Friday, 30 November 2012

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Overtraining Syndrome

I know most of my blog posts are happy and motivating, but I felt overtraining syndrome was something I needed to highlight and educate individuals on. I see a lot of people at the Western Gym, who looks healthy, fit and following a training log, and other who looks like they are about to pass out on the treadmill. It is very important to be aware of overtraining syndrome, and look for signs and symptoms in yourself and your teammates or peers.

Numerous studies have documented the favourable effects of physical activity on mental health. Along with physiological adaptations to training, physical activity interventions have been shown to reduce depression and anxiety, increase self-esteem and lead to improvements in mood across a wide variety of populations. Right from the start, physical activity can promote self-esteem and positive body image in children. During pregnancy, staying active can mitigate the uncomfortable and exhausting physical and mental effects of pregnancy and parturition. With aging, physical activity helps maintain quality of life throughout the later years.

However, too much exercise may potentially develop into overtraining syndrome and severe mental distress in both high-performance athletes and physically active individuals. Simply put, “the overtraining syndrome is a condition of fatigue and underperformance, often associated with frequent infections and depression which occurs following hard training and competition. The symptoms do not resolve despite two weeks of adequate rest, and there is no other identifiable medical cause.”

Under normal training conditions, athletes or gym rats go through periods of progressive overload followed by recovery to improve performance. However, if recovery phases are inadequate or the training overload and intensity is excessive, this can lead to high fatigue and underperformance. Common psychological symptoms that present at this point include fatigue, disturbances in sleep patterns, feeling “unrefreshed”, loss of libido and competitive drive, emotional instability, weight loss, anxiety, irritability and depression.

Hence, early detection by coaches, peers and family members is essential to prevent further and potentially dangerous physiological harm or complete burn out. REST is the most important thing an athlete can do at this point. Depending on the severity of the situation, further treatment options are varied and range from: vitamins supplements and dietary changes to address any nutritional deficiencies, increased recovery days, hydration and sleep, deep tissue massage and counseling. To avoid chronic re-occurrences, coaches and individuals should incorporate cross-training methods, and optimize rest periods between workouts. 

Remember you need to “listen to your body”. There is a difference between feeling the burn and being in pain, and you should NEVER feel guilty for taking a day of rest from the gym if necessary. 

Saturday, 24 November 2012

But I just CAN'T live without.....

Healthier Substitutions to the Rescue!! 

People always say I could never live with out ____________fill in with your favorite food (potato chips, fettuccine alfredo, poutine etc.) and I can totally understand that. I could never give up chocolate, no matter how hard I try! I firmly believing having an all-or-none mentality can do much more harm than good. For example, if you tell yourself ice cream is completely forbidden, you have a bad day, wind up at the grocery store and end up purchasing and consuming an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s, in one sitting which you definitely DIDN’T need. It's much better to have balance in your life and treat yourself everyone once and awhile with moderate portion sizes to avoid deprivation. Note, this is not okay for people who have severe allergies or intolerances. A true celiac disease individual must avoid all forms of gluten as it can be extremely harmful to the lining of their gut and cause permanent damage. For people with allergies or those looking  for healthier subtitutions I have offered some suggestions below.

For lower carb/ gluten-free options for many common dishes.

1. Spaghetti squash for pasta noodles- this is one of my favorites! Spaghetti squash has an amazing texture, a fraction of the carbohydrates, GF friendly and chocked full of nutrients. Here I substitute it in a spaghetti dish, and in a tomato and mushroom pasta dish as a side to my grilled beef tenderloin.  I cut in half and roasted in the oven for the best flavour and texture. 

2. Riced cauliflower for rice- Rice is naturally GF (except certain boxed mixes that sometimes contain barley as well), however riced califlower makes a nice change. You can also substitute mashed califlower for mashed potatoes in many recipes. she also has a link to her riced califlower recipe on this page

3. Cauliflower crust for pizza or breadsticks- this is really good and super easy to make. A great alternative and you can always sub the parmesean cheese for nutritional yeast.

4. Chia seeds, hemp hearts and buckwheat grouts instead of cereal – Way higher in protein, healthy fats and fiber than most breakfast cereals, Skinny B and Holy Crap cereals are great tasting, allergen friendly alternatives. If the price of the small bag sends you running, use this link to make your own.

5. Whole fruit for fruit juice- Did I mention how much I hate juice? Skip the juice aisle, shop the produce section

6. Lettuce wraps for bread- Use romaine letteuce, or even steam kale, collard greens or swiss chard instead of bread or wraps.

