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The importance of sleep

By Posted on 3 m read 14 views

 

Clocking less than six hours of sleep per night compromises the brain’s ability to regulate emotions, making it that much harder to deal.

And it only takes one night of insufficient sleep to make you vulnerable to meltdowns according to a new Tel Aviv University study that identified the neurological mechanism responsible for disturbed emotion regulation and increased anxiety due to sleep debt.

In effect, the brain loses its ability to discern between what is and isn’t important, reported The Journal of Neuroscience.

Hannah Bailey shows us eight ways to improve your sleep:

Behaviour:

Ditch the macchiato, doughnut and laksa.
“Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and avoid large quantities of food, particularly heavy fatty foods, immediately prior to sleep that may make you feel uncomfortable and prevent sleep,” Dr Eckert says. If you suffer reflux, avoid spicy foods, as when you lie down it may come back to bite you.

Order a mocktail
A couple of vinos may feel like they usher you backstage at lala land, but the sleep you have when you get there is likely to be flawed. “Alcohol prior to sleep can impair sleep quality, cause snoring and in some cases lead to sleep apnoea, and should be avoided,” Dr Eckert says.

Move your workouts
Vigorous exercise just before bed can impair sleep, but Dr Eckert says that exercise at other times is actually a sleep aid. “It is associated with increased levels of slow-wave (deep) sleep.”

Switch off
Working back at the office or with your laptop on the couch can hijack your sleep routine. “Overly stimulating activities prior to sleep can make it difficult to fall asleep and should be avoided,” Dr Eckert says. Likewise detailed tasks.  “Maintaining a regular sleep routine that includes avoiding these types of activities immediately prior to sleep is ideal.” Exorcise the bedroom of any screens, Eckert advises. According to a 2012 Harvard Health Letter, blue wavelengths from fluorescent lightbulbs, LED lights and computer and iPad screens wreak greater havoc than white light on melatonin. In an experiment, blue light suppressed melatonin for around twice as long as green light. Red light, on the other hand, had the mildest effect on melatonin.

Bedroom
Dim the lights
According to the National Sleep Foundation, bright light inhibits the release of ‘sleep hormone’ melatonin, which can only be stimulated in a dimly lit environment. Any bright light can prevent the release of melatonin, preventing the onset of sleep. If you can’t block 100 per cent of light, Eckert advocates using a sleep mask to mimic a dark sleeping environment.

Pull the blinds
Skip diaphanous window dressings – however romantic – and go for a heavy fabric or blinds that completely block light. The first exposure to light in the morning activates a part of your brain called the supra-chiasmatic nucleus according to the National Sleep Foundation. That means processes associated with being awake crank into gear, calling a premature end to quality sleep.

Snuggle up
Sleep temperature is integral to the quality of shut-eye. UniSA’s Centre for Sleep Research revealed that that normal initiation of sleep demands a core body temperature drop. Ordinarily, the body automatically turns down its heat dial about 90 minutes before sleep, while insomniacs who find it hard to nod off tend to maintain a higher body temperature. While your body should regulate its own degrees, a hot or frigid room can mess with the process. Eckert says the ideal room temperature for sleep is 22 degrees Celsius. If you use an electric blanket to take the chill off your sheets, turn it off before falling asleep.

Luxe your crib
You can call high thread-count sheets a health expense. While they’re not a magic sleeping pill, Eckert says good bed linen complements other measures to maximise comfort, including temperature regulation.

NEXT: Lack of sleep not only impacts on your brain function, it also kills your beauty buzz.

 

 

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8 post-workout meal ideas

By Posted on 1 m read 20 views

 

 

 

Breakfast

  • Poached eggs with grilled ham off the bone, avocado and two slices of wholegrain or spelt toast.
  • 200 grams of Greek yoghurt (Chobani) with half or one cup of oats, and some berries and sliced almonds.
  • A breakfast smoothie consisting of your milk of choice, a couple of scoops of Greek yoghurt, a frozen banana, sprinkle of cinnamon and half a cup of oats.

