels without the need for sugar, and focus the concentration. I aim for a minimum of 70% cocoa, but if you can tolerate it 99% cocoa is optimal, as it has an incredibly low amount of milk, fat and sugar. Yes, at first the taste is bitter, and you might need to work your way up to the high 90s percentages, but give it some time and you’ll learn to love it’s super rich dimensions! In fact I now prefer dark to milk chocolate – and I never thought that would happen! Here’s my recipe for a slice of chocolate indulgence which is packed with protein and a lot healthier than your standard Mars bar.
The ‘treat du jour’ is my ‘Dark Chocolate, Banana & Seeds Protein Muffins‘. With the following ingredients, I made 9 yummy ‘fairy bun’ sized cakes but it completely depends on how big / small you go. Remember, this is not a low calorie miracle, so it needs to be a reward for a heavy training session, but it is rich in what the body needs to recover!
Read about the ingredients & my step-by-step ‘how-to’ guide, HERE!
Before you read on; boys, I’m sorry this is NOT a post for you. Girls; I’m a big follower of fitness fashion and always love to try out new brands, the latest discover being this new UK-based online fitness retailer – TrulyFit.co.uk.
They’ve only been around for a mere 4 months (making them just about as old as Fitness On Toast) but a browse through the website confirms that there’s a surprising proportion of clothes I’d actually consider buying & wearing at the gym! What I like about them is that they’re very feminine, figure-enhancing / supporting, and perfect for days when you just want to ‘pink-out’ & feel girly whilst training. If pink’s not your colour, there’s plenty in yellow, red and blue – like the top I’m wearing in the pictures above.
I now have my very own ‘Katie’ and ‘Susie’ tops and the ‘Fitness Capri’ pants, and can vouch for the fact that they are super comfy, technical and look great too. Also they don’t cost an arm and a leg, unlike many of the more stylised fitness clothing retailers in the UK. The colours range from bold pinks and turquoise to subtle tones of pinks and greys – all my favourites. Below are some of the ones on my wish list, with links attached if you feel like some retail therapy 🙂
‘FITNESS CAPRI’ 3/4-length training pants in Turquoise and Black.
‘SUSIE’ TOP in Turqoise.
‘SUE’ TOP in pink.
‘LEA’ TOP in Black with Pink trim.
‘KATIE’ TOP in Orange.
‘DENISE’ SHORTS in Black and Pink.
‘DARLA’ TOP in Pink with Turquoise trim.
‘CSENGE’ TOP in Purple.
Spring has officially sprung in London – but it’s still snowing 🙁 Therefore I’m holding back my ‘summery’ recipes (hopefully not much longer) and instead I’m making a nutritious ‘Pea Soup’ which will help keep you warm during this snowy, cold, english March!
The soup is quick to make (c. 15minutes), consists of only 4 ingredients and costs under £5 for enough soup to feed 4 hungry people! The main ingredient is of course the environmentally-friendly little powerhouse, the pea. Remarkably, it’s packed with goodness for such a little guy! They’re great for weight management (a mere 81 calories per 100 grams), with 0 fat, 0 saturates, 0 trans-fats, and 0 cholesterol. Plus they’re comically low in sodium (3mg/100g serving, which is about 0% of your GDA). Peas are also relatively high in protein (c.5g per 100g) bearing in mind their very low calorific value, and that helps with cell repair and muscle regeneration. The high fibre content (c. 5g/100g) aids digestion, and together with protein helps to regulate blood sugar levels to avoid peaks & troughs in energy levels! They’re also a great source of omega 3 fats (in the form of “alpha -linoleic acid” which sounds grand, but can effectively lower the risk of cardiovascular disease). They also contain high amounts of healthy ‘polyphenols’ which have been shown to lower the risk of stomach cancer. Best of all though, peas are packed full of antioxidants including ‘flavonoids, cartotenoids and polyphenols’, all of which are hugely immune boosting, anti-ageing and can prevent or reverse the risk of diabetes. No to mention plenty of Vitamin A, manganese, vitamin c, Vitamin B1, phosphorus, iron and much more!
The remaining three ingredients are just a single onion (a good source of immune-boosting vitamin C, dietary fibre vitamin B6, Folate and potassium), broccoli (antioxidant-rich for immune health, with dietary fibre to aid digestion, and vitamin A for healthy vision) and my personal favourite ingredient, 0% fat greek yoghurt from Total, which contains a mere 57 calories per 100ml giving the soup a rich creamy velvet texture, without the guilt!
I top it off with a tiny bit of horseradish but if that’s a bit too strong in flavour department, try some smoked salmon, dill, chives or feta cheese! When coughs & colds are going around this March, this hearty pea soup is the perfect way to fend it all off! Bon ap!
I had a wander in Harrods this weekend and came across this shiny fitness contraption, who’s proper name is the Technogym Kinesis…
As an aside; to keep the motivation-factor high (and the boredom-factor low!), I love seeking out new fitness-related concepts, be it the latest equipment, a new ‘group exercise class’ or even some novel ‘superfood’ hitting the supermarket shelf! In short, innovation = motivation! However full-on your workout may be, sometimes we all need a bit of variation and inspiration, and regardless of how many years you’ve been training, there’s always something new to learn and take away from a different experience. I regularly have a look around the gym to see what other people are up to and whether there are any exercises I haven’t encountered – then I steal them if they’re any good!
