I Love Kale

Yummy sautéed black kale with garlic, topped with sliced toasted almonds

I LOVE KALE!!  I really, really do! I have been known to cook up a meal entirely of kale and eat it all by myself.  I throw it in my smoothies and chuck it in my salads.

Why do I like kale so much?  

Well, it is loaded with antioxidants to fight oxidative damage from free radicals in the body – especially important if you are very active as oxidative stress increases with increased levels of exercise.  Kale also contains vitamins C and K.  

It even has a small amount of those healthy Omega-3 fatty acids that are so important for brain function and heart health.

And if you avoid dairy, like I do, then kale is a good source of bioavailable calcium – good for your teeth and your bones!

The fibre in kale helps reduce cholesterol and may aid in weight loss and weight management because all that fibre keeps you fuller for longer.

And it’s also DELICIOUS!!!!

Here is a quick and easy recipe for a side dish, or a main if you are like me and can eat bowlfuls of it:

SAUTEED KALE WITH GARLIC AND ALMOND SLICES

2 servings                      Prep time: 10 minutes              Cooking time: 5 minutes

 

Ingredients:

2 cups kale (washed and cut into small pieces)

1 clove garlic (sliced thinly)

1 handful of almond slices*

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Method:

First, toast the almond slices in your frying pan (no oil necessary).  While these are gently toasting, put your kale in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and rub into the kale leaves.**

Once your almond slices are toasted to your liking, put them in a bowl to the side.

Now heat up the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in your frying pan and throw your garlic into the pan.  Let them brown a little bit then start to sauté your kale, using a spoon to stir the leaves round so that they are all cooked evenly for about 3-5 minutes.  Season with a little salt and pepper to taste.  Put the kale on a plate and then you can sprinkle your toasted almond slices on top!

*Almonds contain calcium, Vitamin E and magnesium.  The magnesium aids in the absorption of the calcium, while the monosaturated fats promote satiety and help with the absorption of the vitamins.
**This increases the absorption of your fat-soluble vitamins within the kale such as vitamins A, D, E and K. 

The Experiment- week 4

Hello lovely readers. I hope this blog finds you all healthy and happy. 

The purpose of this experimental move to a more plant-based diet was to see if it would elicit a hormonal reset. What I’ve realised is that it’s going to take far longer than four weeks to see any appreciative results.

I feel that I’ve gained a new perspective on a plant-based diet and its benefits. This has really changed the way I think about how I eat and fuel my body. I will admit that I struggle to stick to a full plant-based diet – I rely on eggs and dairy for quite a bit of protein, and I do really enjoy some meat in my diet.

My husband and the children are not in the least bit interested in being limited to a plant-based diet – which has also led to some frustration over the last few weeks of evening meals, which is often the only time we sit down all together. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed educating myself on the impact of a plant-based diet on the body and how it could function more efficiently and cleanly, while still getting all the elements necessary to keep me going, especially during more physically demanding days.  And my recipe book has expanded over the last four weeks to include more whole-grain dishes and a wider variety of ingredients that I can use in a more creative way.

I suppose the most valuable thing I’ve gained from this experience is the more comprehensive toolkit with which to help my clients eat healthier and get better results.

Although there haven’t been any life changing results in my physicality, I will continue to eat far more veggie dishes, a lot less meat and see where that takes me.

So, this is my last blog about the experiment for a while – I will give you an update in a month to see if the changes I have made have impacted on the hormonal issues I have been experiencing. I am looking aforward to the long game.

Happy healthy eating!

The Experiment – week 3

So begins the third week of my experiment. To be honest, aside from a bit of weight loss, I’m not experiencing a massive change in how I feel. That being said, I am acutely aware that all dietary changes have to be viewed as lifestyle changes, not a short-term fix and most benefits will be felt in the long-term.

Generally, my diet is pretty good, I eat loads of fruit and vegetables and I do also supplement those with whole food capsules that give me a further boost of nutrients – however, I do have a fondness for dark chocolate that I can’t seem to overcome…

But onto the main topic – what a plant-based diet generally lacks nutrient-wise and how to make sure that you are getting enough of the good stuff.

