Tricks to cutting your calories

I think we all understand the losing weight, maintaining our weight is not always an easy task.  Being in thehealth and fitness industry for a while now and accomplishing my own weight loss after having my first daughter I have learnt a number of tricks of the trade and want to share a few with you that have worked for me and studies have brought it to our attention.  Some may work for you and some may not but anything is worth a try and it is better than turning to shakes, diets and skipping meals.

You will note with some of these tips I have referred you to various resources. Some of these studies have been conducted on small groups and from my teachings an extremely valid source is approximately 400 people or more. So we sometimes have to be sceptical about what we read and take in other factors that may have contributed to these results.  Also, some are observational studies and therefore need further studies.  However, I have lead you to articles of some validity and not wikepedia, so with that in mind I will let you be the judge if these tips may work for you personally.

So have a read of the following and if you have any further questions please do not hesitate in contacting me at  If you have a tip you would like to share that has worked for you, whether it be included below or something I haven’t mentioned, please also feel free to send through.

Choose Low GI foods – You may have heard of the glycaemic index (or GI containing foods). These are carbohydrate-foods based on their effect on blood sugar levels over time (approx. 2hrs) Carbohydrate-containing foods are compared with glucose or white bread as a reference food, which is given a GI score of 100. The GI compares foods that have the same amount of carbohydrate, gram for gram. Carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion have a higher glycaemic index (GI more than 70). These high GI carbohydrates release their glucose into the blood quickly, such as a baked potato, leaving you feel hungry again quite quickly after consuming them. The carbohydrate foods that slowly release glucose into the bloodstream, such as oats are referred ti as having a low glycaemic indexes (GI less than 55). These foods release glucose into the blood stream slower and flatter, lengthening digestion and helping you feel fuller for longer.

You don’t have to start following a complete low GI diet but including some of these foods in your diet or substituting these for others ie. swap white bread for grainy bread. This will help you feeling fuller for longer and stop you reaching for the cookie jar for 3pm cravings.

Some examples of the GI rating of various carbohydrates include:

  • low GI (less than 55) – soy products, beans, fruit, milk, pasta, grainy bread, porridge and lentils
  • medium GI (55 to 70) – orange juice, honey, basmati rice and wholemeal bread
  • high GI (greater than 70) – potatoes, white bread and short-grain rice.

 Chew Gum – Studies have found that the act of simply chewing gum can increase energy expenditure while reducing your calorie consumption.  Why? The nerves and muscles that control the jaw are stirred when making the chewing action and they send signals to the brain that make you think you are full.

Eat an apple before lunch (15% less food at lunch) – An apple consumed before a meal has been shown to reduce hunger, therefore reducing calorie intake while increasing fibre intake. Studies have shown that consuming an apple (or similar low GI fruit – see above) at the beginning of a meal provides a feeling of satisfaction and therefore resulting in less interested in over consumption of food.

Mindful eating – This relates to basically keeping a food diary! Studies have shown that those that record their intake are more likely to be successful at reaching their weight loss goals as being mindful about what you eat can result in fewer calories consumed.  Ever think twice about that piece of chocolate cake when you know you physically have to write it down on a piece of paper? This can also apply to those that aim to bulk up, by recording your information you should see the results you are after.

Don’t do food shopping when hungry – According to this study, shopping on an empty stomach can lead to you purchasing high calorie foods as these become more appealing. Also the time of day has an impact on purchasing high calorie foods also. Purchases between 4 and 7 were more likely to result in high calorie foods than between 1 and 4 when you are more likely still be hungry from lunch.

Eat breakfast – Observational studies have demonstrated that those that eat breakfast are likely to eat a healthier diet overall. Skipping this meal leads to you feeling hungry throughout the day leading to poorer food choices.  This may totally contradict what I just said but also may be worth a read for an alternative view.

Portion Sizes – An oldie but a goodie. When eating out we usually receive a huge quantity of food that we just don’t need.  Start observing or teaching yourself about size equivalents – for instance, next time you make your breakfast pull out a measuring cup and see how much you are having in the morning, if too much pull it back.  Gives you an idea in the future of the quantities you are eating.  Use smaller plates, bowls and cups. It tricks your brain into thinking you are eating the same amount as you would on a bigger plate.

Sniff peppermint tea – A study has found that sniffing peppermint tea may suppress eating.  Subjects were found to have eaten fewer calories on the days they were asked to sniff peppermint tea compared to the placebo they were given.    Lots of herbal teas may also do the trick, just drinking some herbal tea rather than reaching for the cookie jar of an afternoon may reduce the calories you may have otherwise eaten.

