Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Is Your Job Making You Fat?

"I am too busy", "I'm in meetings all day", "Ugh! My coworkers ordered pizza again". You are probably pretty familiar with these excuses. Honestly, it is very difficult to have a corporate life and still stay healthy, especially as you get more successful. We all know the more successful you get, the richer the food you eat and the more you have to network over meals. This could mean a few inches on your waistline as well.

Don't let this depress you though. It really doesn't mean you have to choose between being successful and being healthy. You just may have to work a little harder. Here are a few of the usual roadblocks and how you can attack them:

I sit all day
Well, this one is easy. You do get bathroom breaks, right? Set a timer to remind you to go on a "water break" every hour. This water break just means you get up and walk somewhere for a couple of minutes and get a cup of water while you're at it. You need to get the blood flowing in your legs, get your muscles working a bit, burn a couple of calories, and make sure your back and neck aren't getting stuck in that wrong peering-over-the-computer posture. All you need is a computer or a phone to set up this alarm, and you'd be getting much needed hydration as well.

I am so busy
Business creates a couple of problems: You may not eat when you are supposed to or eat the wrong things (Bad Diet Habits), or not find time to exercise (Lack of Activity). 

If you find that you are starving yourself and then jumping to the vending machine for candy when you're hungry, start to keep power snacks in your purse; your best options are fruits, nuts, or cereal bars. And then set an alarm for every 3 or 4 hours so you can remember to snack on something.

If you find that you are becoming sedentary, your best option may be to break up your workouts. Wake up 15 minutes earlier in the morning and get a quick workout in. I know it sucks, but the energy burst you get from your morning workout could actually improve your mood throughout the day and give you that burst of energy you need for those morning meetings. Also add in another 15 minutes somewhere else in your day, like on your way back from home or during lunch. If you do get a semblance of a lunch break, squeeze the time to work out in there, and spend just a few minutes actually eating.

There is always candy around me at the office
This sucks too because you can't really control what other people do. Sometimes, I think my colleagues are trying to sabotage me when they go "But you worked so hard at the gym. You can afford that piece of chocolate!". So I know how you feel. 

But that does not mean there is no way around it. Politely ask your colleagues to move the candy to a particular spot where you would not see it. If it is not in your sights, you are less likely to go looking for it. Also, if you stock up on your own power snacks, when you feel the temptation, you can reach for something else in your purse. 

It also helps to not carry cash with you around the office. Why? It prevents you from chipping in when that colleague comes around with the fundraising candy or cookies. You know the ones I mean, right? We all have someone who is always selling fundraising snacks.

I get hungry between meals
We all do. So this goes back to the point of stocking up on power snacks and not carrying cash around. You are less likely to head to the vending machine if you have no money and you already have healthy snacks to munch on.

I have to network
As you climb the corporate ladder, it becomes increasingly important to network. And networking sometimes means richer foods and more alcohol than you would usually have in your routine. There are a few ways to try to get around the networking calories. One, if you tend to eat in a general area, research the healthy restaurant options or the healthy food and drinks on the menus in the restaurants around you. So whenever you take a client out, you already know what your options are.

Two, order in. If you have a meeting in the office and have it catered, you have more control over what gets delivered. Just make sure you already know what the attendees are allergic to!

Three, find other ways to network besides food. Take clients out to a golf course or to play pool. Find out if he/she is into the community and set up a volunteer networking session. There are many other options besides eating and drinking that may be fun to try. And it actually may give the client a good impression of you.

If you are the client, when a meeting is set up, send dietary restrictions. Usually, anyone setting up a business meeting would want to impress the client and so would ask for preferences or options. Don't be shy to provide yours.

How do you stay healthy in the workplace?

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Have You Heard of TribeSports?

One of the ways to get and stay active is to be part of a community where you can feed off of people's experiences, ask for advice, and take on challenges set by others. This is the premise of groups like Weight Watchers, running clubs, and local sports teams. One site has been developed to facilitate that community development and build off our competitive nature: TribeSports.

From the TribeSports site, here are a few reasons they believe TribeSports would make you more active:
  • It is free!
  • Seeing other people exercise is contagious.
  • Getting encouragement and advice is reassuring, its addictive, and it makes you want to do more.
  • Taking Challenges helps you keep motivated and pushes you to try new things.
  • Hitting the Challenge take button provides that bit of accountability that will see you succeed with it.
  • It keeps you wanting to grow your knowledge by pushing yourself a little more than you would otherwise.
My interpretation? TribeSports is kind of like a Facebook for sports. It is more than Facebook because you have the challenge factor, but you know what I mean. You can follow and unfollow people, you can track other folks' activity and constantly update yours, and you can win medals and join leadership boards. 

