Improving Core Strength


Improving Core Strength

When talking about core strength, many people’s first thought goes to their abdominal muscles. There’s a lot of mainstream pressure to have a chiseled 6 pack, and many people think that crunches and sit ups are the best way to achieve that. In actuality, the core is incredibly versatile, and working to strengthen it involves a series of exercises targeting different muscles.

The Core Muscle Group

To really understand the core, let’s go over the core muscle group:

  • Transverse and rectus abdominus: your general stomach muscles.
  • Obliques: the muscles positioned on your sides.
  • Lower back, erector spinae, multifidus, and latissimus dorsi: the muscles in your back.
  • Hip flexors, abductors, adductors: the muscles in your hips and the muscles that run down the inside and outside of your thighs.
  • Glutes and hamstrings [1]: the butt muscles and the muscles that run down the back of your thighs.

As you can see, many muscles work together to form our core.

Why Core Strength is Important

Balance and Stability.  When you strengthen your core, it helps stabilize the muscles in your pelvis, abdomen, hips, and lower back and they begin to work in harmony with one another [2].

Helps prevent injuries. A strong and stable core means your muscles are working together, and  muscles that work harmoniously are less prone to injury.

Exercises to Strengthen Your Core

Remember to think of all of the muscles utilized to create your core; upper legs, lower back, glutes, hamstrings, hips, and abdominal muscles.  The best types of core strengthening help not only to strengthen but to stabilize your core as well.

Here is a basic core workout that hits a lot of the general core muscles:

1. Supermans

Start on your stomach, arms straight out in front of you and legs straight behind you.  In one movement, lift both arms and legs straight up towards the ceiling.  Hold for 2-5 seconds then lower back down.


2. Plank

Refer to my previous blog article on how to do a plank with good form.

Good Plank

3. Lying Leg Raise

Start this by putting your hands, palm down, under both glutes. The objective is to position your hands so your lower back is firmly resting on the floor.  Keep your legs as straight as possible and slowly raise them perpendicular to the floor.  Hold at the top for 1 second then slowly lower back down.  If you feel any type of lower back pain with this exercise, stop immediately.


4. Straight Leg Sit Ups

Start lying down, legs straight and arms at your side.  Keep your stomach sucked in (while still breathing).  Slowly, begin to curl and sit up.  First curl your neck up, then slowly start to sit up. The goal is to not let your legs come off of the ground.


5. Glute Bridges

Start on your back, with your legs bent (like a sit up position). Your arms can be at your sides.  Push up with your feet, keeping the weight on your heels only.  Squeeze your glute muscles, hold for 1-2 seconds, then slowly lower  your glutes and push up again with your heels to start your second rep.


Continue to find new ways of strengthening and stabilizing your core muscles, and change up your workouts every 4-6 weeks.


[1] Jensen, Elle. “What Are the Core Muscles of the Body?” LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 26 Nov. 2013. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.

[2] “Fitness.” Core Exercises: Why You Should Strengthen Your Core Muscles. Mayo Clinic, 18 July 2014. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.


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Eating For Your Body Type


Eating For Your Body Type

There’s no “one size fits all” body, so why follow a “one size fits all” diet? This is the notion behind eating for your body type. It’s an age old concept, practiced through Ayurveda, classical Chinese medicine, and various Western systems.

An important principle in eating for your body type is that your diet and metabolism affect where your body stores extra fat [1] [2]. Below we break down the four most common body shapes, along with the foods that are best suited for each.

1. Apple Shape

Features: Excess abdominal fat with slim arms and legs.

  • Top foods: Lean proteins and dark leafy greens
  • Don’t forget: Good fats from coconut oil, nuts, avocados, and eggs
  • Cut back on: Starchy foods and refined carbs
  • Smart tip: Keep blood sugar levels already within the normal range steady and cravings curbed

2. Pear Shape

Features: Heavy hips and thighs with a thin upper body.

  • Top foods: High fiber fruits and vegetables with whole grains, such as oats, quinoa, and rice
  • Don’t forget: Small portions of lean protein and good fats
  • Cut back on: Dairy fats, soy, non-organic fruits and vegetables
  • Smart tip: Avoid foods that may contain pesticides and growth hormones

Inverted Pyramid Shape

Features: Muscular upper body with excess chest and back fat.

  • Top foods: Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fresh vegetables and fiber rich fruit
  • Don’t forget: Low fat dairy
  • Cut back on: Dairy fats, meat, salt
  • Smart tip: Avoid the afternoon energy slump

Rectangle Shape

Features: Even fat distribution from head to toe.

