DSC_0003This past week I took 5 days off from high intensity, high impact and heavy lifting exercise. It was tough, but my body was at the point of exhaustion and it has definitely done a world of good, which is why I decided to share my thoughts and advice on taking a break from exercise, or ‘deloading’ as it is also called.

Over the past few months I have felt a dip in my motivation, and that is perfectly normal, but it’s very hard to train through, particularly when I was getting up at 6am to try and go to the gym, and my body was just like NOPE, and then my brain was also unable to push through. Not only this but my knee (which is injured but which I work around) has been a bit sore recently, and I was talking to some friends about maybe taking a break from exercise and after they all agreed it might be a good idea, I just took the plunge.

At first it was weird waking up and not having to go to the gym, but really it flew by, and my first gym session back on Friday was pretty good! I feel a lot less tired, my knee feels better, and today I killed a session at the gym, and am feeling back on form.

So why is time off a good idea?

It’s a very good idea because if you continue to train as hard as possible, eventually something is going to give, whether that’s you becoming exhausted, ill, reaching a plateau in your fitness level/weightlifting/fat loss or the worst case scenario: getting an injury. Taking a break is not only great for your body (our muscles require rest in order to heal after exercise and thus become stronger) but it’s also great for your central nervous system as this needs a rest just as much as your muscles.

How often should you take a break?

This weeklong break was my first, and it probably took too long to do this! For someone who trains as I do it’s advised that you a few days’ break every 10 weeks. Top athletes and the like may have a deload week every 4 weeks, this might not be a total break from training, but they could just do less intense training or reduce their weights if they’re lifting.

What should you do instead?

Well for me, I just focused on getting enough sleep, I still stayed active (I did some yoga, took an MMA class and I tend to do a lot of walking on a day to day basis due to living in London), I ate very cleanly and ensured I was still giving myself the proper nutrients, but I just gave myself the rest and recuperation I deserved! We’re taught to be ‘go go go’ constantly, and the idea of having a break from exercise, something you’ve worked so hard to motivate yourself to do in the first place, is a bitter pill to swallow. But it’s important to listen to your body, and suck it up and rest when you need to! I know first hand how hard it is to deal with an injury and I would never want to have another one, so give your body the break it deserves and requires to avoid getting ill or injured!

Even just taking a weekend off or a few days if your busy is a good idea, it doesn’t necessarily have to be an entire week. I know a few people who have had very specific workout routines (which is great!), but they will push themselves to the edge just to make sure they fit in the workout that is planned, even if that means getting less sleep. I think above all it’s important to find balance in the way you live your life, both in terms of exercising and in terms of ensuring you get the required sleep and relaxation time that as a living, breathing animal, we actually need to function at our best, and everyone wants to be able to function at their best right?!

P.S. I am not a physiotherapist, a personal trainer or a nutritionist, so this is just my personal opinion, there are a lot of articles out there that go into more depth on deloading and what is means for specific training routines, so if you’re curious I would 100% advise you to do some reading, or just go into that break full throttle and take some time off!

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We hear this phrase thrown around a lot, but what actually is ‘clean eating’. Let’s start by making it clear that it isn’t a diet, it’s not for any particular allergy or sensitivity (like gluten-free or dairy-free for example), simply put, eating clean is pretty much eating healthy food.

 

The word ‘clean’ comes into practice because of the fact that ‘clean eating’ involves eating unprocessed foods. I remember once being told that you should choose food that doesn’t have an ingredients list, for example, vegetables that you buy don’t have an ingredients list on the back because, well, a cucumber is a cucumber. The same goes for meat and fish. Meat and fish that haven’t had any sauces, marinades or spices on it are what you would define as ‘clean’. Then you have your grains, such as quinoa and brown rice for example.

 

If you are going to buy packaged food, make sure it’s things with minimal ingredients. I eat brown rice pasta, and obviously this is somewhat a processed food, but when you check the ingredients, it literally just contains ‘brown rice’.

 

What to eat:

  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Beans and pulse
  • Meat and fish
  • Nuts
  • Eggs
  • Unrefined grains such as quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat is fine if you don’t have wheat sensitivity
  • Olive oil
  • Dairy (depending on your preferences, I avoid dairy, others may get on ok with it)

 

What to avoid:

  • Microwavable meals
  • Ready made sauces (from ketchup to spag bol, you’d be surprised how much rubbish, including sugar, is in these!)
  • Cakes, sweets, biscuits
  • Processed meats such as ham, chorizo and bacon (whelp… bacon)
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Crisps
  • Sugar (all kinds, even unrefined where possible)

 

The short of it is, eat REAL food. Cut the crap basically. If you’re looking for inspiration then I can recommend you try out the following books:

  • Hemsley & Hemsley – The Hemsley Sisters
  • Get the Glow – Madeleine Shaw
  • Nourish. Glow – Amelia Freer
  • Deliciously Ella – Ella Woodward
  • All the ‘I Quit Sugar’ books by Sarah Wilson

 

I want to be clear that this is not a diet. This is a lifestyle choice, and not only will choosing to ‘eat clean’ make you feel better, you are likely to lose weight (if that’s one of your goals), but you’re also just going to improve your general health and wellbeing by removing any rubbish that it is processed foods. If you have other diet requirements, these can easily be combined with the clean eating philosophy, for example I have to have a very low sugar diet because of a yeast allergy, and this works very well with eating clean.

