A busy person’s guide to priorities in stress transformation

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Now that you know what your nutritional toolbox looks like, let’s take a look at the self-help side of managing stress. The first take home is that you are anything but powerless – no matter where you are on your stress continuum. Depending on your current level of stress, swallowing that chill pill might not seem the easiest thing to do, but taking the first step towards it is all you need to do because the next step will magically present itself to you.

As human beings, our natural state is happy, stress-free and mindful. All too frequently modern life intervenes and with many people living at the edge of their adaptive ranges, physically, mentally and emotionally. Given that our natural state is encoded deep in our genes, taking a few active stress-lowering steps during your day can make a world of difference to how you feel and how you cope with your individual challenges.

Creating your chill-out toolkit

  • Just like getting travel directions, you need to know where you and where you want to go before you start. Get SMART and be clear on your goal, no matter how simple or basic it is. Goals don’t have to be huge or challenging watersheds in your life, they just need to be meaningful to you. Whilst you may have a laundry list, try to focus on one at a time to give yourself the best chance of success and avoid overwhelm:-
    • Specific – what EXACTLY do you want to achieve?
    • Measurable – how will you know if you’ve achieved it?
    • Attainable – is it something you have control over it?
    • Relevant – is it applicable to the place you are in?
    • Time-bound – what is your deadline for change?
  • Be honest with yourself, how ready are you for change? On a scale of 0–10 — and take a moment to draw it as a horizontal line — with 0 being not ready for change and 10 being rip-roaring raring to go. If you mark your line at 8 or above, you’ve hit a high confidence score and are in the right ballpark for succeeding. Don’t beat yourself up for anything lower, it just means you might need to incorporate some of the tools below first to get yourself into a more resilient state of mind.
  • Mindfulness may seem like the buzz-word of the moment, but it’s a powerful element in any chill-out toolkit. Frequently confused with meditation, mindfulness simply means being fully engaged and present in the moment. Your moment can be 10 seconds or 10 minutes depending on how much time you have and how able you are to harness your mind. Whilst we wield the ability to multitask like a badge of honour, it’s actually the fastest way to unmindfulness that exists. A mind that flits from one task and one thought to another is actually disengaged, distracted and often, unhappy. There is robust research out there that proves that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind and contributes to increased stress. Stop, focus on a point in front of you/your breathing/the moment at hand/the feeling in your body – basically anything to still and center your mind – and breathe slowly and rhythmically. If your mind wanders, bring it back to the present moment and keep breathing. The quiet space that ensues within is mindfulness and you’ll derive benefit from as little as 10 seconds if that’s all you have time for. Ideally you’ll take ‘mindfulness breaks’ a few times a day for 30 to 90 seconds.
  • Appreciation isn’t just about recognising nice things about people or things, it’s a powerful way to centre yourself and bring you into harmony with the earth and the world around you. As a slight adaptation to the mindfulness exercise above, use something you have huge appreciation for as your focus and then beam that appreciation out of you and imagine it flooding the space around you.
  • Build some ‘me’ time into your week – you deserve it and it’s an essential sanity-preservation strategy!
  • Actively listen to your self-talk and rate it for negativity. If you’re overly negative, critical or even hostile make strides to reframe your self-talk and reach for positives.
  • Engage in supportive lifestyle activities like sleeping an appropriate number of hours (anywhere from 6-9), eating rightand using appropriate and targeted supplementation, and being active outdoors in nature.

The above is by no means an exhaustive list, but they are powerful stress-busting needle-movers for your tool-kit. Twenty minutes a day of mindful activity (and it doesn’t have to be in one session either) has been proven to create measurable healthy changes in the brain. Mindful activity also helps to increase happiness and positivity, to cope with chronic pain, to support the immune system and reduce days off work. It doesn’t stop there, research shows that it also slows the ageing process, increases energy metabolism, supports better blood sugar management and leads to less inflammation and stress. Basically, you climb off the edge of the precipice and increase your adaptive range. What are you waiting for, stop reading and start appreciating!

Fed or fasted? Should I be training on an empty stomach?

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For a long time, people have been told to train in the morning on an empty stomach to increase fat-loss.

So, what does the scientific research say?

A review of the scientific literature shows us some interesting things:

Training in a fasted state doesn’t always seem to have an effect on fat versus carbohydrate use during exercise,(1) even though we see a decrease in exercise-induced glycogen breakdown and an increase in some of the proteins involved in fat handling after fasting training,(2) and fasted training reduces the amount of blood glucose ‘drop’ during training.(3)

Interval training in the fed or fasted state is equally effective for reducing body-fat,(4) and body composition changes associated with aerobic exercise in conjunction with a calorie-restricted diet are similar, regardless of whether someone is fasted or fed prior to training.(5) And for those fasting for relatively long periods (e.g. greater than 12 hours, such as during the Ramadan fast) there is likely to be no difference in body fat or muscle changes whether training in a fasted or fed state.(6) Furthermore, there doesn’t appear to be any significant increase in thermogenesis as a result of fasted training, over non-fasted.(7)

So, it seems from that, that the case is closed and there is no benefit to training fasted.