Now your friends won't yell at you for sending Twitter updates every time you work out! Instead, share it with people who would be motivated by it. Of course you can still connect to your Facebook and Twitter if you want to, and download the app to keep yourself motivated on the go as well.

I have high hopes for TribeSports. I do believe with the right attention and publicity, it can grow to be a big community of subscribers across the globe. All of us avid exercise and sports fans can have a place to be as competitive as we want, and maybe it would inspire others to get competitive too.

Try it out and let me know what you think! They have challenges all the time and we will start to put them up as they become available. For now, look to the left sidebar for the current challenge that inspires me: "Do 30 minutes of physical activity every day for a year". Click on the link and sign up.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Eights & Weights Video: Extended Donkey Kick

If you're on the east coast of the US, you've probably heard of the storm (Hurricane Sandy) that is heading our way. If you've been mandated to evacuate, please find a safe place to stay. If you're staying home, make sure you have food, water, and alternate lighting. Maybe you can also fill some of your time with some physical activity indoors? Here is one you can do :)

We talked about the Donkey Kick a while ago, but you can work even more muscles by extending your donkey kick. Naturally, this exercise works on the bum, the thighs, and legs, but you can use it to work your core, your arms, and your shoulders as well by starting in a downward-facing dog position, rather than remaining on your knees.

  • Start in the downward-facing dog position
  • Lift your right leg and extend as high as you can so there is a straight line from your right heel to your right fingers. 
  • Lower the leg and then bend it and bring it towards your waist using your core to push your knee forward
  • Straighten the leg and extend all the way back up
  • Do as many as you can on one side and then repeat on the other side
You should feel this in your arms, your core, your legs, and especially your bum.

Here is a video I made to help you visualize:

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Clinical Breast Exam

Breast cancer month is coming to an end, and as we all know, it is important for each woman to understand her risks and constantly stay informed. There are different types of tests that each woman should perform and stay vigilant on. These are: Breast self exam, Clinical breast exam, and mammogram.

Last year, during breast cancer month, we discussed how to perform a breast self exam. If you missed that, please refer to it here: Breast Self Exam. However, you should still go to your doctor for clinical breast exams if you are over 20. I did a little research on what you should expect during clinical exams, and found these FAQs from WebMD. I hope it helps!

How Often Should I Have a Clinical Breast Exam? 
You should have a clinical breast exam at least every three years starting at age 20 and every year starting at age 40. A clinical breast exam may be recommended more frequently if you have a strong family history of breast cancer.
When Should I Schedule a Clinical Breast Exam?
Breast exams are best performed soon after your menstrual period ends, because your breasts will not be as tender and swollen as during your period. This makes it easier to detect any unusual changes. If you have stopped menstruating, schedule the yearly exam on a day that's easy for you to remember, such as your birthday.
What Happens During a Breast Exam?
Before your breast exam, your health care provider will ask you detailed questions about your health history, including your menstrual and pregnancy history. Questions might include what age you started menstruating, if you have children, and how old you were when your first child was born.

A thorough breast exam will be performed. For the exam, you undress from the waist up. Your health care provider will look at your breasts for changes in size, shape, or symmetry. Your provider may ask you to lift your arms over your head, put your hands on your hips or lean forward. He or she will examine your breasts for any skin changes including rashes, dimpling, or redness. This is a good time to learn how to do a breast self-exam if you don't already know how.

As you lay on your back with your arms behind your head, your health care provider will examine your breasts with the pads of the fingers to detect lumps or other changes. The area under both arms will also be examined.

Your health care provider will gently press around your nipple to check for any discharge. If there is discharge, a sample may be collected for examination under a microscope.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Abductor and Adductor Exercises

Sometimes you learn things the hard way. But we don’t want you to! So this is why I thought it was really important to get you prepared to protect your body against injury as you work out. Lately, we have been talking about a lot of power and plyometric exercises, running, Insanity, that sort of thing. And I had said how some of these types of exercises can be hard on your joints, especially your knees and ankles.

We put a lot of pressure on our joints as we exercise. And ironically, our joints have no muscles of their own. Thus, in order to protect them, we have to work on strengthening the muscles around the joint so that the impact of our exercises would be captured by those muscles rather than the joints.

A classic example is our knees. The knee seems to be one of the most bruised and battered joints in the body. When we jump around, they feel the pressure. When we do squats and the kind, they feel the pressure. When we run, they feel the pressure. And yet, the knees are very sensitive. So what can you do to protect them? Work one of the largest muscle groups that help support the knees – the abductors and adductors.

