Two Amazing Stretches You’ll Fall in Love With

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Stretching is an important part of a cool down routine as during exercise, our muscles become fatigued and tighten. Here are two amazing stretches that can easily be incorporated into any post-exercise cool down:

image-pgx-blog-point-201605021. Hip Flexor Stretch

When you’re in a standing position, your hip flexors lift your leg to step up onto something. If you’re lying down, your hip flexors can lift your legs or lift your torso to sit you up. Your hip flexors are made up of muscles such as your iliopsoas (psoas muscle and iliacus).

Keep these flexors flexible to enjoy continued back health!

How to Stretch Your Hip Flexors:

Kneel on the floor (with legs bent), and rest your shins on the ground. Then, take one leg and lunge forward so that the leg is bent at a 90 degree angle. Ensure your knee is not going over your toes. Watch the below video below from

Watch the below video below from Sam Visnic on how stretch your hip flexors.

 

image-pgx-blog-point-201605022. Hamstring Stretch

The hamstrings are made up of three different muscles: biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus. This muscle group is generally known for knee flexion and hip extension. Tight hamstrings are a common discomfort.

How to Stretch Your Hamstrings

Note that you’ll need the help of a friend for this stretch!

Start by lying on the ground, legs straight. Lift one leg straight up, and with the help of a friend, have them hold your weight (so your leg can relax) and push gently until it is uncomfortable to go any further. You can hold this stretch for 45 seconds to 1 minute before switching legs.

Watch the below video by Expert Village on hamstring stretching.

 

Things to Keep in Mind

Studies have shown that static stretching before exercising may not be beneficial and can lead to injury. When you’re gearing up for a good stretching session, do it after your workout as part of your cool down, or before you’re getting ready for bed. As an added mental bonus, just 10 – 15 minutes of stretching will help to relax and calm your mind!

If you ever feel as though you have pulled or strained a muscle, remember not to stretch it. When you strain a muscle, you’ve likely over-extended it, so re-extending it with stretching will have a negative impact on your recovery.

According to fitness expert Peggy Hall, “Stretching increases your blood flow and circulation for a healthier body and sends oxygen to your brain for a clearer mind and sunnier moods.” [1]

References:

[1] Usigan, Ysolt. “6 Good Reasons You Need to Stretch.” Shape Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2016.

 

5 Killer Workout Snacks You Need to Try

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Fuelling up before a workout can help you get the most out of your gym session, bike ride, or time on the running track. The right kind of pre-workout snacks can keep hunger and fatigue at bay so you can get through your workout. Smart snacking can also help minimize muscle soreness, support healthy immune function, and may even maximize muscle growth.

image-pgx-blog-point-20160502Snacking is Not One-Size Fits All

What constitutes smart snacking is somewhat contentious, however, with athletes and trainers, and even dietitians and nutritionists quibbling over what’s best to eat before exercising. In part, this is because different types of exercise place different demands on the body and, thus, respond differently to whatever we eat beforehand. Additionally, every individual has their own quirks of digestion and metabolism, meaning that what works for one person might not have the same results for another.

The Basic Guidelines

Does this mean it’s anyone’s guess, then, as to what to eat before a workout? Well, not quite. There are some key tenets that do seem to apply across the board, such as:

  • Avoiding large amounts of fibre and dairy just before a workout
  • Choosing easily digestible carbohydrates (such as from fruit)
  • Including a little monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat
  • Eating a snack containing some protein (but not too much)

These basic rules help to keep low blood sugar at bay, minimizing the likelihood of fatigue and poor exercise performance.

image-pgx-blog-point-20160502Fats and Protein

Healthy fats provide energy and can support a normal inflammatory response, which may help prevent muscle soreness post-workout. Fats and protein assist in slowing digestion, helping to maintain a steady release of energy. Protein is needed for healthy immune function and to build and repair muscle tissue.

Without further ado, here are 5 food combinations that are killer workout snacks:

1. Chia Pudding

Everyone loves chia pudding these days and no wonder. These little seeds are a source of healthy fats and protein and are versatile and delicious.

