Protein Powder – The Big Three

October 16, 2014 by  
Filed under Articles, Featured, Nutrition & Health Articles

A great body is made in the kitchen AND in the gym. What you eat and the nutritional products you use play a very big part in how much fat you carry anywhere on your body and how your body responds to exercise – whether you are trying to lose weight, tone up, gain muscle or just stay healthy.

The problem is, what nutritional products and protein powders should you be investing in? The majority are filled with unpronounceable chemicals and artificial sweeteners and we wouldn’t recommend them. We promote eating food as natural and unprocessed as possible.

Here is a list of our three favorite protein powders (ones we personally use) to take the guesswork out of what to buy. We trawled through Amazon to find the best prices and the best suppliers for you.

This content uses referral links. Read our disclosure policy for more info.

Nature’s Plus Source of Life Energy Drink is amazingly good. It tastes so great that even kids like to drink it and it’s packed full of vitamins and minerals that really boost energy levels through the roof (don’t drink it before going to bed). It’s been a staple in our home for nearly 12 years.

Standard Process is a brand known for its integrity and clean ingredients. It’s usually available only through doctors and nutritionists so we were very happy to find Standard Process Whey Pro Complete available at Amazon. It doesn’t have added flavor and there’s nothing artificial in it. This is the protein powder we use every day.

Optimum Nutrition Natural Vanilla Protein Powder is a healthier version of your classic high-protein mixes. It tastes good and blends well with whatever fruit you like to mix in your shakes. It’s also great on its own over oatmeal or blended in water. It comes in a giant pack.

Here’s a classic question people ask of personal trainers: “What exercise will help me get rid of the fat on my belly?” (while lifting up a shirt and squeezing the offending piece of flesh).

The answer: “There is no one exercise that will get rid of your belly fat. You can do as much ab work as you like, but if you don’t also change how you’re eating, that fat will stay there no matter how awesome your abdominal muscles may be.”

So, get busy and fix up your diet while you continue with regular workouts to get the body your want.

Tracey Marashlian

How Much Exercise Should I Be Doing?

August 22, 2012 by  
Filed under Articles, Featured, Fitness Articles

A question I get asked a lot is, “How much exercise should I be doing?”. It’s an interesting question and one that’s not easily answered because it depends on what a person is trying to achieve by exercising.

Why Goals Are So Important

Some people want to maintain a state of health, some want to lose weight, some to increase their strength for daily activities and to prevent disease, some want a rock-hard sexy body and still others want to compete in bodybuilding competitions or in triathlons, marathons or other competitive sports.

Maintain a State of Good Health

General Exercise Guidelines

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) General Exercise Guidelines recommend performing physical activity 3 to 5 times a week for 20 to 60 minutes at a time. Specifically, they’re talking about activities like walking, running, cycling and swimming that are aerobic in nature and involve large muscle groups. The intensity is moderate, so that you could carry on a conversation while exercising, based on the “talk test”.

The ACSM also recommends that you include muscular strength and flexibility training in your exercise program.

These recommendations will NOT get you a rock-hard body or first place in a triathlon or fitness model competition. They will, however, get you into a healthy physical and mental state, improve the condition of your heart, lungs and blood flow and help you lose some body fat (assuming you’re also eating lower-calorie, healthy food).

Let’s make the ACSM recommendations the baseline. You definitely don’t want to go below their recommendations if you want to maintain a state of health long-term and avoid heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes and obesity.

Zuzana - Rock-hard Fitness

Goal: Rock-hard, Tight and Lean

Let’s say, however that you really want to rock a fantastic body like Zuzana from Bodyrock TV or someone on the cover of Muscle Magazine. The ACSM general exercise guidelines will not cut it.

You’ll have to work out every day for 1 to 3 hours. Your workout will include at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardio (running, rowing, cycling, swimming) and at least an hour of strength training (free weights, machine weights, body weight exercises, kettlebells and so on).

You’ll also have to control your diet very strictly – no heavy sauces, pasta, hamburgers or fatty foods. You’ll be eating lean – brown rice, quinoa, green vegetables (salads and stir fries), protein shakes using a base of water, broiled or steamed fish, chicken, beef of buffalo (or vegetable protein if you’re also a vegetarian), lots of egg whites and the occasional treat (like a tablespoon of peanut butter).