For me, the hardest part of following a plant-based diet is cramming in the protein without over-eating all day and therefore over-doing my caloric intake. I’ve continued to include eggs and a limited amount of dairy in my diet, but the majority of my protein has been coming from legumes, lentils, seeds and nuts. Luckily, I love all of this stuff! I won’t bore you by reiterating the reasons protein is so important to have in your diet as I did that last week, suffice to say, make sure you are getting enough.

Let’s take a look at the other nutrients that are most often lacking in a plant-based diet: Iron, B12, calcium and zinc.

The importance of iron:

  • It is an essential component of haemoglobin, the bit of the red blood cells that carries oxygen around your body. Two-thirds of your iron intake goes to your haemoglobin.
  • It helps maintain healthy cells, skin, hair and nails.

What happens if you do not have enough iron in your body: you may feel fatigued, short of breath or have cold hands and feet.

Foods high in iron include:· Fortified cereals, dried fruit, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds, pulses and leafy green vegetables.

Top tip: Iron absorption is increased when taken with a source of vitamin C such as citrus fruits or mango and certain veggies like red peppers.

The importance of Vitamin B12:

  • Works together with folate to create two essential chemical reactions crucial for cell growth, DNA production and development and contributes to the healthy function of the brain and nervous system.
  • B12 may also enhance bone health and normal immune function.

Deficiencies in B12 can present as cold hands and feet, may affect your balance and cause fatigue. It may also contributeto depression and confusion.

Getting B12 into your diet: Unfortunately, plants do not contain B12, therefore you must get it through consumption of dairy, eggs, fortified cereals or bread, or in supplemental form.

The importance of Calcium:

  • 99% of calcium taken into the body contributes to bones and teeth health, and supporting skeletal structure and function.
  • It also plays a crucial role in cell signalling, blood clotting, muscle contraction and nerve function.

A deficiency in Calcium can lead to rickets in children or osteoporosis in adults.

Foods high in Calcium: Dairy, green vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage, certain seeds and nuts (almonds, sunflower, brazil nuts), soya products, fortified bread or cereals, and fish (those where you can eat the bones such as sardines or pilchards).

And finally, the importance of Zinc:

  • Utilised by the body to make new cells and enzymes
  • Aids in processing macronutrients
  • Supports wound healing
  • Also linked to antioxidant activity and immune system response, growth and development
  • May aid in reducing inflammation and improving acne symptoms

It is unusual to have a zinc deficiency but in those rare cases it may result in impaired growth and development, skin rashes, chronic diarrhoea and behavioural issues.

Foods high in Zinc: Whole grains, pulses, seeds and nuts, dried fruit (apricots, dates and raisins), legumes, eggs and dairy, fortified bread and cereal products, and certain vegetables such as mushrooms, kale, peas and asparagus.

If you feel you may need specific supplementation, please speak to your GP or other health professional before taking any store-bought supplements.

And if you are interested in discussing whole food supplementation, please feel free to contact me to arrange a chat.

The Experiment- week two

A good variety of legumes, vegetables, fruit and nuts are key to achieving a healthful, balanced diet.

So begins the second week of my experiment. So far, I feel pretty good – my energy levels are about normal for me and not much else has changed.

In general, I eat a lot of fruit and veg, raw and cooked as part of a healthy balanced diet. Breakfast is often a smoothie or fridge oats with fruit, lunch is usually homemade soup or salad, maybe leftovers from the night before. My toughest challenge is always what to do for dinner – especially as the rest of the family are not really making this journey with me.

I’m a ‘planner’ – always have been, always will be – especially now, as we are making fewer trips to the shops and having to plan food consumption a bit better.  As I’ve been planning my meals, I’m looking particularly at how I can get enough protein into my diet. Although I’ve gone mostly plant-based, I have kept dairy and eggs in my diet just to cram in some more protein and calcium (very important for us ladies as we mature). 

Just in case you’re wondering why protein is such an important aspect of your diet, I’ll give a brief overview:

The amino acids in protein are necessary for the growth and functioning of our body’s cells and tissues, as well as the synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters, and the regulation of our immune system. So, super important stuff!

Eating enough protein is especially important when you are exercising as it promotes muscle growth and repair.  Essentially, when you train you are putting your body into a state of stress and the amino acids in protein provide vital nutrients for repairing the damage done by placing your body under this stress.

The body requires 20 different amino acids to properly function, nine of these are essential amino acids that are not produced by the body but need to be obtained through your diet. These are: histadine, isoleucine, leucine, methionine, lysine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and veline. 

