Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Salmon Fishcakes with a red pepper sauce

As I love salmon and poached eggs came across this recipe in a old copy of Ultra Fit magazine that's puts them together with a yummy red pepper sauce, so had to recreate for myself.  So here we have a perfect meal of protein and omega 3 fatty acids from the fish.  More protein, low fat, Vitamins A, D and B from the eggs and red peppers are rich in Vitamin A, C, B6 which plays a vital role in a healthy immune system and brain function and are also high in lycopene and high in fibre.  Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables high in lycopene are said to lower your risk or some cancers. Peppers are also very low in calories around 45 so load your shopping basket up with red, green, orange and yellow peppers on your next visit :)


375g salmon fillet
200mls milk
500g potatoes, peeled and chopped (I actually used both king Edwards and a sweet potato, worked just as well)
half teaspoon cumin seeds (I didn't use on this occasion)
4 tablespoons olive oil (I used half extra virgin olive oil and half coconut oil)
4 spring onions, finely sliced
1 tablespoon chives, chopped
1 egg, beaten
2 slices Burgen Buckwheat & Poppy seed bread, made into fine breadcrumbs (I used Burgen Sunflower & Chia Seeded bread)
2 red peppers, de-seeded and halved
4 eggs poached

  • Steam the salmon in tin foil for 3 - 5 minutes or until cooked through.  Break the fillet into medium flakes and remove any skin or bones.
  • Next boil the potatoes until tender, drain and mash. Keep warm.
  • Meanwhile, heat a teaspoon of oil and fry the cumin seeds and spring onions for 2 - 3 minutes.
  • Now add the fish, chopped chives and spring onion mix to the potatoes.  Season with a little salt and pepper. When cool enough to handle, shape into 4 fishcakes.
  • Next dip the fishcakes into the whisked egg then breadcrumbs. Leave to rest in the fridge for 10 - 15 minutes.
  • While the fishcakes are resting make the red pepper sauce.  Grill the red peppers until charred then place in a food bag such as a freezer bag or wrap in cling film.  Leave for a few minutes, this hopefully will allow you to peel off the charred skin (warning be patient, to be honest I struggled with this a little but it was worth it!).  Blend the remaining pepper flesh for a smooth sauce consistency to your liking.  But aside till ready to serve.
  • Heat the remaining oil and cook the fish cakes for 4 - 6 minutes each side.  Serve with the red pepper sauce and top with a soft boiled poach egg.  I also served mine with some broccoli.  But would work well with a light fresh salad on the side for lunch or a different green vegetable such as asparagus.

Scrummy - ENJOY :)


Thursday, 30 January 2014

Its Official - LSDC Sucks!!

Long slow distance cardio sucks, I think we've all know this for a long time. But their are still many individuals that still believe the old myth of staying within the fat burning zone on our favourite cardio machines such as stationary bikes, cross trainers and treadmills in the hope it will shed lots of unwanted lbs!

The reality is long slow distance cardio is boring, its time wasting, it may cause injury, and while it may burn some fat it will also burn precious muscle giving you that not very attractive 'skinny fat' look as you can see in the picture below.  It will NOT give you results and it will NOT give you the desired shape you are longing for.

Marathon runner on the left and a sprinter on the right.  A marked difference in body composition you'll agree.
So which would you rather be?

Now I am not completely ditching the idea of LSDC in some cases it may be all you can do.  Such as you being obese or very overweight or you are coming back from rehab.  Then it is not a bad place to start, you could walk for a time or a distance and better this over a given period. But please don't get stuck in this one 'mode' look outside the box and challenge yourself for greater rewards.

So lets look at what research tells us about cardio and body compositions, here is the first of three studies:

1.  Utter AC et al - Influence of diet and / or exercise on body composition and cardiorespiratory fitness in obese women - International Journal of Sports Nutrition September 1998  -  In this 3 month study, women did 45 minutes of cardio a day 5 days per week and lost no more weight than those who dieted alone.

2.  Redman et al - The effect of calorie restriction with or without exercise on body composition and fat distribution - The Journal of Clinical Endocrinol Metabolism January 2007  -  In this study subjects did 50 minutes of cardio 5 days per week and lost no more weight than those who dieted alone.

