Weight Lifting for Later Life

A recent study at the University of Dublin showed conclusively how important it is to do resistance training later in life, combined with eating more protein. They recommended 20-25 minutes of resistance exercises 3-4 times a week along with a high protein diet

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As we age, our muscle tissue deteriorates so much that we eventually cannot support our skeleton. Mobility problems in our joints, such as hips and knees and shoulders, often occur due to a lack of muscle tissue support.

From our 30s onwards, it is a good idea to build a good solid muscular system, which goes against the long-established trend of being skinny or thin. Today, there are more athletic body images for both sexes - natural curves are considered attractive, unlike in the nineties and early 2000s, when the cult of skinny ruled. Thinness is often a lack of lean, dense muscle tissue which can cause serious health issues later in life.

To fully experience the most of life in older age, enjoy traveling, dancing and playing with the grandchildren as it is very important to not be restricted by mobility problems. Weight bearing or resistance training actually builds the bone as well as the muscle, which we need to continue building and repairing for our whole lives. Resistance training speeds up the growth and development of bone and muscle tissue when our natural growth hormone eventually diminishes. Weight bearing exercise is also particularly important for women with oestrogen related bone loss during the menopause.

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You can do some form of resistance exercise whatever your age – you do not need to go to a gym. Start at home or with a local group. Aqua aerobics is a great way for older people to take the weight off their joints, while still providing resistance.

Equally, it is important to eat the right diet to support muscle growth. This does not mean a restrictive diet, but rather, an inclusive diet, ensuring that we get plenty of good proteins, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats; protein is especially important. The symbiotic relationship between exercise and protein means that it is essential you embrace both to build muscle tissue.

Another recent study at Oxford University proved that healthy dairy foods are a really good way of feeding muscle tissue as you get older, because they are high in quality protein and calcium.

Deep Breathing to Combat Stress and Enhance Exercise Performance

We only use a small amount of our lung capacity in everyday life. In order for us to keep our lungs healthy, we should practice deep breathing to oxygenate our blood, which supplies nutrients to our entire body. Oxygen is a fuel in its own right for our bodies and the brain:

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-       Our lungs take in oxygen, burning food and releasing energy through a process called oxidation, which eliminates the carbon dioxide produced

-       Oxygen helps to destroy harmful bacteria in our bodies without removing the good bacteria that we need

-       All the metabolic processes in our bodies are regulated by oxygen! It makes the brain more powerful and stable, allowing it to process lots of information every second.

Anxiety and stress shorten our breathing pattern, so conscious deep breathing is recommended as it relaxes both our body and mind, slowing down our hurried pace and helping to stop the mind racing.

If you do not meditate or practice a deep breathing technique every day, exercise is the best way to improve your lung health and is very accessible to anyone without having to learn an addition skill. The more activity you do, the more oxygen is required by the body to aid performance, allowing the body to work more efficiently which leads to better results.

So, no matter the activity, dancing, swimming, walking, running or at rest, one of the best techniques is breathing from your diaphragm - breathing in through the nose and mouth, filling the stomach area with air then slowly exhaling as the stomach reduces. However, we need to clear our lungs of pollutants in urban areas and should be careful of the air we breathe... 

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When feeling anxious or stressed, diaphragm breathing can help to clear your head and release tension. When lifting weights, it can help you to lift more and exert more force with less effort. If you are running, you should aim to stabilise your breathing pattern, whereas when stretching you need to aim for extra-long inhales and exhales to help you to relax and lengthen muscle tissue.

The Carbohydrate Myth – Are Carbs Bad to Eat?

With the backlash against so-called “clean eating”, where whole food groups are labelled good and bad, a more common-sense anti-fad approach has been gaining strength.

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 Not only are these fads depriving us of necessary nutrients, at their worst they can be downright dangerous. Without carbs for fuel, in extreme cases, the body becomes catabolic, meaning it starts to break down lean muscle tissue for food.

