Nutrition & diet tips for weight loss.

Whether long term weight loss or just trying to get rid of those last few wobbly bits, dieting can seem daunting and it is definitely the last thing most people want to do. Here are my own tips on dieting for weight loss.

Stop calling it a diet.

I don’t really like the word diet. It makes me feel as if i’m somehow depriving myself of something, or that this is temporary. For me that’s not how it is. So my first tip when starting any ‘diet’ would be to throw that word straight in the bin along with all of your processed or refined foods. Instead of a diet think of it as nutrition, a lifestyle choice, healthy eating. It’s a lot easier on the brain to think of it in a positive way like this. Instead of thinking it as a ‘diet’ where you are depriving yourself of your favourite foods, think of it as healthy eating where you are GIVING YOURSELF good health, weight loss, confidence.

Keep a food diary.

My next bit of advice would be to keep a food diary. This is a great way to keep a track of how your eating habits are effecting your weight loss. For example, you might notice that during one week you lost more weight than other weeks, you can then look back in your diary and see exactly what foods you ate that week and try to add them in to your meal plans more in future. The same can go for if you don’t seem to lose any weight one week and you don’t know why, looking over your diary you might see actually i ate a lot more carbs than usual this week so maybe that’s why, and so you can change this for next week. A food diary really is the best way to keep a record and find out what is working best for you.

Eat real food.

The thing that will make the biggest difference in terms of what you are eating is cutting out all of the sugar and all of the refined or processed foods. Basically eat food that was grown on a farm and not made in a factory. Not only will this contribute massively to your weight loss but your health will improve by milestones. Eat fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, grains, seeds, beans, legumes. Also NATURAL sugars are okay in moderation, but refined sugar is a big no no.

Plan your own meals.

The fastest way to fail on your diet is by not planning your meals. If you don’t plan your meal and you get home and your starving if your anything like me your just going to grab whatever you can cook fastest and easiest. Plan your meals in advance, make sure you have all of the ingredients necessary so when you get home from work you have no excuses not to cook yourself something nice. This will also help you control how many calories you are going to be eating and how much protein/carbs/fat you will be eating.

Cook your own meals.

Meal prep! Cook and prepare all of your meals in advance so you always have something there ready when you are hungry, you will never end up picking at stuff or buying an unhealthy sandwich from the shop or ordering a take away because you will always have food there ready. This is also the best way to control exactly what is in your food, when you cook them yourself you know exactly what ingredients were used and where they came from. I always cook all of my meals for the week in advance (usually on a sunday) and put them in the fridge and freezer for the rest of the week.

Cut the carbs.

I know, i know. Sheds a tear. Nobody wants to cut carbs because.. well.. bread! But if your really serious about losing weight cutting carbs is the most effective way. Usually carbs should be around 60% of your daily caloric intake. So for example, for a 3000 calorie total daily intake, 1800 of those calories should be carbohydrates. For weight loss your carbs should be between 25-40% of your daily caloric intake.

Count your macros.

Your ‘macros’ are the macro nutrients needed by your body in order to function properly. They are carbohydrates, protein, fat & water. On a normal diet your daily intake should look like this – 60% carbs, 25% protein, 15% fat. On a weight loss diet of 40% carbs your macros should look like this 40% carbs, 30%protein, 30% fat.

I would not recommend lowering your carbs to less than 25% unless you are ‘cutting’ and are already knowledgeable about nutrition as when your carb intake is extremely low your body goes into what is called ketosis, which although this is very effective for weight loss if it is not done properly it can cause problems. For consistent weight loss i recommend around a 30 – 40% daily carb intake.

An example of my own easy to follow 3 day meal plan for weight loss to give you an idea.

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It really is getting started that’s the hard part, after the first few days when you see how easy it is and how nourished you feel after eating these healthy and tasty foods you won’t even want to look back! Good luck with your weight loss & feel free to leave and comments or drop me a message if you have any questions i’d love to help.

That last bit of Tummy Fat.

I’ve had a few people ask me about this one…

How do I get abs? How do i get rid of this tummy fat? How do i lose this last stubborn bit of fat under my naval that just wont go?

Well i’m sorry to break it to you but there is no magic solution for me to give you, it really is just cardio and most importantly strict dieting.

