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Taking Your Diet on Holiday

Taking Your Diet on Holiday

Being on holiday whilst trying to maintain some sort of diet can sound like an absolute nightmare, and it is definitely true that following a healthy meal plan is difficult, not just because you are away from home, but because you are surrounded by all manner of amazing and different foods, especially when you are in a different part of the world. Being in a beach front restaurant, for instance, and faced with locally cooked meats, roasted vegetables and all manner of sugary cocktails is going to be tempting for even the most disciplined of dieters. However, there are some ways that we can enjoy a holiday whilst also sticking to some semblance of a diet.

Let's make one thing clear. Unless you are in the same country that you live in, or at least can get to supermarkets with the same wide variety of foods that you enjoy at home (such as a Brit in the USA or Canada, for instance) it's going to be very difficult. Discipline, therefore, is key.

Most restauranteurs and hotel chefs are keen to simply mass cook food (like buffets) or churn out dishes on an assembly line, so asking about nutritional content is going to be a long and arduous process; be ready for it. When faced with fatty, processed hotel and restaurant meals, it may sound like a no-brainer, but knowing what is and what isn't healthy is going to need to become committed to memory. If you are on a points-based diet or something based around excluding certain ingredients, do not be afraid to ask staff what healthy options they have; you might not always get a straight answer, but most of the time you will end up with a healthier option.

Shopping at supermarkets and street markets are also a great way to ensure you get a natural, balanced diet as much as possible; fresh fruit and vegetables are often in good supply in tropical and sunny locations, and, as most of them grow locally they are incredibly cheap

We're hardly reinventing the wheel here, but this should simply serve as a lesson to continue your habits wherever you are in the world.

Losing Weight on a Budget

Losing Weight on a Budget

One of the main issues a lot of people face when trying to lose weight is that it often has a massive price tag attached. This can come in many forms; gym membership, fitness equipment, physical trainers, and all manner of branded food and drink that is either part of a fitness plan, or contains better quality ingredients. Often, it's cheaper and more convenient to not even try. But fear not, there are some really cost effective and proven ways to lose weight on a budget.

Firstly, do not underestimate the power of oats. They are super cheap, and not only are they versatile, they contribute to a full feeling and also actively strip the heart of cholesterol, meaning they chip away at fat both internally and externally. Try a bowl of porridge or oatmeal in the morning, topped with some fresh fruit, and you have a cheap, weight loss friendly breakfast.

Eggs are also cheap and do a great job of making the body feel full. However, these need to be eaten and enjoyed in moderation as too many eggs will have the opposite effect (and also make toilet trips more infrequent and uncomfortable.) Boiled eggs, in particular, are great for inducing a feeling of fullness whilst getting in some healthy fats.

One of the most overlooked ways people lose weight is to scour supermarkets for reduced or damaged fruit and veg that comes with a lower price tag. Fresh food can be expensive at full price, but if you allow yourself to be at the mercy of whatever is slightly past its best (but still saleable) you can make all manner of salads, soups and smoothies. The only thing better than a meal full of healthy greens is knowing you got it at 10% of the price.

Losing weight doesn't have to cost any more than usual, and as we have seen, it is perfectly possible to cook or prepare weight loss friendly food at a fraction of the store price. You may need to get creative, but it will be your waistline that shrinks, and not your bank balance.

Training With Broken Bones and Sprains

Training With Broken Bones and Sprains

We have all seen someone running with their arm in a sling or hobbling along with a quite visible injury and furthermore, we have probably all thought how brave they were. Whilst a break or a sprain is not necessarily the end of the road for training, it most certainly should be something that puts the brakes on your usual pace.

Too many athletes and amateurs will break or sprain an ankle, then get back on the horse as soon as the cast is off (or as soon as they think they are healed!) Nine times out of ten, they are simply slowing down repair cycle and actually probably doing lasting harm to the body. So many cases of arthritis are due, in some part, to physical activity whilst recovering from an injury.

