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Monday, May 30, 2011

Should you eat before you train?

I have been asked this question at least 5 times in the past week alone; “Should you eat before you train in the morning?” For many, the belief is that if you do not eat, you will have no readily available fuel in the form of carbohydrate, and as a result you will burn a greater proportion of fat. Unfortunately things are not so clear-cut when it comes to physiology and fat metabolism.

If no carbohydrate is available to the muscle when it is being trained, while you will burn a higher percentage of fat overall, but of a likely smaller amount of total energy, as the body will reduce metabolism to adapt to the perceived fuel shortage. For this reason, if you complete a light training session of <30 minutes of moderate intensity activity, before 730-8am, you do not need to eat before you train. But, if you train for >45-60 minutes, have cut out carbs the night before and/or will not eat your breakfast until after 8am you are likely to train more efficiently and burn more fat if you do eat a small portion of carbohydrate before your session. Please note, small, just 10-20g, which will top up your blood glucose level and let you access your fat stores more efficiently. Good choices include 1 slice of toast with peanut butter or cheese, a couple of Vita Weat crackers and ½ glass of milk.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

One coffee a day and lose weight.......

Do you wake up in the morning; grab a coffee, then follow it with a cappuccino on the way to work, another instant coffee mid morning and even a third or fourth if you are tired during the afternoon. If any of these daily patterns sounds familiar you are drinking too much coffee. Sure, there is some reported health benefits associated with drinking coffee but we also need to remember that coffee is a stimulant which means it can drive appetite and influence blood glucose levels. Funnily enough, ditching coffee or two each day also tends to result in weight loss, as we identify that we do need the extra calories at that time especially if choose more nutritionally balanced better meals and snacks and find that we are not as prone to sugar highs and lows and associated drops in energy. Aim for just one coffee a day, with your breakfast or mid morning and notice the difference in energy and appetite control and remember to replace with tea an extra water to avoid caffeine withdrawal.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Feeling down?

In the past week I have spent far more time chatting to clients about their mood and wellbeing than I ever have before. Why is this? Why are we so blessed in so many ways yet struggle to find that elusive sense of control, calm and happiness?

There are a few reasons that spring to mind. As an overriding factor, we basically live a very comfortable life. We generally have enough food and a home without the crime, filth and disease of other more basic cultures. What this relatively easy lifestyle then creates is a general feeling of dissatisfaction. Of wanting more – more money, more time, better relationships, more fulfilling jobs – just more. Unfortunately though, in many cases, rather than wanting something or someone to come along and complete us, ultimately it is us who need to do the inner work and make our lives more fulfilling.

In many cases this means that we need to find small but significant pleasures in the blessings we do have present, on a daily basis. It sounds so cliché but the truth is that a good book, a beautiful home, dinner with someone special or a day trip out if often the difference between living each day and existing.

So, at this time of year, if you are struggling to find much pleasure in the day to day grind it is time to take control and look at the next few weeks as time to reflect and rebuild. To seek out some great books, to start to move your body, to schedule in regular outings with energizing people, to find more simple pleasures. And if you need an even bigger dose of inspiration, the Sarah Ban Breathnach series of “Simple Abundance” and “Something More” are 2 great reads that will work to redirect your energy, alter your underlying thought patterns and help you to feel better instantly.

Monday, May 23, 2011

How to stop overeating

It is safe to say, with very few exceptions that most of us overeat on a daily basis – we grab a coffee when we are not hungry to be polite, or finish the meal we are served even though we would have been satisfied with ½ as much or we nibble and snack simply because food is in front of us.

The thing about overeating is that once we are doing it, we get so used to being “overfull” that we start to lose our ability to differentiate when we really are hungry and when we are eating for comfort or out of boredom. Alternatively, we drink so much tea and coffee that we do not feel hungry until the late afternoon when we then binge on sugar and energy dense foods before eating large serves of dinner along with the dessert, chocolate and various other snacks as we relax in the front of the TV.

