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Alternative carbs for that summer body

Now is the perfect time to start thinking about how you want to feel when summer comes. It may seem like summer has started this week and thank goodness! But with around three months to go before the summer holidays officially start, it’s a realistic amount of time to make some real changes and get a strong and healthy summer body.

Toning up is not just about the exercise we do, it’s also about our diet. Food and exercise go hand in hand, and this week in our summer blog series, we have some simple ideas to help you with your holiday diet. If you are thinking of increasing your exercise regime in the run up to the holidays, it’s important to consider your eating habits and make sure you are fuelling right.

Carbs or no carbs?

A question that often comes up, is Carbs or no Carbs? Is cutting them out of your diet the way to get that perfect summer body? Or are they essential as part of an active lifestyle?

For me as an avid fan of exercise, I come down in favour of maintaining carbohydrate in my diet, without it I lack the energy for exercising.  Carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet, your body uses carbohydrate to make glycogen which is stored in your muscles, and during exercise it provides your body with the energy it needs.

But not all carbohydrates are created equal! More traditional sources of carbohydrates such as white bread, white pasta and white rice are highly refined and as such have low nutritional values. They often release energy quickly and cause a spike in blood sugar levels, followed by a slump.

To sustain exercise over longer periods and be generally healthier, it is much better to look for slower energy releasing carbs. Recently I have found some interesting alternatives to the highly processed ‘white’ carbohydrates and I wanted to share these more nutritious carb sources with you. You can still make all your favourite recipes, but here are some simple substitutions to make your dinner a healthier one!

Alternatives to traditional carbs

Lentil Spaghetti is one of my new favourites and has been an interesting alternative to white spaghetti. It is very flexible in how it can be used, it’s high in protein and can be used in dishes such as bolognaise or carbonara. If you try this, make sure you choose one without added cornflour as that simply provides empty calories. You can buy lentil pasta at Holland and Barrett.

Brown rice pasta is a delicious alternative to white pasta and is also a good source of protein.  It is available in most major supermarkets, I’ve found it in Tesco, Sainsburys and Waitrose, but I’m sure there are others too!

Another great alternative is quinoa pasta, it has a nice texture and it has more protein in than most of the other options so it’s great for muscle repair and recovery. Spelt pasta and whole wheat pasta are also worth trying and both are rich in fibre.

I love the choice of alternatives to white rice that are currently on offer at a lot of supermarkets, I have just recently discovered sweet potato rice which has been a big hit in my house, it tastes great with a vegetable tagine!

I have started making my own bread too, which far from being the difficult process I had envisioned, it’s actually pretty fun and takes less than 10 minutes in the evening to prepare. We chuck all the ingredients in our new breadmaking machine and have a lovely fresh loaf in the morning. No more processed supermarket bread. Our loaves tend to last around 3 days, so I only need to make it twice a week. I never thought I would have time to make bread, but it is so quick and is worth it if you are looking for a less processed bread that will sustain energy over a longer period.

The great news is there are so many nutritious products on offer at the shops and supermarkets, and it’s often exciting to try out new alternatives. For me, I’ll be keeping carbohydrate in my diet in the run up to my summer exercise goals, I’ll just be finding more nutritious options. Have you got a favourite alternative to more traditional sources of carbs? Do you have a favourite recipe to share with us? We would love to hear from you, just comment below or send us a link to one of your go to alternative carb recipes.

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Finally, the sun came out this weekend! We were able to ditch our winter coats, stay out all day with the little ones and even have our first BBQ of the season. It was beautiful, and I finally started to believe that there may be some good weather on the way.

And with the temperature set to get even warmer this week, what better time to start thinking about the summer? With three months to go before the start of the summer holidays (how did that happen already?) are you ready to start working on getting stronger and healthier for the holidays?

At CONTOUR we are ready to help you with your summer fitness plans. Whether you want to get in shape for a holiday, tone and strengthen your body or simply feel better and move better and be more active, we can help you. Over the next few weeks we will be launching our incredible summer offers, with discounted classes and savings on monthly passes for new customers. This is the perfect opportunity to be the best ‘you’ you can this summer.

