Wednesday, 15 October 2014

6 Diet And Exercise Aids You Shouldn't Be Without

1. My Fitness Pal

This is a 'free calorie-counter, diet and exercise tracker'. And it is precisely that. Even for those of you who don't like to count calories, this is a fantastic tool for keeping you accountable. It is so easy to discount those three chips you ate off your child's plate, or that handful of nuts you grabbed on your way out of the door, or that teaspoon (or 7) of dessert you devoured tasted when hubby was having his post-dinner treat but those little things add up! More than just calorie counting, it also helps you understand your exercise in relation to your eating and see how and where to make improvements. 

Pros: I have tried a number of diet trackers over the years and this is definitely one of the best. Firstly it's FREE (we like free things), has a humongous food database (they even have local foods like mukimo etc and can help you customise and track your macronutrient content; basically, for those of us on high protein diets, this works wonders. You can use it online via their website or download it as an app on your phone and input as you go.

Cons: The exercise database can be a little hard to work with when you do weights or circuits but I use a heart rate monitor which eliminates this problem.

Leading me nicely into my second favourite tool.

2. Heart Rate Monitor

On the rare occasion that I forget my HRM at home, I feel completely lost at the gym. Yes. It's THAT good. A heart rate monitor works by monitoring your heart rate while you exercise, taking into account your height, weight and age, to work out how many calories you burn. I know, I know, again with the calories. 

Pros: More than just a calorie counter, you can also use your HRM to control the zone you work out with, whether your aim is fat burning or cardiovascular endurance. Depending on the calibre of the watch, you can use it to track your GPS when you run, swim or cycle and even create training files or programs to see how your performance is improving. I use a Polar FT4 which is a pretty basic model that comes with a watch and strap and measures your heart rate and calories burned but I absolutely LOVE it.

Cons: They can be costly but they're very hardy and IMO, worth every penny. If you're a runner, you may want to spring for the GPS option or if you're cheap like me, use a GPS app on your phone.

3. Map My Fitness

Map My Fitness uses GPS to measure your speed, distance, exercise done etc. You can use it in conjunction with your heart rate monitor as well as My Fitness Pal making it a great accompaniment for both. I use Map My Run for outdoor exercise, whether it's running a marathon or walking my; there are lots of additional categories to chose from e.g riding, cycling and even swimming. Simply download onto your phone and off you go!

Pros:  Has lots of challenges you can join in to keep you motivated e.g working out 15 minutes a day for 30 minutes etc. It's free and pretty accurate too.

Cons: Need internet connection and it uses up your battery life like crazy!

4. Plant Nanny

Most of us don't drink enough water. We need even more water when we're exercising, and you should be drinking an extra litre for every hour of exercise you do. But drinking water is hard work, and kinda boring. Usually you drink a couple of glasses in the morning and one or two more during the day then a couple of hours before bed realise we're still several glasses short and proceed to glug 4 in a row. Meaning you're up all night beating a path to the loo. The trick is to constantly drink during the day but who can remember that when you're living a busy life?! Well, with a water tracking app on your phone, you don't have to.

Pros: Works out how much water you need to drink (you will be surprised!) based on your stats and sends you a reminder every hour or so so you can keep your intake constant. It's also super cute and you get to choose really cute plants. I've used other water tracking apps before but this is my favourite. And it' guessed it..FREE!

Cons: I really can't think of any.

5. Kitchen Scales

This is a vital tool for getting your portions under control. I often meet clients who's diets aren't bad, full of fresh fruit and veg, whole grains and small amounts of good fats. The problem for most people is quantities. Most of us were drilled from a young age to clear our plates. The trouble is, as we've got older, our plates, and eyes, have got bigger. Restaurants serve us massive portions and everything is super size these days. Simple put, we're eating too much. Buying yourself a pair of kitchen scales and weighing out your food will quickly help you understand visually what your plate of food should look like. 

Pros: Very affordable and easy to use. I bought the scales above at Nakumatt for about Kshs 1,000/-

Cons: Weighing your food can be tedious and a little embarrassing. You also can't exactly carry your scales around (OK, you can. Say hello to folding scales!) but you do quickly learn how to measure with your eyes. 

6. Good Shoes

I love my obnoxious shoes

If you know me, you'll know I'm always banging on about having proper support. It is important to not only work out in proper training shoes but more than that, shoes made for your foot type. Arch height and how your foot rolls when you walk are two important considerations, and there are some great sites that help you select shoes based on this. If you do get a good pair, don't use them for miscellaneous things like nipping to the shops. Use them only to exercise and that's it.

Pros: Good shoes help avoid sports related injuries, especially your knees and back. 

Cons: Sadly, the variety available locally isn't great and when you do find a good pair, they tend to be really expensive. Mitumba does have some shoes available however shoes, like cars, have mileage. So what may feel and look like a perfectly good pair of shoes may be well past their mileage for adequate support for anything higher impact than walking.  I order shoes online periodically from Sports Direct so if anyone is interested in piggy backing on my next order, please email me at 

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