Mix half a cup of almond milk with 2 tablespoons of chia seeds in a Mason jar, then add a dash of maple syrup or a teaspoon of coconut sugar, shake it up and refrigerate overnight. Grab it on your way out the door to the gym in the morning for a quick burst of energy.

2. Whole Grain Toast with Peanut Butter and Blueberry Jam

Spread a tablespoon of peanut butter and a teaspoon of blueberry jam onto one slice of whole grain toast for a snack high in carbohydrates with antioxidants, a little bit of fat and a decent amount of protein to boot.

3. Banana with Almond Butter

Bananas are hands-down one of the best pre and post workout foods. They are convenient, delicious, readily available, and full of easily digestible carbohydrates and potassium (a vital electrolyte lost in sweat), as well as being a source of tryptophan which the body converts into serotonin, helping you to feel good about exercising!

Eat a tablespoon of almond butter with your banana for extra protein and healthy fats, as well as for additional calcium, which is needed for proper muscle contraction.

4. Walnuts and Beet Juice

Walnuts are an excellent source of protein, minerals, and essential fatty acids that can help support a healthy inflammatory response. Eat eight or so walnuts along with a glass of beet juice before a workout – the nitrates in beets appear to support healthy oxygenation of muscles, helping to enhance performance and recovery, especially during intense physical activity (Breese et al., 2013; Jones et al., 2013).

5. Raspberries, Avocados, and Spirulina or Cocoa

For a powerful antioxidant pre-workout smoothie, mix up half an avocado with a cup of almond milk, a cup of frozen raspberries and a tablespoon of high quality cocoa powder or spirulina. The avocado offers healthy fats to fuel your workout and maintain muscle health; the almond milk is a source of calcium and protein; the raspberries, cocoa powder, and spirulina have antioxidants that help stave off free radical damage associated with exercise; and spirulina has also been shown to help in endurance exercise (Lu et al., 2006).

Some other great food combos that are excellent snacks to eat an hour or so before a workout include:

  • Granola with almond milk and apple sauce OR banana slices
  • Mango smoothie with hemp milk and turmeric
  • Roasted salt and pepper chickpeas
  • Dates stuffed with almond butter
  • Cashew beet pate on a slice of toast

References

Breese, B.C., McNarry, M.A., Marwood, S., et al. (2013). Beetroot juice supplementation speeds O2 uptake kinetics and improves exercise tolerance during severe-intensity exercise initiated from an elevated metabolic rate. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol, Dec 15;305(12):R1441-50.

Jones, A.M., Vanhatalo, A., & Bailey, S.J. (2013). Influence of dietary nitrate supplementation on exercise tolerance and performance. Nestle Nutr Inst Workshop Ser, 75:27-40.

Lu, H.K., Hsieh, C.C., Hsu, J.J., et al. (2006). Preventive effects of Spirulina platensis on skeletal muscle damage under exercise-induced oxidative stress. Eur J Appl Physiol, Sep;98(2):220-6.

2 Outdoor Spring Exercise Routines

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Spring is a great month to get back into a routine of working out as the change in season brings warmer temperatures, plenty of sunshine, and longer days.  As a precursor to summer, spring also inspires many people to ramp up their workouts in anticipation of beach days and warm weather outfits.

So shake off the last of those cold, dark winter days and get outside with two of my favourite spring exercise routines:

image-pgx-blog-point-201605021. HIIT

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a circuit that increases your heart rate then brings it back down before bringing it back up again. It burns a ton of calories in a short amount of time. Always check with your doctor to ensure you’re cleared for high-intensity workouts.

 

What You Need: Just your body and lots of water!

Warm-up: 3-4 minutes of low-intensity movement (jogging, dynamic warm-ups, etc)

HIIT Routine:

All exercises sets are 1 minute on and 30 seconds of rest.