Dinner

  • Between 150-200 grams of salmon or chicken with 200 grams of sweet potato and as many steamed greens as you like.
  • Between 150-200 gram of lean protein with one cup of brown rice and a side salad.

Snacks

  • A frozen fruit smoothie with your milk of choice, nut butter and Greek yoghurt.
  • 200 grams of Greek yoghurt with sliced fruit and nuts.
  • A protein shake made with a base of your choice (water, coconut water or milk) and a piece of fruit to provide fibre.

NEXT: Not sure what protein to go for? Read all about them here.

 

 

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Nut butters uncovered

By Posted on 3 m read 15 views

 

 

“Nut butters are a good source of protein and good fats, some better than others! Try and pick a nut butter without too much oil, salt or sugar added,” says McGrice. “Many people use nut butter and butter together; it’s better to use one or the other.”

Raw vs roasted
Roasting nuts changes their flavour, but apparently not their nutrition. Raw nuts tend to have slightly less rich and toasty flavours than roasted nuts, so many commercial nut butters use a roasted product. “Roasting doesn’t affect the nuts themselves, but when they roast the nuts, they are often roasted in oil, increasing the fat content,” says McGrice. According to Nutrition Australia, nuts are capable of absorbing two to five per cent of the oil they are cooked in. Roasting nuts also takes out some moisture content, concentrating the nutrients.

‘No added’ vs natural
While both ‘no added’ and natural nut butters are better for you than traditional nut butters, a ‘natural’ label implies that your nut butter is free from preservatives, stabilisers, sugar and salt – i.e. it’s literally 100 per cent nuts. Whereas a ‘no added’ nut butter means you still get peanuts, vegetables oils and preservatives, sans the sugar and salt.

Peanut butter
Peanuts are higher in protein than most nuts and a source of vitamin E and good fats. Traditional peanut butters have a paste-like texture and a rich, sweet and salty flavour. Natural, or pure state, nut butters tend to be drier than commercial butters.

Almond butter
Almonds are low in cholesterol and a good source of magnesium, manganese and good fats. They are also rich in calcium and vitamin E. Almond butter tends to have a more mellow and fresh taste than peanut butters, and their consistency tends to be looser and coarser.

Macadamia butter
Macadamias are quite low in protein compared to most nuts, but are uniquely high in monounsaturated fats (the most of all nuts). They can lower cholesterol and contain thiamine and manganese. Macadamia butter tends to be thinner and oiler than peanut butter, and has a rich and almost fruity taste.

Cashew butter
Cashews are a good source of iron and magnesium and also have a low glycaemic index. Cashew butters usually have a pasty texture and a sweet and rich flavour.

Walnut Butter
Walnuts have been proven to boost brain function and reduce cholesterol. They contain omega-3 fats as well as folate and fibre. Walnut butter tends to be crumbly and less soft and spreadable than other nut butters. It can have an intense woody or ‘green’ taste.

Coconut butter
Clean eating uber-star coconut butter can be subbed in for butter as a spread and used in stir-fries. While the dietetic jury’s hung on just where it ranks in the health stakes, it was recently found to be preferable to polyunsaturated soybean oil despite being saturated fat. A University of California study found that replacing coconut oil with soybean oil caused more weight gain, adiposity, diabetes and insulin resistance.

NEXT: Check more healthy fats to include in your healthy eating regime.

 

 

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7 tips for workout success

By Posted on 1 m read 20 views

1.    Find exercises you love
2.    Mix up the order of things
3.    Take your gym outdoors
4.    Bring a friend and put an interval timer on your phone
5.    Pump up the sounds
6.    Be grateful that you’re able to plan and create the body and the life you want. Gratitude for where you are at now is integral to getting to where you want to be. If you are constantly telling yourself you’re not fit, healthy and happy enough, it will manifest. Focus on the positive.
7.    REALLY commit to a healthy mind as well as a healthy workout regime.

Psssst…a bonus tip that always works:
Add your focus for each session so you go in with a game plan. The exercises can all be the same but it’s your approach and attitude towards the session that will make the difference!

Image by: Sam Frysteen

Read on for more workout tips to become the best version of yourself.

