Fuel your workout

HEALTH:

The best pre-workout meal depends on exactly what time of day you’re going to be in the gym. If you’re an early riser who fits it in before work you’ll need to keep it light. However, if you’re working out later in the day you can get away with a bit more as you’ll have more time to fully digest it.

EXERCISE:

It takes the body approximately four to six hours to digest fat, around three hours to digest protein and about two hours to digest carbohydrates. It is therefore important to keep things simple and focus on consuming mainly carbohydrates directly before a workout.

278378820688404198_jxsLVERX_cBy eating too much fat or protein, your blood will rush to your stomach for digestion while also trying to fuel your exercising muscles. As a result, it might not do a very good job of either (leading to indigestion and lack of energy).

NUTRITION:

Bananas are a great choice if you don’t have long before your workout (i.e. less than an hour). These are a very quickly digestible form of carbohydrate and are also packed with potassium, which aids in maintaining proper nerve and muscle function.

If you are able to eat several hours beforehand, try a meal based around wholemeal pasta. This is a great way to increase stored energy in the muscles and give you the extra oomph you need later in the day.

© Sarah West Nutrition

Get equipped

HEALTH:

On average only about 20% of us keep our New Year’s resolutions, with some of the biggest failures often found in fitness resolutions. But don’t let the statistics get you down: by following these tips you’ll be better equipped to succeed.

EXERCISE:

Rather than focusing on one ultimate end goal, try dissecting it into smaller pieces to make it seem less intimidating.

199213983487253074_XwUYjumA_cFor example, if your main objective is to complete a 10K race, your smaller goals could involve running a 5K in less than 30 minutes, adding upper and lower body strength training to increase your muscular endurance, or running 2 miles with a personal best completion time.

NUTRITION:

By keeping a well-stocked kitchen, you’ll be better equipped to keep up your healthy eating plans long term.

Cheap and easily available, beans (kidney, aduki, flageolet, mung, canellini, broad, haricot) and pulses (such as lentils) are high in protein and fibre but low in fat.  Keep a few cans in your cupboard, rinse thoroughly then add to salads, soups, casseroles and stir-fries for a nutritious boost.

© Sarah West Nutrition

Get some support

HEALTH:

You might think you can effectively learn exercise techniques by watching friends or others in the gym – but sometimes what you see isn’t safe.

Incorrect technique can lead to sprains, strains, fractures and other painful injuries that may hamper your health and your fitness efforts.

EXERCISE:

If you’re just getting started, schedule some time with a personal trainer who can show you how to exercise safely and ensure that you don’t begin with any bad habits.

52Such expertise can also be useful if you’re been training for a while, allowing you to demonstrate your technique and identify any tweaks that may be necessary to help you progress.

NUTRITION:

A food diary is an extremely useful tool to support your training, enabling you to check that you are consuming the right amount of calories each day and help identify where you might need to make some changes.

Try it for 1 week (noting down meal times and portion sizes as well as everything you eat and drink) and you may be surprised by the results.

© Sarah West Nutrition

The power of protein

HEALTH:

Proteins are the basic building blocks of the human body.

When you eat foods that contain protein, your digestive system breaks them down into basic units called amino acids. These amino acids are then re-used to make the proteins needed to maintain your hair, skin, nails, bones, blood, internal organs and muscles.

EXERCISE:

Resistance workouts are a form of stress, which triggers muscle breakdown and can make you feel tired and sore. They also deplete critical amino acids such as glutamine, valine, isoleucine and leucine.

It’s only after you’ve completed exercise that your muscle tissues begin the rebuilding process, so it’s important to replenish lost nutrients to help the body recover.

NUTRITION:

Consuming high-quality protein following a tough workout helps provide your body with all the necessary amino acids needed to help repair muscle fibres damaged during exercise. Protein also promotes growth of new muscle as an adaptation response to your training, helping to boost your metabolism and increase fat burning.

Try a chicken or tuna salad served with sliced avocado and hard boiled eggs for a protein-rich post-workout snack.

© Sarah West Nutrition

Make the effort

HEALTH:

It was Woody Allen who famously commented that “90% of success is just showing up”. Well the same applies for the gym;  the hardest part is often just making the effort to get there.

You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you need to run or the amount you can bench press later; make your first priority simply packing your gym kit and getting through the door.

EXERCISE:

Once you have an exercise habit, it quickly becomes automatic. But after a week, a month or even a year off, it can be hard to get started again. The easiest way to keep things going is simply not to stop: avoid taking long breaks from the gym or you’ll find rebuilding the habit will take a lot more effort.

To keep the momentum going, try jotting down how great you feel after a really good workout and use it as a reference the next time you’re tempted to take a break.

NUTRITION:

Often the first area to be compromised when we are busy and feeling stressed is our diet; hectic lifestyles can lead to a reliance on convenience foods, which lack essential vitamins and minerals.

In turn, feeling stressed makes it more difficult for our bodies to absorb vital nutrients from food, particularly the B vitamins and vitamin C (which support our bodies in times of stress). It’s therefore very important to make an effort with your diet, however stressed out you feel.

© Sarah West Nutrition

Reward yourself

HEALTH:

Losing weight is a task that requires plenty of perseverance; and one way to ensure that you will not give up hope is to reward yourself.