  • Sprints x 4 sets
  • Burpees x 2 sets
  • Jumping Jacks x 2 sets

– WATER BREAK (less than 1 minute) –

  • 10-15 pushups, 30 second upward plank x 2 sets
  • 15-25 sit ups, 45 seconds glute bridge x 2 sets

image-pgx-blog-point-201605022. Running Circuit

Sometimes your body needs a longer, low-intensity run. The steady state cardio is great for building endurance, burning calories and can be easier on your joints. This run incorporates a circuit throughout, allowing your body to try new movements while keeping your heart rate fairly steady.

You can do this circuit until you feel tired or for up to 5 miles. Always listen to your body while exercising.

Things You’ll Need: running shoes, hydration pack, watch (to keep track of your time), and a running route of 5 miles or less.

Warmup: start your run with some dynamic exercise movements or a 3-4 minute brisk walk to slow jog.

Running Circuit Routine:

  • 5 minutes  x  jog at 40% effort
  • 5 minutes  x  jog at 50 % effort
  • 1 minute  x  jog at 30% effort (slow jog)
  • Slow down, stop, then start the following:
    • 1 minute  x  walking lunges
    • 1 minute  x  walk
  • 5 minutes  x  jog at 50% effort
  • 3 minutes  x  jog at  60% effort
  • 1 minute  x  jog at 30% effort (slow job)
  • Slow down, stop, then start the following:
    • 30 second per leg  x  side-step squats (moving to the right or left)
    • 1 minute  x  walk
  • 5 minutes  x  jog at 50% effort
  • 5 minutes  x  jog at 60% effort
  • 1 minute  x  jog at 30% effort
  • Slow down, stop then start the following:
    • 10-15 elevated pushups*
    • 1 minute  x walk
  • 5 minutes  x  jog at 50-60% effort

*For the push-ups you want your head well above your heart. Try to find a railing or some other prop for your push-ups

 

The Importance of Electrolytes

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A host of sports drinks and rehydration products are marketed as a rich source of electrolytes, to the point where these products have become subject to parody (see the movie ‘Idiocracy’, for example). So it makes sense to wonder if electrolytes live up to the hype and why exactly, we need them.

What is an Electrolyte?

As you may remember from school biology classes, electrolytes are electrically charged minerals that are essential for human health. Some of the most common ones include:

  • sodium
  • potassium
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • chloride
  • phosphorous

image-pgx-blog-point-20160502Why Do We Need Them?

Electrolytes are needed for proper muscle function and nerve signalling, and to control what goes in and comes out of our cells, including water. Without the right balance of electrolytes, cells begin to lose water and let in toxins.  They also help keep a healthy blood pH and normal healthy bone function and other essential physiological processes.

Maintaining Electrolyte Balance

Electrolytes are lost when we sweat and when we go to the bathroom, although our kidneys are usually pretty good at conserving them as needed. In order to maintain levels of electrolytes in our blood and tissues, we have to drink fluids that contain these minerals or get them from our food.

Water itself does not contain electrolytes and drinking too much water without enough electrolytes can cause an imbalance. In fact, by ensuring a good intake of electrolytes, it is possible to keep hydrated more efficiently with less water, which could give athletes a competitive edge, save time in emergency situations, and help to conserve water.

To stay properly hydrated, we usually just need to drink plenty of water and eat fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy whole grains, nuts, seeds, pulses and legumes, all of which contain a variety of essential minerals, including electrolytes.

However, when hot weather, intense exercise or anything else causes us to lose a lot of fluids, a ready-made electrolyte product can be useful. Try mixing up this delicious PGX Coconut Blast SatisFast shake to have on hand.

image-pgx-blog-point-20160502Not Just for Athletes

Electrolyte drinks, powders and other products are not just designed for professional athletes, but for everyday gym-goers and people who live in a hot climate. In fact, electrolyte products are often used by firefighters tackling wildfires, as well as by anyone engaged in strenuous work, especially in the intense heat.

Staying properly hydrated and keeping our electrolyte levels balanced supports good health, but watch out for ready-made drinks that contain large amounts of sugar, as well as artificial sweeteners, flavourings, colours and preservatives. Instead, choose natural products such as coconut water to replace lost minerals as part of an overall balanced diet.

