Cardio – and why you DON’T need it.

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There is a common misconception – particularly amongst females – that you have to do more cardio if you want to lose weight. Coupled with the other big misconception that ‘lifting weights will make you bulky’ has led many females to turn into cardio bunnies who either won’t lift weights at all or only use light weights. Big mistake!

What if I told you steady state cardio can actually stop you from losing weight? It can, by the way. Over time, performing hours of steady-state cardio can actually cause your metabolism to slow down. The effect of this is doubled when combined with a low calorie diet. Unfortunately this seems to be the recipe of choice for most girls trying to lose weight – low calorie diet, high cardio program.

The worst part is that this will work at the start, lulling you into a false sense of security. Then your body will start to adapt to it and cause your metabolism to slow down. In order to keep getting results, you will have to keep increasing your cardio and decreasing your calories. That doesn’t sound very fun to me.

The good news is weight training actually increases your metabolism by building lean muscle mass. The more lean muscle mass you have, the greater your ability to metabolize fat. Long duration cardio can actually counteract these efforts by burning into the muscle mass you already have. So, dropping the hours of cardio for some shorter sessions of heavy lifting (whatever is heavy for you) will actually make you leaner. And don’t worry, unless you have crazy high levels of testosterone as a female, lifting weights WILL NOT MAKE YOU BULKY!

I’ll be honest, I used to do hours upon hours of cardio and wondered why I still couldn’t lose stubborn body fat, having always eaten relatively healthy and been highly active. I would try to eat less and run further, but I was burning myself out. Now, I have focused on reversing the metabolic damage I caused myself by focusing on lifting heavy weights in lower rep ranges. I NEVER do cardio, and I can EAT MORE food than I did before WHILE GETTING LEANER! That’s a lifestyle I want to live – a healthy, happy and fulfilling one rather than an extreme, restrictive and depriving one.

If you do cardio because you enjoy it, then that’s an exception. I still enjoy going for a walk with friends occasionally, but it’s more of a social thing than for exercise. The occasional run or walk won’t hinder your weight loss efforts, and some cardio may still have a place in your program particularly if you have a lot of weight to lose. But doing hours and hours of cardio will cause you nothing but pain and metabolic damage. It’s painful and ineffective, so why submit yourself to that?

The exception to this is of course HIIT (or high intensity interval training) cardio. This is where you alternate work-rest intervals to raise and lower your heart rate. You can do HIIT cardio on the treadmill, cross trainer, rower, or doing a circuit of body weight/weighted exercises (think burpees, kettlebell swings, push ups). HIIT has amazing fat-blasting potential and you only need to do it for 20 minutes to maximize its effects.

Check out this article for more on HIIT training and an example of how to do a HIIT workout:

http://www.builtlean.com/2010/06/04/high-intensity-interval-training-hiit-best-cardio-to-burn-fat/

Make the change today! You will thank me for it 🙂

With love,
B. xx

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PROGRESS UPDATE NO. 1 – “Strive for Progress Not Perfection”

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The results from my first five weeks of training are IN! And I’m pretty stoked! I felt like I was getting leaner, but seeing the result in numbers is very motivating.

I started off my journey on 8th September at 18.5% body fat. My results from yesterday, the 15th of October showed I have decreased this to 16.2% body fat – a total loss of 2.3% in five weeks. Inevitably I have lost some weight and some of my lean muscle mass as well. The goal is to stay the same weight on the scale but increase the muscle mass and decrease the fat percentage. My trainer said it’s common with the first phase of training, but as the training gets harder my muscle mass will increase again.

My main problem areas that we noted in the initial assessment are my hamstrings, calves and stomach. On all of these areas I have lost 3-4mm in five weeks. My trainer said he couldn’t ask for a better result in that time frame – so I must be doing something right!  I’ve also lost 3mm off my quads and 1-2 mm off most areas in my upper body (which is not as much of a priority at this stage).

Although these stats indicate overall body fat loss, they also show that I have been able to make positive changes in the way my body functions. My calf measurements were showing that I had poor sleeping patterns, which I have able to fix through supplementation. Getting a better sleep has not only made me feel amazing during the days, but it is reflecting in my body composition. Also, the decrease in my hamstrings shows that I have been able to decrease my exposure to environmental toxins and/or improve the detoxification process in my body. I have probably achieved this through strict clean eating and switching a majority of my beauty and skin care products to certified organics.

Overall, I’m happy with the results. I have been pretty disciplined with my diet and training, making sure I commit fully to every session, so it’s good to see that what I’m doing is working. 🙂

I also started my next training phase yesterday! This phase is much harder – I’m starting to decrease reps and increase the weight. There are also more big compound movements like squats, dead-lifts and chin ups. I LOVE this kind of training so I’m really looking forward to this phase. And another plus side of increasing the intensity of training is… more carbs! I now get two carb meals a day, pre and post workout. Can’t say no to that!

