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Health & Nutrition

How Exercise Can Help You Fight Diabetes

posted by FitnessFirst Team November 28, 2016 0 comments

Exercise improves diabetes management and delays the onset of type 2 diabetes. Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, or if you are at risk of diabetes, making exercise a part of your lifestyle will improve your diabetes and reduce complications.

Activity fights diabetes in a number of ways. Raising your heart rate — whether by walking, jogging, cycling or swimming — helps your body use insulin more effectively. Exercise also improves blood circulation to all organs, especially the kidneys, brain, heart and eyes, which can be injured by poor diabetes management. Additionally, adults who exercise reap the benefits of stress reduction, decreased LDL cholesterol, blood pressure and weight control. Exercising when you have diabetes also lowers blood sugar and improves protein and fat metabolism, slowing organ damage.

Smart Fueling for Activity

Your new exercise program may lower your blood sugars, and, in turn, your health care provider may adjust your diabetes medication. A registered dietitian nutritionist can help you adjust your meal plan so you have the fuel your body needs.

healthy foodThese guidelines will fuel you for peak performance.

Before Exercise

A small whole-grain or carbohydrate snack with some protein provides enduring energy for your activity. You’ll need about 150 to 200 calories, as found in 1/2 cup oatmeal and 1/2 cup fat-free milk, or a slice of whole-grain bread with a tablespoon of peanut butter.

During Exercise

If you’re exercising for more than an hour, you may need additional carbohydrates (such as eight ounces of a sport beverage, half a banana or a handful of raisins) during activity to prevent low blood sugar.

After Exercise

If you plan to exercise for more than an hour, refuel with a post-workout snack, like six ounces of fat-free yogurt and a small apple.

4-Easy-Diet-Switches-to- Drop-Sugar-for- Good


Before, during and after exercising, stay hydrated by drinking water. Drink eight ounces of water before exercise, and continue drinking water so that you have clear urine within two hours of completing your activity. If urine is dark colored, keep drinking water until it is clear.

Whether starting your first exercise program or training for an endurance event — like a marathon or triathlon — increase your training slowly, check your blood sugars and fuel and hydrate before, during and after exercising. Your goal is to be in the blood glucose range that your health care provider recommends. As your fitness improves, you will reap greater health benefits.

Banin Shahin
National Wellness Manager
Fitness First Middle East

Health & Nutrition

Grow Mo’ awareness for Men’s Health this November

posted by Adam McCubbin November 7, 2016 1 Comment

It’s that time a year when the moustache population expands worldwide in an effort to raise awareness for men’s health, in particular for prostate and testicular cancer and mental health. This phenomenon, known as Movember, started in 2004 in Australia and New Zealand, has now become a global cause that aims to change the face of men’s health by encouraging men to grow a moustache whilst raising money and awareness.

In past generations, men’s emotions and health were not talked about subjects, for fear of not maintaining a “manly” image or for being seen as a “weakness”. This has been dramatically improved over the last couple of decades by charities and a growing awareness that speaking up and being proactive, is an effective way of dealing with health issues rather than sweeping them under the rug. Showing character and taking a stand for health issues bigger than yourself, are signs of strength and community that should be encouraged by everyone.

You might have heard it all before when it comes to men’s health, but remember “repetition is the mother of all skill.” The more you read something, there is a greater shift in your consciousness and you will take actions without even realising. With this in mind: read, re-read, share and teach others for best results.

There are four pillars for men’s health that must be considered and they are physical activity, sleep, nutrition and mental health. All of them are interlinked and equally important for long-term health and disease prevention. If you think that you can get away with neglecting one area, then think again, because there are countless studies showing the importance of each of the above mentioned pillars.