Anyone taking medications that affect levels of potassium, calcium or other electrolytes, or who has high blood pressure should check with their health care practitioner prior to using products containing electrolytes.

Reference
Cuddy, J.S., Ham, J.A., Harger, S.G., et al., (2008). Effects of an Electrolyte Additive on Hydration and Drinking Behavior During Wildfire Suppression. WEM, 19:172-180.

5 Healthy Appetizer Recipes

Healthy Appetizer Recipes

Appetizers are a key component to a social gathering! But they can also be a drag if you’re trying to maintain your healthy eating habits and everything getting passed around is deep-fried, cheese-filled or processed. Whether you’re hosting an event, or simply in need of providing a tasty tray for one, these 5 healthy appetizer recipes are ones you’ll want to make over and over again:

1. Pistachio Pesto Baked Mushrooms

To make the pesto, add the following to a food processor and mix until combined:

  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup arugula
  • 1/4 cup pistachio nuts (raw, shelled, unsalted, or adjust salt)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  1. Cut the stalks off two dozen cremini mushrooms and fill the centre of each with the pesto
  2. Place the mushrooms on a baking tray and drizzle a little olive oil over them
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes and let cool slightly before serving, or serve cold

Delicious stuffed mushrooms with cheese and pesto

2. Baked Chickpea Fritters

An ideal finger food, chickpea fritters are easy to make, easy to store and easy to eat!

Recipe makes around 24 mini fritters

  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 1 cup chopped spinach (fresh)
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 2 chopped scallions
  1. Combine chickpea flour, salt, and cumin. Add the hot water, a little at a time util a thick paste forms
  2. Let mixture stand for around an hour
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  4. Add spinach, garlic, baking soda, cooked chickpeas and scallions to the batter
  5. Drop 1/4 cup amounts of batter onto a baking tray lined with parchment
  6. Bake for 15 minutes, flip, and bake for another ten minutes
  7. Serve with hot sauce or a creamy lemon cashew dipping sauce

3. White Bean and Parsley Dip With Pita Chips

Perhaps the simplest of healthy appetizers, this delightful dip is made by adding all the ingredients to a food processor and mixing until smooth (it’s also fine to leave it a little rustic):

  • 1 can of cannellini beans
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup of fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For the pita chips:

  1. Bake triangles of whole wheat pita bread on baking trays in the oven for 7-8 minutes at 400 degrees
  2. Consider tossing the pita triangles in a little oil, salt, pepper and mixed herbs before baking, for extra pizzazz!

4. Quinoa Tabbouleh

Popular as a healthy food, quinoa is packed with protein and can easily be substituted for the traditional bulgur wheat used when making tabbouleh.

Recipe makes around 24 small servings

  • 2 cups quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • The juice of a fresh lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup hemp oil (or 1/4 cup flax oil and 1/4 cup hemp oil for added omega-3)
  • 2 medium-sized English cucumbers (ridgeless), chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 2 pints of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cup curly kale, massaged and chopped
  • 1 cup chopped fresh mint
  1. In a large bowl, mixx all the ingredients together.

5. Smoked Tofu, Avocado and Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade

This one is, admittedly, a little laborious, but it can be a fun activity to keep the kids occupied during party prep. The tapenade can also be made in advance.

  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted
  • 2 tbsps basil (dried)
  • 2 tbsps fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tsps olive oil
  1. Begin by soaking a cup of sun-dried tomatoes in hot water for 15 minutes
  2. Cut 1/4 inch slices of smoked tofu and similarly sized slices of avocado
  3. Drizzle a little fresh lemon juice over the avocado to avoid oxidation (browning) and cover with plastic wrap while you process the tapenade
  4. Drain the tomatoes, but reserve the soaking water
  5. Add the tomatoes to a food processor along with the Kalamata olives, basil, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil
  6. Create open-top sandwiches with a slice of smoked tofu on the bottom, a slice of avocado on top of that, and a little bit of sun-dried tomato tapenade to finish

Post-Baby Exercise: Getting Started

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Easing back into exercising post-baby can be tough – you’re figuring out your new life, you’re likely sleep-deprived, and you’re taking care of a brand new, tiny human! – but I promise that getting your body moving again will feel great. Remember that your body is probably not going to move like it used to, so be patient with it, and prepare for your first post-baby exercise to be something easy and low-key. Before getting started, please ensure your doctor has cleared you for exercise.

