What’s the sweet deal with chocolate?

I like chocolate. I mean, I really really like chocolate. And as much as I love to hear all the great press about chocolate containing anti oxidants and being good for you, I still know that consuming too much will make me fat.

But what is it about chocolate that is so bad for us?

Well, basically there are three ingredients that make chocolate taste so great. Sugar, fats and cocoa.

As you can see from the nutritional info from my favorite chocolate on the right, 51g out of 100g is sugar, 37g fat and just 6g protein.

No wonder it tastes so damn good! I like chocolate…

Instead of eating milk chocolate, consider trying dark chocolate. You still get that rich chocolate taste which can actually satisfy your craving by eating a smaller amount. With a higher cocoa content, dark chocolate does contain significantly higher levels of antioxidants than milk chocolate and a lot less sugar.    36 grams less sugar to be exact! Great for diabetics.

Yes dark chocolate does contain a little more fat than it’s milkier bother, but it is still by far, the healthier option.

Did I mention, I like chocolate?? 🙂

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Why the universe doesnt want you to have abs!

Another clue as to why we sometimes struggle to lose weight may lay with our ancestors.

If we look at the lifestyle and eating habits of our prehistoric ancestors, we may better understand the constant battle we now face in fighting fat.

For millions of years, human beings have been hunters and gatherers by nature. The Males role was predominantly to impregnate women, create children then provide shelter and food. There was no dialing for a pizza. To feed hungry mouths, the man of the house would have to hunt and kill dinner to feed his family.

When a man puts on weight, the first place fat tissue gathers is around the abdomen. Unfortunately, this is also the last place the fat comes off too.

When we think of prehistoric man, we often conjure up images of Spartan like men with six pack abs and bulging biceps. This however was probably not the case. The reason? Firstly, once a kill had been made, large portions of food would be eaten to avoid spoilage or loss from scavengers. This was often followed by prolonged famine. This process forces the body to hold on to as much body fat as possible in order to increase chances of survival. The other reason is pre programmed genetics.

Pre Programmed Genetics

Our bodies are designed to evolve to ensure the continuation of human existence and pro creation. As the role of a male Homo Sapien was to make sure he and his dependents were fed; and knowing that food often came in the form of dangerous wild animals, the male anatomy developed some safety features. Fat gathers around the stomach region to protect vital organs and increase the chances of survival if attacked. Thankfully these days we do not need to hunt for our dinner!

In the case of Women, who’s main purpose was to bear and raise children, fat tissue would naturally (and still does) tend to gather around the hips to protect the child bearing organs. Again, for woman, this is the first place excess calories will be stored and the last place it will come off.

Fat tissue is also one of the best forms of insulation, another reason why fat gathers around our vital organs. You will find that races of people that live in warmer climates find it far easier to keep fat off, as the body does not require it for insulation. People that live in colder climates struggle more to shift the weight as the body instinctively needs it to stay insulated.

Although we now live in a much safer and controlled environment, unfortunately for us, these safety features are already pre programmed into our genetics. All you need to do is look around and see the areas men and woman generally will store their body fat.

So as you can see, we are not actually designed to have six pack abs. Having abs is actually highly un natural, hence the difficulties men and woman have with shifting fat from those protective regions.

The healthy range of body fat for men to maintain is between 12 – 18% and women 18 – 26%. For the abdomen muscles to be noticed, the outer layers of fat need to be reduced to around 6-8%. Going against nature, you need to understand the body to know how to trick it into letting go of fat stores.

Despite the fact that we are constantly faced with battling our pre programmed genetics, if we make our health and fitness a priority, we can win the fight against fat!

My 3rd Body Building Comp in 2006

Fortunately for us, these days fresh vegetables, butchered meats and dairy is so readily available and we can pretty much consume quality foods whenever we wish.

When good food is so much more convenient than any other time in history, there is really no excuse to opt for bad convenience foods. Make your health a priority!

I know how hard it is to get abs and I can tell you, the process to getting them is not easy. Exercising two hours a day and eating a super strict diet is not what many people consider “Natural behavior”! The good news is, once you have them, they are much easier to maintain.

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Is your vacation “Worth the Weight”?

Is Holiday Weight Gain (HWG) an unavoidable phenomenon?

Maybe returning home with extra baggage around your middle, is just one of those things we need to experience in order to enjoy a good holiday. I actually know people that use the increased number of notches on their belt as an indication of how much they enjoyed their holiday!