When i started trying to get fit and in shape, no matter how much exercise i was doing and how much weight i was losing i could not for the life of me seem to get rid of this little pouch of fat under my naval. I was so self conscious about it and really didn’t understand how after the rest of me was so in shape and at the perfect weight i still had this little flabby bit that just wouldn’t budge.

So what did i do? Newbie mistake, i started pumping out as many ab exercises as possible.

In order to see your abs you have to have a very low body fat percentage, no matter how many sit ups or ab exercises you do if you even have a small layer of fat over your abs you still wont be able to see them. So what i was unintentionally doing was strengthening my abdominal muscles (which were still not visible), and actually just pushing the layer of fat further out so it looked even worse than before!

After exhausting every exercise option i could think of i finally did my research and realised i was going to have to do the unimaginable and really clean up my diet.

I was already eating relatively healthy but in order to lose that last bit of belly fat and to show my abs i had to become a lot stricter with my eating habits. I know it’s not what everyone wants to hear but these detox teas, these articles with ‘how to lose belly fat’, they just don’t work. A few years later and now i know a lot more about nutrition and fitness from when i first started i can honestly tell you that if your struggling to lose that last bit of fat from your tummy or any other problem area – ITS YOUR DIET! If you see an article claiming to have an exercise to target tummy fat, that is not possible. After taking Anatomy & Physiology at college and really learning in depth about how the body works i’m sorry to say there is no exercise that can target fat in a specific area, that’s not how your body functions. You need to be doing cardio and eating right.

I’m going to put up a post on Saturday with my diet & nutrition tips that i used myself when trying to lose weight and an example of a meal plan.

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Taking Responsibility

It’s debilitating to even think about. When you look at your misfortunes, or your failures or any negative aspects of your life, it’s hard to own up to yourself and to admit they are all your own fault. It seems to shrink you to even think I’ve nobody to blame but myself for this. Because we don’t want to take responsibility for these things, we want to blame bad situations or bad circumstances on other people, or other events.

But…

How liberating is it to look at all your achievements, all of your successes and all of the positive aspects of your life and say FOR THIS I HAVE NOBODY TO BLAME BUT MYSELF! Yes, i created the opportunities that lead to these outcomes, i created these circumstances for myself and look how much i have accomplished! It’s very freeing.

My point is this..

It doesn’t matter what hand you get dealt, it’s how you play it that counts. Somebody else could take the same hand you were dealt and win with it.

When you take responsibility for ALL of your circumstances, the good and the bad, you can begin to create the life you do want. So go ahead and take responsibility, empower yourself.

There’s an old story about two boys who had a father who was an alcoholic. They grew into young men.

One son became an alcoholic. “What choice do I have?” he said. “My father is an alcoholic.”

The other son never touched a drop of alcohol. “How could I?” he said. “Look what it did to my father.”

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Bicep Exercises & Tips.

One of the favourite muscles to train for a lot of people is the biceps. For obvious reasons – it is one of the most noticeable ‘gains’, and also the movements themselves are not too difficult to carry out.

The biceps are divided into two parts, the long head & the short head. The key to building your biceps is to make sure you are hitting both heads, and very strict form. Here are my favourite exercises.

Chin Ups.

Ok so the top one for strength has to be the chin up, this is a great full upper body exercise. The chin up (as opposed the pull up) places most emphasis on the biceps and a bit less on the back. This is a great way to warm up as is a full upper body movement and it really strengthens the biceps. After the chin ups i would start with barbell curls.

Barbell Curls.

The classic barbell curl is a must for anyone looking to build bigger arms. It is an easy enough movement to perform so that also means you are likely to be able to lift the most weight with this exercise. It’s best to start off with the exercises you can lift the most weight with and then work your way down.

I like to keep these reps usually in the 6-8 range with a high weight as i’m working on improving my strength. If you are looking to really tear them up try this variation –

777 (21s) Barbell Curls.

So i’m not gonna lie, these are an absolute killer but they work wonders for building mass. Get in position as if to do a normal barbell curl. Start by doing 7 half curls, only performing the bottom half of the movement, so from your arms fully stretched down, to your arms half way up for 7 reps. After this go straight in to do 7 half curls but the upper half of the movement this time, so from midway to fully contracted. Then finish off by going straight in to 7 full barbell curls, completing the full movement each time. So 7 bottom half, 7 top half & 7 full curls – This is one set!  This is a great one to use a bit of a lower weight, and really concentrate on the movement and squeeze. I wouldn’t use this exercise often, maybe once or twice a month to shock the biceps and really get the blood flow pumping.

