Fueling Your Body to Optimize Your Workouts

Only one month left until race day! Surprisingly, I’ve managed to stick to my training schedule for the most part and have kept myself motivated enough to go for a run at least 2-3 days a week. Just last night I finally made it through the full 5k without stopping to walk – in just over 30 minutes! My goal now is to continue improving my time so I can finish the race in less than 28 minutes.

What I’ve quickly discovered as my training continues is just how important it is to eat the right foods prior to and after a workout. Seeing as I don’t get home from work until 6:30 and it starts to get dark now at around 7:15, my window of opportunity for outdoor exercise during the work week is getting smaller and smaller (the idea of running around outside in the dark on my own makes me uncomfortable). Therefore, it’s becoming increasingly important for me to prepare pre-workout snacks and meals in advance to ensure I have enough time to digest my food and run when it’s still light outside.

I decided to do a bit more research to figure out what foods are the best to eat before and after a workout, because I’ve noticed on days where I eat properly that running longer distances is much easier (and therefore more enjoyable!). On days where I don’t eat enough, eat too much, or eat the wrong things I feel a lot more sluggish – sometimes even sick – and really have to push myself to get through a workout.

So here’s the gist of what I’ve learned!

Before a Cardio Workout
You should have a light meal/snack approximately 30-60 minutes before a cardio session. Carbs should constitute about 75-100% of the meal, while protein should constitute the rest. The carbs get metabolized quickly into glucose (energy), while the protein helps keep this energy supply constant for the duration of your workout. Aim for low Glycemic Index (GI) carbs such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes, as they release sugar into the bloodstream more slowly and provide more sustainable energy. Don’t forget to hydrate well by drinking plenty of water throughout the day before your workout!

Examples of some good pre-cardio meals could include:

  • A slice of whole grain toast with natural peanut butter (or other nut butter)135
  • Plain Greek yogurt with whole grain granola and dried fruits
  • A homemade fruit smoothie, perhaps made with some yogurt, granola, or whey protein
  • A small bowl of oatmeal with nuts and fresh berries
  • Scrambled egg whites stuffed in a small whole wheat pita, with a side of carrot sticks

My go-to pre-workout snack typically consists of about ¼ cup of organic granola with a bit of almond milk, and a couple of organic whole grain crackers topped with natural peanut butter. Just enough fuel to keep me going, but not too much so that I feel full!

After a Cardio Workout
Within 30 minutes after completing a cardio workout, you should definitely re-hydrate with plenty of water, as well as a carbohydrate-rich snack or light meal. The key is to replace carbohydrates and electrolytes lost during your workout, so think whole grains, fruits and veggies! A bit of protein to help aid muscle recovery and growth is also important.

Examples of some good post-cardio meals could include:075

  • Apple slices topped with peanut or almond butter
  • A fruit smoothie made with yogurt and almond milk
  • Sliced fruit and/or veggies with a handful of walnuts
  • A small veggie omelet topped with sliced avocado
  • An open-faced sandwich with hummus and fresh veggies

My favourite post-workout smoothie is a combination of frozen banana slices, unsweetened almond milk, natural peanut butter, ground flaxseed, and chia seeds – deeeeelicious!

Of course, everyone has different fitness and health goals, so the above options might not appeal to you or your dietary needs. For those that are interested in some general information, I found this guideline to be really helpful (courtesy of Pinterest):

The Complete Guide to Workout Nutriton [Infographic]

Be Well & Keep Training Hard!

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Training for Your First 5K

After much deliberation, I’ve finally decided to sign up for my first 5K run! On Saturday, October 26th I’ll be taking part in the Region of Peel’s “Run, Walk and Roll” 5K for the United Way with some of my co-workers.

It might not seem like a huge deal, but it’s a big step for me considering I HATE running. Don’t get me wrong, I love cardio – bike riding, swimming, hiking, dancing (despite my lack of coordination and grace)… that’s all very appealing to me. But running, on the other hand, is not my friend.

So what has motivated me to sign up for my first 5K? Well, first and foremost, it never hurts to try something new! More importantly, though, I felt like I was in need of a change – something challenging to make me push myself. With no gym membership and limited access to fitness equipment, my workouts were starting to get boring.