We all know that once we step away from our homes, our routine and our refrigerators, our ability to eat right and get the same level of exercise can be tricky. Most of us are resigned to thinking that it is just impossible to eat well, exercise and still enjoy our holiday and as a result, we often just give up and expect to return home several kilos heavier. But this does not have to be the case.

Here are my top ten tips for you to enjoy your holiday, whilst minimizing the impact to your waistline.

  1. Eat often. With so much to see and do, we sometimes forget to eat. Leaving large gaps between meals will force your metabolism to slow down and make your body store fat. Try and eat five to six times a day, or at least every three to four hours.
  2. Move more. Choose activities that require you to use your legs and expend the calories you eat. Burn some rubber on your flip flops and get out and about to see what your destination has to offer! Generally when we are on holiday, we tend to move a lot more than we would during a normal day at work. With these extra calories burned, sneaking a beer or two after a hard days sightseeing, can be possible without gaining weight.
  3. Stay away from processed foods. If you look at the label and even when it is written in English, you still don’t understand what it is, yet alone be able to pronounce it, try to avoid it. Stick to meals consisting of whole foods. After all, the fresh aromatic flavors of freshly cooked foods will be what you remember about your holiday. Not the snack from a vending machine.
  4. Try not to eat carbohydrate rich foods alone. Adding a little protein and fat will slow down the absorption of the meal and provide a longer release of energy. Carbohydrates can cause spikes of blood sugar which makes the body release insulin. Insulin is a hormone responsible for storing body fat.
  5. Watch the soda and juices. Sightseeing can be thirsty work! Make sure you always have plenty of filtered water with you to stay hydrated. Avoid soda or fruit juices that will add another 100 calories each glass!
  6. Cut the carbs at dinner. Avoid eating rice, noodles, breads, potato and any other carbohydrate rich foods at dinner time. Your body can only burn fat when 80% of your carbohydrate stores are burned. Try choosing meals with lots of fresh veggies (except root veges) and easily digested proteins such as chicken, fish or seafood.
  7. When in Asian countries, avoid meals containing MSG. Try finding out what the locals call MSG and request none to be added when ordering your meal. In the Philippines MSG is referred to as Vetsin. Monosodium Glutamate is a commonly used flavor enhancer that can cause nausea and headaches. Many people can be sensitive to MSG and this is not something you want to discover while on holiday!
  8. Eat up big at breakfast! After a long sleep, it’s important to refuel the body. A big feed at breakfast will give you the energy to get your day started.
  9. Buy a “Fit Band”.A Fit Band can fit in the side pocket of your suitcase and there

    Fit Bands. Approx. $20ea

    are literally hundreds of exercises you can do with them. Learn a few basic exercises and start or end the day with 15 minutes of exercise. In my next post I will go through a few basic exercises.

  10. Get some sleep. Without at least six hours of quality sleep a night, your body will release cortisol. Cortisol in normal levels helps support many bodily functions. But in high levels it can impair digestion, metabolism and mental function. This can leave us feeling stressed and weakens the immune system making us more susceptible to picking up any bugs we encounter.

So go and enjoy your vacation. Experience the amazing flavors and aromas unique to each country you visit and see the sights you traveled to see.

With just a little preparation and thought there is no reason why you can’t enjoy your holiday and still return home without the extra baggage in your trunk!

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Breakfast of Champions!

A tasty and healthy breakfast that takes less than five minutes to prepare.

  • Five egg whites
  • One yolk
  • Red Onion finely chopped
  • One small Tomato finely chopped (Drain fluid)
  • Chives
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Use a small amount of spray oil in a 25cm frying pan

Whisk the egg whites and one yolk until fully combined. Add remaining ingredients and pour into the pre heated frying pan. Cook until the egg has set and flip. Continue cooking for 15 seconds and then remove from the pan. Too easy!

Meal contains:

  • 33g Carbohydrate
  • 20 – 25g Protein (Depending on egg size)
  • 6g Fat
  • Total calories 266

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Get off the Juice! Which has more sugar? Soda or Juice?

Many people are shocked to find out that fruit juice actually contains the SAME amount of sugar as soda.

Just like any other substance we ingest, fruit juices can make you fat.

Last night when I visited the super market, I took these pictures to show the similarities between the two beverages.

