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Your Questions Answered...

I opened my Instagram stories up the other day to questions from some of my followers... so here they are, with the answers!

(Here's a heads up of the questions, just keep scrolling to see my thoughts).

  1. What type of workout is better for mental health – something such as yoga or more intense HIIT classes?

  2. Should I work-out under stress?

  3. Is it better to eat before I work out, or after? And what food is best for a workout?

  4. Is it true when I have a cheat day, I can eat whatever I want?

  5. Any healthy veggie recipes you can recommend?

  6. Periods… How do you plan exercise and food around your periods – if at all?

What type of workout is better for mental health – something such as yoga or more intense HIIT classes?

On a basic level, this is up to you… you know your body best, and what makes you feel most relaxed! I’ve gone through times recently when all I wanted and needed to do was box. Box for anger, box for stress relief and box for anxiety. Stuck my earphones in and just smashed the boxing bag for a while. I’ve also gone through times where I felt that just taking some time to stretch and focus on my breathing was an achievement in itself, and far better than any other training option for a while!

Sometimes our workouts don’t have to be 100% maximum effort… your mental health should come first and doing something that you enjoy with regards to exercise will definitely help with improving your mental health. I would encourage anyone who is struggling to just try something… anything at all, just to get moving and take some time for self-care whilst being able to block out the rest of the world. Endorphins are released when we exercise, so I promise you’ll ALWAYS feel better after a workout – whether that just be a yoga-flow, or some sort of HIIT class – the hardest step is always just to start moving in the first place!

Should I work-out under stress?

Following the above question, as important as it can be to exercise regularly to help improve our mood, it can also be really important to understand when to take rest time for recovery. Endorphins are released when we exercise, which is why we get the “high” after a session, but depending on the type of training you are doing, cortisol (the stress hormone) is also released.

I’m not saying exercise is bad for stress… when the body is placed under small amounts of stress it means that the body is improving and strengthening! What is important to consider however, is your personal circumstances – if work has mentally drained you, or you’re going through something such as a bereavement for example, your body is already stressed, and long heavy workouts could potentially make you feel a little more stressed if you don’t give yourself the adequate time to recover through good nutrition, sleep and rest days.

Long story short; do what feels best for you. Moving gently may be better than not at all, but don’t put the pressure on yourself to work out 100% effort 24/7!

Is it better to eat before I work out, or after? And what food is best for a workout?

I would always suggest trying to eat before a workout, especially since I’m up teaching morning classes now at 7am a few times a week. I’m not talking a full meal – I always go for a banana as it provides long lasting energy but doesn’t feel heavy on the stomach. If we don’t have any bananas in, I’ll grab a handful of blueberries or even some dried fruit and nuts. I’ve never been good at working out on an empty stomach! Aside from this, I tend to have a pint of water ready for teaching and sip it slowly throughout my session.

If I’m working out later in the day and have time for a bigger breakfast, I tend to go for some granola and Greek yoghurt, porridge, or some Weetabix! I usually have cereal with some semi-skimmed milk and a handful of fruit on top – blueberries, banana or summer berries if I haven’t already had some that morning.

After a workout I’ll try and re-fuel with something full of carbs and proteins. Really simply, this will tend to be beans on wholemeal toast or an egg (poached/scrambled/fried) on wholemeal toast. If I have more time it’ll be a tuna salad with cous cous and some salad leaves, or sweet potatoes can be a really good source of carbohydrates for re-fueling yourself, that provide long-lasting energy rather than a spike in blood sugar.

When I’m short on time but need a high-protein and carb snack after a workout, I’ll use either a protein shake (I really like Opti-Lean Whey in vanilla from Optimum Nutrition) or some sort of bar (my favourite are Kind Protein bars) – both of these will be something to have if it’s not possible to cook a bigger meal or if I’m on my way out! I wouldn’t suggest them as meal replacements to get your protein fix, as natural sources of protein (chicken, eggs, fish etc) provide better quality protein to help with muscle growth and recovery.

Is it true when I have a cheat day, I can eat whatever I want?