But wait. There’s more…

When people are not eating a calorie restricted diet, the results of fasted training might be quite different. A couple of studies have looked at diets that aren’t calorie restricted. In these diets training in a fasted state controlled bodyweight, enhanced full-body glucose tolerance and improved insulin sensitivity along with some underlying benefits for fat metabolism.(8, 9) A 12-hour overnight fast also increases the use of fat-for-fuel during lower intensity aerobic bouts,(10) and In a fasted state glucose use is lower and fat use is higher.(11) And for those of you who are following lower-carb, high-fat and ketogenic diets, fasted state exercise increases ketogenesis (production of ketones) in nutritional ketosis(12, 13) and so, might help you to get into and stay in ketosis (the unique state of fuel use and fat-burning that comes in a very low carb and high fat diet).

For those following a ‘targeted’ ketogenic approach or doing ‘carb back-loading’ and eating a higher carbohydrate meal after fasted training there appears to be an enhanced glycogen replenishment effect after fasted training.(14) (Although this study used fairly long training sessions of two hours).

Because of the somewhat mixed results in studies, it has been suggested that a mixed-approach is likely to be best and that doing at least some training sessions fasted is beneficial.(15)

But aside from what the research tells us, there are some interesting clinical observations too. I have worked over the years with a lot of emergency responders, special forces soldiers and others that may not always have the luxury of eating to fuel performance. With these people, it has been interesting to see that as they become more used to training, competing and performing in a fasted state, they become much better at it, to the point where many see no real difference between performance whether fed or even in a prolonged fasting situation. So, in this way, training fasted can improve your overall resilience. Think about it this way; if you get up early to go to the gym and you currently feel like you ‘need’ to eat before you train, wouldn’t it be easier to just wake up and go instead?

Based on the evidence there are a few takeaway points that can help you decide whether fasted training is beneficial for you.

  • There is no need to eat before training
  • If you are currently dieting (restricting calories heavily) there may not be any additional benefit from fasted training, but it’s also not going to hinder your results
  • But, if you are not currently dieting, fasted training can help to reduce or eliminate unwanted fat gain
  • If you are following an LCHF diet, fasted training might help you to become even more fat- and keto-adapted
  • You can ‘learn’ to perform while fasted and this could save you time and energy!

Give fasted training a try and see if it works for you. Try combining it with some of our HIIT training sessions, especially over the winter when you might be indulging a little more than usual!

Cliff Harvey is a registered clinical nutritionist, strength coach and naturopath. He has been coaching people ranging from world champion athletes through to the chronically and acutely unwell to perform at their best, since the 1990s. He is a former world champion strength athlete and world record holder. Cliff is the founder of the Holistic Performance Institute, a private post-tertiary college, and is a doctoral candidate and researcher at AUT University. He is also the author of six books including his latest release The Carbohydrate Appropriate Diet.

www.cliffharvey.com

twitter.com/choosingyou

facebook.com/cliffharveyauthor

References
  1. Stannard SR, Buckley AJ, Edge JA, Thompson MW. Adaptations to skeletal muscle with endurance exercise training in the acutely fed versus overnight-fasted state. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 2010;13(4):465-9.
  2. De Bock K, Derave W, Eijnde BO, Hesselink MK, Koninckx E, Rose AJ, et al. Effect of training in the fasted state on metabolic responses during exercise with carbohydrate intake. Journal of Applied Physiology. 2008;104(4):1045-55.
  3. Van Proeyen K, Szlufcik K, Nielens H, Ramaekers M, Hespel P. Beneficial metabolic adaptations due to endurance exercise training in the fasted state. Journal of Applied Physiology. 2011;110(1):236-45.
  4. Gillen JB, Percival ME, Ludzki A, Tarnopolsky MA, Gibala MJ. Interval training in the fed or fasted state improves body composition and muscle oxidative capacity in overweight women. Obesity. 2013;21(11):2249-55.
  5. Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA, Wilborn CD, Krieger JW, Sonmez GT. Body composition changes associated with fasted versus non-fasted aerobic exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2014;11(1):54.
  6. Trabelsi K, Stannard SR, Ghlissi Z, Maughan RJ, Kallel C, Jamoussi K, et al. Effect of fed- versus fasted state resistance training during Ramadan on body composition and selected metabolic parameters in bodybuilders. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2013;10(1):23.
  7. Pacy PJ, Barton N, Webster JD, Garrow JS. The energy cost of aerobic exercise in fed and fasted normal subjects. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1985;42(5):764-8.
  8. Van Proeyen K, Szlufcik K, Nielens H, Pelgrim K, Deldicque L, Hesselink M, et al. Training in the fasted state improves glucose tolerance during fat-rich diet. The Journal of Physiology. 2010;588(21):4289-302.
  9. Van Proeyen K, Deldicque L, Nielens H, Szlufcik K, Francaux M, Ramaekers M, et al. Effects Of Training In The Fasted State In Conjunction With Fat-rich diet On Muscle Metabolism. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2010;42(5):42 (May).
  10. Bergman BC, Brooks GA. Respiratory gas-exchange ratios during graded exercise in fed and fasted trained and untrained men. Journal of Applied Physiology. 1999;86(2):479-87.
  11. Massicotte D, Péronnet F, Brisson G, Boivin L, Hillaire-Marcel C. Oxidation of Exogenous Carbohydrate During Prolonged Exercise in Fed and Fasted Conditions*. Int J Sports Med. 1990;11(04):253-8.
  12. Fery F, Balasse EO. Ketone body turnover during and after exercise in overnight-fasted and starved humans. American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology And Metabolism. 1983;245(4):E318-E25.
  13. Fery F, Balasse EO. Response of ketone body metabolism to exercise during transition from postabsorptive to fasted state. American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology And Metabolism. 1986;250(5):E495-E501.
  14. De Bock K, Richter EA, Russell AP, Eijnde BO, Derave W, Ramaekers M, et al. Exercise in the fasted state facilitates fibre type-specific intramyocellular lipid breakdown and stimulates glycogen resynthesis in humans. The Journal of Physiology. 2005;564(2):649-60.
  15. Bartlett JD, Hawley JA, Morton JP. Carbohydrate availability and exercise training adaptation: Too much of a good thing? European Journal of Sport Science. 2015;15(1):3-12.

