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Jess Sepel’s FebFast tips

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The festive season is over, the January hangover has slowly subsided and it’s time to rekindle the healthy routine you’ve been avoiding so far in 2016.

Lacking motivation? The annual Febfast event encourages a month-long pause from alcohol and sugar, while raising money for underprivileged youth. Enter as a team or go it alone; just use it as an opportunity to give your body a break from the vino and the sweets for a good cause.

We spoke to clinical nutritionist and all-round health guru Jess Sepel to get her tips and tricks on how to stay on track for the challenge.

Stay hydrated

Make sure you’re drinking your two litres of water every day. If this isn’t exciting enough for you, swap to a few glasses of sparkling water with fresh lemon or lime, or freeze your favourite fruits into ice cubes and pop them in your drink. Not only is this refreshing on a hot day, but the fruit infuses as the ice melts for the sweetener taste (minus the calories).

Eat your protein

Protein keeps you fuller for longer, and it doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of red meat, chicken or eggs. Potatoes, chia seeds, green peas and rice are examples of foods also high in protein.

Snack pre-party

Have a satiating snack before you head out to a celebratory event so that you don’t find yourself starving and turning to foods you wouldn’t normally eat. My favourite snack options before heading out are hummus and vegie sticks, coconut yoghurt or Greek yoghurt topped with berries and sugar-free granola, or chopped apple with almond butter.

Be balanced

If you do indulge, don’t feel it has to be an ‘all or nothing’ affair. Let yourself enjoy a few treats occasionally and remember that your body can handle unhealthy foods in small amounts. Trust yourself.

Get active

Use Febfast as an opportunity to wake up early on the weekend and go for a run, practice yoga outside as the sun rises or even just take the dog for a stroll around the block. Physical activity in the morning before you start your day will kick start your endorphins and leave you feeling awake and energised.

Prioritise your health

Prioritise your physical and mental wellbeing by making a conscious decision to balance your fun – enjoy activities that aren’t centred on drinking or alcohol. Go to brunch with your besties, take a walk along the coast with your family or have a booze-free picnic.

Register and find out more today.

NEXT: Find out how alcohol affects you.

 

 

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Detoxing: the good, the bad and the informative

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Starving yourself is not the way to go

Most detoxes promote a reduced calorie intake, which can quickly turn into starvation mode. According to GP Dr Fran Bruce of Wesley LifeShape Clinic, most detoxes are “low in protein which can result in fatigue, dehydration, light headedness, headaches, mood swings and constipation.

Our bodies are capable of detoxing on their own

As our liver and kidneys work together to remove toxins from our systems, our bodies naturally go through a detoxification phase. If you’re thinking laxatives are the way to go, think again. Unless discussed with a medical practitioner, they can lead to some serious complications down the track, says Gastroenterologist, Dr Phillip Chang.

Detoxing is not a quick fix

Although detoxing can promote fat loss, this weight loss isn’t always fat loss. “You can expect to lose weight, but mainly due to water and muscle loss after depriving your body of essential nutrients such as protein, says Dietitian Lyndi Polivnick.

Before you ditch the idea of the detox, there are ways to healthily cleanse your body.

Fuel your body with wholesome goodness

There’s even more reason to head to the fresh food aisle of your supermarket because the most simple detox tactic is to avoid highly processed foods, says Dr Bruce. Avoid “foods that are high in fats and sugar, reduce your alcohol intake (if it exceeds the recommended guidelines) and limit caffeine consumption for a week or so.” Keep those energy levels high with nutrient dense wholefoods.  

Go green

While most detoxes miss the mark on fibre and protein, get more from “natural, minimally process foods such as fruit, leafy green vegetables (cabbage or kale) and psyllium (natural insoluble fibre)” in you, says Dr Chang.

Don’t detox for the long haul

When it comes to intense detoxes, short term is better than long term, says Polivnick. Opt for raw foods rather than juices to help out with your fibre intake and befriend water. Lots of it. “Supercharge your body’s natural ability to clear toxins…drink plenty of water, get exercising,” she says.