Physical Activity

Being physically active on a daily basis has a whole myriad of benefits not only on the body itself, but also for mental state and cognitive function. If you’re someone who struggles to enjoy being active then try linking something you’re interested in or passionate about to physical activity. Trust me when I say everything can be improved when you’re physically active. Seemingly unrelated interests such as playing a musical instrument, business or career aspirations or learning a language, can all be improved by taking care of your fitness and physical activity levels. It’s just a matter of anchoring and developing momentum for success. Studies have shown that being physically active significantly reduces the risks of prostate cancer. 1, 2 In older men specifically, 3 hours of vigorous physical activity per week was associated with a dramatic 70% reduction in the risk of dying of prostate cancers. 3


Studies have shown that being physically active significantly reduces the risks of prostate cancer


The old school train of thought by men was that sleep is not important, it gets in the way of work and needs to be kept at a minimum otherwise you are being lazy. Don’t get me wrong, you are not required to sleep all day, however there are numerous health and cognitive benefits for achieving the right amount of good quality sleep. Research has indicated that 7 hours is recommended for people to have optimal levels of cognitive function and increased productivity. 4 Lack of sleep can also increase the chance of depression, weight gain, diabetes and other cardio disease risk factors. 5-7


The food you put into your body has the ability to make or break your health! If you drive a Ferrari or some type of sports car that requires a lot of financial outlay, chances are you will be inclined look after it and use premium grade petrol. However men don’t often equate what types of foods they put in their mouth for better performance and don’t think of the consequences. Your body is a highly tuned machine, just like a sports car. Diets high in processed foods with little fresh fruits and vegetables are linked to increased risks of prostate cancer and poor mental health. 8-10 Inadequate levels of Vitamin D, selenium and zinc have impact on male sex hormones and increase risks of diseases. 11-13


Mental Health

Speaking up, sharing your thoughts with others and letting loved ones know when you’re going through a tough time is something that MUST be encouraged of all men. In recent times, meditation and mindfulness practices have also been indicated to improve mental health, cognitive function and reduced rates of depression. 14, 15 Taking care of the three pillars above will make a positive impact on mental health, however there are often outside life situations that cause huge strain on mental health, that need to be addressed by professionals.


In summary, grow a mo’, speak up, get moving, sleep well and eat fresh foods for men’s health!

To support Prostate Cancer Awareness Month in November, Fitness First will be hosting “Men’s Open Weekend Every Weekend” at all our Fitness First clubs. Find out more and register here for UAE or visit for country specific details.



  1. A. W. Hsing, J. K. McLaughlin, W. Zheng, Y.-T. Gao and W. J. Blot, Cancer Causes & Control, 1994, 5, 136-140.
  2. T. J. Hartman, D. Albanes, M. Rautalahti, J. A. Tangrea, J. Virtamo, R. Stolzenberg and P. R. Taylor, Cancer Causes & Control, 1998, 9, 11-18.
  3. E. Giovannucci, Y. Liu, E. A. Platz, M. J. Stampfer and W. C. Willett, International Journal of cancer, 2007, 121, 1571-1578.
  4. D. A. Sternberg, K. Ballard, J. L. Hardy, B. Katz, P. M. Doraiswamy and M. Scanlon, Frontiers in human neuroscience, 2013, 7, 292.
  5. C. A. Perlman, S. L. Johnson and T. A. Mellman, Bipolar disorders, 2006, 8, 271-274.
  6. M. H. Hall, M. F. Muldoon, J. R. Jennings, D. J. Buysse, J. D. Flory and S. B. Manuck, SLEEP-NEW YORK THEN WESTCHESTER-, 2008, 31, 635.
  7. J. E. Gangwisch, S. B. Heymsfield, B. Boden-Albala, R. M. Buijs, F. Kreier, T. G. Pickering, A. G. Rundle, G. K. Zammit and D. Malaspina, hypertension, 2006, 47, 833-839.
  8. M. F. Leitzmann, M. J. Stampfer, D. S. Michaud, K. Augustsson, G. C. Colditz, W. C. Willett and E. L. Giovannucci, The American journal of clinical nutrition, 2004, 80, 204-216.
  9. N. Allen, T. Key, P. Appleby, R. Travis, A. Roddam, A. Tjønneland, N. Johnsen, K. Overvad, J. Linseisen and S. Rohrmann, British journal of cancer, 2008, 98, 1574-1581.
  10. A. Sánchez-Villegas, E. Toledo, J. de Irala, M. Ruiz-Canela, J. Pla-Vidal and M. A. Martínez-González, Public health nutrition, 2012, 15, 424-432.
  11. S. Pilz, S. Frisch, H. Koertke, J. Kuhn, J. Dreier, B. Obermayer-Pietsch, E. Wehr and A. Zittermann, Hormone and Metabolic Research, 2011, 43, 223-225.
  12. N. Oldereid, Y. Thomassen and K. Purvis, Human Reproduction, 1998, 13, 2172-2176.
  13. A. S. Prasad, C. S. Mantzoros, F. W. Beck, J. W. Hess and G. J. Brewer, Nutrition, 1996, 12, 344-348.
  14. B. K. Hölzel, J. Carmody, M. Vangel, C. Congleton, S. M. Yerramsetti, T. Gard and S. W. Lazar, Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 2011, 191, 36-43.
  15. W. Ramel, P. R. Goldin, P. E. Carmona and J. R. McQuaid, Cognitive therapy and research, 2004, 28, 433-455.
Preventative Measures for Osteoporosis
Health & Nutrition