Have Protein at Every Meal and Snack – Ensuring you include a source of lean/low-fat protein to each meal/snack will assist in keeping you feel full for longer.  Adding a low-fat yogurt, handful of nuts, peanut butter to some grain bread, eggs, beans, or lean meats are great ways to incorporate these foods. It is also recommended that you eat small, frequent meals/d snacks (every 3-4 hours), to keep your blood sugar levels stable and to avoid overeating.

Modify food/choose alternatives to reduce calories – Use oil instead of butter, caster sugar instead of brown sugar. Have 1 sugar instead of 2 or none in your coffee or tea, when heading to the movies take your own food – for instance pop your own healthier popcorn, choose the mini muffin instead of the huge one, check labels for reduced sugar, salt and fat alternatives.  The modifications and alternatives are endless. This link gives you a great idea how you can modify recipes

Cut the fat – Fat and alcohol for that matter have 9 calories per gram whereas carbohydrates and protein have 4 calories per grams. So an easy explanation as to why we should reduce our fat and alcohol content.

Eat before you head out – Ensuring you eat a meal or snack before heading out to a party is a great idea to make sure you don’t overeat or perhaps even snack on food you really don’t want. Heading to a stand up finger food party? Always good to eat a proper meal beforehand, you are less likely to indulge in high calorie food because they are so moreish or you are likely not to feel like it at all. Always good to have  a glass of water or soda water in the hand too so you don’t feel like you always have to have food in your hand.

Focus on who you are with and not the food – Focus on the people you are catching up with and you are more likely to eat a lot slower and not as much.

Brush your teeth after your dinner meal – A good habit to get into to stop you for snacking throughout the meal. Not only does it benefit your teeth from the days meals but who really wants to eat something after they have brushed their teeth, just doesn’t taste as good does it?

No snacks after X time? – It is worth establishing a time that you will stop eating of an evening to curb the late-night munchies or simple mindless snacking while engrossed in your favourite tv show – we have all done it! Have a cup of tea, a couple of squares of dark chocolate f you want something sweet after dinner and then do the above – brush your teeth.

Choose Liquid Calories Wisely – Watch for sweetened drinks as these are latent with sugar and help you accumulate calories.  When thirsty opt for water, sparkling/soda water and add some citrus for flavour if you like, low-fat milk, or small portions of 100% fruit juice. Be careful of alcohol calories, which add up quickly also. If you tend to drink a glass or two of wine/beer on most days, limiting alcohol to the weekends can be a huge calorie saver.

Indulge occasionally – A recent study has demonstrated that those people that indulge or have a cheat meal on weekends are more likely to reach their weight loss goals as long term habits are more likely to have an impact that short term ones.  Planning your indulgence can also help, it can be seen as some type of ‘reward’ and keep you on track throughout the week.

Leave time before seconds – Give your body to digest what you have eaten before heading up for seconds. Give yourself approximately 20 minutes and even grab a drink of water before you head up and grab some more, and most of the time you will find you are not really hungry anymore and if you haven’t already you can start packing the leftovers away for lunch the next day.

Create leftovers before eating – This will reduce the amount you have or eliminate the habit to go back for seconds.

Be aware of condiments and dressings – When making dinner or out for a meal, ask for dressing on the sides, that way you don’t receive a meal that is swimming in dressing. Choose low fat varieties when making choices.  And always check the labels as per previous

Learn to say NO – Simply learn to say no to things that you know will compromise your hard work. It is not an easy thing to do at first, but once you start doing it and start considering the effort it took to get up at 6am this morning and run those Anderson St hills, it starts to get much easier.

 Again for further information or questions contact me at


Eating before and after exercise

A common question we both receive with regard to nutrition is what types of food should be consumed before and after exercise.

Whether you are completing a casual training session like boot camp or training for a competition it is important to have an understanding of the benefits and timing of pre and post exercise meals.

Food consumed before exercise is only useful once it has been digested and absorbed. This means you need to time your food intake so that the fuel becomes available during the exercise period. The time required for digestion depends on the type and quantity of food consumed. Generally, foods higher in fat, protein and fibre tend to take longer to digest than other foods, and may increase the risk of stomach discomfort during exercise. Large quantities of foods take longer to digest than smaller quantities. Generally, food is better tolerated during lower intensity activities, or sports where the body is supported (e.g. cycling) than sports such as running where the gut is jostled about during exercise.