It’s a tough commitment, for sure to achieve that kind of body.

Scarlett - Slim, toned and fit

Goal: Slim, Toned and Fit

The in-between is a healthy, strong, not-quite-as-rock-hard but still totally sexy and sleek body like, say, Scarlett Johansson. For this you’ll still have to do more than the ACSM general guidelines but less than for a hard-core body.

You’re looking at about 5 days a week for an hour or more at a time, 20 minutes cardio (intervals are fast and efficient) and at least 40 minutes strength training then some stretching. You’ll still be working hard – “vigorous” would be the key word so you won’t have the time or the spare breath to talk to your bestie on the phone while you work out.

You won’t be eating “whatever you want”, you’ll be eating smaller meals, fewer calories at each meal and sticking with choices like salads (not overly dressed), stir fries, boiled or poached eggs and avoiding anything deep fried, sugary, starchy or artificially sweetened.

It’s still quite a commitment, but the rewards – fitting into whatever clothes you want, feeling comfortable in shorts and tank tops, knowing you never have to starve yourself to look good for a special event are beyond worth the effort.

What’s Your Goal?

It’s a matter of deciding what your initial goal is. For most people, just achieving the ACSM general exercise guidelines is an awesome goal to reach for. From there you can set a new goal that might include more work and dedication. And keep on going if that’s what you want and who knows… maybe you’ll be rocking a rock-hard amazing body sometime in the future. If that’s what you want.

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Exercise – The Almighty Cure

June 26, 2012 by  
Filed under Articles, Featured, Fitness Articles

We here at are really excited by the trend towards using exercise as medicine. It’s a concept we’ve espoused for over twenty years and one we’ve seen reap huge rewards both in prevention and alleviation of common ailments and diseases.

Strength training has been at the core of what we do, even in times when strength training wasn’t popular (think back to the eighties and early nineties when aerobics classes ruled the gym). We introduced many women to strength training when we owned our gym in Mosman, Australia and saw first hand some of the “miracles” that it can lead to – reversing confirmed cases of osteoporosis, helping pe0ple overcome chronic back conditions, overcome depression, reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels. All those health benefits on top of helping people increase their metabolism so they burn more calories and get their bodies looking better.

The American College of Sports Medicine is currently working very hard to get more doctors actually prescribing exercise – less than 2% do so.

Here’s a video produced by the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) that illustrates the importance of exercise (with emphasis on strength training) in the treatment of cancer, diabetes and other diseases. It’s about 8 minutes long and well worth watching.


Exercise is Medicine

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Strength Out-Muscles Diabetes

As you may already know, strength training is one of the greatest ways to get in shape and have a healthy and fit body. Something you might not know is that strength training has been proven to help prevent type 2 diabetes. Studies have been done to show that strength training helps prevent type 2 diabetes by triggering metabolic changes in the body.

For a long time scientists thought that only aerobic exercises, like running, had    any prominent effect on the body’s metabolism, but recently, studies were done that  showed that strength training influences the body’s metabolism in a large way.  This is because strength training helps reduce blood glucose very specifically.

First of all, when doing any kind of exercise, the body uses excess glucose as  necessary fuel. When doing strength training, the body uses excess glucose as well  as building muscle. Building extra muscle provides the body with a larger storage  area for glucose and both factors of using the excess glucose and building more muscle improve the body’s glucose processing, which is very important in preventing type 2 diabetes.

The most popular form of strength training is weight training. Weight training is done by using weights stacks, dumbbells, bands, body weight and so on to oppose muscle contraction. Some examples of this are bent over-rows, dumbbell presses, pull-ups, dumbbell lunges, triceps dips, and free-weight squats. You can learn how to do these through video tutorials and also by getting a competent personal fitness trainer.

According the the American College of Sports Medicine’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2012, strength training is currently number 2 on the list with Pilates  and balance ball training dropping off the list completely. “It is common for cardiac rehabilitation, pulmonary rehabilitation, or metabolic disease management programs to include some form of weight training in the exercise prescription.”

Remember, having a healthy diet is also a very important way to help prevent type 2 diabetes. Make sure you aren’t eating too many sugary and junk foods. Also make sure you are eating the right amount of vegetables and just in general have your diet balanced. Doing strength training along with having a good diet is a sure way to prevent diabetes.