Granting yourself regular rewards (i.e. for every 5lbs lost) will make your weight loss journey more interesting, and help provide the motivation you need to reach your ultimate goal. And if you keep it up for long enough you’ll reap the ultimate reward; a fit and healthy body to be proud of.

EXERCISE:

When it comes to weight loss, the rewards along the way should help you work toward your goals, not against it.

Fitness-related treats such as smart new gym clothes, comfier trainers, a fitness magazine subscription, a personal training session or a new piece of equipment (such as a fitness ball, resistance bands or even an mp3 player to listen to while you exercise) are not only great incentives but will help spur you on even further.

NUTRITION:

One of the hardest struggles can be breaking the habit of rewarding yourself with unhealthy food. Whilst you do deserve a treat; you do not deserve to punish your poor body by plying it with junk and empty calories.

Rather than celebrating your achievements with cake or wine, be kind to yourself and treat yourself to a massage or pampering session instead. By granting yourself non-food rewards, you will find that there are many things that bring greater excitement and fulfillment than unhealthy food.

© Sarah West Nutrition

Under the weather

HEALTH:

As winter draws nearer and temperatures drop, colds and ‘flu-like symptoms are rife. Whilst it may seem tempting to push on through it, exercising when you feel unwell will only set you back in terms of recovery, causing you even more time away from your fitness programme.

If you want to make real progress, take a few days off and get back to it once you’re feeling 100%.

EXERCISE:

Exercise prompts a temporary rise in immune system cells that attack foreign invaders within the body, meaning that those who are physically active five or more days a week are a third less likely to catch a respiratory infection (such as the common cold).

Although these levels return to normal within a few hours, each session is likely to provide an additional immune boost to fight off infection. So when you’re feeling well, keep your training regular!

NUTRITION:

Maintaining adequate vitamin stores in the body is essential for an effective immune response: well-nourished individuals are far better prepared to both fight and recover from infections.

Be sure to include varied and nutritious foods such as lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes and nuts and seeds in your diet, all of which will provide you with vital nutrients and help boost your protection against germs.

© Sarah West Nutrition

No substitute

HEALTH:

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is something we all aspire to, but many of us will admit to falling short when it comes to making the right choices every day.

In today’s health-conscious society there are a bewildering range of vitamins and minerals available to supposedly boost our wellbeing, but can they really bridge the gap?

EXERCISE:

Supplementing your diet with protein shakes can be convenient for gym-goers, but that doesn’t make them necessary. Research shows that if the total quantity of protein you consume in your daily diet is sufficient then it is unlikely that adding protein powder will result in any additional health gains.

Making an effort to eat a source of complete protein (such as meat, fish, poultry, milk, cheese or eggs) with each meal is both cheaper and tastier!

NUTRITION:

They may seem harmless enough but some nutritional supplements can interact with prescription medications – making them less effective – and others (such as vitamins A, D, E, K and iron) can be toxic in high doses.

It is very difficult to overdose on vitamins and minerals from food, so try making some improvements to your diet before forking out on expensive supplements. You may be doing yourself more harm than good.

© Sarah West Nutrition

Keep at it

HEALTH:

Training to get fit, by its very nature, is the repetition of something in order to see improvements. Unfortunately this process can quickly lead to boredom and loss of motivation.

By taking an innovative approach to your training and making a few subtle tweaks, you can help re-motivate yourself and find a whole new stimulus to get great results.

EXERCISE:

As you become fitter, you develop the ability to do more and work out for longer. However, the key to taking your fitness to the next level is to increase your training intensity, not just how long you exercise for.

Try mixing periods of high intensity work with active recovery; also known as high intensity interval training. It’s a much more efficient way of working and could give your training a real boost.

NUTRITION:

According to research, one method of potentially enhancing your endurance involves regularly drinking beetroot juice.

Although the exact mechanism remains unclear, the effects are believed to be down to the high concentration of naturally occurring nitrates found in beetroot. These convert into nitric acid in the body, which dilates blood vessels and leads to a reduction in the amount of oxygen used during exercise.

© Sarah West Nutrition

Diet & exercise myths

HEALTH:

Trying to lose weight? It may seem a straight-forward concept, but there is a wealth of misleading information out there which can leave you feeling confused and far from achieving your goals. These tips will help to dispel a couple of common diet and exercise myths which may be holding you back.

EXERCISE:

The myth: Sit-ups will give me a flat stomach.

The reality: Many people’s stomachs are flabby due to excess fat rather than weak stomach muscles. Whilst correctly performed sit-ups will help strengthen your muscles, you won’t see the definition you crave unless you first lose the layer of fat resting on top.

If you really want to see results, try interval training in combination with crunches and you will both burn fat and strengthen abdominal muscles.

 NUTRITION:

The myth: If I exercise a lot,  I can eat whatever I want.

The reality: Even if you’re in the gym every day of the week, it doesn’t give you a license to forgo a healthy diet. It is all too easy to out-eat your workout and undo all your calorie-burning efforts.

If you want to see results, try consuming 250 fewer daily calories whilst burning an extra 250 calories per day in the gym: this creates enough of a calorie deficit to achieve an average weight loss of a pound a week.

© Sarah West Nutrition