Caring for our bodies goes far beyond the gym, which is why we’re shining a spotlight on an issue that has raised a number of concerns across the female fitness community. Gut health.
What was once a topic that we purposefully avoided, is now fast becoming one of the most widely talked about subjects in the wellness space. Just googling the term ‘gut health’ throws up 955,000,000 results!
And while most of us know that ‘good’ gut health is desirable, understanding what it really means to have a healthy gut is proving more of a challenge.
That’s why we’re here to discuss gut health and what you can do to improve it, not only to enhance your overall health, but to improve your performance in other aspects of your life - such as killing it at the gym!
Stick around to find out more.
WHAT IS GUT HEALTH AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?
Our digestive system, more specifically your gut microbiome (microorganisms living in your intestines), plays an important role in our overall health and wellbeing. Each person has about 200 different species of bacteria, viruses and fungi in their digestive tract.
Good gut health occurs when you have the right balance of good (helpful) and bad (potentially harmful) bacteria and yeast in your digestive system.
Research shows that about 80% of your immune system is in the gut, which means an unhealthy gut can negatively impact your immune system and potentially result in illness. Not to mention, studies have also highlighted that a large variety of bacteria in the gut could help reduce the risk of conditions like diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and psoriatic arthritis.
HOW DOES YOUR GUT AFFECT YOUR OVERALL HEALTH?
Your gut is the foundation of your health.
Primarily, it aids the digestion of food, absorbing nutrients and using it to fuel and maintain your body. If your gut doesn’t have the right balance of tiny microbes and bacteria, your immune system is unable to work as effectively, increasing the likelihood of sickness.
Your gut is also where your body gets rid of metabolic waste and toxins, but if you have an unhealthy gut, your body will struggle to rid itself of those toxins. In this case, it can cause a number of health issues, such as chronic fatigue and chronic pain.
Studies have also found links between gut health and:
- Mental health;
- Autoimmune diseases;
- Gastrointestinal diseases;
- Cardiovascular diseases.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF AN UNHEALTHY GUT?
There are many aspects of modern life that affect your gut microbiome, including a lack of sleep, high stress levels and a diet high in processed and high sugar foods.
The most common sign of poor gut health is an upset stomach (bloating, constipation, diarrhoea). However, beyond the status of your bowel movements, there are other signs your gut could use some attention. These include:
- Abnormal weight loss;
- Sleep disturbances or constant fatigue;
- Skin irritation;
- Food intolerances;
- Brain fog or mood swings.
WHY DO WE BLOAT?
Bloating is one of the most common symptoms of an unhealthy gut. This causes the belly to feel full, tight and uncomfortable, usually due to gas.
The truth is, bloating is totally normal and if you’re experiencing it, you’re definitely not alone. If you get a bloated stomach after eating, it might be something as simple as eating too much too fast. Alternatively, you could have a food intolerance or other condition that causes gas and digestive contents to build up. Your menstrual cycle is also another common cause of temporary bloating.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR GUT HEALTH
There are a number of things you can do to improve your gut health. These include:
- Reducing your stress levels. You can do this by trying some gentle exercise, such as yoga or walking - exercise in general is great for gut health too!
- Getting plenty of sleep. Check out our sleep tips here.
- Staying hydrated.
- Limiting your alcohol intake.
- Changing your diet.
Adapting your diet is arguably the most effective way to achieve ‘good’ gut health, although it's important to bear in mind this will differ for everyone. The key is to eat more foods that are high in fibre. Fibre is a plant-based nutrient that reduces the risk of metabolic diseases by stimulating the growth and diversity of good bacteria in the gut. Fibre is found in:
Aim for approximately 30g of fibre per day.
Remember, gut health is extremely important for your overall health and wellbeing and healing your gut takes time, dedication and consistency.
The key is to make long-term changes that will benefit you for years to come.
Move Your Body: New Year Fitness Challenge
If you’ve got fitness goals to achieve, we’ve got a killer workout challenge to put you in good stead.
As part of our Move Your Body Campaign, we want to inspire you to challenge yourself to change by forming positive habits that will last a lifetime. Whether those little changes are for your mind, or your body, Move Your Body encourages you to celebrate every goal, and every step made towards it.
Change is the essence of growth, but in order to change you need to go beyond your comfort zone, push your limits and seize each opportunity to become the best version of you.
To get you off on the right foot, we’ve developed a 10 week exercise challenge. But why 10 weeks, specifically? We’re glad you asked.
