July 16 – Why your post-workout shake should contain cinnamon?

When I think of cinnamon I immediately think of sweet treats, such as cinnamon whirls; childhood treats that I would now associate with putting on weight. But what if your favourite spice actually could be really good for you and in fact help you to shift a few of those stubborn pounds, especially from around your abdomen.

Cinnamon is a bark-derived spice that can play a significant role in the regulation of blood sugar levels.

Recently, studies have taken place around the world suggesting that cinnamon can be used as an insulin mimicker, resulting in it helping you to potentially lose weight.

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What is an insulin mimicker?

Cinnamon improves insulin sensitivity in the body by diverting carbohydrates to be stored in muscles rather than as fat around the body, which leads to an increase in muscle mass and a reduction in fat gains. Insulin is a key hormone involved in the storage of nutrients, in the form of glycogen, in the liver and muscles, and triglycerides in fat.

When cinnamon is used as an insulin mimicker, it will escort the sugars you digest from carbohydrates around your body and place them in the appropriate areas where they are needed for recovery – how very clever!  

When insulin production is lowered you have a greater production of glucose from the liver which lessens the utilisation of glucose in fat and muscle.

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So why should you add cinnamon into your post workout shake?

According to Dr Warren Willey (Better Than Steroids, 2007) cinnamon can assist insulin in pushing the nutrients from you post-workout shake and deliver them to you muscles quicker than a normal shake without cinnamon due to its insulin mimicking properties. Your post-workout nutrition then becomes a lot more effective as it increases protein synthesis, transportation of amino acids and reduces the breakdown of proteins, all of which enables your muscles to start recovering more quickly from training. Not only is it important to reduce insulin levels as quickly as possible after training, to aid muscle growth, but it is also important to eliminate as much fat storing as possible in your muscles. For it to be effective you should use 3-6g of cinnamon per shake.


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July 16 – Fitbit Surge Review!

It does not matter if you are a record braking athlete or just someone who likes to keep fit for fun, the FitBit Surge could defiantly revolutionise your training.

Before having my FitBit Surge I went about my training like any normal athlete recording what I was eating, lifting, how fast I was running so I could track if I was improving or not. Since having my FitBit Surge my training has not been the same since – of course for the better! And here is why!


I could always see if I was improving on my weighted lifts such as squat, bench, clean and snatch because the weight would go up on the bar but I was never able to really monitor my heart rate whilst carrying out cardio exercise. Since having my FitBit surge I have been able to monitor my heartrate throughout workouts using the workout record app and being able to monitor it for periods of time throughout differing heartrate zones. This has been so useful especially when I have to sit in certain heartrate zones for certain periods of time.

The FitBit Surge has also helped me to track how much I am eating compared to what I am burning whilst I am training. This has been a real eye opener for me as I was eating what I believed to be enough but actually against what I was burning whilst training and going about my day to day job as a personal trainer (very active) I was shocked to see how much you really burn. I realise the calorie counter is a guide and is not 100% accurate but it defiantly is a good way to track what goes in and expended out. The other really nice thing I like is that you can attach your My Fitness Pal app to your FitBit so everything is linked and the maths is all worked out for you! Bonus!

The tracking and lap timing options on the Surge are so useful especially as we often have timed runs around a track or a long distance run. In having the tracking device on my watch I am able to just run and not have to have already planned my route. This is perfect for me as I am always short for time to plan where I will run before I go.

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When training hard it is always good to be able to track your sleep as well as times, lifts and food but it can be very hard to track your sleep pattern and if you have slept enough. Once again the Surge has a sleep app which helps you to record if you are sleeping enough and if you are in a deep sleep or if you were restless. This I believe for me is probably one of the most important features of the watch as rest for an athlete is so important especially when trying to get fitter and stronger. Again I realise this is just a guide but it is amazing in helping you track your sleep pattern.

One of the nice smaller features of the FitBit Surge which I really like is the daily step monitor. Most days I manage to complete my 10,000 daily recommended steps by midday being up early does help but it was very encouraging to know I was keep healthy whilst just going about my day to day life.

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As I said at the beginning weather you are a record breaking athlete or just someone who likes to keep fit the FitBit Surge is a must! My training really wouldn’t be the same without it and I cannot remember how I coped before I had it! I really would feel lost without my watch!


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July 16 – How artificial sugars could be worse for diabetics than sugar!

With so many diets on the market it is hard to know which, if any, will work for you. Diet foods and drinks are said to be the answer to loosing weight quickly and effectively as they can provide you with nice tasting food without the calories. However, what many manufactures forget to tell you is that the majority of diet foods and beverages contain aspartame, one of the most harmful and deadly artificial sugars around. Aspartame is a chemical that is said to taste like sugar, without the calories, but studies have concluded that aspartame can actually make you fat rather than helping you to lose weight. Also, as studies suggest, it can have adverse side effects on your blood glucose and insulin levels, especially if you are a diabetic.