Back to Harrods’ newest toy, the Kinesis. It’s the highest expression of designer gym furniture. It’s only 1sq metre in size. It’s fitted with three handgrips. It operates in total silence. It facilitates over 200 different exercises that target all muscle groups. There’s an electronic dial to gradually & precisely increase the resistance. Each arm has three pivots that the cable slides through, allowing smooth movement in all directions. I think that if I were to have one of these at home, I’d use it to build strength, increase flexibility and improve my posture – amongst many other applications. And all for just £8,980!!! Oh well, it was fun to play with!
One of life’s greatest pleasures is eating – for me that means trying out new restaurants or cooking for friends and family, but I remember a time when eating felt more like a guilt trip. As a young, impressionable teenager I used to guinea-pig my way through unrealistic diets because I was led to believe (through clever marketing, and a pressurising ‘media onslaught’) that eating 5 bars a day was ‘the best way to be healthy’. I also thought the word ‘skinny’ was synonymous with ‘healthy’ and that the quickest way to achieve ‘skinny’ was by eating less food. The scales may have told me I was right, but I felt physically tired, emotional, starving and frankly miserable…. That is anything but an informed understanding of ‘healthy!
I think that especially amongst women, there is a vast and dangerous misconception. By eating far too little in order to lose weight you starve the body of essential nutrients, & have less energy to do anything, including work out! My ‘trick’ is to eat the right food, little & often, throughout the day, to speed up the metabolism. Weighing scales can be very deceiving. Going on bizarre fad diets which promise ‘rapid weight loss’ generally rely on either water loss (i.e. dehydration – bad, as c.70% of the body is made up of water, and there’s a reason for that!) or the loss of your natural muscle mass. Some long term diets may also slow down your metabolism further. Caring for your body by eating well and by being active, you’ll lose the right kind of weight (thus improving the ‘body fat percentage’ ratio).
I hope some of the recipes on my blog can help inspire healthy eating. With that in mind, here’s my asian-inspired lean Chicken Curry packed with nutritious flavour! It’s perfect for sharing!
FOUR KEY HEALTH BENEFITS OF THE RECIPE ???
1) GREEN FRESH JALEPENO CHILLI Chilli is full of immune-stimulating and health-promoting properties. One is capsaicin (which gives it the spicy kick, and is a strong anti-diabetic). It also has anti-bacterial and anti-carcinogenic properties, whilst reducing (bad) LDL cholesterol levels. These Jalepeno peppers are pretty fiery (2500 on the Scoville scale of ‘can you handle the heat?’), and are more than enough to raise your metabolism a few notches too! It’s rich in vitamin-C (100g chilli = c.240% of RDA) which is immune boosting and fights free radicals from the body. There’s a good amount of minerals such as potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium too, all of which will help regulate the blood pressure. It also provides your body with its required dose of B-complex vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin and thiamin (vitamin B-1).
2) LEMONGRASS Contains beneficial ‘essential oils’ (counter-irritant, anti-fungal & anti-septic properties), as well as vitamins and minerals (such as vitral, lemonal, and aldehyde responsible for that strong lemony scent, but which also has strong anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties). It contains a mini ’99 calories per 100 g’ and not a trace of cholesterol! The stem and leaves are high in folic acid (19% of RDA) which is important in cell division & repair. Plus it’s also rich in vitamin B5, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-1 (essential for the body to replenish). There’s also a cheeky amount of anti-oxidant vitamin-C and vitamin-A (immune and sight-boosting respectively), and finally lemon grass has plenty of bonus minerals like potassium, zinc, calcium, iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium. The body needs these – lemongrass has them!
Garlic is a great source of potassium (regulates blood pressure / oxygenation & heartbeat pace, lubricates joints), iron (supports red blood cell formation), calcium (promotes healthy bones), magnesium (aids nervous-system functions, body temperature regulation, detoxification, energy production, and hormone balancing) manganese (an antioxidant enzyme), zinc (cell regeneration, digestion-aiding, with anti-cancerous properties), and selenium (heart-healthy, antioxidant enzyme). It also has a compound called ‘allicin’ which has been shown to reduce cholesterol, alleviate high blood pressure and help decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke.
4) ORGANIC CHICKEN
Free -range, hormone & antibiotic free organic roast chicken breast (100g contains 116 calories, 22g protein, 3g fat) is perfect if you’re trying to lose weight, as it’s lower in fat and calories than other meats such as beef (100g fillet steak contains 196 calories, 26g protein, 9g fat) and pork (100g pork chop contains 260 calories, 28g protein, 16g fat), whilst still being high in lean protein. It contains vitamins B6 and B3 (to help cell recovery) and contains essential selenium (anti-cancerous properties) and zinc (as per description in ‘garlic’, above). A small serving of chicken can meet the niacin requirements for the entire day (essential for brain health, shown to help protect against Alzheimer’s disease & dementia), as well as Vitamin E, betacarotene, and Vitamins B6 and B12.