The simplest way to stop your tendency to overeat is to basically under eat for a period of time to start to identify your natural hunger signals. Have 1 slice of toast instead of 2, skip your mid-morning coffee and swap a couple of dinners for soup. Once you have felt really hungry, you can start to eat until you are just full as opposed to stuffed. Simply cutting back 10-20% of what you usually eat is all you need to drop a couple of kg, without even noticing.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Are you watching too much reality TV?

Too much reality?

For the past few weeks, one of the main headlining media stories on a daily basis has been about one of the high rating reality TV shows. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy this kind of television just as much as you do. The drama, the excitement, the life changing stores but my question to you today is; “are you avoiding your own life by watching a little too much reality TV?”

Consider that watching the top reality TV shows every day will take at least 2 hours out of your day, a significant amount of time to be dedicated to supporting other people’s lives. Now, one of the main concerns my clients present with, which is at some level preventing them from achieving their health and fitness goals as well as not allowing them to dedicate time to other interests is “not having enough time”. While reality shows may be entertaining, they are rarely acting to motivate or support you in achieving your goals, goals that will ultimately lead to an increased sense of satisfaction and well-being in your own life.

So, before you give the best hours of your day to watching someone else life, perhaps it is worth considering what else you would like to be doing with your life and dedicating some more time to that because sure as day, the reality shows will be back tomorrow, the next day, the week after that and yes, again next season.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Choosing the best soup

As the temperatures have shifted, there have been a number of questions forwarded to me about ready to eat soups, particularly in relation to which of the store bought varieties are best. The truth be known, as even the soups with the lowest sodium content contain at least 600mg of sodium per serve or ¼ of your entire daily recommended intake, an amount of sodium per meal that is likely to bloat you like a whale, few are great options. For this reason, if you can, always prepare your own soup and add as little salt as possible.

If you must buy your soups, here are the best and worst options, even though a number of these do have a Heart Foundation Tick. Generally speaking, the pre mixed liquid soups are better and generally you also need lean protein and extra salad or vegetables with your soup, especially if you are enjoying it for lunch.

Soup / Total Sodium(mg) / Carbs(g) / Protein(g)

Country Ladle Minestrone / 726 / 15.4 / 4.9
Country Ladle Lunch Pumpkin / 866 / 25.4 / 6.0
Country Ladle Chicken & Corn / 736 / 17.1 / 6.1
Heinz Garden Pea / 1600 / 25.4 / 13.3
Country Ladle Rustic Vegetable / 613 / 20.3 / 2.9
La Zuppa Minestrone / 1382 / 33.2 / 6.7
La Zuppa Pumpkin / 890 / 27.7 / 3.8
Continental Cup a Soup Mushroom / 695 / 21.0 / 0.9
Ainsley Harriot Minestrone / 520 / 18.1 / 0.7
Pitango Pumpkin / 794 / 16.0 / 3.6
Pitango Chicken Noodle / 750 / 19.8 / 11.1
Woolworths Chicken & Corn / 638 / 16.2 / 5.8
Woolworths Minestrone / 612 / 20.0 / 4.0
Woolworths Spring Vegetable / 540 / 15.0 / 2.1
Woolworths Tomato & Capsicum / 630 / 36.9 / 2.4
Woolworths Red Thai Chicken / 840 / 15.9 / 6.0

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How do we choose the products we do for TV?

As I get older, not much surprises me, but today after filming a 3 minute segment for SUNRISE at 6am this morning, I have been surprised at how much interest the segment has generated.

Companies whose products were included have been excited, consumers and weight conscious individuals are grateful for clear advice on which cereal they should spend their hard earned dollars on, while companies whose products were perhaps not looked on as favourably are indignant; "while we agree with your comments nutritionally we are 'disappointed' our products were placed in the "avoid" group".

Such interest and debate raises the question, and rightfully so, how do the products featured on a live TV segment get selected?

First of all, I would like to say that as a nutritionist who is regularly asked to comment in the media on specific brands and food products, I take this role very seriously. I can honestly say that I know each and every product I recommend back to front nutritionally and I recommend each and every one for very specific reasons. I actually work in clinical practice and see hundreds of clients each year, primarily for weight control and hence can draw on this knowledge to direct people towards which products work best and why.

