Stretching: Which is the best method?

You should always warm up prior to doing exercise. Do not walk straight into the weights room and start lifting with your working weight for that day!!

stretching dynamic vs static

Main reasons to warm up:
Elevation of Baseline Oxygen consumption
Increase Core temperature
Increased Heart Rate
Improve Muscle stretch reflex
Get mentally ready for your session.

stretching dynamic vs static

There are two types of stretching: dynamic and static.

Let’s define both of these terms first.

Static: this is when you stretch a muscle for an extended period of time in one position. Static stretching relaxes your musculotendinous unit (ie muscle and attached tendon) and elongates it. An example would be a quadricep stretch when you pull your ankle up behind you and hold.

Dynamic: this is when you actively put your muscles through certain ranges of motion in order to loosen them up. A dynamic stretch routine trains your stretch relax and activates your muscle spindles. This type of stretching can include lower loads of a specific exercise or a variety of different movement patterns.

Which is best?

This depends on when you are going to perform them. I am going to look at before performing your training session.

Research has shown that dynamic stretches are far superior to static stretches if you are aiming to improve performance within a session. In fact, static stretches can actually have a negative impact on performance.

Static Stretching:

In one study by Nelson et al(2005); participants didn’t stretch at all before doing a 20metre sprint test, they then came back another time and did some static stretching before doing the same test. The results showed that the participants recorded faster times when they didn’t stretch.

Sprint times after stretching

Another study by Fowles et al (2000); looked at the relationship between static stretches and strength training. Their results showed that static stretching had a negative impact on performance for up to 60minutes afterwards!

stretching impacts on strength training

Dynamic Stretching:

Dynamic stretches are more specific as they are putting your muscles through similar ranges of motion to those which it will be using during your training session. It involves practising your muscle spindle being stretched to the correct length to perform exercises. It is also done at a greater intensity than static stretching so increases your V02, core temperature and heart rate ready for the main portion of your session.

The research from Yamaguchi and Ishii et al (2005), tested leg extension power before and after static, dynamic and no stretching at all. The results showed significant increased power after dynamic stretches, whereas power actually went down after static and non stretching.

dynamic stretching on power output

So even from this small snapshot of date, you can hopefully see that you need to stretch prior to your training session and that dynamic stretches are the method to choose.

Some of my favourite dynamic stretches which I like to perform prior to exercise, and recommended by Dr Mike Zourdos:

Lumberjacks
Shoulder Slaps
Windmills
Iron Crosses
Groiners
Bodyweight Squats
Banded Shoulder Rotations

stretching dynamic vs static

But what about injury prevention?

I am sure that you have heard that you need to stretch to prevent injuries, I think we have all been told that at one point or other in regards to exercise. However once again the evidence actually doesn’t point to this.

‘Further studies strongly suggest that muscle stretching before exercising does NOT produce meaningful reductions in risk of injury.’

But what about reducing DOMS?

DOMS stands for delayed onset muscle soreness, that feeling in your muscles after you have worked out which sometimes makes you walk a bit funny! Again, I am sure you have been told that stretching will alleviate this feeling? Nope. wrong again.

‘This systematic review finds clear evidence that stretching before or after exercise has no effect on delayed onset muscle soreness.’

stretching dynamic vs static

If you suffer from DOMs, the best thing to do is keep moving. Take yourself for a walk to get blood flowing. Don’t sit down and refuse to move due to the soreness, you will not help yourself get rid of it any sooner!

Both quotes are from paper by Herbert and Gabriel (2002) titled Effects of stretching before and after exercising on muscle soreness and risk of injury: systematic review.

But what about increasing Range of Motion?

Finally you will be pleased to hear that there is some evidence pointing to the benefits of stretching if you are looking to increase the ROM of certain muscles. A 10 week study tested those which didn’t stretch at all, versus participants who spent 40 minutes stretching 3 days per week. They performed the sit and reach test pre and post experiement. Those which had spent time stretching did improve their sit and reach score.

stretching on improved range of motion

So what are the conclusions on the best way to stretch?

#1 You should perform dynamic stretching prior to your training session

#2 This should include active mobility drills, bodyweight exercises and aim to put your joints and muscles through specific motions ready for the session.

#3 You should not perform static stretching prior to a training session if performance is your main goal.

#4 Performing stretches will not help prevent injury or DOMS.

#5 If you want to increase your range of motion then doing some stretches will help, just don’t do it before exercise!!

Any questions or comments then please leave below!

Love Abi xxxx

EDIT UPDATE: I have since recorded a Youtube video showing you my routine for warming up! Would love you to check it out 🙂

 

Images provided by SBS Academy.

