Saturday, 19 July 2014

Get FIT with HIIT!

H.I.I.T. - High Intensity Interval Training

H.I.I.T. is common in the exercise/fitness world, but if you aren't familiar with it, it's simply a workout that alternates between high intensity exercises and low/medium intensity exercises (the recovery period). For example, sprinting for 30 sec and walking for 1 min.

One of the biggest advantages of incorporating HIIT into your workout regimen is that it is much more effective than spending endless hours doing normal cardio. Because HIIT is done at a higher intensity, it increases your metabolism, burns fat quicker and improves your cardio endurance.
Other benefits are:

  • It's quick and convenient. HIIT workouts are done for shorter time periods, about 5-30 mins and so can fit into a busy schedule. "I'm too busy to exercise" is no longer an excuse to skip exercising!
  • It can be done with little to no equipment. HIIT can be done at the gym using the bike, rowing machine, treadmill etc. If you have no access to a gym, running and plyometric-like exercises such as squat jumps, high knees, mountain climbers etc can also be done.
  • You continue to burn more fat and calories after a HIIT workout, very effective in weight loss. Win!

Here are three ways I've used HIIT in my fitness regimen/weight loss:

  1. During hectic exam periods, I would do some high intensity exercises e.g. squat jumps, high knees, etc. in the mornings for 10 mins. This made me more awake. And if I felt tired while studying, I would just do the 10 min workout again during one of my study breaks. Much better than reaching for the caffeine!
  2. I also used HIIT as a warm-up prior to strength training. I would usually do this on the bike - an example would be 30 sec sprint cycle and the 60 sec rest of normal-paced cycle and repeat 9 more times. My thighs KILLED after this.
  3. I haven't renewed my gym membership so recently I've been exercising at home. There are an abundant number of HIIT videos on the web - my personal favourites are FitnessBlender videos. They have so many to choose from - so pick one and get moving!
To get started with HIIT, choose your equipment - treadmill, cross-trainer, rowing machine, bike or running outdoors. Start off with 15 sec of high intensity exercise and 60 sec rest, low intensity exercise. Repeat this for a total of 10 times. Over time, increase the time period for high intensity exercise and reduce the rest periods.

To reap the real benefits of HIIT, go HARD during the bouts of high intensity, working to your max effort and aim to do it about three times a week.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Healthy Recipe: Stir-Fry Quinoa

Hello lovely people!
I hope you a had a good weekend, what did you get up to? This weekend I did a little cooking, I love trying out new recipes. I was perusing Pinterest the other day looking for healthy meal ideas when I came across stir-fry quinoa (tired of everyday brown pasta and vegetables ahn ahn - time for a change! Btw, I just joined Pinterest and I am quickly becoming hooked, follow me here). It's such a simple idea, how did I not think of it?! Anyway, the recipe came out so good, that I decided I must share.

First of all, what is quinoa?

Quinoa is a grain-like crop. It is tiny and bead-shaped, but unlike other grains it is actually a seed. It can be prepared similarly to wholegrains such as white rice but it's minus the carbs and it also has a "high nutritive value". Some of the wonderful benefits of quinoa include:
  • It is rich in nutrients, most especially it is super high in protein. It has all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. It also contains dietary fibre, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. Packed with all of these, it is very satisfying, keeping you fuller for longer, an excellent option when trying to lose weight.
  • It is gluten-free, cholesterol-free, kosher and suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
  • Quinoa takes less time to cook than most grains, approximately 15 minutes cooking time and very easy to prepare, great for those who have little time for cooking. 
With all this in mind, quinoa can be substituted for white rice or pasta. Click here to learn more about this super-food.

My first attempt at making quinoa was a recipe called "Quinoa Tabbouleh", a Middle Eastern dish. The dish was okay, but it didn't totally convince me about quinoa. (I may have over-cooked the quinoa, oops!) I decided to give it one more go with this recipe and it was absolutely delicious and very healthy!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 250g of chicken - chopped 
  • 1/2 tsp of salt - divided
  • 1 tbsp oil (e.g. vegetable oil, olive oil, coconut oil. I used extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1 carrot - chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper - sliced
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 clove garlic (or 1/4 tsp of chopped garlic)
  • 1 small red chilli, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 scallions - chopped
  • 1/2 an onion - diced
  • 2 Maggi cubes (I used the Knorr variety)
*Don't limit yourself to these vegetables, you can also add in other veggies if you'd like - peas, corn, broccoli etc - go veggie crazy.