Here are my suggestions for easing back into a post-baby exercise routine:

Start With Walking

Start your post-baby exercise journey with a low impact exercise like walking. Your body has been through a lot, and you want to make sure you go easy on yourself when you start working out again. Walk a mile and see how your body feels before continuing on.

When you give birth, your core and pelvic muscles can get compromised. Walking can help restore function to these muscles in a safe and practical way.

A great thing about walking is that you can take your baby with you – a nice stroller ride can soothe your child to sleep! It also gets you both out of the house for some fresh air and a change of scenery. Try making walking a part of your new, daily routine.

Exercise Videos

Getting out of the house for scheduled classes, or even impromptu drop-ins, is probably not likely during those first few months. Hello, exercise videos!

The great things about exercise videos are the variety of workouts you can do; yoga, pilates, zumba, there’s something for every interest and level. Because your core and abs will need a lot of work, focusing on low-impact workouts, including pilates and yoga, will be beneficial to your body.

I am a huge fan of exercising at home; there’s hassle-free parking, no line for the shower and you can fit it in when it works best for your schedule. Babies take awhile to settle into a schedule, so working out at home when the opportunity arises is a great option to have.

HIITM (High-Intensity Interval Training)

Moms don’t have a lot of time for themselves. When you’re feeling ready to  amp up your exercise output (and you have been cleared by your doctor), high-intensity interval training may be just the thing to satisfy your craving for a more intense workout.

High-Intensity Interval Training utilizes short, quick bursts of energy with short rests periods in between. Getting your heart pumping will burn calories. Even when you’re done with your workout, your body still burns calories, this is known as Excess Post Oxygen Consumption (EPOC).

Here’s a 10 minute HIIT workout you can utilize:

  • 1 minute of jumping jacks | 30 seconds rest
  • 1 minute of push-ups | 30 seconds rest
  • 1 minute of jumps squats | 30 seconds rest
  • Rest 1 minute then start again

Join a Community

Having a good attitude about your body as you start your post-baby exercise journey is important. Find a support system to share stories, tips, and new mom experiences with. Mom fitness groups are all over the place! A quick search on-line can have you joining a like-minded, supportive community of Mom’s all working toward feeling healthy after pregnancy.

Smoothies That are Good for You

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Are smoothies good for you? They can be. With the right ingredients, you can pack a wealth of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre, and protein into each delicious smoothie – without adding sweeteners or bad fats.

Follow these 5 tips and every smoothie you make will be truly good for you:

1. Balance the Fruit to Veggie Ratio

Sure, fruit has outstanding health benefits, but eating too much can skyrocket your sugar intake. Balance out the fruit in your smoothie with vegetables such as kale, spinach, cucumber, squash, yam, or pulses. Aim for a 2:1 ratio of vegetables to fruit.

2. Use Unsweetened Ingredients

When including dairy or non-dairy alternatives, keep your smoothie’s sugar content down by choosing unsweetened, unflavoured varieties. This means using plain yogurt instead of flavoured and “unsweetened” soy milk instead of “original.”

3. Add an Extra Source of Fibre

Take the fibre in your smoothie to a level beyond what the fruit and vegetables contribute. Adding a scoop of SlimStyles® PGX® Granules or a tablespoon of chia, hemp, or ground flax seeds will help keep you full and even more satisfied.

4. Include Protein

When you drink a smoothie after your workout it should contain protein to help your body recover. PGX Satisfast™ Whey Protein Drink Mix makes for a delicious smoothie base that provides 10 g of protein per scoop. Greek yogurt, nut butter, and tofu are also sources of protein that create a smooth texture, while cooked quinoa, lentils, and black beans add protein and extra fibre.