Acute effects of passive muscle stretching on sprint performance. Nelson et al (2005). Read Study HERE.

Reduced strength after passive stretch of the human plantarflexors. Fowler et al (2000). Read Study HERE.

Effects of stretching before and after exercising on muscle soreness and risk of injury: systematic review. Herbert and Gabriel (2002). Read Study HERE.

The health and fitness industry is full of so many contradictions and unnecessary nonsense that it can be so hard to know what to believe and what not to believe, especially when it comes down to nutrition.

Not a day goes by when the Daily Mail doesn’t publish an article on ‘The latest superfood’, or ‘Which foods will give you cancer/live longer/be happier/lose weight faster/etc etc.’ The latest tabloid magazines print a different diet every week to follow. Celebs on social media push products which they have been paid to promote, which quite frankly are usually a bag of doodoo.

There is no wonder you are confused. So here I am just going to bust just 5 nutrition myths which I have heard countless times and want to put a stop to!!

#1 Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
No it isn’t. If you don’t like breakfast or cant eat first thing in the morning, then don’t force yourself to eat it. Overall calories are king, do what works for you.

#2 Eating clean is the only way to lose fat.
No it isn’t. Firstly, there is no such thing as clean and dirty foods. Secondly, you can still overeat ‘clean foods,’ especially the higher fat ones such as avocados and nuts. Yes, what we deem to be ‘clean’ foods such as meats, fish, vegetables, fruits etc are much higher in nutrient value and therefore are going to be better for us. But overall calories are of most importance when trying to lose fat, so you know that clean healthy protein bar which contains over 300 calories, swap it out for a protein shake and a bar of Dairy Milk and be happier.

#3 Carbs are the forbidden fruit.
No they aren’t. We need carbohydrates to function, they are our brains main source of energy. So don’t automatically cut out ALL rice, potatoes, bread, pasta etc, eat them mindfully and in accordance with your goals.

#4 You have to avoid sugar.
No you don’t. It would be near on impossible to cut out all sugar from your diet. When I hear people saying they have cut out sugar from their diet yet are still consuming huge fruit smoothies every day, or even eating vegetables, then I shake my head a little inside. Sugar is not the devil, and it is not the reason you are putting on fat. It usually comes down to the combination of sugar and fat in the highly palatable foods such as brownies, cookies, doughnuts etc. So don’t cut out sugar thinking it will work, it wont, you will just end up moody and grumpy.

#5 You need to eat little and often.
No you don’t. I feel like i am a broken record, but once again overall calories are king. If you prefer smaller more often meals then great, go for it, but if you prefer larger meals with no snacks, then great go for it. Diet is all about personal preference so find what works for you and your life and you are more likely to stick to it!

Hopefully this brief little article will have cleared up any confusion which you may have had but any questions then please let me know and I will do my best to answer them!

Love Abi xxx

Subway is probably one of the best fast food options if you are out and about and need to get something to eat. You are able to control exactly what you are having (within reason) and therefore can create your own meal according to your own needs. Need a high carb meal? Have a sub. Need a low carb meal? Big salad bowl.

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Once again subway have all their nutritional information online. Obviously these calories and macros are all guidelines as ingredients aren’t weighed out but they do give you a good idea. All calories listed are for 6inch subs unless otherwise stated!

In terms of choice of bread, there really isn’t that much between them all. Italian Herbs and cheese comes out on top calories wise, with Italian and Honey Oat at the bottom end, however there is only 45 calories between them. The Honey Oat and Wheat options do contain almost twice as much fibre than the rest though.

There is a low fat Sub menu, which includes your basics Beef, Chicken Breast, Ham, Turkey, Veggie delight etc. Any of these would make for good choices. A 6inch Turkey Breast with salad on Italian comes in at 260 calories. The chicken teriyaki on italian is the highest on this menu but still only 311 calories. Protein content of all these Subs varies between 18-28g (except Veggie delight) which is fab.

The low fat Flatbread menu, is pretty similar in terms of protein and calorie content. A chicken tikka flatbread, will be 312 calories and 26.7g protein.

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Subway also offer a few low fat sauce options such as sweet onion, honey mustard and BBQ, which are over half the calories of the ‘full flavour’ options.’

In terms of regular subs, these are not too bad either. They are a bit higher in calories and fat though. I would tend to avoid the Chicken and Bacon Ranch Melt or the Spicy Italian, 19.1g Fat and 25.2g Fat respectively. But a Steak and Cheese 6 inch sub has good macros; 8.4g Fat; 41g Carbs and 24g Protein.