A little evaluation never hurt anyone

If you’re looking to reassess your habits, you can benefit from a process of elimination. Stewart suggests, eliminating ‘all animal protein products including eggs,” which can slow down the detoxing process. The Liver Cleansing Diet focuses on high quality nutrients including veggies, fruits, grains, nuts and seeds, which are important for your metabolism.

Full article by Hannah Blamey, featured in the January edition of Women’s Health and Fitness Magazine.

 

 

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Strengthen your immunity with these top foods

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Lifestyle factors such as exercising regularly, reducing stress and avoiding unhealthy habits such as smoking, all have a positive impact on your belly bacteria. However, food should be your top priority and is the best first-line treatment to boost the health of your microbiome and, in turn, strengthen your immunity.

 

 

Eat resistant starch: “This kind of fibre resists digestion and when it reaches the colon it is fermented by the bacteria there to produce by-products called short chain fatty acids,” says Dr Jane Muir, head of Translational Nutrition Science in the Department of Gastroenterology at Monash University. “In particular, it increases the production of a short chain fatty acid called butyrate, which is very important to keeping the lining of the gut healthy. Butyrate also has a range of other effects, which indicate that it may help to prevent inflammation and reduce the risk of colon cancer.” Foods high in resistant starch include oats, lentils, bananas, cashews and potato that has been cooked and cooled.

Plate up with plant foods: Bad bacteria can multiply super fast. In fact, after just two days of eating an animal-based diet of meat and dairy including bacon, ribs and cheese, people show a growth in potentially problematic bacteria in their gut, shows Harvard research. They also experience higher colonisation of fungi and viruses, and more microorganisms that can trigger inflammatory bowel disease within 24 hours of eating excessive meat and diary. By contrast, the levels of good belly bacteria rapidly improve when individuals are placed on a vegetable-only diet for several days. The take-home? Opt for the broccoli.

Enjoy natural prebiotics: Think foods such as asparagus, dandelion greens, Jerusalem artichoke, chicory, onions, leek and garlic. “Prebiotics are fibre compounds that pass undigested through the stomach and small intestine,” says Muir. “When prebiotics arrive in the large intestine, they promote the growth and activity of beneficial (probiotic) bacteria that live there. Having a healthy balance of gut bacteria benefits your digestion, absorption of minerals and immune system function. In short, it’s a win-win for your health.”

Serve a little sauerkraut: Fermented foods are high in probiotics – live bacteria that can help prevent harmful bacteria from attaching to your gut lining and growing there. They can also destroy toxins released by certain ‘bad’ bacteria that can make you sick. If that’s not enough,  probiotics send signals to your cells to nourish the mucus in your intestine, helping it act as a barrier against infection.

Fermented foods can also help to trigger proteins that protect the lining of your gut, shows research from Yale University. “But make sure you listen to your body – if you get symptoms of belly discomfort in relation to certain fermented foods, they may be upsetting your microbiome,” says naturopath and natural health consultant with Doctor Earth in Sydney, Sarah Luck. “Rotating your ferments can ensure a good balance. So during the week on different days, include sauerkraut, lacto-fermented cucumbers, miso (if you tolerate soy), kefir (a probiotic milk drink) and kimchi (a fermented Korean vegetable side dish) in your diet.”

You might also want to take probiotic supplements. “The improvements for digestive complaints usually start to become evident after a week or two of taking probiotics,” Luck explains. “Benefits to skin, mood and general health take a bit longer but usually kick in after a few weeks.”

Eat less carbs: Carbs are the preferred source of fuel for unhealthy bacteria, so loading up on sugars or refined carbs such as white bread and sweet biscuits can compromise your gut health. Instead, opt for wholegrains, and when you eat bread go for a rye sourdough, which is high in fibre and also contains beneficial bacteria from its starter culture.

