Month: July 2016

7 tips for a bikini body in 7 days

Sculpt a cat-walk bikini body in seven days – not possible, right?

Well yes, it’s not but you can make the most of what you’ve got if you only have seven days to do it. 

Here are seven top tips to help you hit the beach or poolside with confidence this summer with just seven days of careful preparation.


Drink more

Drink up but makes sure it’s water only. Not hydrating well can lead to water retention under the skin which can make your body look a little puffy. So drink plenty of water – consume 2 litres daily as an absolute minimum and if you’re active and love to hit the gym or pound the roads then endeavour to drink around 5 litres daily, sipped at regular intervals throughout the day.


Ditch diuretics

Definitely ditch the favourite diuretics such as caffeinated drinks and alcohol. However, be careful of the crash from cutting out coffee all of a sudden. If you are a caffeine addict – it’s best to plan the abstinence in advance and steadily wean yourself off it. Ditch diuretics for seven days and you will achieve results. Not only will you appear slimmer but your body will look more toned due to increased water reserves below your muscles which presses them outwards and adds definition.


Sleep baby sleep

Getting at adequate sleep can speed up your metabolism and, of course, make you feel refreshed and ready to take on the day. If you routinely don’t get the eight hours of sleep which is recommended, then start doing to do so and it will certainly help you to start shaping up. Medical studies have shown that if you aren’t getting enough sleep then you tend to eat more and – coupled with a slower metabolism – that will inevitably lead to weight gain. 


Cut carbs

Cutting out carbohydrates for a few days can’t be all that hard but can make a huge difference to your body. If your body is reliant on carbs for energy then switching to a diet of protein, clean fats and greens for a week can help you to burn fat for energy. Eating less high sugar fruits and only eating them early in the day to give your body time to digest them can also help in your slimming blast. Using Juice Plus+ can be a perfect way to supplement your fruit intake to ensure you are getting well above your recommended daily allowance.


Work out

Up the intensity of your workouts and boost your metabolism even further. High intensity interval training (HIIT) will help you beat the flab quickly and tone your body. It may not work miracles in seven days but get started and you will see a difference. Don’t forget to get down for a short blast of push-ups before hitting the beach or poolside to give you that wow-factor pump.


‘Na’ to sodium

Say no to sodium chloride (NaCl) as salt leads your body to retain water. Ditch the salt and lose a few pounds of retained water right away.


Stay strong

It’s only a week so say no to all the things that your mind tells you really want. Don’t blow out on Friday’s with ice cream or sit down to a Saturday night movie with a bar of chocolate or glass of wine. Stick to the plan and hit the beach with a look and feel of confidence, knowing you did the best you could. Stay strong, look strong – oh, and don’t forget to smile and relax, you’re on your holidays.



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Summer holidays can mess with your fitness routine

Summer holidays have an irritating knack of putting paid to best laid plans for health and fitness routines.

It’s been almost four weeks since our fabulous Sculpt Movement retreat in sunny Portugal but I still feel a little sluggish in my training while my healthy eating plan has taken a bit of a knock too.

When faced with a square or two of chocolate or similar treat the devilish thought of ‘sure why not, I’m on my holidays’ has a tendency to hang around long after the plane hits the rain-swept tarmac in Ireland.

Of course I always have the best of intentions when jetting off for a few days’ fun and relaxation. Great care is taken to ensure the trainers are packed and the gym gear is all present and correct even before the passports and ticket checks are completed.

My plan is always to fit in a minimum number of sessions – short jogs, some HIIT or even a quick swim. 

Regardless of whatever plan I’ve made, by the time I arrive in the hotel I’ve invariably decided to take the first day off and spend it relaxing.

However, what follows is a spiral of overindulgence and skipped training sessions – the guilt from which is easily shrugged off by the old ‘sure why not, I’m on my holidays’ attitude.

The inactivity and eating frenzy are in themselves negligible because after all it’s only for a few days while on holiday.

My problem is getting back on the wagon when the holiday dust has settled. It’s something I’ve been struggling with since my holiday ended and is now causing me a little anxiety because I’m due to jet off for another break in just four weeks’ time.