HIIT Workout of the Month

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Coming up to the silly season, our time poor society becomes even more time poor, which is hard to believe really but it’s true.  The first thing that is set to be pushed aside is exercise, because let’s face it, it isn’t as fun as a champagne breakfast or Christmas drinks after work!

So, to make it easy for you this silly season, here is one of my favourite HIIT workouts that can be done in the lounge room, staff room, conference room or anywhere that you can find a piece of floor.  It’s simple and easy, but most of all IT’S EFFECTIVE and FAST!

If you have 10 minutes then do 2 sets

If you have 15 minutes do 3 sets

And if you only have 5 minutes do 1 set.

Now you have no excuses this festive season.

TIME EXERCISE WHAT YOU NEED TIPS
45 seconds Burpees First Movement:

·       Legs together

·       Bend legs till you can touch the floor.

 

(1)

Burpee 1

Second Movement:

·       With hands on the floor, kick feet out (backwards) into push up position.

 

(2)

Burpee 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third Movement:

·       Spring back up into standing position.

 (3)

Burpee 3

15 Seconds rest
45 seconds Dynamic planks Towel ·       Suck stomach in

·       Keep shoulders, hips and ankles at the same height.

(1)

Dynamic Plank 1

·       Then, extend 1 arm straight. (2)

Dynamic Plank 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

·       Then the other arm.

·       Drop back down into ‘plank’ position.

 

 

 

 

(3)

Dynamic Plank 3

15 Seconds rest
45 seconds Jump Lunges First Movement;

·       Drop your back knee straight down to the floor

·       Back straight

(1)

Jump Lunges

Second Movement;

·       Jump in the air (switching legs in the air)

(2)

Jump Lunges 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third Movement;

·       Perform a lunge on the opposite leg.

(3)

Jump Lunges 3

15 Seconds rest
45 seconds Dips 1 x chair

1 x sofa

·   Hands at hip width

·   Drop body down till elbows are at 90 degrees on the seat/bench

 

(1)

Dips 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

·   Keep back straight throughout the movement (2)

Dips 2

 15 Seconds rest
45 seconds Sit ups Towel ·       Bend legs till your heels are close to your bum.

·       Place both hands on your legs

(1)

Sit ups 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

·       SLIDE our hands up your legs until your fingers are above your knee caps.

 

(2)

Sit ups 2

15 Seconds rest

 

How HIIT training can help you to lose fat and improve your health and fitness in (almost) no time at all!

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Why HIIT?

High intensity interval training (HIIT) has been studied extensively and shows compelling fat-loss, fitness and health benefits for people ranging from adolescents, athletes, weekend warriors, and those with health challenges.1, 2
A review of the literature shows us that:

  • In healthy populations and athletes HIIT results in similar, and perhaps greater improvements in fitness than traditional endurance training.3
  • HIIT encourages cardiorespiratory fitness improvements, double that of standard, moderate intensity cardio in cardio-metabolic patients.4
  • HIIT might also have greater positive effects on oxidative stress levels, inflammation, and insulin sensitivity than standard, moderate intensity cardio.5

So, we can see that it’s good for us, can help us to lose bodyfat and help improve fitness… But the real benefit is that it saves us time…

What exactly is HIIT?

The reason HIIT (also known as ‘sprint interval training’ or ‘high intensity intermittent exercise) saves us time is that it involves performing few, short bursts of high-intensity exercise, alternated with periods of either rest or low-intensity activity as compared to traditional cardio and endurance training which involves much longer, moderate pace sessions.  These sessions typically are less than 20 min in duration.

How do I do HIIT?