Cut the chardonnays and coffees: Alcohol can increase the levels of gram-negative bacteria in your belly, which are notorious for causing immune system reactions. This family of bacteria causes an increase in endotoxins, which can be absorbed via the intestine into your bloodstream, then taxied via the portal vein to your liver. Once there, endotoxins can overload the Kupffer cells that help your liver do its filtering work. This can lead the Kupffer cells to activate inflammation in the liver too. Just one episode of binge drinking can cause enough damage to trigger leaky gut, shows research from the Massachusetts Medical School.

On the other hand, your morning espresso can increase acid production in your gut (even if it’s decaffeinated) and also irritate the lining of your stomach, getting in the way of leaky gut repair. The good news is that once you cut the coffee, the mucosal lining of your gut can start to repair and regenerate in as little as 48 hours, shows research from Charles University.

 

 

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The amazing ‘mind–gut connection’

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The directive to ‘go with your gut’ is more than a throwaway line from pseudo-science. Frances Dalton, a nutritionist and medical advisor for the MINDD Foundation, which promotes mind-body approaches in healthcare, says the gut is being recognised as the second brain.

Your second brain

“There are millions of nerve cells around the intestines, almost as many as in the brain,” Dalton says. “This means the gut has the ability to process information about what is going on and put a response into action separate from the brain and central nervous system.”

Intestinal nerve cells have similar conversations to those between neurons in the brain – using neurotransmitters as a kind of phone. There are around 30 neurotransmitters used by the so-called enteric nervous system, the same number as in the brain. The enteric nervous system employs more neurons than the peripheral nervous system and spinal cord respectively.

“Whatever affects the mind will in turn have some impact on gut function,” says naturopath Lyn Craven. She calls this lifelong two-way convo ‘gut instinct’. 

Thus, the belly is also intimately linked to emotions and vice versa.

Mental illnesses linked to the gut

“People who are frightened enough, without question show gut problems,” says the University of Melbourne professor of enteric neuroscience Joel Bornstein.

“That’s the brain talking to the gut and the gut talking back to the brain, saying, ‘I’m uncomfortable’.

Dalton says many conditions thought to be purely anomalies of the mind, like mental illnesses, are now being linked to the gut.

“Many of the so-called psychological problems people are faced with today such as anxiety, depression, and even more serious conditions such as schizophrenia and autism are related to problems in the gut,” she says.

“Programs that work to heal these gut problems and address the resulting deficiencies are very successful in helping the majority of people with these types of disorders.”

Gut bacteria may also improve general brain function , research suggests.

In a UCLA study, women aged 18 to 55 who ate yoghurt containing probiotics twice a day for a month exhibited decreased activity in two brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation. They also showed greater connectivity between a region known as the periaqueductal grey and areas of the prefrontal cortex associated with cognition while those who skipped the probiotic showed greater connectivity of a different area.

Drawing on findings that most of the body’s neurotransmitter serotonin resides in the gut, not the brain, Julia Ross’ book and protocol The Mood Cure employs amino acids – the constituents of protein and precursors to neurotransmitters – to correct emotional fallouts.
“Your brain relies on protein – the only food source of amino acids – to make all of its mood-enhancing chemicals,” Ross says.
“If you are not getting enough protein, you won’t be able to manufacture those crucial chemicals.”

Including protein in every meal is a good way to maintain adequate levels of amino acids – many of which the body can’t manufacture (‘essential amino acids’). Fish, eggs, chicken and beef contain all 22 amino acids.

Chronic fatigue

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has recently been linked to unbalanced gut bacteria.

According to research at the University of Toronto, low levels of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria in the gut could contribute to CFS symptoms. Gut bacteria communicates with the nervous system by way of the vagas nerves, so it makes sense that it can influence mood. The same bacteria also converse with the immune system, which largely resides in the gut.

“Research shows that patients with CFS and other so-called functional somatic disorders have alterations in the intestinal microbial flora,” says Dr A Venket Rao, researcher at the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto. “Emerging studies have suggested that pathogenic and non-pathogenic gut bacteria might influence mood-related symptoms and even behaviour in animals and humans.