Click more below to see the full instructions to make this delicious and healthy dish. Enjoy, and I’d love to hear what you think of it! firstname.lastname@example.org for any feedback and questions. Faya 🙂
Hot on the heels of being invited to the ‘Skinny Bitch Collective’ class, I also got the call to check out the newest London workout, straight from the United States – Barry’s Bootcamp. It’s a regime that’s tried and tested by the famous & glamorous, such as Jessica Alba, Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian, Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Katie Holmes, not to mention personal trainer Jillian Michaels who’s been bringing all her ‘Biggest Loser’ contestants to Barry’s for years. What could all the fuss be about?
Based in north-west London on the Euston Road, the entrance to this bootcamp-themed space (think dog-tags, camouflage wallpaper, metal military details etc.) is guarded by a friendly receptionist, and flanked by a FUEL BAR that serves up some very tasty protein shakes indeed! The studio itself, which caters for c.40 people is seductively lit in red and blue, and is equipped with 20 Woodway treadmills, who’s treads are more like the caterpillar tracks on a Howitzer tank than the belt on your average gym treadmill! They’re made from rubber T-slats, which give extra cushioning whilst maintaining the natural bio-mechanics of your stride, and are a pleasure to run on (relatively speaking!).
Though there are about 10 ‘drill sergeants’ in Barry’s London ‘platoon’, my class is lead by the beautiful Icelandic personal trainer Heidi (pictured above) – a former IFBB figure-fitness champion! I expected this class to be tough; Heidi did not disappoint. The Barry’s workout combines strength and interval cardiovascular training, leaving minimum recovery time and maximum exertion. I’d say half the time, the class was on a treadmill (c.10 minutes at a time) and the rest of the time was spent on the floor, tackling strength training. It is remarkably demanding, and you take it to your own level, but the atmosphere (lighting, group, equipment, motivating trainer, military theme) spurs you on to the next level up.
1) WHY INTERVAL TRAINING?
As discussed in my previous post HIIT ME AGAIN interval training is the optimal cardiovascular training to achieve fat burn goals. By not sticking to the same pace for the entire cardio session (whereby the body would otherwise go into a steady state and tries to conserve energy) HIIT shocks the body by introducing different intensities, maximising time and transforming it into a fat toasting 10minutes!!
2) WHY STRENGTH TRAINING?
I’m told that Barry’s always include strength training in the class. Today was a full body workout class, taking each exercise to failure with good form. There’s very little rest after each exercise, it is either followed by another exercise or some element of additional cardio, e.g. step ups. This keeps the heart rate elevated, gives the body hardly any time to think/get bored, or indeed to object. The additional bonus of not having much rest is that you burn even more calories – perfect for unwanted fat! And muscles burn c. 15 times as many calories as fat (even at rest) which increases your metabolism yet further!
Ultimately, the class is exceptionally high-energy, utterly exhausting, satisfyingly endorphine-releasing, and doesn’t allow you time to think, moan or get bored. The equipment is incredibly well-invested (really superb treadmills) and the grouped format brings out a competitive nature, encouraging you to push through those sickeningly tough sprints! Try it out!
Click here for some photos & explanations of what my Barry’s Bootcamp session involved.
It’s cold and wet outside and if all you want to do is snack – at least graze on something healthy!!Part of my daily goal is healthy snacking, so here is my recipe for heart-healthy ‘Protein Cookies’. These cookies are the ultimate snack for the working day – full of protein (c. 15g per 50g cookie), low in carbohydrates, and the mild sweetness comes from natural fruits and a couple of spoons of immune-boosting Manuka honey. I’d suggest taking two generous protein cookies to work with you, eating one between breakfast and lunch and the other towards the end of the day when you are ready to give in to the vending machine! The four different flavours I make are apple, carrot, banana and peanut. I usually add pecan nuts, raisins and flaxseed to all four different cookies to give them a bit of crunchiness, and to release sustained energy. Experiment and use your own favourite nuts and seeds! I personally LOVE flaxseed (aka linseed), and try to use itin/on almost everything – in my uber-muesli, sprinkled on salads, soups, and broths. It’s one of the richest sources of the fatty acid Omega 3 (c.7.2g per 30g) – it boosts heart health, it reduces inflammation throughout the body, the joints and in the blood vessels. There’s also a school of thinking that suggests omega-3 may help lift depression and ease rheumatoid arthritis. Since the body does not naturally produce omega 3 fatty acid this is such an easy way to make sure you get enough of it on a daily basis.
To get my ingredients, which are all fairly specialist, I usually buy online; the Pea Protein powder is from a relatively new company called Pulsin’, the Flaxseed I use is made by Linwoods, and the Manuka Factor-25 Honey is by Pure Gold. Have a browse, see what other healthy ingredients you think might work in your cookie; you can shop by goal at GNC, here. Make your mid-work snack fun! Here are the instructions:
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.