 

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6 ways to beat cravings

By Posted on 2 m read 20 views

 

 

If your food choices disappoint your tastebuds, you’re more likely to resort to an unhealthy sweet treat to make up for feeling deprived. Here’s how you can reduce those hunger pangs.

1. Choose low-GI foods

“Foods with a lower glycaemic index (GI) of 55 or less are more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolised and cause a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and insulin levels,” says Melanie McGrice, accredited dietitian and director of Nutrition Plus clinics in Melbourne. “Low-GI foods also help you feel more sated after a meal and reduce risk of weight gain and conditions like diabetes.” Every day, aim to eat five serves or more of fresh vegetables and two of fruit plus wholegrains and some lean protein at every meal.

2. ‘Healthify’ takeaway meals with homecooked makeovers

Prepare homemade burgers with wholemeal buns and stacks of salad vegetables. Make fish and chips but grill the fish and bake large pototo wedges with a dash of olive oil.

3. Downsize your utensils

“Eating soup from a teaspoon or risotto from a small entrée fork encourages slower eating, so you feel more full and satisfied after a meal,” says McGrice. Chopsticks also encourage smaller mouthfuls.

4. Mix it up

Rigid, restrictive food regimes substantially reduce our pleasure of eating, are often nutritionally unsound and increase the risk of cravings and ‘all or nothing’ thinking about food. The Dietitians Association of Australia recommends aiming to eat 20 different nutritious foods every day.

5. Top ‘n’ tail

Roberts calls this method the ‘sandwich’ technique. “You put a moderate portion of a high-kilojoule food in the middle of a meal with lower kilojoule foods that are high in fibre and protein at the beginning and end,” she explains. This makes you feel you’ve been at a banquet. Soups make good starters and salads are a nice crispy third course.

6. Don’t blow off breakfast

Eat some filling slow-cooked porridge or eggs and dark rye toast. People who skip breakfast tend to have lower dopamine levels, shows research from the University of Missouri. This may explain why they are also more likely to crave sweet or savoury food later in the day.

Words by Stephanie Osfield

NEXT: Find out how to spot false food cravings.

 

 

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Top tips to help you get lean

By Posted on 2 m read 21 views

 

Want to swap your fat for muscle? Trainer and high performance manager of Oakleigh Chargers Football Club Ben Sharpe and director of MP Studio Luke Archer share their lifestyle tips to help you lean out.

1. Get enough shut-eye: aim for 7.5 to nine hours of sleep per night for optimal recovery and hormonal balance. 

2. Office know-how: manage your stress levels, increase your calorie burn and reduce your chances of muscle wastage by going for regular walks throughout the day, or asking the boss for a stand-up desk. “If a person is sitting at a desk all day, their energy requirements are much less than someone who has a physically demanding job,” says Archer. “We generally switch off our muscles, sit back, slump or have no need to use our muscles. And which group of muscles do we switch off most? The glutes – which are the largest muscles in the body.”

3. Eat well, eat often: eating smaller meals more often will aid in boosting the metabolism, while plant foods are important to insulin sensitivity. “The more your plate looks like a rainbow of colorful fruit and vegetables at every meal, the faster your results will come,” says Archer. 

4. Hydrate: drinking cold water regularly throughout the day can boost your metabolic rate by up to 30 per cent according to Archer. “Our body is made up of 70 to 80 per cent water – so it’s no wonder we need it so often to function properly,” he says. 

5. Prioritise strength-based training: your lean muscle mass has the greatest impact on your ability to burn fat, so be sure to incorporate three to four full-body weight sessions per week. A weighted circuit with lower loads, higher reps and limited rest will keep the heart rate elevated to increase muscular endurance while burning body fat.

 

NEXT: Working out but not seeing results? Here are 10 ways to boost your calorie burn at the gym.

 

 

 

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How to eat like a female fitness model

By Posted on 3 m read 8 views

Her food philosophy

Don’t diet – instead just make clean eating part of your lifestyle. Learn as much as you can about healthy food and find foods that you really enjoy eating so that your diet changes are easier to stick to. Keep it interesting by experimenting.

