Radio Hosts Deliver Dismal Carrot Cake Report

Jannine Myers

The other day as I was driving to work, I heard on the radio a couple of FM broadcasters declaring their shock revelation of traditional cream cheese frosted carrot cakes containing as much as 854 calories per slice. Significantly more calories – and fat – than a McDonald’s Big Mac burger.

Carrot Cake

Calories: As many as 854 (with a whopping 480 calories from fat!)

Fat: 47g

Big Mac

Calories: 540 (260 of these calories from fat)

Fat: 29g

To put things into perspective, most major health and nutrition organizations consensually agree that daily fat intake be limited to no more than 30% of total daily calories. So, for a person on a 1500 calorie-per-day diet, total fat intake for the day should be no more than 50g. One slice of carrot cake however, adds up to almost the entire fat allowance for the day, not to mention more than half of the recommended daily calorie intake.

A further irony, given that carrot cakes are often seen as the healthier choice of cake, is that a slice of frosted chocolate cake typically has less than 300 calories and around 15g of fat. With those stats, you may as well go straight for the chocolate cake! Unless of course you prefer carrot cake, in which case you should most definitely indulge because it’s not like you eat carrot every single day (heck, where is the fun in life if you never let yourself enjoy a few indulgences).

For those of you however who are very health conscious and would prefer to “say no” to a calorie and fat laden slice of cake, you can always make your own slimmed-down version. After hearing the dismal news report mentioned above, I decided to head home after work and see what I could come up with by using only ingredients I already had on hand (I knew I already had carrots because I have a human rabbit in my house who eats her way through a kilo or two of carrots a week).

Here’s what I took from my pantry and refrigerator:

Bananas – 2 (medium, and very ripe)

Carrots – 2 (large)

Dates – 1/2 cup (dried and pitted)

Peanut Butter – about 1/4 to 1/3 cup (very oily)

Sugar – 1/3 cup

Almond milk – 1/3 cup (plain, unsweetened)

Chia seeds – 2 tbsps (soaked in 6 tbsps water)

Baking soda – 2 tsps (dissolved in a little almond milk)

Flour – 2 cups (plain)

Cinnamon – 1 tsp

Walnuts – 1/4 cup (chopped)

Salt – 1/4 tsp

Lemon – 1

Powdered sugar – 3/4 cup

Almond milk (extra – approx. 1 tbsp)


Heat the oven to 175 C. Grease a rectangular baking pan and set aside.

First, soak the dates in hot boiling water, and set aside. Next, prepare two chia eggs by mixing the chia seeds in 6 tbsps of water and leaving to set for at least 5 minutes. Finally, grate the carrots and put aside. Now you’re ready to start baking.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon.

In a blender, add the two bananas, the peanut butter with as much oil as possible, and the dates (with about 1/4 of the amount of water that they were soaking in – the rest can be disposed of). Pulse until just combined; the texture should be wet but slightly lumpy. Add the baking soda (already dissolved in a little almond milk), and then pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients. Finally, add the chia eggs and walnuts. Gently mix everything together until the flour can no longer be seen. Pour into the cake pan and bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes.

While the cake is baking, make a lemon powdered glaze by simply mixing together the juice of one lemon with 3/4 cup powdered sugar, and adding a little almond milk until a runny glaze-like consistency is achieved. When the cake comes out of the oven and has cooled a little, poke holes in the surface and pour the glaze all over. Then leave the cake to completely cool before slicing.

The end result is a health-ier lemon-glazed carrot cake with not-so-alarming nutrition stats:


Makes 20 servings (20 slices)
Serving Size 1 slice / Amount Per Serving:

Calories 140 (calories from fat – 35)

Total Fat 3.65g (saturated fat .0.6g)


A Bread You Can Make With Just 3 Ingredients

Jannine Myers

I was recently browsing the site of an acquaintance (Tully Zander) and came across an easy bread recipe she shared. It’s so easy in fact, that it contains just three ingredients. Which, by the way, reminded me of a post I published a few years back when I was living in a US military community and shocked by the breads available in the base commissaries. Some of the more widely purchased breads, unbeknownst to those buying and consuming them, contained an ingredient list a mile long (not kidding; read my post).