Pilates is one of the best forms of exercise to strengthen up and improve general health and wellbeing. As Joseph Pilates himself said, in 10 sessions you’ll feel better, in 20 sessions you’ll look better, and after 30 sessions you’ll have a completely new body.

Starting now means you’ll have plenty of time to be fit and feel incredible for the months ahead. Unlike many ‘beach body’ and ‘summer-ready’ promises we know these types of changes do not happen overnight. Three months is a healthy period of time in which to make effective changes and see real results, and a little forward planning can really help you set goals and achieve what you want to.

In line with our exciting new offers we will also be running a mini blog series to fire up your enthusiasm and give you all sorts of ideas and hacks to live an all-round healthier lifestyle in the build up to summer. We are here to help you develop healthier habits and support you to achieve your health and fitness goals.
Come join us at CONTOUR, celebrate the sun coming out and take the opportunity to decide what body you want to have this summer.

Nearly 4 months ago I was lying in a hospital bed giving birth to my second son Angus. Only a few months on, that moment feels like a lifetime ago! The sleepless nights and the frequent feeds are not behind us yet, but I feel much better than I did at this stage after the birth of my first child. And one of the reasons is because I have focussed some of my time post-birth on my own recovery.

I have come to realise that it is not selfish to take a little time out. As a new mum you need to be kind to yourself, give yourself a little break and don’t feel guilty. Our role can be completely overwhelming at times and it’s so important to carve out some time that is yours. This will probably seem impossible at the beginning but as you and your little one get into your routine together, small pockets of time will start to appear. Grab them and make them yours!

For me my favourite release is to come to the studio and get stuck into a Pilates class, be it with one of our lovely groups or on my own. Over the last six weeks I have been documenting my postpartum exercise journey as I regain my strength and fitness through Pilates. I can’t pretend it hasn’t been tough at times, but by making a plan and finding ways to stick with it has really helped. In the last of our postpartum exercise series, I wanted to share the things that have helped me to keep on track.

Make exercise a habit

The first time I got back to the studio to start exercising again, I was more than a little excited. My body was ready and I felt mentally prepared to get going. But it’s all too easy to ride this wave of enthusiasm and then crash and burn a few weeks down the line.

At the beginning of my journey I chatted with Claire, our CONTOUR instructor with a specialist interest in pre and post-natal Pilates. Together we made a sensible and achievable exercise plan. At the start of each week, I work out what sessions I need to do and how they are going to fit in. Most importantly I have started to treat my Pilates time as non-negotiable, in the same way I would an appointment or a feed for Angus. This helps me, and also my family, and means I am less likely to skip it. Having an overall plan with a goal has made it much easier to make my exercise routine a habit again.

Listen to your body

If something doesn’t feel right your body is telling you something. Stop and slow down. Although you have a schedule, be flexible about how you achieve it, and think about alternate ways to reach your goals for the week. For me, if I have missed a daytime class, I try to stretch at home and do some core work when both boys are in bed. Returning to exercise is journey and one that you need to take at your own pace.

Support exercise with a healthy diet and good sleep

Work on the things that help to support a healthy exercise routine. In the past I have concentrated much more on the exercise part when trying to regain fitness, but I have come to realise the importance of sleep and diet as core components of my journey. If I don’t get these right it is hard to exercise well and my body doesn’t get the maximum benefit or have what it needs to recover. In my last blog post I shared one of my favourite healthy snack recipes. These super-easy-to-make energy balls are helping me avoid the cake that seems to fill a lot of the first few months of motherhood and provide a much more nutritious snack for my body!

As you know, Pilates is my passion and I believe it is has been essential to my postpartum recovery. I am really pleased with where I am after 3 months, but more importantly I am sticking with my exercise plan and slowly regaining my strength and fitness. What do the next few months hold? More of the same I hope in terms of Pilates! My motto for 2018 is ‘Get Stronger, Move Better’ and I am determined to keep going.