Aspartame is made up of three chemicals, phenylalanine (50%), aspartic acid (40%) and methanol (19%). Over long periods of storage, or when aspartame is heated, it begins to break down into metabolites, one of which is called diketopiperazine (DKP).  DKP is known to be toxic to our bodies and should not be consumed where possible as the true effects of it and the other metabolites are still unknown.

Although scientists have known for a while that aspartame can be detrimental to our health and weight loss goals these findings have not been shared with dieters. A study completed in 1986 concluded that when nearly 80,000 women consumed artificial sweeteners within their diet they were more likely to gain weight over time as opposed to those who didn’t. Another study completed in 2010 suggested that artificial sweeteners would not actually help you to lose weight but in fact it was suggested they would help you to gain weight, including visceral fat around your internal organs, thus increasing your risk of heart disease.

Scientists have suggested, from experiments carried out on mice, that exposure to aspartame over your life time, especially for diabetics, can lead to changes in blood glucose parameters and can have adverse impacts in spatial learning. The same study also found that a 50mg dose per kg of body weight of aspartame was found to decrease a diabetic’s insulin sensitivity and wreak havoc with their brain function. This can be extremely detrimental for diabetics as optimal insulin sensitivity is imperative to obtain optimal health.

To back up the above results a study completed in 2007 by the journal Diabetes Care concluded that different macronutrient compositions can have differing effects on plasma glucose and insulin levels when men completed bouts of exercise. The men were compared in five different areas;

  1. high–glycemic index sucrose meal (455 kcal)
  2. low–glycemic index fructose meal (455 kcal)
  3. aspartame meal (358 kcal)
  4. high-fat/low-carbohydrate meal (455 kcal)
  5. fasting

The scientists hypothesized that when consuming a meal containing fructose or aspartame there would be a lower impact on insulin release and glucose response as opposed to when a sucrose-sweetened meal was consumed. Once the study had been completed the scientists realized that their hypothesis was flawed and they found the completely opposite results.

Bringing research up to date the European Commission (EC) has asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to re-evaluate aspartame and its ‘true’ effects as there is currently not enough research around aspartame to inform us accurately.

As the side effects of aspartame and other artificial sweeteners become more prevalent manufacturers are working hard to try to find alternatives in order to maintain sales of their products. Manufacturers are trying to find natural alternatives in order to try to protect their consumers from gaining weight and occurring harmful effects on their bodies. Some of the naturally occurring sweetener alternatives they have found are stevia, monk fruit and miracle fruit.

Aspartame has not only been linked to diabetes but many other health problems as well, such as brain tumors, epilepsy, lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease and chronic fatigue syndrome.  A recent study has also concluded that there can be links between consuming aspartame and conditions such as fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), stating that IBS worsened when meals containing artificial sweeteners were consumed.

If you believe that artificial sweeteners may be causing adverse side effects to your body then the best way to find out if this is true is to carry out the elimination challenge. This means that you will need to check all food labels to make sure you are not consuming any foods containing artificial sweeteners. After you have followed an artificial sweetener – free diet for over 2 weeks then slowly reintroduce artificial sweeteners one at a time, for one to three days at a time to see which causes the most adverse effects on your body. If you are able to tolerate the first sweetener then add in another and so on.  Side effects of artificial sweeteners may not be seen straight away so do not rush to add another in too soon.

In conclusion the best way to lower your sugar consumption and eat the right way for your body and its nutritional type to help you optimise your health, genetics and biochemistry is to make sure you are consuming limited sugars of all kinds and increase your consumption of high quality fats giving your body the proper fuel it needs to function and ultimately limiting your sugar cravings. If you feel you still cannot combat your sugar cravings then try to use a natural ‘healthy’ option sweetener such as stevia or Lo Han.


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July 16 – Is there more to why you are feeling negative about the way you look than you think?

Many young people now believe that to be successful and popular we must look a certain way, for example, have long blonde hair, a 20” waist and have strapping long legs, or be tall, dark and handsome. But is this really the case or has the media and the world around us messed with our heads and how we think?

With this in mind it is no wonder why some people, girls especially, begin to feel inadequate and have little body self-acceptance. This is why it has now been suggested that to be able to totally embrace our bodies we must look far deeper than just being able to accept just how we look.

When speaking to clients, friends and family, and exploring why people want to change how they look, the most frequent responses are “so I can feel more confident”, “so I will look good naked and in clothes and in my bikini on holiday” and most alarmingly “because I want to look like…”

First and foremost, what many do not realise is that they will probably never look like whoever they are trying to look like… and why is this? Because their genetics are not exactly the same as that person’s. Therefore, having this idea is completely unreasonable and unattainable.