  • Top foods: Raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and spices
  • Don’t forget: Small servings of lean protein
  • Cut back on: Animal fats and refined carbohydrates
  • Smart tip: Eat plenty of fiber

No matter what your body type is, you’re sure to benefit from the soluble fiber and 20 g of lean protein in each serving of *PGX Vegan Protein.

*Drink additional water (8 fl. oz.) after ingesting PGX®. If you are taking medications, take one hour prior to or two hours after taking PGX®.


[1] Mitchell, T. The Belly Burn Plan. Ontario: Harlequin, 2015. Print

[2] Abravanel, E. and Elizabeth King. Dr. Abravanel’s Body Type Diet and Lifetime Nutrition Plan. Bantam Books, 1999. Print.

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6 Quick, High Protein Snacks


6 Quick, High Protein Snacks

There’s a big difference between a snack that makes your taste buds happy and one that keeps you energized, strong, and satisfied. And what is the key ingredient for a snack with staying power? Protein.

In one recent study, researchers found that women who ate a snack rich in protein, such as Greek yogurt, stayed full longer than those who ate snacks lacking this important macronutrient. To keep cravings at bay and give your body the tools it needs to thrive, choose snacks that offer up ample amounts of protein.

Benefits of High Protein Snacks

  • Helps to maintain blood sugar levels already within the normal range: protein makes your body absorb sugar more slowly, so your blood sugar stays stable and you avoid those mid afternoon sugar cravings.
  • Keeps you fuller, longer: with protein, you’ll find you have fewer cravings and feel more satisfied between meals. This can help steer you away from unhealthy impulse snacks.
  • Helps to support strong muscles, joints, and bones: protein is an essential part of countless functions in the body. Ensuring you get enough protein helps you maintain healthy muscle mass.
  • May promote weight loss: The body has to work a bit harder to turn protein into energy than it does glucose (which is why those sugar cravings hit so hard). The result is fewer calories stored.

Here are my favourite quick and easy, protein packed snacks:

1. Celery and Nut Butter

Protein: 8 grams per 1 oz of nut butter
Better known as “ants on a log” (thanks, Mom), this classic snack measures up in the protein category thanks to the nut butter, and the satisfying crunch of celery offers up other healthy nutrients. Whether you make it with peanut, almond, or pumpkin seed butter, it really is the perfect blend of texture, taste, and nutrition. Top with raisins or whole almonds, or sub out the celery for a crisp apple for variety.

2. Protein Bars

Protein: 10-15 grams
You can make your own protein bars from blended nuts, coconut, and dates – as a self-confessed chocoholic, I always add cocoa powder. For the ultra-convenient option, try a ready to go bar, such as Whole Earth & Sea’s Protein Bar. This one’s vegan, organic, and contains greens for bonus nutrition ( plus it’s coated in dark chocolate, so you can see why I’m a fan).

3. Hummus and Veg

Protein: 10 grams per half cup
Who knew this classic party snack was actually nourishing you between dance sets? Nutritious and delicious, hummus is an excellent source of protein. A quick afternoon dip with baby carrots or chopped veggies will keep you sustained through dinner. To make this snack extra convenient, layer a mason jar with hummus, place a few carrot and celery sticks in vertically, screw the lid on, and go!

4. Greek Yogurt

Protein: 15-20 grams per 6 oz
Greek yogurt has more protein than regular yogurt. It’s perfect for a snack, or as a healthier substitute for sour cream or cream cheese. Top with fresh fruit or, for an extra protein boost, nuts and seeds.

5. Smoothies

Protein: Variable
You can mix and match ingredients for an endless array of tasty, protein packed smoothies. They’re quick to whip up and delicious – a winning combo. Nut butters, nuts, seeds, yogurt, dairy or nut milks, and hemp hearts all make for the perfect protein power up. For an extra power boost, add protein powder!

6. Trail Mix

Protein: About 8g per ounce
Found in every corner store and airport snack shop, trail mix is much healthier when you make it at home (and skip the extra salt found in the packaged kind). Mix it up with raw almonds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried fruit – even dark chocolate chips – for a snack that’s ready to go whenever you are.

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Lifting Weights: Tips for Beginners


Lifting Weights: Tips for Beginners

You’ve stuck to your cardio routine and you’ve been on your best behavior in the junk food aisle, but you’re just not getting the results you need. What’s missing?

