Sarah’s Fitness Journey – Part 1

As a kid I was really active. My favourite things to do was riding bikes, climbing trees, playing football and running around. As a teenager this developed into playing a lot more sports, which I tried everything from sailing to water polo. I was a really keen football player and when I was 16, I had just completed my first season for a Women’s club team, when I contracted glandular fever. This stopped me completely. I couldn’t do anything! Bed ridden for months, very weak and very sick. I still suffered the effects of Glandular fever for over a year afterwards and would commonly take Monday’s off school as I was too exhausted after a normal weekend. Even after I got better, I was not allowed to play football again for 6 months as the risk of hitting my kidneys (that could be fatal), was too high.

This devastated me as football was what I loved and the only exercise I really did. Before all that, I had joined the school gym previously for 6 months and went a huge total of 2 times! The gym environment I thought was not for me, but now I look back, no one actually took the time to show me what to do, so I just felt lost.

Fast forward a good year and my mum past away very suddenly. I was suddenly faced with the task of finding a new home, becoming independent and at the same time as grieving for my mother (my father lives in the UK). Exercise was my LAST priority. After a while I developed a very bad habits and lifestyle of eating takeaways, morning tea pies and bingeing energy drinks! On top of all of this I was in a bit of a grief hole and was drinking a lot every weekend. I also worked at a takeaway pizza place, which did not help with free or cheap pizzas readily available. The weight piled on and it was another good 12 months until I said enough is enough and set about changing my lifestyle.

I firstly thought that I could get fit by joining my old football team. My first game back was the hardest of my life. I remember not being able to breathe, lungs screaming and the player I was meant to be marking always 5 meters in front of me. I had the coach yelling at me from the sideline “GO ANDREWS!”, but I was so unfit I literally could not keep up and felt like I let the team down.

I then joined a gym with a friend and shadowed them around the gym for a bit. I started lifting weights and really got a kick out of how lifting made me feel. Overall, I got a lot stronger but I was not seeing the results I really wanted. That’s when I took an offer from a personal trainer at my gym, Jae, for an 8 week challenge. This ultimately changed my life.

Looking back, I was quite a bad client. I would often ring him last minute to cancel our appointment as I honestly wanted to sleep in (sorry Jae!, I was not a morning person). When I was there though, I worked hard. The hardest part of all for me was actually the nutrition. I learnt that I was not nourishing my body and seeing calories as just a fuel. We would complete food diaries and I would write down, just a banana for breakfast and a small V and a Moro bar for morning tea! WHAT! Looking back now, that seems crazy and Jae was quick to point out that it was not ideal. I still have my exercise folder from that challenge and have never shown anyone as I am too embarrassed. My eating was not great until the last few weeks. Even though that was the case, I still got results! My body fat decreased, my muscles grew, I lost CM’s from everywhere and my strength increased. I went from only being able to do 15 push ups MAX, (on my knees) to 32 on my feet! The most surprising was that my weight also decreased, but not by much as I had thought as I had built muscle mass! I also found muscles that I did not know I had. Just imagine what I could have achieved if I took the nutrition seriously from the beginning.

I continued my fitness journey by seeing Jae regularly and also keeping up with my own workouts. I carried on doing a mix of weights, cardio and playing football. After a few years I realised that I loved the way I felt and wanted to help other people find their love for exercise and achieve their goals, so I went to university. I completed a degree in Sport and Recreation at AUT and have not looked back.

One particular memory I have is after about a year of my fitness journey, I went back to my old favourite bakery (where my love of pies began) and the lady recognised me in there after not going for almost a year and a half (I purposely stayed away). She was like “long time no see! How are you?” I laughed and politely told her that her great pies made me fat and purchased a sandwich. A matter of fact, it wasn’t the pies that made me fat, but my overall lifestyle and not understanding the energy balance equation.

These days I do strength and circuit training in the gym, pretend to run occasionally, slowly getting back into playing football (after having my second boy last year,) dabbling in some regular mountain biking and paddle boarding when the weather is right.

Notable achievements:  13 football seasons, 1 x 12Km event, 6 x half marathons, 2 x Tough Mudder (18km), Step Up Stair Challenge – fastest female team in 2019 and have 2 beautiful children.