There are lots of different systems and protocols for HIIT and none is necessarily more effective than another. A simple rule of of thumb is that your ‘sprint’ or ‘high intensity’ phase should be at near maximum intensity (as hard as you can go) and that this ‘work’ phase should be about twice as long as the rest phase. So, for example, you might ‘go hard’ for 30-40 seconds and then walk or jog at an extremely easy pace for 15-20 seconds. Many people get exceptional benefits from as little as 2-3 sessions of HIIT per week. (That’s under an hour of exercise!)
Some of the more popular methods of HIIT include:

The Tabata method. Based on research by Izumi Tabata. This style involves 20 second work phases alternated with 10 seconds of rest for 8-cycles (a total of 4-minutes exercise). Usually a 4 min warm up and 4 min cool down are also performed.
The Gibala method involves a 3 min for warm up, then 60 seconds of intense exercise, followed by 75 seconds of rest, repeated for 8–12 cycles.
Zuniga method is a simplified method of 30 second work phase alternated with 30 seconds of rest.
Many exercises lend themselves well to HIIT training. It is advised to not use heavy loads or (especially if you’re not an advanced weightlifter) the Olympic style lifts, due to their complexity and the risk of injury, although advanced athletes using appropriate loads can benefit from complex lifts performed in a HIIT style.
Good examples of exercises to use are:
Sprinting, rowing, cycling, callisthenics, and kettlebell workouts.
Stay tuned for some highly effective HIIT routines from our team in the coming instalments!

–/–

Cliff Harvey is a registered clinical nutritionist, strength coach and naturopath. He has been coaching people ranging from world champion athletes through to the chronically and acutely unwell to perform at their best, since the 1990s. He is a former world champion strength athlete and world record holder. Cliff is the founder of the Holistic Performance Institute, a private post-tertiary college, and is a doctoral candidate and researcher at AUT University. He is also the author of six books including his latest release The Carbohydrate Appropriate Diet.
www.cliffharvey.com
twitter.com/choosingyou
facebook.com/cliffharveyauthor

 

References

  1. Costigan SA, Eather N, Plotnikoff RC, Taaffe DR, Lubans DR. High-intensity interval training for improving health-related fitness in adolescents: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2015.
  2. Batacan RB, Duncan MJ, Dalbo VJ, Tucker PS, Fenning AS. Effects of high-intensity interval training on cardiometabolic health: a systematic review and meta-analysis of intervention studies. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2016.
  3. Milanović Z, Sporiš G, Weston M. Effectiveness of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIT) and Continuous Endurance Training for VO2max Improvements: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Controlled Trials. Sports Medicine. 2015;45(10):1469-81.
  4. Weston KS, Wisløff U, Coombes JS. High-intensity interval training in patients with lifestyle-induced cardiometabolic disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2014;48(16):1227-34.
  5. Ramos JS, Dalleck LC, Tjonna AE, Beetham KS, Coombes JS. The Impact of High-Intensity Interval Training Versus Moderate-Intensity Continuous Training on Vascular Function: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine. 2015;45(5):679-92.

 

 

Transform stress using food and nutrition

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You’ve got the idea now that we need to drop all the clap-trap about ‘stress management’ and do things differently in the name of ‘stress transformation’. People who say they like stress normally mean they like a challenge. If you like challenges and you are something of a high-achiever, you probably have the reserve to deal with the level of stress in your life. We can think of that as positive stress and it often creates an increase in your performance – at least for a while. But if you over-extend yourself, don’t give yourself enough opportunities for recovery, it can all start going pretty pear-shaped—and sometimes quite quickly. The trick is to avoid this happening altogether or to change what you’re doing as soon as you experience any or all of the early warning signs that tell you you’re not coping.

You found out in Meleni’s last blog how you can use lifestyle to transform stress. Now let’s look at how you can use nutrition to improve your reserves or capacity to handle stress. You’ll recall that it’s chronic, ongoing stress that causes the greatest problems as our bodies are simply not designed for it. We need the sympathetic nervous system and its intimately linked endocrine system, that includes the HPA axis which in turn initiates the cascade of events that triggers the stress response, to be in fine fettle. We also need the parasympathetic system—the counterbalance—that helps restore balance and normality again to be in equally good shape and ready for business. This requires healthy cells throughout the body—nerve and glandular ones in particular. It necessitates strong, flexible and resilient muscles, and a gastrointestinal system with its associated gut flora to be great shape. All the resources needed by all these cells and tissues need to be on hand for peak function each and every day.

What should my nutritional toolbox look like?

On the resources front, right up there is folate, the key vitamin required for one-carbon metabolism, the system in our bodies that allows new cells to be formed. But B vitamins work as a team, so we need the complete football team including thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyroxidine (B6), methylcobalamin (B12) and biotin (B7). A stressed body with high energy demands needs these not just at the minimum levels required for survival, but at higher levels to allow us to face the challenges head on.

