Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Exercise Anywhere Anytime

Forgive me with the sparse posts over the last couple of weeks (and the next couple of weeks); I've been slammed.

This week, I was faced with the troubling decision of what exercise to do. Well, because I was in a place with no access to a gym, and because for some reason, God has not bestowed the powers to swim upon me. And it hit me again how hard it really is to give it your all when there is no gym to at least help you out.

So I was thinking about you all as I was going through this, and I realized how important those little decisions we make before we travel can affect our whole trip. For example, I was thinking "Should I or should I not take a skipping rope?", "Of course everywhere has a gym in the 21st century", "I would be able to work out outside".

These may seem like minute questions now, but when you're in the thick of it, you realize how important they are. You should always have an exercise plan when you travel, and also have a backup plan (plus a backup to your backup if necessary). So what did I do? I packed up my skipping rope, my sneakers, workout DVDs, wrote down some routines to try for a 45 minute workout, and looked for gyms in the area I was staying.

As you've probably figured, the last part didn't quite work out well (pun intended). And on some days, the weather was not conducive to outdoor workouts. But those workout DVDs, and the routines I planned out saved the day.

What is with this long lecture? This is just to remind you that as the holidays draw near, do not forget or underestimate any travel exercise decisions. They can be the difference between staying active this holiday season, or putting back on every pound you've worked so hard to lose this year.

Now, if you are on Instagram and have not followed me yet, you can find me at @eightsnweights. I'm constantly updating it with pictures of workouts or food.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Nigerian Blog Awards 2012 Winner!

Dear readers,

First off, thank you for nominating and voting for Eights & Weights! We won the Judges' Choice for the Best Health and Fitness Blog at the Nigerian Blog Awards (see full list here). I appreciate the time it took you to vote.

Winning that made me get all sentimental so I wanted to take a moment to show my appreciation for all the Eights & Weights readers, the followers on Twitter, the fans on Facebook, those who tell their friends about us, and the followers on Instagram. You all rock, and you push and inspire me to work hard on my body and learn something new every day so I can come and tell you about it. Thank you for your support.

If you are currently not following Eights & Weights on any of those mediums and would like to, here is how you can find us:

Instagram: @eightsnweights

Have a fabulous week and remember that you only get as much from your body as you put into it :)

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Why Sitting on Your Ass Could Kill You


Spending all day sitting on your ass could literally expand the size of your ass. No, I'm not just talking about folks who don't exercise, but you who exercises and then sits for 3 hours in front of the TV. Yes, you.

People don’t need the experts to tell them that sitting around too much could give them a sore back or a spare tire. The conventional wisdom, though, is that if you watch your diet and get exercise at least a few times a week, you’ll effectively offset your sedentary time. A growing body of inactivity research, however, suggests that this advice makes scarcely more sense than the notion that you could counter a pack-a-day smoking habit by jogging. Exercise is not a perfect antidote for sitting. 
The posture of sitting itself probably isn’t worse than any other type of daytime physical inactivity, like lying on the couch watching “Wheel of Fortune.” But for most of us, when we’re awake and not moving, we’re sitting. This is your body on chairs: Electrical activity in the muscles drops, and the muscles go as silent as those of a dead horse, leading to a cascade of harmful metabolic effects. Your calorie-burning rate immediately plunges to about one per minute, a third of what it would be if you got up and walked. The risk of being obese shoots up within a single day, and the risk of developing  Type 2 Diabetes rises. The enzymes responsible for vacuuming up fat out of the bloodstream plunge.

Over a lifetime, the unhealthful effects of sitting add up. Alpa Patel, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society, tracked the health of 123,000 Americans between 1992 and 2006. The men in the study who spent six hours or more per day of their leisure time sitting had an overall death rate that was about 20 percent higher than the men who sat for three hours or less. The death rate for women who sat for more than six hours a day was about 40 percent higher. Patel estimates that on average, people who sit too much shave a few years off of their lives.

Sitting, it would seem, is an independent pathology. Being sedentary for nine hours a day at the office is bad for your health whether you go home and watch television afterward or hit the gym. It is bad whether you are morbidly obese or marathon-runner thin. Excessive sitting is a lethal activity.

