Ask almost anyone struggling with their fitness, health, weight loss or sports performance goals what the hardest part to perfect is and they’d probably say it’s the nutrition. But it’s one thing to hear the advice and another to heed it.
That’s why it was with such gratitude that we sat down to a proper hands-on workshop on food planning for performance held by ActiveLife by Daman this week.
The health insurance company has paired up with arts space Warehouse421 and healthy catering company and cooking school, Lana’s Partiperfect to host a couple of interactive kitchen talks and tutorials over the summer.
At the last one, not only did we have heaps of helpful notes and handouts to take away with us for effective meal planning, but we also got to learn to make and taste a few inspired recipes in the pop-up kitchen, and take our healthy treats home.
Here is some of what we learned that can also help you on your way to a better workout and to achieving sustainable peak performance levels. It comes down to meal planning; thinking ahead about what you’re going to eat and when you’re going to eat it each day.
At the end of the day, if you don’t have a game plan then achieving your health and fitness goals is just going to seem that much more impossible. Without a plan, food choices are typically guided by feelings of extreme hunger or stress, which may cause you to eat more than your body needs.
If you already know what healthy breakfasts, lunches, dinners and pre- and post-workout snacks you’re in for ahead of the day or week, it gives you more breathing room to really focus your energy on other important areas of your life.
And Daman nutritionist Areen AbuHejleh believes that showing your kitchen and pantry just a tad more love on the weekends can be quite creative and fun, too.
AbuHejleh says that what you eat before your workout is crucial for fuelling the workout itself and maximising your performance throughout, and that this meal should be had at least three-four hours prior (or 30-60mins before if it is a snack).
During the workshop you will learn to make some incredibly delicious, filling and energy-packed power snacks that will do the job really well for you. “If you work out for around 60 minutes or more and really want to build muscle and perform well for longer periods, you’ve got to make sure you eat well beforehand,” she says.
“It’s got to be something slow burning and low in fat and fibre because those foods take a longer time to get digested. “Easily-digested carbs and proteins can be found in snacks such as oatmeal with fresh fruit, apples with almond butter, Greek yoghurt or a piece of whole wheat toast with bananas and peanut butter.”
“Drink at least three glasses of water 1-2 hours before exercise (spaced out, that is); the last one can be as soon as 15 minutes prior.”
It’s of course important to hydrate throughout exercise, too, says AbuHejleh, maintaining gulps of water every 15-20 minutes or so.
“A gulp of water is less than a sip, really, just to hydrate your mouth. You don’t want to be chugging too much or you might get a stitch.”
And she is against the market’s popular sports drinks as many are extremely high in sugar.
She says: “Make your own sports drink at home – combine a cup of water, the juice of half a lemon, 1tsp of honey, and a pinch of salt, and you’re good to go.”
Consumed 30-60 minutes post-exercise, the goal of any post-workout meal is to reduce muscle soreness and any muscle protein breakdown caused by exercise and basically enhance your overall recovery.
“You just burned a ton of calories – what should you eat? Something with complex carbs and protein,” says AbuHejleh.
“Try grilled chicken with veg and potatoes, or salmon and sweet potatoes, a veggie omelette with toast or whole wheat tuna fish sandwich. “If your goal is to lose weight, however, you could skip this particular meal. All in all just make sure you re-hydrate, whether that’s with your home-made sports drink or plain water.”
Most studies say you should get in about 8oz of water within 30 minutes post-workout, but if you tend to sweat a lot you might want to get in more.
Warehouse421 will also be hosting a workshop called Diet Myth Busters ON Sunday, August 6, from 15:00 to 17:00 at Port Zayed, Abu Dhabi.
It will touch on why most diets don’t work, what healthy eating really means and how to achieve a healthy mindset. It costs Dh50. For more information, visit their website – www.warehouse421.ae.
Slimming procedures are something people always take with a grain of salt, but we at Sport360° go the extra mile to validate the, at times outrageous, claims made by beauty and fitness centres.
Valentina Weber volunteered to act as our human guinea pig and help us test out En Vogue’s double slimming treatment that is guaranteed to show results after the first session.
The Guinot double slimming aims at reducing cellulite that gets deposited in the cutaneous folds along with excess fluid that causes the swelling in tissues by using three simultaneous actions.
The three actions are sculpting, ionisation and muscle stimulation, which supposedly gives visible results and gets the body in shape.
The treatment starts off with the beautician massaging in a generous dollop of the serum gel, which contains anti-cellulite and draining active ingredients, which penetrate to the core of cellulite.
A vacuum sculptor is then applied to the body that sucks in the skin, breaking down the fat accumulation and dispersing them at the same time.
The intensity of the suction can be regulated depending on one’s pain threshold and as the muscle gets more stimulation the fat becomes easier to eliminate.
As the sculptor moves around, it produces muscle contractions that not only tone the area, but also enhances blood circulation that further facilitates the burning up of fats.
Before starting the procedure, we made sure to take all the necessary measurements and then got prepped for the treatment.
The treatment is nearly 45 minutes long and from what we could learn from the beautician, it focuses on the areas of the body that are more prone to fat deposition like thighs, waist and upper arms.
When the sculptor first came into contact with the skin, the suction was quite painful, but being the trooper that Valentina is, she still went through the whole procedure.