Alternating Incline Dumbbell Curl.

A slight variation of the standard dumbbell curls. Sit back on the incline weight bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Curl the weights up till the elbow and bicep is fully flexed then lower back down to your starting position. The reason i prefer this one as opposed to the normal dumbbell curl is it really gives you that extra stretch at the bottom. You can do both sides simultaneous but i would recommend alternating so you can really concentrate on each movement.

Hammer Curls.

These curls are a great one to include in your workout. The neutral hand position means they also recruit the muscles in the forearm to perform the movement. This is definitely one of the best exercises for mass, make sure at the top of the movement you really squeeze, make every rep count! A great variation of this is to perform the curls using a cable machine and rope attachment , instead of dumbbells. Hammer curls are a great finisher, work until failure to really wear out the muscles at the end.

Now some tips.

Start heavy and work your way down. On your first exercise as i said pick the one where you can lift the most weight. Lift a very heavy weight for only a few reps. With each exercise work your way down, so by the time you get to your last exercise, for example hammer curls, you will be doing a much lower weight but with about 12 to 15 reps.

Progressive Overload. I’ve mentioned this before on my other workout posts as it is so important for building strength and size. In order for your muscles to grow and get stronger you need to constantly be challenging them and forcing them to adapt. Lifting the same weight week in week out will not build your muscles, you need to keep adding more weight and more weight and pushing yourself and your muscles.

Form is key. To get the best out of each exercise and to avoid any injury it is extremely important to focus on having the correct form for each movement. Do not sacrifice good form just to lift a weight that is not manageable to you, this is very counterproductive.

Mind Body connection. In order to get the most you can from each rep, you really need to focus on each movement, the muscle and the contraction. Do not just go through the motions. For each curl, really focus on your form, really concentrate and make sure you are  squeezing the muscle at the top, actually watch your muscle contracting and picture it getting bigger and stronger with each rep. The mind is a very powerful thing, put it to good use during your workout.

If you are unsure how to perform any of the exercises above, i have included a link below to a great website which has all of the exercises, videos and a description on how to perform each one. Also feel free to drop me a message. Now go lift!

http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/finder/lookup/filter/muscle/id/15/muscle/biceps

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Da Vinci Exhibition

So there’s a free Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition on at The National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin at the moment, i went down today and was not disappointed.

It’s completely free but you do have to get a ticket, just go onto the galleries website and register for a free ticket and pick a time slot. It’s only on until the 17th of June though so get in there fast!

They are showing 10 of Da Vinci’s drawings from The Royal Collection. I am personally a massive fan of his, his art of course but especially his works and research regarding anatomy and geometry. I actually have one of his most famous drawings ‘the  vitruvian man’ tattooed on the back of my hand.

I am fascinated with anatomy, i actually took it as a course in college and still find myself reading books and researching anatomy further. I later found an interest in sacred geometry, this interest grew the more i developed my spirituality – i now have countless sacred geometry tattoos. I have read A LOT of books on both of these subjects, and watched many documentaries etc. and one name that is mentioned every time due to his remarkable insight and contribution to both subjects – is Leonardo Da Vinci.

One of the drawings in the exhibition was a compilation of small diagrams and notes relating to his research on astronomy and geometry. In the center of the page, in his famous mirrored handwriting he tries to explain how the curvature of the earths atmosphere can make it act as a lens. A very wise and creative man well beyond his time.

He writes – ‘If you want to prove why the moon appears larger when it reaches the horizon, take a lens which is convex on one surface and concave on the other, and place the concave side next to the eye, and look at the object beyond the convex surface. By this means you will have produced an exact imitation of the atmosphere between the sphere of fire and that of water; for the atmosphere is concave on the side next to the earth and convex towards the fire.’

See a picture of the sketch below – i took the picture from a website to show here, the picture does no justice to the real thing. His pictures are all astonishingly detailed and on his own made paper, they really have stood the test of time very well.

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Aside from the Da Vinci drawings, they also have at the end of the exhibition a collection of paintings from various artists, also borrowed for the exhibition from The Royal Collection.