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The Fat Burning Zone

You might of heard people talking about or seen it written on cardio equipment, this mysterious “fat burning zone”. What does this even mean?!

To understand this better we need to know how about the 3 different energy systems and how they produce energy.


  1. The Phosphagen System / ATP-PC System


This energy system uses phosphocreatine (PC) that is stored within the tissues of the body. This system does not require oxygen and works very fast. As your cells don’t store a lot of PC the amount of energy is limited to around 10 seconds of max exertion. Eg. Max effort sprints


  1. The Glycolytic System / Anaerobic Lactic Energy System

This energy system can produce energy quite quickly and utilizes carbohydrates in the form of blood glucose and stored glycogen to produce energy. This system also does not require oxygyen and is utilized for activity from around 10 seconds – 90 seconds.


  1. The Oxidative System / Aerobic System

This energy system requires oxygen and can produce a lot of energy. The Aerobic system is used for exercise of lower intensity cardiovascular exercise. With this system, although it predominantly burns fat, a supply of carbohydrate is required for the breakdown of fat into energy.  The ratio of how much fat vs carbohydrates that are utilized during exercise is determined by the duration of exercise along with your training experience.  More intense workouts tend to burn more carbohydrates for fuel, whereas longer less intense exercise will burn a higher ratio of fat.


It is important to remember that with exercise, the body utilizes a mix of all three of these systems. The method that is used to create energy depends on the type of activity and its intensity and duration.

Therefore, now we know about the energy systems, we can understand that this “fat burning zone” is when we train within our aerobic system using longer, less intense exercise.

In regards to your heart rate zone you ideally need to be working between 65% – 85% of your max heart rate (MHR).


How do you work this out?

To find out what your individual fat burning zone heart rate range is, depends on your age. To simply work out your MHR:

220 – Age = MHF

For example, I am 34. My MHR is 220 – 34 = 186 beats per minute

My 65% is: 120 BPM / 85%: 158 BPM


Heart rate ranges simplified:

90 – 100% of MHR – Develops maximum performance and speed

80  – 90% of MHR – Increases maximum performance and capacity

70 – 80% of MHR – Improves aerobic fitness

60 – 70% of MHR – Improves basic endurance and fat burning

50 – 60% of MHR – Improves overall health and helps recovery


At the end of the day, fat loss is about our daily energy balance and an important part of this is our nutrition. Simply we want to move more and eat slightly less to create a calorie deficit (energy in vs energy out). While you may be focused on fat, it’s still important to elevate your heart rate into the vigorous zone from time to time. Working harder strengthens your cardiovascular system and burns more calories than moderate activity.

Bouts of higher intensity exercise can help our energy balance by burning more calories (in less time too) during exercise and therefore creating a calorie deficit that way. Resistance/weight training we use our muscles and create an “after burn effect” which elevates our metabolism for up to 48 hours exercise.

Exercising in all three energy systems offers lots of benefits, regardless of your goal or your method of training. If you’re a cardio girl, adding resistance training into your week can boost power and reduce the risk of injury. If you typically resistance train, adding cardio can help with your endurance and therefore increasing your training volume. Either way, creating variety within our planned exercise can guarantee we are seeing the best results and become the best human possible.



“Fitness HQ for Women mission is to provide women of all walks of life an environment where they can feel empowered to live a healthier lifestyle. We provide over 20 Group Fitness classes, personal training and a 24-hour main gym.”


How to get the best results – progressive overload

What is Progressive Overload?

Progressive overload is a strength training principle to make your workouts more challenging overtime. We have a saying in the gym “Do the same, never change”. This doesn’t mean changing your exercise or program everyday or week. But to change something to make the exercise more intense and therefore beneficial.

By changing the way you exercise, it can hinder plateaus, help you gain strength, encourage muscle growth, and build endurance. This is what you need to become fitter, faster, stronger, increase muscle mass, increase the “after burn effect” and therefore how many calories we burn at rest too (BMR).


There a lot of different ways to progressive over load:

  • Using a heavier weight for the same exercise. Make sure if you are lifting heavier, your technique is still perfect and not compensating by swinging and using other muscles to assist.
  • Add more repetitions to your exercise. If last week you could do 10 reps, try slightly more e.g. 12, 15 etc.
  • Add more sets. Do another round of the exercise to get more volume. By adding more sets you can significantly burn the muscle out more and get closer to failure. If you usually do 3 sets of 12 repetitions, try 4 sets next time.
  • Change the tempo of the movement. Try slowing down the movement to create more time under tension and fatigue the muscles. You can try slow negatives or pausing at the bottom of the movement. Just remember that doing negative reps (e.g. 5 sec on lowering stage) needs more recovery time.