The easiest thing to do when we have a break or sprain is to consider that quadrant of the body out of action for the foreseeable future. If it is an ankle, leg or any other lower limb, consider this a golden opportunity to work solely on your upper body in the gym and, as time goes on, gradually get into the habit of gentle swimming...non-impact training is the only safe way to exercise broken limbs. If it is the back or upper half, then look at swapping out your usual routine for some lower body aerobic exercise. Just be careful not to exacerbate the back by hitting a rowing machine full pelt, for instance.

This should really be a case of exercising (excuse the pun) common sense, but nonetheless, too many professionals and amateurs refuse to acknowledge the limitations and just create more problems. Worse still, many unscrupulous personal trainers or gym employees will not look at the damage case in front of them and will actually encourage them to engage in potentially dangerous exercise. As a rule of thumb, if the injury is the upper half, avoid weights altogether... your back, shoulders, neck and arms are all intrinsically linked and will all suffer. If it’s the lower half, enjoy the chance you've been given to get into lower half aerobic training.

The Top Muscle Gaining Foods

The Top Muscle Gaining Foods

There is a lot of information out there on what foods help lose weight, but for those who want to build some muscle mass, it's a little more complicated. There has to be a gentle balancing act between getting just the right amount of fats (and making sure they're the right kind!) and also getting the right nutrients to both ensure that muscle is gained, but also that fat isn't starting to pile on as well.

Boiled and lean meats are possibly one of the best foods for muscle gain. Chicken, turkey, ham and the like are all high in protein and carbohydrates, but the key is to ensure that cooking techniques do not either retain fat (such as with roasting) or, indeed, add more fats (such as frying.) If boiled meat sounds a little bland, grilling is also an option.

Lean beef, however, is the real weight gain powerhouse. It's ultimately more beneficial than any kind of poultry; just be sure that it is indeed 'lean'. Beef is also incredibly fattening.

Tuna, salmon and other oily fish are also brilliant. They contain good fats as well as vital acids that have been shown to encourage weight gain. Just be sure to enjoy them in moderation; mercury content is quite high in some fish and can have detrimental effects. Furthermore, too much oily fish can have a diuretic effect.

Other foods vital for weight gain are eggs (healthy fats, vitamin B and choline) as well as cottage cheese (healthy fats and casein protein, which is a slow burning protein ideally suited to exercise) oatmeal and natural grains (healthy fats, fibre and carbohydrate) and fruit and vegetables (iron, fibre and pretty much every vitamin and mineral that muscle builders need.)

Most of these foods feature prominently in a lot of diets, but in conjunction with weightlifting and other strenuous exercise, they release all manner of beneficial nutrients to build muscle over fat. There really is no need to go hunting for supplements; everything you need for a healthy, muscular body is available, plentifully and cheaply, on supermarket shelves.

Which Diet is Best for Burning Fat?

Which Diet is Best for Burning Fat?

There are hundreds of diets out there which either claim to promote general well-being or go one further and claim to actively burn off fat. You could take the easy road and go vegetarian or vegan, but what diets are out there that allow us to actively burn fat whilst enjoying our favourite food?

The Atkins Diet was, for years, lauded as the number one way to lose fat. However, it has since been shown to have some pretty major pitfalls, namely that the high amount of protein in a low-carbohydrate diet could lead to joint pain and gout, and hypercalcuria, which leads to kidney stones, hypocalcemia and osteoporosis.

The 'Whole 30' diet has been shown as nothing more than a fad, in that it is unnecessarily restrictive and is little more than a detox plan. Furthermore, most of the plan is not conducive to weight loss.

In terms of what is backed by scientific fact and has shown results, the Keto diet is probably the closest thing one can hope to get to a successful weight loss based program. Not only has it been shown to aid weight loss due to the restriction on certain foods, the theory of inducing ketosis is rooted in scientific research and has been shown to aid weight loss. Furthermore, the keto diet has been shown to have a positive effect on diabetes and heart disease, two conditions which are often exacerbated by being overweight. All in all, the keto diet has been shown to prove more reliable than any other fads or pseudo-science based diets.

