My Daily Diet

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This post is for all the lovely girls who ask me what I eat & how much of it! Unfortunately it’s quite hard for women to know how much we should eat, what and when particularly if you’re trying to lose weight. Women’s media has reported for so long that if you eat a low calorie diet, you’ll be skinny. While it’s largely true that if you burn more calories than you take in, your weight will drop; eating half the recommended daily allowance isn’t the answer for most of us.

I didn’t realise how little I was eating until I started using MyFitness Pal to log my food and count my macros. I was really low on energy when I started training regularly and would crash out as soon as I got in from the gym. It was difficult to start eating my recommended daily calories, it felt like my stomach wasn’t big enough and I had to remind myself to make time to eat actual meals instead of my 1 meal a day and a bunch of snacks. I think this is the case for so many women and a lot of girls who contact me about diet & workouts are confused about why they don’t look how they want to when they’re hardly eating. Even if you don’t want to count macros all the time, it’s a good starting point to make a habit of it for a few months, until you build up an awareness of what to eat, how much and how often to make yourself feel healthier and stronger. Diet is absolutely integral to reaching aesthetic goals & building a basic understanding of nutrition is really important if you’re looking for optimum results from your workout. Training and diet is a vital partnership, results won’t be at their best if you have one without the other. Once you’ve built a foundation, you won’t have to log and count everything unless you want to, or you’re training specifically for something.

It took me a while to start to recognise the nutritional profile of certain foods and when I did I found I was eating more or less the same thing all the time just to hit macros. Now, I try and vary it and try new things by substituting the standard rice and chicken for other grains and lean meats like quinoa or turkey. Still, there are certain things I order every time I shop and I’ll do a post later in the week about what they are and why I rely on them.

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This is a typical food diary for me, I’m 5’5″, weigh 56kg with 17% body fat and eat 2200-2300kcal a day, with a macro split of approx 241g carbs, 165g protein and 64g fat. Sometimes I switch it up so it’s lower carb & higher fat, but try to stick to weekly macros, including if I decide to have a cheat meal.

Breakfast Calories Carbs Fat Protein Iron Sugar
3 Egg Omelette with spinach 210 1 15 19 0 1
210 1 15 19 0 1
Lunch

Chicken & Cashew nuts with broccoli

Sainsbury’s – Chicken Diced Breast, 150 g 236 0 6 45 0 0
Small Handful – Cashew Nuts, 25 g 146 6 11 6 0 2
Sainsburys – Brown Rice, 60 g uncooked 212 43 2 5 0 0
594 49 19 56 0 2
Dinner: Herb crusted grilled chicken w/sweet potato mash, kale & spinach
Mashed Sweet Potato (W/o Skin, Boiled), 250 grams 190 45 0 5 4 0
Sainsburys – Chicken Breast Fillet Portions –  150 g 207 0 3 46 0 0

397 45 3 51 4 0
Snacks
Cnp – Pro Peptide protein shake 1 X 3 Scoop Serving, 3 Scoops 230 6 3 45 0 3
Sainsbury’s – 1% Fat Milk, 350 ml 151 17 4 13 0 17
Petit Filous Strawberry – 50g Pot, 100 g 96 13 2 5 0 12
Blueberries – Raw, 25 g 14 4 0 0 0 2
Metcalfe’s Skinny Topcorn – Sweet N’ Salt Popcorn, 25 g bag 115 18 5 2 0 5
Green and Blacks Organic – Mini Chocolate Bars, 15 g bar 84 7 5 1 0 0
Sainsbury’s – 1% Fat Milk, 200 ml 86 10 2 7 0 10

792 78 21 73 0 49
Intra Workout
Haribo – Tangfastics, 40 g 136 31 0 3 0 24
136 31 0 3 0 24
Totals 2,129 204 58 202 4 76
Your Daily Goal 2,200 248 61 165 100 77
Remaining 71 44 3 -37 96 1
Calories Carbs Fat Protein Iron Sugar
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Life lately – a month in pictures

I’ve been super busy at work recently, so haven’t been blogging anywhere near as much as I’d like. As it’s getting a bit quieter again until September, I’m really looking forward to getting back into it. I need to get my Instagram up and running properly, but until then, here’s my month in pictures! I love the quote in the middle, I’ve set it as my phone background so I remember to take a step back and get outside whenever things get a bit stressful. Easier said than done sometimes, but even the words ‘Log off’ inspire a sense of calm, don’t you think?

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Secrets of a Flat Stomach

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Of all the tweets and messages I receive, by far the most common questions are related to how to get abs. A problem area for the majority of women, the lower stomach is particularly stubborn to shift. Despite the title of this post, there are no magical secrets to a flat stomach. Just a few golden rules that will help dispel diet myths and let you quit those 100 daily crunches.