5. Control Your Portion

When food is healthy it’s easy to rationalize a large portion; however, you’re better off sticking to a serving size that’s suitable for your caloric needs. As a guide, Health Canada’s reference amount for smoothies is 250 ml (1 cup) per serving.

*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®.

Recipe: Protein Packed Granola

protein packed granola

Granola — you know you want some! And that’s okay. With the right ingredients, you can pack granola with protein — one of the best nutrients for staying full and satisfied. If you struggle with weight, protein is a must-have nutrient in every meal.

As a high-quality source of plant protein, quinoa makes a fantastic addition to granola — not to mention that it’s delicious and crunchy! This pseudo-grain contains 8 g/cup of complete protein [1]. In other words, it provides a full range of essential amino acids. Quinoa pairs well with almonds and chia seeds, which are also good sources of protein and must-have ingredients for granola.

Protein Packed Granola

Boost the protein content in your morning, mid-day, and post-workout bites with this recipe for cocoa quinoa granola.

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup quinoa, rinsed and drained (rinsing quinoa helps to remove its bitter flavour)
  • ¾ cup rolled oats
  • 2 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp. flax seeds
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder or chocolate protein powder
  • 1/3 cup dried coconut flakes, unsweetened
  • ½ cup dried cherries
  • ½ cup almonds, chopped

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  • Combine quinoa, oats, chia, and flax seeds in a medium bowl
  • Using a saucepan over low heat, melt honey into a liquid
  • Stir in oil, vanilla, and cocoa powder until it forms a smooth slurry
  • Pour over quinoa and toss until well coated
  • Transfer to a baking pan and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring half way
  • Allow to cool before transferring to an airtight container
  • Add coconut, cherries, and almonds. Gently toss to mix

protein packed granola

Whether you eat meat or not, including a variety of protein-rich foods, such as *PGX® Satisfast™ Vegan Protein, in every meal is critical to optimizing your health, energy, and power.

*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®.

References:

[1] Food and Agriculture Organizations. “Quinoa.” United Nations. Web. 3 March 2016. http://www.fao.org/quinoa-2013/what-is-quinoa/nutritional-value/en/

3 Exercises for Toned Arms

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Arm day – one of my favourite days of the week! Think about it, our arms do a lot for us. They lift up heavy things (including carrying your kids), they push the grocery cart, and they pull that rope in an epic tug-of-war battle! As we age, we begin to lose muscle mass – in fact, by the time we turn 80, we have lost about 40% [1]! Strengthening your arm muscles is vital, not only to maintain tone but to assist in the activities of day to day life.

Here are three great exercises for toned arms:

1. The Bicep Curl to Shoulder Press

The biceps are muscles found on the front part of your upper arm. When your bicep contracts, it bends the arm at the elbow. The bicep muscle attaches to the shoulder joint, which is one reason why conjoining a bicep curl with a shoulder press is a fluid exercise and wonderful arm toning exercise. Strengthening your biceps and shoulders help with any pulling and overhead movement.

The Execution

Start with a dumbbell weight you can comfortably lift 15 times. As you progress, you will be able to add more weight and do fewer reps. We are going to start off with 15 reps at a moderate weight.

Start with both arms at your side. Keep your elbows by your sides (don’t let them come forward). The bottoms of your hands (when gripping the weights) will point toward the ceiling as you curl/bend your arm to about 30 degrees. At this time, you can bring your arms into a shoulder press position and press the weights straight up. Once you are done with your shoulder press, bring the weight back towards your starting point to begin the bicep curl again. It should be one fluid motion.

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2 4

2. The Push-Up

Push-ups are a great arm toner that also uses other muscle groups, like your core. Being able to perform this exercise in a hotel room, on the top of a mountain, or just hanging out at home, make push-ups a convenient, effective arm exercise you can do anywhere!

When you start to master push-ups you can execute multiple variations, such triceps push-ups and push-ups with a back row. But for now, we’re going to focus on how to do a simple push-up.