My biggest problem when it comes to working out is simply getting started. When I force myself to just do it, then I have no problem getting through a 60-90 minute workout. But after a day’s work and long commute home it’s so much easier to throw on some pj’s and relax!  So to motivate myself to get started, I downloaded the free version of the RunKeeper app. I set a goal to complete a 5K, and selected an appropriate training program to start in the next couple of weeks.

I got a head start on my training a few days ago by tackling a 3.5K route, and managed to run for about 40% of the way and walk the remaining 60%. I figured that’s not too bad for a person that hates running! My next task is to invest in some decent running shoes.  Shin splints are no fun!

If you’ve recently signed up or are thinking about signing up for your first 5K race, here are some tips to help you get started:

1. Invest in the essentials. Proper running shoes are key!  My mom is an avid runner and she insists that it’s best to get professionally fitted for the right running shoe.

2. Create and follow a running program. Smartphone apps are a great tool to use for free training programs. Set some calendar alerts in your phone so you’re less tempted to skip a workout!

3. Slow and steady wins the race! If you’re just starting out, don’t try and push yourself too hard. Running is a lot like weight training – your body needs time to adapt. Start your running program off by alternating between a few minutes of walking and a few minutes of running, until gradually you’re able to run the whole way.

4. Recruit a buddy. You’ll be much more likely to stick to your training program if you have a friend to accompany you along the way! You may even want to consider joining a running group, or try starting a running and/or walking group with co-workers over your lunch break.

5. Dress for success. I have to be up before 6:30 am every day for work, so unless I’m willing to wake up before the sun has risen (um, no thanks), it’s more convenient for me to work out in the evening. I find I’m much more likely to follow through with a workout if I immediately change into exercise clothes when I get home from work.

What do you like to do to prepare for a race, and how do you keep yourself motivated? Feel free to comment below and share some tips!

Be Well xo

It’s Time For A Pep Talk

Got a bad case of the winter “blahs”? With all the cold weather and grey slush surrounding us, the winter months can seem like a pretty miserable time. For a while, all I wanted to do was stay curled up in a warm bed. But over the past month or so, I’ve been working hard to try and stick to my new year’s resolution and get UP and MOVING.

I’m proud to say I’ve done pretty well so far. I do cardio/weight training twice a week, and quick yoga sessions whenever I can. I’m only working part-time at Toronto General Hospital, but on the days I am working I make every effort to walk to/from Union Station in order to get to the hospital. This takes me about half an hour, each way. Despite the mind-numbing, teeth-chattering cold that hit us last week, I still forced myself to walk to Union. And guess what.. it felt great!

In fact, I’ve been feeling so great that I woke up at 5am yesterday to squeeze in a quick cardio workout before leaving for work. For me, this is pretty impressive since I am FAR from a morning person. I plan on making this a more regular occurrence, because I found I had SO much more energy throughout the day. I didn’t crave coffee once, and I usually drink one cup first thing in the morning on the days I have to wake up early for work. Instead, I spent the day sipping on cups of steaming hot peppermint tea (so delicious – and so many health benefits!).

If the winter months have you feeling like you’re in a bit of a rut, or you’re just having a bad day and need a little pick-me-up, I think it’s time for a pep talk. My mom forwarded me this video earlier today and it brought a smile to my face. I hope it inspires you and makes you smile too!

Be Well xo

SlimKicker Giveaway Contest

I am very excited to announce Inspiring Healthy Living’s first giveaway contest! I was recently contacted by a representative from SlimKicker – a healthy living app – and asked if I would be interested in partnering with them. A blog and an app both trying to promote healthy living? Sounds like a good combination to me! Here are the details:

SlimKicker is a calorie-tracking app and game that makes achieving your diet and fitness goals fun and exciting. You can “level-up” by earning points for tracking healthy calories, logging your workouts, and completing healthy challenges. As you level up, you become eligible to participate in giveaway challenges and have the opportunity to win special prizes. Another detail about this app that I particularly like is a “virtual coach” provides you with personalized tips and advice based on your tracking activity. For example, I just logged some exercise minutes (20 minutes of walking) and was provided with this friendly reminder: “Lots of stress can negatively impact our bodies in many ways. Low to moderate exercise is a great way to combat stress. Go on a walk with a friend or hit the pool for a swim. Make time to escape the stress of daily life.” Neat, eh? Another thing I like about this app is it provides a breakdown of your daily food intake. It shows how much carbohydrates, protein, fat, cholesterol, sodium, fibre and sugar you consume each day. Oh, and did I mention the app is FREE? If you don’t have an iPhone to download the app, you also have the option of signing up online and tracking your activity on their website.