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Body Fitness And Pain-Free Posture

September 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured, Fitness Articles, General Articles

Posture is defined as skeletal and muscular balance of the body that allows it to move in certain ways and stay in certain positions without causing it injury. It has been found that misaligned skeletal framework of a body (most importantly the spine) can cause a multitude of health problems. The largest of these problems would be the obstruction of messages from the nervous system to other parts of the body, since the spine is necessary in order to get messages to and from the brain. This is a huge concern as the nervous system plays a large part in regulating the other systems of the body.

The most common form of poor posture is forward-head posture (FHP). People generally develop this misalignment by sitting at a desk for too long, driving, playing video games and so on. If parts of the body are out of their optimal alignment for too long, the muscles begin to adapt by either shortening or lengthening. This results in muscle imbalances and can create problems with nerve tissue. FHP, specifically, has been shown to cause restricted motion of the neck and cause chronic neck pain.

When having poor posture in general, the body is balanced less efficiently. This causes an undesirable effect on how well the body moves. It has been shown that poor posture causes unnecessary pain during pregnancy and is also associated with increased falls in elderly people.[1]

From the above you can see why having optimal posture is so important. But what exactly is optimal posture? Optimal posture consists of keeping your head neutral, no forward of backward tilt, having a slight curve in your spine, and keeping your shoulders down and back, not slumped forward and not pulled unnaturally too far back.

Having good posture is important at all stages of a person’s life. Make sure that you keep your head neutral and shoulders aligned properly and you will not only reap the benefits of good posture but you will also train your muscles to stay in the correct position to hold your skeleton together properly well into old age.

[1] Idea Fitness Journal, pg 47.

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Weight Loss – What Works, What Doesn’t and Why

Losing weight implies a subtraction of some kind – you want to subtract body weight (preferably body fat) – and there are several different ways to go about it; one is through diet which means subtracting calories from your food intake. That’s what low-calorie diets do, you eat fewer calories (calories measure the energy value of foods) to try to reduce your body fat percentage. Basically what this means is that you input less energy (food) so that your energy output is greater than the input.

Sounds simplebut there are quite a few variables to being able to lose weight, one of which is your metabolic rate. A fast metabolism means you burn energy (measured in calories) quickly. A slow metabolism means you burn it slowly. It’s easier to put on weight if you have a slow metabolism because your body isn’t burning the calories you’re eating fast enough and so stores them, eventually, as fat.

Dieting actually slows down your metabolism and so make your body more likely to get fat. Sounds like a horror story but it’s true. Read on for the top four factors that slow metabolism and make people fat. Don’t worry, there’s also a solution for what you can do to combat them once and for all.

  1. DIETING: Eating too few calories for too long will result in loss of muscle (the body will eventually start breaking down muscle tissue in order to get the energy to survive) and a slowed metabolism. The other thing that can happen with dieting is that the body, realizing it’snot getting the calories its usedto, goes into an ages old “starvation mode” and slows down metabolism to save as much energy as possible just in case the shortage of food continues long-term (as was the case centuries ago when humans had less control of their environment than they do today).
  2. AGING: Once the body reaches full maturity (about twenty years of age) there is a gradual loss of muscle tissue each year, adding up to about 10% every decade and accelerating around the ages of sixty to seventy. With this muscle loss comes a slower metabolism which is why so many people complain that it’s harder to lose weight as they age.
  3. EXCESSIVE  AEROBIC EXERCISE: Overdoing aerobic exercise will eventually eat into muscle tissue, especially in those parts of the body that are not being moved much during the exercise. For example, you’ve probably seen long-distance runners with small upper bodies, that’s because the arms and chest are not used particularly during long-distance running. Don’t forget, loss of muscle tissue will result in a slower metabolism.
  4. INACTIVITY: If you have a sedentary job, are not active generally or you are bed-ridden due to illness or injury you will lose muscle tissue and in turn slow down your metabolism. A great example of this is what happens to a broken leg in a few short weeks of inactivity – the muscles whither and the broken leg becomes significantly smaller and weaker than the healthy one.