The national academy of sport recommends increasing your volume by no more than 10% each week. For example, if you are currently barbell squatting 50kg and that is not challenging for you any more, try 55Kg the next week. Progressive overload is the key to building strength faster, break through plateaus and make your workouts more efficient.

If you are unsure how to progressive overload safely, consider using one of our personal trainers and get that push you need.



“Fitness HQ is a locally owned and operated boutique gym in the heart of Albany. With 24 hour access, you can get fit, when it fits you!”

Why am I not losing weight?!

A lot of women don’t have an accurate picture of what “enough” food really is, especially when trying to lose weight. A big reason for women not losing the weight they desire is because of undereating.

There’s this ongoing myth that women should not eat more than 1200 calories a day. This makes little sense when you consider the wide variety of body sizes and goals among different women. You might have also heard the saying “calories in vs calories out” or “energy in vs energy out”. This is a very simplified equation of how to lose weight. Meaning what food, we put in our body vs how much we burn.


Our energy expenditure is made up of 4 elements:

  • BMR: Basic metabolic rate – how much energy we use just doing daily bodily functions.
  • NEAT: Non-exercise activity thermogenesis – How much energy we expend doing daily activity (eg. Daily steps, playing with the kids).
  • TER: Thermic effect of food – How much we burn from digesting food.
  • PA: Physical activity – Planned bouts of exercise eg. gym sessions, planned walks, etc.


We often make the mistake of believing that it’s easy to calculate the calories “in” (what we eat) and the calories “out” (what we expend). We think “If I burn all these extra calories working out, and eat much less, I’ll easily burn fat”. In reality, eating too little can instead hinder fat loss, strength gain as well as energy levels, and overall health.

Undereating may be hindering your progress, whether that is weight loss, or increasing your muscle strength or size. It can also diminish your power in training sessions. Our body is an adaptable machine – it wants to feel “safe”, with survival as its top priority, it is constantly regulating how it responds to its environment. So, to conserve energy and direct calories to essential functions for survival, your body will resort to burning fewer calories, even as you’re exercising regularly and intensely.

When calories are scarce, your body will prioritize essential functions such as regulating your body temp and blood pressure over other functions like rebuilding muscle tissue.

Undereating can also affect your recovery, which is just as important as the training itself. When you exercise especially with weights, you’re breaking down muscle tissue, and without adequate calories and protein intake, your muscles won’t have the materials it needs to rebuild. Your body may also turn to protein already in your muscles for the fuel it needs. Remember that if you have more muscle mass, you not only are fitter, faster, stronger and look good you also have a higher BMR (resting metabolism). Undereating can also lead to disturbed sleep and getting good quality sleep is essential for recovery after a tough training session. Poor sleep can lead to fat retention.

If fat loss is your main goal, then the main thing that matters is being in a sustainable calorie deficit. You eat slightly less than you burn, and your body will tap into stored body fat for the extra calories. For best results aim for a few hundred calories – 300 to 500 max below your estimated needs, about 10 – 20% max.

To stay in a calorie deficit more easily, focus on eating lots of Protein (meat, fish, poultry, eggs) Try and get your carbs from sources like sweet potatoes, potatoes, rice, and beans and fill your plate with non-starchy veggies, and leafy greens to help you feel fuller for longer.


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Are carbs evil?

Carbs (carbohydrates) are everywhere, not just in ‘evil’ bread, rice or pasta but they are also found in most things including nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruit, dairy, lollies, and soft drinks. Often when people are making a conscious choice to lose weight, they immediately cut carbohydrates from their diet, thinking that carbs are the reason they have gained weight. This is not true!

Carbs are an essential macronutrient. They provide us with fuel in the form of glucose, which is used by the body and brain for energy.  The body can produce and use Ketones when glucose is not available (Keto diets) and are made from fat stores and certain proteins.  However, very high levels of ketones can make the blood acidic and can lead to serious illness.  It is also important to know, that when glucose is inadequate the body also creates glucose from certain proteins leading to a breakdown of muscle.