Here in New Zealand, the breads generally contain far less ingredients, and supposedly non-harmful emulsifiers (used to enhance flavour and preserve shelf life), but if you don’t mind baking and would prefer to make your own bread, there are many safe and simple recipes online that even your kids would have no trouble following.

This one below, is my “slightly tweaked” version of Tully’s easy bread recipe. It’s the same essentially, except that I made it not only dairy-free but gluten-free as well. Although not as soft in texture as Tully’s recipe, I am sure that a little experimentation of flour and liquid amounts, as well as time spent kneading the dough, could potentially fix that.

I have been eating my bread toasted and I love it! It actually brings back childhood memories of weekend breakfasts, when almost every dairy in NZ sold freshly baked white bread loaves on Sunday mornings. Mum would send my brother and I out to buy a couple of loaves, and we’d devour them with butter and our favourite spreads (along with our cups of hot milo).

Nothing quite compares with the smell and taste of the breads back then, but give this recipe a try; it sounds bland and boring with so few ingredients but I think you’ll be surprised.

A favourite combo of peanut butter and banana

A favourite combo of mine: peanut butter and banana – and served with hot tea or coffee….sooooo good!


4 cups gluten free flour

2 tsps yeast

1 1/3 cups non-dairy milk (or water)


In a large bowl mix together the flour and yeast, and form a well in the bottom.

Pour in your choice of non-dairy milk (or water, for a lighter, fluffier bread), and gently combine until the flour and yeast absorbs it all.

Now you can begin to work on your dough. Knead it into a large ball and place on a floured surface. Do this for approximately five minutes or until it becomes smooth and a bit sticky. Resist the temptation to add additional flour, unless it’s so moist that it won’t combine. Alternately, if it’s too dry, add more milk or water, just a little at a time.

Once that’s done, lightly dust some flour on the top of your dough, place in a bowl and cover it with a kitchen towel. Let it sit in a warm, dry place and allow it to rise for an hour (or until it doubles in size).

Return the dough back onto your working surface and gently flatten it. Knead it some more to get rid of the excess air bubbles, and start shaping it into a loaf by repeatedly folding it on itself and rolling it.

Place your dough into a lightly greased loaf pan and cover again with a kitchen towel. Allow to sit for a further hour.

Allow the dough to rise by setting it in a warm, dry place for an hour or so

Allow the dough to rise by setting it in a warm, dry place for about an hour.

Towards the last few minutes of the previous step, preheat the oven to 180 C. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden. If you are unsure, perform a quick tap test and check that it sounds hollow.

Let the bread cool for 5 to 10 minutes before you turn it out onto a wire rack. Best eaten while still warm from the oven, or toasted.

[This bread stores well in an air-tight container kept in the refrigerator, and you can slice and freeze it too if you want to save for later]

The Best Way To Diet Is To NOT Diet!

Jannine Myers

Losing weight is challenging enough, but attempting to maintain a desirable weight is even more so. Many women with weight loss and maintenance goals are failing because they’re either rebound dieters, or under-eaters.

Rebound dieters are those who repeatedly resort to short-term deprivation diets that yield quick but unsustainable results. Women who fall prey to rebound dieting are typically willing to endure temporary discomfort, but not necessarily committed to making permanent lifestyle changes. Consequently, their efforts reap only temporary success, since normal eating patterns usually resume soon after the desirable goal has been achieved.

Under-eaters, on the other hand, habitually consume too few calories. There seems to be a common misconception among under-eaters that an ideal daily caloric intake should be less than 1200 calories. While a caloric deficit is necessary to achieve fat loss, a too-extreme deficit (especially over a long period of time) causes the body to make drastic modifications in order to maintain homeostatic balance; such modifications generally produce negative health effects and conversely, an increase in weight.

To make matters worse, knowing how and what to eat – in a way that keeps the body fit and healthy (and the mind happy) – has become way too confusing. With various health and nutrition groups all advocating different beliefs, food decisions have become complicated and stressful.


The only thing we can all be certain of is that we will never get it 100% right. That doesn’t mean however that we can’t reduce or eliminate stress surrounding difficult food choices. The following is a list of habits that are a routine way of life for me, and what I also believe to be a fairly simple and non-restrictive approach to eating mindfully, healthfully and happily:

1. I never skip meals; the only exceptions are if circumstances prevent me from doing so or if I am legitimately not hungry.