Lower fat options
1.     Leaner cuts of meat- look for things that contain the word “loin” i.e. tenderloin, siroin. Rib eye, T-bone and bacon wrapped anything will automatically increase the fat content
2.     White meat over dark when it comes to poultry
3.     Baked sweet potatoes fries instead of regular white potato French fries
4.     Fresh rolls over spring rolls at asian restaurants
5.     Entrees that are poached (in water, not butter) steamed, seared, grilled and roasted, not deep-fried, panfried or contain the word “crispy” and “lightly battered”
6.     Extra lean ground beef, chicken, turkey or lamb at the grocery store
7.     Make an omelet using two eggs and two egg whites, I vouch for these over a 100% egg white omelets because you lose all the nutrients contained in the yolk
8.     Homemade popcorn, kale chips or packaged Popchips/ baked lentil chips instead of regular chips

1. Salsas over sour cream, butter, or anything ending in aioli (means oil) or naisse  (béarnaise, hollandaise, dijonnaise is a fancy way of saying mayo like sauce)
2. Dip your veggies in hummus (preferably homemade) or tzatziki instead of ranch dressing

Healthier Baking substitutions
1.     Beans for flour- try chickpeas for cookie or blondie recipes or black beans for brownies. I know this sounds weird but I’ve made both and they are delicious

2.     Applesauce, mashed banana or avocado for oil or butter. Or substitute a healthier oil like coconut oil in the recipe
3.     Reduce the sugar by 1/4 in the recipe and I promise you won’t even notice a difference
4.     Whole frozen berries over sweetened dried cranberries in muffin recipes for reduced sugar and increased fiber and nutrition
5. Dark chocolate for milk chocolate. Instead of those cheap tasteless semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips, spend a little more money for a good quality dark chocolate (minimum 70%) when baking desserts. 

Like I said about treating yourself, pizza is my all time favourite food, and something I could never live without. Since gluten and lactose don't seem to agree with me, I treated myself to a homemade pizza using Bob's Red Mills Gluten Free Pizza Crust mix topped with an organic, raw aged cheddar. Instead of the usual high-sodium, preservative laden tomato sauce, try using Simply Natural Organic Tomato and Basil Pasta sauce from Costco. Life should never be about giving up the things you love, just findings ways to re-invent and make them better :)

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

What blogs do bloggers read?

Let's Be Honest. 

No blog these days is 100% original since the Internet allows for rapid sharing of information…..for better or for worse.

I have seen LOTS of amazing blogs online, tags on Pinterest, and infographics, but probably twice as many bad/incorrect ones. While most of my blog ideas are ones that happen to pop into my head, I also get ideas from reading other peoples’ blogs and pins.

I wanted to highlight some amazing blogs from my fellow Phys-ed/Kinesiology students who graduate with me from Queen’s University. These are a great place to start if you are looking for healthy recipes, have questions about the gym, or need some rehab advice

This beautiful blog is the product of Michelle, an awesome gal who is now living in Kingston. She has great recipes with easy to follow pictures, excellent advice/tips on CrossFit, and overall a really good outlook on health and life. I definitely recommend checking out her blog.

Wanna get jacked at the gym? Or don’t know where to start if new to working out? Jeremy is your guy. He is a gym guru, and posts some really good information on fitness, health and workouts on his blog. Worth checking out if your workouts are starting to bore you.

David studied both physical education and physical therapy at Queen’s, however his knowledge of functional anatomy extends way beyond the classroom and traditional textbooks. His innovative blog offers insight into exercises to target specific muscles and dispels many myths about rehabilitation practices.

Okay I didn’t go to school with this guy, but I think he’s awesome. He provides extremely well written and scientific articles on many common health topics and health conditions. His YouTube videos and Ted talks are also worth watching. I subscribe to his weekly newsletters and they are always is full of interesting and helpful information. 

Please enjoy!

Saturday, 10 November 2012

The Freezer Queen

I am the Freezer Queen. One because I am ALWAYS freezing (hello Africa next semester) and Two because I freeze everything! Living alone makes it hard to get through entire packages of certain food items before they go wrong.
 Not only does spoiled food mean wasted money, it also puts you at risk for food poisoning if you constantly consuming foods that are well past their best before date. My housemates in university used to laugh at me because I always had little tid bits of everything frozen in the freezer, however it saved me money an I always had meals or food around during crazy exam time. While this list is not exhaustive, below I have compiled foods that do and don’t freeze well. If you buy something and are uncertain of how long it will last for, a great website is, I use it all the time and find their information to be highly accurate.