There are two types of carbs: Complex (good) or Simple (Bad)

Complex (good, low GI) carbs require our bodies to work harder to digest, and the energy produced is released over a longer time.  They are high in fiber and nutrients, are a low glycemic index food, help you feel full with fewer calories, and naturally stimulates metabolism.

Good Carbs: Vegetables, Whole fruits, whole grains, nuts & seeds, Legumes, and Root vegetables.

Simple (bad, high GI) carbs are digested quickly into our body.  Energy is stored as glycogen and if it’s not used immediately gets converted to fat.  Bad carbs are generally ‘processed’ food.  They’re low in fiber and nutrients, have a high GI, are empty calories converted to fat, high blood glucose levels = feel tired.

Bad Carbs: Sugary drinks, Fruit juices, white bread & white rice, regular pasta, cakes & cookies and other sweet treats, deep fried food and potato chips.

The general problem with carbohydrates is that we overconsume them. It is too easy to put two massive scoops of rice or potato on our plates for our dinners and consume unhealthy sweet “pick-me-up” snacks throughout the day. Carbs should ideally be between 45 – 65% of your daily calories which can equate to around 40g – 75g for each main meal, depending on your body weight and energy needs. Vegetables are technically a carbohydrate. However, vegetables contain a huge amount of water content, so can be very full, with very few calories. Plus the vitamins, mineral, and fibre = bonus!

Overall it is best to consume more complex, slower-burning carbs in our diets. These are not only better in terms of nutrients but will also keep you fuller for longer and prevent overeating. Cutting down on simple carbs is recommended as they spike blood sugar levels, which does not sustain our hunger and energy levels for very long. Remember that life is about balance, as long as you are good 80% of the time, you can enjoy the odd treat now and again.

“Fitness HQ for Women mission is to provide women of all walks of life an environment where they can feel empowered to live a healthier lifestyle. We provide over 20 Group Fitness classes, personal training and a 24-hour main gym.”

Benefits of Water

How many of you have felt thirsty today? Now the weather is colder, the desire to drink water throughout the day gets a bit harder. Well did you know, by the time you actually start feeling thirsty your body is in fact already dehydrated? The thirst you are experiencing is your body’s way of calling out to you to rehydrate your body.

Our body is composed of 60% water, which means when we are dehydrated our body’s water composition is less than that of 60% and closer to 58-56% water composition. Although this may not seem like much it is important to note that all systems within our body do not function as well without the proper water intake.

We all know that we need to consume water on a daily basis. That saying about 8 glasses a day has been drilled into us, but why do we need it? What does water actually help with?

Researchers have discovered that by keeping our body hydrated we can maintain a better mood. Drinking more water also enables you to think clearly throughout the day helping you develop a better mindset for the day and in turn make you happier.

In a sporting context, an increase in water intake can help you perform better. Proper hydration contributes to increased athletic performance. Not only due to the fact that it keeps you hydrated throughout your workout but 75% of our muscle tissue is comprised of water! Lack of water intake or dehydration can also lead to weakness, fatigue, dizziness, and electrolyte imbalance.

Now the point you’ve all been waiting for… keeping well hydrated has been linked to weight loss. Sometimes we think we are hungry when actually we are thirsty. Our body just starts turning on all the alarms when we ignore it. For those of you trying to drop some kgs, staying hydrated can serve as an appetite suppressant and help with weight loss. It will also keep your digestive system healthy and functioning properly. We clear waste through urine and sweat, so if we aren’t drinking enough water we aren’t flushing out all the waste our bodies don’t need. Water is also essential for proper circulation of nutrients throughout our bodies (water-soluble vitamins). Water serves as one of the body’s transportation system and when we are dehydrated things just can’t get around as well.

For any of you out there that seem to have sore joints throughout the day or just when you are working out, I have some good news for you! Drinking water can reduce pain in your joints by keeping the cartilage soft and hydrated.

And last but not least adequate water intake throughout the day can help with your skin, it can give you your natural glow, obviously not literally but figuratively. Our skin is the largest organ in our body. Regular and plentiful water consumption can improve the colour and texture of your skin by keeping it building new cells properly. Drinking water also helps the skin do its job of regulating the body’s temperature through sweating.