What do each of these four factors have in common? Loss of muscle tissue. Muscle is the energy burning powerhouse of your body; the more you have, the faster you’ll burn calories. Muscle cells burn about three times as many calories as fat cells!

Exercise increases metabolism naturally. Strength training (using machines, free-weights and your own body weight) is very important to this process because it is all about  increasing muscle tissue. Knowing how to do strength training correctly and actually doing it regularly is one big way to guarantee you keep your metabolism going and ensure your body becomes and remains a calorie-burning machine.

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Interval Training: Fat-burning Miracle?

April 20, 2011 by  
Filed under Articles, Featured, Fitness Articles

A commonly asked fitness question is, “What’s the best type of exercise for weight loss?” It’s a really good question but one that gets many incorrect (and sometimes even downright silly) answers depending on who is answering and more often than not, what they’re trying to sell.

For a long time it was believed that long distance, low intensity aerobic training was best – you can still find “fat burning” workouts on many cardio machines (treadmills, steppers or elliptical machines) and if you do this type of training you will maintain a slower speed for a long distance. Go to the gym and you’ll see most people walking fast or jogging slowly for twenty minutes to half an hour on the cardio machines.

More recently the concept of interval training has become more popular. Interval training is where you work hard for a short period of time (one to three minutes) and then slow down to recover (thirty seconds to a minute) then bump up the speed again. This type of cardio training achieves an increase in cardiovascular fitness (aerobic fitness) much more efficiently than long distance, low intensity training. There are many variations of interval training including using it as part of a strength circuit with weights.

A study was done in Italy in 2010 comparing three different ways of training to discover which one improved body weight, percentage of body fat and waistline measurements of a group of “overweight and middle aged” subjects with “large waistlines”. The three types of training were: endurance running at a slow pace for 30 to 40 minutes 3 days a week, a low intensity circuit for a total of 50 minutes 3 days a week and, finally, a high intensity circuit with variations of high and low intensity running then three sets of 20 repetitions of five weight training exercises for 50 minutes total exercise time 3 days a week.

The winner – as far as greatest reduction in body weight, percent fat mass and waistline – high intensity circuit training. The point being that higher intensity exercise is beneficial to both trained and untrained people. Also important is that weight training was a large part of the high intensity circuit and plays a large part in reducing fat and size when done in enough quantity.

Without a doubt strength training is key to reducing fat and increasing metabolism. Strength training can be anything from using free weights like dumbbells and barbells, using machines with cables and weighted rectangular plates to increase load and body weight exercises like pushups, chin-ups, lunges or squats.

A knowledgeable and experienced health and fitness specialist or personal trainer will be able to design an interval training program with the right degree of challenge and balance of strength and cardio work for your exact needs. We have over 25 years of successfully helping people achieve their health and fitness goals under our belt. You can tap into this wealth of knowledge and experience by visiting our Face Book page, Personal Training, for Daily Fit Tips. If you feel very adventurous, you could even sign up for our fortnightly newsletter or even Email Us.

Tracey Thatcher

References: Paoli A, Paccelli F, Bargossi AM, Marcolin G, Guzzinati S, Neri M, Bianco A, Palma A. Effects of three distinct protocols of fitness training on body composition, strength and blood lactate. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2010;50:43-51.

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Exercise Induced Breast Discomfort?

April 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured, Fitness Articles

There is an obstacle to fitness that more than half of the population never have to think about but for us women, and especially women with larger breasts, it’s very real and can put a complete stop to even the thought of running or other similar activities. Some resourceful women overcome this obstacle by wearing multiple bras (at the expense of lung capacity) but many just give up before they really start. Exercise induced breast discomfort is not a myth, it’s real and it can be very painful.

In 2010 an experiment was conducted to investigate whether a sports bra designed to elevate (lift) and compress (apply pressure to) the breasts could decrease exercise and bra discomfort experienced by women with large breasts. This experimental bra was tested against a commercially available sports bra and a “placebo” bra and it was found that the experimental bra, in fact, provided significantly greater comfort during a three-minute run than the other two bras. The point being, it took elevation AND compression to handle the discomfort.

Now this might be all a bit unreal to the small-breasted and men among us but it’s good news for many women. Certainly, there are already some very good sports bras on the market. Unfortunately the ones readily available in sports and department stores are less than ideal unless you get lucky and happen upon one that works well. If you have a favorite, why don’t you write in and let us know? Perhaps your knowledge could help another woman start exercising too.