When you look at the nutritional info on a popular brand fruit juice, you will see that there is 10.1g of sugar per 100mls. That is about two tsp of sugar. An average glass holds 250mls, so potentially you are consuming 25g of sugar or 5tsp in a 10 second gulp! As the fruit has been juiced, a lot of the fiber has been lost, leaving mainly sugar and water.

On the right you will see the nutritional info from a popular soda manufacturer. The total sugar per 100mls is 10.6g. Only 0.5g more than the juice!

Fruit juices and soda, when consumed alone, catapult their sugars into our blood stream within minutes after consumption. As a result, this makes our blood sugar levels spike, triggering a large insulin release to bring our sugar levels back into line. Insulin is a hormone which is responsible for storing body fat and needs to be avoided. Admittedly, soda does have slightly worse effects on blood sugar levels due to its sugars being in a more simple form. (I will post more soon about the effects of unstable blood sugar levels and insulin)

Both beverages however both have approximately the same calorie content.

So the other reason why juices can make us gain weight is because calorie conscious people often make the mistake of only taking into consideration calories consumed from food. We have always been told that soda is bad (which it is) and fruit juice is healthy, so who would have thought that downing a few glasses of juice a day could actually make you fat!?  Four glasses of juice a day is approximately 400 calories! This can easily throw your daily calorie goals way off if not factored into your eating plan.

Now, just because fruit juices are not great for you, that doesn’t mean that fruit is not. An intact piece of fruit contains fiber which when ingested, slows down the release of blood sugar and limits the chances of the body releasing insulin. For more info on the effects different fruits have on your sugar levels, I suggest you get hold of a book called “The Glycemic Index”.

Instead of consuming fruit juices, try squeezing half a citrus fruit in a glass of sparkling water and dropping some Stevia in to sweeten things up. Stevia is a completely natural sweetener made from the leaves of the Stevia plant.

Give it a go and lay off the juice!

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Does age make you fat?

Many people are under the impression that as you get older, you have no choice but to gain weight. Rubbish! Yes it may be true that each year after the age of forty, your body will produce approximately 1% less growth hormone for every year of age, but if you move 1% more and eat a balanced diet, muscle mass can be increased right up to the age of 75!

Take a minute to gaze into the future and ponder this. Do you see yourself at the age of 80 sitting in a rocking chair on your front porch waiting out your days? Or do you see yourself as a young and active 80 year old, getting involved in outdoor activities and healthy enough to be able to enjoy your time with family and friends?

The way you see yourself as an older version of you, will give you a pretty accurate indication of what YOU will allow yourself to become if you continue the same lifestyle.

The real reason we often gain weight as we get older, is due to the increased pace of life we experience. With less available time, we become more drawn towards the convenience of eating processed foods and tend to move less.

I have had clients that have been in their 60’s with ripped abs and stronger than most 20 year olds, so age does not have to be a reason for weight gain.

That said, it’s not hard to see why so many people have made the assumption that as you get older, weight gain is inevitable. It is probable, but at the same time, preventable.

Another clue as to why some of us struggle to effectively manage our health and weight as we get older, may come to light if we take a moment to remember our childhood.

For most of us, in our pre teen years, we were bursting at the seams with energy and cramming every waking minute with as much life as possible.

Rising at sparrows fart and last to bed at night, we would often challenge our parents’ wishes to get a decent nights sleep. Now as an adult with the weight of the world on our shoulders, we remain in our beds for as long as humanly possible, thinking of all the reasons to stay in bed as opposed to getting up to greet the new day. Our new best friend has now become the snooze button and our worst enemy, the alarm clock it’s attached to!

With not a care in the world and so many things to do, our lives used to revolve around creation, wishes and dreams of what may be possible. This often becomes quite the opposite when we get older. Succumbing to the stresses involved with working or raising children, eating food for comfort not necessity, paying bills and just trying to survive.

For those of you like me that went to school over 20 years ago, you would have

1. Eaten far less processed foods

2. Eaten at set times as per your scheduled breaks.

We ate what we were given in the breaks we were given and didn’t have the option to raid the fridge or the closest vending machine to satisfy random food cravings. With our choices reduced, discipline was far easier to keep in check.

With no drivers license and no car, we were forced to use our feet as our mode of transport, burning more calories and getting far more fresh air than your average adult.