On the topic of meal-skipping, I’ve noticed that many of my former clients tended to skip breakfast and lunch meals if they had some special event to attend later in the day. They preferred to “save their appetites” for the event, so as not to exceed their daily caloric allowance. But almost always, they complained of overindulging anyway. Going to an event half-starved is never a good idea; It’s better to eat as usual throughout the day and enjoy the feeling of later being in control (and eating/drinking in moderation whatever is on offer).

2. Like everyone else, I have some major slip ups from time to time. But I’m able to get myself back on track because I don’t diet. Whenever I go a little overboard, I just get right back to my usual habit of eating regular and well-balanced meals. Since most, if not all of my meals, contain all of the macronutrients (a lean protein, a dense carbohydrate, some vegetables and/or fruit, and a small serve of a healthy fat), my blood sugar levels remain relatively stable. But more important, any fat loss that occurs is more likely to be long-lasting, since my body won’t try to fight for it’s return (as it would if it were deprived of energy and nutrients).

3. There is nothing I cannot eat or drink. I don’t have any food or beverage restrictions, but I tend to stick to an 80/20 (sometimes 90/10) approach, where at least 80% of my diet comes from nutrient-dense foods and beverages, and what I consider my “treats,” make up the remaining 20%. I recommend developing a mindset that focuses on adding foods versus eliminating them; as you begin to add a greater variety of healthy foods to your diet you’ll hopefully begin to also lose the desire for less nutrient-dense foods.

4. I eat mostly foods that I prepare myself, and I include fresh produce daily. That means that I am in the kitchen a lot, but I’m a big believer that people find time for the things they value the most.

5. I make it a habit to eat different foods every week. It’s very easy to fall into the habit of eating the same meals day in and day out (which by the way, can be initially helpful to anyone attempting to lose weight by calorie counting), but repeatedly eating the same foods limits the nutritional value of your diet and often leads to bouts of binge-eating.

6. My food choices are heavily influenced by my mindset, versus emotion. In other words, I choose to eat foods that nourish my body and not weigh or slow me down. I am happiest when I have a lot of energy to move and be active, and anything that interferes with that is fixed in my mind as something I need to persevere against. Carrying an extra 20kg for example will obviously slow me down, so a question I might ask myself if I felt my clothes getting tighter is this: “Would I intentionally put on – and walk around all day with – a jacket that weighed 20kg?”

7. I eat meat, grains, dairy, seafood, and soy (pretty much everything we’re told NOT to eat) – but in differing quantities, and according to my taste preferences and stomach sensitivities. I also eat a wide range of seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts, seeds, legumes, and healthy fats. The only foods I try not to eat are those that come with an ingredient list a mile long!

In summary, I don’t DIET! The way I eat has become a fixed part of my lifestyle that never changes; the foods I eat change all the time, but how I eat does not. The satisfaction that comes from knowing how to manage my weight is liberating, but even greater is the joy that comes from not being physically or emotionally bound by confusing and restrictive “food rules.”

Hammer Protein Choc-Almond Cake-Cookies

Jannine Myers

Since I’m often out doing longer endurance-type activities, I like fueling with inexpensive home-made snacks that contain a good ratio of carbohydrates-protein-fat (approximately 40 to 60% carbohydrate, and 15 to 30% each protein and fat). These cake-like cookies are the result of a few pantry staples that I threw together; they fit the bill for the following reasons:

  • they meet the macro requirements that I personally prefer
  • they fit two-to-a-snack-size ziploc, and are therefore easily portable if I choose to eat them during extended outdoor activities
  • they’re not too sweet, so hopefully less likely to mess with your stomach
  • apart from the slightly chewy texture that comes from the protein powder, they’re fairly easy to eat on-the-run
  • they contain a good quality protein powder that doesn’t have any added fillers, sugars, artificial sweeteners, or any other undesirable ingredients