On a side note, a HUGE pet peeve of mine is that people don’t realize the best before date ONLY, I mean ONLY applies to unopened items. For instance, you buy a container of sour cream, says its best before December 1st 2012, but you opened it in September, it will probably only last a few weeks once opened. You cannot use the best before date to determine is food is still good once the seal it broken, that’s where comes to the rescue!

Fruits and vegetables:-
Generally produce that has a lower water content freezes better than high water containing fruits and veggies. This explains why things like cucumbers and iceberg lettuce don’t fare so well in your freezer.
Bananas are awesome, and make great vegan “ice cream” blended frozen in your food processor, make sure you cut before freezing
I have also frozen sliced peaches, nectarines, berries, pineapple, pear and grapes. When freezing things like strawberries, cut up and freeze on a cookie sheet before placing in a bag so all the pieces don’t stick together
I’ve also frozen vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, green beans and carrots in the past. Best to blanch them first to remove excess water before freezing
I also love all types of squash (spaghetti, acorn, butternut) but again, very difficult for me to consume an entire squash before it goes bad! Best to cook, cube and then freeze

Sauces and condiments-
Whenever I make a big pot of stew, spaghetti sauce or soup, I always freeze at least two portions in the freezer for quick meals down the road.
I know my mom has also frozen ketchup in the past, however most condiments are so cheap that is you’re concerned about food safety, chuck them and buy a new bottle
That being said, whenever I buy Nuts to you Nut Butter Tahini to make hummus, I can never get through the entire jar before it goes rancid, now I’ve learned to use half and then freeze the rest.

Dairy and dairy alternatives-
Hard cheese like cheddar and mozzarella freeze well, softer cheese like brie, goat and feta are okay, however the texture will change when unfrozen so better to use them grated and heated in a recipe like a pizza or casserole dish
Milk freezes extremely well, just be sure to lay the bag flat and careful when defrosting as it expands and sometimes will crack the plastic bag and cause huge spills
Almond milk and soy milk can also be frozen, you will just need to shake them well before serving once defrosted
I believe you can also freeze tofu, but it will change the texture significantly so when defrosted consider using in a stir-fry where the texture could be masked
Sour cream apparently does not freeze well (although I’ve never tried), however cream cheese in the block form does, and I’ve never frozen yogurt for long periods of time so I don’t know what it would be like
Another thing that freezes great is butter, if it’s on sale, buy two and freeze one for a baking session down the road, I never buy it hard margarine (because it contains hydrogenated oils) but I’m assuming it would also freeze well
I’ve never frozen eggs because I eat them all the time and they last a long time. I did some research on the internet and people suggest cracking them first, whisking together a big bowl and then freezing the mixture in an ice cube tray or poured into a big container.

whole chickens are cheap, hard to eat as one person. I will often buy and roast and entire chicken, de-bone and freeze half the meat, same can be said for big portions of cooked ribs, pork, beef or fish for that matter, I would freeze in small portions so that you have a serving size ready to take out and defrost in the fridge (NOT kitchen counter) when needed.
FYI most meats and fish need to be taken out the night before you want to eat them for dinner in order to fully defrost

Bread and bread like items-
Generally any baked good will freeze excellent, great way to prevent your bread loaf from growing moldy on the shelf, same things goes for muffins, cookies, banana bread etc. I make a huge batch of muffins, keep a few in the fridge and then freeze the rest immediately. I will take it one out the night before when I pack my lunch in the fridge, and by the time I go to eat the muffin the next day, it only needs a couple seconds in the microwave.

Canned goods-
You’re making a pot of spaghetti and the recipe calls for 1 tbsp. tomato paste, what the heck do you do with the rest of the can? I have frozen leftover cans of tomato paste, 100% pure pumpkin, tetra packs of vegetable stock, coconut milk, and diced tomatoes. Make sure you take the item out of the can and put in a new Tupperware before freezing 

Things like nuts and dried fruits are best stored in the freezer, where they will last much longer than at room temperature.

Got a big batch of basil leaves or cilantro growing in your garden? Trim the leaves from the stem, freeze on a cookie sheet, transfer to a bag, and voila fresh herbs in the middle of winter

Apparently you can also freeze pasta but I’ve never tried, and for people on a gluten-free/paleo diet, I’ve heard that almond flour freezes well!

Happy money saving and safe tummy 

p.s. love this movie!!!!!