The good news is that inactivity’s peril can be countered. Even the littlest stuff matters, like bending down to tie your shoes or walking down the hall to get a cup of tea. Every movement matters. The best advice anyone ever gave me about exercise was to get up at least every hour. It doesn't matter whether you are getting up to go to the bathroom or to get your mail. Get up off your ass so you can save your ass!

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Excerpts from the New York Times article "Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?" by James Vlahos.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Understanding Your Abdominal Muscle Anatomy

Everyone talks about abs and how a six-pack makes you look sexy and toned. However, people don't always know how to target the abs. For strong toned ab muscles, you really need to focus on all the muscles in that region.

The rectus abdominis: The long vertical muscle we refer to as the six-pack.
The transverse abdominis: The horizontal muscle which runs around the torso.
The obliques:  The pair of diagonals which run down your sides (internal and external).

Knowing the various abs muscles helps us know how to target each. A lot of the floor crunches people do tend to target the rectus abdominus, but may not work the obliques or the transverse abdominus. It is important to do exercises that work all the ab muscles to get the complete look and feel.

Here is one exercise you can try for each today:

Rectus Abdominis
As you see in the image above, these muscles go all the way down to your pelvis, and so pelvic exercises work well here. One awesome one you can do is the bicycle. It's a crunch so it's not my favorite, but it really works you out.

Transverse Abdominis
You use this muscle when you suck your stomach in and hold it tight. So do exercises where you require your core to balance. One example is the single leg lift. Use one leg for balance and raise the second knee towards your abdomen, holding your abs tight.

The obliques really require a lot of controlled twisting. Luckily, I wrote about this a few weeks ago with a video too! Check that out here and try the plank oblique.

In no time, you'd be an expert working out your whole abdominal region.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sugar vs. Sweeteners: Which is Better for You?

With the way teams on Twitter are going, frankly, I'm surprised people haven't started #TeamSugar and #TeamSweetener yet. If you're not into social networking, you probably won't get that.

Anyway, when you are trying to lose weight or stay healthy, the age old question of "sugar vs. sweetener" always comes up. Is sugar all bad? Are sweeteners super healthy? Well, let's find out.

First off, it is important to understand that there are different kinds of sweeteners: Natural sweeteners vs. Artificial sweeteners.

Natural Sweeteners
As you've probably guessed, the word 'natural' doesn't always tell us what we need to know. Generally, products are called natural because they go through little or no processing. However, that is subject to interpretation as two products can be called natural but have very different effects on the body based on their nutrition content. 

Sometimes, people lean towards some brands of sweeteners because of their exotic names or origins. Some examples of natural sweeteners are honey, molasses, agave nectar, and maple syrup. The truth is that although they require less processing, natural sugars are not that different from regular sugar in the calorie content and in the nutrition value. However, the good thing is that they don't contain a bunch of preservatives or ingredients that make you scratch your head. See below for how natural sweeteners stand compared to sugar.

Artificial Sweeteners
If you don't really have a sweet tooth, it could be difficult getting used to artificial sweeteners because they tend to be much much sweeter than sugar. However, the awesome aspect of artificial sweeteners is that they usually contain little to no calories because they are not carbohydrates. Some examples are: Splenda, and Sweet n' Low.

On the other hand, it is important to be careful with artificial sweeteners because many studies have shown that they are possibly linked to various diseases, including certain types of cancer. How do artificial sweeteners stack up compared to sugar?

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Strength Training: Why is it Important?

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a gentleman about weight lifting. And as you know, every conversation leads me to think about Eights & Weights readers and what your perspective is. And so midway through our conversation, my mind had wondered on to how readers approach the two major sects of exercise: cardio and strength training. 

I talk to a lot of people from both sexes about exercise, and one thing is very clear: there are individuals from both sexes that have a misunderstanding about the need for a balance of cardio and strength training. A lot of males seem to focus too much on strength training but not on cardio, and a lot of females seem to focus too much on cardio and not enough on strength training. 

