The Blonde Ethos

A SMART APPROACH TO FIT + HEALTHY LIVING

Orangetheory Review: Heart Rate Monitored Metabolic Workout

Health Monitoring, TrainingNatalie GoodchildComment
Natalie-Orangetheory-Workout

Orangetheory is a workout that very explicitly fuses fitness and science to create an amazing exercise experience.

When I first heard about Orangetheory, it was as if my prayers had been answered.

I really love the idea of monitoring my heart rate, but it’s something that I think requires a little guidance from a professional in order to use the information that you’re fed to its full potential.

I’m so glad that I’ve found a fitness concept and dedicated studios to do the hard work for me.

Well, not all the hard work...

Orangetheory-Heart-Rate-Monitor
Orangetheory-Heart-Rate-Zone-Screen

The Orangetheory Concept

Orangetheory® was developed in the US by Ellen Latham and is a high-energy, interval training based group training class.

What’s particularly unique about it, besides the super sleek, state-of-the-art studio and equipment, is that it is a heart rate monitored session.

During the workout, you wear a chest strap with a heart rate monitor. Your heart rate, along with everyone else’s in the class, is displayed on screens in the studio, which tell you your heart rate, % of max heart rate, and colour indicates which heart rate zone you are working in. You can also see an estimate of calories burned.

Getting such immediate, visual, data-driven feedback on your workout is incredibly motivating.

The session aims to take your heart rate to a target zone - the Orange Zone - to stimulate metabolism.

Here’s how it works:

“Backed by the science of [excess] post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), our heart-rate monitored training is designed to keep heart rates in a target zone that spikes metabolism and increases energy. The result is the Orange Effect – more energy, visible toning and extra fat and calorie burn for up to 36 hours after your workout!”

Orangetheory-Islington-Studio-David-Lloyd
Orangetheory-Islington-Studio-David-Lloyd

The Orangetheory Workouts

Each workout is divided into intervals of cardiovascular and strength training.

The workout that I did alternated between time on a treadmill (one of the few treadmill sessions in my entire life that I have enjoyed) and resistance training using a mixture of freeweights, TRX and bodyweight. There was also an option to use the rowing machines (added incentive: David Lloyd clubs use the WaterRowers, which are a dream!).

All classes on a given day will be the same workout. However, they change from day to day in terms of what equipment is used, what exercises are performed, and what the split between cardio and resistance is.

The studio doesn’t advertise what focus any of the classes are scheduled to take. This prevents people from only booking on to classes that they favourite and training in ways that they are probably already pretty used to (something that I would most likely be entirely guilty of).

Instead, the Orangetheory trainers want people to benefit from all-round fitness training.

Orangetheory-Polar-HRM-Report

My Verdict

I absolutely love Orangetheory.

My only tiny criticism is that without undergoing lab testing, calculations of your max heart rate, and therefore heart rate zones, can’t be 100% accurate. Here, they are based on a standard formula. But, taking all of the awesomeness of this workout into account, it’s damn close enough!

The concept of a heart-rate monitored group workout is brilliant. I love getting immediate, genuinely useful feedback based on actual data. It’s a great motivator during class, and enables the trainer to respond to you more personally, too.

During class, there are lots of names on the board, but it doesn’t matter. Your heart rate zones won’t be the same as anyone else’s, so the only person that you’re competing against is yourself.

It’s so easy to become completely immersed in the experience of the class.

It’s great that the workout design is based around the physiological theory of EPOC. It makes the sessions a brilliant choice if you’re looking to lose weight.

I’m not looking to lose weight, so the instructor estimating how many calories I was going to burn post-workout was slightly terrifying (I struggle to eat enough calories anyway!).

However, knowing that this was due to pushing myself into higher heart rate zones was thrilling. My goals are to really improve my aerobic and anaerobic fitness, and this workout gives me a very visible and stimulating structure with which to do that.

I also like that I was emailed a report following the session, so that I can also compare data across classes and aim for improvements.

I wish that I had a studio closer to where I live or work so that I could go more often!

David-Lloyd-Orangetheory-Studio

Where To Find Orangetheory

I attended a class at David Lloyd’s Islington Orangetheory studio. There are also studios in Aldgate, Enfield and Winchester.

What're your thoughts on Orangetheory?

Are Fruit Snacks Actually Good For You?

Nutrition + SupplementsNatalie Goodchild1 Comment
Fruit-Snacks-Urban-Fruit-BEAR

We all know the abundant dangers of sugar. There’s plenty of information circulating the internet that I don’t need to regurgitate it here. Suffice to say, the negative impacts that sugar can have on your health are abundant.

Lately, the media has warned that fruit snacks ‘contain more sugar than Haribo’.