What about an hour x 6 days of the week, any better results?  A resounding NO!
3.  McTiernan et al - Exercise effect on weight and body fat on men and women.- Obesity Journal June 2007  -  Over the course of 1 year, subjects performed 1 hour of aerobic exercise 6 days per week and lost just 3.5 lbs on average over the entire year!

Now don't know about you, but to me that's pretty soul destroying.  There has to be a better way, surely? And yes, that way is interval training or commonly known these days as HIIT or VIIT.  HIIT high intensity and VIIT variable intensity interval training is bursts of intense exercise alternated with a recovery burst.  Repeated for a period of time.  This way of training can be applied on cardio machines mentioned above (but its certainly not LSDC) and also works very well with body weight exercises and weights.

The 'Tabata' fat loss method has also become very popular again.  It is the same principles as mentioned, bursts with recovery.  It is made up of 8 lots of 20 seconds effort with 10 seconds recovery, so you are working for a total of 4 minutes.  May not sound a lot but believe me it is quite taxing.  But because it is hard work, your body will have a lot of repairing to do and while it is doing this your body will be burning from your fat stores.  While LSDC may burn a small proportion of fat while you are doing it you will also recover very quickly.  You don't get an after burn effect like you do when doing interval training. 

It's the way to go, stay tuned for some interval ideas.  But if you can't wait that long check out my previous 'Legs & Lungs' workouts and make a start with them, you won't regret it :)

Till next time, all the best


Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Ten Ways to Beat the Post January Blues

Its mid January already, all the excitement of Christmas and the New Year have gone. And I don't know about you but around this time I just feel a little under deflated. You may have made some New year's resolutions at the start of the year and may now not be following them through. The weather is still cold and gloomy and you may not be feeling very inspired to get out but its very normal to be feeling a bit fed up in January.

But the positives are the mornings are getting a little lighter, the evenings are getting longer before darkness descends and my daffodils are starting to think about showing themselves :)

Here are 10 extra ways to beat those January blues and gain some positivity to see you through 2014!

  1. Get Active - now I'm not just talking the gym environment, but anything that gets you moving.  It needs to be something you will enjoy doing.  If this means dancing with your partner at a local salsa club then do it. If you'd rather dance in your front room by yourself look for a dance DVD or grab your Wii dance game and away you go. If you like to be outdoors then sign up for local events such as the Cancer Research Walks and / or runs, the London to Brighton (which I am doing again this year). Or if your game try a 'Tough Mudder'.  The world is your oyster when it comes to being active, just bite the bullet and do it!
  2. Get more sleep - experts tell us that as an adult we should be getting between 7 - 9 hours sleep.  Although they seem to agree that there isn't really a magic number, everyone is different.  If you feel lethargic and sleepy during the day (and its not nutritionally related) it may be due to a lack of sleep. So see if a few more z's make a difference.
  3. Set some goals - when I see my clients, we always set some goals.  Something we write down to help them towards achieving their goals.  We use the acronym SMART this stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. We break these down into short term goals that can be achieved in a number of weeks to longer term goals that will be achieved in say 6 months to a year. 
  4. Exercise sensibly - please use your common sense.  In the gym industry we use the word 'overtraining' a lot.  Exercise is very hard on our bodies and it is very easy to get lost in the 'high' or endorphin rush exercise brings to you. So please be sensible, don't go mad on your first session and set yourself up to fall. If you are overweight and you are a 'new resolutionist runner' who is pounding the roads (I've seen you) please think about the long term damage you are causing to your back, knees and ankles. Be sensible, speak to an expert.  Don't exercise 7 times a week, there's no need, you are setting yourself up for injury. If you are new to the gym find an instructor or personal trainer who will design a programme specifically for you. Don't go mad with weights, and don't copy other people if you do not know what you are doing. Everyone has to start somewhere, even Arnie!
  5. Try a relaxation class - methods such as the Alexander Technique or Tai-Chi and Yoga are a fabulous way of letting go of all your stresses. 
  6. Eat well - I'm not telling you anything you don't already know or could find in a book or through the media.  But keep an open mind and don't believe everything you hear, especially this time of year. My philosophy is if it swam in the sea, grazed on the land, grew from the land, or flew in the sky its probably okay to eat. If it was made in a factory (or indeed a lab) it's at best avoided or eaten in moderation. If you get a variety of real foods, eaten little and often through the day and drink plenty of water you can't go wrong.
  7. If you are a drinker, try one or two alcohol free days.  Just like smoking, alcohol is addictive. The more we consume, the more our bodies get used to it and the harder it is to stop. Excessive drinking will cause irreparable damage to your liver.  Therefore a minimum of one or two days per week tee total will reduce your risk of developing conditions such as 'fatty liver syndrome'.  More information check out 'drink aware' on the following link
  8. Reduce / Recycle your things - recycling greatly contributes to improving our environment.  It should be easy to do this, as most of us receive different waste bins.  One for general waste, another for garden waste and one for tins, glass, plastics and the like.  If you don't make a call to your local council and ask.  Other easy suggestions to implement straight away (if your not already) is when shopping to look for products that can be recycled such as glass jars and tins.  Or why not try a product that has been recycled such as Tesco's Recycled Toilet Tissue.
  9. In the same vain as above why not 'Explore ways of healing our-self or/and the planet'.  This may be to stop altogether using plastics or look for a recycled alternative. Reduce your carbon foot print by buying locally produced produce from a nearby farm. Chances are the fruit and vegetables have been picked less than 24 hours so they will be 100% nutritionally perfect and there's less travel time involved in getting them to you.  Also reconnect with outside, go for a walk or a bike ride.  This will help you to make the right environmentally friendly decisions. 
  10. Do something good for someone - the genuine feeling of reward and accomplishment from this one small thing is huge! This could knocking on a neighbours door and popping in for a chat or doing small jobs (especially if they are elderly and/or live alone). Sharing taking kids to school runs, volunteering at a school, retirement home, charity shop etc., the list is endless.
Right there we have it, ten ways to become a positive influence on either yourself or others around you.  So come on, make a difference now :)