It also needs to be remembered that in the background, scientific research is published on a daily basis in which certain nutrient criteria eg low fat, low GI, high protein dietary profiles are linked to various disease states and weight control - such information is also then used to mould various dietary models with specific food brands in clinical practice.

When it comes to breakfast cereals there are a few things that instantly spring to mind. First of all, of all the scientific evidence available, low glycaemic load diets are powerfully linked to weight control long term. In order to achieve a low GL diet, if breakfast cereal is included it HAS to be a small serve of low GI cereal.

Next, as so many of us eat too much, and are hence battling weight issues, every single one of our calories needs to count, which means that we do not have room for empty calories coming from sugary, nutrient poor foods, even if they are low in fat, or high in protein. Based on this, when I am considering the best breakfast cereal options, my number 2 question is, "what does it offer nutritionally?". For me to feel comfortable naming it and recommending it to my clients the cereal has to offer a number of positive qualities, and for breakfast cereals this means being low GI, wholegrain, source of fibre a controlled carbohydrate load per serve.

So, when we then take this information and look at the breakfast cereals readily available, it does not make it difficult to choose the good ones. Oats of course are there, as is plain bran and wholegrain breakfast biscuits. Naturally, sugary, chocolate breakfast cereals are never going to be good, no matter how much "good stuff" manufacturers claim to put back into it, nor are highly refined varieties of rice and corn which are high GI, the number 1 criteria I am looking for when it comes to breakfast cereals.

So, as you can see, quite a lot of thought goes into selecting these products, it is not based on personal preference or sponsorship, it comes down to basic science and dietary modelling. And this means that sometimes I do have to be the one to say that a certain food should be avoided, even though when it comes to chocolate breakfast cereal, I am sure that you didnt really need a nutritionist to tell you that it was not the best choice, deep down, you probably knew it already :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Lose weight like a man

Many women would like to think that it is more likely they are teaching the men in their life a thing or two on a daily basis, but when it comes to weight loss, for many of us it would not hurt to pay a little more attention the way men eat, as well as the way they approach weight loss.

For men, weight loss is simple. They need to eat certain things at certain times. They need to cut certain things out and make dietary changes that they follow for a set period of time. There is no, “oh, but I have been good” mental debates, or justifications of, “just one and I will make up for it tomorrow”. They approach weight loss much the same way as they approach their life in general- with one eyed focus on what they are doing, no exceptions. And, then, they lose weight.

Here are the top tips we can take from men when working on our own weight loss.

1) Don’t think, just do.
No rationalizations, no excuses. Get a plan and stick to it.

2) Ignore the influence of others.
Don’t worry what your friend is doing just concentrate on what you need to do.

3) Get a plan that suits you and stick to it.
Whether it is CSIRO, Biggest Loser, your PT, whatever suits you and follow it.

4) No excuses.
See only ways to achieve what you want, not excuses as to why you have not done it.

5) Keep focused on the end target.
By focusing on your long term goal weight it will be easier on a daily basis to make the decisions you need to stay on track.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Getting your oats and soup right for Winter

The cool change means that we start to shift our focus from salads and cereal to soups and oats which are both great choices nutritionally. The key things to remember when it comes to these foods are:

1.Instant oats are nowhere near as good as course natural oats.
2.You need to make your oats with milk to get enough protein with your breakfast.
3.Add cinnamon to your oats to sweeten it without sugar.
4.You can add a teaspoon of protein powder to increase the protein content of the oats.
5.Tinned soups have far too much salt.
6.The best soups are vegetable, pumpkin, chicken broth or tomato.
7.Adding 100g lean protein to your soup will make it dinner.
8.If you must buy prepared soups get Country Ladle Winter Vegetable or Pitago Pumpkin.
9.You do not need bread with your soup.
10.You will eat at least 100 calories less with your meal if you eat soup before it.