Alcohol and fitness

Alcohol and fitness. How do these words fit together in your mind? Are they compatible? Or does one exclude the other? It’s interesting how often people ask me if I drink – I would have thought that the amount I talk about gin would have answered that question years ago. 😉 I thought I’d make a post about it, since a huge number of my followers are of university/early work age but also interested in health and fitness. Since health can be a total minefield I thought I’d clear a few things up.

Alcohol has calories

Because alcohol is essentially a carbohydrate, it can contain a lot of calories – plenty more than you might expect for a drink. It also interrupts how our bodies deal with other foods, slowing down the absorption of nutrients and reducing the amount of fat our bodies burn for energy. A pint of beer contains around 200 calories, while a glass of wine (175ml) contains around 125 calories. However, if you take these into account when thinking about your daily diet, it is very possible to work around this fact! I enjoy drinking a couple of times a week and do not find that it affects my weight whether I have them or not. I just factor in the calories of alcohol (very roughly) and have fewer snacks that week. Simple!

Alcohol can lead to bad decision making

Drinking can lead to cravings for sugar and carbohydrates. Most of us have felt that post-night-out craving for chips/burger/kebab, and this can have serious consequences on our healthy intentions. When I was at university I used to keep a bowl of porridge or sweet potato fries at home to eat after a big night out. After drinking and dancing for a long period of time, your body craves nutrition, so it is best to feed it something with a little more nutritional value than Bobby’s kebab shop can offer. Pre-plan before a night out to make sure you’re prepared. Another favourite late night snack is toast with olive oil or a large bowl of granola. Find what works for you and stick to it – your body and bank will thank you!

The aftermath

Obviously excessive alcohol can leave us a little worse for wear the morning (and let’s be honest, the entire day/2 days) afterwards. When we are hungover, it is mainly because our bodies are severely dehydrated which actually makes your brain shrink, pulling away from the sides of your brain case. This is because alcohol is a diuretic, making you wee more than you would usually in order to flush out more toxins from your body (yes, alcohol is a poison). Pretty much anyone who drinks has had a hangover, but there are ways to reduce your likelihood of getting one!

  1. Drink a glass of water for every glass of alcohol you consume.
  2. Opt for lighter alcohols – the darker the alcohol (red wine, rum, bourbon), the more congeners they have, exacerbating headaches the next day.
  3. Take electrolyte salts and/or an aspirin (with lots of water) before you sleep. I drink minimum 500ml right before bed if I’ve been drinking.
  4. Avoid caffeine on your night our and in the morning. You may feel like you need it but your body won’t thank you. Caffeine is also a diuretic and will make you even more dehydrated! Just give yourself water and time to recover.
  5. Take ibuprofen and eat anti-inflammatory foods in the morning. Alcohol triggers inflammation in the body which can make hangovers feel worst, so getting swelling down is key.

When hungover we can be tempted to eat alllll the foods in my opinion it’s OK to have that greasy fry up you are craving if you’re hungover, especially if you’ve factored it in to your weekly diet. However, after a night out our bodies are craving health, so opting for something more nutritious might actually make you feel better (and has less of an impact on your fitness goals).

My favourite drinks:

I am a sucker for a gin and tonic! Slimline or full fat, depending on how many I’m having. Gin will always be my go to spirit, but some people cannot handle it at all. Find what works for you and don’t overindulge (or it might not work so well next time).

For a dinner party I like white wine. Red wine is said to have some health benefits but the sulphites don’t agree with me hugely, so it’s not my go to. However a glass here and here is absolutely fine for me. Of course I also love a good champagne, but the sugar and bubbles make me hyperactive and drunker faster, and also leave me with a worse hangover if I have to many.

If I’m planning on having more than a few drinks, I might opt for something fairly plain, like a vodka lime soda. Tastes delicious and fresh without having the added sugar and impurities of other drinks.

On special occasions (picnics in the park) I’ll drink Crabbies, an alcoholic ginger beer. It’s spectacularly bad for you but to be honest, life is for enjoying, and Crabbies makes me happy because it reminds me of summer.

Summary

I think it’s important to know how alcohol affects your body and your mind – both biologically and for you, personally. Everyone reacts differently, and some people decide that drinking is incompatible with their fitness goals. In my opinion, as with pretty much everything for me, I think it’s all about moderation. Live life, enjoy yourself and know your limits.

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7 Bad habits ruining your progress

Sitting all day

The majority of us have jobs that require us to sit still for long periods of time. This means that the amount we move throughout the day is minimal, and when combined with taking transport to and from work, this can really take its toll on your body! Studies show that even if you workout regularly, sitting down for extended periods of time can increase your risk of mortality, presumably from accumulating

Eating too fast

Calories are calories, right? Pretty much, yes, but you can eat a lot more calories if you don’t pay attention to what you’re eating. It takes the body around 20 minutes to process the food you’ve just eaten, so eating quickly can allow you to eat way more food before your body even notices you’re eating. Slow down and give your body time to catch up!

