June 20, 2017
We’re flying through 2017 – can you believe it’s already June? But we’re using this month as a time for internal reflection and assessment as to how we’re faring this year.
For this week’s blog, we’re looking at our nutrition to see where we might be holding ourselves back.
Fruit & Vegetable Test
We have previously been told that we need 5 (vegetables) and 2 (fruits) a day to help prevent various diseases and remain healthy, but new research has come out showing that 10 portions a day may give us longer lives. The study by Imperial College London calculated that such eating habits could prevent 7.8 million premature deaths each year.
One of the researchers, Dr Dagfinn Aune said: “Fruit and vegetables have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and to boost the health of our blood vessels and immune system.” Compared with eating no fruits or vegetables a day, the research showed:
~ 200g cut the risk of cardiovascular disease by 13% while 800g cut the risk by 28%
~ 200g cut the risk of cancer by 4%, while 800g cut the risk by 13%
~ 200g cut the risk of a premature death by 15%, while 800g cut the risk by 31%
So the basic message is the more the better.
Now what does that mean for you? It means that we need to jam pack every single meal with vegetables, as the ‘meat and three vege’ for dinner is no longer going to cut it. But how do you do it?
1. Breakfast: integrate vegetables (spinach, avocado, tomatoes, kale) into your breakfast through a vege-packed omelette or a super-boost smoothie. When you mix the vegetables with either the egg mixture or some fruit in your blender, you won’t even taste the goodness that you’re getting.
2. Lunch: have a salad-based lunch packed with mixed vegetables that can be integrated with your lean protein (animal or plant based). Or for those colder months, bring leftovers of slow cooked stir-frys and soups.
3. Dinner: form the foundation of your dinners on vegetables rather than carbohydrates. For example, use grated cauliflower instead of rice or spiralled zucchini instead of pasta. Using vegetables to replace carbohydrates not only ups your vegetable servings, it also cuts down on the sugar hit you may be getting from the carbohydrates at dinner.
4. Snacks: fruit is one of the best snacks to have, but don’t forget that chopped up vegetables dipped in hummus is also a killer snack. Combine that with some nuts and you’ve got a wholesome snack.
If there’s ONE element that we could all do with cutting down on, it’s sugar. Even if you’re not one to add sugar to your morning tea/coffee (but particularly if you are!), there are hidden sugars in most of the packaged foods that we’re eating.
Health research tells us that we should be limiting our sugar intake to 3-5 teaspoons a day, or in other words 5-15grams of sugar. Factoring this into your day is made more difficult by the fact that ‘serving sizes’ are often misleading calculations of the amount of a certain food we are going to eat.
To really take stock of your daily sugar count, track your intake of all foods over a standard 7 day period and see the breakdown. Our favourite tracker is MyFitnessPal.
Here at EBM we don’t believe in calorie counting. Our bodies don’t seem to enjoy being told that we need to restrict our food, and they certainly don’t want to feel like they’re missing out.
However, we do need to be mindful of how much we are consuming throughout the day compared to our energy expenditure. More often than not, it is our snacking in between meals that lets us down in the calorie consumption department.
Our body isn’t made to be constantly digesting foods, as there are loads more primary functions that it needs to be completing. Think of eating like emails on your computer. You want to be focusing on your core work – the projects that drive the output you do each day. But emails continue to trickle in throughout the day, distracting you away from your core task.
Snacking is the same principle for our body. Instead of our body being able to focus on detoxifying, replacing new cells, and recharging (the core task), it has to keep coming back to digesting foods (the emails).
Take stock of how often you are eating throughout the day. The fitness industry has unfortunately advocated for these six small meals throughout the day to allegedly ‘keep our metabolism firing’. But the research just doesn’t stack up. Findings from intermittent fasting shows us that allowing the body considerable breaks between meals (anywhere from 4 to 18 hours overnight) does wonders for our body’s longevity. If you are eating more than 2-3 times per day, see whether you can limit that down by 1 meal in the first month.
Cravings seem to now be a regular part of life – that 3pm slump sends millions of Australian’s to the proverbial cookie jar to get their afternoon hit. In coaching, we talk about the 8 main causes of cravings and being able to identify the cause for the craving helps to eliminate or reduce it. This week, just identify the timing and the source of your cravings. Next week we’ll go through what those cravings mean and how best to overcome them.