If you are stopping by for breakfast, you can get a Egg and Cheese Breakfast Sub for 294 calories. But avoid the Mega melt which will set you back 507 calories and 22g Fat.

Salads are typically the best option when eating out at most places and subway is no excpetion. What is great is that you can tailor them to your favourite ingredients. But based on a standard salad bowl with chicken breast, Subway gives it 139 calories, 20g Protein, 7g Carbs and 2.4g Fat. A really low calorie but filling option.

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Client Megan loves a Subway salad when she is at work!

If you must get a sweet treat, skip the Muffins at 390 calories and go for a cookie instead at around 220 calories.

Unsurprisingly Subway is definitely one of the most macro friendly places to eat out at. You can choose either a Sub or a Salad and still not stray too far from your fitness goals!!

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‘Woooooah’ is all I am going to say after reading some of the nutritional information on Pizza Hut website! 674 calories for 6 Sweet Chilli chicken wings was one of the first things I saw, so understandably I was a bit concerned about what I was going to be able to find and whether I would be able to find any macro friendly recommendations at all! But the challenge was accepted, so here we go.

First up, what not to order!
->ANY of the sides (except the mixed leaf salad). All of the sides at Pizza Hut were on the really high calorie side, the worst offenders were the ‘Loaded Wedges with Cheese and Bacon’, ‘Cheesy Nachos’ and the ‘Sweet Chilli Chicken Breast Chunks.’ Stick to your choice of pizza and leave the sides for another time!

->ANY of the desserts; warm Cookies are my weakness, especially served with a dollar of ice cream, but the Pizza Hut version will come in at 832 calories….. on top of your pizza of choice. Let’s save that treat for another time!!

Right, now on to Pizza options. Unsurprisingly the best pizza base option is the Italian, and the highest calorie the ‘large cheesy bites’ and the ‘large stuffed crust.’ The Italian comes in 3 different sizes according to their website, small which is 6 slices, medium is 8, and large is 10 slices. So if we are trying to stick to the best options available the small size should be your go to.

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There are a few similar options calorie wise with not much to choose between them, Margherita, the Farmhouse, Beef Sizzler will all come in at around 650 calories. The Hawaiian which is a moderate 618 calories, 27g Protein; 78g Carbs and 19g Fat for a small Italian size. Personally I don’t think that is too bad!

They also do a £4 pizza which is marketed as suitable for one. A veggie delight would be the best option to choose here, 524 calories.

CYIkcU-UkAAy7mC.pngHowever on the other end of the scale there are some calorie monsters. Take for example the Meaty One. Let’s make it a large so that’s 10 slices, let’s make it a stuffed crust…guess how many calories? Nope, more…..nope, more……nope, more…..3210 calories for one pizza!! This pizza contains 170g Protein, 290g Carbs and 150g Fat. I don’t think you need me to tell you that it is probably best to swerve this one.

Best option at Pizza Hut? Definitely a small Italian pizza of some sort with a side salad. The example I have used above is just one amongst many really high calorie and fat options. On the website they list all the nutritional information per slice rather than whole pizza which perhaps gives a false impression if you are just glancing over the numbers briefly. This annoyed me slightly, the same as when food companies give the serving size as half a cookie or half a chocolate bar when giving calorie details on packaging, they should put the full amounts and stop trying to pull wool over our eyes!

If you are going to go to Pizza Hut, I would recommend that you either get a small pizza or get a medium one to share and load up on the salad available!

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#trainwithabs menu approved

Small Chicken Supreme on Italian base
624 Calories
Protein = 32g; Carbs = 78g; Fat = 19.8g

So that wraps up the couple of blog posts on best food to order at some of the nation’s favourite fast food restaurants. There were some dishes which are definitely best avoided if you are trying to reach your health and fitness goals, BUT there are certainly options out there for you if you plan ahead and choose wisely. I think it is great that these places all now list their nutritional information online so you are able to access it and figure out the best options for your nutritional goals.

As with anything, it is all about doing the best you can. For example if I knew I was going to be going to Pizza Hut for tea then I would make sure I was eating less calories the rest of the day to balance it out. Mindfulness is key.

That’s all for now.

Love Abi xxxx

#trainwithabs

I have said before that Thai food is some of my absolute favourite. I just love all the different flavours which you can get from one mouthful. They tend to base most dishes around the ‘5 flavour sensations’ of sweet, sour, salty, bitter and hot.