The only solution I can come up with is to be strict with myself in toeing the line with my health and fitness routine right up until check-in and doing the same upon my return. Based on past experience planning for during the actual holiday is somewhat pointless for me.

So for one week only I’m abandoning the plan. Who knows, maybe I’ll fit in a little bit of exercise around all the family fun – maybe I won’t. One thing I know for sure, this time it’s not going to bother me. 

I’ve made up my mind that there’ll be plenty of time for hard work and healthy living when I get home. Perhaps a good rest and not worrying about missing training sessions will leave me ready to hit the ground running when I return and ensure I beat the summer holiday  sluggishness once and for all.


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Five foods to avoid for healthier eating

Many foods have been established as health food clichés over the years but surprisingly some are not as good for us as they’re made out to be.

I’ve compiled a list of five foods to avoid and some tasty yet healthy alternatives that will ensure minimal withdrawal issues.


1. Fruit Juice

The benefits of consuming fruit are well documented but fruit juice is certainly not the answer to unlocking all the goodness. It may be refreshing and tasty but drinking fruit juice is not like eating intact fruit when it comes to the effect on our bodies. Fruit juice has as much sugar as many well-known sugary drinks. It is absorbed with such speed that when it actually reaches our stomachs our bodies don’t know the difference between it and a fizzy soft drink. The average glass of orange juice contains around 120 calories – twice the number found in a whole orange. Even juice made from sweeter vegetables such as carrots or beetroot have high sugar content. The truth is that regular consumption of fruit juice can lead to tooth decay, weight gain and a number of other sugar related health issues.


Try instead 

Try eating a piece of whole fruit instead and benefit from the filling fibre as well as the rich vitamin goodness it provides. You can also make your own green veggie juice as an easy and healthier alternative. Try juicing some greens and adding natural flavours such as mint, lime, ginger, lemon or even vinegar which can also have a mellowing effect on the taste.

Try avocado, cucumber, celery and lime which is a great juice for supporting your heart and memory.



2. Smoothies off-the-shelf

Drinking off the shelf smoothies from shops and supermarkets can be a bad idea when it comes to sugar control or weight management.

Most readily available smoothies are brimming with fruit and refined sugar while some even contain cream. Many store-bought smoothies contain little if any vegetable content and are almost entirely fruit based. Smoothies can also come in large servings meaning a large calorie count and sugar intake.


Try instead

Why not make your own green veggie smoothies – that way you’ll know exactly all of the goodness you are getting. Simply add a big bunch of fresh leafy greens to a little whole fruit, nut butters, plant milk and a portion of Juice Plus+ Complete powder to your juicer to create a tasty and wholesome home-made smoothie.



3. Cous Cous

Don’t let cous cous fool you. The popular lunchtime-dinner food may look like a whole grain and been touted as a health food for many years but it is actually just refined wheat with about equal nutritional value to white pasta.

For the most part it is a processed food which can increase blood sugar levels, raise insulin and make it harder shift fat.


Try instead

If you really can’t give up your love of cous cous then look out for whole-wheat cous cous as a more health wise alternative. Otherwise try bulgur, cracked wheat, millet, brown rice, buckwheat, oats, amaranth or quinoa as healthier options.


4. Dried fruit

Dried fruit is nutritious but is so tasty those who love them can easily overload on calories very quickly. Let’s take dried apricots for example, we could easily munch down a dozen halves without giving it a second thought whereas we probably wouldn’t eat anywhere near that amount if consuming whole fruit. Dried fruit also has a tendency to cling to tooth surfaces, leading dentists to warn of the dangers of tooth decay from overindulging.


Try instead

It’s always better to eat whole fruit. When eating dried fruit try to do so in moderation perhaps with other foodstuffs such as cereal or homemade granola.



5. Rice Cakes  

What could possibly be bad about rice cakes? It may come as a surprise to hear that you would almost be as well off eating a sugary snack. It seems like a light fantastic and was much beloved of the diet food brigade for a long time. However, rice cakes lack fibre, can be high in sodium and are carb dense. Around 80 percent of a plain rice cake is carbohydrate. To put that in perspective: a small potato – much maligned as a ‘bad’ carb – is only 23% carbohydrate.