Preparation
  1. Rinse the quinoa well and drain (it can have a bitter flavour if not well rinsed).
  2. Place in a small pot with 3/4 cup of water and 1/4 tsp of salt. Cook the quinoa until the water has been absorbed, this takes approximately 15 minutes. 
  3. Once cooked, remove from the heat, fluff it up with a fork and leave it uncovered. 
  4. Heat your oil in a frying pan, on medium-high heat. Cook your chicken, I added a pinch of salt and 1 cube of Maggi to my chicken, to give it some flavour while cooking.
  5. Next add in your onion and your carrots, cook until the onions become translucent and the carrot softens up a bit, takes about a minute or so. 
  6. Add in the rest of your ingredients and cook while stirring frequently.
  7. Add in your cooked quinoa, stirring it constantly and mix it in well with your veggies.
  8. Serve while warm. 
And that's it! It's that easy.




Saturday, 12 July 2014

Life Bites #1: Grief

Today's post will be my very first life post. I did mention in my introductory blog post that I would discuss life situations on here, so this post will be the first of many. Initially, I didn't want to write this post because I thought it would be too personal to share. But after much consideration, I thought what the heck, life's too short.

Last month, I experienced the loss of a close family relative. It wasn't unexpected. He had been sick for some time. This was my first time experiencing the death of someone I knew. Of course, my parents would tell me about relatives, whom I never really knew, who passed away back home in Nigeria, but none had affected me as much as this. Being a witness to the manner in which this death had affected my mum also had a great impact on me. I had seen my uncle a few months back when I went back home to vist. I had also recently spoken to him on the phone, so when my mum told me the news I was in shock. I had no words to even comfort my mum. Though I played it cool in front of her, so many thoughts raced through my mind. Over the following two weeks, I pre-occupied myself with work, burying my feelings. However, one evening on the bus home from work, I couldn't escape from my thoughts. Thoughts such as "I should have prayed harder" or "how will his children grow up without knowing what a kind man their father was" as well as our last phone conversation replayed in my mind. One thing my mum told me that stuck with me was "We can't question God, He has a reason for everything."

Death is one of the most frightening truths about life because it is inevitable. And grief is a natural process that helps us to recover from emotional pain. As a Christian, I believe that there is only one person that can walk us through those dark times and bring us out to the other side and that person is God. Grief can be experienced as a result of the loss of a loved one, home, job or any kind of emotional trauma. I'll be honest, I didn't turn to God initially with my burden. I am still growing in my faith and still learning to trust God with everything that happens in my life.

Experts have recorded various stages of grief including denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. However, grief varies for each individual - depending on their culture, religious beliefs etc. As a believer, I take comfort in knowing that Jesus has already experienced what I'm going through, He cried after hearing the news of the death of Lazarus (John 11:35). So He can definitely help me through my grief.  He also told us that He will send us the Comforter, the Holy Spirit (John 14:16) who will give us peace in times of suffering.

For those who may be experiencing grief or any kind of emotional pain, let your emotions run their natural course. Without meaning to sound clich├ęd, time is a great healer. Believe that things will get better. Draw strength from your faith. Speak to someone that you trust about it, your family, friends, pastor, a counsellor etc. Surround yourself with positivity. 

Tough times don't last but tough people do.
-Robert H. Schuller

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

My Green Smoothie Recipe!

Hi guys!

I know it's been some time since my last post but I have been super-occupied with work. Today I will be sharing my green smoothie recipe.

If you haven't heard about these delicious green drinks, they are smoothies comprised of green veggies such as spinach, lettuce, kale blended with fruit. "Ewww, blended veggies", I hear you say, but before you dismiss the idea, give it a chance and I promise you won't regret it.

I was once an unbeliever but my roommate at uni converted me and now I'm hooked! There are so many benefits of green smoothies from improving your skin to increasing your energy, just google it! Green smoothies can also be used as a meal replacement. I used it as a technique for weight loss and now I try to incorporate them into my diet about 2-3x a week.

Ingredients
A handful of spinach
Half a head of romaine lettuce
2 apples
1-2 bananas
1 lemon
1 cup (250 ml) water



1. Add the water, spinach and romaine lettuce. Blend. (Blending the veggies first ensures that they are well broken down so you don't taste the veggies when drinking your smoothie).
2. Chop up your apples, banana and lemon. (Make sure to use ripe bananas, this makes the smoothie sweet. Depending on how sweet you want the smoothie, you can use 1-2 bananas. I usually use about 1 and a half. Also ensure your lemon is well peeled, you don't want no lemon rind in yo' smoothie!)
3. Blend well.
4. Enjoy!

There are so many variations of green smoothies that it's rather overwhelming knowing where to begin. This recipe is a good place to start and makes a little over 750ml of a mean, green, delicious smoothie. I modified a recipe I found and the original can found here.