The abductor muscles in your legs are the upper thigh muscles used to pull the legs away from the midline of the body and away from one another. So remember those machines at the gym where you sit and open your knees with weights? That’s what they are meant to work on. If you don’t have strong abductors, you transfer the pressure to your knees and ankles when you perform exercises that require you open and close your knees. One great example of an exercise that may require opening your knees? The jumping jack.

If you do the jumping jack and find yourself twisting your knees inward rather than outward, and if you are not landing softly on your knees (slightly bending when you land), you may need to work harder to strengthen your abductors.

How do you do that? Besides the machines, here are a couple of exercises to help:

Bridge: Lie flat on your back with your feet on the floor and your knees bent and open slightly. Keep your arms straight beside you with your palms down. Slowly lift your butt off the floor using your outer thigh strength. Be careful that your knees do not start to open up or fall slowly to the side. Stay up for about 3 seconds and lower down. That is one rep. Repeat as many times as you can.

Hip abduction: Stand tall with your palms on your waist. Transfer your weight to your left leg, bend the left knee slightly, and raise your right foot off the floor. Slowly, extend your right leg to the right side of your body using your outer hip. It is not as easy as it seems. Keep your weight in your left thigh, while keeping your left knee loose and keeping your right leg lifted. Bring your right knee back toward the left without having it touch the floor. That is 1 rep. Repeat as many times as you can, and then switch sides.

Alternatively, you could do this exercise lying on one side propped up on your elbow, or standing and holding a chair.

If the abductor muscles are used to pull the legs away from the midline of the body and apart, then who can guess what the adductors do? They are used to pull the legs towards the midline of the body. So remember the inner thigh machines you see? These are the muscles that are being worked on. Runners are usually very affected when they have poor adductors because the knees are beginning to poke to the sides when they run. This can cause major damage.

If you find yourself struggling to keep your knees together in certain poses, meaning they kind of slump if you’re not actively managing the pose, then you may need to work on your adductors.

Here are a couple of exercises you can try:

Squat: You all know how to do a perfect squat by now, right? Stand with legs shoulder-width or wider apart. Lower your butt into a squatting position while keeping your upper body upright. Your but should be as low as possible, while you still try to keep your knees behind your ankles. Pushing your knees in front of your ankles might help you get lower, but it might also hurt your knees. As you go low, tighten your butt and try to imagine your hips squeezing tight towards each other. Stand and repeat.

To work these muscles better, try single-leg squats or wall sits. This works the adductors harder because it adds the balance factor.

Deadlift: Stand with feet slightly apart. Lower your upper body slowly down as if you’re reaching for your toes. Keep the knees slightly bent (just slightly). As you get closer to your toes, you’d notice you start feeling it in your lower back. Slowly come back up and repeat. Try to also squeeze the thigh muscles as you lower down and come up.  You can do this exercise with or without weights, but weights definitely work the adductor muscles much harder.

To make this work harder for you, lift one leg backwards as you go down.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:,,,

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Nigerian Blog Awards 2012 - Voting is Now Open!

Thank you for nominating Eights & Weights for the 'Best Fitness or Health Blog' category in the Nigerian Blog Awards. We have come in in the top 5. But the work is not done yet. It's now voting time! 

Please click on this link - Nigerian Blog Awards - and vote. I know, I know, you're too busy watching Obama vs. Romney, planning your nutrition for the rest of the week, or maybe you are in the middle of a sweat session. I understand that you are busy, so your votes are much appreciated. Avenues like this one help us expand our reach to more readers, so we can stay current and active. 

Thank you in advance for your votes. Let's win this thing!

FYI - There is no prize money so I can't bribe you with anything besides All I can say is thanks for your support.

If you arrived here from the Nigerian Blog Awards website, welcome! Please check out our other posts.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Interview with Johnathan Akinyemi: Pain is Temporary

This may be a little late, but if you didn't hear before, you must have heard by now. This year, Nigeria had its first Olympic Athlete performing in rowing sports. Johnathan Akinyemi represented his country in Canoe Slalom at the 2012 London Olympics. I got a chance to catch up with him, and we had laughs and serious moments. But I must say, I was impressed with him as a person and as an athlete.

Eights & Weights: Congrats on getting to participate in the Olympics! It must be a relief now that it’s all over.
Johnathan: Yes, right after the Olympics, I took a couple of weeks to just relax. But I’m already getting into training for Rio and it’s getting pretty serious again there.