Animal products are considered complete proteins because they intrinsically contain all the essential amino acids. 

However, many plant protein sources are low in or missing one or more of the essential amino acids and considered incomplete proteins – so it is a bit trickier to manage to get in all these hugely significant amino acids. 

There ARE some plant-based complete protein sources such as soya, quinoa and buckwheat. However, if you are eating a plant-based diet it is important to understand how to combine foods to get a complete source of amino acids into your body on a daily basis. You may have heard the term ‘eating the rainbow’ – by which is meant that you should consume a broad selection of colourful fruits and veggies to get a more comprehensive variety of vitamins and minerals essential to the well-being of your body.

I have created a quick cheat sheet of foods that form complete essential amino acid combos from various online sources to help me on my way:

  • Beans and rice
  • Lentils with rice or quinoa
  • Nuts with grains such as peanut butter on whole grain bread
  • Grains and veggies with dairy or soy, such a pasta with cheese
  • Legumes and nuts combos such as hummus (chickpeas and tahini)
  • Jacket potato and baked beans
  • Pretty much any legume with whole grains like rice or quinoa

Another interesting tip that I came across was that adding a bit of lemon juice – or any food high in vitamin C – to your legumes aids in their digestion. Bell peppers, kale, sweet potato are all good pairing with your legumes to make your gut happier!!

Next week I’ll be looking into nutrients that are commonly lacking in the plant-based diet and how to get more of them. 

Until then, happy eating all!

The Experiment- week one

Image by Fuzzy Rescue
https://fuzzyrescue.org/

I was listening to a fascinating podcast today with Dr Neil Barnard, a faculty member at George Washington University School of medicine, about the effects of food on your hormones. As do most western women of ‘a certain age’, I am experiencing certain symptoms of hormonal imbalance such as fatigue, abdominal discomfort et cetera – I’ll let you use your imagination.

So I’ve decided to experiment with a plant-based diet over the next four weeks to see how removing meat from my diet affects my hormone reactions.

Let’s be clear, as much as I love animals, this is not an ethical entanglement I find myself in, it’s purely for health reasons. I do acknowledge that there is an environmentally motivated need to start looking to protein alternatives. I digress…

My plan, so far, is to outline the following:

  • How much protein do I need daily?
  • What foods should I eat to get that protein?
  • How is this going to affect how I feel as I adjust?
  • How do I make sure I’m getting all the other vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) that I will need to stay healthy?

I’ve started keeping a food, exercise and sleep diary so I can track what I’m putting into my body, my energy expenditure and how I’m feeling each day. 

I’ve calculated that 15% of my food intake should be protein – which for my weight, age and activity levels is approximately 55-60g protein per day. 

Right, let’s see how this goes!!

More posts about my Plant-based Experiment to come…

The Holiday Blues

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

‘Tis the season… You finally get to relax, you let yourself enjoy the food and drink that maybe you’ve been careful to avoid and fall out of your usual exercise routine. You’ve earned a break from being so good! But… then follows the inevitable frustration of that post-holiday weight gain. 

I fall into that exasperating holiday routine as well… 

But is it worth that extra five or ten pounds you have to lose after those few weeks are over? Personally, I don’t think so – especially as a person in the sub five=foot category, all weight gain is extremely noticeable. I end up spending forever trying to get it off again.

So, I make that little extra effort to spend 20 minutes each day doing a high intensity session, usually concentrating on different areas of the body each day. The great thing about these quick sessions is that they can be done with little or no equipment – just body weight exercises will do the trick.

Plus, those happy endorphins released during the workout keep me going, lift my spirits and make the return to the usual routine easier to handle when the holiday is over.

Make no mistake, these mini workouts are all about maintenance, not gains, until I can resume my normal routine again. 

I just choose five exercises that target a particular part of my body, i.e. arms, legs, back, core, et cetera – or mix it up for whole-body training, and workout as hard as I can during those 20 minutes.  I prefer to choose a timed interval as it makes keeping track of time easier, but reps and sets are just as useful.

I’ve downloaded an interval timer app on my phone which is easily programmed and allows me to control my music choices while in the app – an absolute must for me because I can’t be without music while training.

I always make sure to have water to hand and grab a quick sip during rest intervals so that I stay hydrated.