Firstly, be realistic. I’m lucky that I’ve never stored fat on my tummy, it all hits my thighs and glutes. I lust over quad definition the same way other girls dream of washboard abs. At the end of the day, you can’t fight genetics, or where your body chooses to store fat; just like you can’t target where you lose fat from. There will always be areas which take much more work to show results than others and these are different for everyone.

Secondly, if your workout is based around compound exercises like barbell squats, deadlifts and pull-ups, your core will be working hard and those elusive abs should start to show much more quickly than hours of slavish crunching would allow. Fat-torching cardio, good form on heavy lifting compound exercises and an hour a week on abs has worked better for me than high rep sit-ups on the living room floor.

Finally, but also most importantly, abs really are made in the kitchen. Protein based meals, good fats from oily fish, nuts and avocado, alongside slow release carbohydrates will keep you fuller for longer and free from bloating. Listen to your body, if something bloats you up, don’t eat it for a week and see if you notice a difference. Sugar, refined carbs and alcohol will wreck your digestion and sabotage your brick wall stomach. Everything in moderation, but if you’ve got an event or holiday you’re desperate to wear a crop top for, then limiting these nasties in the immediate weeks before it will help.

I’m no PT, nor do I have perfect abs, but I wanted to do a post to help many of the girls who have messaged me get started and pass on what worked for me. I focus solely on abs for one 30-45 minute session a week, before a yoga class; in addition to my upper and lower body workouts. Below are the key exercises in my current routine which gets me a good burn!  If you try it, let me know how it goes for you!

Decline sit ups – 3 sets of 12-15 reps. Hold a dumbell if you find this too easy!

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Standing oblique crunches 3 sets of 15 reps. I actually use a kettlebell for this, one hand behind the head, really think about squeezing your abs to bring yourself upright.

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Hanging leg raises: 3 sets of 5. Try this with your knees tucked to start with, then extend up to kick the bar when you get stronger. Then do simple pikes at 90 degrees before the full thing. These are hard – I can only manage 3 full reps with good form!

 

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Plank: 60 seconds. Hips forward, bottom down, shoulders above elbows, strong through the lower back. Try plank leg lifts, or superman’s (see lower image) to change it up a bit.

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Swiss ball Jack knife: 3 sets of 10. These are super fun! Roll the swiss ball in with your ankles, bringing your hips as high as you can and your shoulders over your hands. You’ll need to clench your core seriously hard to maintain balance – don’t get phased if you fall off several times, took me about a month to nail a whole set of these!

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Medicine ball sit ups: 3 sets of 20 reps. As you lie down, bring your arms over your head and the medicine ball to the floor behind you. Pull in your stomach and sit back up, bringing the ball back over, to parallel in front of your chest. If you’re finding it hard to sit up, put your feet further out in front of you and be careful not to lock the elbows. If you’re with a friend, sit facing each other and pass her/him the ball when you sit back up, taking it in turns.

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V-sits: To failure. Start by keeping a bend in the knees. These are tough on the quads as well as the core and for some people, nearly impossible, depending on flexibility and strength. If you’re really struggling, move these to further up in the workout. Do as many as you can with good form; no half measures at the end – do fewer reps and finish strong.

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Images courtesy of womenshealth.com

Nutri-Dictionary #2: Sugar & Sweeteners

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Sugar – the devil word in 2014. The press is completely saturated this year with reasons to quit the sweet stuff, but those of us who have tried it know you that half the battle is finding your way through the maze of alternate options.

Quitting sugar cold-turkey is hardcore. I did it for the whole of January and limited sugar to fruit only in effort to see if my hard-earned results in the gym would increase. After two weeks of what my colleagues refer to as the ‘hellish bitch phase’ I slowly saw the merits of quitting. I’ve slowly reintroduced it but have relied on various sweeteners since, to try and replace a lot of the sugar I’d use in baking or on porridge for breakfast. Here’s the low down…

Stevia: A plant native to Central and South America that can be processed to produce a sweetener 3 times sweeter than sugar, with 0 calories. Hard to imagine but boy, is this stuff sweet. Easily utilised in baking where other sweeteners fail, Stevia is widely used and regarded among nutritionists as the best sugar substitute. The downsides are that widely available brands such as Truvia cost £5 a tub, although a little goes a verrrrry long way!
Best used:  To replace sugar in baking or hot drinks, weight loss

Xylitol: Due to the similarity in sweetness to sugar, xylitol is the most popular sugar alcohol and provides only 2.4 calories per gram compared to 4 calories in sugar. It sounds like Russian, but if you’ve ever eaten sugar free gum or sweets, chances are you’ve had your fair share of Xylitol. It’s perfect in these products because it has a slightly minty-fresh edge to the taste, meaning it’s not ideal in recipes or drinks. However, it’s a great product for diabetics as it doesn’t stimulate insulin production or increase blood sugar levels.