If plain water is not your thing or it gets boring, try infusing your water with some no sugar water drops or try adding fresh fruit to it to flavour it a little (try slices of lemon, limes or sprigs of mint).


10 Benefits of more water:

  1. Weight loss
  2. Your skin will glow
  3. Better performance and productivity
  4. No more headaches and migraines
  5. Replaces lost electrolytes which are thought to prevent cramping
  6. Helps digestion and bowels
  7. Improves your immune system
  8. Relives fatigue by flushing our toxins
  9. Reduces risk of bladder and colon cancer
  10. Helps aches and pains


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Should I be taking protein powder?

One of the most common questions we get at the gym, is should I be taking protein powder?

Why protein is important in our diet.

Protein IS NOT just about building muscle and is only needed by bodybuilders. Protein is one of the three macronutrients (the other two being fats and carbohydrates), which means your body needs it in a relatively large amount and is vital for the body. Protein is the building blocks of the body and is used to repair everything. Your bones, muscles, cartilage are all repaired by protein. And your skin, hair and nails are mostly made from proteins (keratin, collagen, and elastin). Fats and Carbohydrates are stored in your body, but Protein is not, which means it needs a fresh supply every single day.  Even if you don’t exercise, your body still needs protein to regenerate and repair different cells in your body.


Use of Protein Powder

Whey protein powder is actually a bi-product from casein and cheese manufacture. people like to use protein powder, mainly out of convenience. You may not always be in the position to roast a chicken, pan fry some steak, or boil up some beans. This is when you can utilise protein powder to give you a good serving of protein, without cooking, prepping and refrigerating. Also, protein powder is very economical in comparison to buying meat.

It is recommended that you eat a minimum of 0.8 x your body weight (KG), up to x 2 of your bodyweight. Athletes who are strength training are near the higher end and also people who are recovering from serious wounds or injuries. Women especially tend to be very low in their daily protein amounts.

Consuming more protein in our diets can really help with satiety, which in turn, helps with weight loss. By consuming protein we tend to keep ourselves fuller for longer and tend not to overeat. A study has also shown that participants that consumed a high protein breakfast did not overeat at the end of the day.



Examples of Protein:

Some examples of this (using calories just as a comparison for how much protein you get for the number of calories you consume) are as follows:

  • 2 Eggs: 14g of protein
  • Serving of black beans: 8g
  • Piece of fish: 20g
  • A thin slice of shaved ham: 2.9g of protein
  • 2 Vegetarian Sausages: 8.4g of protein
  • ½ cup of Lentils: 9g of protein
  • Baked Beans: 10.8g of protein
  • A serving of broccoli: 3g
  • 1 glass of milk: 3.4g of protein
  • 10 almonds: 2.5g of protein
  • Milo “Protein Clusters” Cereal: 5.5g protein
  • 2 scoops of Horley’s 100% Whey Vanilla protein powder: 18.6g of protein
  • Chicken breast: 30g


When should you use protein powder?

Whenever you want! Protein shake for breakfast, or morning tea, or afternoon tea, or for dessert! That’s the great thing about protein powder, it’s quick, easy, and versatile! You can have it alone with water, make it a smoothie by adding some berries or half of a banana, or you can even put it in some yoghurt and make a thick  flavoured mousse! If you are rushing around in the morning a protein shake can be a convenient good option or even as a post-workout snack.


At the end of the day, you don’t need protein powder. There are many foods high in protein that would let you reach your goal easily! However, Protein powder is usually lower in calories, super tasty (if you find the right one!), and convenient! If you need to up your protein intake and want convenience, definitely give protein powder a try!



“Fitness HQ for Women is a New Zealand owned and operated gym in the heart of Albany, North Shore. Our services include group fitness classes, personal training, and providing a 24-hour access boutique women-only gym”

Fitness Equipment that we can’t train without



Resistance Bands: At the start of every workout, I like to activate my lower and upper body with resistance bands. They come in two forms: mini bands and longer resistance bands. Mini bands are great for putting around your knees and doing glute activation exercises. You can do so many different moves like crab walks, seated hip abductions, and squat pulses. I start every leg day with these exercises as they’re perfect for warming up and activating those stubborn glutes!