Eights & Weights: You actually start training about 4 years before? I’m fascinated with Olympians and how much effort goes into preparing, but I don’t think most people know that you start training 4 years before.
Johnathan: Yes, it’s basically this 4-year cycle with goals and objectives along the way. But as you said, that’s our lives, training for the Olympics. That’s why it was really disappointing when I got the 50-second time. Because you see that 4 years of training just slipping away. And then you have to start again for the next 4 years. I quite enjoy the ramping up bit, getting back into training and building that focus for the big games. I mean, there are races along the way, but the Olympics is the biggest event. It’s what makes the Olympics special.

Eights & Weights: So along the way, how many other professional events do you get involved in besides the Olympics? I think the average reader does not hear too much about all the other events.
Johnathan: With the kayak circuit, there is the World Cup Series, and that is 5 races in different locations around the world, mainly in Europe. And then there’s the World Championships each year.  There’s also a domestic premiership league in the UK, and I race in the highest league in the UK. So those are the big races in the season. It’s quite difficult to do both the domestic league and the international races, like racing for Nigeria, because timing usually clashes. But my main focus is the international circuit.

Eights & Weights: So tell me about yourself and your history. How did you get into kayaking?
Johnathan: Basically, I accidentally got into kayaking. I used to be really fascinated with motorbikes, like magazines and everything. I always really wanted a motorbike. And so I think my mum and dad, thinking that was too dangerous, found a way to steer me away from motorbikes by buying me a canoe. It worked though. I started getting more into it and racing on the whitewater, and then competing in the domestic divisions in the UK. I just loved it and it’s been a passion ever since.

Eights & Weights: Haha! But that’s not any less dangerous.
Johnathan: Exactly. I think it’s quite ironic how they tried to steer me away from ‘dangerous’ motorbikes by getting me involved in whitewater kayaking.

Eights & Weights: So how did you get involved in the international circuit?
Johnathan: Racing internationally started with me competing with Team GB as a junior. I did quite well; I was British Junior National Champion when I was in my final year as a junior, and then I came 14th in the Europeans, which was quite a good result. But it was really when I went to Nigeria for the first time in 2007 after my junior career that things changed. 

I was raised to always be proud of my Nigerian heritage, but it was when I actually went back that I experienced the atmosphere, the people, I felt really connected to it and decided I wanted to represent Nigeria. We worked with the rowing federation to establish a canoeing federation to compete, and it’s been such a great experience. It’s been one of the best decisions of my canoeing career to switch to represent Nigeria. I’m very proud.

Eights & Weights: Well, we’re proud of you too. But sincerely, I can’t imagine how it felt like to be the first to represent a country at the Olympics for a particular sport. What has the reception been like?
Johnathan: Because it is kind of a new thing in Nigeria, it’s more like curiosity, which is good. If people are curious, then maybe we would be able to get more youngsters involved in the sport. But especially at the games, I felt a big weight on my shoulders being the first to represent Nigeria in Canoe Slalom. I felt like lot of people were watching to learn what the sport was about. So it was a pity that I couldn’t have got farther in the competition. But it is my first Olympics and a lot of the other competitors were more seasoned so hopefully, at the next one, I’ll be more experienced as well.
The Olympic Committee in Nigeria has also taken a bit more notice of the sport since I qualified, and gotten behind me a lot more.

Eights & Weights: On Twitter, there was some hype about this new fellow representing the country for the first time in Canoe Slalom, and basically everyone was asking what Canoe Slalom was, supporting, and rallying behind you.
Johnathan: That’s what I thought was so great about Nigeria; people rallying behind me. That’s why I would have loved to go a little further. I thought that people were going to be annoyed at me really. There was a point after the race where I thought I couldn’t carry on doing this, but because the response was so positive, and because people kept saying how proud they were of me, it helped me bounce back. Now, when I’m having a bad day, sometimes I look back at some of those messages, especially on Twitter, and it helps me regain my focus as I train for Rio in 2016.

Eights & Weights: It's amazing what support can do. Since the Olympics have been over, have you got any endorsement deals? How has the Olympics affected your professional life?
Johnathan: Since I qualified in February, I have been focused fully on the sport, and raising money to train for the Olympics, which can be really expensive. I haven’t got any endorsement deals yet, but I’m hoping to get some funding from the Sports Commission or some sponsorship deals. But because canoeing is not the best known sport in the world, it is pretty tough to get sponsorship deals. It’s quite tricky. Because we need to raise money, we have to work, and then sometimes you find yourself not as focused on canoeing as you would want. It’s not the ideal situation for training. So I’m currently looking for sponsorship and throwing all my effort into training for Rio. (Ahem... Nike take note... The boy needs some endorsements)

Eights & Weights: Do you train in the UK? I’m not sure how developed Nigeria is in training for whitewater sports.
Johnathan: Well, training in Nigeria is still in the development phase. We’ve got boats out in Lagos, which we mainly use on the flat water. But at the moment, we have not got any whitewater training, so I may need to go out in December to like the Calabar region to try to find some whitewater that is suitable for training. 

