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My Favourite Things: August Edition

This is my fifth "favourite things" themed blog. I was inspired to start the series this past February; I was sharing a healthy recipe with a client and I thought, "What is the use of constantly learning new 'fun' exercises and healthy recipes if I don't share the info with all my readers?" So, I wrote the first "favourite things" blog (for a mantra to keep you on your "health horse," read tip number four). I had such fun compiling February's list that I decided to write a "favourite things" blog regularly. Enjoy!

1. Favourite way to make coffee healthier: Instead of sweetening your coffee with sugar, try cinnamon!

An amazing client shared this tip with me -- thank you, Kathyrn!

Cinnamon is one of my favourite spices. It is mildly strong and somewhat sweet. I don't actually drink coffee, but many people do and sugar is a "calorie suck" -- hence the tip. Personally, I love adding cinnamon to roasted squash or sweet potatoes. If you bake, add it to your healthy muffins or bread. During the winter add it to hot apple cider.

Not only is cinnamon yummy, it is also healthy; it can help to relieve nausea, vomiting, and indigestion; it is beneficial for the heart, lungs, and kidneys; and it can protect the body against diabetes since it drastically improves insulin's ability to metabolize blood sugar.

2. Favourite "do anywhere" workout: Tabata intervals

Tabata is a method of interval training. "Interval training" simply means you alternate between periods of intense work and periods of recovery. My clients dread most styles of interval training, but most have a particular aversion to Tabata workouts. I interpret their dislike as an endorsement; they would not hate Tabata workouts if they were not challenging.

One cycle of Tabata takes four minutes. The four minutes is composed of eight sets of 20 seconds of intense work followed by 10 seconds of complete rest. The wonderful thing about Tabata is that literally any exercise can be made into an interval. Cardio or intense strength exercises work best. First, pick your exercises. I suggest picking between four and six exercises for 16 to 24 minutes total. Those plus a warm-up and cool-down provide an excellent, yet time efficient, workout.

Two cardio Tabata options

Burpies: Start standing. Bend over and place your hands on the ground in front of you. Walk or jump your feet into a plank. Engage your core so your lower back doesn't arch. Then jump your feet back toward your hands and stand up. Repeat. For an added challenge, jump toward the ceiling as you stand up.

Mountain runs: Start in a plank position. Engage your core so you are not rounding or arching your lower back. Alternate "running" one knee towards your chest at a time.

Other cardio options: Run up and down the stairs in your house or condo. Or do high knees, bum kicks, or lateral leaps side to side.

3. Favourite vegetarian-friendly nutrition tip: Creatine supplementation

Vegetarians are more likely to benefit from supplementing with creatine than their meat-eating friends. Who knew?

Creatine is one of the ways the body produces energy. Creatine combines with phosphate to make phosphocreatine (PC). Phosphocreatine is needed for the ATP-PC energy system, which is the energy system needed for powerful bursts of intense work, such as a 20-meter sprint or a near-max lift at the gym.

Since meat is a major source of creatine in the diet -- it typically supplies 1 g per day of creatine for the non-vegetarian -- vegetarians tend to have a lower muscle creatine concentration than non-vegetarians. When one's initial muscle creatine levels are lower, one has an increased capacity to load creatine into muscles following supplementation -- hence why vegetarians are more likely to benefit from supplementing with creatine than their meat-eating friends are.

Main take-away: If you are a vegetarian and also a sprinter, or you're a vegetarian trying to improve your one-rep max at the gym, you might want to look into supplementing with creatine.

4. Favourite food combining tip: Consume plant-based, iron-rich foods with foods high in vitamin C

Eating foods rich in vitamin C in combination with plant-based, iron-rich foods will help increase the body's ability to absorb the iron. Iron from plant-based foods is less readily absorbable than iron found in meat, so if you are a vegetarian trying to increase your iron levels, or if you simply want to limit you meat consumption, consider pairing the below foods with foods rich in vitamin C, such as bell peppers, dark leafy greens, kiwifruit, broccoli, berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, or peas.

A few plant-based sources of iron:

  1. Chickpeas or red kidney beans (4.3 mg per 140 g)
  2. Spinach (4 mg per 100 g)
  3. Bran flakes (5.3 mg per 45 g)
  4. Dried figs (2.1 mg per 60 g or roughly 4 figs)

Interesting fact: People often worry that as a vegetarians they will become iron deficient. According to Anita Bean, the author The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition, iron deficiency anemia is no more common in vegetarians than in meat eaters.

5. Favourite absolutely non-fitness-related summer event: The Elvis Festival in Collingwood

My mom and I go to the Elvis festival every year in Collingwood. Boy, do we have fun! I bring my bike so I can cycle in the country (which I ADORE), we go shopping, we have good food, and, most important, we bond with each other and with Elvis. This year the highlight was getting a (temporary) Elvis tattoo.

For more fitness and health tips, take a look past "favourite things" blogs! Tips include how to make yummy protein popsicles and healthy hot/cold salads, my "go to" movie snack, and an easy and healthy "pizza" recipe.

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