Category Archives: Blog

Does muscle speed up your metabolism?

130129-F-JA000-001Muscle burns more energy than fat, right? Everybody knows that. It’s the goal when losing weight: build more muscle and, consequently, speed up your metabolism. But, what if we told you that while this is technically true, the difference is dismal? Yep.

The metabolic rate of muscle

You might find articles online that say the resting metabolic rate of muscle is as much as 50 to 100 calories a day per pound of fat. But this is not true. Studies have found no conclusive evidence of this. In fact, the evidence referred to here and here suggest that one pound of muscle burns as little as six calories a day at rest, while the same amount of fat burns two to four.

Muscle’s recovering metabolism

Muscle doesn’t necessarily burn more energy than fat. But, studies show that the metabolic rate of recovering muscle after moderate exercise (the energy your body consumes to repair damaged muscle and replenish glucose and fat stores) is high. What does this mean? It means you should train well and regularly.

The ultimate calorie burner

No matter what fad comes along, the results are always the same: the best way to lose weight and build strength is through diet and exercise. So, move! Regularly. And include resistance training in your regime (like the kind we do in our Pilates classes) to keep your muscles working. There is no quick fix to staying healthy.

Exercise and breastfeeding

pexels-photo-235243In a final tribute to mothers’ month, we’re starting at the beginning of motherhood: breastfeeding. Specifically, is it safe to exercise while breastfeeding? And are there certain exercises to avoid? Here’s the science of it:

It won’t harm supply.

Studies have shown that exercise doesn’t affect your milk supply… unless:

1.    Your body isn’t accustomed to the exercise you’re doing, or;

2.    You exercise to the extreme.

In other words: If you exercised regularly before you started breastfeeding, it shouldn’t be a problem to continue. But don’t overdo it. If you didn’t exercise much before, ease into it.

What to look out for

Studies have found that exhaustive exercise can affect the IgA levels in your milk (the antibodies that protect your baby from infections) for about an hour. This is a concern if you’re doing this kind of exercise often, but shouldn’t be a problem a few times a week.

Other studies have also shown that strenuous exercise increases the lactic acid levels in your milk for an hour or two – making your milk taste sour. The nutritional value will still be fine, but your baby may not like the taste. Moderate training, on the other hand, is fine.

Beyond this, demanding upper-body training also increases your chances of plugged milk ducts; a painful experience that could lead to mastitis.

Our exercise tips

During pregnancy and for a few weeks after childbirth, your body produces a hormone called relaxin. This relaxes your joints and ligaments and softens and widens your cervix. But it may also increase your chances of injury during exercise.

This, and the research mentioned above, speaks to the value of starting slowly and sticking to moderate exercise when breastfeeding. Pilates is ideal, because it’s low-impact and it’s the perfect exercise for getting your muscles back into shape after having moved around (and possibly cut, if you had a C-section) in childbirth and pregnancy.

Bottom line? Pilates is a winning exercise while breastfeeding. It’s science.

Part 2: The risks and treatment of post-natal depression

HelpMe02Welcome to the second part of our two-part series on post-natal depression. In this post, we’ll look at the complications associated with PND, who’s most at risk, and the treatments that are available.

The impact on family

If left untreated, PND can affect the whole family. For moms and dads, it increases both of their chances of getting depression in the future. PND also impacts on the important mother-child bonding that happens early in the child’s life, increasing the child’s chances of emotional, behavioural and even language-development problems in the future.

Who’s most at risk?

According to, parents with a higher risk of getting PND are those:

  • With a history of mental illness, like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder
  • With a family history of mental illness
  • Who’ve had a traumatic or complicated pregnancy or birth
  • With a history of abuse
  • Who had a traumatic childhood
  • Who suffer from stress
  • Who lack social support

If you’re pregnant and you believe you are at risk of getting PND, keep your doctor and family informed so they can monitor you and offer you the support you need, if needed.

The treatment options

According to, there are several treatment paths for PND, including talking therapies (support groups, counselling, or psychotherapy) and antidepressants. People respond differently to these though, so keep trying, even if the first attempt at formal treatment isn’t effective.

To get the most out of these treatments, it’s important to maintain a healthy diet and weight, get adequate exercise, find support (either from family, friends, or a moms’ group in your area), and, as Baby Centre puts it: be kind to yourself.

Think you’ve got PND? Speak to a professional about it; like the Post-Natal Depression Support Association or even just your GP. What you’re going through shouldn’t be dismissed or ignored. It’s serious and dangerous, and there’s no healthy reason for you to endure it.

Part 1: Recognising post-natal depression

black-and-white-person-woman-girlMay is mothers’ month. We’ve decided. Because one day a year just isn’t enough. So, in tribute to the moms, we’re dedicating all our posts to you this month.