All the best, take care
Till next time


Thursday, 19 December 2013

Two new winter warming soups..................

We haven't made soup for a little while, but really theirs nothing better than a hot bowl of soup on a cold miserable day so the soup maker has been fired up to make 'Mushroom' soup (left) and Parsnip soup on the right. The mushroom soup has a little kick with a little sherry thrown in, delicious!

The beauty of making home made soups is you can adjust the seasoning and adapt just how thick or not you want your soup to be.  Plus you know exactly want your putting in.  So the ingredients for the mushroom was as follows:

8 x chestnut mushrooms (of course you can use whatever type you like)
1 x red onion
3 x cloves garlic
750 mls of vegetable stock
2 tablespoons half fat crème fraiche
2 tablespoons dry sherry
seasoning to taste

Dead easy, sautéed the garlic and onion in my soup blender.  Added the roughly chopped mushrooms, stock, seasoning and sherry.  Blended then cooked for 10 minutes.  Added the crème fraiche and adjusted seasoning if needed.  Further warmed for a couple of minutes then served with a little olive bread from Tesco's.

Next the Parsnip soup, now parsnips are lovely, particularly roasted with a traditional Sunday lunch. This soup is very flavoursome, as parsnips do have a strong rich flavour (in my opinion) so I found that by adding other vegetables such as leek and cauliflower makes it a little less parsnipy and also lowers the over all GI of the dish. The picture is the 2nd batch I made featuring cauliflower and leek!

1 x small leek
1 x small cauliflower
2 x small parsnips
750 mls vegetable stock
3 x cloves garlic chopped
2 tablespoons half fat crème fraiche
Pinch dry marjoram
seasoning to taste

Started the cooking process by steaming the vegetables first (to break them down to get them in my blender).  Added everything else except the crème fraiche and cooked for 10 minutes.  Finished with the crème fraiche, extra whizz, then served.  The first batch was served with a few bacon lardons which complements this soup very well.

Enjoy, till next time.

All the best,

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Setting the record straight on fruit..............

After I finished my workout today I came home and had a bowl of fruit with a couple of dollops of low fat yoghurt, topped with some nuts and seeds. Now to some this would seem like a huge no no. 
Fruit is sugar and sugar makes you fat.