The Execution

Start on your hands and knees with your fingers spread. Make sure your wrists are placed straight under your shoulders, with your knees under your hips. Extend one of your legs straight back and rest your weight on your toes, then do the other. Your body should be in a straight line. Keep the muscles in your core and your glutes tight – don’t let your back sag! Keep your neck in line with your spine. Bend your elbows and lower your body towards the ground, then push yourself back up without locking your arms. Once you get back to your starting point, begin the exercise again until exertion.

You can always find a way to modify push-ups if you need to. For example, you can execute this exercise while on your knees instead of your toes.

second first

3. The Triceps Pushdown

One of my favorite muscles to workout is the triceps! This muscle can be found behind your arm closest to your shoulder, with their main mission being to extend the elbow [2]. Daily movements that use your triceps are shooting a basketball, throwing a ball and lifting bags of groceries out of the cart.

Exercising your triceps can get pretty specific as they aren’t the biggest muscle in your body. Triceps pushdowns are a winner in my book!

The Execution

In a gym setting, find the high pulley cable machine and attach a straight bar or the rope attachment. Adjust the cable to the setting closest to the top of the machine. The weight you set should allow you to do 12-15 triceps pull-downs with proper form. Keeping your elbows right at your sides, hold onto the straight bar or the rope and without moving your elbows, slowly pull it down towards your thighs. Once you’re at extension, slowly go back to your starting position.

Take a look at this demonstration of a triceps pushdown.

These three arm-strengthening exercises are sure to help you tone and strengthen those arm muscles!

References:

[1] Feature, Tom Valeo, WebMD. “Exercises for Biceps and Triceps.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.

[2] Cespedes, Andrea. “What Do Strong Triceps Help With?” Healthy Living. Azcentral, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.

The Health Benefits of Eggplant

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The peculiarly shaped eggplant may have been associated with madness in Renaissance England, but fortunately for us, modern science has revealed that this rather strange looking vegetable is highly nutritious. Eggplants contain plenty of fibre and are packed with phytonutrients, including some rare antioxidants. Let’s take a closer look at all the benefits eggplant has to offer:

Antioxidants

Nasunin is concentrated in the skin of purple eggplants, where it protects the vegetable from the sun’s rays and from environmental damage (Azuma et al., 2008). So far, Nasunin has only been found in eggplant, purple radish, red turnip and red cabbage. 

Research suggests that nasunin can help improve antioxidant activity in human cells, giving it a role to play in guarding against oxidative damage and associated health conditions. In one study, nasunin was found to protect colon cells from DNA damage in a dose-dependent manner (Jing et al., 2015). In another study, nasunin and petunidin 3RGc5G, another anthocyanin in eggplants, demonstrated excellent free radical scavenging abilities (Azuma et al., 2008).

Nasunin has also shown antiangiogenic activity, meaning that it may help to prevent the growth of blood vessels required to feed tumour growth (Matsubara et al., 2005). Antioxidants like nasunin have also been seen to help protect heart muscle cells (Das et al., 2011), while glycoalkoloids, namely a-solamargine and a-solasonine (found in eggplant and other Solanaceous vegetables), have been found to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in the laboratory and in animals (Friedman, 2015).

In addition to their anthocyanin content, eggplants contain chlorogenic acid, another antioxidant compound that may help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels already within the normal range (Hao et al., 2016). Chlorogenic acid comprises between 70% and 90% of the total polyphenol content of eggplants (Gramazio et al., 2014), and some research suggests that this nutrient supports healthy cellular DNA replication and immune health in humans (NCBI, 2016).

Nutrients and Fibre

Eggplants also contain vitamin C, folate and other B vitamins, beta-carotene, calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. These nutrients support immune function, bone health, muscle function, heart health and overall health.

Like most vegetables, eggplants are also high in fibre, meaning they can help you to feel full while maintaining a healthy body weight. Dietary fibre also helps to keep the digestive tract healthy for proper elimination of toxins.

Cooking with Eggplant

There’s no doubt that eggplants can be a little intimidating, given the range of shapes, sizes and colours available. It’s easy to get the hang of cooking with eggplants, though, and they are often found in Italian and Lebanese cuisine, where they work well with rich tomato sauces, basil, oregano and tahini.