Socializing when we were kids was playing with a frisbee on the beach. These days, socializing is commonly done in a restaurant or bar with a few beers and calorie dense foods.

So the first step to rewinding the body, is to act like a child. Move more, eat less processed foods, be disciplined as to when you eat, enjoy life and your energy levels will go up and you will feel alive again!

Preparation is the key!

The day in the life of a health conscious person could be likened to walking through a mine field of temptations, of the edible kind.

If you do not follow a structured eating plan and have not prepared your meals in advance, the chances are that:

1. You will be forced to resort to buying your food from your local food hall or vending machine.

2. What is actually available, even if it looks healthy, most probably is not.

There are very few places these days that make tasty yet healthy meals available. Many sub sandwich restaurants claim to provide healthy meals and snacks but when you take a closer look at how your body makes use the meal for fuel, it is clearly not a great option. Highly processed meats (which usually consist of ingredients such as flour, water and nitrates and only consist of about 70% actual meat) wrapped in a highly processed bread casing with a few token veges thrown in, does not provide the body with much nutritional value. (I will post more about processed foods in future blogs)

So the key is, be prepared and don’t let yourself get hungry. Make sure you have taken the time to prepare healthy meals in advance so you don’t need to reach out for that vending machine. By the time you feel hungry, your body has already decided to take action and that action is to shut down and store body fat. This is an automatic survival mechanism that is triggered after approximately three to four hours after your last meal.

Basically, the mind sends a message to the body, instructing it to hold onto as much fat as it can, in case the body does not get fed again.

With prolonged periods between meals, our metabolism starts to slow down and at this stage could be likened to a very dull fire.

Often after a hard day at work, we arrive home with fast food in hand, or if we still have the energy, cook up a big feed and sit down to devour the biggest meal of the day. By this time our blood sugar levels have dropped, leaving us feeling ravenously hungry and often resulting in us pigging out and eating far more than what is actually required to satisfy our hunger.

This big meal could be likened to throwing a huge log of food on an already dull fire.

For a moment, our body lets out a sigh of relief that it finally has food… a lot of food! It then responds by holding onto as much of the meal and storing it as you know what… fat. After subjecting your body to prolonged periods of mild famine throughout the day, when it finally receives a good helping of food, the body does its best to hold on to it in case it experiences more famine the following day.

Ever felt sleepy after your evening meal and just wanted to fall asleep in front of the TV? This is your brain instructing your body to go to sleep so that it can slow the metabolism further to store even more fat. We often then turn into bed and as we are no longer active, the majority of the meal gets stored as opposed to being used as fuel and burned off.

Fat contains 9 calories per gram, (more than twice the calories of protein or carbohydrate) and therefore in cases of extended famine, our body’s can survive far longer on stored fat.

So tip one: Be prepared and make sure that you always have healthy foods available. A home cooked meal that you have prepared yourself and know what’s in it, is far better than the game of Russian roulette you play when eating out.

Tip two: Eat every 3 to 3.5 hours so that your body gets used to knowing that there is always food available and therefore does not need to store it.

Keep the fire burning!

Food is just food right?

If I didn’t know better, I would swear that there is a higher being hell bent on tempting human beings into doing the exact opposite of what they know is good and right.

The married man that yearns for another, the smoker that has already suffered from a heart attack yet still sucks on a cigarette, the alcoholic that is literally dying for another drink, the obese person that knows food is slowly killing him, but still finds himself frequenting the drive-thru more often than the kitchen.

Although we are aware that eating fatty foods is not good for us, we still make the conscious decision to consume them on a regular basis. Deep down we instinctively know that consuming masses of foods containing chemicals and additives we know nothing about, with names we can barely pronounce, can not be good for our health. We are fully aware that a poor diet can lead to cancer, diabetes, heart disease and shorten our life span, but we still decide to reach for a cheeseburger.

The question is… Is the momentary satisfaction of the way a particular food tastes so important to us that we are willing to hurt ourselves in exchange for those few minutes of perceived pleasure? The answer quite often is yes. I’ve done it and I know you have too. We are after all, only human.