“We found a significant rise in both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria in those taking the Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota (LcS), and there was also a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms among those taking the probiotic vs controls.”

Even certain symptoms of autism are now being linked to disturbances in gut bacteria. “There’s good evidence that gut bacteria can upset behaviour, and that appears to be the case with autism,” says Prof. Bornstein.

So is your diet a factor?

People may experience a ‘gut-wrenching’ feeling from time to time or even ‘butterflies’ in their stomach. These are very common expressions. The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion. Some feelings – anger, sadness, anxiety, joy – can trigger symptoms in the gut.

The brain has a direct link to the stomach. Particularly true in cases where a person experiences gastrointestinal distress with no apparent physical cause. For such functional GI disorders, it is problematic to attempt to heal an upset stomach without considering stress and emotion.

Responding to stress

Be it mental or physical stress, your internal adrenaline and other organs may strengthen your muscles to give you that extra boost of speed to meet with certain feeling and moods. Our bodies have a self-defence mechanism that is able to fight when there is danger to help you survive. Understanding this, any stress-related factors can possibly affect your body movement. Studies have suggested that going to therapies as well as a better diet can help reduce and overcome stress.

‘You are what you eat’ – Is that true?

Yes, absolutely! We all know that sticking to a nutritional diet is hard. Weight loss programs are good for those who find it difficult to stick to a worthy diet. At Jenny Craig, their menus are tasty and nutritious, with the perfect balance of protein, fibre, carbohydrates and healthy fats. A lot of nutritionists will tell you to avoid eating processed foods. A wise choice would be to take a sufficient high-quality probiotic supplement to help get the nutrients in your diet and help you stay focused with your goals and live a healthier life.

 

 

NEXT: Read more health advice from the team at WH&F or check out 15 tummy flattening foods

 

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How to build your own meal plan

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Protein

Protein is a necessity for fat loss, muscle gains and optimal function of all the cells in your body. “Of the major macronutrients such as carbohydrates and fats, protein rates higher on the satiety scale, which means it makes people feel full for longer after a meal,” says Melanie McGrice, dietitian and spokesperson for the Australian Dietitians Association. “This may be in part because protein helps to suppress levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin.”

Unlike many carbohydrates, protein does not cause a large spike in your blood glucose, which is good news for your waistline. “Keeping your blood glucose stable means that your insulin levels don’t spike, which can reduce your risk of developing weight gain and diabetes type 2,” says McGrice. According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, the current recommended daily intake (RDI) for women is 46g per day and 64g for men – which equates to protein roughly the size of your palm.

As well as driving or curbing your appetite, protein may rev up your body’s ability to burn fat. These waist-whittling benefits were highlighted in a study conducted at Pennington Biomedical Research Centre in Louisiana. When subjects were fed 40 per cent more kilojoules than usual, researchers found people eating a low protein diet not only stored 90 per cent of that excess energy as fat, they also lost more muscle – bad news for your metabolism. By contrast, people eating a higher protein, higher kilojoule diet gained less weight while simultaneously gaining more lean muscle.

Though lean meat is certainly a good protein source, research suggests most people already eat far too much of it – particularly red meat, which is high in saturated fat. So don’t forget to include some plant sources of protein in your diet plan, such as pulses and legumes. It’s a fallacy that you have to become a master of seeds, nuts and beans to ensure intake of all the nine essential amino acids found in meat. “Biochemistry has now shown us that as long as you’ve had a variety of plant-based foods over the course of a day or so, your body will take the amino acids from the ones it needs, as it needs them,” explains Stanton. “Plant foods also contain non-haem iron, which some experts believe may be a healthier form of iron than haem iron, which is found in meat.”