Your adrenal glands have a particular requirement for supplementary pantothenic acid (B5), with up to 250 mg a day being about right for many adults. If you eat a very well balanced diet, day in day out, you can get these vitamins at the government recommended de minimis levels. But an adrenally stressed body generally requires supplementation on top. Vegetarians and vegans will find it almost impossible to acquire enough vitamin 12 from the diet, so a supplement containing the bioactive form, methylcobalamin, is strongly recommended. Also, give supplements containing the folic acid form of folate a miss, as this can accumulate in the blood and cause long-term health problems. You’re better off using supplements that contain the stabilised, bioactive form of folate, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (available in the calcium or glucosamine bound forms), that contain the same essential form that exists in green-leaved veg like spinach and kale that’s notoriously unstable.

You then need to make sure you’re replete with all the cofactors your body needs to ensure its energy and musculo-skeletal systems are fully supported. That means a gamut of vitamins and minerals in optimised forms, including vitamin K, plenty of magnesium, potassium and some boron.

You’ll need to be consuming ample protein (1-2 g per kg body weight), healthy fats and carbs, particularly complex ones from vegetables or grains, preferably gluten-free ones to reduce additional stress on the all-important gut. Around half your ‘daily food plate’ should consist of a diverse range of veg, with a smaller amount of fruit, that reflect all six colours of the phytonutrient spectrum (namely green, red, orange, yellow, blue/black/purple and white/tan)

Speaking of the gut, it needs all the help it can get. That means not overloading it all the time by snacking often or eating loads of sugar and other refined carbs. Your intake from sugars shouldn’t exceed more than 5% of your total daily energy intake – and bear in mind most people in Western countries are three times over this level!

Two to three solid, balanced, varied and not oversized meals a day is the maximum amount of food most people need. Snacks are not only unnecessary – they can stress your body unless you’re burning huge amounts of energy by way of some kind of endurance activity. On some days, especially if you’re expending less energy, you might be down to just one or two meals a day, again with no snacking in between. It’s the fasting phases between meals that are so important for recovery and rebuilding. Food is in fact a stressor: it triggers release of cortisol and it upregulates the immune system because the body needs to be on red alert to determine if the food you’re consuming is friend or foe.

Eat less, and less often, you put less stress on your system overall. You allow your gastrointestinal lining more time to recover and rebuild, bearing in mind the cells of your gut lining like to replace themselves every 2 days as compared with every 8 years or so for the neurons in your brain. You also benefit from giving the trillions of microbes in your gut some respite so they can be primed for their essential role in digestion and as key regulators of immune health. Add to this a need for some probiotics and prebiotics to help your digestive tract assimilate and handle food with minimum fuss. Throw in some good digestive herbs, like dandelion, hawthorn, globe artichoke and slippery elm—and a bunch of plant-based antioxidants like citrus bioflavonoids, quercetin, grapeseed extract, turmeric, green tea extract and resveratrol—and your tool box is starting to look well stocked

Take homes

Let’s boil all of this down to three simple take-home messages.

First, eat a balanced and varied diet that is heavily plant-based, includes all the 6 colours of the phytonutrient spectrum, yet avoids refined carbohydrates like sugar and white bread.

Second, take a super-high digestibility protein like Clean Lean Protein on a daily basis if you’re vegetarian or vegan, you don’t eat a lot of meat or fish, you exercise a lot or your immune system needs some extra support. As sleep is so crucial to recovery, if you struggle with getting a good night’s sleep, down a Clean Lean Proteinshake an hour or so before bed. For those who need some further help, you can enhance the levels of your feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin even further by adding 200 mg of tryptophan as a supplement which will slightly more than double the amount of natural-occurring tryptophan you get in a 25g serving of Clean Lean Protein.

Third and finally – do you recall all the vitamins, minerals, botanicals, antioxidants, pre-and probiotics mentioned above that can help a stressed body and brain? Well, you’ll find 77 of them in the incredible Good Green Stuff. We urge you get a full 10 gram serving into you every day, especially if you’re under pressure. We formulated it specifically for the modern human, where stress in its multitude of different forms has become a natural part of life.

You’re now ready to chill…

Transform your stress with lifestyle choices

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Recognising and acknowledging that you are stressed is the first step in the transformation process. What you don’t know, you can’t change. In most instances, the mere fact that you have taken stock and accepted that you’re stressed also allows you to see reasons why. You may not have that magic wand to sprinkle fairy dust and make it all go away, but you can certainly use a range of lifestyle choices to ease some pressure and give yourself some breathing space. Here is a selection of powerful stress-busting techniques to choose from:

Getting your beauty sleep
Whether you’re a lark or a night owl, sleep is not a luxury, nor is it something to be caught up at weekends, or saved for holidays. Sleep is probably the most powerful, but natural, stress transformer we have – and it’s free!
Without banking sufficient sleep hours into your ‘account’, not only is your body unable to regenerate but, more importantly, your brain winds down, hindering your ability to think clearly and keep your emotions balanced. We are meant to spend around one third of our lives asleep and yet it’s the first activity we sacrifice when the pressure is on. Why? Healthy sleep is one of the sure-fire ways of maintaining youthful, resilient, vitality of both body and mind and allowing us to cope better with stress.
But how much sleep is enough? If you’ve been scrimping on your sleep for whatever reason, it’s time for a re-think. Adults, regardless of gender, typically need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night for optimal brain and body function. Under-sleeping by even one hour every weeknight amounts to a monumental 5 hours of sleep debt by the time the weekend arrives – impossible to recoup. But, just like your bank overdraft, sleep debt has to be repaid. All too often the price is your health and spiraling stress levels as you increasingly lack the resilience to adapt to the pressures of life.