So it’s easy to see how our eating and energy habits can slowly start to sabotage us. Taking stock every 3-6 months can help lead us back to the path we set off on at the beginning of each year. Remember, we don’t fall off the bandwagon, we drift; to get back on we need to assess where we are.
Photo Credit: @smoothie._
For the month of June we’re talking all things testing and taking stock of where we are halfway through 2017. For this weeks body blog, we’re looking at the best ways to test our fitness and our lifestyle!
This isn’t a physical test where we’re going to see how fast you can run 100m or how many burpees you can do in 3 minutes (although they are fun tests!). This test is looking at current behaviours. There are two main elements to this test and each one gives certain points.
Part A: Number of days exercised per week.
This first element has you count the number of days you exercise a week that is OVER 20 minutes in a session. That can include walking and any other form of exercise that has you moving. While we encourage movement throughout the day as every minute counts, for this assessment we are looking for exercise that is over 20 minutes in duration. For each day that you meet this requirement, give yourself 1 point.
Part B: Intensity of each exercise session.
Research has shown us that intensity is important for not only boosting cardiovascular fitness, but you also get the benefits of EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) which means that even after you stopped training the body is burning calories. HIIT (high intensity interval training) also means that you don’t have to train as long; doing a 20-minute HIIT session burns just as much, if not more calories, than a 1-hour consistent run.
Intensity is classified into low, moderate and vigorous. Vigorous training is where your heart rate is 80% of your MHR (max heart rate is 220 – your age). Any workouts that meet this vigorous training requirement gain double points, so give yourself 2 points for each exercise session that is over 20 minutes and hits your 80% MHR.
Current Lifestyle Test
We have become as humans one of the most sedentary creatures, as our jobs often require us to be sitting for countless hours during the day. Many studies have now claimed that “sitting is the new smoking”, with the effects of being stationary likened to those that come from smoking – a rather scary thought!
This lifestyle tests looks to classify your lifestyle as:
Sedentary: you spend most of your day sitting (i.e. at a desk), with 1 hour or less of exercise.
Somewhat active: you spend most of your day sitting, but complete low intensity or moderate intensity exercise at least 1-2 hours a day.
Moderately active: you integrate movement throughout your whole day. You meet the 10,000 step requirement on top of 1-2 hours of moderate exercise
Very active: you are rarely sitting throughout the day and meet the 10,000 step requirement plus at least 1 hour of vigorous exercise.
Doing an hour of exercise before or after work has been found to no longer offset the downsides of sitting. We need to integrate movement throughout the day in order to really combat the effects of our sedentary lifestyle.
This one isn’t really a “test”, but rather a time for you to establish what your biggest motivator is to exercise. It’s different for everyone, and finding an underlying value, rather than just an aesthetic reason, can be the difference between sticking to a regular exercise regime and giving up after the first week. Write down some words that you associate with exercise and try to determine what your driver is. For some, it’s to maintain good health indicators (i.e. blood pressure, waist measurement, weight), whereas for others it’s to boost endorphins and mood. Everyone is unique!
Equally, we all have barriers to exercise. Time, lack of energy, money, resources. They all come up as reasons why we can’t exercise. Listing out your barriers can help to not only identify them, but also to help overcome them. If time is a barrier, schedule in small bouts of exercise throughout your day e.g. a 20 minute walk at lunchtime, a 20 minute walk home from work by getting off a few stops early, or maybe a 20 minute HIIT workout before heading into the office.
Solution: Create New Habits
Willpower is like a bank balance; if you withdraw from it, to get ahead you have to put back in twofold. Habits take the need for willpower out of the equation, as they are things that we perform mindlessly.
Habits make up at least 40% of our day, so it is the creation of healthy habits that can help us to achieve our goals. In order to do this, we need to identify the most motivated time of our week i.e. Sunday morning’s before the week starts, or a Friday night after a crazy week. It is in this time that you can schedule in your diary – like an important appointment – the new habit that you wish to create (or ones that you would like to continue). For example, on Sundays you may sit down with your calendar, your local gym’s timetable, and your friend’s schedule, and carve out your exercise sessions for the week.
The benefit here is that you are mindfully creating a habit that when willpower is waning, it can be performed mindlessly. When it comes time to do the exercise, it’s not a question of “do I want to train today”; it’s a statement of fact of “it’s time to exercise now”. This simple switch in psychology can make a huge difference to upholding your new habits.