The ‘before’ diet

I didn’t eat anywhere near as much food as I should have and my choices were either super rigid – with lots of bland, steamed food or I made unhealthy choices such as junk food, takeaway and deep-fried food.

The turning point

For years I struggled with depression and insecurities that stemmed in part from my school years where I was teased and criticised for having “big eyes”, being skinny, quiet, athletic or different. Six years ago I decided I was tired of never feeling good about myself. So I set out to become more happy, healthy and fit through lifestyle changes. Within about 12 weeks of lifting weights and eating super clean (lots of vegetables and more protein), I had lost body fat and built more muscle. Over the next year, I continued to fine-tune my diet and started doing less cardio and more working out with weights. I soon felt amazing and far happier with how I looked.

The health benefits of eating cleaner

Once my diet became cleaner, I not only lost body fat and built more muscle but within days of starting to eat healthier, I had less fluid retention and less general body inflammation. I felt more positive about myself and started to appreciate everything I am rather than focussing on what I am not. My new lifestyle helped me overcome depression and insecurities, my mind became clearer, I became strong and fit and I had more energy.

The diet now

I don’t eat sugar (except for a little natural sugar in fruits and vegetables). I barely eat any starchy carbs but I have more meat and a wider range of fresh vegetables and salads. I avoid gluten and wheat and I’ve cut right down on dairy products (except for natural yogurt and cottage cheese as they’re lower in lactose, which I’m sensitive to). I avoid processed foods, artificial colours, flavours and preservatives. I drink a lot of pure water and I don’t drink alcohol (except for special occasions – I only drink a few times a year).

It’s okay to have what you love

I love the taste of coffee – one of my favourite activities is to enjoy a coffee at a café. I drink one to two cups a day. If you’re constantly depriving yourself of foods you love, you’re more likely to give up a healthy eating plan. Instead I’m all for moderation. That means I have treats when I feel like it and I never make a food ‘off limits’ as doing this can lead to cravings. If I really want something, I enjoy it without regrets. I love healthier treats, though, as they don’t upset my tummy. I often make a chia seed pudding with berries and coconut cream or coconut yoghurt… something to look forward to is fun and helps you stay motivated to eat well.

The mind-food connection

Once you eat more clean, your cravings for unhealthy foods tend to subside. Now that I’ve experienced how good it feels on a healthy diet, I’ve noticed how unwell I feel after eating foods like milk chocolate, ice cream, pizza, burgers and fries. I get extremely bloated, my tummy gets upset and I feel lethargic. Understanding this connection makes it so much easier to realise it’s not worth eating those unhealthy foods.

Find out which diet plan works for you and read more about changing up your eating habits for a better, healthier you.

 

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Do vitamins boost your workouts?

By Posted on 1 m read 7 views

 

There’s emerging evidence that antioxidant supplements may adversly effect:

Insulin benefits of exercise
“One previous small study found that trained and untrained people who dose up on antioxidant supplements impair important exercise training adaptations such as improved insulin sensitivity and production of special proteins that actually help defend the body against oxidative stress caused by exercise,” says Tim Crowe, Associate Professor in the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at Deakin University and founder of Thinking Nutrition.

Oxidative stress during and after a workout
“Now researchers have extended this study by looking at the effect of antioxidants in trained female runners,” says Crowe. “The study, which was published in the European Journal of Sports Science, found that when blood was measured, the markers that indicated oxidative stress were found to actually be higher in those taking the vitamin C.” Though it is not clear why, it is yet more proof that we don’t really understand how supplements may work differently to food in our bodies, nor are we really across the many different lifestyle impacts supplements may have on everything from sleep and stress to exercise.

Image: Thinkstock

 

NEXT: Check out our guide to supplements to discover the scoop.

 

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Your path to healthy skin

By Posted on 3 m read 7 views

 

 

The experts show us how to optimise your diet for clearer, healthier, brighter skin. 

