The Coconut Water "Miracle"

Things to Consider Before Planting a Coconut Tree

The Coconut Water "Miracle"

As some of you know, I'm a fan of the Biggest Loser.  It is one of the only reality TV shows I watch, and I generally watch it while I'm doing admin work on my laptop.  The crying and fighting bores me to tears, but I am a sucker for any fitness-related show. 

Flipping through a fitness magazine earlier this week, I came across an ad for So Delicious (Dairy Free) Coconut Milk, with Jillian Michaels plastered all over the page, enjoying some delicious dairy alternative. Michaels is, by the way, a pescatarian - she eats a vegetarian diet with only sustainable fish.  She has apparently converted from milk, soymilk and other substitutes to coconut milk, in her coffee, cereal and for sipping.

Then, in a slap-me-upside-the-head-I-need-to-write-a-blog-about-this moment (bloggers, you know what I mean...), I was helping a friend, Sandra, shoot a pilates video and she was enjoying a bottle of coconut water.  She is a pilates guru (follow her @Wallabina and check out her Toronto studio at www.changestudio.ca) and has recently added 2 boot camp classes to her weekly exercise routine - the hundreds of reps and fast pace were causing some major post-workout soreness until she started chugging coconut water as her post-workout beverage.  Then, she swears, the soreness was no more!


What's coconut milk?  What's coconut water?  Are they just a flash in the pan in the health food industry or are they here to stay?  And should you bother?

Coconut milk

Real coconut milk is made from mashing coconut meat and extracting the liquid - this is the yummy stuff you'll find canned in the "ethnic foods" aisle of your grocery store and gives curries and stir fries a tasty coconut flavour, to the tune of 552 calories and 50 grams of fat per cup!  Yikes!  Use sparingly and DON'T DRINK unless you are trying to gain a great deal of weight or give yourself a heart attack.

So Delicious Coconut Milk, according to its nutrition labeling, is made of this: Coconut Cream (Water, Coconut, Guar Gum), Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Calcium Phosphate, Magnesium Phosphate, Carrageenan, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D-2, L-Selenomethionine (Selenium), Zinc Oxide, Folic Acid, Vitamin B-12. Their "original" flavour contains just 80 calories per cup and 5 grams of saturated fat.  DEFINITELY DRINKABLE but contains sugar unless you choose the "unsweetened" variety.

Coconut water

Coconut water is the clear fluid from young coconuts - this is what you get with a little umbrella and a straw when you're on vacation...  At 46 calories and virtually no saturated fat per cup, this makes barely a dent in your daily budget for calories and fat.  The main reason it's so revered is its heavy potassium content - potassium is key to regulating blood pressure and affects muscle function, but is readily available in other fruits and vegetables as well. Coconut water does contain about 250 mg of sodium per cup, but it will actually help replenish sodium levels if used before, during or after a strenuous workout.  If sodium is a concern for you personally, a banana or glass of milk might be a better workout snack.  Otherwise, GO AHEAD AND DRINK.

As with all products, it's important to read labels and do a bit of research on your own before converting to a new way of life, a la Jillian Michaels and So Delicious. 

If you like the taste of coconut water, go ahead and enjoy.  If you like the taste of So Delicious, go ahead and add it to your coffee or sub it in for your usual soymilk for a change.

Are they sports drinks?  No.

Sports drinks like Gatorade are actually researched and formulated with an exact composition to replace electrolytes (like potassium, sodium, magnesium) and sugar in the bloodstream and muscles.  Coconut water is natural and contains some of these same electrolytes and sugar but in less specific quantities.  Doesn't mean it doesn't help, but a sports drink it is not.  People (like my friend Sandra) swear by it.  Give it a try and decide for yourself.

As far as sports drinks and coconut water go, the average person requires neither.  Unless you are training for an endurance event (such as a half-marathon, marathon, bodybuilding competition, mountain climb, etc.) regular food is just fine for you.  Water and carbohydrates are the best bet after a workout.  Coconut water may help, but it's not well-researched and stinks a little bit of hype, as far as I'm concerned.

Want some potassium?  Save yourself a couple of bucks and eat a banana.

Have you had it?  Do you swear by it?  Think it tastes like dirty socks?  Tell me!


So You Fell Off the Wagon

Ouch! Tips to Get Back On It

So You Fell Off the Wagon

Ah, January...  slush is in the streets and everybody in the whole, freakin' world is in the gym.  At least for a few more weeks.  As New Year's Resolutions get a little fuzzier and the temperatures get a little warmer, many gym goers struggle to stay committed.  And sometimes, you just have to party.

So if you've been partying a bit, or feeling under the weather, or sleeping in and missing your step class, or - as in the case of my client, S - you've been under doctor's orders to abstain from exercise for two weeks - you might be wondering how to get yourself started again. 