Of course, the easiest thing many people will say is to simply eat a balanced diet and not actively seek out something which is being lauded as the next big thing. For many of us, a balanced diet may not burn enough excess weight off, hence, we find ourselves moving towards something which is geared exclusively towards that goal. Additionally, as previously mentioned, vegetarianism and veganism are excellent for weight loss, but are too restrictive for some. Don't write off other diets either... in amongst the fads there are some genuinely good ways to lose weight!

Vegetarian Dietary Benefits

Vegetarian Dietary Benefits

With vegan diets making headlines in recent years, it is easy to assume that the traditional vegetarian diet is all but gone. However, that couldn't be further from the truth. Whilst not as extreme as veganism, there are still many who follow a specifically vegetarian diet thanks to its health and ethical benefits.

One of the main differences between the vegetarian and vegan diet is that vegetarianism still allows for dairy and other by-products. Cheese, milk, eggs and honey are just some of the things that separate these two diets. In fact, dairy is one of the main reasons that vegetarians admit they could not turn vegan! There is also the fact that dairy provides many much-needed nutrients; a healthy dose of fats (in moderation) as well as calcium and a range of vitamins and minerals. These can be obtained through a vegan diet but are much harder to actively incorporate into food and drink.

A typical, healthy vegetarian diet makes full use of a mix of fruit, vegetables, legumes and dairy (although some vegetarians favour dairy more than others.) Green vegetables, balanced out with root veg, give vegetarians their dose of iron, protein and carbohydrate, whilst citrus fruits give an added kick of fibre, as well as various essential vitamins and naturally occurring sugars. Other fruits such as berries (including avocados!) provide natural fats and fibres, and legumes, nuts and pulses, whilst best enjoyed in moderation, complement this already varied diet by throwing in extra fat, fibre and carbohydrate.

The above is incredibly conducive to weight loss, increased energy levels and stripping the body of excess cholesterol, but it also can be incredibly cost-effective (buying veg is always cheaper...cheaper still if you grow it yourself!) and it also follows many more ethical guidelines than a meat-based diet. It can be harder to ensure that many nutrients typically found in meat and fish are incorporated into a vegetarian diet, but once you have found your 'jam' and know which foods to actively include in place of meat, fish and excess dairy, this is possibly one of the healthiest diets out there.

How to Balance Female Hormones

How to Balance Female Hormones

The female body is a perfectly tuned machine, much like its male counterpart. Included in that perfect synergy is the hormonal system. It's what gives us healthy hair, skin and nails and a balanced body shape, what gives us our sex drive and, ultimately, the ability to bear children. The responsibility to keep our hormones balanced is a hard one to bear; we can eat, drink and supplement our nutrients with naturally occurring hormones, but ultimately our bodies, not us, decide if and when an imbalance is going to occur. Thankfully, there are some things we can do to proactively manage hormonal balance.

Firstly, get enough protein in during mealtimes. Protein replaces amino acids, which the body often cannot get on its own. Balance a meal with healthy fats as well; healthy fats control appetite and also stop insulin levels from spiking or dropping, both of which can cause hormonal imbalances.

The next step is to exercise, and make sure you do it regularly and to an extent that makes the body actually work. This, once again, controls insulin sensitivity and resistance, and in a range of studies, showed that hormonal levels balanced out and led to healthy weight loss.

Stress is also another cause of hormonal imbalance; you may notice how a lot of people who are stressed or anxious either lose or gain weight to a noticeable degree. This is partially because stress is intrinsically linked to appetite, but also because stress can trigger a mental response that, over time, can block hormones such as serotonin and melatonin. In addition, other hormones in the body, such as oestrogen and insulin, have been adversely affected in test conditions when hammered with constant, excessive amounts of stress and anxiety.

It's like anything that the body is tasked with producing and regulating. Under normal conditions, the body can take stress, anxiety and dietary indiscretions. But in today's day and age, we are faced with a lot of adverse stressors and 'easy options' with food, which, for a woman, presents an easy way out once in a while. And that's fine...once in a while!