1/8 cup Brown rice Syrup

1/8 cup Agave Nectar

1/8 cup Smooth Peanut Butter

1/2 cup Organic Oats, pulsed into a finer flour-like texture

1/2 cup Almond Meal/Flour

1 cup Plain Gluten Free Flour

1/2 tsp Baking Soda, dissolved in a little Almond Milk

2 scoops Hammer Nutrition Chocolate Protein Powder

1/4 cup Unsweetened Almond Milk

16 Whole Almonds


Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly Grease a cookie tray. Whisk the sweeteners and peanut butter until well combined, and add the previously dissolved baking soda. Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then add the wet ingredients. Slowly add the almond milk, a little at a time, until a cookie dough texture is achieved (not too wet and not too dry). Form golf ball size size cookies and lay out on the tray. Flatten each cookie with the back of a fork, and press an almond into the centre. Bake for approximately 12 minutes and allow to cool.

Makes 16 servings (16 each)

[For my vegan friends out there, try these 5-ingredient choc-chip cookies by Tully Zander]

Nutrition Data (per cookie):

Calories 99.81

Fat 3.52g (saturated fat 0.36g)

Carbohydrate 13.15g (Sugars 4.27g)

Protein 4.93g


Macro Distribution:

Carbohydrate 51% / Protein 19% / Fat 30%

Why Hammer Nutrition Protein? Get the facts here:

Skin Cancer Is Not Racist; It Favours All Skin Colours!

Jannine Myers

Runners talk often about injuries, and how to prevent, treat, or manage them, but rarely do I see or hear of conversations that make reference to the dangers of sun exposure. It’s odd really, given that runners spend significantly more time outdoors than the average person. In fact, if I hadn’t just had a very real encounter with a melanoma threat, I may never have brought this topic up at all.

A few months ago I wound up in my doctor’s office with a skin lesion that had broken open and started bleeding. I left that appointment with a referral to see a skin specialist, and it was at that secondary appointment that I was told that I had either basal cell cancer or melanoma; either way the mole in question needed to be removed immediately.

As a not-so-fair-skinned woman who has never really had any problems with sunburn, I never worried too much about skin cancer. That’s not to say that I didn’t apply sunblock when I went outdoors; in fact I was quite diligent about doing so. I even took sunblock in my car to early morning group runs and offered it to others, knowing that most would not think to apply it so early in the morning. Needless to say, I was not prepared to hear that a spot on my skin was cancerous.

I can’t really express the depth of what I felt when I was told I might have melanoma, and here’s the thing: when you’re waiting for potentially life-changing news, it’s much harder to reckon with than one might imagine. It’s very easy to say positive affirmations and practice mind-control techniques, but the real challenge is in lining up what is said and done with what is actually believed.

In addition to having to wait for my biopsy results, I developed a nasty virus after the surgery which resulted in several days of sick leave. As much as I resisted, I constantly entertained the type of thoughts that I was trying so hard to dispel. When I finally received the news that I had basal cell cancer and not melanoma, only then was I able to relax and breathe a sigh of relief.

My point is this: runners are more susceptible to skin cancer, and while skin colour may determine your level of risk it but won’t rule you out as a candidate. Runners know this of course, yet they’re more inclined to focus on essentials such as gels, electrolytes, recovery fuels, and running accessories; sunblock is often an after-thought.

If you can relate, and the threat of skin cancer has been something you’re guilty of being blasé about, then I urge you to start treating it seriously. Start by getting yourself a full-body skin check, and make it a priority to routinely apply sunblock as you’re changing into your running clothes. Take preventative measures now so that hopefully you’ll avoid being the recipient of news you don’t want to hear.

[FYI, skin cancer is most prevalent in New Zealand and Australia, and cases of melanoma in the United States have doubled in the past 30 years! Some skin cancers can spread very quickly, so don’t delay in seeing your doctor if you notice any changes in your skin; early detection and taking preventative measures can save your life. See the chart below for images of what different skin cancers look like]




Why Core Strength Should Not Be Neglected

Jannine Myers

It’s no secret that we lose muscle as we age. While muscle loss is easily noticeable, it’s degenerative effects are often less so; it’s not until limitations in flexibility and movement begin to cause pain and discomfort that they are recognized. And where back pain is concerned, weak core muscles are often at the root of the problem. The weaker the core, the less able it is to support the body as intended, hence the onset of pain.