I love Haribo as much as the next person, and on the rare occasion that I choose to indulge, I know what I’m letting myself in for.

When it comes to ‘real fruit’ snacks, however, it’s a different story. Many fruit-based snacks are actually processed and high-sugar, sneaking into your shopping basket under the guise of having ‘natural’ or ‘real’ ingredients that contribute to your five-a-day.

Fruit

Fruit as it occurs naturally is great for you. It contains natural fruit sugars but also a high amount of vitamins and minerals that are really beneficial to your overall health.

Here’s how the sugar content in some different fruit compares (per 100g):

Banana - 12g

Apple - 10g

Pineapple - 10g

Cantaloupe melon - 8g

Strawberries - 4.9g

Fruit-Snacks-Healthy-Urban-Fruit-BEAR

Natural Fruit Snacks

Fruit snacks have to be processed to some extent, but my favourite ones are processed very minimally through processes such as drying or ‘squishing’.

The important thing here, is that they don’t have other ingredients added.

As they are fruit, they do of course contain natural fruit sugars. While this is preferable to processed, added sugar, it’s worth being a little mindful of the quantity that you consume.

These fruit snacks have a higher percentage of sugar per 100g compared to fruit in its original state as they are dried or pressed, removing the water content that would otherwise make up a large proportion of the weight.

When I’m on-the-go and need a satisfying and convenient snack, my favourite fruity go-tos are Urban Fruit snackpacks, BEAR paws, nibbles and yoyos (these are usually the ‘cleanest’ snack available in coffee shops) and Fruit Bowl school bars (mainly because I’ve often found them available for £1 a box!).

Fruit-Snacks-Nutritional-Information-Sugar

Fruit Snacks To Avoid

It’s important to recognise that it’s more highly processed fruit snacks, with other added ingredients that are the problem.

To determine what you should avoid, it’s as simple as checking ingredients labels.

The worst culprits are:

Yogurt Coated Fruit Snacks

Prime example are the yogurt coated fruit flakes offered by Fruit Bowl, which contain added sugar and more processed ingredients in the yogurt-like coating.

Fruit Gummies

These include snacks such as fruit strings, fruit stars and fruit hearts from The Fruit Factory, which contain added sugar, glucose syrup and fructose syrup.

Dried Fruits Sold at Health Food Stores

What appears to be little more than dried fruit are actually ‘sugar-infused’. The worst (but, unfortunately, most delicious) nibbles of this nature are tropical fruit chunks, such as pineapple and papaya.

Some of these contain a whopping 74g of sugar per 100g!

The Verdict

What it always comes back to is balance. Whatever you eat, eat in moderation, especially if it isn’t in its most natural form.

There are some fruit snacks that are certainly better than others. However, it’s still not a great idea to eat packet after packet of them every day. They aren’t a substitute for whole fruits.

Essentially, if I’m on-the-go and need a snack, I will always opt for the least processed and most nutritious option.

While natural fruit snacks may have just as much sugar as sweets, I think it’s important to recognise that those sugars are natural and come hand in hand with micronutrients that, despite how delicious they are, gummy bears just don’t deliver.

What’re your thoughts on fruit-based snacks? Do you have a favourite?

ZMA Guide for Women

Nutrition + SupplementsNatalie GoodchildComment
ZMA-Guide-Women

I’ve been taking ZMA supplements for a while now and would consider it to be one of the essentials within my regular stack of supplements.

If you want improved sleep and better muscle recovery, as well as a range of other benefits, I recommend that you try it too.

What is ZMA?

ZMA is a supplement including zinc (‘Z’), magnesium (‘M’) and vitamin B6. It is a patented formulation used by many supplement brands.

Zinc and magnesium are critical minerals that can be hard to achieve optimal doses of in a typical diet. ZMA is a really simple and effective way to ensure that you consume effective amounts of both.

Together, zinc and magnesium are involved in functions within the body far too numerous to cover here. They are crucial for immune function, hormone regulation, cognitive function, protection against oxidative stress, normal protein synthesis and sleep, leading to a reduction in tiredness and fatigue, as well as improved recovery from exercise.

ZMA is most commonly associated with sleep improvement. However, it is often marketed as supporting healthy testosterone levels. Studies show that ZMA can be beneficial to males with low testosterone levels, though it is unclear whether there are benefits to testosterone levels beyond this.

It is important to recognise that ZMA is not a hormone in itself and won’t have steriod-like effects for women. In fact, it’s incredibly important that women maintain healthy hormone levels, including testosterone, even though the amounts are different to those of men.

The ‘A’ in ZMA stands for aspartate. Zinc, and sometimes magnesium depending on the formulation, is chemically bound with aspartic acid to create zinc aspartate, to create a more bioavailable (easily-absorbed) form of the mineral.