ACNE

» Dermatologist says: “Look for products that are non-comedogenic, so they do not block pores or cause acne. Key pore-clearing ingredients include salicylic acid (beta hydroxy acids) and many vitamin A products. Also look for anti-inflammatory components such as benzoyl peroxide, zinc and niacinamide. You should look for products that are not too creamy or rich. Even without pore-blocking ingredients, oily or excessively moisturising products will have a detrimental effect on the skin. Go for mineral make-up and combination creams like BB and CC creams.”

» Nutritionist says: “Consume a diet low in added sugars and avoid all highly refined, processed foods. Consume three to five cups of bright-coloured vegetables per day and consider supplements such as zinc, vitamin A and vitamin C. There are also natural, DIY methods. Antibacterial tea tree oil and witch hazel are often used on acne-prone skin. Or try combining sea salt and coconut oil and using as a natural exfoliate scrub for congested skin.”

ECZEMA 

» Dermatologist says: “Corticosteroids or calcineurin antagonists may be used to help reduce inflammation and itch. Antihistamines may also help reduce the itch, while antibiotics may be required if infections are severe. Stick to cotton clothing, avoiding wool and synthetics, and you can also use wet dressings to help soothe the skin and reduce itchiness. Cosmetics are best avoided, but if necessary, look for ones that are hypoallergenic. Generally, food avoidance is not useful, but avoiding dairy products, nuts, eggs, chocolate, citrus fruits and wheat products may help.”

» Nutritionist says: “Implement an elimination diet to determine possible food triggers, consume an anti-inflammatory, plant-based, whole food diet and consider supplements such as fish oil, vitamin E and probiotics. For eczema, coconut oil may also be of benefit as it’s deeply moisturising and improves skin barrier function. Honey is also great, incorporated into a DIY face mask. It’s antibacterial and a humectant, attracting water to help keep dry skin hydrated.”

COLD SORES

» Dermatologist says: “Overtopical astringents and topical Zovirax (acyclovir), cold sores are best treated by oral treatments of anti-virals like acyclovir, valalcyclovir and Famciclovir.”

» Nutritionist says: “Address aggravating factors like food, lifestyle and stress. Avoid chocolate, peanuts and almonds and try to manage stress levels. Start incorporating foods that are high in lysine such as fish, chicken, beef, lamb, cheese, beans, brewer’s yeast and mung bean sprouts and take supplements like lysine, zinc and vitamin C.”

PSORIASIS 

» Dermatologist says: “There is no single treatment that will cure psoriasis. However, it is possible to control it and sometimes clear it. Certain medications can slow down the rate at which the skin cells are produced, but it takes several weeks for your condition to improve. Sunlight helps to clear psoriasis, which is why it usually improves over summer. Remember that psoriatic skin is more easily damaged than normal skin, so you may need to consider skin protection if your job involves hard, manual work.”

» Nutritionist says: “Look into possible food sensitivities and avoid potential triggers such as alcohol, gluten and dairy. Consume three to five cups of fresh vegetables per day and include turmeric, garlic and ginger. Supplements to take alongside may include fish oil, digestive enzymes, vitamin E and vitamin A.”

Check out our health and beauty section for more tips and tricks.

 

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4 breathing techniques to reduce stress

By Posted on 1 m read 8 views

Breathing-techniques-.jpg

Step 1: Breathe from your abdomen

To get the most out of each breath, you need to breathe from your belly, says Ros Ben-Moshe, director of Laughlife Wellbeing Programs.

“Optimal breathing stems from the abdomen, where a richer inhalation of oxygen and exhalation of carbon dioxide occurs, slowing the heart rate and easing anxiety.” She says breathing deeper in this way stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which induces feelings of “peace and calm“.

“Interestingly, we begin our lives breathing well, which can be seen watching babies breathing, as they take deep breaths in and out with their abdomen rising and falling, not their chest,” Ben-Moshe notes. Somewhere along the way we lose this vital skill of breathing through our tummies, and rely on shallow breathing instead.

Hot Tip: Place your hand on your belly when breathing. Though it feels counter-intuitive, Ben-Moshe says that when you breathe in, your abdomen should stick out, and when you breathe out, your abdomen is sucked back in.

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