Many of us discount the importance of strength training when it comes to achieving our health goals. In fact, it’s common to steer clear entirely for fear of adding unwanted muscle bulk. The truth is, you shouldn’t live in fear of lifting – weight training is actually a crucial part of getting fit! As well as building muscle strength, lifting weights can help increase your body’s resting metabolic rate, which means you’ll burn more calories throughout the day.

If you’re just starting out on the weights, these tips will keep you in top shape – and help prevent injuries:

Warm Up

Whether you take a brisk walk or pop off a few walking lunges, a quick cardio warm-up will loosen up your muscles, increase your range of motion, and get your blood flowing. Strength training with cold muscles may leave you more susceptible to injury.

Start Out Light

There’s no reason to jump straight to the dumbbells – they might not even be your endgame. You’re better off starting with weights that might feel as if they’re too light. Once you’re on your third set of reps, you’ll thank us for this piece of advice. Besides, if you’re going for the strong and lean look, lighter weights are your ticket to success.

Go Slow

Once you’re ready to add weight (if you’re breezing through a couple dozen reps, you’re ready), increase it slowly. The same goes for reps – don’t speed through them; rather, take the time to move mindfully and with control. By going slow, you’ll get better results, and you’ll be protecting both your muscles and joints.

Learn Proper Technique

While there may be several right ways to lift, there is definitely a wrong way – and figuring it out through trial and error (and perhaps injury) is not the way to go.

Proper technique will keep you safe and ensure you’re working the right muscles while avoiding strain. Even just one training session with a personal trainer will help as they’ll show you how to hold the weights, how to stand, and the basic movements that will set you on the right path.

Don’t Swing

It might feel good to get a little momentum going, but swinging rather than lifting decreases the effectiveness of your workout, and opens you up to injury. It’s also a sign that you’re lifting more than you can handle – for now. Be sure to pause after each lift to ensure your muscles are properly engaged and your form is good.


Once you’ve strengthened, be sure to stretch! Stretching after lifting weights will help reduce muscle soreness the next day.


It’s easy to get carried away with weight lifting, so be sure to give your body time to recover. Many strength trainers rotate which areas of the body they focus on for each workout, but unless you’re working out daily, that might not be necessary. Just be sure you’re giving your body time to integrate each workout before you head back to the gym.

Eat Right

Yes, food is an important part of any exercise program, even weight lifting! A small snack of healthy carbs, such as whole grain toast with jam or a banana, an hour before you exercise, will give your muscles the fuel they need to power through your workout. Eating protein afterwards will help speed your recovery time.

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2 Basic Exercises You’re Probably Doing Wrong


2 Basic Exercises You’re Probably Doing Wrong

Moving your body and staying active is helpful to maintaining your health.  Whether you enjoy leisurely walks around your neighborhood, swimming, hiking, taking aerobic classes or lifting weights, the opportunities are endless to keep your body moving.

As we age, we begin to lose muscle, known as “sarcopenia”.  Around 30 years and older, our bodies start losing muscle mass at 3-5% per decade (sedentary lifestyle) [1].  Exercise becomes critically important to help muscle gain, as it stimulates the release of hormones that help with healthy muscle growth [2].  So, on that note – keep that body moving!

Ensuring that the movements you decide to do are done in the right form is crucial to getting the most out of your workouts.  Here are two basic exercises you may have been doing wrong, and how to execute them correctly:

1. The Squat

The basic squat is one of the most effective movements for sculpting your legs as they mainly target your glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps.  Did you know that your glutes are one of the biggest muscle groups in your body?

If squatting does not feel natural to you, try holding onto something to stabilize yourself in the beginning to get your body used to the movement.

To execute a squat in good form, start with your legs slightly wider than shoulder width apart.  Your toes can be pointed forward or slightly out.

Your legs should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart

Good Squat Form


When you crouch into your squat, lean back like you are sitting into a chair. Do not let your knees move forward over your toes or come together (knock knees).  Your chest should be up, and your core should be firm. When you stand up, push up with your heels and squeeze your glutes.

Do not let your knees move forward over your toes or come together. Chest up, core firm.

Good Squat Form 2


Do 3 sets of 10 squats, and if possible, watch yourself in a mirror to make sure you’re really sitting back and getting the most out of the squat.

2. The Plank

Planks are a full body workout.  It’s better to hold a plank for 20 seconds with proper form than for 1 minute with lousy form! Bad form has been known to cause muscle imbalances and injury.