3 Preventative Measures for Osteoporosis

posted by FitnessFirst Team October 31, 2016 0 comments

Bone health is important to overall health and quality of life. It provides a frame that permits mobility and protects the internal organs from injury, while being a storage for minerals vital to the self-sustaining functions of daily life. However, Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease that is characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of the structure of bone tissue (trabecular tissue) which leads to risk of fracture and increased bone fragility. It is most common to women (postmenopausal osteoporosis) that can often be prevented. However, if undetected, it can progress for many years without symptoms until a fracture occurs.

Here are ways that we can prevent it:

Diet and Supplements

Calcium intake is the mainstay of Osteoporosis prevention and treatment. Vitamin D supplementation and Sun exposure may contribute as well. Daily intake of Vitamin D facilitates absorption and mineralization of the bone. It is also found in liver, fatty fish, egg yolks, milk and orange juice.

The recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D for adults are as follows:

1. For pre-menopausal women 25-50 years old and post-menopausal women on estrogen replacement therapy, 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day with 400 i.u. of Vitamin D. 1,500 milligrams of calcium per day is recommended for pregnant or lactating women.

2. For postmenopausal women less than age 65 not on estrogen replacement therapy, 1,500 milligrams of calcium per day is recommended along with 400-800 i.u. of Vitamin D.

3. For men ages 25-65, 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day is recommended.

4. For all people (women and men) over age 65, 1,500 milligrams of calcium per day.

Preventative Measures for Osteoporosis

Healthy Lifestyle

Live a healthy lifestyle with moderate Alcohol Consumption and no smoking. Cigarette smoke generates large amounts of free radicals – molecules that attack and overwhelm the body’s natural defenses. The result is a chain-reaction of damage throughout the body — including cells (osteoblast), organs (i.e liver), and hormones (calcitonin) involved in keeping bones healthy. Moderate alcohol intake (usually defined as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men) is beneficial. However, taken excessively disrupts with the balance of calcium absorption, an essential nutrient for healthy bones. It also increases parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels, which in turn reduce the body’s calcium reserves.

Preventative Measures for Osteoporosis


Studies of postmenopausal women report that aerobic, weight-bearing, and strength training exercise can increase bone mineral density in the spine and hip. When you exercise, you don’t just build muscle and endurance, you also build and maintain the amount and thickness of your bones (bone mass and density), increase joint flexibility, and balance, and prevents falls. Examples of weight bearing exercises are walking in the park or using treadmill, jogging, playing tennis, football, Tai Chi, climbing stairs and weight lifting. However, bicycling and swimming can be a great exercise but they are not weight bearing therefore not as effective in bone health benefits. Duration of 30 to 45 minutes a day and 3 or 4 times a week would be beneficial.

Preventative Measures for Osteoporosis

Prevention is better than cure. Why would we wait for our bones to weaken?

Let’s start treating our bones the right exercise and diet that they deserve!

Charles Esperas
Senior Fitness Manager
Fitness First Platinum – Dubai Media City

Health & Nutrition

Secrets for a Heart Healthy lifestyle

posted by FitnessFirst Team September 15, 2016 0 comments

Heart Disease (which includes strokes and other cardiovascular diseases) still remains the number one cause of death – and when you think about that statistic, it is pretty chilling as there are more deaths to heart disease than all forms of cancer combined!