Holidays and Food Intolerance

Holidays and Food Intolerance

There is a lot of advice online about what foods to eat when you're travelling abroad if you have a specific dietary requirement. This is all well and good if you follow that diet out of choice; however, for someone with an intolerance, it can often be an absolute nightmare. It often becomes a case of eating potato chips and biscuits in the hotel room whilst the rest of the group stuff their faces and enjoy all the local cuisine.

The only real way to circumvent this issue is to do tons of research. A lot of food intolerant travellers will get themselves stressed out weeks or months before, but it can actually be a great way to build excitement for the holiday. Instead of scrambling around on the night looking for anywhere that will serve food that won't immediately make you feel ill, you can spend time finding out about the best restaurants, the most authentic local foods, and even restaurants that specialise in food intolerances (these are popping up more and more in the West and in developing countries!)

You don't even need to have your holiday defined by a meal plan, and it doesn't mean you have to make the holiday all about you (as many food intolerance sufferers worry they are doing, in groups!) If you are a solo traveller, excellent. You know where to go and what you can eat, and there's nobody else to worry about. But in groups, try finding places that factor in intolerances alongside regular menu dishes. Speak to friends beforehand and establish what places they are and aren't willing to eat at. On the night, you can head out, knowing that the restaurant, cafe or street food stand is going to have something for everyone.

The key is to get into a mindset where the preplanning becomes a fun quest, and a way to find out more about local cuisine, rather than a dark cloud threatening to ruin the entire trip and force you to spend half your time feeling sick in the hotel room. Let it complement your trip, not dominate it.

What To Avoid Before a Marathon

What To Avoid Before a Marathon

There is a lot of talk about what to eat and drink before a marathon, and that's great. A good diet is key to keeping the body on top of its game. But there is also a lot of sabotage, most of it unintentional, by people who consume the right food and drink but then also go and ruin it with poor nutrition. It's like emptying the car's oil tank and then filling it with used, dirty oil instead of cleaning it out. Here are some definite no-no's.

Tea and coffee in the immediate day or two before any marathon are bad news. Granted, exercise requires the occasional energy kick, and caffeine sometimes does the job better than anything else, but getting that sweet caffeine before a marathon ought to be done via other means. Energy drinks (in strict moderation!) should be the preference. Tea and coffee have a diuretic and laxative effect; not only will you lose precious fluids and dehydrate quicker during practice and the marathon itself, you run the risk of an embarrassing situation mid-run.

Dairy should also be avoided before marathons. We all know the pain of aching bones and joints after a workout; this is because lactic acid is building around areas that have seen a lot of work. Adding dairy to a pre-marathon diet is going to send lactic acid levels skyrocketing, bringing the burn on more quickly and with way more aggression than before. It's also going to contribute to a 'gunky' feeling of excess mucus; not great when you need to clear your nose and throat during the run.

Oily, fatty foods are the biggest problem. Your body will require way more energy to burn this off, meaning you feel drained quicker, but fatty foods often 'float' in the gut and exercise will bring it back up with a vengeance.

This not to say, of course, that these foods are all bad. A bit of cheese is great for getting calcium and fat, and coffee and tea have antioxidant properties. But in the lead up to a marathon, keep it lean and carby.

A Holiday Keto Diet

A Holiday Keto Diet

The keto diet is something which many people claim they have difficulty following when they are on a break or a holiday. However, it's only difficult if you want it to be. No matter where in the world you are, there are a plethora of Keto friendly foods in pretty much every region.

Remember that the Keto diet is based around filling the body with fats instead of sugars. In the Mediterranean, for instance, pretty much everything is cooked in olive oil, and indeed gives a nod to the rest of the region's cuisine; walnuts, avocados and also olives themselves, as well as coconuts and other nuts and pulses are in good supply, which means that anyone following a Keto diet is bound to find something on the menu to meet their needs.

Nearly every region in the world has its own cheeses too, and from different animals. The European continent favour cows, goats and sheep, whilst the Middle East have recently started to feature more and more camel milk and cheese in their dishes. The far East and Asian regions still make excellent, naturally and locally produced dairy products, meaning you are getting those essential fats and keeping the body in or near a state of ketosis.