The truth be known, I had never before considered, or felt it necessary to have my core strength evaluated. But with the Exerscience Clinic directly opposite my place of work, and proclaimed as the “first medically-focused exercise rehabilitation clinic of its kind in New Zealand,” it was inevitable that I’d eventually learn more about them and what they offer. Included in their list of services, is a test that uses the MedX Lumbar Extension Machine to assess lower back strength, and it was with a slight “air of arrogance” that I went ahead and took the test.

Shockingly, my assessment results revealed that my actual, versus self-perceived strength, differed significantly. I learned that in comparison to other healthy women of my age, my lower back strength was considerably less than average (it’s a wide gap in age, mind you; 36 to 59). But even when the data was skewed to further break down the comparison of other women similar to myself in size, I still fell slightly below average on the measurement chart –  by 3% – across all angles tested. The Exerscience Clinic recommended a 12-week programme involving twice weekly dynamic sessions on their MedX machine, with mid and post-programme strength testing.

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I decided to follow through with the programme, as each session takes only 5 minutes and no more than one set of 10 to 15 repetitions on the Lumbar Extension Machine. I think I should also emphasize that if you’re someone who includes core work in your regular exercise routine, you might falsely assume, as I did, that you’re already doing enough to maintain overall strength.

One more thing to consider, the term “core strength” elicits for most people thoughts of strong – and quite visible – abs! But the core is much more than that; it’s the transverse abdominals (the muscles that lie deep beneath the waist and form a protective and stabilizing belt around the spine); the obliques (that help to rotate the trunk, as well as perform other vital functions), the rectus dominus (the long muscle in the front abdominal region, or the ever-elusive six-pack, that enables flexion of the torso and spine), and the erector spinae (the muscles that run the length of your neck down to lower spine). All of these muscles work in conjunction to contribute towards ease of movement, injury prevention, and protection of the inner organs and central nervous system.

With all of the above in mind, take a look at the progress I made over a period of 12 weeks and a total of 20 sessions:

  • Initial Test Results – maximal amount of force produced over a series of angles from 0 to 72 degrees: 75 ft-lbs of force at the fully extended position of 0 degrees, and 133 ft-lbs of force at the fully flexed position of 72 degrees.
  • End Of Session Results – 118 ft-lbs of force at the fully extended position of 0 degrees, and 166 ft-lbs of force at the fully flexed position of 72 degrees. The chart below also shows an increase in the amount of force produced across all angles.


That’s an increase in isometric lower back strength by 29%, and a huge jump from being – on average – 3% weaker, to 26% stronger than healthy females of a similar age and size! Also, about halfway through the programme, I suffered minor whiplash from a rear-end car accident and temporarily saw a chiropractor for relief. At the initial consultation, after assessing an x-ray, the chiropractor was impressed (considering how long I have been running), at how well-hydrated my spinal discs are. What he meant, is that because I have great range of motion in my lower back region, my spinal discs are able to more adequately receive nutrition and hydration, and that in turn leads to a slower rate of age-related degeneration and greater odds of avoiding chronic pain and disease.

Now, moving forward, I am following an on-going maintenance programme that involves just two 5-minute dynamic workouts a month on the MedX Lumbar Extension machine.

If you would like you to have your lower back strength tested, or if you suffer from back pain and/or arthritis, go see the girls at The Exerscience Clinic in Grafton, Auckland; they’ll take great care of you and get you on the right path! Call them at 09 393 8500, or email them at

Use Pantry Staples To Avoid Splurging On End-Of-Week Take-Away Meals

Jannine Myers

Do you find that meal prepping only seems to take you through the first half of the week and by Thursday you’re out of food and meal ideas? I’m sure you’re not alone; I feel that that is probably the case in most households, even in those where meal prep and planning is a priority. It’s difficult to keep the momentum going from Sunday all the way through to Friday, and most likely, end-of-week temptations to pick dinner up from a favourite take-away joint will override any resistance.