Vitamin B6 aids magnesium uptake and utilisation in the body.

Who Should Take ZMA

Everyone. ZMA is one of the supplements that I would consider really important and always ensure that it is part of my supplement stack. For friends and family who ask where to start with supplements, I always recommend that ZMA, alongside a couple of other supplements, are a good foundation.

Particularly if you are very active and/or train a lot, ZMA will be beneficial in aiding recovery. ZMA is most typically deficient in athletes, those who sweat a lot, and vegetarians/vegans.

How + When to Take ZMA

Instructions tend to suggest that ZMA is taken 30-60 minutes before bed, because of its role in aiding good sleep.

ZMA should not be taken with dairy or any other calcium-containing food or supplements. This is because calcium blocks the absorption of zinc. It’s often recommended that ZMA is taken on a completely empty stomach for optimal absorption.

My Verdict

The most obvious way that taking ZMA has helped me is through better sleep.

My sleep cycle used to be terrible to the point where I would get anxiety about going to bed, knowing that I’d be lying awake for ages.

Taking ZMA helped me get to sleep quicker, sleep deeper and through that, establish a more stable sleep cycle. I also feel more alert upon waking in the morning.

This has in turn improved my recovery from training as well as my general mood and energy levels.

Monitoring Protein Intake with MyFitnessPal

Health Monitoring, Nutrition + SupplementsNatalie Goodchild4 Comments
Protein Intake MyFitnessPal

Monitoring Your Protein Intake with MyFitnessPal

I highlighted in my previous post on Essential Guide to Protein For Women the importance of consuming enough protein. However, monitoring how much protein you realistically consume each day can be a tricky task.

For friends and family that need a helping hand, the app that I find myself recommending time and time again is MyFitnessPal.

MyFitnessPal

MyFitnessPal is a pretty popular app. When I ‘explored’ the apple app store, MyFitnessPal was right at the top of the health and fitness section. For this reason, I kind of assumed that most people had heard of it already.

However, when I’ve recently been talking to friends about nutrition and suggesting they ‘track that on MyFitnessPal’, I’ve been met with a few blank stares.

So, for the uninitiated of you, MyFitnessPal is an online ‘Calorie Counter and Diet Tracker’.

It can be accessed through an app or an internet browser, is available for apple and android, and is free!

What does MyFitnessPal do?

Nutrition

MyFitnessPal essentially allows you to monitor all of you calories-in, nutrients and macros.

You simply search for the product that you have consumed and select from the results displayed for you.

There is a massive database of products, which means that you can more than likely find your exact ingredient, whether it’s a Waitrose organic chicken breast, or a specific brand of protein powder.

From this, MyFitnessPal can calculate and provide a breakdown of your calories, nutrients and macronutrients which are visible in simple tables and pie charts, put in perspective of your goals.

So, if you’ve worked out how many grams, calories, or percent of your diet should be protein, you can see how what you’re really eating compares.

Because MyFitnessPal breaks down each day by meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, supplements), it’s also easy to see whether you’re successfully spreading your protein intake over the course of the day.

Exercise

MyFitnessPal has an exercise diary function that may also be useful. I know that MyFitnessPal is compatible with a number of wearable fitness trackers, but I personally haven’t used this feature.

I wouldn’t recommend using MyFitnessPal to track exercise in terms of calories burned as there are so many variables involved in calculating calorie expenditure that this is likely to be massively inaccurate and misleading. Especially if your goal is weightloss, it’s nutrition that will make the greatest impact and should be your main focus.

MyFitnessPal-ScreenShots

Who is MyFitnessPal useful for?

MyFitnessPal is great for people who simply don’t know how much of what they are consuming. For my friends and family who I think aren’t consuming enough protein or who are eating unhealthily for other reasons, I suggest MyFitnessPal to increase awareness and drive motivation for improvement.

It’s also perfect for people who already know what they need to be consuming and require something to help them stay on track. It’s ideal for tracking calories consumed and macronutrient splits. This is where it comes in handy for making sure that you reach your protein goal!

Tips for using MyFitnessPal

In order to get the most out of MyFitnessPal and to become as aware as possible about what you’re putting in your body, and to make the process as simple as possible, there are a few things that I’d recommend:

Invest in some digital scales

I have an electronic kitchen scale that I used to measure out food when I started to use MyFitnessPal.

Even now, I’m pretty terrible at estimating the weights of foods, whether it’s a handful of nuts or a fillet of fish, but I’m definitely better than I was.

Weighing foods for a few days, or even a few meals, can be really eye opening and ensures that you’re getting the most accurate results from the effort that you’re putting into tracking your macronutrients and calories.