According to one study, on average, it takes more than two months before a new behaviour becomes automatic - 66 days to be exact - which is just shy of 10 weeks.
So, here goes. Your journey starts now.
First things first, before you participate in any sort of exercise, you need to do an efficient warm-up. This increases your heart rate, and therefore, your blood flow, allowing more oxygen to reach your muscles. A warm-up also activates and preps the connections between your nerves and muscles, which improves the efficiency of movement.
To warm up, perform the following for a total of 10 minutes:
- 1 min x jog on the spot;
- 1 minute x star jumps;
- 1 minute x mountain climbers;
- 1 minute x bicycle crunches.
Follow this with some dynamic stretching, such as lunges, to improve your range of motion and flexibility.
WEEKLY CARDIO CHECKLIST
Cardio is an essential part of your workout routine, and is associated with a whole list of benefits. Aimed at getting your heart pumping at faster rates, cardio helps to improve the health of your heart, thus reducing the risk of heart disease, and lowers your blood pressure by reducing the levels of bad cholesterol and raising good levels of cholesterol.
The US Department of Health and Human Services recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical activity - equating to approximately 30 minutes five times per week. This could be 30 minutes in one go or blocks of 10 or 15 minutes throughout the day.
Here’s some ways you could incorporate cardio into our 10 week workout challenge:
- Run, 20 minutes.
- Brisk walking, 30 minutes.
- StairMaster, 20 minutes.
- HIIT, 20 minutes.
- Swim, 30 minutes.
- Row, 20 minutes.
- Cycle, 30 minutes.
- Elliptical trainer, 20 minutes.
- Jump rope, 15 minutes.
- Boxercise, 20 minutes.
WEEKLY WORKOUT PLAN
Screenshot the image below and help it guide you to get after your goals.
Move Your Body isn’t just about fitness challenges, it’s about making positive changes and learning to love how you move. This could be lifting weights, hitting the track or taking to the field.
Find what you love. Get up. Get moving. Because the only person that can make a difference is you.
Veganuary: Healthy Vegan Meal Prep
Love preparing your meals in advance?
Meal prep is a great way to save money on your food shop, save time, and sustain a more balanced diet.
And if you’re taking part in Veganuary this month, have already gone plant-based or just want to add some variety into your diet, these vegan meal prep ideas will satisfy your cravings in the healthiest way.
From breakfast to dinner, we’ve covered it all.
BREAKFAST INSPO: TOFU SCRAMBLE
- Crumbled extra-firm tofu. If the tofu is too soft, it will fall apart as you cook it.
- Almond milk - For moisture.
- Nutritional yeast - It adds colour and a savoury flavour.
- Dijon mustard - For a sharp, tangy flavour.
- Turmeric - Gives the scramble its sunny hue.
- Cumin, onion and garlic - For adding a sharp, aromatic flavour.
- Salt and pepper to season.
- Olive oil.
- Whisk together the almond milk, nutritional yeast, dijon mustard, garlic spices and salt in a small bowl. This mixture will give the scramble its bold flavour and soft texture. Set it aside while you start to cook.
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it softens. Then, stir in the crumbled tofu and cook until it’s warmed through - approximately three to five minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low and stir in the almond milk mixture. Cook for a further three minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and season to taste - we recommend a big pinch of salt and several grinds of black pepper.
To serve, feel free to experiment with ingredients you already have or whatever tickles your taste buds. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Avocado. Slice it and serve it on the side or mash it with lime and salt to make a quick guac.
- Sautéed greens, such as kale or spinach.
- Roasted veggies. If you have some leftover roasted veg, toss them with your tofu scramble for a veggie-packed breakfast!
LUNCH INSPO: CHICKPEA BUDDHA BOWL
- A choice of veggies. We recommend: carrots, kale and radish, but feel free to use any fresh veggies you have to hand.
- Whole grains. This recipe uses brown rice.
- Protein. We’ve used golden chickpeas, for which you’ll need olive oil, garlic, cumin seeds, chickpeas, turmeric powder, salt and pepper.
- Toppings. This is your opportunity to get creative! Spring onions, sliced chilli, watercress and sesame seeds are a winning combo. You can also add avocado to boost the healthy fats and fibre.
- Dressing. A creamy turmeric tahini dressing is the perfect pairing!