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I don’t cook it all that often though, but the other day I brought a tuna steak home from work and decided to pep it up a bit with a thai marinade/crust to see what it would be like. It was delicious. So the next day, I tried out exactly the same marinade with a piece of lean steak to see if the flavours would carry across the same, I am happy to report that they did and here is the recipe for you all to try out!

Like I said this has worked out great on both Tuna and Steak, but I also think it would work with other meats as well!

CHILLIMarinade Ingredients
Half Lime
1 tsp Soy Sauce
About a quarter of a red chilli (more or less depending on how spicy you like things!)
Flat leaved Parsley
Coriander
Salt and Pepper
1 tsp ready chopped garlic
1 tsp ready chopped ginger
1 tsp olive oil
* Optional: Schwartz Thai 7 Spice seasoning*
* I also think 1 tsp Fish sauce would have made this better but I didn’t have any on the cupboard!*

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CHILLIMethod
Chop up your parsley and coriander and add to a bowl along with all the other ingredients. Give it a stir and then coat whatever meat/fish you are cooking with it. Really make sure every part is covered. Cover with clingfilm and leave until you are ready to cook.
I left mine for about 3-4 hours but I would probably say a minimum of 30minutes to allow the flavours to blend together and get to the meat.

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When it comes to cooking, this will vary depending on what you have marinated. For the tuna, I seared on both sides for about a minute and then popped in the oven for 10 minutes until done. For the steak, cook for as long as you prefer, but try to only flip the once.

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This would also be perfect for a BBQ as the weather is now beginning to look a little bit nicer!

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Enjoy!

Love Abi xxx

#trainwithabs

Quinoa….I would hazard a guess that the majority of you have never tried or come across this sometimes labelled ‘superfood’? (ps no food is super/bad/good, it is just food!) But it is one of my favourite grains to cook! I love it cold in salads but my favourite way is to cook it with lots of veg and meat into a risotto type of dish! Tasty and comforting.

Quinoa

Quinoa contains twice as much protein as rice or barley, and as it contains all nine essential amino acids it’s a great choice for vegetarians or vegans to add to their diet if this is a macronutrient which they struggle to get enough of! It is also a good source of calcium, magnesium, fibre, B Vitamins and vitamin E.

A 30g uncooked portion contains 3.5g Protein, 15g Carbohydrates and 1.5g Fat.

Don’t be afraid of cooking it, it honesty isn’t that hard!

I whipped this dish up after work in about 15-20minutes total. I don’t know what to particularly call it as it is basically just a pan of tasty ingredients mixed together, but we will go with; ‘Colourful Quinoa.’ (I am not the most creative!)

This dish includes one of my favourite ingredients…sundried tomatoes. I used to love buying them fresh from the market when I lived in Spain for the year. They add SO much flavour to any dish, food shouldn’t be bland and boring!! However be careful when purchasing from the supermarket – you want to get them in a zip locked packet rather than the jars of them in oil! I am going to have a go at making my own one day!

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Here is the recipe; you could add any veg which you have lying about, or even some chunks of feta if you want to make it super creamy and oozy!

saucepan-hiIngredients:
Cooking Spray
20g Chopped Red Onion
Ready chopped garlic
Sundried Tomato Paste
100g Uncooked Chicken Breast sliced thinly
30g Uncooked Quinoa
100g Chopped Mushrooms
30g Plum Tomatoes
10g Sundried Tomatoes
1 Laughing Cow cheese triangle
50g Baby Spinach
Salt and Pepper

saucepan-hiMethod:
In a saucepan, spray some frylight cooking spray and add the chopped red onion, half a teaspoon of the chopped garlic and a squeeze of the sundried tomato paste. Stir with a little bit of water until the onion softens a little bit.

Add the chicken and stir until cooked.

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Add the quinoa and chopped sundried tomatoes to the pan and cover the mixture with water. Allow the quinoa to cook, it usually takes about 10-15minutes but check the cooking instructions on your packet!

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In a separate pan, add the mushrooms with some more garlic, salt and pepper and sweat down until they become nice and soft. Once ready add to the quinoa mix.

When you think quinoa is cooked, add the chopped plum tomatoes, then add the spinach and allow to wilt down before stirring in. Break up the laughing cow and stir once again to start melting. Add salt and a lot of black pepper to taste and then serve up!

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I added a side more of broccoli and asparagus to bulk up the meal with some more greens!

Total Calories: 269

Macros:

32g Protein
21g Carbs
5g Fat

If you do cook quinoa, how do you do it? Do I need to experiment and try different ways?

If you have any other recipe requests then I am always open to suggestions!

 

Love Abi xxx

#trainwithabs