Positive self-talk
You are what you think. The orientation of your self-talk can mean the difference between super hero or super zero. Our thoughts underpin our beliefs and beliefs quickly become self-fulfilling prophecies. What we believe determines what we do, so if we believe we can’t do something, or clog up our mind with negative thoughts, we will remain stuck in our unhappy stressed-out state. Negative thoughts can seriously limit our experiences and quality of life.

Conversely, if our self-talk is positive, even if that means consciously reframing a negative thought, our behaviour and life experience follows suit. As part of the re-framing process, ask yourself these 3 questions:

• What else could ‘this’ mean?
• Is there a positive flip side I can reach for?
• How else can I think about this?

Use a notebook if you need to in the beginning, but note your negative self-talk and change it. Negative thinking is a luxury we can ill afford.

Grounding in green spaces
Do you feel better when you’re outside in nature, barefoot on the green grass, under a sunny blue sky? Doesn’t everyone? Well it’s not all about the sunshine. It’s a lot to do with electrons. The Earth maintains a negative electrical potential on its surface. So when you’re in direct contact with the ground (walking, sitting, or laying down on the earth’s surface) the earth’s electrons are conducted to your body, which synchronises us to the same electrical potential. Living in direct contact with the Earth grounds your body, inducing favourable physiological and electrophysiological changes that promote optimum health eg. proper functioning of the immune system, circulation and synchronisation of biorhythms to name just a few. This electron exchange during grounding is also deeply relaxing and stress-relieving.

These positive effects from ‘grounding’ aren’t surprising because throughout our evolutionary history humans have been in constant contact with the Earth. It’s so simple — next time you’re on the grass, a beach or the earth, take your shoes off and synchronise a little.

Releasing your inner recreational ‘drug’
Cannabis isn’t the only source of ‘feel-good’ cannabinoids out there. Your brain can make them too! Cannabinoids may be responsible for cannabis’ classification as an illicit drug in many countries, but you can become your own legal dealer just by working out a bit more. For many years endorphins were thought to be behind the post work-out euphoria or ‘runner’s high’, but actually we now know it’s down to cannabinoids – endocannabinoids, because we make them in our bodies. It’s fascinating to find that there are more cannabinoid receptors in the brain than there are receptors for other well-known brain neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, and ten times more than the opioid receptors. We also have cannabinoid receptors in our digestive systems and reproductive organs. Getting physically active on a regular basis not only brings you a lean, fit, healthy body, but also a serene antidote to stress. Not only that, endocannabinoids also protect your brain’s neurons from early death, which is hugely important in maintaining cognitive function as we age.

Committing to the present moment
Easier said than done. When we’re stressed, part of the reason for the stress is not knowing what to do to get out of where we find ourselves. It seems like a mountain of steps have to be taken all at once if we are to stop ourselves from drowning. Life feels out of control and it’s a natural impulse to keep looking outwards at all those steps in front of us that feel so overwhelming. But it’s actually the step right in front of us, in the here and now, that holds the key to release. All we need to do is stop looking into the stressful future, take a breath and connect fully to the present moment.

Change always begins with one step. Only one. So, try doing what our ancestors did: look to the sky and find your guiding star. Go out into the night sky. Sit in peace. Look up at the stars. Relax a little and take a moment to get away from the stress of your life and all those overwhelming steps in front of you. In the space and the quiet, in the relief and the stillness, you will regain focus. And you will feel the one step that’s in front of you. Have the courage to take that first step and commit to a daily practice of immersing yourself in the present moment – even if it’s just a fleeting 30 secs in your busy day.
You have time now to practice some of these lifestyle transformers before the next blog in this ‘Quit Stressing’ series. Next time, Rob will outline what a stress-busting nutritional toolbox should look like and why you definitely want Nuzest’s Good Green Stuff and Clean Lean Protein in it.

10 Steps to Getting – and Staying – lean!

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If you’ve read the preceding 3 blogs in this series you’ll now know the ‘What’ and the ‘Why’ regarding healthy weight management. This final blog is all about the ‘How’ – in 10 easy steps, because it’s really, honestly, not complicated. And I can say that because I’ve done it. After 25 years of trying to find a solution to my own health and weight management issues, these are the steps I took which led to both my professional aha-moment and my personal weight management salvation. What’s more, it didn’t take long to make huge changes that have now become permanent.

