By Vicky Warr
There never seems to be enough time in the day for busy working mums. With two small children myself, I work full time running my own business and also manage my home, take my children to after school activities and cook.
I am sure you can relate to this…
Business stress and the demands of being a parent can take their toll. Feeling lethargic or just downright exhausted, overwhelmed, putting on weight, digestive issues and struggling to keep up managing family matters may be some of the symptoms you experience.
So today I want to share with you my two top tips to alleviate these conditions. To give you far more energy, to bring on a feeling of calmness, manage your weight and body shape, free up some ‘headspace’ and improve your productivity.
Here they are;
Tip #1 – Get fit and
Tip #2 – eat well
Yes – just by getting fit and making positive food choices or adjusting your eating habits you’ll see your productivity soar. Not only that you’ll have a new clarity of thought and focused concentration.
How to get fit when time is a challenge as you juggle family and work commitments.
Or course, getting fit is not as easy as it sounds when you are juggling demands of a family and work. Finding the time to fit in exercise is a challenge many mums face (me included and I am a fitness specialist!). Yet, ironically being fit is the one thing that will give you more time.
Getting to a gym and doing a class can take 1-2 hours out of your day, which is not feasible or necessary. Not only that you may be concerned as to whether you are doing the exercises correctly – poor technique leads to straining your neck or back, particularly with women who have been pregnant at some time. Alternatively, running may not appeal to you, especially on days when it’s raining and you prefer fair weather.
To get around these obstacles, busy working mums need the right kind of exercises to follow that can be done without hours in the gym. Not only that you need effective exercise that tones up your muscles to then boost metabolism. The leaner muscle you have, the faster your metabolism will be which means you burn more calories even when you are resting or sat at your desk. Then by having an efficient body which burns more calories you, in turn, increase your muscle tone! What goes around, comes around with improving your muscle tone and improving your metabolism.
Strength training is the most important exercise to do to improve muscle tone, metabolism and how
productive you are in your working day. This form of exercise is where you are using your own body weight or some resistance, such as dumbbells or a resistance band and where your body moves in different planes of motion. If you do this at a good pace with short activity periods, keeping it low impact if you recently returned after maternity leave, you’ll get a very effective workout in a lot less time. A good workout can just take 20 minutes, making sure you do get out of breath enough to not want to hold a conversation.
Choosing to get up early to do your workout before anyone else rises, releases endorphins in the morning to lift your mood. Evening is also effective; providing you don’t leave it too late and as if you workout in bite-sized chunks you’ll easily fit it into your schedule. TheBeezKneez Hive offers online videos which are short that you can do at anytime, anywhere with minimal equipment.
Eat Well: The Five Positive Changes You Can Make To Your Nutrition To Boost Your Brain
1. Eat protein at every meal
Good quality proteins, which contain all 9 essential amino acids improve the brain’s communication. The brain sends words called ‘neurotransmitters’ from one cell to another and the letters they are built from are amino acids. A diet deficient in amino acids can manifest in lack of motivation, apathy, and an inability to relax, poor memory and concentration and lead to depression.
For example, two particular amino acids are key. Research has shown that the amino acid ‘tryptophan’ has proven to be more effective in helping combat depression than the best anti-depressant drugs (1) and another amino acid ‘tyrosine’ improves mental and physical performance under stress more than coffee! (2)
Here’s how to ensure you have an optimal intake of amino acids;
Eat two servings of lean animal protein-rich foods a day. These include; tuna, cod, salmon, chicken, organic wherever possible. Other rich protein foods are nuts and seeds, an ideal mid morning or afternoon snack, eggs, and cottage cheese.
Choose good vegetable protein sources; beans, lentils and rice, quinoa or tofu and peas (frozen), broccoli and spinach are good.
2. Drink enough water
Of all the ways to keep your brain sharp, from getting enough sleep, to reducing stress drinking water is the simplest ways as it’s convenient to grab a glass of water in the office. Your brain cells require a balance between water and other elements to function optimally, being dehydrated causes your brain to lose efficiency resulting in a loss of mental clarity and focus. Dehydration can also impair short-term memory and the recall of long-term memory.
It’s a good idea to drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up. When you are sleeping you are going the longest time without water and you lose water at night with every breath (even when sleeping) so over a period of time you can get dehydrated.
Water also plays a vital role in energy metabolism that means it boosts your metabolism so your body burns more calories when exercising and improves your energy levels to workout better.
Your body requires water to process calories from what you eat, if you are dehydrated it causes your metabolism to slow down. According to one fitness study, drinking 2 cups of water can increase your metabolism by 30%.
A well hydrated body also helps balance your hormones and regulates insulin levels. High levels of insulin can result in unwanted abdominal fat.
Your target is to aim to drink 3-5 litres of water a day. Keep a glass of water or jug on our desk and always carry a drinks bottle with you if you are travelling to meetings.
3. Ditch the sugar
Sugar and the sugar in processed foods, cakes, biscuits and soft drinks stores in your body as fat and sends your blood sugar levels soaring, giving not only your body but your brain a short-lived energy ‘buzz’. The result after is a feeling of lethargy, mental ‘fogginess’ and feeling ‘cranky’. Not only that processed foods containing sugar raise your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
A great sugar substitute is Stevia, which is a natural option from the plant. You can buy Stevia in organic powdered or liquid form from most supermarkets or on amazon. You can occasionally use a drop of honey or maple syrup in your morning drink. But keep it to a drop (both are as bad as sugar).
4. Beware! Energy bars sap your strength
Most shop bought energy or cereal bars are full of sugar and are not a good choice of snack for you or your children! Grab raw nuts instead such as cashews, brazil nuts, walnuts or pistachios (unroasted and not salted). Also keep some protein shake at work so you can get a real energy boost for your brain at the danger times of the day – mid morning or mid-afternoon. Or try my healthy flapjack recipe.
5. Essential Fats
Essential fatty acids (EFA’s) are the ones of choice here, as they crucially influence how your brain cells talk to each other. Eating adequate good fats improves concentration as well as your skin, eyesight and condition of your nails. They are particularly important if you are pregnant, have returned to work and still feeding your baby or recently had a baby. Choose avocados, oily fish like salmon and mackerel, nuts, flaxseeds, coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil. Aim to eat two thumbs of fat dense food at every meal.
Make a commitment today to start regular strength exercise.
To get you started, without a gym or even fitness clothing, download a free copy of my colour exercise guide:
‘7 exercises to tone your mummy tummy, you can do in your pyjamas’
Click here to get your colour copy complete with instructions and images.
No excuses now huh?!
(1) B. O’Reilly, Hyperactive Children’s support group conference, June 2001, UK
(2) N.I. Ward et al., ‘The influence of the chemical additive tartrazine on the zinc status of hyperactive children – a double blinded placebo controlled study’, J Nutr Med, Vol 1, 1990, pp. 51-57
About the Author
Vicky Warr is a Pregnancy and Postpartum fitness specialist and CEO and founder of TheBeezKneez Hive, the online postnatal fit club. She is pregnancy and postnatal fitness consultant to Mothercare and expert contributor to Gurgle Magazine, one of the leading UK Mother and Baby Magazines.