I think the first phase of training has taught me to not be too hard on myself. No one is perfect. We’re all going to have slip ups. I tend to be a perfectionist in a lot of things, and my diet and training is no exception. But it’s important to strive for progress, not for perfection. We’re all human after all. I’ve had some amazing results so far, so I can be assured that I’m on the right track 🙂

With love,

B. xx

“You don’t make friends with salad” – my experience with vegetarianism and body composition

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I want to share what I have learnt about the relationship between vegetarianism and body composition. This is a subject close to my heart, as I was a vegetarian for 8 years. Ethically, I would still prefer to be a vegetarian. However after discovering early this year that I am allergic to gluten, I found being vegetarian and gluten-free too difficult and restrictive. A lot of the protein substitutes I was eating contained wheat, and so I made the tough decision to incorporate some meat into my diet to replace the lost protein. It was tough at first, but with the amount of training I was doing, I knew it was important that I consumed adequate protein, and found that including meat was the best way to do this. I have found that my decision has enabled me to grow muscle and improve my fitness in a way that wasn’t possible when I was vegetarian.

The photos on the left are from when I was a vegetarian. I still ate a lot and exercised regularly by playing sport, running and going to the gym, however as you can see I was very skinny and had little muscle tone. The photos on the right are both within the last month. I have been eating meat for 6 months now, and I go to the gym 5-6 times a week. Although I’m still petite, you can see I now have visible muscle definition and I look healthier. There is about 9kg difference in weight between the photos.

From my personal experience, I don’t believe that a vegetarian or vegan diet can lead to optimal body composition (by which I mean a low body fat percentage and high lean muscle mass). The reason for this is largely protein. Protein is the building blocks of life, and you certainly need it to build muscles. As a vegetarian it is difficult to meet your protein requirements and furthermore, the vegetarian protein sources are absorbed by the body differently and are not ideal for supporting muscle growth.

I was actually very conscious of my protein as a vegetarian. I made sure I ate protein with every meal. I trained hard in the gym and ate a lot of food, but it still took me a long time to put on muscle. Inevitably, this also meant it was harder to lose body fat, because the more lean muscle mass you have, the greater your ability to metabolize fat. As soon as I started incorporating meat (I still only eat chicken, turkey and some fish) I noticed a big difference in my ability to build muscle and lose fat. I feel stronger, leaner, and healthier.

I see all too often people choose to be a vegetarian or vegan to be ‘healthy’. They believe meat is not healthy, and so cutting it out will be better for them. Well, I agree there are things about meat that can be unhealthy – such as not choosing free range or grass fed meats. However, simply cutting meat out without replacing it with other protein sources is not good for your body. I can’t stress the importance of eating protein enough, even if you aren’t trying to build muscle. It is still has an important role in replenishing and repairing your body’s cells. If you are a vegetarian and you don’t eat enough protein, chances are you are not healthy. The chances that you have flaky nails, brittle hair, dry/dull skin or you get sick or tired all the time are pretty high too. These are NOT signs of good health. These are signs of deficiencies.

Being a vegetarian is hard work. It is not simply cutting out meat. It requires the careful management of foods to meet your macronutrient requirements, when there are restricted options for you to choose from. I honestly believe it took me 5 years to perfect my vegetarian diet to the point I no longer got sick all the time. Even still, my flaky nails didn’t go away until I started eating meat several times a day. If you are a vegetarian or vegan and you’re meeting your protein requirements and living healthily then I commend you – it really is hard.
What I’ve shared in this post is just my personal experience. I know there are several bodybuilders out there who promote that they have achieved their physique on a vegetarian or vegan diet. I think what they’ve done is amazing -but they are the minority. Being naturally petite, I don’t think I could have achieved the body composition I have today (or the physique I am still striving to achieve) if I had remained vegetarian. No matter how hard I trained and how much I ate, I was only able to see significant increases in muscle tone after introducing meat.

I don’t discourage the vegetarian or vegan diet, but it is important to do it properly by monitoring your protein and other nutrients. And depending on your goals, it may be the one thing getting in the way of you achieving them. It certainly was for me.

With love,
B. xx

Note: Any negative comments on vegetarians or meat eaters will not be approved – this is a positive space. However if you have any questions, feel free to get in contact with me  🙂

Lean, Green, Clean Eating Machine!

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Just a check in on where I’m at with my training. It’s one month into my program and I’m feeling like a lean, green, clean eating machine! I had a beautiful weekend enjoying the weather with friends and indulging in my cheat meal at Yochi.  This week is my last on this cycle of training, and I get to see my results so far and get a new training program!

One thing I’ve learnt is maintaining balance in your life on this kind of diet is tough. I spend a lot of time cooking, training and rehab-ing, and there isn’t much time for social activities. If I do want to go out with friends I have to bring my own food, unless I can plan my cheat meal around it.

I went down to a friend’s holiday house on Saturday to spend the day at the beach with some friends. I took all my own meals and ate at regular intervals. It didn’t really impact on my weekend at all – I still had a great time catching up with the girls. It’s awesome that my friends are so supportive of what I’m doing, and didn’t make me feel like a weirdo for eating my chicken and veggies while they nibbled on crackers and dip!