My training is based in the UK right now. There are about 4 different man-made whitewater facilities in the UK, which is really good for training. And then typically, in the winter, I would head over to South Africa to train to escape the cold weather over here. There are about 2 training camps down there. In the summer, it gets pretty crazy just following the World Cup Series, wherever the races happen to be that year.

Eights & Weights: So what did your typical training regimen look like while you were training for the Olympics? I’m an avid exerciser but I’ve tried those rowing machines at the gym and they are not easy!
Johnathan: Laughs.. It's hard work. Two months before the Olympics, all my main training was in the canoe. I did recessions on the whitewater and then cardio work on the flat water. We put resistance on the boats. And then we occasionally did some weight sessions to especially work on the core, abs, and back, and of course big arm exercises.

Eights & Weights: Do you have a similar training regimen now?
Johnathan: That was in season. Right now, I’ll be more in the gym working on my general fitness. I basically get up in the morning at about 6:30, and focus more on cardio, using equipment like the  treadmill or rowing machines, just to burn calories because we still have to keep the weight off when in the canoe. And then I’ll work my upper body and core with big weights and low reps to build a lot of power. The keys ones I like to do are the bench press, bench pull, and weighted chin-ups. There’s also a lot of work I have to do for my shoulders also to prevent injury as well because you’re very physical on your shoulders in the whitewater.

So it’s basically 3 sessions a day: cardio, weights, and then hit the boats to work on the technical areas because it’s a very technical sport.

Eights & Weights: What about nutrition?
Johnathan: In terms of nutrition, because I want to be as lean as possible for canoeing, it is important to watch what I eat. In the evenings, it’s more lean protein and less carbs. But I usually eat a big lunch with pastas and rice to keep up my energy for my workouts. In the morning, I try to have a good breakfast: yogurt, fruits, or cereal. But because boats are made for a specific weight (mine is made for a 78kg person), it is important to watch your weight if you are into canoeing.

Eights & Weights: Well, I didn’t know boats were made for specific weights? That’s something new and interesting.

Eights & Weights: Okay, so you’re training for Rio, we know that. But what is the next big thing we can catch you on in the near future?
Johnathan: Now, the season is closing for 2012. I’ll be racing the British Open in November so I’ll keep you posted on the results. But the next big race is the Cardiff World Cup, which is scheduled for next June. That’s the next big one to watch out for.

Eights & Weights: Now, what people REALLY want to know. What is something personal that you think people would be surprised to know about you?
Johnathan: Let me think about that one. See if this was like a corporate setting, I would have been able to say “Well, I’ve been to the Olympics”. Hmmm… You’d probably be surprised how much chocolate I eat. I didn’t include that in my nutrition regimen earlier…Laughs… I love my chocolate. I had to cut it out right before the Olympics, but for an athlete, you’d be surprised how much of a sweet tooth I have. My favorite is a Mars bar. And I like to eat it in a weird way too, like eat all the chocolate from the outside and slowly strip off each layer one by one.


If you'd like to learn more about Johnathan (he likes to go by Johny), visit his site, or follow him on Twitter.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:,

Saturday, October 20, 2012

All I Need Is A Cup of Tea?

Tea always gets a good name. Everyone says you should be drinking more tea to lose weight and stay healthy. But no ones seems to be able to directly tell you the benefits of tea.

Nutrients in Tea
First off, there are different types of tea, right? There is green, black, white, and a variety of teas specific to certain regions. All these types of tea contain something called flavonoids (you've probably heard of one of these flavonoids called ECGC), which help the body fight against diseases.

Also, tea, like any other drink containing caffeine helps to 'wake you up' and keep you alert.

Unfortunately, a lot of diet companies sell certain teas as weight loss formulas. There has been no conclusive medical evidence that tea in itself helps you lose a lot of weight. Granted, green tea does possess some weight loss qualities, but they are insignificant at best.