Tracey Thatcher

Reference: McGee DE, Steele JR. Breast elevation and compression decrease exercise-induced breast discomfort. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010;42(7)

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Getting into Shape – What’s it Worth?

January 7, 2011 by  
Filed under Articles, Featured, Nutrition & Health Articles

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the estimated annual medical cost of cardiovascular disease or stroke is $209.3 billion; cancer is $60.9 billion; diabetes is $92 billion; obesity is $61 billion. That’s a total of $423.2 billion! What’s more, many of these diseases can be prevented by simply exercising and eating correctly.

Why is it that more people aren’t out there exercising and making sure they put nutritious food into their bodies? Of course, there are the vested interests – companies with vast quantities of money creating attractive advertising pieces to invoke desire for their (in truth) undesirable products. The last time I went to the cinema I was bombarded with maybe five highly entertaining and beautifully produced ads for a famous cola beverage, a product that dissolves teeth overnight and would probably make a good engine cleaner. What really happens when a person drinks a sugar-loaded soda? Their blood sugar peaks and then drops rapidly making them feel tired and listless, hardly a state for anyone to want to get out and exercise. They’re more likely to pick up another soda to get some more “pep”.

Many people simply don’t know how to change their diet and exercise habits.

Poor diet and lack of exercise is a big problem in many western nations. It’s expensive for the citizens as it results in disease that must then be treated and time off work and school (reduced productivity). What to do about it?

Each person can simply start with themselves. Take a first step towards health whether it’s cutting out excess sugar or doing some exercise every day. At first the changes are very difficult but they do get easier and the better you feel, the easier it is to keep going.

The easiest and fastest way to change your lifestyle is to hire a professional to help you one-on-one. Choose a reputable and qualified personal trainer to get you exercising safely and efficiently (see our post, “How to Choose Your Trainer”). You could also join a group of like-minded people or even start a group of your own (searching Google in your area could help with this). With other people involved it’s more likely you’ll stick with the program even when it gets a bit hard.

It’s important that more people start changing the way they eat and exercise. Not only will their individual lives be more enjoyable but they’ll be part of the solution for reducing the massive cost of chronic disease in the USA (and no doubt other nations). Imagine what an extra $423.2 billion could do for everyone.

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Three Ways to Lose Weight

February 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured, Weight Loss Articles

How to Lose Ten Pounds in One Day

To lose weight, you need to reduce one or more of the three main ingredients in your body:

  1. Adipose tissue: fat
  2. Water
  3. Lean tissue: muscle, bone or organs

Woman Weighing Herself on ScaleIf your goal is just to lower the numbers on the weight scale, then you can lose a quick ten pounds by cutting off an arm, but only if you take it off at the shoulder.  Okay, perhaps that’s a bit extreme.   After all, two arms are better than one.

When you step on a weight scale, it will measure all three main ingredients, water, fat-tissue and lean-tissue. We need to define what we want to make less of, obvious answer, less fat tissue.

A useful purchase is a weight scale that also measures body fat; they cost more but are worth it.

16-week Weight Loss Study

William Zuti, an exercise physiologist did a 16-week university study on three approaches to lose weight, he worked with three groups of overweight subjects in programs designed to take off one pound (3500 calories) of fat per week for 16 weeks.

Method 1: Group 1; Calorie Reduction Only

  • Reduced their diet by 500 calories per day and did no exercise.

Method 2: Group 2; Calorie Reduction and Exercise Output

  • Reduced their diet by 250 calories per day, and expended 250 calories through exercise.

Method 3: Group 3; Exercise Output Only

  • All exercise. Expended 500 calories through exercise each day. No reduction in food calories.

Results After 16-Week Experiment:

METHOD USED FOR WEIGHT LOSS 16 WEEK STUDY Total weight Muscle weight Fat weight
Group 1: (calorie-cutting group with no exercise) 11.7 pounds; 0 pounds 9.2 pounds
Group 2: (reduced calories and increased exercise group) 12.0 pounds; 1 pounds 13 pounds
Group 3: (all-exercise group, no calorie cutting) 10.6 pounds. 2 pounds 12.6 pounds

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