I’m now ready to throw myself into the last week of training I have before the next body fat screening. I’ve worked pretty hard and been disciplined with my eating for the past month.  I certainly feel leaner, but I’m looking forward to seeing the numbers on how my body has changed. I am motivated by measurable results! Wish me luck 🙂

With love,
B. xx

“Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”

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A few people have asked me how I organize myself to ‘meal prep’.

Meal prep is tough work – it takes a lot of organization and a lot of time. I’ve figured out a few ways to make the process more efficient, so I waste less time cooking and more time… well, eating!

Here is the step-by-step process I use to prep my meals for the week:

1. Write a weekly meal plan.

I plan out exactly what I’m going to eat for all six meals of the day, for seven days of the week. I do this by breaking it into protein, fats, greens and carbs, so I know I’m meeting my nutrient requirements for each meal.

Note: I eat the same six meals every day for a week. You don’t have to do it this way, but I find it easier to plan for when every day is the same.

2. Grocery shopping

I calculate how much of each type of meat I’ll need to get me through that whole week. For instance if I eat 150g raw meat 5 times a day, then:
150g x 5 = 750g per day. 750g x 7 days = 5.25kg.

Note: I do this separately for each type of meat, this is just an example of how I calculate it.

I then go and buy all the meats (I get a variety of chicken breast, turkey, and salmon depending on what meals I’ve planned). The butcher looks at me like I’m crazy, but that’s ok. He doesn’t ask questions.

I follow the same process with my fats and veggies. I usually buy veggies for half the week and do another veggie shop mid-week so they stay fresh.

3. Label your bags

I buy plenty of little snap lock bags which I label with the day and the meal number e.g. ‘Monday 2’.

4. Prepare the meat

I cut all the meat up into 150g portions, weighing it as I go and putting it into the corresponding snap lock bag. I then freeze all of the meat except what I need for the next two days.

5. Cook for two to three days at a time

I do a big cook up usually every second day. Some people cook for 3 days, but I’m just cautious of leaving food in the fridge for too long so prefer to cook for 2. It’s important to cook a few days in advance, or you will end up cooking all the time and won’t have the meals ready if you’re going to be out all day.

Note: The only meal I don’t prepare is meal 1, which I cook in the morning each day.

6. Invest in a good carry bag (e.g. six pack bag)

Having a refrigerated carry bag is important so you can take your meals with you and be prepared wherever you go. If you aren’t prepared, and you get hungry when you’re out, you are likely to make bad choices.

Here is an example of how I plan out my meals to determine how much of everything I need. This is one day. I times the quantities by seven and there you have it – everything I need for the week!

PROTEIN GREENS FATS CARBS
M1 3 Eggs 1tbsp Butter
M2 150g Chicken Zucchini, Carrot 1tbsp Coconut Oil
M3 150g Turkey Mixed Salad ¼ Avocado
M4 125g Salmon Spinach 1tbsp Coconut Oil 150g pumpkin
M5 150g Chicken Tomatoes, Capsicum, Kale 1tbsp Coconut Oil
M6 150g Chicken 1tbsp Coconut Oil

The most important things are to keep it simple, quick and easy for yourself. I buy herbs and spices, lemon and limes so I can chuck these on as I’m cooking to add flavour without much fussing around. The harder you make it, the less likely you will be able to maintain it.

Happy eating!

With love,
B.xx

CLEAN AND COMP-PREP FRIENDLY TURKEY RISSOLES

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I can’t eat plain chicken and steamed broccoli six times a day. I just can’t. It takes all of the enjoyment out of eating, and leaves my taste buds craving something to stimulate them! I make sure I pump plenty of flavour into my meals with natural herbs and spices so I can enjoy my food without compromising my diet. It takes me a little more time in the kitchen, but I think it’s worth it.

I was playing around with making comp-prep friendly recipes that are still jam packed with flavour when I made up these super quick and delicious turkey rissoles!
I love turkey because it’s such a lean meat and it’s high in protein! I’m actually looking forward to eating this every day for the next week.

This recipe makes 2 meals for me.

Ingredients:

300g turkey breast mince

Dried oregano

Rosemary

Dried thyme leaves

Garlic

Spring Onion

Pink sea salt

Cracked pepper

Method:

  1. Chop up the spring onion and garlic into small pieces.
  2. Put turkey mince in a bowl and add all the dried herbs, garlic, salt and pepper and spring onion. I put a lot of herbs in to give them heaps of flavour.
  3. Knead it all together.
  4. Split turkey into 10 even pieces and roll them into balls. Really knead them together so that they stick and don’t break when you cook them.
  5. Heat 1 tsp coconut oil over low to medium heat.
  6. Put each ball on the pan and flatten them as you go.
  7. Cook until you can see they are cooked through to about halfway then flip them.
  8. Once cooked through, remove and serve

These rissoles are delicious served with salad and avocado.

Enjoy!

With love,
B. xx