A great plank is all about alignment and full body effort.  Every muscle should be engaged, from your upper traps all the way down to your calves.  When you are in position, you want to make sure your elbows are right under your shoulders; try to push away from the ground with your forearms.  Your stomach should be tight (do not let your back sag) and think about how you would react if someone sucker punched you in the stomach (I’m serious!).  That motion of slightly curling in will make this exercise dominate your abdominal muscles.

Elbows under your shoulders. Stomach should be tight – do not let your back sag!

Good Plank


Start off with increments of 15 seconds at a time to ensure you have good form before going for a full one-minute hold.

There are always modifications to any exercise you do.  If your body is not yet at the level of holding a 15 second plank with proper form, you can start off by planking on your knees instead of your feet.  Continue to work on this until you feel you can start going for 15 seconds, then progress eventually to 1 minute.  The determination and progress you’ll see will make you feel great!


[1]. Cooper, Greg. “At What Age Do You Start to Lose Muscle?”LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 14 Sept. 2015. Web. 08 Oct. 2015.

[2]. “Sarcopenia (Muscle Loss With Aging): Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments.” WebMD. WebMD, 3 Aug. 2014. Web. 08 Oct. 2015.


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The Mediterranean Diet

PGX Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet has a long-established history as the go-to eating plan for people who want to get healthy and enjoy themselves in the process! Often called the world’s healthiest diet, the Mediterranean diet covers the basics in healthy eating, and then some. It’s based on the traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean – but what does that really mean for your plate, and your health?

Here’s our crash course to the Mediterranean diet:

Veggie, Veggies, Veggies

Really, there’s not a list out there that veggies shouldn’t top. If you change nothing else in your diet, adding vegetables is a surefire way to get more nutrients – and feel better. Honestly, you can’t eat too many vegetables.

Try adding more vegetables into your diet by incorporating them into omelettes and soups, roasting them with dinner, chopping them into salads, and of course munching on them for snacks!

Get Oily

One of the central tenets of the Mediterranean diet is olive oil. It’s used for everything from cooking to dressing salads to dipping bread. A good source of heart healthy monounsaturated fats, it’s the perfect swap for saturated fats such as butter. It’s not the only good fat you’ll find in the Mediterranean diet – anything with monounsaturated fats, including avocados and nuts, fits the bill.

Go Fish

Perhaps because of a lack of land for animals to graze on, fish make up a good portion of the protein in the Mediterranean diet. Fish, especially fatty fish such as salmon, offer a wealth of nutrients, including heart-healthy omega-3s. You should try to aim to eat fish 2-3 times a week.

Other healthy lean proteins include chicken, turkey, beans, and nuts. This diet tends to be low in saturated fat, so eat red meat in moderation.

Feel Whole

Pair your fish and fresh veg with healthy whole grains that haven’t been refined (read: no white flour). Whole grains are full of fiber and other nutrients that get lost in the refining process, and are well known for their heart healthy benefits.

Go Nuts

We’ve mentioned nuts a couple times already, and for good reason. These little nutrient bombs are the ideal protein-packed snack. Of course, it’s easy to have too much of a good thing with nuts, so eat them in moderation.

Do Eat Dairy

Yes, dairy is ok! However, choose healthier options, like dairy from cultured milk, such as yogurt and kefir, and fresh curd cheeses, like ricotta. Steer well clear of “low fat” dairy products that promise fewer calories but sneak in extra sugar. Instead opt for plain Greek yogurt with fresh fruit as a snack, or add a little lemon and dill for a tasty salad dressing.

Indulge Your Sweet Tooth

Dessert is definitely on the table in the Mediterranean diet – after all, this has nothing to do with willpower and deprivation and everything to do with embracing a healthy lifestyle. That means fruit and a bit of dark chocolate for dessert rather than processed treats. Drizzle pears with a bit of honey for a truly decadent treat.

Share Food – and Laughter

Healthy eating isn’t just about food, every aspect of the experience can have an impact on your well-being. In many of the cultures that traditionally eat a Mediterranean diet, meals are a family – or even community – affair. People come together to break bread, creating a rich experience that feeds body, mind, and spirit.

When you eat according to the Mediterranean diet, you’re building your meals around veggies, fish, whole grains, and loved ones. As a result, you’ll find yourself feeling better in no time. This diet is especially good for the heart, but the high nutrient density foods will benefit your whole body. So eat local, in season, and share meals with family and friends – and let us know how it goes!

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