The longer resistance bands are so versatile. Looping them around the cable machine or the Olympic bar can create a tool for warming up the shoulders and back. You can also use them to do squats, lunges, good mornings, and donkey kicks to fire up the glutes! Bands can also be a great way to put extra resistance into exercises and make them harder. They can be utilised by giving tension through different parts of the range of motion or certain areas of it.

Ask us to show you the different ways to add some variety to your warm-up.


Kettle Bells: One hand clean & press, upright rows, kettlebell swings; so many exercises to do with one piece of equipment! A whole-body circuit can be done with just one kettlebell. Compared to dumbells, kettlebells have a big ball for the base which can make the movement less stable and promote more core activation. They’re awesome for explosive movements, fun cardio and are a great tool to use during a class.


Olympic Bar: I used to be intimidated by the Olympic bar, but once I learned where to position it on my back, I was good to go! If you want to increase your strength and gain muscle, exercises such as back squats, deadlifts, and hip thrusts are awesome to do with the bar. You do not need to put a lot of weight onto the bar if you don’t feel comfortable. Start with just the bar (20kg), then gradually increase your weight as you become stronger.

I use the Olympic bar every time I train legs as it’s great for compound movements (using more than one muscle group at a time). Compound movements not only use lots of muscle groups but also burn lots of calories at the same time. Use the bar pad to make exercises like hip thrusts more comfortable.

Don’t forget that you can get a complimentary personalised weight program every 8 weeks. See us at reception to book in and perhaps we can show you some cool exercises with these pieces of fitness equipment.


“Fitness HQ is a locally owned and operated boutique gym in the heart of Albany. With 24 hour access, you can get fit, when it fits you!”


How to take the dread out of the dreadmill (a.k.a treadmill)


Winter has just arrived and the weather is certainly changing! The temperature has certainly dropped and the rain and wind will be here soon! Outdoor running starts to feel like it’s not even an option anymore so it’s time to hit the treadmill. But, to many people running for 45 minutes or so on a treadmill does not sound like a lot of fun.

So here are a few ways to mix up your running on the treadmill this winter:

  • BLAST the upbeat music. I would highly recommend creating a playlist of your favourite upbeat tunes or discover new upbeat music to listen to as you run. This can be really motivating and get you in a great headspace to beat your PB or even just get you past the first 10 minutes! Spotify has some great running playlists already made too.


  • Podcasts! I find running to a podcast so motivating and distracting from the fact I’m running. Find a topic you’re interested in whether that be health & fitness, crime stories, comedy etc. and I’m sure there will be a great podcast available.


  • Watch a video. Now you need to be careful with this one because you don’t want to fly off the end! Find a YouTube video or Netflix episode, set up your phone/tablet on the front of the treadmill, plug your headphones in and run! This is a great distraction that makes time go a lot faster. We all spend hours on the couch binge-watching TV series at some point over winter so why not burn some calories too.


  • Interval train. Breaking your runs up on the treadmill can make it a lot more interesting and feel a lot quicker. Going for a slow distance run often feels like hours on a treadmill when it’s only been 20 minutes… so why not smash a half an hour session at a higher intensity and mix up your runs. Pick a speed that challenges you and run at that pace for 2 minutes. Because this is a higher speed than you normally run at, 2 minutes should be enough to get your heart rate up and leave you feeling puffed. Now break this run-up with 1 minute of slower speed or power walking. Continue this for 10 minutes. Now increase the running time to 3 minutes and repeat. Mix up your interval training to what speeds and intervals suit you but remember to challenge yourself!


  • Find a buddy. If your bestie goes to the same gym then why not arrange treadmill running/walking dates and coffee. Walk and talk is something a lot of females love to do. So why not do it on those rainy winter days side by side on a treadmill. Challenge each other or even race to keep it interesting. Sometimes having someone with you to support you and distract you makes it that little bit better.


  • Set goals. Running on a treadmill is a lot different from running outdoors. You might discover you can run a lot further and faster on a treadmill. So, set yourself some goals to aim for and smash them before the end of winter. Whether that be distance goals, time goals, or amount of times you run a week goals!


“Fitness HQ prides itself on a safe place for ladies to feel comfortable, motivated and supported towards their health and fitness goals. With over 20 group fitness classes per week, there is something for everyone!”