A general guide is to have a meal about 3-4 hours before exercise or a lighter snack about 1-2 hours before exercise. You need to experiment to find the timing, amount and make up that best suits your individual needs.

Use the following as a general guide:
• Large meals. Eat these at least three to four hours before exercising.
• Small meals. Eat these two to three hours before exercising.
• Small snacks. Eat these an hour before exercising.

But remember if you eat too much before you exercise it could leave you feeling sluggish and eating too little might not give you the energy required.

Food eaten before exercise should contain carbohydrates. It should also be low in fat and moderate in fibre to make digestion easier and reduce the risk of gastrointestinal discomfort.

Keep in mind the following will be more suitable for when preparing for a competition or long bouts of exercise.

The following foods are suitable to eat 2-3 hours before exercise:
• crumpets with jam or honey + small quantity flavoured milk
• baked potato + cottage cheese filling + glass of milk
• baked beans on toast
• breakfast cereal with milk
• bread roll with cheese/meat filling + banana
• fruit salad with fruit-flavoured yoghurt
• pasta or rice with a sauce based on low-fat ingredients (e.g. tomato, vegetables, lean meat)

The following snacks are suitable to eat 1-2 hours before exercise and suitable before a casual training session like boot camp:
• liquid meal supplement
• milk shake or fruit smoothie
• sports bars (check labels for carbohydrate and protein content)
• breakfast cereal with milk
• cereal bars
• fruit-flavoured yoghurt
• fruit

It is recommended that you avoid dairy products (including butter on bread) unless you have had previous practice at consuming and then training with them in your system.

Do I have to eat before a workout? Will it help me burn more fat if I don’t eat beforehand?
May sound silly but it is a common question I get and the answer is yes you should eat before a workout. Doesn’t have to be a big meal as suggested above but some sugar to get the body energised and out of its fasting state (from a night’s sleep) so you can have an effective workout.

Studies have shown that with or without a meal a certain amount of fat will be burnt however, those that don’t eat anything beforehand their body in addition to fat stores starts using protein stores and with that your muscle mass, which is not what you are going for when you are waking up at 6am to work on toning your body.

I know most of you will simply roll out of bed 15 minutes before a training session but if you try and eat something before you head to training to simply raise your blood sugar levels you will find you really have more energy and endurance to work harder, burn more calories, and improve your muscle tone in the long run. It is something simple that contains carbohydrates and protein and can be as easy as half/full banana, a glass of juice, peanut butter sandwich, muesli bar, a piece of toast with honey or sports drink or (anything under the 1-2hr list above) and you are on your way. If a coffee works for you, give it a try but remember if your exercise involves running, this may not sit well.

Not able to eat in the morning before a workout? My suggestion is simply give it a go, try different foods and you may just find something that sits well with you and gives you more energy throughout your workout. If it just isn’t working for you, that’s ok too, this just means the post exercise meal will be extremely important to ensure your body recovers appropriately.

Post exercise – why should we eat a meal?
Immediately after a workout session/competition, you are encouraged to consume a carbohydrate rich snack that provides 1-1.2g of carbohydrates per kg body weight within your first hour of completing the exercise. The aim of a recovery meal is to restore liver and muscle glycogen concentration and replace fluid and electrolytes lost through sweat. It is important to replenish stores lost to ensure that muscle-damage repair and reconditioning is facilitated. Neglecting to do so can compromise future performance – ever missed a session because you are way too sore??

Some people will finish an event with a good appetite, so most foods are appealing to eat. On the other hand, a fatigued athlete may only feel like eating something that is compact and easy to chew.

Some examples (but not limited to)
• 700-800ml sports drink
• 2 sports gels
• 300ml carbohydrate loader drink
• 2 slices toast/bread with jam or honey or banana topping
• 2 cereal bars
• 1 cup thick vegetable soup + large bread roll
• 115g (1 large or 2 small) cake style muffins, fruit buns or scones
• 300g (large) baked potato with salsa filling
• 100g pancakes (2 stack) + 30g syrup
• Yoghurt and fruit
• Low fat milk
• Peanut butter sandwich

In the lead up to an event
As per our information sheet “Carbs are not the enemy” you will have read about carbohydrate loading and its benefits for endurance events.

As per the Australian Institute of Sport recommendations anyone that is exercising continuously at a moderate to high intensity for 90 minutes or longer is likely to benefit from carbohydrate loading.