Enjoy your holidays but make certain you don’t regret them either.  It may only be 20 minutes but these mini training sessions are still a workout!  

Happy Holibobs!

The longer journey…

I’ve noticed a trend, especially with my children’s generation, to want everything NOW – to want instant gratification, all the time.

Now, I’ll admit that I’m not the most patient individual in the world but I recognise that for certain things, it is well worth putting in the time to achieve something lasting and worthwhile. 

This is especially true of fitness and sport  – if you want to lose weight, build muscle, improve endurance, power or technique, you absolutely must put in the hours!

A few pointers I’ve learned through years of going to the gym and participating in sports:

– have a long term goal that you plan to achieve by accomplishing shorter term goals
– make a plan and stick to it
– review the plan, change it as you achieve your goals and make new goals. This is progress!!
– setbacks are inevitable but make peace with them as soon as you can and push on
– be realistic! Progress takes months… not days or even a few weeks… 

And finally, once you’ve achieved your goal, set another, push yourself to achieve more – even if that goal is ‘just’ to maintain a particular fitness level (easier said than done!)

And if you’d like some motivation, give me a call – I quite enjoy getting people going!

It’ll all be worth it in the end…

Keeping those Shoulders Strong

Exercises to promote healthy rotator cuffs and scapular stabilisers

This month I am focussing on shoulder and upper back conditioning, specifically on the rotator cuffs and scapular stabilisers.

The rotators are a group of muscles that – together with their corresponding tendons – stabilise the shoulder joint when it completes a range of motions.  These muscles are especially important to climbers, who use and abuse them regularly with dynamic pulling actions and overhead movements.

Injuries to the rotator cuff can limit shoulder mobility and lead to inhibited pulling strength, grip strength and a multitude of other restrictive issues.

So, you can see why it’s so important to keep the rotator muscles strong and in peak condition.  Here are four simple exercises that I like to use to strengthen my rotator muscle group and keep them in good working order:

External rotations with a resistance band

Stand with good posture (back straight, feet hip-width apart, knees unlocked, shoulders back and down, head up) and keep the elbows at a 90-degree angle and at your sides, grip the resistance band with palms facing up and pull hands away from each other until you reach the point of mild tension, then slowly return to your starting position. Perform 20-25 repetitions.

Starting position
At point of mild tension

Internal rotations with a resistance band

Anchor the resistance band on an object at waist height.  Standing with good posture (as above) and keeping the elbow at a 90-degree angle, grip the resistance band with the hand closest to the anchor and pull the hand and forearm across your body.  It is very important to keep the elbow fixed to the side of the body and move only the forearms and hand.  Return to starting position. Perform 20-25 repetitions.

Starting position
Pull across body

Shrugs

Stand with good posture, moderate weight dumbbells* in both hands, lift your shoulders towards your ears, and hold for one second. Release slowly back down, keeping the shoulders back as they travel down to the starting position. Perform 20-25 repetitions.  

Starting position
Pause at the end position

Shoulder Press

Sit on a chair or bench, with good posture, holding moderate weight dumbbells* in each hand.  Bring the dumbbells to the side of the shoulders, elbows bent and palms facing out.  Press the dumbbells directly overhead, palms maintaining a forward-facing position.  At the top, arms press in until the dumbbells touch.  Reverse the movement, bringing the hands back to the starting position.  Perform up to 20 repetitions.

Starting position
Top position

*Remember, this is about conditioning the muscles, not building muscle, so heavy weights are not needed.

And thus the journey begins…

asphalt-back-road-blurred-background-1546901

So, this particular journey started with a conversation with a friend: how could I marry my passion (read: addiction) for climbing to my passion for helping people to achieve their ideal healthy lifestyle?

Well, at the time it was about finding a career that would allow me to maintain a healthy work-life balance and pursue a career that could include climbing as a primary focus.

There seems to be a lack of professionals in sports nutrition in our area, especially in regards to climbing nutrition. So, this got me thinking and researching and soul-searching. Ultimately, I was inspired by a particular course that combined two of my favourite pastimes – exercising and eating – into one comprehensive career choice. Hence, MI Balanced Body was conceived.

This journey has, by no means, reached its destination yet. I am constantly discovering new ideas that I would like to apply to my method of wellness coaching and excited by new partnerships that bring me in contact with interesting and inspiring people.

My advice to myself: just sit back and enjoy the journey!