Here are some strategies I always recommend to clients as they re-mount the metaphorical wagon after a hiatus:

Establish a goal. When you've been inactive, it can be difficult to get the momentum up to return to regular exercise and you may find yourself unmotivated because it's harder, you're more tired than usual and you feel less confident than you would had you been consistently exercising all along.  Check out the Canada Running Series to find an upcoming 5K or 10K walk or run, or have a fitness assessment done by a personal trainer and schedule a follow-up in 6-8 weeks.  Your personal trainer should help you set healthy, realistic goals based on the results of your original assessment.  Generally, 1-2 pounds per week is a healthy rate of weight loss.

Get to the heart of things. Muscular strength is retained for several weeks up to several months after an exerciser becomes inactive; however, cardiovascular capacity begins to deteriorate virtually with the first missed workout.  Strict bedrest, severe illness or injury will cause greater levels of "detraining" than merely falling off the wagon, taking a lazy vacation or catching cold for a week or two.  Three cardiovascular workouts per week are required just to maintain cardiovascular capacity; you should take it up to 4-5 cardiovascular workouts of at least 20-30 minutes in the first couple of weeks back.  If you're focusing on building your cardio back up, do the cardio portion of your workouts before the strength portion.

Start a new program. There's nothing more discouraging than returning to your regular workouts to realize just how out of shape you've become.  Instead, begin a new program when you head back to the gym.  We expect to struggle a bit with new exercises or routines and to have sore muscles and fatigue in the day or two after.  You'll be more interested in mastering a new routine than you would be in "retraining" yourself to get back to the same level you were at before your break.  Aim for 2-3 full-body strength training workouts per week.

Stretch it out. It's going to hurt.  Laying in bed, laying on the couch, or laying on a beach chair in the tropics, you're probably not working your muscles strenuously or with a variety of movements.  Lift tea, drink tea, lift tea, drink tea does not a workout make.  Be sure to stretch your chest, back, legs and hips after your workouts.  Have a comfortable, hot bath or shower (or a sauna, if you have access to one) for 10-15 minutes after your workouts.  You'll still be stiff, but you may be lucky enough to be stiff for only one day instead of two after those first workouts.

In a couple of weeks, you'll barely remember that you ever left the gym in the first place.  A break from exercise can be a great opportunity to revitalize your program and reset your goals.  Take advantage and enjoy those aches and pains - if your body didn't punish you, you might never learn your lesson...



Tight Asses and Dry Bottoms

Belly Bootcamp Mommies Give Back

Tight Asses and Dry Bottoms

Phew... this week is a bit crazy.  We just got back from a New Year's trip to Ottawa and are headed out of town on a mommy-and-daddy-only vacation on Friday.  In between, I'm trying to process new clients who want to kick off 2011 with one-on-one personal training or by joining one of our fitness classes for modern mommies.  I'm also preparing to leave Sweaty Baby and Sweaty Kid for 8 days, which adds a whole other dimension of stress to this week. My head is spinning.

But it stopped spinning for just a few minutes today when I had the delight of dropping off 90 pounds of diapers to the Daily Bread Food Bank in Toronto.

Here's a grateful Daily Bread employee (he actually shook my hand and thanked me for the donation) , piling up the first of our diapers:

First of all, credit where credit is due.  I had been planning a Belly Bootcamp holiday food drive until I read Candace's blog entitled "How to Host a Diaper Drive."  I learned that many Canadian mothers struggle to afford diapers for their babies.  Mothers who live in my own city, even my own neighbourhood, are going without in order to find money to diaper their little ones.  This is an issue that is so alarming but also one I've never considered before - have you? 

What could be more perfect for a group of expecting and new mommies than to donate diapers?  We held the first annual Belly Bootcamp Holiday Diaper Drive in December, and the mommies in training came through!

This morning I dropped off over 1,800 diapers, all collected in about 4 days in the week before Christmas.  My heart soared every time a Belly Bootcamper dropped off her contribution.  One mommy even brought in 5 packages, one for each size her daughter had grown through already.  Their generosity was amazing. 

Here I am, counting and organizing the diapers before dropping them off:

And here's what I learned:

- 1 in 5 Canadian mothers struggles with diaper need, re-using dirty diapers, leaving baby in soiled diapers longer than one normally would, and cutting into her budget for food and personal products simply to afford diapers.  When my son fills his pants, I think "seriously?...right now?!" I am one of the lucky ones.

- nothing makes the holidays feel more special than finding an extraordinary way to come together with others and make a difference for your fellow human beings

- a diaper drive is EASY to do and drop-offs can even be made at local grocery stores - contact your local food bank to inquire

- a diaper drive is EASY to find support for; although I did hear one bit of criticism with regard to the purchase and use of disposable diapers (instead of cloth), I think it is important we realize that issues of environmental consciousness are often a luxury of the wealthy.  If I couldn't afford diapers, I wouldn't give a @$*#! (pardon the pun) about contributing to landfills.  Disposables are the most accessible form of diaper for those with a low income.

- when you're a mom and you need a hand, ask your fellow moms.  They will come through.

You don't need a big group - why not turn your next girls' night, dinner party or family get-together into a diaper drive

Read the Huggies "Every Little Bottom" study and find out how to get involved.

Read Candace's blog, "How to Host a Diaper Drive."

Visit the Food Banks of Canada and make a donation online.