If you really want to save money however, and also put a healthier home-made meal on the table, then don’t underestimate the meal potential of a few staple pantry items and leftover produce. Last week, for example, as Thursday rolled around and the perishables from our previous weekend’s grocery shop were mostly all consumed, it was time to get a little innovative. Here’s how I managed to put together a meal (that also served as leftover Friday lunch), from the following items:

  • Canned corn kernels
  • Canned pink salmon
  • Brown rice
  • Oats
  • Eggs
  • Dried onions and dried garlic
  • Italian seasoning
  • Shredded cheese
  • Leftover produce – broccoli, beets, and zucchini



I guess you could say the end result was a brown rice and salmon pie, with roasted veges. It’s obviously not nearly as appetizing as the take-away meal you’d much rather be eating, but if health and finances are a priority for you then cooking with simple and minimally processed pantry staples should be an option you’re willing to consider : )

How To Train When You’re Tired But Not Exhausted

Jannine Myers

Last week I started out on an evening run and knew right from the outset that it wasn’t going to be pleasant. I was plain exhausted after a long day at work and simply couldn’t muster up enough energy. Add to that the cold air and the smoke fumes from surrounding neighbourhood chimneys, and one thing was certain: it was obvious that my planned intervals weren’t going to happen.

In the past, as a novice runner, I would have attempted to ignore how my body was feeling, but I know better now. Learning to discern the difference between actual fatigue and the feeling of simply not wanting to work out, can often be the one thing that prevents the onset of overtraining.

As I think about my years in Okinawa, where year-round training was the norm, I recall how tempting it was to persevere through training sessions even when the body was under duress from either too little rest or extreme heat conditions. I saw many of my athlete friends and acquaintances experience setbacks because adherence to training plans took precedence over listening to body cues.

In many cases however, physical and/or mental fatigue may not be serious enough to warrant taking a day off. On such occasions there’s no need to throw the towel in and give up altogether; some quick modifications can help satisfy the urge to train and more importantly, reduce the risk of injury or illness.

Here are some ways to follow through with your scheduled run without hurting yourself :

1. Easy pace, short runs on a flat route – break up the distance into quarters; fast walk the first quarter, run at your usual easy pace for the second two quarters, and slow jog the final quarter.

2. Easy pace, short runs on a hilly course – run at regular easy pace on flat and downhill sections of the course, and walk the uphill sections.

3. Tempo runs – reduce tempo pace and/or tempo distance, according to how you feel. It’s also a good idea to leave the garmin and other timing devices at home; that way you’re not tempted to try and meet a set pace.

4. Speed workouts (fartlek/interval/track repeats) – reduce intensity (goal time for each repeat) and/or the number of repeats. You can also increase the recovery time between repeats.

5. Long runs – in lieu of a long run, it’s sometimes best to settle for a nice easy run that’s half the distance of your long run distance. If you’re determined to do your long run however, then at least add 20 to 30 seconds to your regular long run pace, and opt for a route that takes you on a double loop so that you have the option to stop after the first loop if it becomes obvious that you won’t be able to complete the full distance.

Train smart, and remain healthy and happy!


“Never be afraid to reevaluate and adjust your goals. It is far more important to be honest with yourself about where you are at than to set unrealistic goals that lead to self-defeat.”
Teri Larsen Jones – US National Waterskiing Champion

“…pro-runners are comfortable with adjusting their expectations…… they have the ability to turn a lemon workout into lemonade”
Greg McMillan – World Class Running Coach

“…..some (workout) sessions are stars and some sessions are stones, but in the end they are all rocks and we build upon them.”
Brett Sutton – World Class Triathlete Coach 

Putting Supervised High Intensity Strength Training To The Test

Jannine Myers

In an effort to promote improved eating and fitness habits amongst staff members at BodyTech Gym, my co-workers and I were challenged by management to enter an in-house Body Composition Contest.The winning male and female would be determined by the greatest percentage of body fat lost over a period of four weeks. To make it reasonably fair, since some staff members had significantly more (or less) body fat to lose, other variables such as girth circumference measurements would be taken into account.

My personal goal throughout the contest was less focused on weight loss, and more focused instead on minimally decreasing body fat while simultaneously increasing strength and lean muscle mass. My usual workout routine outside of running typically involves at-home calisthenic and dumbbell workouts, but it’s been years since I last did any type of strength training in a gym environment with heavier weights and machines. I reasoned that this Body Composition Contest was the perfect catalyst to get serious about strengthening my injury-prone running legs! Additionally, I wanted to see what kind of results I could get by a) using BodyTech’s Supervised HIT Circuit two or three times a week, b) making no dietary changes at all, and c) limiting my cardiovascular training to no more than 30 to 60 minutes every other day.