Best used: For a sweet confectionary fix when you need it

Agave Nectar: Agave nectar contains more calories than sugar (20 calories per teaspoon compared to 15 calories in sugar) and is 90% fructose.  However, since agave is significantly sweeter than sugar, less is needed when used for substituting.  Unlike other sweeteners, agave contains iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Not preferable to Stevia if you’re wanting to lose weight, but good in baking and desserts.

Best used: On porridge with banana and cacao nibs

Sweet Freedom Syrups: My personal favourite, these syrups are a combination of fruit sugars from apples, grapes and carob. Although the syrups have a high level of fructose, their taste is fantastic – similar to honey or golden syrup. Sweet Freedom do a light and dark syrup and a ‘Choc Shot’ with only 14 calories per tsp. Ideal for baking and desserts, this stuff was a saving grace for me when I quit sugar and continues to keep my Carb macros on track today.

Best used: On pancakes, in hot chocolate, or as a replacement for honey

 

Curls for Girls, Weights for Women

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Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know I love lifting and am always cheerleading other ladies who love it too. I’ve really gotten into it in the past 6 months and am always trying to educate girls about the benefits and great fun that come with building muscle.

Freeweights and heavy, compound exercises are rarely advertised to women. Better quality women’s fitness magazines, like Women’s Health have been promoting the reason why we should all take a tip from the men, but women who read these probably know this anyway and the message has failed to penetrate the mass media. The fear that lifting heavy makes you bulky still haunts women’s workout schedules, when really, it should be leading them.

I’ve recently joined a new gym which is almost overwhelmingly polarised by gender. Women fill the cardio sections and mats; men run the freeweights room. After a while on a specific training programme, I know my way around an Olympic bar; but I was seriously intimidated by the amount of men in the freeweights room (see above…) and the serious lack of women. After 15 minutes of totally unnecessary extra cardio and many emergency SOS #fitfam tweets, I decided I couldn’t let my own anxieties keep me from completing a decent workout, so I bit the bullet and headed in to the squat rack. I was the only woman in there for 25 minutes. When I left, shaking up my protein, I got a lot of weird looks from other women in the gym.

The sad thing is, I wish they knew how much better they might feel if they lifted too. How much their confidence, energy and strength would increase if they spent one of their workouts somewhere other than the crosstrainer. Don’t get me wrong, cardio obviously has it’s benefits. But combining it with weight training will improve most women’s results ten fold.

While men seem to pack on the gains after a few sessions on the bench, women simply don’t have enough testosterone to build this amount of muscle. Lifting heavy weights on compound exercises like squats, deadlifts and bench presses will increase metabolism and burn fat for longer than a standard cardio workout. ‘Toning’ simply refers to firm, visible muscle mass and a low body fat percentage. To achieve this, you have to strength train. Not endless reps with light 3kg dumbells, but fewer reps of heavy weights combined with intense cardio sessions like HIIT, a balanced diet and plenty of protein. After a few months on a strength program like this, your results will far surpass what you could have achieved with cardio alone.

In addition to the strong, toned and curvy figure weight training sculpts, I continue to up my weight in the gym because of the surge I have seen in my confidence, energy and focus. Knowing I can give some guys a run for their gym membership gives me an inner strength that matches the gains I’ve made with my figure and I push myself much more in all areas of my life since I started taking my training seriously. Focusing hard on picking up something heavy a few times a week is almost meditative and has made me calmer and happier.

I hope more women start to realise the physical and emotional merits of lifting and that women’s media start to fairly represent this area of fitness. Next time you’re in the gym, book another induction based around the free weights and get a PT to show you how to lift. I haven’t met a woman yet who’s not wished she’d started sooner.

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Fitness-model

HIIT girl!

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Sometimes it’s good to change up your workout. Your body gets used to the same ol’exercises and when your brain and muscles know exactly what to expect your results can plateau.

I’m not a big fan of cardio, I prefer strength training because I feel a greater sense of achievement in lifting weight and find it easier to set myself goals. I try to do around 60-90 minutes of cardio a week, including one HIIT session (High Intensity Interval Training).

HIIT burns major calories, keeping your metabolism going at a faster rate for longer than steady state cardio. Rather than going for a long run, HIIT requires short bursts of sprinting as fast as you can (for 60-120 seconds) followed by 3 mins of slow jogging or walking. You can do the same on a bike or cross trainer. Other benefits include greater lung capacity, lowering rested heart rate (and better physical fitness levels) and better protection of muscle tissue than a long, slow run can provide.

There is no debating that HIIT is a killer, there really is nothing like it for making you sweat. BUT, if you’re short on time and looking to lose weight, cut or improve fitness levels and cardiovascular health, you can’t beat it. You can get a decent HIIT workout done in 20 minutes, which is major motivation for cardio-haters like me!

