It's not until you embark on a body sculpting journey like mine that you realise how important food is.
Not only to give you energy for all that heavy lifting, but also to rebuild muscle and actually get that toned physical look you're aspiring to have.
I've seen a good few guys at my gym who work out religiously and have great upper body strength. I'm very impressed. But then I start shifting my gaze towards their abs and realise that it's all gone a bit pear-shaped.
That's because as my trainer Tony says, "Abs are made in the kitchen."
There is no point training so hard if the food you put in your mouth is all wrong. A staggering 80% of the body composition is down to what you eat and with this in mind, I have started to take extreme note of what is in my shopping market.
People often think that just because you have a massive goal like mine, you have to chomp on boring bland food.
They think meat, fish, eggs, some fruit, bit of carrot and a few sprouts chucked in for good measure. So okay, I've kicked out wheat and gluten out of my diet. Rice, pasta, noodles and the alike have indeed all vanished.
But that has not stopped me from shopping for foods that are good for me and will help me in my body sculpting journey. What I've learned is that I have to plan a bit more and experiment with foods that are allowed on the menu. And I've found that there are lost of foods out there that can make meal times a lot more interesting.
I eat quinoa, sweet potatoes and I drink almond milk. They are all delicious.
But by far one of the best products I have come across is the mighty coconut and I'm not talking of the 'taste of paradise Bounty' bar here. I am talking about coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut flour and coconut water. This one food has amazing properties and it tastes great too.
But things are never simple when you're trying to eat healthy and this is why most people just give up. You see even when you learn a food is good for you, you have to read the ingredients and make sure it's not made from concentrate.
So after doing my homework, I've settled on the Tiana range because it's 100% organic. And since its discovery, I've adopted the lip-licking antics of Nigella, each time I'm cooking with bit.
At the risk of sounding my own horn, I've become quite a good cook actually. I make pancakes and cakes with the flour, I mix coconut milk in with my protein shakes, I make curries with the coconut oil and I swig the water straight from the can. I never once feel I'm missing out on any indulgent food.
It's just made me more aware of that there are so many food choices out there and being healthy does not mean having to compromise on taste. Yes it means I have to take time out to prepare my meals but that is nothing compared to what I will achieve at the end.
My only wish is I had discovered my passion for cooking last year before my appearance on Come Dine With Me. I'm sure with my new found skills of cooking, narrator Dave Lamb would have given me the £1000 cash reward himself.
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Also on HuffPost:
You've probably heard of Kegels before, right? By engaging your pelvic floor (act as though you're trying to stop your urine midstream) before and during any abs exercise you perform, you better engage your transverse abdominals, which act as a girdle for your entire core. This helps give you a tighter midsection -- quite literally -- all the way around!
Many times we completely zone out while working out. We're watching TV, thinking of our to-do list, or even wishing the workout was over instead of paying attention to what we're doing. By focusing on the exercise at hand, you not only are less prone to injury (no distractions so that you can listen to your body), but you also engage the mind-body connection which helps to recruit more muscle fibers, thereby improving your results.
In your average sit-up you probably come up and down and don't think much more about the movement, right? Well, when you lower down from a sit-up, pay close attention and keep your rib cage closed. This helps to "crunch" your abs more, engage your transverse abdominals, and keep your back safely supported.
Your core muscles need oxygen to work at full capacity, so be sure that you keep breathing. As a general rule, you want to inhale on the easiest part of the move (on the way down from a crunch) and exhale when you have to exert the most force (on the way up on a crunch).
Your body doesn't just work in one plane of movement, so why should your abs? Instead of always doing crunches, include abs exercises that rotate, twist and turn your body like you do in real life to build a truly strong core.
Just like you wouldn't jump in the deep end of the pool before you know how to swim, you shouldn't tackle a complicated or advanced core move on your first try. Start small by working in a smaller range of motion (holding a plank for 15-20 seconds), and then as your core strength improves and you master proper form, make the movement to larger and more difficult exercises.
Dumbbells aren't just for bicep curls! Like any other muscle, abs need to be challenged to get stronger. So if regular sit-ups aren't doing it any more (or if you have to do more than 20 to feel the burn), throw some weight into the mix and watch your results multiply.
A warmed up core is a happy core. Because your abs are tied in to your lower back, it's extremely important to start any workout with a proper warm up to prevent injury. Warm those muscles up with some light marching in place and gentle standing rotation of your midsection.
Training your abs is not all about sit-ups and crunches. While those do work your abs, the plank is a more complete core move that works all the different parts of your abs and your upper-body. But instead of just holding the plank in a static position, engage even more of your ab strength by performing <a href="http://www.shape.com/fitness/workouts/plank-walk">this challenging Plank Walk-Up</a>. It's tough, but your abs will thank you for it!
One of the biggest mistakes people make when doing mat work for their abs is that they keep their head down. This puts unnecessary strain on your neck and takes the focus off of your abs to perform the move. Every time you're doing abs exercises on the floor, imagine a grapefruit is lodged between your chin and your chest. For best results, don't let your chin lower to your chest!
As exercise physiologists study and better understand the core, more and more are recommending that we think of our core not just as the stomach and lower-back area, but also as our entire pillar (meaning everything except our legs, arms and head). To really strengthen your core, fitness professionals recommend strengthening the muscles that tie in to your pillar like your glutes. And what's one of the best ways to fire those glutes? Deep squats, baby!
True muscle strength is all about balance. Many of us focus on toning our abs (the muscles we can see) and totally neglect our lower backs. This strength imbalance can lead to lower-back injury and pain. Here's a good rule to remember: For every core exercise you do that only targets your abs (read: isn't twisting, a plank, or involves standing -- which all involve the back), you should do a specific low-back exercise as well. Working your lower back makes for a more complete abs workout!
Really want stronger abs? Incorporate balance work into your routine. Whether it's with a Bosu, a stability ball, a balance board, or simply just standing on one leg, exercises that test your balance cause you to fire your core deeply, thereby giving you a more effective ab workout!
Think speeding through your ab workout will speed up your results? Think again. To really feel the burn, try slowing down. By changing the speed of your abs exercises, you'll work your abs in a more targeted way that boosts strength and results!
It doesn't matter how many hours you spend in the gym each week. If your diet isn’t on point, you’re not going to see that 6-pack. To show off those toned abs, eat a diet with plenty of lean protein, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Just like other muscles, your abs need rest. Don't directly work your abs two days in a row. Take a recovery day in between. Rest helps give you muscles time to repair and get stronger!
Are you guilty of doing the same ab workout day after day? If so, it's time to switch it up. In fact, for best results, you should change up your entire workout -- including abs! -- every four to six weeks.
If you're short on time, here's an easy trick to get more for your ab-workout buck: Flex your abs and keep them that way throughout your entire core workout. Whether you're doing crunches, planks or balance work, squeeze those abs as if you’re preparing for someone to punch you in the gut to get even more out of your usual moves.
Many traditional abs exercises target the top of your abs. Problem is, they neglect your lower abs and obliques. Try starting your workout with lower-ab moves like a double-leg lower lift or a bicycle crunch, which both work multiple areas of your abs. Then, if you have time, end your training session with upper-ab work.
Many yoga poses and Pilates exercises are extremely good for building core strength. If you're sick of tacking ab workouts on to the end of your cardio or strength session, trade your usual moves in for a yoga or Pilates class. Besides building core strength, these mind-body exercises can also increase your flexibility and reduce stress. Bonus!
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