If you saw last week’s post, you’d have seen it was about prioritising yourself, not just for your own sake, but for the sake of your kids too. This week, we’re covering the first part of a two-part series on post-natal depression: because it’s just too big and too important to sum up in one. So, here goes…

What is PND?

Post-natal depression is a type of clinical depression that can affect parents of both sexes after childbirth. It’s common too, affecting between 0.5% and 61% of all mothers and between 1% and 25.5% of fathers. It shouldn’t be confused with the ‘baby blues’ though; a normal period of moodiness, weepiness, anxiety and exhaustion that lasts for a few days shortly after delivery.

The difference

The most notable differences between PND and the baby blues are severity and timing. Like any form of clinical depression, PND isn’t a short-term thing that one can just ‘snap’ out of – it’s a deep, dark, legitimate illness that needs treatment just like any physical ailment would. Anything longer than two weeks should be taken seriously.

And unlike the baby blues, it doesn’t always show up around the one-week mark; it could take months to set in, and in as many as 50% of cases, it even starts before delivery. Nobody knows what causes it either; hypotheses include hormones, lifestyle changes, and genetics.

Recognising it

One of the hardest parts of recognising PND is accepting it yourself. So often, when people are depressed, they deny it… probably because of the stigma around mental illness. It’s hard admitting that you’re not okay.

According to Wikipedia, the typical symptoms include:

1. Emotional difficulties:

  • Persistent sadness, anxiety or ‘empty’ mood
  • Severe mood swings
  • Frustration, irritability, restlessness, and anger
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or helplessness
  • Guilt, shame, worthlessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Numbness, emptiness
  • Exhaustion
  • Inability to be comforted
  • Trouble bonding with the baby
  • Feeling inadequate in taking care of the baby

2. Behavioral concerns:

  • Lack of interest or pleasure in usual activities
  • Low or no energy
  • Low libido
  • Changes in appetite
  • Fatigue, diminished energy and motivation
  • Poor self-care
  • Social withdrawal
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep

3. Cognitive struggles:

  • Diminished ability to make decisions and think clearly
  • Lack of concentration and poor memory
  • Fear that you can’t care the baby or fear of the baby
  • Worry about harming self, baby, or partner

If you think you (or someone you know) have PND, please, please talk to someone, like the Post-Natal Depression Support Association, or even just your GP. It’s important. While it’s okay to feel like this, you don’t have to and it isn’t healthy. There are ways out of this darkness and people who know what you’re going through that want to help. You aren’t alone.

Look out for our next post on treating PND.

Because you’re worth it, mom

11967154245_e47a371e3e_bAs a mom, you’d never dream of turning to your child and saying, “Ugh, you’re so fat. How can anyone find you attractive? Get yourself together, kiddo.” That would be horrific, right? So, why is it okay for so many of us to say it to ourselves?

It’s not okay

You’re a person who deserves your love, respect, and attention just like your loved ones. Beating yourself up and ignoring your needs is just as bad as if you did it to them. You’re a better person than that. And a better mother.

Only so much

Neglecting your needs eats away at your reserves. And an emotionally / physically / spiritually starved person can’t be a great parent – especially if you sub-consciously end up resenting the people you sacrifice yourself for because of it. A warm, patient, and effective mother must remember to refuel.

Feeling good

If you’re a victim of your own disregard or negative self-talk, it has to stop. From now on, these are things you’re totally allowed to do:

  • Weigh more (or less) than you’d like
  • Buy yourself new clothes even if they’re not in the size you’d like
  • Not have perfect skin / clothes / eyebrows / teeth
  • Feel gorgeous anyway
  • Be sad
  • Be happy
  • Eat good, healthy food that makes you feel good about yourself
  • Not always eat good, healthy food
  • Spend a little extra money on things that are unnecessary, but important to you
  • Take regular time out to:
    • Exercise
    • Be alone
    • Be with friends
    • Prepare food that only you will eat
    • Watch a movie
    • Do nothing
    • Do anything

You’re allowed to do these things because they’re what make you happy. And a happy you is a more balanced, healthy, relaxed, capable, supportive, strong, generous, and beautiful you.

Do it. The kids will thank you.

Why you should stay active this (and every) winter

dancing-578443_640It’s only natural to want to hibernate in winter. Those fluffy slippers and toasty heaters are a great comfort when your toes feel like they’re freezing off. But is that a good enough reason to stop exercising? Apparently not. Here are Four Reasons to Keep Moving This (And Every) Winter:

1.    It helps to burn more calories

According to Michael Joyner, M.D., endurance athlete and human performance expert, “In the cold, your body regulates its temperature better, so you can often exercise farther or longer, so you can burn more calories.”

2.    It burns more of your white fat

Colder temperatures have been shown to increase your brown fat stores; the (good) fat that uses your white (bad) fat to keep you warm. In other words: higher levels of brown fat + exercise = more fat-burning power.