If you do head down make sure to see the paintings by Paul Henry, Sir William Orpen & also Diego Velázquez. These particular artists work especially stood out to me and really captured my attention, if you go you will see why.

One painting you cannot miss, is the massive ‘Michelangelo Caravaggio – The Taking of a Christ’. I stood there in awe for i don’t even know how long in front of this piece. The painting depicts the moment Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. This picture awed me purely for the realism and the sheer size of the thing, a truly amazing piece.

To stand in the gallery surrounded by works of a man i have been inspired by and to see his anatomy and geometry drawings especially, was very humbling and thought provoking. His works have been a huge contribution to our history and are so fascinating that they are still being frivolously studied and unraveled today, over 500 years since his death.

Get yourself down to the gallery, it is such an experience to actually see these pieces in person and right in the city center. Don’t miss out!

Learning never exhausts the mind – Da Vinci

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3 Bean veggie chilli

Now i know here in Dublin we are actually having a sweltering heatwave at the moment, so i know your first food of choice probably wouldn’t be a hot chilli. But as well as this roasting weather it is hay fever season, and this chilli is perfect for clearing up your sinuses and for boosting your immune system! Onions/garlic & cayenne peppers are some of the strongest natural antibiotics so this recipe is loaded.

Vegetarian, very high protein, natural antibiotic, boosts immune system, clears sinuses, tastes amazing and freezes very well so great for meal prep.. what more could you want in a recipe?

Ingredients. – Recipe Makes 6 servings.

1 Carton of Tomato Passatta 500g

6 Tomatoes (Chop)

1 Large Onion (Chop)

2 Garlic Clove (Mince)

1 Pack of baby corn (Chop)

1 Tin of Kidney Beans

1 Tin of Pinto Beans

1 Tin of Blackbeans

1 large Green bell Pepper (Chop)

1 large Red bell pepper (Chop)

3-4 Medium Chillies (Chop)

1 Tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 Tablespoon oregano

1/2 Tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 Tablespoon chilli powder

1 Teaspoon ground black pepper

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil (i sometimes use coconut oil instead)

Method

Saute the onions, peppers, garlic, peppers and chillies in olive oil for a few minutes until soft.

Add them in to a large stock pot along with your tomato passatta and chopped tomatoes on a high heat.

Add your spices, herbs and your drain and add your 3 tins of beans.

Turn down to a very low heat, cover over with a lid and leave to simmer for about 30 minutes.

Suggestions

Try this inside a baked sweet potato for the perfect healthy & filling meal. (see picture below)

Also goes nice with rice / broccoli.

Inside taco shells or wholewheat pitta breads.

Or my absolute favourite, try this on top of nachos with some cheese !

 

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Bardo Thodol

I have always been fascinated by religious and spiritual books. I want to learn as much about the history and roots of religion and spirituality as I possibly can, and what better way to start? This particular passage is from a Tibetan book called The Bardo Thodol, known here in the west as The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Although it was a long time ago now I read this, one passage always stood out to me.

– thou must have experienced a glimpse of the Pure Truth, subtle, sparkling, bright, dazzling, glorious, and radiantly awesome, in appearance like a mirage moving across a landscape in spring-time in one continuous stream of vibrations. Be not daunted thereby, nor terrified, nor awed. That is the radiance of thine own true nature. Recognize it.

From the midst of that radiance, the natural sound of Reality, reverberating like a thousand thunders simultaneously sounding, will come. That is the natural sound of thine own real self. Be not daunted thereby, nor terrified, nor awed.

What a beautiful way to describe us, no? Beings of white light, streams of vibrations, glorious, radiant, dazzling! A description of our true nature – souls.

The second part, the sound of reality – like a thousand thunders simultaneously. Don’t we know it, that reality can hit like a ton of bricks, like a thousand thunders! But again, it says do not be afraid. Our reality is but a projection of ourselves, of our minds.

bar do, Sanskrit antarabhāva: “transitional state”

thodol / thos grol: “liberation” “enlightenment”

This book actually became quite popular in the west during the psychedelic age, due to the descriptions it contains of the after death being alarmingly similar to descriptions of a psychedelic trip. Possibly due to the releasing of DMT in the brain? The profound questions this raises are endless.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in spirituality, karma, after death, reincarnation, Buddhism, Tibetan culture, plant medicine or even psychedelics.