In 2008, heart disease caused almost 25% of deaths—almost one in every four—in the United States. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. More than half of the deaths due to heart disease in 2008 were in men. Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease. – Source (

Heart disease is also known as the “Silent Killer, as without medical checkups, often the first sign of this is a heart attack and in most cases this is too late. Yes we can go about regular checkups and doctor visits, but quite often they aren’t regular enough or good enough for that matter. I mean let’s face it we’re all guilty of it – How often do you go to the doctor unless you have cold or flu? A bad fall? Or even suffering from cardiac arrhythmia? (Irregular heart beat). Exactly – hardly ever!

My point is, it’s not just about scheduling regular checkups just as you would book your car in for service. It’s about embracing a healthy “active” lifestyle – incorporating nutrition and physical activity together (a recipe that combats most of life’s diseases and stresses).

Super foods for Heart Health

Heart Disease (which includes strokes and other cardiovascular diseases) still remains the number one cause of death – and when you think about that statistic, it is pretty chilling as there are more deaths to heart disease than all forms of cancer combined!

Fatty Fish: Salmon, mackerel and sardines top the list for containing copious amounts of Omega-3, known for lowering the risks of cardiac arrhythmia and atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries).

Oats: Are very high in soluble fiber, which can lower cholesterol. They act like a sponge in the digestive tract and absorb cholesterol so it is eliminated from the body and not absorbed into the blood stream.

Berries: Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and most other berries contain compounds called flavonoids  (which are antioxidants essentially) and they have a direct effect upon lowering blood pressure. A study was done on a group of people who incorporated 3 portions of blueberries into their weekly diets and in turn were 32% less likely to experience a heart attack, compared to those who ate less.

Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, peanuts and macadamias all contain a fiber that is good for your heart. They also are very high in vitamin E, which helps to lower the “bad cholesterol”. A previous thought was that nuts were avoided as they contained higher amounts of fat, but recent studies have shown that people who eat nuts on a daily basis are leaner than those who don’t.

Broccoli, Spinach and Kale:  When it comes to any form of health you really can’t go wrong with vegetable and in particular your “greens”.  Green vegetables are especially high in carotenoids, which are high in antioxidants, cleansing your body from potentially harmful compounds. They also contain high amounts of fiber and tons of vitamins and minerals (“micronutrients”). Kale has one further benefit containing Omega-3 fatty acids.

Supplements for Heart Health

Heart Disease (which includes strokes and other cardiovascular diseases) still remains the number one cause of death – and when you think about that statistic, it is pretty chilling as there are more deaths to heart disease than all forms of cancer combined!

The top 5 recommended supplements for heart health:

1.  Omega-3 (dosage 1,000mg per day)

2. Vitamin D (1,000 IU per day)

3. Turmeric – Recent studies have shown huge benefits for its “anti-inflammatory” benefits, which have been linked to reducing the effects of heart disease.

4. Garlic – Reduces cholesterol

5. Cocoa powders/Dark chocolate – high in flavonoids, (antioxidants) which lower blood pressure

Activity for Heart Health

Heart Disease (which includes strokes and other cardiovascular diseases) still remains the number one cause of death – and when you think about that statistic, it is pretty chilling as there are more deaths to heart disease than all forms of cancer combined!

Unfortunately there is no shortcut to get your “cardio’ in whilst remaining strapped to your desk, you simply have to go out there and earn it!

Whilst’ some find physical activity a chore others live for it and can’t sleep until they have had a “right sweat”. For those who are part of the fitness industry and exercise and play sport regularly understand this concept, however it still seems to baffle the 95% of “desk jockeys” who will put it off and find any Hollywood diet or shortcut to sweating those excess calories out.

Recommended Activity levels by the AHA (American Heart Association):

For Overall Cardiovascular Health:

At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150


At least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes; or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity


Moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week for additional health benefits.

For Lowering Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

An average 40 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity 3 or 4 times per week.


Joel Neale
Fitness Manager
Fitness First – Motor City Dubai

Health & Nutrition

Green Vanilla Shake

posted by FitnessFirst Team June 12, 2016 0 comments


  • 1 cup of coconut water
  • 2 cups of baby spinach
  • 1 banana
  • 2 tablespoons of almond butter
  • 1 scoop of vanilla protein

Place all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.

This recipe is great as a a full post-workout meal.

Nutrition Facts: Provides  around 480 kcal with 19 g of healthy fats, 60 g of carbs, and 47 g of protein.