Here you go…

1. Start by working out a weekly menu plan that incorporates three meals per day, with no snacks or drinks in between, other than water. Prepare to be on this for 8-10 weeks. Leave at least five hours in between meals to let your digestive and immune systems rest and recover. Some scientists uphold that our digestive tract typically receives more immune challenges in a single day than our whole body does in a lifetime. That’s because food, which comes from outside our body, generates an immune reaction because it needs to be screened and responded to accordingly to make sure it won’t harm us. This is why resting your digestion for extended periods between food or drink is so important. Grazing through the day puts your immune system on continuous red alert, saps your body of energy and leaves it in a permanent state of low-grade inflammation, all of which predisposes you to a significantly higher risk of chronic disease, let alone upping the number of calories you’re eating that aren’t offset by your activity level.

2. Include good quality protein at every meal and make sure you get at least a gram of actual protein (not simply protein-containing food) for every kilogram of body weight (that about 2 oz for every 10 lbs of body weight). For instance, 100 g of chicken breast contains about 20 g of protein, 100 g of beef, typically about 25 g of protein and 100 g of legumes averages between 7-9 g of protein. Nuzest’s Clean Lean Protein is a perfect choice for meals on the go or for a cost effective way to increase your daily intake of protein. It’s particularly useful for vegans and vegetarians who may well be getting insufficient protein. Make sure you’re mixing it with Nuzest’s Good Green Stuff if you’re using it as a meal replacement to feed all 12-body systems with targeted nutrition.

3. Drop your fears about fat, including saturated fat, and make sure you’re getting enough of the right kind, but avoid trans fats, hydrogenated fats and fats damaged by high temperature cooking. That means including some good quality, organic butter (exclusively grass fed cows where possible – as long as you’re not sensitive to dairy. If you are, use coconut, avocado, olive oil or another healthy fat instead), extra virgin coconut oil, avocadoes, tree nut oils (e.g. macadamia nut oil), olives and unfiltered extra virgin olive oil. Clear your cupboards of common vegetable oils e.g. rapeseed (canola), sunflower, safflower, soybean, corn etc. It’s the protein and higher level of fat that keep you fuller for longer and give you better fuel for making energy so that you won’t crave sugar and refined carbs.

4. Keep your portions sizes modest and if necessary eat off a breakfast rather than a dinner plate. Eat mostly whole, real and unprocessed food. Minimal processing of some foods is OK, but always avoid ultra-processed and highly refined foods. Check out the Alliance for Natural Health’s Food4Health plate to get some guidance about how to balance your protein, carbs and fats, along with key pointers on food preparation and eating habits.

5. Make sure you’re eating all the six main colour groups of vegetables and fruit on a daily basis (green, orange, red, yellow, blue/purple/black and white/tan/brown). We call this eating a rainbow every day. Plates of colourful food every day help you ensure you’re getting the full phytonutrient spectrum into your diet. Nuzest’s Good Green Stuff is loaded with phytonutrients to bump up what you’re getting from your food because they are Nature’s best (and safest) medicine. Try to introduce a new vegetable that you may not have had before every week.

6. Remember that not all carbs are created equal. For the ominovores among you, in order to optimise your fat-burning metabolic pathway, try and remove all refined, starchy carbohydrates (e.g. refined grains, pizza, pasta, pulses/legumes, quinoa, amaranth, bread, cakes, biscuits, sugar and bagels etc) from your diet. Instead of starchy carbs, use a diverse colour range of vegetables as the carbohydrate base of your meals. These not only provide complex carbs, but also all-important phytonutrients. For vegetarians and vegans, keep the pulses/legumes and quinoa in your diet (as these are important protein sources), but do cut out other grains and all refined, starchy, sugary carbs as above. Vegetables and fruit are great sources of complex carbs and, eaten in sufficient quantity, they provide an ample intake of carbs for most people’s energy requirements. For those who have particularly high energy requirements, such as athletes, rice, especially brown rice, and coarse oats, in small to moderate quantities according to need, alongside other protein and vegetable sources, are the grains least likely to cause adverse inflammatory or immune reactions in most people. Always try to source certified gluten-free oats if available.

7. Fruit, whilst full of good stuff (phytonutrients), is also full of sugar, so limit yourself to no more than three fruits (or a handful of berries instead of one fruit) a day – eaten with or immediately after a meal, where possible. Remember, no snacking!

8. By increasing your vegetable content, with some fruits, you will naturally increase your fibre levels, both soluble and insoluble. Fibre is essential for the healthy functioning of your digestive tract and isn’t something you can scrimp on.

9. Recover the lost art of chewing! The slow, methodical, mechanical chewing along with the release of associated salivary enzymes is actually the first stage of digestion and is really important for gut function and general health. Try chewing each mouthful of solid food 30 times before swallowing.