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The importance of protein in our diet.

When I decided to become a vegetarian I spent a good few weeks researching everything first. Because I am very active and also do strength training I was worried about how I was going to get enough complete proteins in my diet.

Proteins are the basic structure of all living cells in our bodies. The building blocks that make up proteins, are called amino acids.

Of the 20 amino acids we know about, 9 of these must come from dietary intake. The other 11 can be manufactured by the body.

Today most people think of eating as for pleasure, we eat cake and pizza and chips because we enjoy them. What our food is supposed to do is fuel our body, give us energy and keep us healthy. Sure by eating pizza and chips you can still get fuel and energy, but you can’t get health. To be healthy we need to be eating fruit, vegetables, grains, seeds, REAL unprocessed, unrefined raw foods!

To show how important our food consumption is in maintaining our health, here is a list below of the 9 essential amino acids (remember these are the ones that you must get from your dietary intake), and which part of your health and body they directly effect.

Essential Amino Acids
Histidine – hemoglobin component; used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, allergic diseases, ulcers & anemia. A deficiency may cause hearing problems.
Isoleucine and Leucine – mental alertness, also provides manufacturing components for other essential biochemical components in the body, which are utilized for the production of energy and upper brain stimulants.
Lysine – Insures adequate absorption of calcium; helps form collagen (component of bone, cartilage and connective tissues); aids in the production of antibodies, hormones & enzymes. Lysine may be effective against herpes by improving the balance of nutrients that reduce viral growth. A deficiency may result in tiredness, inability to concentrate, irritability, bloodshot eyes, retarded growth, hair loss, anemia & reproductive problems.
Methionine – a sulfur source, which prevents disorders of the hair, skin and nails. Lowers cholesterol by increasing the liver’s production of lecithin and reduces liver fat build-up. Protects the kidneys; a natural chelating agent for heavy metals; regulates the formation of ammonia and creates ammonia-free urine thereby reducing bladder irritation; promotes healthy hair growth.
Phenylalanine – allows brain to produce Norepinephrine used for the transmission of signals between nerve cells and the brain; regulates hunger, antidepressant; improves memory and mental alertness.
Threonine – a component of collagen, Elastin, and enamel protein; reduces liver fat build-up; promotes proper digestive system function and metabolism.
Tryptophan – a relaxant, alleviates insomnia, prevents migraine; reduces anxiety and depression; promotes proper immune system function. It reduces the risk of cardiovascular spasms. Works in conjunction with Lysine to lower cholesterol levels.
Valine – Promotes mental health, muscle coordination and tempers emotions.

Now knowing this, don’t you want to make sure you are getting enough of all of these amino acids in your diet? If this is how much they directly effect your health and your body, don’t you want to think a bit more carefully about what you are eating?

I always think very carefully about my meals, they are all planned ahead and well thought out to fit my daily macro needs and to make sure they are as nutritious as possible. I know not everybody will want to plan their meals and think about it as much as i do, but here is  a little help on getting the correct amino acids in your diet, its quite simple!

Complete proteins are proteins that contain all nine of the essential amino acids in a sufficient quantity. Here are a few complete proteins which are easy to fit into your daily meals, so no excuses.

Complete Proteins – Meat, fish, milk, cheese & eggs. And here are a few for us veggies & vegans – quinoa, tempeh, quorn.

You can also eat a mixture of different foods that have different incomplete proteins, to make up a complete protein meal.

For example – Beans & rice, peanut butter on wheat bread, ricecakes & peanut butter, grains & dairy (cereal & milk), sesame seed bread roll (grains and seeds), yogurt & granola,

It is not necessary to combine proteins at the same meal as many people believe. So you could have different incomplete proteins with different meals during the day, as long as you are getting enough of each of the nine essential amino acids throughout the full day.

If you can ensure you are getting all of the 9 amino acids each day, you are literally giving your body good health. Just look at the list above, if you eat enough of each of these amino acids you are preventing any of those sicknesses from being able to live in your body.  You are protecting yourself from these illnesses. Don’t eat unhealthy foods and then wait until your already sick and rely on medication, eat the correct foods and ensure you don’t get sick in the first place. Most of all Eat REAL FOODS, food grown on a farm, not in a factory.

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