So what does this mean? Basically, what I am trying to say is that you should feel confident in the skin you have and never compare yourself to others. Yes, I realise this is easier said than done but until you are able to accept yourself for who you are and love your body for what it is then you are stuck in the mud.

How can you love your body if that is your limiting factor?

This is where we start to delve deeper into the underlying reasons for such body dysmorphia. Has our body-esteem been muddled up and mixed up with our self-esteem? Has the way we feel about ourselves, life and situations been muddled with how we feel about our body and how we perceive ourselves?

When we experience feelings of stress, anger and fear are these feelings being transferred into the way we feel about our body, even though they have to do with how we look?

This can happen because our self-esteem has been knocked and therefore this transfers onto our body-esteem.

It is easy to place blame onto something else rather than try to address the real reasons for the lack in self-esteem as issues such as depression and stress are not always easy to cope with. However, there will become a point when these deep underlying issues will need to be combated or else you will run the risk of never being able to love who you really are and how you look.

It wasn’t until I delved deeper into my own head and feelings that I managed to discover the underlying reasons why I always struggled with how I looked and my weight. Changing my train of thought has not been easy but realising and looking past what I thought I should look like and what others might think of me has helped me to truly embrace how I looked and use it to my advantage in becoming a top CrossFit athlete. It was at this point that I felt I was able finally to let go of all of my negative thoughts and push forward.

What really helped me to come to this realisation was setting myself a goal, something small like being able to get one pull-up or being able to complete one length of a 60 metre pool front crawl. Not only did this really help to distract me from always analysing how I looked but it also helped me to realise that it didn’t matter how I looked if I was able to achieve what I set out to achieve.

One of the biggest things I have realised, in CrossFit especially, is that no one girl looks the same and that no matter how you look all the girls are amazing at what they do. Some have ripping abs and others are curvier but not one girl looks ugly or can’t compete.

So the point I’m trying to make is that no matter how you look you should embrace it because you are beautiful no matter what, and next time you are having negative thoughts about how you look have a little think about is it really to do with how I look or have I got my self-esteem jumbled with my body-esteem? Don’t let your fear of being judged keep you from being happy.


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July 16 – Can the strongman’s farmer’s walk carry improve your CrossFit?

Everyone wants to improve their CrossFit but I bet you never thought you could do it by just practicing your famer’s walk! That’s it, just picking up heavy weighted objects in each hand and walking. The farmer’s walk can be one of the most effective exercises to add into your training program to help you to improve strength and will even carry over into your Olympic lifting.

When attempting a farmer’s walk you will need two thick metal bars with weights on both ends and handles in the middle allowing you to hold the bars and load the weight evenly. Other variables of the farmer’s walk are how long the bar is and the size of the handle, which will affect how stable the bar is when you walk. You will need to consider these variables when deciding how hard you wish to make your farmer’s walk as the longer the bar the harder it will be to stabilize and the heavier it is the more difficult it will be to carry.


It has been suggested that the farmer’s walk can do more to help to expand and improve an athlete than any other movement. You may ask why? The farmer’s walk can help to improve and to develop leg and hip strength, to create a stable back and core strength, and to improve grip strength.  This creates a strong body all over which in turn will help you when training for CrossFit.

If you want to add a farmer’s walk into your training program then you may look to see how far you can walk in 60 seconds or complete a single distance as quickly as possible with a set weight. You may also just wish to see what you 1RM for picking weight off the ground might be. Make sure that you rotate the exercise you do every time you perform the farmer’s walk to keep it varied. If you are feeling exceptionally strong on one day then you might want to try to carry a set weight as far as possible, which helps to improve and test your physical and mental performance.

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When carrying out the farmer’s walk there are key things to remember:

  1. Make sure that you are centered in between the weights and your hands are central in the handles. If you are off balance then the weights may fall from side to side making it very hard for you to walk.
  2. Once you have positioned yourself between the weights you need to make sure that your body is solid making sure that your glutes are tight and that you have braced your core. You will need to push your weight through your heels and lift up your chest as you pull the weight from the floor.
  3. When you are standing make sure that you are upright and tall with full hip extension and your shoulders pulled back, but be careful not to hyperextend. Carry on squeezing your glutes and look straight ahead.
  4. When you begin to move make sure that you take small steps, quickly in order to stop your bars swinging.
  5. When you feel that you cannot go on any more make sure that you place the bars 0down slowly so as not to misplace the weights as this can be of a disadvantage if you have to turn around and go back to the start.

In conclusion, the farmer’s walk has many benefits which can be carried over into improving your training as a CrossFit athlete. If you are still skeptical then why not try adding the farmer’s walk into your training once a week for the next 2 months and see if you notice any changes.

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