We would love to hear how you are getting on. Have you just returned to exercise? Are you a little further on with your journey? Feel free to share what you have learnt or struggled with in the comments below and we can help support each other. If you are returning to exercise after giving birth and want to come talk to us, drop by the studio anytime and myself or Claire our pre and post-natal Pilates instructor would love to chat more!

What you eat makes all the difference to how you feel, and just like sleep, diet is an essential part of your exercise journey. I have always been a big fan of food! I don’t function well without it and I like to eat at regular intervals throughout the day. Everyone is different however. Not every way of eating will suit everyone. In my postpartum return to exercise, I have learnt that the most important thing is to listen to your body. By listening and being mindful about what, and how you eat, you will find your own optimal fuelling which suits your journey and recovery best.

There are a lot of complicated diet plans out there and there is always a new food fad just around the corner. But the basics of a good diet haven’t really changed in decades and science consistently shows the best thing for your body, especially when exercising, is to eat real food. A diet high in wholefoods, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, beans, nuts and grains is optimal. On the flipside, it’s also a good idea to avoid highly processed foods and take it easy on sugar and red meat. But don’t forget to include the odd treat, I find a relaxed approach rather than strict rules help me the most.

Make time for food

Time is something I think most of wish we had more of. I’m very guilty of eating at my desk or rushing a meal, but a few simple changes have really helped me make sure that even if I’m struggling for time, I am eating well. By re-framing how I think about my diet; as an essential part of my goal of regaining fitness, rather than a separate part of my life, it has become easier. As a result, I have been aiming to block out time to plan, shop and prepare nutritious meals and I find batch cooking at the weekend really helps. This way, if I have to eat at my desk, at least I am eating a nutritious meal rather than a hastily bought sandwich.

Hydration

Keeping hydrated is just as important as maintaining a healthy diet. When you exercise you lose fluid as sweat so it’s important to consider your needs, and just like food, being well hydrated not only improves your workout but also your recovery.

The current government guidelines suggest aiming for between six to eight glasses of water per day. But remember to listen to your own body. If you are thirsty, your body is telling you that it is not fully hydrated and so I find drinking to thirst is one of the best things you can do.

Pre and post workout

When you eat is almost as important as what you eat, and this is something I have been keen to take more notice of in my postpartum journey. I try to spread out my calories throughout the day and have started thinking more about what I eat before and after my work outs to get the maximum benefit.

Eating too much, too close to your class can result in bloating as your body has to divert energy away from digestion and towards your workout muscles. If I am booked into an evening class, I aim to have a good meal (including protein, fats and lots of veggies) two hours before. The protein and fat are slow burning energy and by having them two hours before your workout, you are ensuring your body can use the energy effectively.

If you are looking for a quick pick me up in the run up to your class, I find a snack around thirty minutes before really helps. My favourite snack at the moment is a couple of energy balls. These nutritious nibbles are super easy to make and are packed with goodness to help you with your work out. In case you want to make your own, here’s my own recipe, they provide a healthy mix of carbohydrate and protein, along with useful vitamins and minerals such iron and B-vitamins. The balls will last for a few days in an airtight container in the fridge but can also be frozen for up to three months, ensuring you always have a healthy snack at hand.

Amy’s utterly nutterly cocoa energy balls

Ingredients:

125g Soft dates

100g Chopped almonds

75g Rolled oats

2tsp Nut butter (almond or peanut work well)

1tbsp Cocoa powder

To coat:

Pick your favourites! I love finely chopped pistachios, dried fruit, desiccated coconut, cocoa powder or dark chocolate chips.

Method:

Put the dates, chopped almonds, oats, almond butter and cocoa powder into a food processor and blend until the nuts are crushed and the mixture is fully blended.

Take a small amount of the mixture and roll it between your hands to make bite sized balls. (This recipe makes between 12-15 energy balls).

Once rolled, choose your coating. Place the coating in a bowl and roll the ball around until covered.

Enjoy!

Let me know if you have any favourite recipes for fuelling and re-fuelling or how you get on if you try my energy balls, we would love to hear from you.

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