Let's talk a bit about why strength training is important and we can focus on cardio another day (although I think I've beat that topic down).

Age: Have you realized that when you do extreme cardio now you hurt yourself much easier than you did a few years ago? As we grow older, we lose muscle mass. What does muscle mass have to do with cardio? A whole lot. The strength from your muscles is what helps you propel, balance and push yourself as you swim, run, spin, etc. The stronger you are, the better you can perform (Note that I said 'stronger', not 'bigger').

Protection: Also, as you lose muscle, the muscle gets replaced with fat. So though you may not see the scale go up or down, it doesn't mean you are fine. If you are carrying a lot of fat and forcing your body to still move at a certain level, the impact of all those cardio exercises could go straight to your joints because your muscles are not strong enough to protect those joints. The more cardio you do, the stronger your muscles need to be.

Weight: That is not to say that muscle mass does not help to control weight. Building strong muscles helps the body burn fat because obviously, your muscles are constantly doing work and in turn, burning energy. Just do not rely on muscles alone to burn fat though, like a lot of men do. You need both.

Looks: I mean, we are all vain on here, right? You do know that a toned bottom looks better than a soggy bottom. You need to constantly firm up your muscles as you burn fat to look healthy, fit, and more confident. There is a reason we women are always doing squats and lunges...

Strength training is not just about weight lifting though. You don't have to be lifting a thousand pounds at the gym to be fit so don't be intimidated. Sometimes, your body weight is good enough to help strengthen particular muscles in your body. I actively support body-weight strength training exercises (i.e. pushups, donkey kicks, lunges, etc.) because you can literally do them anywhere. Any exercise you do to tone your muscles rather than simply burn fat is a strength training exercise.

Speaking of strength training exercises, have you tried the TribeSports challenge?

For links to some of our other strength training examples, click here.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Chicken: To Skin or Not to Skin?

When I cook chicken that I didn't already buy skinless, I usually go through the motions of skinning the chicken. Yes, people have varying opinions of this is really necessary or not. My position is that it is not particularly necessary, but it definitely helps to reduce the temptation to eat the skin when I'm done cooking the chicken.

Okay, that just broke a lot of people's hearts, right? Well, here's a little fact to help you understand how many calories you are cutting down. Unlike other kinds of meat, most of the fat in chicken is in the skin. A 4oz regular chicken breast with skin has about 188 calories, and 3g of saturated fat. If you skinned that same chicken, it would have about 118 calories, and 0.4 grams of saturated fat. Multiply that to the amount you may actually be eating and you see how much of a difference that is!

So you're probably now wondering why I'm all for skinning it BEFORE you cook the chicken. Isn't it the same as just cooking it and then peeling it off? Plus, isn't it way easier that way? I'm not sure about you, but I don't always have the most control in the world when it comes to food, and so it's easier for me to avoid stuffing my face when the food is not on my plate or in my pot. I'm pretty sure some of you are the same. So I skin before I cook so I don't have to look at the juicy piece of skin and then will myself to not eat it.

Also, you may not know this, but the skin actually absorbs most of the spices when you cook the chicken. So peeling it off after you cook it sometimes means losing the flavor of what you just cooked. If you peel it off before, you allow the meat to absorb the spices.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

TribeSports Challenge: Abs and Legs Mini Circuit

It's another TribeSports challenge! Let's do this one together once every day until next Thursday. I'm definitely going to be trying it out and even trying to push myself to go a little beyond the limit. Who's with me?

See the details of the challenge below and let me know how you do!
  •  25 sit-ups
  • 25 mountain climbers (each leg) 
  • 25 leg raises (lying on side) (each leg) 
  • 1 minute plank
Repeat 3 times with a short, 20-30 second rest between.

Log on to TribeSports and sign up to experience the community and see how others are doing with this challenge. Visit the challenge page here: TribeSports Abs and Legs Mini Circuit.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Can't Get the Scale to Budge Anymore?

I always say that the body is like a machine; if you take it to get checked up regularly, keep it oiled, and perform your daily maintenance activities, it would run smoothly. If you don't well... it could catch up to you later on.