- With a sharp knife, carefully slice the radish into thin rounds and cut the carrots into bite-size batons.
- Cut away the woody stalk from the kale and soften the leaves. You can do this by boiling the leaves in water for a few minutes or by massaging the leaves in a large bowl with olive oil and lemon juice until soft.
- Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Then, peel away the skin and slice into wedges. To keep it from browning, squeeze lemon juices onto the slices.
- To make the golden chickpeas, warm extra virgin olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook until golden and fragrant. Then, add the cumin seeds and toast for 30 seconds. Next, add the turmeric powder and drained chickpeas. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the chickpeas are golden with crispy edges.
- To serve, add a serving of rice, chickpeas, kale, carrots, radish and avocado. Top with sliced green onions, chilli slices, sesame seeds and watercress. Drizzle with turmeric tahini dressing and enjoy!
HOW TO STORE
These meals are best kept in an airtight container in the fridge and enjoyed within four to five days. Keep the dressing separate and add when you’re ready to eat. The avocado is best stored separately, but it will begin to brown quickly, so it’s best sliced fresh right before each meal.
DINNER INSPO: LENTIL CHICKPEA CURRY
- 100g lentils
- 1 tin chickpeas
- 2 tins coconut milk
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 3 tbsp yellow curry paste
- 1 onion
- Coconut oil for frying
- Salt and pepper to season
- Lemon juice
- 1 chopped bell pepper
- 2 tbsp cashew butter
- Tandoori spice cashews
- Heat a large casserole dish and use a bit of coconut oil for frying the onions and garlic. Do this for at least three minutes before adding the coconut milk, lentils and yellow curry paste. Then, cook for no longer than 20 minutes.
- Five minutes from the end, add the chickpeas.
- Choose your optional extras and tailor your curry to your liking.
HOW TO STORE:
Allow to cool before refrigerating and store in an airtight container for up to four days.
SNACK INSPO: NO-BAKE PEANUT BUTTER BALLS
- Peanut butter - You can use smooth unsalted peanut butter or crunchy peanut butter, but just make sure it’s made with 100% peanuts and no added oil.
- Peanuts - Roasted unsalted peanuts give an extra depth of nutty flavour and a bit of crunch!
- Dates, pitted - These give the peanut butter balls a natural caramel-like sweetness. Use Medjool dates for extra softness.
- Rolled oats - For an extra boost of protein and fibre.
- Cocoa powder - For that extra decadent chocolate flavour!
- Place the dates, oats, cocoa powder, peanut butter and roasted peanuts in a food processor and pulse until combined. If the mix is a bit dry, you can add a couple of tablespoons of water to make it a bit stickier.
- Divide the mixture into 16 equal parts and use your hands to roll them into one inch balls.
- Place the balls into the fridge to firm up for about 15 to 30 minutes.
HOW TO STORE:
They store well for a week in the fridge in an airtight container. They also freeze well for up to two months. Thaw overnight in the fridge prior to eating.
Ideal for work, travel and on those days when cooking is at the bottom of your priority list, these vegan meal prep ideas offer great variety - and taste - without the faff.
For more vegan food inspo, check out The Best High-Protein Vegan Foods, and keep your eyes peeled for more delicious vegan recipe ideas later this month.
How To Save Money: 10 Budget Hacks We All Need To Hear
It’s the middle of January - and for most of us, that means wincing at our bank accounts as we try to come to terms with the damage that the festive season and New Year celebrations have had on our money.
But we’re here to turn things around with a list of money saving tips everyone can adopt.
1. TRY THE 50/30/20 RULE
A popular money saving hack, but one you may not have heard of is the 50/30/20 rule. This means 50% of your take home pay goes on essentials, such as bills and food shopping, 30% goes towards treating yourself and going out, while 20% goes to the future you - AKA investing and savings for a rainy day.
This split may not work for everyone, so feel free to change the percentages to suit your financial needs.
2. DON’T SPLURGE ON PAYDAY
Hands up if you’ve ever got a teeny bit carried away on pay day? Safe to say, we’re all guilty of this one. In fact, one survey revealed one in five people spend over half their spare monthly wages within 48 hours of getting paid!
Don’t let your disposable income burn a hole in your wallet, always ask yourself if you really need it. Every time you feel the urge to buy something, don’t do it straight away. Add the item to your cart and leave it there. If after two to three days you still feel like buying it, go ahead and get it. More often than not, you’ll have gotten over that initial urge to spend, spend, spend.