Two of the simplest ways to cook eggplant are to slice it and fry it or, to cut it in half and bake it with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Eggplant is also a great addition to salads as the flesh of the vegetable soaks up dressings and oils to become rich and succulent.

Some people swear by halving or slicing eggplants, salting the flesh to draw out some of the bitterness and excess liquid and then rinsing after half an hour to an hour before cooking as desired. For younger, firmer and smaller eggplants this may not be necessary as these are less likely to contain large, bitter seeds.

Eggplants should be stored at about 50° F (10° C), so it is usually best to keep them refrigerated. Intact, unbruised eggplants will typically store well for up to a week. Use sliced, cut or bruised eggplant faster. To reduce food waste, consider baking, pureeing and freezing excess eggplant for later use in soups or stews.

One of my favourite ways to eat eggplant is to make roasted vegetable couscous. This dish is packed with flavour and nutrients and can be prepared in advance and eaten cold, making it ideal for picnics, potlucks and for a healthy midweek lunch.

Roasted Vegetable Couscous

Serves four as a side dish or two as a main

  • 3 cups of whole wheat couscous (cooked)
  • 1 cup of chickpeas (cooked)
  • 2 small to medium eggplants (dark purple)
  • 2 medium sized red peppers
  • 2 medium or 1 large tomato (beefsteak is ideal)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup fresh chopped Italian parsley
  • 2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the eggplant on a baking tray and prick several times with a fork or sharp knife. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, rotating two to three times. In a baking pan, roast the peppers for 45 minutes and the tomatoes for 30 minutes.
  2. Remove the peppers from the oven and seal in a brown paper bag. Let them cool for twenty minutes; this will make it easier to remove the charred skins. Use this time to cook the couscous if you haven’t already.
  3. Halve the eggplant and scoop out the flesh. Chop into pieces around an inch in size. De-seed the tomatoes and chop these into similarly sized pieces. Add the chopped vegetables to the couscous.
  4. Peel the skins off the peppers and chop these into inch-sized pieces, removing the seeds and stems. Add these to the couscous mixture.
  5. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix, seasoning to taste. Eat right away with flatbread, or let cool and then refrigerate for use within 24 hours.

References

Azuma, K., Ohyama, A., Ippoushi, K., et al. (2008). Structures and antioxidant activity of anthocyanins in many accessions of eggplant and its related species. J Agric Food Chem, Nov 12;5621):10154-9.

Das, S., Raychaudhuri, U., Falchi, M., et al. (2011). Cardioprotective properties of raw and cooked eggplant (Solanum melongena L). Food Funct, Jul;2(7):395-9.

Friedman, M. (2015). Chemistry and anticarcinogenic mechanisms of glycoalkaloids produced by eggplants, potatoes, and tomatoes. J Agric Food Chem, Apr 8;63(13):3323-37.

Gramazio, P., Prohens, J., Plazas, M., et al. (2014). Location of chlorogenic acid biosynthesis pathway and polyphenol oxidase genes in a new interspecific anchored linkage map of eggplant. BMC Plant Biol, Dec 10;14:350.

Hao, S., Xiao, Y., Lin, Y., et al. (2016). Chlorogenic acid-enriched extract from Eucommia ulmoides leaves inhibits hepatic lipid accumulation through regulation of cholesterol metabolism in HepG2 cells. Pharm Biol, Feb;54(2):251-9.

Jing, P., Qian, B., Zhao, S., et al. (2015). Effect of glycosylation patterns of Chinese eggplant anthocyanins and other derivatives on antioxidant effectiveness in human colon cell lines. Food Chem, Apr 1;172:183-9.

Matsubara, K., Kaneyuki, T., Miyake, T., & Mori, M. (2005). Antiangiogenic activity of nasunin, an antioxidant anthocyanin, in eggplant peels. J Agric Food Chem, Aug 10;53(16):6272-5.

National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Database; CID=1794427, https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/1794427 (accessed Jan. 26, 2016).