 

Good Sources:

» Fish, including salmon, tuna and mackerel

» Lean chicken, turkey, beef and lamb

» Legumes and pulses, such as chickpeas, lentils, tempeh and edamame beans

» Seed grains such as quinoa

 

Fruit and vegetables

Vegetables are low in fat and high in fibre so they promote weight loss and help you maintain a healthy weight. Fibre-rich plant foods actually take up more space in your stomach, triggering a response in the nerve-stretch receptors in your stomach wall, and quickly trigger hormones that tell you that you’re full, shows research from the University of Sussex. Bye-bye unhealthy morning or afternoon snacks.

As vegetables are packed with antioxidants and polyphenols, they may help reduce risk of heart disease, diabetes and depression and also offer protection against cancer.

If you struggle to love foods such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower or eggplant, then you need to try giving them a makeover:

» Pairing foods: you don’t like a lot (broccoli) with food you do like (parmesan cheese).

» Keeping it varied: check out meal ideas on blogs and websites. If you get bored you are less likely to stick to your meat-free days.

» Re-thinking your snacks: make mini vegetable-balls and serve with tamari, or whip up some dips like hummus or guacamole and serve with carrot, cucumber and celery sticks.

» Spinning an old style: go beyond different green varieties of salads and try salsas, bean or roast vegie salads, and salads mixing lots of vegetables with a little wholemeal pasta or quinoa. With mashes, try broccoli or pumpkin or cauliflower, with a little stock (rather than milk and butter) and top with a crumbling of goat’s cheese.

» Dressing or spicing them up: your taste buds will atrophy if you keep serving boiled vegies night after night. So mix it up. Bake sweet potato and top with a little pesto; add a tamari and orange juice sauce to beans topped with almond slivers; and sauté or water stir-fry a mix of vegetables together, such as parsnip and pumpkin or zucchini and capsicum, then add a dash of oil and oyster sauce.

» Make vegetable boats: stuff potatoes with beans and fill vegies such as capsicums and tomatoes with a quinoa and vegetable mix. Use lettuce leaves like cups or bread. Scoop out the middle of a cooked zucchini, add to a mix of rice, garlic, mushrooms and capsicum then refill the zucchini shells with the mix.

 

Good Sources:

» Blue/purple: blueberries, plums, black grapes, red cabbage, beetroot, eggplant

» Red: tomatoes, capsicum, watermelon, pink grapefruit, rosehips, strawberries

» Yellow: lemons, pineapple, limes, grapefruit, star fruit, paw paw

» Green: cabbage, zucchini, avocado, asparagus, spinach, pears

» Brown: rye bread, brown rice, oats, wholemeal pasta, flaxseed, soybeans

» White: onions, garlic, parsnips, potatoes, cauliflower, white nectarines

 

Wholegrains

Grains are high in carbohydrate, vital for energy production, concentration and mood. They are low in fat, which is good for your heart and your weight. Plus they are good sources of protein and provide your body with fibre, vitamins and minerals. Wholegrains are particularly beneficial because they still contain bran, endosperm and germ, which are all higher in fibre and nutrients. According to the Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council (GLNC): “Wholegrains contain more than 26 nutrients and phytonutrients, which are bioactive substances thought to play a role in disease protection.”

They contain:

» Dietary fibre: such as lignans, beta-glucan and soluble pentosans

» Vitamins: especially B-group vitamins and antioxidant vitamin E

» Minerals: including iron, zinc, magnesium and selenium

» Many bioactive phytochemicals: including phytoesterols (which help lower cholesterol) and carotenoids (which act as antioxidants).

“There is now strong and growing evidence that regular consumption of grain foods, specifically wholegrain, play an important role in disease protection,” says the GLNC. Studies in the USA, UK and Europe consistently report that the consumption of wholegrain foods reduces overall disease risk and death from all causes. If you have issues with gluten, use gluten-free grains such as buckwheat.

 

Good Sources:

» Rye

» Stoneground wholemeal flour

» Spelt

» Brown rice

» Steel cut oats

» Freekah

» Bulgur

» Buckwheat

 

Dairy

There is plenty of evidence to justify dairy foods as part of a healthy diet plan, beyond the well-known perk of helping to strengthen bones.

