Learn To Switch Off

I was listening to an interview on Hay House Radio the other day with John Gray, the author of the best selling book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. He was talking about stress and how men and women deal with it differently. He was talking about a test where men and women had the blood flow to their brain measured whilst sitting on the sofa after a day's work. Women had more brain activity showing than men. When asked what the women were thinking about they generally said something like  "all the things I should be doing other than sitting here". The men mostly said "nothing".

Unfortunately it's just in our make up that women find it harder to switch off. Gray was saying that once the sun has gone down and the work day is over, when nothing more can be done until the next day men can often just relax more easily. Women on the other hand will keep thinking about it all.

So what can we do to help ourselves switch off. Men if you are still reading, take some notes so you can help the women in your life!

1) Brain dump. We all love a list! Before you finish work for the day write down everything that needs to be done the next day and prioritise the things you need to do first. That way you are left with a sense of being organised for the morning, it stops you from leaving in a rush and needing to think about it when you would rather be to be switching off.

2) Plan something completely different to do in the evening, that is preferably relaxing as well. Maybe some yoga, pilates, art class or a meditation group. Something that will help you to think about something completely different.

3) Cut down on alcohol. I know some of you will be disagreeing with me right now as a glass of wine feels like it actually helps you to switch off. But does it really? Do you drink wine and then just talk about what you are stressed about all night anyway? The high sugar content in alcohol can lead to insomnia, or a very disturbed sleep, which will make you feel worse in the morning. Lack of clear head the next day could then make your day even harder work and it then becomes a never ending cycle.

4) Try reading instead of watching TV. Some times its very easy just to stare at a TV but not actually pay any attention, getting lost in thoughts elsewhere. However when you are really stuck into a good book your mind can be totally transported in to another world and time can just fly by.

5) Turn your computer/ smart phone off. The constant need to check emails and social media sites is totally addictive and we can find it hard not to reply to messages immediately. If they are work messages they can wait until the morning, be firm with yourself, you deserve a life too. Life balance is important for your health, and sanity!

6) Already mentioned above but worth a point all of it's own too, exercise. Exercise what ever form works for you helps to get you out of your mind into your body. Of course I will promote yoga as it really does help you to connect with your body and breath which naturally helps you to relax. However I also love Zumba, focusing on what steps to take next and the fun dance music will not leave any space for thoughts about your day.

Just for the next week look at you diary and plan something different for the evenings, something that will help you to switch off for a few hours. Then pay attention to any shifts in how you feel this creates.

What to Eat Before and After Exercise

We all know that exercise is the key to good health. But did you know that what you eat before and after exercise has a major impact on how effective your exercise is? Ensuring you get proper nutrition pre and post workout can make all the difference. So, what should you eat before and exercise? It really depends on what kind of exerciser you are: it depends on whether you are a “first thing in the morning” kind of exerciser or “right before bed” or somewhere in between. However, it’s important to understand that there is no right or wrong time to exercise. It’s really what works best in your schedule, what is a routine you can stick with; that’s the best time to exercise for you. For Early Morning Exercisers:

If you’re the kind of person who likes to get up and get your workout in before the day gets in your way, then you may find it difficult to eat something so early. The good news is you don’t have to eat a lot to get a lot of benefit. You just need enough carbohydrates to give you the energy you need for a good workout. Think about it, your body hasn’t had any fuel for at least eight hours; it needs a little something to get it going or you may just end up back in bed. Some good options include:

• If you're exercising within an hour after you wake up, eat around 100-200 (carbohydrate-rich) calories. • Avoid too much fat or protein, since these take longer to digest and can make you feel sluggish during your workout. • Best bets: Whole grain bagel, handful of raisins, banana, fruit juice, toast, crackers, or drinkable yogurt.

For Lunchtime Exercisers:

Working out at lunchtime is a great “pick me up.” It refreshes your mind and body for the afternoon ahead. However, by lunchtime, breakfast is probably a faint memory. In order to avoid hunger pains and fatigue during your noon workout, keep in mind the following:

• One or two hours before your workout, eat a balanced meal that's around 300-400 calories. • Avoid high fat and/or high protein foods, and stick with something that has around 60% carbs, 20% protein and 20% fat. • Best bets: Yogurt, fruit (fresh or dried), or a small bowl of oatmeal, slice of wheat bread with peanut butter.

For After Work Exercisers:

Working out after work is one of the best ways to finish out your day and it definitely makes you less hungry for dinner. But remember, lunch was a long time ago and chances are your body needs some refueling. So before you grab a candy bar on the way out of the office, remember:

• 2-3 hours before you leave work, eat a small, balanced meal that's around 400-500 calories. • Best bets: cheese and crackers, cottage cheese and veggies, fruit with a whole grain muffin, peanut butter/jam sandwich on whole grain bread.

For After Dinner Exercisers:

Admittedly for many of us, squeezing in exercise at the end of the day is really the only time we can. But that’s ok, there’s something so relaxing about going for a run after dinner or a nice long bike ride or taking a yoga class. The concern here is that you’ll be too full to have a really good workout. You just have to plan ahead and remember:

• Wait at least 1 hour after dinner before you exercise (and at least 2 hours before bedtime or you won’t be able to sleep). • Split your dinner in half so you eat half before you exercise and the other half after. • Make dinner one of your smallest meals of the day (making lunch biggest) so you won’t have too much food on your stomach.

Post workout nutrition

So now that you’ve had a great workout, you’re done, right? No, you need to refuel your body. In order for your body to recover, build muscle and metabolise fat, you need to properly refuel your body after you exercise.

People mistakenly think that by not eating after they exercise their body will use stored fat for fuel. This isn’t true. While your body will dip into its glucose stores and perhaps use some stored fat as fuel, it isn’t efficient and as a result you won’t be burning as many calories as you could.

Muscle cells burn more calories at rest, just existing, than fat cells. So the more muscle you have on your body, the more calories your body burns just being. So if you don’t feed your muscles after a workout they won’t grow. So basically, by not refueling, you’ll be missing out. You’ll be leaving money on the table, or in this case, leaving calories unburned.

So, eat within one hour after your workout for best muscle recovery. Your post workout meal should include both protein and carbohydrate. The protein repairs muscle tissues that have been torn during the workout and carbohydrate refuels muscle glycogen that has been used for fuel during the workout. Good options include:

• Skimmed milk, yoghurt and fruit • Toasted muffin or whole grain bread with egg or peanut butter • ½ small pot of cottage cheese with fruit. • Cheese and crackers • Nuts and dried fruit • A “regular” meal with a protein, starch, and cooked vegetable or salad

You've made the effort to exercise on a regular basis. Don’t make those workouts be in vain: feed your body properly and you will see much better results. Remember to eat small, complex carbohydrate-rich foods at least 1-2 hrs before exercising, avoid eating too much protein or fat before you workout, eat protein and carbohydrates to refuel after you exercise and of course, always drink plenty of water so your body can properly digest those important nutrients.