Carb dense foods can affect gut flora balance and trigger inflammation. Rice cakes also have a high glycaemic index meaning that they access your bloodstream quickly to raise blood sugar and insulin levels.


Try instead

Next time you want a healthy snack try unsweetened oat crackers as a more balanced alternative to rice cakes. For a more nourishing snack which includes healthy fats, protein and fibre why not add some some nut butter and sliced banana. Greek yogurt sprinkled with homemade granola and berries or hummus with veggies can also serve as healthy replacement snacks.





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So what does coffee actually do? As usual, neuroscience has the answer. Coffee is responsible for increased alertness, happiness and productivity in humans, thanks to the caffeine it contains. Upon ingestion, caffeine is transported through the bloodstream to the brain, where it bonds with adenosine receptors. Adenosine is a chemical that we constantly secrete when we are awake, and is responsible for making us sleepy. Caffeine effectively blocks adenosine from doing its job in our brain by bonding with the same receptors. Furthermore, our brain creates more receptors in response to increased amounts of caffeine, which is part of the reason caffeine is addictive, and why not getting your daily fix can result in mild withdrawal symptoms.

That isn’t the whole story, though: caffeine also increases the body’s production of adrenaline, which increases blood flow, heart rate and helps open airways so that you can breathe more effectively. It also stops the reabsorption of the feel-good hormone dopamine by the brain, which basically leaves your brain swimming in the hormone and makes you feel happy. Pretty amazing drug, right?

As caffeine is a drug and it is addictive, the next logical question must be: is it possible to overdose on it? While it ispossible to ingest enough caffeine to overdose, the quantity required to ingest enough coffee to overdose on caffeine is physiologically impossible. The amount of caffeine required to overdose is approximately 150mg per kg of body weight. Since coffee contains about 100mg per 8oz cup, a 90kg human being would have to drink 135 cups of coffee to ingest enough caffeine to overdose, and they’d have to drink it all at once. That’s about 8.44 gallons of coffee, which is impossible to ingest all at once. People who have overdosed on the caffeine have done so by taking too many caffeine pills or taking it in its pure powdered form.

It stands to reason, then, that one might want to seek out the optimal way to use such a powerful substance. Most of us wake up and want our coffee right away; research has shown, however, that it’s best to wait until 9:00 to 10:00a.m. to have our first cup. That’s because cortisol levels peak between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. Cortisol helps us with alertness, and while it may seem like adding caffeine while it is peaking will just make us more alert, the opposite is actually true: cortisol levels inhibit caffeine’s effects and, over time, increase our tolerance, so we need to ingest more to get the same benefits. Science has shown  that to optimize caffeine’s effects, it’s best to wait until after cortisol levels have peaked. Waiting until 9:00a.m. to roll around can feel like agony for the undercaffeinated, but your body uses the drug so much more effectively that it’s really worth the wait. FYI: cortisol also peaks between noon and 1:00p.m. and 5:30 and 6:30pm, so if you drink coffee like I do (all day every day) you might want to avoid it during these particular time periods.

While overdose and withdrawal are certainly concerns with any addictive substance, caffeine tends to be one of the more benign ones. Overdosing on coffee is impossible and trying to do so on pill-form caffeine brings with it a whole host of really uncomfortable problems. The withdrawal symptoms aren’t necessarily pleasant -splitting headache and severe fatigue being among them- but they’re not life-threatening either. Coffee has been linked through various studies to plenty of other benefits which, while questionable in terms of application to a broad population, can include increases in antioxidant levels, libido, appetite suppressant and more. So feel free to down a cup or two and enjoy, worry-free, the effects of what one aficionado calls “The greatest addiction ever.”

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This Is How Sugar May ‘Fuel’ Cancer Cells

An expert explains the link between the sweet stuff and cancer risk.