I’ve been trying to find more interesting ways to incorporate HIIT, as I’m fed up with treadmill sprints. Earlier today I legged it up St Catherine’s Hill, Winchester, using the steps as my sprint (a stairway to hellll), collapsing at the top, sprinting round the hill while trying to distract myself with the view and continuing this pattern on the way down. It took 30 mins altogether and was so much better than gym-based cardio. It was great being in the beautiful Hampshire countryside, breathing air which wasn’t plagued with other people’s sweat…Speaking of which, next week I’m trying a spin class…gotta keep this HIIT varied!

 

 

Hot Pilates with Simply Health

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Last weekend I was invited by the lovely folk at simplyhealthto a hot Pilates class at Yotopia in Covent Garden.

Bikram Yoga was one of the hottest (sorry…) trends in fitness last year, due largely to it’s claim to boost immunity, detoxify and aid weight loss. Pilates is following in it’s well toned footsteps this year and hoping to see similar success.

I practise Ashtanga Yoga regularly and have a couple of years of Pilates classes under my belt too. However, I was quite daunted as I entered the class. I’m not great with heat and had killer abs DOMS from a new kettlebell workout I’d done the day before. The room was 40C and I was hot as soon as our lovely teacher, Amy Slevin, told us to take a deep breath. The class was reasonably fast paced and I was surprised at how flowing the movement between postures was, just how I like to practise. The strength element was also similar and particularly testing in the heat.

The focus of the session was of course, core strength, as well as back care. I’d put my back out by being slightly too ambitious with the weight on some Romanian Deadlifts a few days before, so welcomed this with open arms. We did a lot of lower back stabilisation and core work to strengthen the surrounding muscles. Hot Pilates opens the body’s connective tissues helping the muscles get in to more strenuous postures and positions and I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever sweated so much in my life! Not even in Insanity!

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I felt energised but very worked after class and was shattered by the end of the day. On waking the next day, I was amazed to find my back was no longer tense or strained and I had no muscular pain at all from the class.

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Amy explaining the benefits of hot Pilates (yours truly at the back, trying not to slouch..!)

At £16 a class, the sessions aren’t cheap; but if you enjoy Pilates or Yoga and can get to a hot studio, I’d recommend interspersing it with your regular classes to intensify your practise and boost your results.

Thank you to Simply Health, Yotopia and Amy Slevin for a fab experience!

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Kicks & Kit!

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My essential gym kit!

Clockwise, L-R

Nike sports bra – I love a bright sports bra, totally cheers up your workout and this one is reversible pink & orange to match my trainers…unintentionally of course…

Rubber resistance band – these are great for leg lifts and hip abductor exercises, you can also use them for various rows and shoulder mobility. My workout teacher gave me this one, but check out Amazon for similar.

Adidas neon leopard print leggings – I’m obsessed with patterned leggings and running tights, these are my current faves. They’re not specifically for the gym though, for performance and flattering comfort (and leg days when I know I’m gonna sweat hard) you cant beat Nike Legends.

Triangl Bikini – This Australian brand are right on the money with their hipster-hit bikini’s. On every InstaG fitspo blog at the moment, they’re worth every penny of the $90 price tag. It’s so hard to find a great bikini that lasts longer than a few decent swimming sessions and as they’re made from neoprene (wetsuit material), they’re up to the task with a great minimalist, sporty look.

Nike Total Core trainers – No they’re not Nike Free Runs! Or Roches! I love my Total Core’s, they’re sleek enough for classes and cardio, but supportive enough for free weights. A seriously underrated trainer.

Nike performance vest – Because British girls prefer more than a sports bra…flattering, breathable, sucks up sweat before you even know it’s there, it’s worth paying a bit more for a decent vest.

Adidas Stella McCartney hoodie – If I could afford it, I’d buy everything gym related from Stella. The clothes are really high performance, insaaaanely flattering and in amazing colours. This hoodie was a Net-A-Porter sale bargain and has seen me through many winter runs. It’s seriously warm, yet incredibly light and the tight fabric is very form fitting, but doesn’t gather or cling. Worth It.

PhD Diet Whey Protein Powder – 2 scoops of this with some water after a workout really supercharge you back to full energy and help reconstruct muscle fibre to ensure all those weights give you some visible results! Protein does not bulk you up unless you’re shooting testosterone and steroids in crazy quantities, or are just a man. This tastes pretty good as far as whey goes and isn’t calorific and full of sugar and chemicals like most brands. Keep an eye out for my ‘demystifying supplements’ post later this week!

Sports Direct skipping rope – This cost about £1.99 at the till and is a total winner! Can really cheer up a HIIT routine and is a full-body cardio workout. Boxers often skip for coordination and concentration, not to mention it’s waaay more fun than the treadmill!