First of all, for those of you who have never had a body composition test done, what you can expect is a measurement of estimated fat mass, which can be further measured by essential, and non-essential fat:

Essential Fat – fat that is required in order for the body to function properly; for women, 10 – 13% of essential fat is necessary to meet this need and anything below is going to be detrimental to long-term health. Conversely, a body fat percentage over and above 31% is too high, and also potentially harmful. Women who have between 24 and 31% body fat are seen as having an “Acceptable” amount of fat, although lowering their percentage to under 24 would be most optimal.

Non-Essential Fat – is exactly that; “non-essential.” The body uses this excess fat for storage, to protect organs and provide insulation; it is stored in the abdomen, around inner organs (visceral fat), or in various body locations underneath the skin (subcutaneous fat).

Everything else in your body that is not body fat (i.e. lean body mass), is made up of vital body tissues and cells: muscle, water, organs, connective tissue, and bone. Lean body mass should ideally be between 70 and 80% of a female’s body composition; 70% is acceptable, while 80% is very fit. And incidentally, a woman’s total body water percentage is also an indicator of good (or bad) health. For women, an ideal body water percentage is anywhere between 45 and 60%.

My baseline measurements on day one of the challenge revealed that my body fat percentage was already below 20%, with total water percentage being 60% and everything else (muscle, organs, tissue, and bones) being 22%. So health-wise, you could say that my body composition results were already showing favourable percentages, however there was still room for a little improvement and according to my physiotherapist, definitely room for leg and glute strength improvement.

The following is a sample of the weekly workout routine I stuck to, although admittedly it wasn’t until about a week and a half into the challenge that I got serious about my intentions of using the Supervised HIT Circuit:

Monday – 20 minute cardio HIIT workout on stationary bike, followed by Supervised Circuit and supplementary glute exercises (total workout time 45 minutes)

Tuesday – 50 minute easy-paced run

Wednesday – 25 minute cardio HIIT workout at home, plus 5 minutes of oblique exercises

Thursday – 20 minutes steady cycling on stationary bike, followed by Supervised Circuit (total workout time 45 minutes

Friday – Rest

Saturday – 20 minute cardio HIIT workout on stationary bike, followed by Supervised Circuit and supplementary glute exercises (total workout time 45 minutes)

Sunday – 45 minute steady-paced run

[I’ve also posted below a few examples of what a typical day of meals looks like for me]

At the end of the 4-week challenge, my body composition was tested again and the following changes had occurred:

  • a 1kg (2.2lb) decrease in weight
  • a 1% decrease in body fat
  • a 1% increase in water
  • a decrease in all girth circumference measurements: I trimmed a little fat from my triceps, hips, waist, and thighs
  • no change in fat free mass (muscle, organs, bone and tissue)

So how can these results be interpreted? Given that no dietary changes were made, the fact that I was able to still trim down in weight, body fat, and girth circumference measurements, indicates that the changes I made to my usual exercise routine (higher intensity weight training combined with moderate cardiovascular workouts) were most likely responsible for the overall fat loss. Notice too, that the percentages of weight and fat loss are not extreme, which also suggests that the results were safely achieved and less likely to last only temporarily (which generally happens when women try to lose weight with quick-fix diet strategies).

At this point you may be wondering if, despite the loss of weight and fat, my goal of increasing strength and muscle was achieved. The answer is yes and no. My workout card, that keeps a running record of weights lifted and number of repetitions on each of the Supervised Circuit machines, showed a small but gradual progression in strength gain on all but two of the machines. With regards to an increase in muscle mass, it didn’t happen; however, there was also no change, meaning that weight and fat loss occurred without compromising muscle mass.

The end result: a moderate but improved (and appropriate/steady rate of) change in body composition, as well as overall strength. Over a longer period, I suspect an increase in lean muscle mass would also have been seen.