If you saw the recent headlines connecting gallbladder cancer to the consumption of sugary sodas, you may not have been too surprised by the news. Ireland’s obsession with sugar has been blamed for plenty of chronic diseases in recent years, including several types of cancer.


But what is it, exactly, about the sweet stuff that seems to raise a person’s cancer risk? We rounded up some recent research and spoke with Carrie Daniel-MacDougall, PhD, a nutritional epidemiologist at The University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Center, to get the scoop.

What the studies show

Scientists have been studying the relationship between sugar and various cancers; some of them affect organs directly involved in the metabolism of sugar (like the liver and pancreas), while others do not.

A Swedish study published this month found that people who drank two or more servings of soda and other sugary drinks per day had a higher risk of gallbladder and biliary tract cancers than those who abstained from soda completely. And research published in March, co-authored by Daniel-MacDougall, found that people who ate the highest amount of foods with high glycemic indexes—typically foods high in simple carbohydrates like white bread, potatoes, and white rice—were more likely to get lung cancer than those who ate the least. (But let’s be clear: Smoking causes lung cancer, not sugar. It’s possible that a certain diet may make it harder for the body to suppress cancer, but a single study can’t prove that.) This study didn’t focus directly on sweets like table sugar and desserts. But these foods do typically fall into the high–glycemic index/low-nutrient category.

Another study from MD Anderson Cancer Center, published in January, suggests a link between the typical Western (high-sugar) diet and breast cancer. When researchers split mice into four groups and fed them all different diets, they found that those who ate more sucrose or fructose (both types of simple sugars) had more breast cancer tumors—and more tumors that had spread to the lungs—than those who got most of their carbohydrates from starches.

Finally, according to several studies in recent years, people with diabetes or prediabetes are at increased risk for cancer—especially liver, pancreatic, and uterine cancer. An unhealthy diet is a major risk factor for developing high blood sugar and insulin resistance (both hallmarks of diabetes), says Daniel-MacDougall, so it’s not unrealistic to suggest that what you eat also affects your risk of these cancers.

How sugar may fuel cancer

News reports commonly refer to sugar as being “fuel” for cancer cells. And that’s true—but mainly because sugar is the fuel for all cells in the body. Sugar is a carbohydrate, and when you eat any type of carbohydrate (whether it’s fruit or ice cream or a bagel) your pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that helps convert sugars into energy for your cells.

Eating too much sugar, though, can cause the body to become insulin resistant, meaning it has to churn out more and more of the hormone in order to do its job. It also produces more of a hormone known as insulin-like growth factor (IGF), which “seems to stimulate cell growth and inhibit cell death,” says Daniel-MacDougall.

In other words, IGF allows cancer to proliferate. “Cancer cells are normally kept in check by the body’s constant turnover—new healthy cells grow and bad cells die,” she explains. “IGF blocks the signals for cells to grow normally and die when it’s time to die, so instead they just grow grow grow.”

High-sugar diets also contribute to inflammation throughout the body, which can also cause cellular damage and drive the growth of cancerous tumors. Sugary diets also lead to weight gain.

“When you eat foods that are high in sugar or high in carbohydrates and low in fiber, you have a higher insulin spike and your body stores more energy as fat,” says Daniel-MacDougall. “We know that obesity is a leading cause of cancer, so part of reducing your risk should be managing your weight.”

The expert advice

Not all sugars and starches are bad. In fact, we need them in order to function as healthy human beings. But choosing the right kinds—and the right amount—is important.

Food with natural sugar (like fruit and dairy products) and complex carbohydrates (like whole grains, beans, and legumes), for example, provide calories plus vitamins, minerals, and nutrients like fiber, to help you feel full. Sodas, sweets, and white bread, on the other hand, only provide the former.

“Some people go on these highly restrictive low-carb or no-carb diets, but we don’t really know how effective these are at preventing cancer,” says Daniel-MacDougall. What’s more important, she adds, is finding a healthy diet you can stick with long-term.

“If you really want to lower your risk, you need to take a diversified approach,” she says. “Consume a diet of high-quality nutrients, work on losing or maintaining a healthy weight, and keep the empty-calorie foods in check.”

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