Almond Butter

Provides a great health benefits for the heart because of the healthy fats and fiber content, it has more 18 g of unsaturated fats with a low carbs content.


is an excellent source of vitamin A, Vitamin K, manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, copper, vitamin B12, potassium, protein and vitamin C.

Coconut water

it is a natural sport drink, it is a natural isotonic drink, that provides the body electrolytes, calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium.

Health & Nutrition

Ginger Strawberry Shake

posted by FitnessFirst Team June 10, 2016 0 comments


  • 1 cup of almond milk
  • 1 banana
  • 1 teaspoon of ginger root
  • ½ cup of frozen strawberries
  • 1 scoop of strawberry skinny protein

Place all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.

Great as a post-workout or  pre-workout meal.

Nutrition Facts:  around 320 kcal, 50 g of carbs, 30 g of protein, and 7 g of fat.


has a lot of benefits for the digestive system, loss of appetite, motion sickness.

Almond milk

is a nut milk , high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium and zinc. It is a great alternative for lactose intolerant people, and a great milk substitute for vegans.

Health & Nutrition

Banana Date Smoothie

posted by FitnessFirst Team June 8, 2016 0 comments


  • 1 medium banana ripe
  • ¼ cup of pitted dates
  • 1 ¼  cup of almond milk
  • Dash of cinnamon and sea salt
  • 2 table spoons of chia seeds soaked in water (for 1 hour)

Place all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.

Great breakfast or pre-workout meal.

Nutrition Facts: 325 calories, 50 g of carbs, 9 g of healthy fats, and 7 grams of protein.

Chai seeds

Like flax seeds chia seeds are very high in omega 3, in fact it contains omega 3 more than salmon do compared one gram to one gram, omega 3 is very beneficial, for your concentration, memory, skin, vision, and heart health.


cinnamon can treat muscles spasms, vomiting, diarrhea, infections, and common cold, loss of appetite, and can help maintain blood sugar in the body.

Health & Nutrition

Qamar Al-Din Smoothie

posted by FitnessFirst Team June 2, 2016 0 comments


  • ¼ cup Qamar al-din
  • 1 cup of frozen yogurt
  • 1 scoop of vanilla protein
  • 1/2 cup ice
  • 1 cup of water

Place all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.

Great as a post-workout meal.

Nutrition Facts: around 260 kcal, 27 g of carbohydrates, 30 g of protein, and 5 g of fat.

Qamar al-din

is dried apricot, very traditional in Ramadan, it comes in a jelly like form. A simple way do make Qamar al-din at home is to boil dried apricot to a thick paste and pour it on a surface which forms into a sheet. Let it set and dry to be later used.


has a lot of benefits for the body mainly the fiber content with this very good for chronic constipation.

Health & Nutrition

The Incredible Health Benefits of Fasting

posted by FitnessFirst Team May 31, 2016 0 comments

Ramadan is mostly looked at from a spiritual and behavioral aspect rather than the health aspect and its physical benefits. Fasting has long been known to have many health benefits, giving your digestive system a rest and sharpening your senses and awareness. We should look at this holy month as a month of healing, peace, tranquility and resting our body systems.

Some of the spiritual and behavioral benefits are known to many like being closer to God, feeling with the poor and needy, being grateful, learning to be patient, generous and giving. Also it’s about controlling your anger, being kind, forgiving and controlling your desires. So it is fasting on many levels with the ultimate goal of taking on better behavioral and lifestyle habits to improve your life in the long run.

The health benefits of fasting are numerous provided that we eat healthy balanced meals between sunset and sunrise avoiding over indulgence and keeping ourselves well hydrated.

Some of the notable health benefits include:

  • Detoxification where toxins stored in the body are dissolved
  • Weight loss by the use of fat for energy after glucose stores are used up preventing break down of muscle
  • Control of diabetes, lower cholesterol and reducing blood pressure due to fasting
  • Resting our digestive system giving it a chance to heal
  • Improved brain function thus reducing stress by producing brain cells giving a sense of peace and tranquility
  • Getting rid of bad habits and addictions like smoking and excessive caffeine intake thus improving lifestyle
  • Improvement in skin conditions and general health due to internal healing
  • Scientists discovered that fasting triggers stem cell regeneration and fights cancer

The first couple of days are challenging since your body is adapting to the fast but after a few days fasting becomes the norm. Apparently higher levels of endorphin appear in the blood, making you more alert and giving an overall feeling of general mental well-being.