Foods such as kefir and yoghurt provide good live bacteria to benefit gut health. Research from the University of Copenhagen has also shown that cheese appears to boost levels of butyrate, a compound that is produced by gut bacteria and has numerous benefits for overall health. Full-fat milk, cheese, yoghurt and butter products may also be healthier than previously thought. Harvard research shows that they contain trans-palitoleic acids (TPA), fatty acids linked to healthier levels of blood cholesterol, lower inflammation, stable insulin levels and improved insulin sensitivity. This may be why high-fat yoghurt and cheese are now being linked to lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

Along with gluten, a growing number of people have been steering clear of dairy foods in recent years. In addition to true lactose intolerance, some people find that foods such as milk and cheese contribute to stomach upsets, acne or pimple outbreaks, headaches and skin rashes. The answer? Try goat or sheep’s milk: many sensitive individuals tolerate these dairy forms better than the cow version because it has a closer make-up to the human breast milk we consume as babies.

Good Sources:

» Plain pot-set Greek yoghurt

» Kefir

» Goat’s or sheep’s cheese

» Cheese

» Milk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jessica Sepel’s top tips for nourishment

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Count macros, not calories: our bodies and metabolism are regulated by so many things other than calories, so how you burn a meal will depend on your hormones, stress levels, fitness and environment. Instead, ensure you have protein, good fat, carbohydrate and greens at every meal. Nutrients are what make you feel satisfied so you don’t over-eat.

Tune in to your body: portion control does have its place, so be present and mindful when you’re eating. I want to teach people to reconnect to their appetite – we are so busy reading different health advice that we have stopped listening to our own bodies. 

Keep it simple: as soon as I see a recipe with more than five ingredients, I can’t even look at it. Simplify health and make it a less daunting experience. Some of the best meals of mine are created using very few ingredients.

Discover more fat loss tips from celebrity trainer Alexa Towersey.

 

 

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Fat burning tactics

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It provides the best bang-for-buck that will not only fast-track you towards a healthy body but also give you the toned features that can give you the appearance of being slimmer.

This is because resistance training – using free-weights or resistance machines – fires up your internal furnace, which will continue to burn fat long after you’ve walked away from the gym and are lying on the couch. In fact, studies have found that after an intensive resistance workout, your fat-burn may continue for as much as 34 to 48 hours. Now that’s reward for effort.

Importantly, a resistance session doesn’t take that long either. You will have arrived and left the gym while the jogger is still plugging away on the treadmill.

“You may have been told that exercising at a comfortable pace is best for fat loss because you are working in the ‘fat-burning zone’,” says Julia Buckley, personal trainer and author of The Fat Burn Revolution. “This is just plain wrong. People who say this are confused by the fact that training at low intensities causes the body to use more fat than glycogen for fuel while you are exercising. But what they don’t realise is that high-intensity exercise causes more fat to be burned in total when you take account of afterburn. Plus, with this type of training, the next time you eat, the calories from your food will be used to replace the glycogen you used up rather than stored as fat.”

 

 

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A day in the life of Emily Skye

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MOVE
I love how exercising makes me feel – mentally and physically. When you reach a point where you’re happy with your fitness level, you can just maintain it, which is a lot easier than when you’re starting. I encourage people to think of this when they feel like giving up. I love training my legs and glutes because it’s always challenging and has me almost crawling out of the gym – I love that feeling! My favourite exercises are squats, deadlifts, lunges, glute lunges, step-ups, glute bridges, hip thrusts, glute kickbacks and crab walks with an exercise band. Listening to Bullet for My Valentine, Three Days Grace, Alter Bridge, Taylor Swift and Beyoncé motivates me.