However, unfortunately, sometimes, the body gets used to the same routine. i.e. standard meals, standard calorie count, and the same exercise routine. So if you have been consistently working out and losing weight for a while, you may realize you have gotten to a point where the scale would no longer move. This is actually more common than you'd realize.

The good news is that you've noted the problem and can work to fix it. It may seem counter-intuitive sometimes (If you're exercising and eating right, it should be all good, no?), but here are a few steps you can take to get your body back into that fat-zapping state.

Switch up your diet: It doesn't matter whether your whole diet consists of protein shakes or veggies; your body gets used to what you put in it. It basically gets into a fuel-and-burn routine where your carbs come from the same food, your protein comes from the same food, and all your other nutrients come from the same food. To give your metabolism a kick, it is important to change your diet. You still want to keep your calories low, but change what foods your nutrients come from. Also, if you work out a lot, you need to make sure you are getting enough carbs to work out, and enough protein to rebuild muscle.

Change your calorie count: The number of calories you need is relative to your body weight, sex, and activity level. Take a look at this article for more details on the math behind your weight loss goals. Now, if you lose weight, that also means your body needs less calories and so you need to reconfigure your diet to fit your new weight. Sometimes though, you may also need to rev up your metabolism by upping your calorie intake just a little for about 2 or 3 days and then adjusting it back to what you need for your weight loss regimen.

Try new exercises: There is a term called muscle memory, where your muscles work similar to your brain. When you establish a habit, your brain automatically remembers to do it without much effort. Your muscles are similar. When you are used to doing an activity, your muscles require less effort to do the same activity. This means you may be using less energy and burning fewer calories. So mix up your routine to keep your calorie burn up.

Break up your exercise routine: After exercise, your body continues to be in fat-burn mode for a while. If you are used to exercising at one point in the day, you may be losing the chance to get your metabolism revved up during other points in the day. If you break up your routine (e.g. half of it in the morning and half in the evening), that could help burn more because your body would be in fat-burn mode during other points of the day as well.

Strength train: Sometimes, when people are trying to lose weight, they may focus just on cardio exercises. This isn't completely wrong because cardio exercises burn fat. However, building lean muscle also helps the body stay in a state where more fat is burned. And so it is important to get your body toned up so it can keep burning calories even during rest.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Is Suzanne the Face of Fitness?

Fitness Magazine currently has a competition where every week one person can be nominated as the "Face of Fitness". You have to submit an entry, the team reviews your application, you qualify, and then people vote for you. If you win, you get nominated to win a grand prize. The grand prize is a FITNESS magazine photo shoot and an all-new 2013 Ford Escape! Guess what? I qualified this week! 

Obviously, you know what that means. Go and vote for me :)

The FITNESS magazine voting link is here. Thanks a lot for your support!

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Aren't all Juices Healthy?

Some juices should be called cocktails, not juices, because I think they serve to confuse the consumers more than help them. I understand that it is cheaper for manufacturers to produce these 'cocktails' since most of the ingredients are non-perishable synthetic chemicals that don't require effort to keep fresh, and thus can be sold for cheaper. However, the word 'juice' makes people believe they are in some form healthier.

Let's face it: not drinking soda does not mean a person is healthy. In fact, some juices are just as bad as soda, containing just as much sugar and not enough actual fruit. See below for an example of the ingredients in a product that is identified as a juice:

Yikes! All I see is various kinds of synthetic sugar, and then some small references to fruit somewhere in the center. If we're going by the rule that manufacturers identify the ingredients in order of quantity with the largest first, then this poses a major problem. You're basically drinking sugar drinking this juice. Now, if you didn't pay attention to the actual contents or the calorie information, and simply thought "Oh, great! Juice.", then you see how this could lead to some unfortunate decisions.

Okay, but if you shouldn't drink all juices, what should you do? First of all, pay attention to the nutrition content. If one glass contains upwards of 100 calories, ask yourself if it is worth giving up that many calories in your day for a drink. 