Let’s break this down… a cheat day is often considered a day when we want to eat whatever we want and however much we want! Ask yourself why you feel the need to have a cheat day though; this would only be the case if for example you are counting calories in order to make a weight loss, meaning that a cheat day gives us that little taste of freedom and to block cravings for the rest of the week… at least that’s how it is in an ideal situation when we stick strictly to a diet and exercise regime. For the majority of us however, it’s unlikely we follow a strict enough regime to warrant a cheat day with unlimited calories.

In order to lose weight, you need to create a regular calorie deficit (burning more calories than we consume). This should be done through a mix of regular exercise (5x 30 mins per week), plus eating a few hundred less calories than normal each day (remember that this requires very specific food tracking). People that use cheat days may eat even less for 6 days of the week so that on their cheat day they can top up with burgers, milkshakes, chocolate bars, share bags of crisps and alcohol, to name just a few!

I personally wouldn’t suggest this for the average gym-goer, since it takes a lot of work to ensure that what you’re doing it correct and that the exercise you are completing is enough. In my opinion, it can also encourage unhealthy eating habits such as bingeing; normalising the idea that scoffing our faces full of rubbish is a good thing to do. Instead, I would suggest the following; exercise regularly (and actually get out of breath or break a sweat for half an hour!), eat healthily 90% of the time, but if you start to crave a certain type of food, then allow yourself to have a little bit of it! Be sensible and eat/consume alcohol within reason. Unfortunately today, we do live in a society of “all or nothing” type mantra; let’s get rid of this and think about eating within reason, drinking within reason and exercising within reason. Everything in balance and moderation please people!!!

Any healthy veggie recipes you can recommend?

Although generally I am a meat-eater, I do also enjoy a vegetarian meal as I am becoming more aware of the quick meat production on certain farms across the world, along with the effect it can have on the planet! I do love the taste and variety of meats that you can get, but I’m always more than happy to try something new, or eat meat-free a couple of times a week! So… getting actually to the point of the question;

- Veggie curries are always a family fav! Sweet potato /cauliflower / butternut squash / spinach / onion / peppers can help to bulk out a curry to have with some rice and naan.

- Skewers are also a good option; add some spices and have with a side salad or cous cous. You could even add halloumi if you’d like something with a thicker texture.

- Jacket potatoes are super easy, and they’re so underrated if you ask me (I’m not trying to win any chef awards, just being realistic to help provide some easy meal options!). Try with baked beans, or if you still eat fish, then perhaps a tuna sweetcorn mayo to top.

- Vegetable Lasagne – use up peppers, onions, mushrooms, aubergine, leeks, spinach, courgettes etc, to have with a side salad.

- Chilli con Quorn – or Quorn Bolognese are good if you’re wanting a meal with a similar substance to meat but prefer the idea of eating a meat substitute!

- Stuffed peppers or mushrooms – there’s hundreds of recipes online that you could try, and you can choose things that suit your tastebuds!

- Stews and soups – brilliant winter warmers, maybe add some vegetable dumplings or a slice of bread and butter!

7 meal ideas above; one for each day of the week! Try to eat as much variety in your fruit and veg as possible in order to fulfil all aspects of your nutrition.

Periods… How do you plan exercise and food around your periods – if at all?

Periods haven’t ever really bothered me too much when it comes to exercise. Having danced and played sports from a young age, it was more just about dealing with the fact that I was going to get a period regardless, but I didn’t want it to stop me from joining in sports! It comes down to personal preference what type of sanitary products you use; whichever feels most comfortable for you when exercising.

I don’t tend to plan my exercise sessions around my periods, I just go with what feels right, but more often than not if I’m feeling sluggish or cramping then I try to move a little – go for a walk, take a stretch, try some yoga/pilates/resistance bands exercises – as it helps to alleviate the pain and makes me feel better for having done something!

Food-wise, again I don’t really plan my food around my periods, but I know that without fail there’s always one day where I could eat EVERYTHING in sight… I’d probably eat mushrooms (and if you know me they’re not at all my fav). I don’t feel guilty for it, I know it’s going to happen and that it’s just my hormones doing their thing, and for the most part the rest of my meals are pretty healthy, so one day craving a chocolate bar isn’t the end of the world (arguably, it could be the end of the world if someone took my chocolate away lol).

If you have any more questions please feel free to contact me! It's easy writing blog posts for myself on topics that I know about, but sometimes it's good to hear from you with things that you want to learn more about!

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