 

EAT
I’ve learned that my body is incredible, smart and strong – provided I eat nutritious food and exercise. I eat food that provides my body with enough protein, fats and carbs and plenty of vitamins and minerals; I don’t worry about counting calories or macros. I eat lots of fresh organic vegetables – leafy greens, salmon and blueberries are some of my favourite foods that are anti-inflammatory and full of nutrients. Breakfast and lunch are usually fish or chicken and vegies, dinner might be brown rice or vegies and chicken curry and in the evening I have a green smoothie.

 

BE
To step back from the crazy pace, I’ll turn off my phone and laptop and go for a walk, visit the steam room, lie on the beach or get a coffee or herbal tea and relax. When I’m my most relaxed and happiest is actually when I’m at the gym training as it takes my mind off everything.

 

ASPIRE
There is no typical day in my life anymore! I wake up, eat and get into creating content; I take photos, film workouts, film motivational videos, write posts, reply to comments on my social media pages, etc. I’ll usually then touch base with my team and discuss upcoming campaigns and products for my business before lunch.Next I’ll meet with my manager and we’ll go over upcoming press, partnerships and travel; I usually fly somewhere once a week. Then I go to the gym, come home and have dinner and try to relax in the steam room for 20 minutes. I do more work at night and wind down by watching TV or a movie. I will usually do some stretches before responding to as many people as I can across my pages before going to bed

 

 

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The real fat burning zone

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The fat-burning zone is sometimes thought of as the exercise intensity where the major fuel is fat. At around 65 per cent of your maximum heart rate (an intensity that can be achieved both in the weights room and traditional cardio variations) the body finds it easier to break down fat cells for energy than at higher intensities where it turns to carbohydrates.

The kicker: your high-intensity workouts keep the calorie burn going for the next 24 hours – adding six to 15 per cent more calories to the overall workout energy expenditure according to the American College of Sports Medicine.

Confusing? A more reasonable explanation of the fat-burning zone combines the correct nutritional approach and exercise intensity to create the ideal scenario for fat loss.

How to become a fat burner

Rule number one: a caloric deficit. “It all comes down to energy in versus energy out at the end of the day,” says celebrity personal trainer Alexa Towersey.

But fewer calories doesn’t necessarily equate to higher fat loss. Recent research at Maastricht University found that a diet of 500 calories a day for five weeks resulted in a similar weight loss to a diet of 1,250 calories a day for 12 weeks, but a much larger percentage came from lean muscle mass (18 per cent and 7.7 per cent, respectively).

On top of this, you need to adjust your macronutrients to prioritise fat burning. “To burn fat you need to eat fat,” says Towersey. “Lots of people who go on diets reduce their carbohydrates but don’t increase fats, and when you’re without both fuel sources you start to feel really crappy and the body starts burning muscle for fuel.” A double negative, considering lean muscle is vital for both maintaining metabolism and avoiding a ‘skinny-fat’ aesthetic.

Fats and carbohydrates are the body’s two major sources of energy, so, theoretically, when you take carbs away the body is forced to turn to fat for fuel. “Your primary objective dictates whether you need to include starchy carbohydrates in your diet or stick to a diet higher in fat. If body composition is the goal, you don’t want to consume both in high amounts,” says Towersey.

Fat often isn’t the body’s first choice when it comes to efficient energy production, as it requires more oxygen – and, hence, metabolic effort – to break down than carbohydrates. Thus, tricking your body into burning fat isn’t without its pitfalls.

“The body has to learn how to metabolise fat efficiently first, which can take a few days through to a few weeks to come into effect, depending on the individual… people often have negative experiences initially with removing carbohydrates from their diets – the first three or four days are usually very lethargic,” says Towersey. “You need to ask yourself whether you’re training for performance, where recovery is required, or whether you’re training for body composition,” says Towersey.

PRO TIP: Although it may be tempting to add in carbs before a cardio session or on your cheat days, the number one rule of the fat-burning zone is consistency. “Cheat ‘weekends’ can often be very damaging, especially beginner clients,” says Towersey. “If your body is still not familiar with utilising fat for fuel, any short-term gains made during the week can all be undone over a two-day cheat. The body is not yet efficient enough at adapting metabolically in order to switch back to fat-burning mode come Monday.”