The Best Type of Tea
Black, green, white, herbal? What really is the difference? The difference is in how the tea is made. See the excerpt below by Julie Edgar on WebMD:
  • Green tea: Made with steamed tea leaves, it has a high concentration of EGCG and has been widely studied. Green tea’s antioxidants may interfere with the growth of bladder, breast, lung, stomach, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers; prevent clogging of the arteries, burn fat, counteract oxidative stress on the brain, reduce risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, reduce risk of stroke, and improve cholesterol levels.
  • Black tea: Made with fermented tea leaves, black tea has the highest caffeine content and forms the basis for flavored teas like chai, along with some instant teas. Studies have shown that black tea may protect lungs from damage caused by exposure to cigarette smoke. It also may reduce the risk of stroke.
  • White tea: Uncured and unfermented. One study showed that white tea has the most potent anticancer properties compared to more processed teas.
  • Herbal tea: Herbal teas are generally made from a plant besides tea. For example, chamomile tea. So though they are called teas, technically, they aren't. However, they are mostly made from healthy substances and so do have their own benefits. For example, hibiscus tea may help to lower blood pressure.
So now you can see why green tea seems to have the most health benefits. Just don't fill it with all the sugar or honey.

Additional Tips
Caffeine can be a great thing if consumed minimally not to allow the body to become dependent on the substance for proper mental function. Watch how much black tea you consume. With the other types, they contain a lower amount of caffeine and so you don't have to be as vigilant with the quantity you drink.

As with anything you eat, go for natural vs. processed. Use tea leaves or a tea bag where you can, rather than the powdered iced teas or pre-made teas. Those things contain a lot of sugar.  Tea itself has 0 calories (that's right: ZERO), so the calories you see on packs is all in the additives.

What kind of tea do you drink the most?

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What you Didn't Know About the Banana

You've either heard that bananas are great or they are bad (There's no middle ground with rumors). Some folks say the banana is great simply because it is a fruit. Others say the banana is bad because it tastes so sweet. So what is reality? The banana is more complex than that.

Calories: A medium banana can contain about 110 calories. But rather than just say a banana contains more calories than other fruits, it is important to understand why. If you look at a banana, it is denser than most other fruits because it contains less water (which is why we don't refer to them as 'juicy'). Thus, there is more actual fruit in a banana than there is in most fruits, and they make you get full faster. Because they satisfy you more, people tend to eat less of them. All I would say is that because you know how many calories are in it, don't go eating 3 as a snack.

Potassium: I'm sure you hear this a lot, but you're probably like "who cares about potassium anyway?". I'll tell you why you should care, especially if you are an athlete (we are all aspiring athletes on here, yea?). The high amounts of potassium in bananas can lower blood pressure and the risk of stroke, replace electrolytes lost with sweat, and stimulate your muscles, nerves and brain cells. Athletes tend to take bananas to prevent muscle cramping and replenish the muscles after a tough workout.

Sweetness: A medium banana contains about 19 grams of sugar, which is more than most fruits. Let's be honest though, most fruits do contain a lot of sugars. The positive benefit is that compared to the sugars in desserts, these sugars are natural and can provide well-needed energy. And we all know natural is better than processed. If you are doing a hard workout and need to quickly replenish your body, the banana is probably a better way to go than energy drinks as it replenishes you quickly and more naturally.

Fiber: Fiber is great for the digestive system, and although bananas don't contain a very high amount, then do contain a good amount of fiber for a snack. A medium banana can contain about 3g of fiber (compared to the 30 or so we usually need per day). So if your food has some trouble going down and out, maybe introduce a banana into your daily diet to help?

Other nutrients: The fat content in a banana is pretty low compared to the sugar content. One banana still usually has basically no fat, sodium, or cholesterol (less than a gram). And of course, they are high in vitamin C, B6, and magnesium.

So what's the verdict? Bananas are great as part of a healthy diet, but you need to be careful with how much you eat because they could stack up your calorie count pretty easily. However, the health benefits outweigh any negatives, especially for athletes. Just don't look for banana-flavored items because there's nothing like the real thing!

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:

Monday, October 15, 2012

Health Benefits of Pumpkin Leaves

Back where I come from, we call these green leaves "ugwu" or "ugu", and most Nigerians have no idea what the English name is (like most local foods). My grandmother used to say this was a great vegetable to blend and mix with juices and stuff, but way back then, as a child, I could never understand why someone would want to blend a vegetable. And it didn't have the best texture in the world. Now, look at me, blending all sorts of greens!

This vegetable is used a lot in Nigeria to cook soups (what you may refer to as a sauce), to boil and eat plain, or to blend into a shake. People say it is healthy, but I don't think people truly know what those health benefits are. Well, here are some of them:

Pumpkin leaves contain a healthy amount of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, and Iron, while still staying very low on the calorie front. 