Examples of my typical daily meals are below; I cook and bake most of our meals and rarely eat anything out of a box. Also, please note that although the generally accepted view is that sufficient daily protein intake for adults is 0.8g per kilo of body weight, I consume almost that amount in my post-workout shake alone! A study in the British Journal of Nutrition (August 2012), suggests that 1.2g per kilo of body weight is more beneficial, especially for endurance and strength-trained athletes.

Meal One: Post workout protein shake with half of a small banana, almond milk, flaxseed, and a small handful of walnuts (my choice of protein powder is made of undenatured whey, and contains 36g of protein).


Meal Two examples: tofu and vegetable curry with brown rice + kiwifruit, or mussel and chickpea salad with roast vegetables + small green apple, or grilled salmon with roasted pumpkin, brussel sprouts and green beans.

Meal Three examples: apple-spiced millet and seed slice with plain yogurt and kiwifruit, or 3 rice cakes with peanut or almond butter + a small piece of fruit, or 2 pieces of toast with boiled egg and avocado + small piece of fruit.

Meal Four examples: Small bowl of chickpea and vege soup, with black rice/beet/mushroom patti served with small side salad of halloumi cheese, or grilled pesto chicken with brown rice and broccoli/pea soup, or ground turkey loaf with roasted capsicums and butternut squash + beet soup. And, I always end my dinner meal with a home-baked but healthy-ish sweet.

On weekends I enjoy a couple (or more) glasses of red wine, and I often go out for lunch or dinner, or order in and also enjoy a not-so-healthy dessert :)



Disclaimer: The conclusions made in this blog post are mine alone, and based on my own thoughts and opinions. What works for me may not work for others. I am also not a calorie counter and nor do I recommend specific diets. I simply eat meals that I feel are nutritionally dense and balanced, I eat portion sizes that satisfy my appetite, and I allow room for a little indulging.


When All Else Fails, Ditch The Garmin

Jannine Myers

Image from Nike,com

Image from Nike,com

In a former article that I wrote for, I suggested that there are certain times when temporarily ditching your Garmin may be just what you need to get past motivational and physical lags in training. Here’s why:


Your Garmin Doesn’t Lie

At certain times of the year, especially after a full season of races, it’s not uncommon for runners to hit a motivational plateau. When this happens, strapping on a Garmin may be counterproductive to overcoming a lack of motivation. Garmins typically don’t lie; you’ll be duly informed when you do not hit your target paces and times.


Your Body Knows Best

Garmins force us to try and meet certain training goals, even when our bodies would prefer not to. That’s great – except when you’re sick, injured, or over-trained and should not be running at all. But even when symptoms are slight, and running can still be tolerated, it might be best to listen to your body versus your Garmin.


You’re Faster Than Your Garmin Might Suggest

Wearing a Garmin may hinder your potential to run faster. Amateur runners, for example, often rely on generic training plans with recommended “target paces” based on previous run times. A runner may attempt to meet those target training paces by setting Garmin alerts that are activated whenever his or her running pace is too fast or slow. It’s possible however, that speed potential will be thwarted, since pace is determined by Garmin alerts.

Your Garmin Focuses On Statistical Data Only: Quality is Irrelevant

A lot of runners tend to be perfectionists, and when it comes to training runs perfection manifests itself in the form of exactness. In other words, if Jane is supposed to do an eighteen-mile long run, and at 16.5 miles she is completely spent, Jane will still continue running (or continue dragging her feet) – until her Garmin reads exactly eighteen miles. Why? Because Jane thinks it’s critical that she follow exactly what her training plan dictates. Following your training plan to-a-T isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but ditching your Garmin may help you to be less concerned about quantity and more focused on quality.


Your Garmin Is Only As Good As Your Non-Negotiable Standards

Most runners can tell you what they believe is their “easy” pace. If Jane believes that her easy pace is an 8:30min/mile, then Jane is going to make sure that on her easy run days, that she runs no slower than an 8:30 min/mile pace. Running without a Garmin sets you free from such pre-imposed standards, and an easy run can actually be an easy run.


If your training ability is currently impaired due to harsh weather conditions, physical exhaustion, or lack of motivation, I encourage you to try ditching your Garmin. That means running without any pace or time goals, and hopefully a heightened and renewed sense of fulfillment as you temporarily focus on just enjoying your runs.