Importance of a good breakfast

Many of us find excuses in the morning for skipping a good breakfast whether that be you don’t have time, you can’t eat that early in the morning, or just not having food available. However, these are all excuses we should work on changing because starting your day off with a nutrient-filled breakfast comes with so many benefits! With health trends continuously changing we often overcomplicate things as simple as breakfast with fasting, no carbs before lunch and juice cleanses etc. When it comes down to it as long as you’re not eating sugary crap (a lot of common cereals!) or a gas station pie you’re most likely fueling your body with some of the nutrients it needs.

What is breakfast?

Breakfast broken down means break the fast. Overnight when you are sleeping your body is in a phase of fasting which gives your body time to digest, replenish and restore blood sugar balance. Breakfast in the morning breaks this fast and gives your body energy to carry out the new day. When you skip breakfast your body basically has no fuel to run on and this can lead to overeating, sugar cravings, and low energy.

Importance of a good breakfast

  • Breakfast helps to set up your day by providing your body with the nutrients it needs. In the morning your body’s blood glucose level is low from fasting through the night. A good breakfast in the morning helps to increase your blood glucose level which gives you energy to start your day.
  • Breakfast can help with preventing weight gain. This is because fueling your body in the morning and giving yourself energy for the day can help maintain your hunger levels so you will often snack less. Excessive snacking because you have not eaten a substantial meal is a common cause of weight gain.
  • Nutritionally balanced meals for breakfast helps to maintain high brain activity more than skipping out on breakfast or drinking a high sugar drink. This can lead to improved concentration throughout the day and make it a lot easier to remember the small things we often lose track of.
  • There has been a lot of research done around whether skipping breakfast can increase your risk of diabetes and there has been a fair bit of evidence supporting this. When you start your day with a nutritious meal you increase your insulin levels which have decreased overnight. Increasing your insulin levels with a meal when you first wake up can help to prevent an insulin spike later in the day when you have lunch. Continuous insulin spikes can be bad for your health and can induce prediabetes.
  • Having a good breakfast in the morning helps to ensure you get the right amount of nutrients in the day. Quite often people do not get enough fruit and vegetables in their diets, so beginning your day with some fruit or veg will make a good contribution to your 5+a-day!

Healthy breakfast ideas

Eating a good breakfast doesn’t need to be complicated!! Here are some of my favourite breakfast ideas that can be quick and easy!

  • Homemade granola served with Greek yogurt and blueberries (or any other fruit). This is super simple and can be prepared the night before and kept in the fridge to grab and eat on the go.
  • Scrambled eggs with a slice of wholegrain toast. Scrambled eggs can be super quick, whisk them with a fork and a bit of milk and either cook on a frypan or in the microwave on low heat for a few minutes. Even better is mixing in some spinach for extra goodness.
  • Overnight oats topped with nuts and seeds. This is a great source of fiber and made the night before makes it easy to grab and go.
  • Chia puddings with berries. Just like overnight oats made the night before! Mix a bunch of chia seeds with milk of choice and milk in some berries, leave in the fridge overnight and it will be like a little pudding.
  • Smoothies! Smoothies are a great way to get your fruit and veg in because you can throw everything in and often the fruit will make the smoothie sweet enough to enjoy. Add in some protein powder too and you have yourself a great breakfast that’s super easy.
  • Omelet loaded with veg can be such a filling breakfast if you have a bit more time in the morning. My favourite is filled with baby spinach, red onion, capsicum and cherry tomatoes, and basil pesto.
  • 2x boiled eggs to grab and go.

Myth-busting, Why you shouldn’t be afraid of getting bulky lifting weights

Quite often you hear women say that they don’t want to lift weights because they are worried that they will end up “bulky” but they want to get “toned” and lose fat. This is a very common misconception that women need to understand. If you lift weights, you will not suddenly look bulky. In fact, lifting weights will help to shape your body and give you definition in your muscles to give you that “tone” look.

Firstly, females have much lower testosterone levels than males which muscle bulk is largely dependent on. This is why females tend to take much longer to build muscle mass than males. Testosterone helps to stimulate muscle and tissue growth so without high levels of it, females must work much harder to develop their muscles. This is why as a female you should not be afraid of lifting weights because your hormones aren’t equivalent to males and won’t stimulate muscle growth as quickly. Muscle mass is important to help with injury prevention with age as well as metabolic benefits to help reduce high blood pressure and other health risks. That is why women should lift weights and engage in a regular resistance routine not only for the physical physique but also the health benefits that follow.