3.    It boosts your immune system

Studies by the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research found that a regular cold-weather exercise routine boosts your immune system and reduces your risk of flu by 20-30%.

4.    It improves your mood

By working harder to stay warm, the number of endorphins released in your brain also increases, making you feel happier, and more relaxed.

We can’t say getting up to exercise in the cold will be easy, but it will be worth it. And in our cosy studio, there’s even less reason to stay away. Happy exercising!

Want to feel good about your body? Get moving.

5116145499_267de3480d_bAccording to recent statistics, 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting. But more terrifying, is the fact that 42% of girls in grades 1 to 3 want to be thinner and 53% of teenage girls are or think they should be on a diet. Our body images are in the toilet; a perception that can cause yo-yo dieting, eating disorders, depression and low self-esteem.

Perceptions like these are dangerous. But, there may be a simple solution. Several studies show that people who exercise experience an improved body image even with minimal changes to their appearance. In fact, according to, ‘Exercise is just as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy to improve body image, and it has the benefit of physical health.’

Further, the University of Florida found that ‘duration, intensity, length or type of exercise did not seem to matter – those who exercised more than the minimum recommended thirty minutes, five days a week, and older adults, were most likely to report improved body image from exercise.’

Bottom line? Getting your body moving, even just a little bit, can make you feel gorgeous. #justsaying

Go green! Smoothies can mean optimum health.

Green smoothieYou know vegetables are good for you. But did you know that there are even more benefits to eating dark, leafy green veggies? Yep. Turns out they’re nutritional powerhouses. And the easiest way to consume them is in a smoothie. They’re easy to make and they:

  • Can help with weight loss
  • Are easy to digest
  • Are full of antioxidants
  • Can increase your energy levels
  • Promote mental clarity
  • Increase your fibre intake
  • Promote clearer skin

How do you make something so wonderful? Have a look at some of the detailed tips and recipes from Health Ambition.

Breathe. It’s good for you.

woman-570883_640Breathing is probably one of the most thoughtless things we do. And that’s part of the problem. Because if we paid more attention, we’d notice that our unconscious habits of shallow breathing, over-breathing and holding our breaths, have a significant impact on our bodies.

The effects of bad breathing

We breathe for two major reasons:

  1. To oxygenate the bloodstream and the vital organs it feeds; and
  2. To expel waste products and toxins from the body.

So, it makes sense that when we breathe badly, it decreases energy levels, slows the metabolism, increases infection risk, disrupts the nervous system, impacts stress tolerance, and more.

The pros of good breathing

Further, conscious breathing:

  • Releases tension, relaxing the body and mind
  • Elevates mood
  • Relieves pain
  • Massages organs
  • Increases muscle mass
  • Improves posture
  • Improves blood quality
  • Supports digestion
  • Strengthens the heart and lungs
  • Assists in weight control
  • Improves stamina
  • Improves cellular regeneration

How to breathe effectively

Start by taking 5 minutes out of your day to loosen your shoulders and practice the following:

  1. Counting to five, inhale through your nose, expanding your belly, and then filling your chest.
  2. Hold your breath and count to three.
  3. Counting to five, exhale fully through a slightly parted mouth.

Slowly increase the duration and frequency of your sessions. The more you do it, the deeper and smoother your everyday breathing will get, and the more conscious you’ll be of it.

Healthy eating in a fast-food world

unhealthy-1336508_640The biggest hurdle to healthy eating is usually the most natural thing in the world: hunger. Couple that with our fast-paced lifestyle and you just don’t have time to put together a healthy meal or snack. You need something now. And that often means foods like garage pies, packets of chips and anything deep fried.

But what are the alternatives to eating junk on the go?

1.    Just don’t eat

Intermittent fasting has proven to have some impressive benefits. Though it’s not for everyone (and can be dangerous if not managed carefully), studies have shown that not only can it help you to lose weight, but short-term fasting can also:

  • Reduce insulin resistance
  • Reduce inflammation in the body
  • Induce cell repair
  • Reduce cancer risk
  • Reduce Alzheimer’s risk
  • Increase lifespan

2.    Protein shakes

You don’t have to be a body builder or a Crossfitter to benefit from protein shakes. With their typically high protein and low carbohydrate and fat content, they won’t just help to build muscle, but they can also help you lose weight. Plus, they’re super easy to prepare on the go.

3.    Prep in advance

If you’re not into protein shakes or going hungry, the simplest way to avoid the fast-food trap is to prepare your food in advance. This way, you can leave all the time-consuming meal / snack prep to the weekends and either freeze them in portions or put them in the fridge for use during the week. Here are some tips to get started.

The fast-food industry has made it so easy to slip into a junk-food diet. But, while the odd trip to KFC might not kill you, it’s important to keep these down to a minimum. If you plan ahead, there are many ways to manage your eating habits without falling into this trap.