One of the easiest ways to get in some of your five a day (or even more than that) is to make a smoothie bowl, I absolutely love them because you can get so creative with them. As I love them so much I thought I’d share a recipe for one!DSC_0049

With smoothie bowls you can use whatever fruit and veg you like, and I often add superfoods to mine, usually in powdered form. I have recently discovered a powder called NutriSmart (check them out here), which was a whopping 10 superfoods in it, including my favourites, spirulina, chlorella and wheat grass.

Ingredients:

  • 1 frozen banana
  • handful of spinach
  • 10g nutrismart
  • handful of frozen raspberries (about 80g)
  • 200ml coconut milk

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Whizz it all up together in a blender until smooth and just pour into a bowl. You can add whatever you like to the top, I usually go for sugar free granola, a variety of berries, cacao nibs and some almond butter! This is also a good one from when you’re feeling a bit under the weather (or hungover) as it contains a lot of detoxifying superfoods!

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You may or may not heard about matcha tea, but just in case you haven’t, I’m going to give you the run down! I have recently given up coffee (because I was having trouble sleeping, and it was really aggravating my tummy, nooothing to do with the taste because I love coffee! I had been drinking matcha tea anyway, just not on a regular day to day basis, but decided to go full force and replace my morning cup of coffee with a cup of matcha and see how I got on.

So far I feel absolutely great! So energised but in a totally different way to that coffee buzz (that usually wears off pretty quickly or gives me a funny heart beat ha!).

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What is matcha tea?

Matcha tea is powdered green tea. Instead of steeping tea leaves in water, and then discarding the leaves, the leaves are ground down to a powder and mixed with hot water. So you’re actually consuming the leaves, which are the good stuff!

What are its health benefits?

Matcha tea has so many health benefits! It is packed with antioxidants, one cup of matcha tea has ten times the amount of antioxidants as a cup of regular green tea! One of these antioxidants is EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which is a phytochemical that can help fight free radicals (and therefore can help prevent cancer), it is also great for brain power and general health. Antioxidants are also just great for keeping you in tip top condition and help your body fight against viruses and diseases. Matcha also contains amino acids and L-theanine which are two other great nutrients.

Can it help me with weight loss?

It contains quite high levels of caffeine, which will always help speed up your metabolism and rate of fat burn, but there are also findings that the aforementioned EGCG can help boost fat burn and and your metabolism!

And the energy boost?

Matcha tea leaves are covered from sunlight when grown, so they retain much more chlorophyl than other types of tea, chlorophyl is an energy booster, and whilst matcha contains less caffeine than an espresso, the combination of the caffeine levels and the other nutrients gives you a hit for longer, and you don’t get the same slump when it’s worn off either!

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What does it taste like?

I am really not good at describing tastes, honestly, I am useless. But I have pooled some various descriptions from people and the taste is ‘vegetal’ but also slightly sweet. It may take you a while to get used to the taste, but I love it! Especially when made into a latte with coconut milk!

Where can I buy it from?

You can buy matcha tea from most health food stores, and speciality tea stores. I buy mine from Eat Clean Tea. This company was recommended by a friend and I have not looked back! I love their stuff so much that I have collaborated with them a few times on social media, purely because I love it so matcha (sorry couldn’t resist!).

You may or may not have seen on my Instagram that I am lucky enough to be able to work with I Quit Sugar! If you haven’t heard about I Quit Sugar then let me give you the quick run down; Sarah Wilson (some awesome Aussie chick) decided to give up sugar as an experiment, and she found that her health and energy improved so much that she decided to spread the word.

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This led to her developing her 8 Week Programme down under in Australia, to help other people quit sugar, and now she’s bringing the same programme to the UK, only this time it’s made especially for us Brits, it’s completely sustainable, uses affordable and in season meat and veg. And the IQS team have given 5 spaces on this 8 Week Programme to give away!! It’s usually £80 for the 8 week course so I think this is amazing!

Sound like it’s up your street? I won’t go into why sugar is bad, it just is bad for you, take it from me. If you fancy taking part, go and check out my Instagram page here and everything is explained in the most recent photo!

If you fancy taking a look at the IQS Website and all of Sarah’s books and even sign up to the programme then just click here!

P.S. I have tried so many recipes from the I Quit Sugar books (yep I have them all) and I guarantee you that they are all bloody delicious! My housemate made Sarah’s cauliflower base pizzas for us tonight for dinner and oh my gosh it was so good!

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