We all know about the vision benefits vitamin A provides, as well as the skin benefits. Vitamin C helps to heal wounds and form scar tissue, and maintain healthy bones, skin, and teeth. However since the body cannot produce this vitamin on its own or even store it, you should be consistently getting enough vitamin C in your diet.

As for calcium, your mother probably already told you growing up that you need a healthy dose of calcium for your bones and teeth as a child. However, if you are a female, it is important to consume enough calcium to help prevent osteoporosis and keep your bones strong. There have also been studies showing that calcium may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular failure.

Iron helps our muscles store and use oxygen, and helps carry oxygen from our lungs to other parts of our bodies as part of hemoglobin. If you've ever heard the term "anemia", this can be caused by iron deficiency. Women and children in particular need a healthy dose of iron consistently, and these leaves help provide that nutrient naturally.

I have heard from older Africans than pumpkin leaves can cure all sorts of things. While I don't believe any vegetable is magic and can cure anything in itself, as part of a healthy nutrition lifestyle, pumpkin leaves can really help you stay healthy and possible ward of some diseases.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Abs Week: Steam Engine

It's the final day of abs week, and so I thought I'd give you a standing exercise. We tend to think of abs exercises as crunches or some other exercise where we sit or lie on the floor. Well, not always. There are some everyday exercises that help work your abs better than others. One of those is the steam engine.

You may know it as High Knees with a Twist, Standing Alternating Crunches, or some other name. The premise of all these is the same: Use your abs to lift your knees off the floor as you stand. Here is what you need to do:

Start in a standing position with your hands behind your head to give you a little resistance and make your body not move around so much in the pose. If this is too difficult during the move, you can bring your arms down and keep your fists clenched below your chin in a boxing stance.

Lift your right knee and try to bring your left elbow to meet your knee. You should be tightening your abs and using your ab strength to lift your knee, so your upper body shouldn't be moving down so your elbow can meet your knee. Rather you should be staying as straight as possible and lifting your knee as high as possible without bringing your upper body down.

Bring your right knee down and repeat on the other side. This time, bring your right elbow to meet your left knee. Repeat.

You should feel it on both sides of your abs because you are working diagonally. To see the fluid motion, watch the video below as a tool:

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:,,

Friday, October 12, 2012

Abs Week: Lower Body Russian Twist

We've tried different types of ab exercises this week focusing on the upper and lower abs and the obliques. So many complex exercises went through my head when I was thinking of which one I should put up today. But I settled on somthing simple (Yes, thank your God).

Today's exercise should be pretty familiar if you have tried yoga. It is called the Lower Body Russian Twist or the Lower Body Torso Twist. Typically, people tend to do it slowly as a stretch and maintain the position for a while. If you do it continuously though, you can work your abs, especially your obliques.

Lay flat on your back with your knees up in the air at about a 90 degree angle. Extend your arms straight to the sides with your palms down or up to hold down your upper body. Palms down seem to be easier to hold without slipping.

Rotate your lower body to the right using your waist. Be sure to keep your upper body firm on the floor, and try to keep your lower back planted as much as possible. As your knees are right, look to the left to create more of a twist at your waist.

Raise your knees back to the starting position, and then rotate to the other side. Repeat.

To make it more intense, you may straighten your knees. That makes your core work more to twist your lower body.

Here is a great video to guide you!

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:,,

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Abs Week: Leg Raises

You may be asking what leg raises have to do with your abs. Well, the core is required in a lot of exercises where you need balance. For leg raises, you work your abs by using ab strength to hold your legs up, and as you lower closer to the floor, you need more strength to keep your legs up.

How to do the exercise:

Start in a lying position on your back. Place your palms under your butt with each palm under each butt cheek (left palm under left and right palm under right) facing the floor. Alternatively, you can just place your palms face down straight at your sides. Under the butt gives a little more support.

Lift your legs up to about a 90 degree angle to your upper body, so your heels are facing the ceiling.

Slowly lower your legs towards the floor keeping them as straight as possible without locking out your knees. Do not lower all the way to the floor but hover right above the floor keeping your abs tight and your head on the floor. Notice how you need a lot of ab strength to hold this position.

Raise your legs back to the starting position and repeat. Try to keep your knees together throughout the exercise so you are not lifting and lowering one leg at a time.

As always, here is a great video showing how this works:

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Abs Week: The Ab Pike

Let's make it a little harder today, shall we? There is a little misconception about the way the abs are structured (we'll talk about this in more detail another day), but the ab muscles go from top to bottom not left to right as most people imagine. So when people talk about just working their lower abs, I don't agree with that level of focus. You should be working your whole ab region to get that beautiful definition all round. So it's a good thing we're focused on our abs this week, isn't it?