 

NEXT: 5 scientific ways to burn more fat

 

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6 ways to manage PMS

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1. Food

Stabilising blood sugar will favour consistent energy levels and moods according to dietitian Melanie McGrice (melaniemcgrice.com.au). “Grains that have a low glycaemic index, which means that they provide longer-lasting energy, can also help to increase the hormone serotonin in the brain, so try some chickpeas, brown rice or quinoa,” says McGrice.

2. Diet

According to accredited practising dietitian Lisa Yates, some studies show that PMS may be exacerbated by too much caffeine, sugar and alcohol. To minimise symptoms, she suggests that you reduce your alcohol, caffeine and salt intake, and follow a low-GI diet.

3. Supplements

Professor Kulkarni says supplements such as evening primrose oil can be effective for relieving PMS symptoms and favours these as a primary intervention before resorting to the contraceptive pill. “The two supplements I suggest are vitamin B6 and evening primrose oil, which has healthy essential fatty acids. Both supplements have been shown in studies to help alleviate some symptoms in women with PMS and many women benefit from them,” Prof Kulkarni says. A study published in 2010 found that the combination of magnesium and vitamin B6 was particularly helpful for decreasing PMS symptoms. “Nuts are rich in both magnesium and B6, so I’d recommend taking 30 g unsalted nuts daily in the week prior to your period,” says McGrice.

Correcting iron deficiency may also ease syptoms as women who consume insufficient iron are at higher risk of suffering PMS according to University of Massachusetts research. Women with higher non-heme iron, which comes from plant sources, are 30 to 40 per cent less likely to experience PMS. This is possibly because low iron affects levels of serotonin, the hormone that elevates mood. Good sources of non-heme iron include silverbeet and spinach, broccoli, bok choy, soybeans and lentils.

4. The Pill

Contraceptive pills can help ameliorate symptoms of severe PMS and PMDD, but not all pills are equally effective. “Women should not take older-style progesterone pills as these can actually contribute to emotions like anger and depression,” warns Prof Kulkarni. “Some of the newer varieties of pill such as Zoely, Diane and Juliet can be very beneficial.”

To establish a more stable hormonal pattern, women may take the pill with the active hormones for three cycles then go on to a sugar pill for one week only, so that within a three-month cycle they only have one week of bleeding.

5. Hormone therapy

The next line of defence is hormone therapy according to Prof Kulkarni. Oestrogen patches or oestradiol patches and progesterone can cause a kind of hormone detour. “For some women who are very sensitive to hormones, another alternative is to deliver the progesterone via the Mirena IUD, which is placed in the uterus. This allows the hormones to go directly into the surrounding organs rather than passing through the bloodstream first, where it may cause more side effects,” Prof Kulkarni says.

6. Antidepressants

For women who feel their lives are hijacked by hormones every month, antidepressants can provide enormous relief. “The antidepressants stabilise the level of hormones like serotonin, so some women with PMS or PMDD no longer experience those huge mood swings from hormonal fluctuations,” says Davison. 

A new approach to this treatment is to take the antidepressant intermittently. “It may be taken for one week or 10 days of each month when symptoms occur,” says Prof Kulkarni. “To ensure the dose and type of antidepressant suits your system, speak to your GP about having a blood test or swab to get background on your metabolic system and guide the choice of antidepressant.” 

If antidepressants are not effective, women who suffer severe symptoms of PMS may then choose to undergo a ‘chemical menopause’, where strong hormones are used to stop ovulation and give women a break from the terrible hormonal and mood swings. “This approach sometimes needs to be permanent but can also have a kind of resetting effect on the brain,” Prof Kulkarni explains. “If women choose to come off the hormones, their impact is usually reversible and even when no longer on the therapy, the hormonal-related moods swings may be greatly reduced.” 

 

 

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