Common fitness questions

I’ve collected answers to frequently asked fitness questions from industry experts and what I would advise too. SYNERGY NUTRITION

I have knee pain- so I can exercise? 

Many people use knee pain as an excuse not to exercise, but there’s a difference between pain and discomfort. If there’s shooting pain, then a physio should look at it. If it just feels a bit stiff then swimming,the rowing machine and cycling are activities you can try and be doable. Ideally the muscles around the knee need to be strengthened, so lunges and squats can help.

What are the best exercises for the tummy? 

For firm abdominal muscles, body fat needs to be reduced. Which is 80% to do with nutrition, the rest is aerobic exercise. After that, you need to work on the muscles at the side of the abdomen, the obliques and the transversus abdominis. The plank is a great exercise. Start by holding your stomach and bottom muscles tight for 10 seconds until you can hold it for at least 1 minute. Yoga, Pilates, swiss ball classes tend to focus on the core.

What’s the fastest way to tone flabby arms? 

Interval training actually! One minute sprints followed by one minute of fast walking. Circuits class, swimming front crawl and racket sports are great arm toners. Other resistance training exercises can be performed too and a PT can show you how. Weighted dumbbells are great too and triceps – the muscles at the back of the arm are the easiest to tone up.

Is there a particular good time of day to exercise?

The way it stands at the moment, exercise has an accumulative effect and my opinion is it doesn’t matter which time of day one exercises as for me whats more important is the quality of the workout, strength and condition of your body and diet. I would avoid exercise close to bedtime as exercise has a stimulating effect. Personally I feel afternoon and early evening are the best times as the muscles are warmed up than if you wake up and go for a run even after a short warm up. The muscles have to be fully ‘warm’ and ready for you to avoid injuries. If you don’t feel strong enough or not well then avoid exercise as the performance of your workout is likely to be poorer.

Can I exercise on any empty stomach?

I personally wouldn’t recommend it, because you run the risk of tiring sooner and potentially burn less fat overall as fat metabolism is dependent on carbohydrate stores. The other downside is muscle mass may be compromised as its used as an energy fuel in place and this is what you want to avoid losing as having more muscle mass is what keeps you looking trim and toned and revs up your BMR further.  On the other hand, gentle stretches are fine to perform.

Is it okay to do all your exercise at the weekend? 

You’re better off spacing out your exercise sessions to get the maximum benefit of ‘afterburner’ where your body is still benefiting from exercise up to two days after the session. Even exercising on alternate days is better than exercising just once a week. If you want to get more fitter then you have to increase the intensity, for e.g increasing the weights and number of reps you do as your body gets stronger. Otherwise the exercises will be easy and you don’t gain the maximum benefits from the time you’ve spent on the workout.

What are the best exercises? SYNERGY NUTRITION

Mixing it up is the key, as this utilises all the different muscles. Doing too much of the same exercise can lead to too much bulk in one area of the body. I would recommend 1) skipping as no 1- because you are performing aerobic (fat loss) and anaerobic (muscle building) at the same time. Its low impact, cost effective and will get you fit in no time. 10 minutes a day to begin with if you do nothing at all.

My next favourites are the following which you can mix up. If you do any of these 3 times a week that’s great. 2) swimming- toning, low impact, no sweating, relaxing and energising. 3) cycling- aerobic & toning 4)rowing machine- perfect all body workout 5) any exercise gym class like boxercise, body pump, aerobic dance class, etc. 6) Racket sports, tennis, squash & badminton. The exercise has to be enjoyable for you. Some may feel like they are tough, but if you feel amazing afterwards, then continue with it as you get stronger and fitter.

Do consult a personal trainer or GP if starting out with a new fitness regime for more tailored advice, as the above may not be suitable for everyone. 

7 Ways to Spruce Up Your Sprouts

Roast them

Try roasting sprouts if you don’t like them streamed. Half an hour in the oven completely transforms them, giving them a nutty, slightly burnished flavour and a firm texture, without sogginess. You just throw the whole, trimmed sprouts onto a roasting tray, drizzle with oil and a pinch of salt and roast until sizzling and tender.

Shred them

Don’t fancy the look of a pile of sprouts all green and steaming in a bowl on the Christmas table? Then slice them up thinly and fry them instead. The best bit about this is that they stay lovely and glossy and the aromatics you add to the pan with them cover more of the surface area of the sprouts – so you get more flavour with every bite.

imageAdd some Indian spice

Stir in a spoonful of mild curry paste while you’re pan-frying your shredded sprouts and you’ll give them a spicy flavour boost. They’ll go beautifully alongside your roast turkey for an unusual twist. Once they’re tender, turn off the heat and squeeze in some lemon juice and a pinch of salt to lift the flavours.

Mix them up with other veg

You don’t have to have Brussels sprouts on their own. Combine them with other veggies, like broccoli florets or shredded cabbage. Butternut squash and sweet potato work well too, and give some contrasting colour. It sounds simple but it might be easier to have them as part of the Christmas feast with a little help from their veggie friends.

Get cheesy- for the ones that do eat dairy 🙂

You know how a creamy, cheese sauce turns other veggies into a bubbling dish of heaven? Broccoli, cauliflower and leeks all benefit from a bake in a cheesy sauce, and so do sprouts. Just as the vegetables begin to soften, swirl in a little double cream, chopped garlic and grated cheese. Allow it to come to a bubble and then pour into an ovenproof dish and scatter more grated cheese on top. Bake for about 10 minutes in a hot oven until bubbling and golden on top. Try it with Cheddar, Parmesan or a tangy blue cheese.

Sweeten them up

Brussels sprouts pair up beautifully with their classic Christmas counterpart – cranberries. A handful of dried cranberries thrown in towards the end of cooking to heat through lift the leafy, earthy flavours from the sprouts and give a burst of sweetness. You can also drizzle a little maple syrup over sprouts towards the end of roasting and then put them back in the oven for the last few minutes for a glossy, sweet glaze. Don’t go overboard though, you don’t want to make them taste like dessert, you just want to give them a festive burst of sweetness.

Chuck in some nuts

Chestnuts, pine nuts, walnuts and pecans are all good. They give a sweet crunch that contrasts with the tender green sprouts. Just throw a couple of handfuls in to fry or roast along with the sprouts. The sprout and nut combo works really well with a third ingredient – try it with some cheese or dried cranberries – or splash in a drop of white wine or marsala for a luxurious, festive flavour.