Snacking throughout the day

Similar to above, snacking throughout the day can cause you to lose track of the amount of calories you’re consuming. I don’t count calories, but by grazing through the day I end up eating so much more than when I stick to eating only at meal times. I don’t deprive myself of snacks, but if you’re hungry, try to set yourself snack times, rather than nibbling at little bits throughout the day.

Working out too much

This sounds strange but actually there is such thing as working out too much and it might be easier than you think. As you get fitter, you may be able to push yourself harder, but your body still requires time to recover, and the harder you push yourself, the longer that time is. Aiming to fit in intense workouts everyday is unachievable and frankly, dangerous, as it can lead to burnout and/or injuries. In addition, workout out intensely too frequently means that you’re unable to put 100% effort into each session, so you’re better off doing fewer sessions at a higher intensity. to get more progress. Struggle to take a day off? Mix up your workouts to alternate between high intensity and low intensity sessions.

Not getting enough sleep

OK so I swear I bang on about sleep as a cure-all, but IT BASICALLY IS. When your body is well rested it simply functions better, meaning fewer things go wrong. In terms of your progress, this means:

  1. You have more energy to put into workouts, and you’re less likely to miss workouts because you’re too tired.
  2. You don’t reach for snacks throughout the day because a) you don’t get such a bad energy slump and b) motivation is increased when you have more energy, so you’re more likely to stick to any plan you’ve set for yourself.

Eating diet foods

It can seem counterintuitive, but diet foods are anything but good for your diet. I had a pack of low-calorie ‘light’ crisps the other day, and I swear they were made from salted cardboard pulp. I’m sure their main method of helping diets is that no one could finish an entire packet because they were so disgusting. Other diet foods may feel a little bit satisfying but nowhere near as good as the real thing, so you end up eating more of them. OR you think ‘these are low calorie so I can eat more’ and eat more than you would of the original, but feel way worse afterwards. Just ditch the low calorie/fat/carb snacks. Find good food that you enjoy and eat everything in moderation.

Skipping meals

Thinking: If I eat one meal less, I’ll lose weight. Sure, if you don’t compensate, that may be true. However, we’re all human, and we our bodies are much cleverer than we give them credit for. People who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight than those who don’t, and skipping any other meal can lead to ‘grazing’ throughout the day, which is a healthy diet killer. Instead, try sticking to balanced, nutrient dense meals that won’t leave you hungry.

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How I keep healthy with a full time job

Although I only started working in ‘the real world’ in August, I have been asked time and time again how I’m keeping healthy. As with so many people I have a desk job, I work in a city and I have an almost unlimited supply of food throughout the day. So how do I stay healthy?

Keeping fit and healthy isn’t something that just ‘happens’ for me – it’s something I have consciously worked hard at for the past 8 years of my life, figuring out what works for me. Although I’m still perfecting it all, I’d love to share with you all what I find works for me, as someone who works 8h a day sitting down at a desk!

 

Edit: I have recently started working 25h a week after 8 months of working full time, which allows me a little more space to focus on my blog, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. I think I probably work more than ever now, but the proportion that is spent sitting at a desk has decreased. However these rules still stand as I go to the office 4 days a week still! 

Walk

People looooove to see X workout or Y workout on Instagram, but I never see people talking about the power of the humble walk. I LOVE to walk. It’s my thing, and I’m getting very good at it (I’m known for being a speedy walker). Sure, walking isn’t as hardcore as a boxing session or as glamorous as a weights session, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work wonders. If you think about it, your workout only makes up around 4% of your day. If the other 96% is spent sitting on your ass then that 4% isn’t really going to matter. My advice: get walking. Walk the journey to work if you can – I walk up to an hour to and from work. I also walk for at least 30 minutes in my lunch break. Maybe you don’t have the time to do that much, but make a conscious effort to head out for a walk when you have a minute. It’ll do wonders for your health (and, surprisingly, your endurance in other sports too!).

Tea breaks!

There is something I call tea/pee (like a tee-pee but not). It involves drinking lots of tea and peeing all the time. Doesn’t sound scientific enough for you? You’d be surprised. Drinking herbal tea has a myriad of health benefits, lots of which are to do with the fact that you’re consuming more liquid, which is easy to forget. During winter it’s incredibly warming and year round flavoured teas can be good to see you between mealtimes or snack breaks. The increased liquid in your system will obviously make you wee more often, and this, combined with filling up your tea all day, means more standing up and walking around, which has a bunch of other benefits (see above). If your colleagues make fun of you for having a weak bladder, laugh at them, because they should be sad they don’t know about tea-pee. Toilet/kitchen right next to your office? Head to one on another floor.