“At first the sculptor did cause a lot of pain, but after the therapist reduced the level it was bearable, but in areas like my inner thighs, which is already quite sensitive, the suction was still extremely painful,” said Valentina.
The intensity of the sculptor can be regulated and decreased as per the client’s comfort, but the intensity also depends on the amount of cellulite deposition in the body.
Once the procedure was over, we retook her measurements and much to our astonishment, Valentina had lost half an inch across all of them.
“I was slimy because of the serum gel and wanted to take a shower, but I could feel that my skin felt tighter. The procedure was not a painless one for me and I am sure the experience is going to be different depending on the pain threshold of each individual and the amount of cellulite, but my skin definitely felt tighter and smoother,” she added.
“However, I would not say that one can solely rely on this method for weight loss. It should definitely be paired up with a strict diet and regular exercise for better results.
After one session, I saw how toned my body got, but it’s not something I will quit the gym for. I will definitely come back here to help amplify the benefits.”
The results from the treatment spoke for itself and we can vouch for the efficacy of the procedure in producing visible results after the first session.
WHAT: En Vogue Double Slimming Treatment, Dh400 per session
WHERE: En Vogue Beauty Centre, JLT Cluster E, Dubai
VERDICT: A great way to tone your body, but it should be paired with a healthy diet and rigorous fitness regime.
Dubai is not short of indoor cycling studios and despite the ambivalence surrounding the fitness regimen, each studio adds a unique twist to their spinning classes to jazz up an otherwise monotonous session of pedalling a stationary cycle.
Motion Cycling is one such studio that offers spin classes that not only get your body in shape, but claim to uplift your soul during a 45-minute session.
The studio is run by a diverse pack of inspirational individuals, conveniently located in Oberoi Hotel, Business Bay on the 18th floor with a picturesque view of downtown Dubai.
I ventured in the territory completely and miserably blind as I had no idea what spinning was, but I was warmly greeted by Ivana and Kim upon my arrival at the studio as they geared me up for my class.
Besides a clean pair of socks, you don’t need whole paraphernalia of exercise gear and the studio will provide you specialised shoes that clip on to your bikes.
The instructors are kind enough to help everyone get secured on to their bike, so you’re not left with one foot clamped on and the other one just awkwardly flailing around – not that it happened to me or anything.
My instructor for the day was Kim, a half Korean and half South American creative enthusiast, who filled the whole session with her infectious positive attitude and explosive energy.
The classes were conducted in a darkened candlelit room and the instructor quickly runs us over the operations of the bikes and the resistance that you will be cranking up and down on her instructions.
Each instructor brings in their own playlist and Kim’s playlist mostly consisted of remixes of mainstream songs that we had the absolute liberty to sing and pedal along to the beats.
Moreover, in a candlelit studio, there was a strange liberating comfort as you know that you can just pedal as fast as you can without caring about what you look like.
Kim instructed us to perform various exercises while incorporating some light weight training.
Once you get in to the rhythm of the exercise, you realise that there is something remarkably empowering about working out in complete darkness, and as you focus solely on the task of incessant pedalling, it puts everything about you in perspective.
When you reach that moment, you realise that you are not doing this to look good or to show your work out off to anyone, but just for the sake of your own well-being and health.
The darkness doesn’t just offer a much-needed cover for you, but it is a cover for everyone and besides vague silhouettes, it is practically impossible to see anything else in class.
It offers fewer distractions and it’s all the more refreshing to know that you won’t be wallowing in insecurities by constantly comparing your performance and body to that of all the seasoned spinners in there with you.
Kim made it a point to go around the class to everyone and offer words of encouragement, as we cranked up our resistance and continued cycling.
Even though, it may feel like that the work out is focusing mainly on your legs and quads, but by combining various upper body movements throughout the session, you are constantly engaging your core muscles as you crunch while pedalling.
You are also working your hips out as you move up and down on the saddle, and by combining light weight training, you are also building the strength in your arms at the same time.
So, it is safe to say that you are definitely getting a full body work out and in no time, you will find yourself gasping for breath.
As we continued with our workouts, Kim asked us to close our eyes and finish the sentence when she said: “I am grateful for…”
It was strange to bring that up in the middle of a high intensity workout, but as the music slowed down it just felt natural to close your eyes, be in the moment and focus on finishing the sentence while pedalling as fast as possible.
In hindsight, I really don’t know how or why I started on this line of thought and I had so many things in my life that I could have said, but the one thing I was grateful of was just being there; the fact that my body was strong enough to get through the hectic routine.
We often look down on our bodies for either being too fat or too thin, but we don’t actually appreciate the vessel that is our body for just being healthy.
I was filled with an immense appreciation for things we often take for granted in our body and it was a surreal end to such a physically-challenging exercise.
After the stretch off we all dismounted our bikes, and if it is your first time and you don’t know where the phrase ‘legs turning to jelly’ comes from, you will certainly find out.
As we left the studio, I realised Motion Cycling was more than just working out, but it also opens you up emotionally, giving you a chance to meet with some of the most amazing people.
I experienced something profoundly beautiful working out in a darkened room with a bunch of strangers and as a result not only did I accomplish my physical goals, but made meaningful connections in the process as well.
WHAT: Motion Cycling
COST: AED120/class (one month expiration)
WHERE: Oberoi Hotel, Business Bay
VERDICT: Truly an uplifting work-out for the body and soul