Besides, it’s far more important to prioritise other outgoings, such as bills and food, before you start spending. This is where the 50/30/20 rule can really help!
3. MEAL PLAN & PREP
The US is said to discard more food than any other country - nearly 40 million tonnes every year to be exact - which equates to approximately 100 kg of waste per person. Meanwhile the average UK household is said to waste around £500 a year on food. That’s a huge amount of money that we’d all rather have in our own pockets right now, so let’s do something about it.
Before you head out for your food shop, plan what meals you’d like for the week or even fortnight and only buy the ingredients you need for those specific meals. Not only should that cut down on a considerable amount of food waste, you’ll be less tempted to reach for those pricier, ‘non-essential’ treats, like bags of crisps and chocolate.
Batch cooking is another great money saving hack, and is super easy to do if you’ve planned your meals in advance and have all the ingredients ready. You can freeze meals and take out a portion as and when you need it, which is perfect on those days when you can’t be bothered to cook anything. It also means your diet will be a lot more balanced, as you’ll have more control over what you eat.
Discover 6 Quick & Easy Recipes here.
4. SELL YOUR UNWANTED ITEMS
Even if you’re not looking to actively save money, selling your unwanted items is a great idea. You can do this on platforms such as eBay, Depop or Vinted, or even try a car boot sale. You’ll be surprised what you sell!
Besides, not only will it help you make a few extra pennies, selling your items is a more sustainable option compared to sending your items to landfill.
5. TRACK YOUR EXPENSES
This one kind of goes without saying, but keeping track of your expenses is crucial to living within your budget.
You can do this using a (free) budgeting app to monitor all your accounts in one place and manage your spending. Even simpler than that, you could write down your expenses at the end of the day, as this will help you understand exactly where your money is going. The more conscious you are of what you’re spending, the less likely you are to overspend or buy on impulse.
6. GET SHOPPING SAVVY
Asking you to cut out shopping completely just isn’t realistic, but what you can do is make the most of discounts, money-off vouchers and loyalty card points. The internet is full of money-saving deals - and it can pay to do a bit of online research to find the latest discounts.
Take us as an example. Not only do we offer 10% student discount, you can also receive 10% off your first order when you sign up to our newsletter, where you’ll also be the first to hear about our sales, drops and exclusive offers. And if that weren’t already enough, you can also create an AYBL Rewards account to earn points when you shop with us, and redeem as money off your next order. *Adds entire wishlist to cart.*
7. USE PUBLIC TRANSPORT (OR WALK)
You don’t need us to tell you that the cost of the fuel at the moment is extortionate, which is why using public transport could be a great way to save money. Granted, it might not be the way to go in all places, but if your city has a good public transport system, we highly recommend that you make full use of it! Public transportation often sells monthly or weekly passes at a discount too.
Alternatively, where possible, try to seek out any opportunity to stretch your legs and get walking. While it’s an easy way to get those 10,000 steps a day in, carrying your shopping bags back will definitely get your heart rate up - who needs dumbbells, eh?
8. SPLIT SUBSCRIPTIONS
If you use paid subscription services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Spotify, you could save money by splitting the cost with friends and family. Most offer a number of users under each subscriber.
9. TRY FREE ACTIVITIES WITH FRIENDS
If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s how to have fun at home. But ever since restrictions were lifted, we’ve been using any and every excuse to go out for drinks, dinner, bottomless brunch - you name it!
But if you’re serious about saving some serious dollar, a free (or less expensive) activity with your friends could be the solution.
You could take it in turns to host a dinner party at home, go for a walk together in the park, cycle through a new city or, you know, even go to the gym together. Because a workout with your bestie is 10 times better than a workout by yourself, are we right?
10. SHOP DURING THE SALES
Sales are the best time to splurge a bit and get the things you want, and if you’re prepared to wait, you could save a significant amount of money on what you buy.
If you’ve just missed our Black Friday Sale, never fear, as you can expect plenty more where that came from in 2023 👀. Or if you can’t hold off till then, you can save up to 50% off in our outlet!
You’ve worked hard for your money, so you should spend it however you please. That being said, if you are wanting to watch your cash and discover how to save money, then hopefully some of our money saving hacks will come in handy!
If you do find you’re struggling to make certain payments or manage your money in general, never be afraid to reach out for support. Talk to friends and family or alternatively, many organisations and banks can provide financial advice.