Fish? This a no brainer. Each area of the world has some amazing local oily and fatty fish, both freshwater and sea-based. Whether it is the USA or Australia, local salmon cooked in butter, topped off with some asparagus is going to give you the most flavoursome ketogenic kick imaginable. Likewise, shellfish such as shrimps, prawns and crawfish (these are fantastic if you're trying them in the deep South or Gulf Coast regions) will also contain plenty of good fats.

The key is to throw your typical sources of foods out of your mind and concentrate on the ingredients; you'll find them in all six continents (including Antarctica if that's your jam.) With this in mind, think of this as a chance to give your keto diet an absolute makeover for the time you are away and enjoy the finest local cuisine.

FODMAP Diet

FODMAP Diet

In recent years, the FODMAP diet (short for fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols) has gained popularity due to an increased knowledge of the effects of certain foods. In particular the diet is based around avoiding certain groups of carbs that are known to trigger issues for people with a sensitive gut, mainly due to fermentation. However, the FODMAP diet also appeals to people who suffer from poor stress management and diverticulitis.

A low FODMAP diet is based around avoiding several different food groups:

Oligosaccharides: These include wheat, rye, legumes and assorted fruits and vegetables including garlic, onions and shallots

Disaccharides: Milk, yogurt and soft cheese. Lactose is the active ingredient in this case

Monosaccharides: Specific fruit including figs, dates and mangoes, and sweeteners such as honey and agave nectar. Fructose is the main ingredient

Polyols: Blackberries, lychees and other fruits, as well as some low-calorie sweeteners such as Xylitol

These are all known to cause or exacerbate bloating, flatulence and general stomach discomfort. Unlike other diets where food is preferred over another, a low FODMAP diet is based around excluding certain foods, normally after a period of establishing which foods are triggering gut problems, and then reintroducing certain foods either once they have been discounted as a cause, or once it has been established what amount of that food can be consumed without causing problems. Because of this, no one FODMAP based diet is the same, and in many respects, FODMAP should be thought of as a discipline rather than a diet. Likewise, there is not actually any defined period of time that a low FODMAP diet should be followed for. Some people will stick with it for life, whilst others will revert back to a normal diet if and when the underlying causes of their gut problems are established and brought under control.

Unfortunately, the main pitfall of a low FODMAP diet is that many foods are hard to get hold of and, consequently, more expensive. This is why many followers of this diet find a home cooked and often raw diet is the best form of dieting.

The Best Foods to Eat When Breastfeeding

The Best Foods to Eat When Breastfeeding

Remember that breastfeeding is the most natural way for a mother to pass nutrients down to her child; when the mother eats, she can reasonably expect the baby to consume a diluted version of the same. This is why there needs to be a concerted effort to eat certain foods. Here are some of the best.

In moderation, fish are excellent. Omega-3 and fatty acids are essential for bone and brain growth, both of which are crucial for newborns. Just remember that too much of it carries a risk of mercury transmission.

Fruit and vegetables are the absolute lifeblood of breastfeeding. They are (hopefully) natural and organic and deliver all of the best vitamins and minerals. However, more crucially, babies need lots of vitamin D; if you are not taking a 10-microgram supplement per day, start now. It's excellent for the baby. There really is no limit on what fruits and vegetables can be eaten; they are natural and therefore good, as your baby needs all of the vitamins and minerals you can give it.

Starchy foods are also excellent as they pass on carbohydrates and proteins. However, it is often best to opt for wholemeal versions, simply to cut down on excessive carb consumption, but also to maximise the amount of fibre passed on to your baby. One of the best ways to get a mix of carbohydrates, fibre and other assorted goodness is a jacket potato, topped with baked beans, low-fat cheese and with some salad on the side. That is the perfect mix of carbs, fibre, healthy and trans fats and vitamins and minerals. Beans on toast is also another way to 'cheat', if you will. Eggs are also perfect for transferring protein.

Get creative. It can quickly get boring if you simply get into the habit of thinking you need to pass nutrients over; yes, your baby does need a healthy diet, but we all know that healthy food does not need to be bland, nor do you need to eat the same thing every night. Let you and your child have some variety.