Fasting teaches us to control our food intake and balance our meals because if we don’t we feel so bad, bloated and regret any over indulgence. It’s a learning process we go through every year to ultimately maintain this balance even after Ramadan ends. It’s one month only out off the 12 months of year where we go through this lesson and remind ourselves of the benefits of balancing our meals and eating mindfully.


Fasting is for everyone to try due to its proven medical benefits besides it’s physiological, behavioral, mental and spiritual benefits.

It’s worth it in every way…

Ramadan Kareem (meaning Ramadan is generous, the month of giving and generosity)

Fitness First Team

Health & Nutrition

Are you ready for Ramadan?

posted by FitnessFirst Team May 24, 2016 0 comments

That anticipated cup of coffee every morning, that nourishing midday lunch and afternoon tea time, we would need to do without all these while fasting during the upcoming month of Ramadan. Planning and preparing your body for the month of fasting will make the transition easier and lessen any symptoms you might experience. Remember you are not only training your body to function comfortably on less food, you’re also signalling your mind and your appetite that the fast is approaching.

Here are 12 ways to prepare your body for fasting

1. Detoxify your body

Keep a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly. Start each day with a complex carbohydrate breakfast that breaks down slowly, allowing you to stay energized through the day. Avoid heavy, unhealthy-fried foods, meats, salt and sugar that trigger reactions in the body, which can make cravings even harder to fight. Have a light meal at the end of each day: focus on fruit, vegetables, live-culture yogurt, and salad.


2. Reduce coffee intake

To avoid getting a pounding headache during the first few days of Ramadan, start now by reducing your caffeine intake and reduce your cups of coffee or tea throughout the day to train your body to function regularly caffeine free during daylight hours.

3. Drink plenty of water

Stay hydrated throughout the day and avoid dehydrating substances, staying away from diuretics like coffee and tea.

4. Reduce your food intake

Over-eating pre-Ramadan will only increase your appetite and make it more difficult to fast. Stick to 3 meals a day and avoid snacks in between to make an easier transition to having less meals during the holy month.

5. Have an early breakfast

Start having an early breakfast from now to help your body get used to the earlier hours of waking up and having Suhoor, especially if you are not much of a breakfast eater.

8 Tips to make a fresh start for the New Year

6. Quit bad habits

Ramadan is an opportunity to quit bad habits such as smoking. Plan to wean off gradually to avoid various withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anger, restlessness, impatience, and difficulty concentrating during fasting hours.

7. Practice fasting

Try doing a few fasts in the run up to Ramadan to help you adapt. This is also a great opportunity to make up for any missed fasts from last year.

8. Regulate sleep

Start to mimic your sleeping habits for Ramadan like sleeping earlier to wake up earlier for Suhoor and having an afternoon nap.

9. Start Meal-planning

Prepare your menu for Iftar and Suhoor for the first seven days, list the ingredients needed, and go grocery shopping now when you are still full of energy.

10. Visit your doctor

Check with your doctor if it is safe for you to fast if you have any health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure or reflux, now is the time to schedule an appointment with your doctor.

11. Modify your exercise routine

Regular gentle exercise is recommended during Ramadan which will help keep your energy levels up. Fasting slows the metabolism, making it harder to keep fit and burn calories at your usual level. Start planning your exercise routine during the holy month. Great options include moderate walking shortly before breaking the fast, swimming, yoga and stretching regularly, particularly in the morning to keep the body limber.


Last but not least…

12. Set an intention for the month to come

Think about what you’d like to change in your life: perhaps you need to cut out poor habits and live a healthier lifestyle. Consider what you can do to become a happier and more effective human being. Ramadan is a prime opportunity to your reflect on your life and reset your routines – so plan ahead to make the best use of your time.

6 Tips to Cut Your Sugar Cravings
Health & Nutrition

6 Tips to Cut Your Sugar Cravings

posted by FitnessFirst Team April 25, 2016 0 comments

Kicking a sugar habit can be difficult, that’s because the sweet stuff can be addictive. Cravings for sugar have been linked to irritability, depressed mood and feeling a lack of energy, which can in turn lead to more sugar cravings!  Regardless it is possible to eradicate your sweet desires by simply changing your diet and even a bit of your lifestyle too. Use these six tips to cut your sugar cravings for good.