30 minute rule

I try not to sit down for more than 30 minutes continuously. It hurts my back, makes me lethargic and makes my Garmin angry (it continuously buzzes at me to ‘MOVE’). Every 30 minutes (if I haven’t moved since the last 30 minutes), I get up and walk somewhere. It doesn’t matter where, but 2 minutes of activity for every 30 minutes of sitting down should really be your minimum when it comes to your desk job. Tea-pee should help with this. Offer to get other people tea too. Either they’ll join (in which case yay you get company), or they’ll give you their mug, which means more trips to the kitchen (aka more steps).

Lunch

Lunch at my work is both amazing and frustrating. We get lunch supplied, which is incredible, and usually it’s pretty good and healthy – that’s the amazing bit. The frustrating bit is that it’s always between 12pm and 1:30pm, which means that even if I’m not hungry in those hours, I have to eat, lest I starve by the afternoon. For most people this isn’t an issue, as you’ll be bringing in your own lunch. Try not to fall into the trap of eating it by 11am and being sad by 12pm when you’re hungry again. I set myself a specific meal time (12:40pm) and don’t eat in the hour before, because I know I’ll regret it when I’m really full by the time we get to lunch. Eat your lunch slowly and for gods sake, NOT AT YOUR DESK. If you insist on eating at your desk, turn your computer off and enjoy your food without work/internet of any kind. Paying attention to what you are eating will increase enjoyment of it, make you feel more satisfied, and allow your brain to have a break, which it will probably need by lunch time.

Snack-attack

The dreaded snack cupboard/shelf/drawer/kitchen is a health killer. It’s continually restocked by well-meaning people and feeders, who probably want to feel better about their snacking habits. Snack-attack is like an avalanche and once snacking starts, it’s sooooo difficult to stop (experienced first hand). My desk is literally 2ft from the snack shelf, and my convenient wheely chair means I don’t even have to get up to get any. HOWEVER, I am aware of the relentless pull of snackaging, and have set some boundaries in place. I try (emphasis on try) to only snack at set times, twice a day max. Considering the amount I eat throughout the day, I am not in need of extra snacks, and know that when I do snack, it’s out of boredom. Be aware of your snacking habits, find your triggers and figure out what you want to do. For some people this is allowing literally NO SNACKS throughout the day. I don’t want to be sad, so I allow myself snacks, but limit them to certain times and distract myself with tea when I am tempted to get more (see tea-pee). In addition I’ve stocked the snack shelf with ‘healthy’ snacks (graze boxes and nakd bars), in the hope that people will see that it’s full and there is no space for their double chocolate cake and doughnuts. Just remember, snack-attack calories are still recognised as calories by your body, even if you don’t count them yourself.

Find time to workout

Let’s be honest, when you’re working 40h+ a week you’re tired quite a lot of the time. Maybe all the time. So struggling to the gym early in the morning or after a long day might not be top on your list of desires, but if you want to be LESS tired, ironically it should be. Working out improves circulation and alertness, which can help you work better too. It can also give you motivation in other areas of life when you start to see progress in the gym, and once you’re in a routine it becomes MUCH easier. I tend to workout after work, but if I can’t fit that in I’ll go before, at around 7:30am. My advice is to find a gym or class that you like, and do that at least 3 times a week. I train around 5-6h a week even when I don’t reeeeeally want to, and 9 times out of 10, I feel 1000x better after the workout. So try to fit in a workout before or after work, or even just 30 minutes hard during your lunch break. Give it a go, you’ve really got nothing to lose!

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Not what I meant by ‘a desk job’

Vegan french toast

If you grew up eating french toast on the weekends as a special treat, you’ll know what a treat it is. If you’re vegan there’s no reason to miss out – I prefer this version to the non-vegan version too. It’s also ideal if you have some bread that’s a little past its best as you won’t be able to tell at all with this! Perfect with mixed berries and maple syrup on top 🙂

 

Ingredients:

  • 1tbsp maple syrup
  • 240ml almond milk
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 5 slices bread (sourdough works well – not too soft)
  • Coconut oil
  • Toppings of choice (works well with anything you’d usually put on pancakes)

Method:

  • Mix all the ingredients except the bread in a mixing bowl
  • Heat a tsp coconut oil in a frying or griddle pan
  • Dip the bread slices in the mixture for a couple of seconds – you don’t want them totally drenched
  • Once the pan is hot (before the oil burns) place the slices of bread in and cook until browning on one side (around 3 minutes in a hot pan)
  • Using a spatula, flip the bread to cook the other side
  • Top with desired toppings and serve up!

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