Take Photos

By taking photos of meals that you are logging on MyFitnessPal, you have a visual representation of what a certain number of calories, number of grams of protein, or quantity of sugar looks like for future reference.

It’s really useful to develop the ability to estimate the weight of ingredients or the number of calories in a meal by eye.

Create Recipes

The recipe feature on MyFitnessPal is really handy. It’s good for calculating the number of calories and the macronutrient content of dishes that would be otherwise near impossible to estimate; things like casseroles, meatloaf, pancakes, or really anything that combines multiple ingredients.

As well as providing nutritional information for your recipes that otherwise would not have a nutrition label, it’s a simple shortcut to logging frequently eaten foods.

For example, if you frequently meal prep in bulk and will be eating the same thing several days in a row, and probably again in the future, by creating a recipe you only have to input each item once.

MyFitnessPal-Monitoring

How I use MyFitnessPal

There are lots of diet and exercise trackers available, I’m sure. But I have to admit I’m unfamiliar with them. I use MyFitnessPal because it’s simple, has the biggest database of foods available, and it’s free!

I don’t use MyFitnessPal to track what I eat every day. Occasionally I’ll monitor a few days in a row, perhaps once a month, to check whether my eating patterns are sitting where they should be.

I also track when I’m eating in a way that is out of the ordinary for me, such as when I’m on-the-go a lot and grabbing convenience food, or when I’m settling into new habits such as when starting a new job or a new training regime.

I wish that MyFitnessPal had a month-to-view calendar that highlights on which days the food diary has been completed, so that I can easily refer back without scrolling through day-by-day. (If you know that this can be done, please let me know how!)

I’d never want to be completely reliant on, or obsessed with, tracking everything that I eat. But I think MyFitnessPal provides the perfect conditions for you to increase your knowledge of what you put in your body and highlight room for improvement.

If you already use MyFitnessPal, I’d love to know how you find it useful?

If you don’t already use it, I challenge you to track what you eat for a week. Where there any surprises? Did you find any ways to improve your nutrition?

Profile Protein Whey Protein Shot Review

Reviews, Nutrition + SupplementsNatalie Goodchild4 Comments
Profile Protein Whey Protein Shot Review

The Concept

Profile Protein launched last year with a really unique concept: a protein shot, not shake. This is something that I’ve never seen done before, but it makes so much sense!

Essentially, Profile Protein want to make it as convenient as possible for people to recover from exercise. Sometimes gulping down 400ml of other products after an intense training session isn’t the easiest on the stomach and can leave you feeling full and uncomfortable, so I think that this concept is amazing.

The shaker is really lovely too. It looks gorgeous, feels great to hold, and is obviously super-convenient to pop in a bag given its size.

Profile Protein Whey Protein Shot Nutritional Information

Nutritional Information + Ingredients

Profile Protein try to keep ingredients to a minimum and their protein shots contain a maximum of five ingredients:
Whey protein concentrate (incl. Soya Lecithin), Flavouring, Sucralose, Natural Colour (Strawberry & Raspberry Blend).

Each serving contains 96 calories, including around 19g of protein, 1g fat and 1g carbs. That’s pretty impressive for a shot!

Taste + Texture

There are four available flavours: chocolate, vanilla, raspberry and strawberry. I have tried them all and can attest to their deliciousness. In flavour, they reminded me of the Petit Filous fromage frais that I used to adore. The shots were sweet, but not overly so, and the flavours tasted really natural.

Profile Protein shots require just 55ml of water to mix 25g protein powder. This may sound like a miniscule amount of water, but the mixability is incredible and I’ve always experienced a smooth texture. Using such a small amount of water with other products would leave you with nothing more than a paste.

I definitely give my seal of approval on taste + texture!

Protein Protein Shot

Price

500g bags of Profile Protein shot powder are £16.99 (or £19.99 if you want to add a shaker). With 20 servings per bag, that works out around 85p per serving - not bad at all!

The Verdict

I really like the product. Ideally, I'd love to see whey isolate instead of whey concentrate, and a natural sweetener rather than sucralose in the ingredinets list. Overall though, it’s tasty and convenient, without compromising on the all-important protein quantity.

Occasionally I’ve found the little shaker a little difficult to drink out of; it’s too tiny to have a spout like a standard protein shaker so you have to remove the whole lid. This isn’t ideal when you’re drinking on-the-go, but then, with a quick shot, this isn’t a big issue.

What I love about the company itself is that the brains behind Profile Protein are a lovely husband and wife team based in Cambridge (my hometown!) who and conscious about what ingredients go into our bodies and ensure that their products are made in small batches, with lots of care.

Definitely the kind of brand that I want to have in my supplements cupboard!