Carbs are an excellent energy source for us. If our bodies need to use fat or protein, it takes longer for the body to convert these to energy. Good, healthy carbs are brain and mood food. However, make sure to control your portion size if you wish to reduce your weight leading into the spring and summer

I am advocating the use of low GI foods, which are highly nutritious: high-fibre whole foods such as organic brown basmati rice, sweet potatoes with the skin on, and small amounts of whole grain pasta. Always add a bit of fat to slow down the break-down of sugar in the body. Also, oats, which can be eaten as savoury or sweet, are excellent for providing fuel.

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Remember, many vegetables, nuts and beans have medium to high levels of carbs, so we are already eating carbs when we eat these foods too!

If you are a working mum or in a high-powered job, or even partaking in sports, you would not imagine eating starchy foods as they do not harm the body, especially if you need fuel to perform. We a need balance of all food groups. Fermented breads such as sourdough are great because they help good bacteria in the gut.

 

Top Tip - Resistant Starch

Place a bowl of cooked starches (pasta, sweet potatoes, rice) in the fridge and cool down, reheat and eat later in the day – this causes the starch to become more resistant and fibrous, which increases your fibre intake. Great for the brain and your mood!

Fake Meat - The Emperor’s New Clothes?

Are we being conned into believing that fake meat is good for us? Did you start the New Year with Veganuary, believing that it was the healthy option?

With new vegan brands popping up all the time and all the supermarkets now offering a vegan range, it should be cause for celebration – but the big question remains: are their ranges any better for our health or are they just a cynical marketing ploy?

While offering ready made vegan food will make it easier and more tempting to become vegan, and the new dirty vegan food trend means you don’t have to give up those burgers, pizzas and sausage rolls you love; are we creating more health problems with a high carbohydrate-dominated diet?

Not only are most of these foods processed, stripping many of the original nutrients out, they often consist of refined wheat and gluten.  Also, the benefits and risks of genetically modified soya protein are still a controversial subject.

We know that processed meat is bad for us and can cause cancer, but all processed food consumed in large amounts can be bad for us. The more food we cook from scratch the better.

Pulled BBQ Jackfruit Burger

Pulled BBQ Jackfruit Burger

I think the main three reasons for becoming vegan are:

  1. Ethical and moral

  2. The welfare of animals and environmental concerns, health

  3. The belief that a vegan diet is naturally healthier for the body.

However, the current trend has all the hallmarks of a fad diet and the usual culprits have jumped on the bandwagon, including many celebrities we admire; it is the new salvation diet that we can try and will often discard after the novelty has worn off.  

Veganism can be a healthy lifestyle that is kind to animals and the environment, but vegans must not underestimate the need to eat enough sources of natural protein and the quantity they need to eat to replace certain proteins, good fats, iron, B12, and vitamin D that is abundant in animal sources because  supplements are not as easily absorbed by the body as whole food.

Jackfruit, the latest trendy meat alternative that has a shredded meaty texture and is sold as high in protein, cannot compete with a like sized portion of chicken with 3 grams of protein to 20 grams in chicken. With a jackfruit pizza, for example, although it has nutritional benefits, it is loaded with quick-acting carbs from the fruit and refined carbs in the pizza without the balance of protein you would get from cheese or meat. Many fast food outlets offering vegan food use Seitan, a protein made from wheat gluten, which is an issue for many people. 

Vegan alternatives are expensive too; a classic case is the infamous cauliflower steak, for instance, where a restaurant charged the same as they charged for a quality beefsteak, although the cost was less than a quarter of the price! 

At the end of the day the solution is the same. The tried and tested diet of cooking from scratch as much as possible, getting a healthy balance of protein, complex carbohydrates, vegetables, good fats, vitamins, and minerals whether you are a meat eater, vegetarian or vegan – a healthy diet is all about variety and balance.

Ways to De-Stress Your Day

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Thank you very much to Slim, Fit & Healthy for featuring my advice in an article about reducing stress in the day!

‘We can be tempted to eat fats, refined carbs and sugary foods when it is cold outside and we are feeling sluggish. This not only creates weight gain, but reaching for these foods will only make us crash after the initial energy rush, creating a vicious cycle’

To read the rest of the article, go here!