Second, do all of the calories come from its sugar content? Look at the ingredients. If it's stuff you don't know (What is Carnauba wax?), maybe think twice. Look out for the "100% pure" on the back with the list of ingredients, not on the front with the name.

Now, wouldn't that feel better? 100% fruit and vegetables sounds good to me. I would rather go for tomato juice and other vegetables than fruit because it contains less sugar and helps me stay fuller.

Thirdly, consider this: Can you make it at home? I know things that are properly packaged always seem prettier and juicier, but in reality, the juices we make at home are fresher, more natural, and contain more nutrients than the ones we buy at the store. Plus, you have the free reign to mix and match fruits and veggies as you'd like. The juice below contains spinach and carrots.

If you must buy juice though, some of the best options are 100% cranberry juice (known to prevent urinary tract infections), pomegranate juice (contains tons of antioxidants), and vegetable juices (low in sugar and calories). If you're not hell-bent on juices, another option to try is flavored water. It usally contains 0 calories and it tastes better than water.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Inner Thigh Lifts

There seem to be a lot of misconceptions when it comes to working your muscles. The body is made up of so many muscles, somewhere upwards of 640, and so it does take significant effort to work each one. Of course they are not all equally important.

When it comes to the leg and thigh muscles, there are also so many. However, where we choose to focus could affect our balance and how our bodies protect themselves from injury. 

There are several large muscles in our outer thighs, but because they tend to be bigger than the muscles in our butts and inner thighs, they compensate for a lot of the exercises we do. For example, although lunges should be working your inner thigh muscles and your butt, if those muscles are not strong enough to hold the position, or if the position is not done right, the outer thigh muscles compensate and cause a lot of tension in those muscles.

Before I blab on and on, the point I am trying to get across is that for the thigh muscles, we may need to do exercises that target individual parts of the thighs because these muscles are very important for balance.

Here is a video from LiveStrong that shows one exercise you can do to work the muscles in your inner thigh: Inner Thigh Lifts. These are difficult, but get easier as you do them more often.

As you do the exercise above, remember that your core is also the center of every exercise that you do, and it is the source of your balance. If you do not have a strong core, it is important that you work to build your core with every exercise. Keep your abs tight as you contract and relax your muscles and you'd be using your core strength as well.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dressing Up Your Greens

Mama said eat your greens. And while mama is not always right (but don't tell her that), she is today. The only problem is that as humans we are conditioned to hate vegetables. So how do you get over that battle between what is right for you and what tastes good? Here are a few tips:

Wander outside your comfort zone: So every time you think of greens you conjure up images of your grandma force-feeding you collard greens? That doesn't mean collard greens are the only good form of veggies. Most large grocery stores and markets have a vegetable section. You can go there, walk around, and see what you find. They have everything from spinach to green peppers to asparagus. Even if you are currently eating greens you like, it is easy to get bored. Try something new!

Sweeten your greens: If what concerns you is the bitterness (I do come from a country where there is a leaf called bitter leaf), then you can add in some sweetness without spiking up the calorie content considerably. Pears, peaches, and bananas are a great additive for the sweet tooth king or queen. Other sweeter vegetables like carrots, tomatoes, and peppers can also be really tasty options to cover up the bitterness.

Spice things up: Okay, so maybe you don't have a sweet tooth, but you like your food spicy? The great thing about spices is that they usually don't contain very many calories. You can try putting in a tea spoon of olive oil to your greens with some hot peppers, basil, garlic, or onions. If you properly spice up your veggies, you may forget that you are actually eating veggies. Just remember not to overcook them and lose all the nutrients. You could also grill your vegetables. If you haven't tried that, that can be so much yummier than boiling them because they get that smoky taste.

Deceive your taste buds: Okay, so you've tried all that and still can't over the green hump. How about putting some veggies in your regular food to deceive your taste buds? For example, if you like burritos, replace the beans in your burrito with peppers and other vegetables so you get the nutrients in and you drive the calories down. Plus, you still have your meat :) Or if you like pasta, fill your sauce with carrots, peas, and even some chopped spinach. You still get that awesome tomato taste and you get the benefits of having the veggies as well.

How do you dress up your veggies?

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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