10. Where possible and when available, buy certified organic, biodynamic or sustainably produced meat, poultry, dairy, vegetables and fruit. Where you can’t, check out the US’ Dirty Dozen that are likely to contain no or harmless levels of pesticide residues if sourced from ‘conventional’ production.
If you’re a meat eater and once you’ve established this eating pattern for 8 – 10 weeks, you’ll probably find that you’re ready to drop one meal of the day to naturally create a longer fast. Whilst each of us is different, many people find that they want to drop breakfast and fast through from dinner the night before till lunch the next day. But you may also want to keep breakfast and drop one of the other meals. This is a perfectly natural progression – or I should say regression – back to a more evolutionary norm given that we’re built for famine and not for feast. Intermittent fasting also has the benefit of calorie restriction because you eat less in a day, so trust your body and go with flow. If you’re vegan or vegetarian this will likely be more difficult to achieve without using a protein shake like Clean Lean Protein, as you’ll have to eat more carbs in order to get sufficient daily protein.

Lastly, if you feel like you’d benefit from starting this journey with a more personalised, tailored program, supported by others and able to ask questions of myself and other experts, then check out www.bitethesun.org. It’s a member’s club with a wealth of information, an interactive personal dashboard and an integral social hub.

The Urge to Feast – Understanding Why Most Diets Fail

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Are you of fuller body but wish you were leaner? Try as you might are you constantly tempted by foods that you know aren’t helping you? Do you feel as if you’re fighting a losing battle? If you answered yes to those questions — relax — you’re perfectly normal. It’s a natural part of our evolutionary hardwiring to want to feast on today’s high calorie foods. Foods made from grains, bread, pasta, chips, pizzas and sugary confectionary can seem tantalisingly seductive.

In hunter-gatherer days we didn’t come across sweet foods very often, so when we did, we needed to gorge ourselves and store the excess calories to get us through leaner times. Most of us still have those same urges today. It’s one of the reasons why we crave sugary, starchy and fatty foods and why it can be so hard to stop eating once we start. Unfortunately, these days we rarely face times of famine and the majority of us are nowhere near as active as our hunter-gatherer predecessors. The effects of which are mirrored in our bulging waistlines and spiralling rates of chronic disease.

This genetic evolutionary survival mechanism is one of the reasons why sugar is like a drug to us and becomes so addictive. If you’ve ever gone told turkey and stopped eating sugar for any length of time you’ll know how your palate changes and your body finally stops being tempted by it. But like an alcoholic that takes a drink after a period of abstinence, give in to sugar again and it’s doesn’t take long before the regular need for it overwhelms your will power once more.

Being genetically coded to survive times of famine rather than feast, it’s hard for many of us to maintain a lean physique when we’re faced with overstocked kitchens and high calorie foods tempting us on every street corner. Diets today are often full of refined carbohydrates that force the body into an over-production of insulin, also known as our ‘fat storage hormone’. Insulin’s responsible for maintaining a balanced blood sugar level, which in turn maintains our energy levels and acts as one of our main metabolic hormones. When insulin is imbalanced, the result can have negative consequences for our health, and our waistline. One of the main ones being that it switches the body over to burning sugar predominantly for energy instead of fat. More on this in the next two articles though…

For now, let’s stay with insulin for a bit longer.

Insulin allows blood sugar to enter the cells to supply the body with energy, but continually choosing foods – and drinks – high in sugar, combined with being overweight, has a strong effect on the delicate balance between blood sugar and insulin levels. This is why insulin balance is at the root of so many common illnesses and disorders. Given that our bodies are built to deal with sugary foods as a rarity rather than the norm, a condition called insulin resistance develops when we consistently eat foods high in glucose.

Under such circumstances, the pancreas is forced to pump out more and more insulin to try and regulate the excess sugar (glucose). Unfortunately, the body can only sustain a limited number of insulin receptors on each cell. Consequently, insulin receptors are continually activated and over worked and can’t successfully bind to the overwhelming amount of insulin. Working under such pressure insulin receptors, over time, lose their sensitivity and become ‘resistant’ to insulin, creating a danger zone when blood glucose is starts to rage out of control.

The knock on effect is that the body is literally unable to extract the glucose from the blood to power the muscles and they become starved of energy. Despite the excess of glucose in the blood – with more being consumed daily – the brain kills the desire to be active because the muscles have no energy. High glucose in the body is also toxic. If it rises too high, the liver is the only organ in the body that can get rid of it because the liver doesn’t require insulin to process glucose. But this comes at a high price in terms of weight management.

The liver converts excess glucose to triglycerides (fatty acids) and packages them up in fat cells for safe storage in adipose tissue (a community of fat cells, more commonly experienced as a bulging waistline or extra unwanted pounds in hard to shift places). Here the fat cells are rendered harmless to the body and left in storage until they may be needed as a future fuel source – not an easy source to access if you continue to flood the body with sugary or fatty refined carb foods on a daily basis. The higher the glucose levels, the more fat cells we need to create, generating a vicious, perpetual cycle.

The good news is that the cycle can be broken. Shifting your fuel sources and re-establishing some evolutionary norms allows the body to return to balance once more. One of the first steps being to start burning fat instead of sugar for energy, which in turn allows the desire to be active to flourish once more.

And there’s a clue for article number 2 in this series…!