Tip #1 – Include More Fiber Rich Foods in Your Diet

If you’re diet is lacking in fiber, you’re more than likely suffering with sugar cravings, lack of energy and increased hunger.  Fiber rich foods are digested slowly by the body, which results in a sustained release of energy to the body without spiking blood glucose levels.  If your diet is loaded with simple carbs like bread and white rice this causes a spike in blood glucose levels, which is followed quickly by an energy crash leading to low energy levels and subsequently more sugar cravings.

What to Do About It:  Choose foods that are high in fiber, are low in sugar and have a low glycemic load, which allows for slow digestion, sustained energy and reduced cravings.  The recommended dietary intake of fiber is 38 g/day for men and 25 g/d for women.  Include fiber rich foods such as apples and berries, vegetables such as squashes, broccoli and green beans, or even whole grains like oatmeal.

10 Steps to help you detox sugar from your body-fitness first

Tip #2 – Eat More Frequently

Eating frequently helps balance and stabilizes blood glucose levels, which means sugar cravings can be sidelined.  In fact, research suggests that those who eat more frequently – more than three times per day have less cravings and hunger than those who ate less frequently. In a meta-analysis of 15 studies, it was also shown that frequent eating was positively associated with reductions in fat mass, body fat percentage, as well as an increase in lean mass.  What’s more eating more frequently can also reduce blood glucose levels and insulin response.  Why is this important?  Frequent insulin spiking can lead to insulin resistance, when the body has problems processing sugar, which can further exacerbate sugar cravings!

What to Do About It:  Eat within 30 minutes of getting up, and then eat every 2.5 to 3 hours or approximately 5 to 6 mini meals per day of roughly the same amount of calories to maintain energy levels, reduce sugar crashes and keep hunger side-lined.

Tip #3 – Don’t Skip Breakfast

Considered the most important meal of the day for good reason, breakfast can help stimulate your metabolism, while also reducing cravings and hunger for the rest of the day.  In a recent, randomized study, participants were given a 350 Kcal breakfast containing low amount of protein (13 g), a high amount of protein (35 g) or no breakfast at all.  After 6-days it was shown that eating breakfast increased daily fullness and reduced late night snacking, especially when consuming the high protein breakfast.

What to Do About It:  Be sure to eat a high protein breakfast. Make yourself some eggs, have an omelet, or try a protein smoothie with non-fat Greek yoghurt and or whey protein.  For even more hunger reducing effects combine with a fiber rich carb like whole grain sprouted bread, oatmeal or even quinoa.


Tip #4 – Increase Your Protein Intake

Protein has a satiating effect in the body – which means eating more of it can help keep hunger and cravings reduced.  Studies have shown that those who follow high protein diets experienced less hunger and ate less versus those who followed high carb diets of the same calories.  What’s even better about eating more protein is its thermogenic effect.  Protein takes more energy to digest than other foods of the same caloric value, which means the process of just eating protein helps you burn calories!  Eating protein also helps maintain lean mass, which also has a metabolic effect.

What to Do About It: Eat a portion of protein with every meal.  Protein should make up approximately 40% of your daily calories.  Choose from poultry, non-fat dairy like yoghurt, cheese or whey protein, whole eggs, or lean red meat.

Tip #5 – Decrease Your Stress and Get More Sleep

Stress can have a major impact on your hormone levels particularly those that are involved in appetite, mood and food cravings. When stress goes up, cortisol levels go up, this in turn can cause an increase in epinephrine, which can lead to an increased use of sugar in response to the flight or fight response, but this short burst of energy can lead to a subsequent fall, along with an increase in hunger and cravings for more sugar.  A recent study showed that women who experienced more stress also craved sugar and had significantly larger waist circumferences, along with higher levels of the hunger hormone leptin and lower levels of the happy hormone serotonin.

What to Do About it:  Get more sleep and stress less.  Sleep at least 7 to 8 hours per night to help with recovery and balance hormone levels.  In addition invest some time in exercise, meditation or even yoga to help reduce stress and keep cortisol levels in balance.