Now, onto the contest! SlimKicker would like to hear your suggestions for new health challenges for the app! Here are some examples of the challenges currently available:

  • Replace Soda Challenge: Replace all soda with tea, water or unsweetened coffee for the next 7 days (worth 500 points)
  • Move During Commercials: During the commercials, get off your couch and march in place or dance for the next 7 days (worth 500 points)
  • A Salad A Day: Eat a salad everyday for lunch or dinner for the next 7 days (worth 700 points)

I think you get the idea. To enter this giveaway contest, you simply need to leave a comment on this post containing your idea(s) for a new healthy diet or fitness challenge. The challenge idea should be fun, creative, and no more than 1-2 sentences. The staff from SlimKicker will choose their favourite submission and the winner will receive this prize:

An Ozeri Epicurean Digital Kitchen Scale! (*cue the “ooohs and aaaahs”*)

The deadline for submissions will be WEDNESDAY, JULY 25th at midnight! That means you have 1 week to think of some ideas!

GOOD LUCK, and Be Well :)

How to Burn Fat in 4 Minutes

Hmm, the title of this post sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? If you haven’t heard of Tabata, you’re going to want to read this. Tabata was developed by Dr. Izumi Tabata and a team of researchers from Japan’s National Institute of Fitness and Sports. Although it has traditionally been used with elite athletes, this workout is quickly gaining more popularity – especially with new mothers trying to lose baby weight.

What is Tabata?

Tabata is high-intensity interval training. You do an exercise, such as push-ups, at maximum intensity for 20 seconds, and then get a 10-second break. This is done 8 times for a total of 4 minutes. Sounds pretty easy, right? I did a fitness class last night that incorporated multiple Tabata intervals and I can tell you right now that it was INTENSE.  My entire body – particularly my shoulders and arms – is feeling it today. I remember one of the first times I tried a Tabata class the instructor described it as “working your body to complete exhaustion”. Sounds fun, eh??

How is it effective?

High-intensity workouts help burn fat. According to an article in the Globe and Mail, a very recent study found that participants that engaged in high-intensity interval training such as Tabata for 1.5 hours each week enjoyed the exact same physical benefits as participants that did 4.5 hours of endurance training on an exercise bike. Martin Gibala, chair of the kinesiology department at McMaster University, explains that Tabata training is highly effective because your body continues to burn calories during the recovery period.

This is why Tabata is quickly becoming popular – you can exercise for a small amount of time and still reap effective physical health benefits. The fact that a single interval only take 4 minutes to complete means that people can easily incorporate it into their busy schedules. Why not start your day with a couple of Tabata intervals? It literally only takes a few minutes!

How to get started

If you have never tried Tabata or are currently not very active, I strongly urge you to slowly ease into these workouts in order to avoid injury. Take time to warm-up first. It might even help to consult a personal trainer, as they can help ensure that you are demonstrating proper technique. If you do a Tabata interval that involves weights you may be at risk of injuring yourself by not executing the correct form.

Here is a sample Tabata workout I found:

Just a couple of notes:

  • Tabata is 20 seconds of maximum intensity. This instructor clearly isn’t giving it her all. However, her videos are primarily geared towards beginners, so if you are new to Tabata this might be a good place to start.
  • Sometimes people like to do multiple exercises within one Tabata interval, as is demonstrated in this video. For a longer workout, you could do 4 minutes for each individual exercise. This is typically how Tabata classes are structured. Sometimes I do a 40-minute Tabata class on Wednesday nights and WOW is it exhausting. Very effective though!

If you’re interested in incorporating Tabata intervals into your exercise routine and happen to have an iPhone, you can download the Tabata Timer app for free!