Lifting weights helps to increase your lean muscle mass which increases your metabolism and ability to burn fat. By having an increase in lean muscle mass your body burns more calories throughout the day to provide your body with energy for your everyday activities. Burning more calories per day ultimately leads to burning more fat and losing weight. Losing weight allows for the muscle definition to begin to show and therefore slowly giving the “toned” effect. Not only that but lifting weights helps to improve bone density and reduce the risks of osteoporosis as you age. Bone-forming cells are stimulated by mechanical stress placed on the bones which occurs when you are engaging in resistance or weight-based training resulting in stronger and denser bones. Bone density is extremely important to maintain as you get older as it helps to reduce bone fractures and falls which you very commonly hear of in the elderly population.

Another reason as to why you shouldn’t be worried is that females don’t tend to eat enough food especially protein to fuel their bodies and aid the process of muscle building. In order to become “bulky” you must be eating in a calorie surplus and training very hard to use that extra fuel and cause hypertrophy. Not only that but women don’t tend to lift often or heavy enough to cause such significant changes to their body, certainly not overnight. If your goal is to get fitter, stronger and “toned” then lifting weights regularly in the gym whilst eating a sufficient diet you will most likely find that you lose those stubborn few kilos and gradually see your muscle shape and definition.

Next time you’re in the gym, try up your weights and improve your strength! Don’t be afraid of it! Remember bodybuilders aren’t made overnight; female body builders work extremely hard to look the way they do, take numerous supplements to aid muscle gain, and eat a very specific diet. A couple of resistance training sessions each week is not going to make you bulk but it will help to build lean muscle mass, burn calories, lose weight, and overall look “toned”.

“Fitness HQ for Women provides a safe and supportive space for all women to work on their health and fitness. Come try one of 20+ group fitness classes, the 30-minute express circuit, personal training or workout in our awesome 24/7 main gym”

Coke Vs Coke Zero… sugar free drinks for the win?

Coca-Cola is a prime example of a high-calorie, sugar-packed fizzy drink that has very little nutritional value (vitamins and minerals). Many of us are already aware of this and opt for Coke Zero instead. But, is this really the healthier option?

The main difference between coke and coke zero is the sugar content. When drinking coke zero as opposed to regular coke, you are consuming significantly less sugar which is a positive for weight loss and reduces the risk of weight-related diseases. A study by the American Institute of nutrition found that consumption of high sugar drinks was positively associated with progression of insulin resistance and prediabetes, but no correlation was found with diet sodas.

Regular coke has a direct effect on our health and weight due to its excess sugar and calorie content. However, diet coke may not be the best alternative. Research suggests that diet coke may have indirect effects on our body that leads to weight gain and other adverse health effects.

Several studies have indicated that diet sodas may increase appetite-stimulating hormones such as ghrelin, therefore, increasing hunger. The artificial sweeteners in diet coke may also alter gut flora leading to reduced blood sugar control. Additives such as citric, malic, and phosphorus acid are present in both coke and coke zero, and have been linked to tooth erosion. Some research has also linked diet sodas to health conditions such as the increased risk of high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and heart and kidney disease.

Maybe we need to consider why we actually crave fizzy drinks in the first place?

The most common reason is dehydration – have a glass of water first, and see if your fizzy craving is reduced.

A less prevalent reason is a calcium deficiency. The phosphoric acid in carbonated drinks can leach calcium and magnesium stores out of your bones, which momentarily increases the calcium in the body but then creates a continuous cycle of depletion. This is the reason high soda consumption is linked to osteoporosis, as the leaching of minerals reduces bone density and increases the risk of fractures. It is important to have a good intake of dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, collards, bok choy, and broccoli. As well as quality dairy sources such as milk and Greek yogurt.

It is clear that there are negative aspects to both diet and regular coke. So, to maintain overall health sticking to good old water is the best bet. Both diet and regular coke should be consumed in moderation as a very occasional treat.



“Fitness HQ for women is a 24-hour women-only gym in Albany. They offer a non-intimidating space for ladies to work on their health and fitness. We love teaching group fitness, personal training and  overall helping ladies work to become the best version of themselves.”