Typically, sports such as cycling, marathon running, longer distance triathlon, cross-country skiing and endurance swimming benefit from carbohydrate loading. Shorter-term exercise is unlikely to benefit as the body’s usual carbohydrate stores are adequate.

An athlete participating in a high carbohydrate diet in the lead up to an event might look something like this.

What if I am too nervous to eat?
You will perform better when you are well-fuelled and well hydrated, and the pre-event meal may play an important role in achieving these goals. Athletes need to experiment to find a routine that works, and foods that are safe and familiar. Liquid meal supplements provide an alternative for anyone who has difficulty tolerating solid foods pre-exercise. You may also find that foods such as cereal bars and sports bars can be eaten if you nibble them slowly over the hours leading up to the event.

Don’t forget about hydration – this is just as important!
Pre Event/Training:
Hydration is essential. For an upcoming event, in the days leading to the event you should be aiming to consume at least 1.5-2litres of water a day.

Avoid drinking alcohol the night before an event/training session as alcohol is a diuretic and will dehydrate you and will also prevent you from sleeping well.

You must ensure you begin the event in fluid balance. This requires drinking regularly throughout the day leading up to the event. Have a drink with all meals and snacks. Immediately, before the event commences, consume 200-600 ml of fluid.

During the event/Training:
Studies have shown that regular ingestion of fluids is essential for sporting performance. Hypo-hydration (total body water below normal) impairs the body’s ability to regulate heat resulting in increased body temperature and an elevated heart rate. Perceived exertion is increased causing the athlete to feel more fatigued than usual at a given work rate. Mental function is reduced which can have negative implications for motor control, decision making and concentration. Gastric emptying is slowed, resulting in stomach discomfort. All these effects lead to impairment in exercise performance.

We recommend taking small sips of water throughout training or if in competition at drink stations provided. As a general rule of thumb you should be consuming about 200-300mls of water for every 20mins of exercise. Most athletes can tolerate this but tolerance will vary according to the exercise intensity.

Post evening/Training:
Replace any residual fluid deficit after exercise. You will need to drink 125-150% of any fluid deficit in the 4-6 hours after exercise to account for ongoing sweat and urinary losses. For example if you have lost 1kg of water, need to drink 1500ml of water to replace the loss

When fluid losses are high and/or rapid rehydration is required, sodium replacement may be required. Sports drinks, oral rehydration solutions and salty foods can all contribute to sodium replacement.

Studies have shown that sports drinks are effective after any moderate -high intensity exercise lasting more than 1 hour with the addition of sodium/electorlytes in these drinks reduces further urine loss. These are not appropriate to be sipping throughout boot camp sessions, water is sufficient.
Flavoured drinks, such as sports drinks and low concentration cordial, may encourage more fluid consumption than plain water because of their taste and sodium content.

Surprisingly to some studies have shown that chocolate milk may be as good or better than sports drinks at helping athletes recover from strenuous exercise. Milk is 90% water so it helps you keep hydrated, provides 10 essential nutrients for growth and development, including protein for healthy muscles and calcium for building strong bones.

Protein Shakes/Supplements – should I be consuming them? Does increasing my protein intake assist with my weight loss goal?
In general we consume enough protein by following a varied healthy diet on a daily basis. To give you an idea of the protein we should consume per day please see table here.

At times if a person isn’t able to get the nutrient they require from the diet, after speaking with a nutritionist/dietician a supplement may be required, but not without consultation.

Would I recommend protein shakes? Not when they are so expensive and you can make your own beneficial product at home with cow’s milk and some fresh fruit and vegetables or nuts and seeds. You are much better to have a fruit smoothie or invest in some sustagen if you are keen on adding ‘protein shakes’ to your diet.

Yes protein should assist you to reach your weight loss goal because protein can reduce your appetite and those that need assistance reducing dietary intake, this may be beneficial for. Again, I would chat to a health professional before doing so.

Supplements – effectiveness and safety.
Rather than me re-inventing the wheel check out the following link that runs through the supplements that the AIS classify as effective and safe (and not so much) based on extensive research. Another frequent question I am asked – Click here for more information.

1. Mayo Clinic – Eating and Exercise (5 tips to maxamise your workout)
2. Australian Institute of Sport – Eating before exercise
3. Australian Institute of Sport – Eating post exercise
4. Dairy Australia – Dairy and exercise recovery
5. Australian Institute of Sport – Hydration
6. Australian Institute of Sport – Protein
7. Australian Institute of Sport – AIS Supplement Group Classification System