Today, we're trying out an exercise called the ab pike. This requires a bit of stability, and helps you build a strong core and build your balance as well. How does it work?

Start in the upper pushup position with your palms underneath your shoulders and your shins or toes on an exercise ball with your heels facing the back of the room. Make sure your body is straight and your abs are tight to support your back.

Slowly begin lifting your hips towards the ceiling into a downward facing dog position. As your hips lift, use your feet to roll the ball towards you until your body is in an upside down "V" position.

Roll back to your starting position and repeat. Alternatively, you can use a medicine ball instead of a regular stability ball. It may be a little harder for you though.

This really works your abs and you feel it when you're done. Here is a video to help guide you:

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:,,

Monday, October 8, 2012

Abs Week: Russian Twist

Sometimes when we do crunches, we forget the obliques. The obliques are really on the sides of the abs, and give that definition that we all desire. I found a detailed video that shows how to do this great oblique workout called the Russian Twist. You may know it, but just may not know what it is called.

So before you watch the video, how do you do it? Here are a few easy steps:

Sit on your butt (like there is some other way to sit, right?) with your knees bent at an angle in front of you. You can either have your heels on the floor or your feet off the floor.

Your upper body should be at a 45 degree angle with your shoulders down, your abs tight, and your chest out. Make sure you are not putting pressure on your shoulders because the body innately wants to crunch forward as you do uncomfortable positions.

Hold your hands in front of you and twist your torso to one side. As you twist, try to touch the floor beside your butt on that side.

Rotate and twist to the other side. Keep going with this motion. You can do this with weights or a ball to increase the intensity.

Here is the video that describes each step of the movement:

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:,,

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Abs Week: Plank Oblique

Yes, I've ordained it abs week! Women and men alike both struggle with getting firmer flatter abs. This week, I thought it would benefit us all to introduce some new abs routines that you may not have tried before. Sick of crunches? Try these out. There will be a new one every day.

Today, we're looking at the plank oblique. Here are a few steps to guide you:

Get into a plank position with your elbows on the floor beneath your shoulders. Keep your whole body as straight as possible from crown to heel.

Slowly lift your left foot off the floor and bring that knee towards your left elbow, keeping your left foot off the floor.

Bring your foot back to the starting position and repeat with the opposite knee.

Here is a great video to help:

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Yonanas: A Healthier Substitute for Ice-Cream?

You have a sweet tooth and can't dream of given up ice cream, yet you know you want to eat right and stay healthy. Or you are lactose intolerant, but really really love your frozen dairy goodies and find yourself tolerating the pain just to have a taste. Well, there might be a solution for you.

I stumbled upon this tool called Yonanas that, as the name implies, is used to make frozen treats out of bananas. I know you're skeptical, but read a little about it first.

Why bananas?
The great thing about the banana is that it contains a lot of potassium to help replenish the body and prevent muscle cramping after exercise. And it is a fruit with only about 100 calories (depending on the size of the banana) so it is great for you. Additionally, the banana is pretty sweet so it can serve as a base for any dessert. The texture of the banana is thick and creamy when mashed, which means it sounds like it would be a great base. I already use it as a base for smoothies and shakes.

How does it work?
The bad part about the tool is it is not multi-use. So you can really only use it to make yonanas, and nothing else.

You would need ripe frozen bananas. Not black over-soggy bananas, but ripe enough to just have a dab of black. When the bananas are ripe, peel and cut them, and freeze them for about 24 hours. I would say this probably means you would need a constant supply of bananas in your freezer. If you want to mix it with other flavors, like strawberries, you'd have to freeze those too.

The tool looks like some sort of plunger. Insert a frozen banana down the chute, and push down using the plunger. Put in other frozen fruits or flavors like peanut butter or chocolate, and then plunge down as well. Make sure you have a bowl beneath the Yonana machine so that it collects the creamy goodness. Remove the chute to collect any cream that might have settled in there and scrape. That's it! Here is a video that shows how to use the tool:

Just like shakes or juices, I think this a healthy way to feel like you're eating sweet desserts without all the sugar and cream. As long as you are not putting in a large number of bananas, you would be safe with the number of calories in the yonana. I would suggest using just one banana and mixing in a few low calorie fruits as well.

Other than all that, from reviews I've read, using the plunger actually requires some work. So I would say that if you are not particularly concerned with whether it is an ice-cream or a shake,you could easily use the blender I reviewed here and make a smoothie with less effort. However, if you really do love the consistency of ice-cream or yogurt, definitely try the Yonana machine out.

You can order the Yonana machine on Amazon or at Target.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...