There is so much conflicting advice when it comes to eating which type of fruit, how much fruit, when to eat fruit, don't eat fruit and carbs together and so on and so forth.  If fruit is so bad for us why do so many diets revolve around fruit, The Watermelon Diet, The Red Fruits Diet, The Apple a Day Diet, The Go Bananas Diet etc. I would like to put my thoughts down on eating fruit.

First of all a quick recap on fruits food group category, which is 'carbohydrate'. What are carbohydrates? Well in a nutshell carbohydrates are not only our preferred source of energy, but our brain, heart and nervous system need a constant supply of carbohydrate (in the form of blood glucose) in order to function properly.

All carbohydrates contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.  They vary in size, structure and the speed at which they are broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream. Carbohydrates are normally categorised into either 'simple' or 'complex'.  Fruit is classified as a 'simple' sugar and starchy vegetables, pasta, rice and whole grains are classed as complex carbs. The simplest carbohydrate consists of just one molecule (monosaccharide) for example glucose, fructose (found in fruit) and galactose (found in milk).

We can further categorise simple sugars into 'Intrinsic sugars' and 'Extrinsic sugars' depending upon them being found in their natural raw state or added during the food processing phase. 

Intrinsic sugars are found in their natural state within the cells of plants such as fruits and vegetables.  Intrinsic means the sugar is locked inside the cells.  The simple sugars in these foods are often accompanied by lots of fibre, vitamins, minerals and valuable phyto-chemicals. 

On the other hand Extrinsic or refined / processed / added sugars unfortunately make up the vast bulk of the populations sugar intake. These are found in *table sugar, soft and fizzy drinks, sweets, cakes, pastries, some cereals and many processed foods and desserts.  They will provide you with a lot of 'empty' calories, meaning you get a surge of energy without the vitamins, minerals or fibre.  Quickly followed by a dip in energy and a need for more sugar.  These sugars therefore have the potential to destabilise blood sugar levels.

So I would aim to have my fruit either in the morning to help fuel my day.  Pre or post exercise, such in the case of the picture above.  It was a small banana, handful of grapes and blueberries with two tablespoons of Rachel's Organic Raspberry Low Fat Yoghurt and a sprinkling of 4 seed mix (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame and golden linseeds).  I'm also partial to a couple of wedges of melon or handful of berries and nuts as a snack throughout the day or before a meal.  Fruits that contain a lot of water are very low in carbs so are still okay on not very active days.

During my research came across this chap Frederic Patenaude, he has some interesting stuff to say on the subject (amongst other stuff), please click on the link for The Top 10 Myths About Eating Fruit, also look for Part2.

Also look at this previous blog for the best times to eat your carbs and not get fat

* Table sugar - I have highlighted table sugar because in my view table sugar is a natural product, I would have this over artificial sugar / sweetener.  Moderation is key.

So I hope I've made it crystal clear that fruit is wonderful, so go ahead and have a lovely bright coloured fruit bowl for tomorrows breakfast and start your day off with some zing!

All the best, till next time

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Legs & Lungs workout in the Gym - No 8

As promised its body weight and rowing again :)

Did this the other day in the gym and posted to Facebook. And although I was slightly injured it was still such a good workout that left me pretty knackered but exhilarated at the same time, so had to share again. This particular day I was short of time so wanted to be in and out of the gym fairly quickly but wanted to get out of my comfort zone (like always) and hit a lot of muscles too.

So this routine is 10 x 2 minute rows with 30 seconds rest period.  Now when I say rest I mean its active rest.  Your going to alternate 10 high hand rows and 10 press up's.  The transition period from rower to floor has to be quick (it is your rest period, and the slower you take the less rest you have).  As I have a slight shoulder issue on my right I did narrow presses on the end of the water rower (which was a tad easier on my shoulder but got my triceps quite nicely!)

After 10 minutes of mobility and warm up, here I am on the Water Rower.  Love these new rowers, you really do feel like your on the water, funnily enough!  Very smooth strokes, now unlike the           Concept 2 rowers their isn't a damper setting so you have to rely on nice long power strokes.  But experiment with your stroke to find what works.  If I was on the Concept 2 I'd be looking for SPM's 28 to 30 plus and the damper setting on level 8.  If you don't know how to programme in timed intervals ask an instructor.