8 Tips to make a fresh start for the New Year

Tip #6 – Stop Crash Dieting

Instead of strict dieting, crash dieting, or following fad diets start eating healthy for life.  Dieting on too little calories, abstaining from certain foods, and eating too few carbs will only result in fatigue, low energy levels, hunger and of course sugar cravings. You may get results quickly, but this will only be short-lived, eventually your cravings will get the better of you and you will end up giving in eventually.

What to Do About It:  Follow a diet that is sustainable and balanced in carbs, protein and fats and provides the right amount of calories that can sustain energy levels for your activity levels and goals.  Your diet should be made up of fresh, wholesome and natural ingredients including vegetables, fruit, lean proteins, and complex, fibrous carbs.

Lauren Jacobsen
Nutrition Director for Kcal

Health & Nutrition

4 Easy Diet Switches to Drop Sugar for Good

posted by FitnessFirst Team April 18, 2016 0 comments

Hooked on sugar?  It’s not hard to be considering the physiological response sugar can have in our bodies.  Sugar provides a quick burst of energy, can stimulate mood and satisfy cravings, but these effects are short-lived.  Sugar highs are followed by sugar lows that can trigger the complete opposite reaction, leaving you feeling fatigued, moody and craving more sugar.  The best defense against sugar is to cut if from your diet, after all sugar is nutrient poor and calorie-rich, and continually eating it only leads to health issues long-term.  Making a few simple diet switches can help you cut out sugar for good.

1. Switch Juices to Water

You might think that drinking juice is a better choice over soda, but this is not the case. Juice maybe natural but it’s also full of sugar, and lacks the fiber that you get in the full fruit version.  You will also end up getting about 5 to 6 servings of the fruit in a single glass versus eating one piece!  Instead of reaching for juice to satisfy your thirst, drink water and plenty of it.  Water can help fill you up without the added sugar.  Have a hard time just drinking water?  Add slices of lemon, lime or make a water infusion with slices of citrus fruit, cucumber or even strawberries.  And if you still want juice, mix half juice and half water or sparkling water to cut calories and sugar.


2. Switch Simple Carbs with Complex Ones

Simple carbs like white rice, pasta and bread are loaded in sugar!  These simple carbs can spike blood glucose levels leading to a release of insulin, whose primary job is to quickly clear the blood of glucose, shuttling it to either be stored in muscle or fat. Once the blood is cleared from glucose, energy levels fall and hunger and cravings can increase once again.  The problem with this constant energy high and low is that your body’s storage capacity becomes limited and instead of burning off those calories, the body starts storing them in your fat! Switching your simple carbs for complex carbs that are high in fiber and lower in sugar can decrease blood glucose spiking and reduce sugar cravings, since they take much longer to digest versus simple carbs.  Complex carbs include non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and squashes, lentils and beans, or whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal or quinoa.


3. Switch Carbs for More Protein

Eating a diet that provides more protein and less carbs can help keep hunger and sugar cravings in check.  Protein has a satiating effect in the body that can reduce appetite.  In fact one study showed that eating a high protein snack of yogurt led to less hunger and delayed eating by up to 30-minutes compared to a high carb chocolate snack.  What’s more, eating the high protein snack led to eating 100 less calories at later meals.  Following a diet that provides at least 40% protein will help control hunger and reduce appetite while also helping to maintain lean muscle.   Pick lean proteins such as lean cuts of red meat, fatty fish like salmon, chicken, turkey, whole eggs, or non-fat dairy like plain non-fat Greek yogurt.


4. Switch Processed Foods for Whole Natural Foods

Processed foods are often laced with simple carbs and refined sugar.  If you’re eating any processed products like crackers, cereals, white bread, or pasta then you’re definitely taking in extra sugar you don’t need.  Instead of eating processed foods, switch to eating only whole natural foods that do not contain added ingredients.  Instead of pasta try spaghetti squash or a hearty side of vegetables.  Realistically you should be able to purchase all your food from the exterior perimeter of any grocery store, where all the natural fresh foods are located, and avoid the interior aisles where most boxed processed food is located.

By Lauren Jacobsen
Nutrition Director for Kcal

10 Steps to help you detox SUGAR from your body