So why is it that food can have such a strong emotional hold over us? This is a question I have spent many hours contemplating the answer. You know the scenario. You have been watching your weight and you have been doing really well. But one day at work, it’s a workmate’s birthday and they bring you a slice of cake. But it’s not just any cake. It’s your favorite cake and freshly baked this morning. You politely decline, only to be reminded by your workmate that it is only their birthday once a year and it would be rude not to have just one slice. The battle starts between those little voices in your head. One telling you, “It’s ok, go on, eat that cake, you deserve it. Anyway, we can start the diet again on Monday” The other shouting out “No! You have worked so hard. That one hour in the gym will be wasted!”. A short banter takes place and the decision is made. To avoid appearing rude, (or any other excuse to support devouring the delectable treat), if you’re like me, you will justify the calories and probably tell yourself you will go for a run later. Ha!

After all, food is just food right? For thousands of years food has been purely used as a tool of survival. Only in the past couple of thousand years has food become something of a luxury. For millions of people starving in third world countries, a bowl of boiled rice is considered a luxury. So for something that is designed to purely keep us alive and knowing that our body’s run actually far better on healthy unprocessed foods, why is it that we yearn for all the bad foods? All the fatty, sweet, high calorie foods that taste so damn good?

Food makers have caught on to the fact that the human pallet enjoys rich flavors that is normally found in a select few natural foods. With the aid of artificial flavors, sweeteners, fats and enhancers, they have been able to use various techniques to replicate these flavors and make them cheaper and more accessible for our daily consumption. These products are now everywhere you look and with the aid of millions of dollars spent on advertising, have now been now been accepted in our daily diet and even considered as “Food”.

As we have gotten more and more used to the tastes of these more complex and unnatural flavors, natural foods now seem to have lost their appeal and taste bland in comparison. We no longer feel satisfied eating food that actually tastes like food.

Relearning the way unprocessed foods taste and getting our body’s used to running on natural unprocessed foods, is the first step to achieving optimal health.

Take control of your machine!

When you invest in the purchase of a car, which is often the second biggest investment most people will make in their lifetime, you make sure you take good care of it. After all, we have come to rely on our vehicles to help us to get from point A to B and make our lives a lot less complicated.

We service our beloved cars by replacing oils and filters every 10,000kms, regularly filling up with quality oils and fuels, getting repairs from qualified mechanics and tuning the engine to get maximum performance and fuel economy. So when was the last time you invested in the most valuable asset you own, your body?

When was the last time you analyzed your body’s performance and checked to make sure you are running your engine on the right fuels? How do you know that your body is running to the best of its ability?

Are you a V8 that has been running on four cylinders for so long that it has now become the norm? Have you forgotten what it actually feels like for your body to be finely tuned and running on all eight cylinders??

The great thing about cars, is that when a part breaks, it can easily be replaced. Ask anyone that has gone through a liver or heart transplant if that is the same when replacing a body part. Also try asking the same person, if given the chance to turn back time and have the choice of taking better care of their body to avoid having to have parts replaced, what would they live life differently?

The majority of us are fortunate enough to be born with a healthy and perfectly tuned body. As we get older, we tend to take that gift for granted and start subjecting our bodies to an array of daily abuse. Despite the constant abuse, we expect our bodies to keep running at optimal performance and do it with no problems. When our bodies lash out to remind us that it’s not coping with the abuse, it presents itself in the form of a variety of sicknesses. We often then get annoyed and ask “Why me?”

When you consider the onslaught of daily abuse our bodies are subjected to, I am more amazed at the number of problems we DON’T encounter as opposed to the number of problems we DO. Your body is an amazing filtering machine, but with the introduction of fatty foods, alcohol, recreational and prescription drugs, stress and increased levels of environmental pollution, our bodies are getting more and more clogged and confused every day.

Imagine your internal organs as the oil filter in your car. Typically oil filters need to be changed every 10-15,000km due to the high volume of oil and gunk passing through its fibers. Now imagine 50 years of fatty food, alcohol and pollution passing through the same filters in your body, with no change and very little attention given. Unfortunately the changing of body filters such as the liver and kidneys are far more complex to replace than that of our cars.

Years and years of abuse may create damage deep within the body that cannot be detected by the naked eye.

Sometimes the body is kind enough to give us clues by way of symptoms or mild sickness. If detected early, illnesses can be addressed before more serious problems develop. The trick is to listen to your body and take action.

The great news is, you can reset your body and even reverse some of the effects of the years of abuse. The aim of my blog is to provide you with all the information and tools you will need to understand your body and take back control of your machine!