Now as rowing is mainly upper body pulling, my first body weight exercise was press ups, narrow and inclined as you can see.  This meant my pulling muscles could have a short recovery, but my core is still engaged.  It also shows that if you are carrying an injury (like I was) an exercise can often be adapted, no excuses!
Here we see me performing a wide stance prone hand row or high elbow pull.  This is a really great exercise for core and upper body strength.  Also a great exercise to do if you spend many hours seated.  This will help you pull your shoulders back and down and greatly improve their mobility.  In the picture I took a wider than hips stance to aid balance and stop me from moving my hips too much.  Although that said this exercise will definitely challenge your balance, which is not a bad thing, right?

Adaptions, the rower could be made harder with more intervals or less recovery time.  Made easier with less intervals or more recovery time.  Press ups are of course a very challenging exercise, my version was slightly easier and of course knee press ups are easier still.  Hand rows are a great exercise and as the main aim is to retract your shoulder blade I can't think of a replacement here. 
But a standing version would be a resistance band pull or retraction (again ask an instructor if unsure).

So there we have it, another great duo.  Give it a go along with the Burpee one and let me know which is your favourite :)

Till next time, all the best.



Sunday, 29 September 2013

Are you carrying too much VAT to SCAT?

No we're not talking in monetary terms but 'fat' terms.  Let me explain further, VAT stands for visceral adipose tissue and SCAT stands for subcutaneous adipose tissue.  So which one do you think you carry more of?  Well if you look down and can't see your toes then your shape may be typically 'apple' shaped.  And you may be at risk of carrying fat viscerally (around your organs).  If you carry most of your weight in the lower half of your body such as around hips, butt and thighs.  Your shape may be referred to as 'pear' shape.  The 'pear' shape is said to carry a lower risk of obesity related diseases such as diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and CHD. 

Now SCAT even though it does not impede on internal organs is a little unsightly and it doesn't have a preference to what kind of shape you have.  I have seen some toned and strong women with a little bit of 'bingo wing' and cellulite.  Men can also suffer with SCAT if you are a man with man boobs, sometimes referred to as 'moobs' then unfortunately this is  also SCAT.  Subcutaneous fat has also been linked with high levels of Oestrogen.  Please click on the link for an interesting read on the effects of hormones and weight loss/gain.

A simple and un invasive way to determine your shape and your risk of possible obesity related conditions is to take your waist to hip ratio. Divide your waist number by your hip number in inches. Although I must point out if you are seriously overweight or obese this could be detrimental to your health regardless of where you carry your fat.

Find the smallest part of your waist, usually somewhere between the top of your hip and your bottom rib.  Your hip measurement should be taken around your largest part i.e. your buttocks. 

Ladies your waist to hip ratio should be less than 0.8"
Gents  your waist to hip ratio should be less than 1.0"

Searching the Internet I have found that the so called 'ideal' is 0.7"

If after taking your measurement you find you are an 'apple' shape, here are 5 easy tips you can implement straight away to kick start reducing that number.

  1. Drink more water.  Thirst is often mistook for hunger, so next time the hunger pangs come on drink a glass of water.  Wait for 10 minutes if you are hungry 'real hunger' then by all means eat something healthy.
  2. Try and cut down on white carbohydrates, especially in the evening unless (see next tip....)
  3. Starchy or white carbohydrates may be eaten after intense exercise as the sugar (broken down carbohydrates) will help replace the sugar (known as glycogen) in your muscles and liver (which is an energy source).
  4. In regard to the above tip, exercise.  Now slow to moderate exercise will burn fat (as fat is burnt when oxygen is present) although it will not give you an after burn effect.  By all means it is a good start especially if you are new to exercise, BUT if you can do something that challenges you and gets you out of your comfort zone you will increase your endorphins and will feel great that you accomplished something.
  5. Get support.  You may want to go alone, but having support from a loved one or friend will keep you motivated.  They will help keep you on the straight and narrow and offer support if you lose your way. 
If these 5 tips are a little too much to handle, try one or two of them.  Remember small steps all add up to achieving the end result.

Here's to your success, all the best.
Till next time

PS If you are lady reading this I train a wonderful group of ladies in a Tabata style ladies only class outside in Rudgwick, West Sussex.  Some may be there for different reasons, but the thing they all have in common is that they are all beautiful strong and focused ladies!

For details visit
(now starts at 6.45)