Brussels & Bruges, Belgium – I’ve died and gone to heaven
May 13, 2011

Start leading a healthy life style and it is only natural that your taste buds will slowly mature and seek out more complex flavors. A decade ago I would have drank a Budweiser. But ever since my compulsion to almost completely eradicate sugar from my diet, my beer cravings have turned “dark”.

If you know your beer, then you no doubt have savored a Belgian beer or two. It does not take long to see Belgium’s love for brew is steeped in history. Although in 1900 Belgium boasted over 3200 breweries, now just over 100 still exist. Despite the massive decline in numbers, you can find specialist beer bars serving over 500 different kinds of beer.

In times past, some of Belgium’s finest beers were brewed by Trappists, a silent order of Cistercian monks – Chimay being one. To induce a second fermentation process yeast is added at bottling, so make a careful pour to avoid disturbing the bottom sediment. While many Abbeys have licensed their beers to commercial breweries, such as Leffe, brew standards remain high.

As of late, a thick dark stout with hints of coffee and a tall creamy head is next to impossible to turn down. Almost as rewarding and surprisingly complex is a Witbier or “white beer”, Hoegaarden being a more mainstream brand. While most beer is made from barley, white beer is made from wheat, making it light and refreshing. Take a minute and savor the subtle hints of coriander and orange peel, laced in cloudy sediment.

Little wonder why Brussels and beer have gone hand in hand for ages. Very interesting to note is the peculiar air that resides along the river Senne that flows through Brussels, home to a natural airborne yeast called Brettanomyces. Brewers for centuries simply left their wheat-beer wort uncovered for the air to naturally add its yeast. Once fermented the beer is then moved to wooden casks. After a year or more drinkers can finally enjoy its slightly winey edge called Lambic, another typical beer in Brussels.

All this drinking would quite possibly increase ones tolerance to alcohol. This is certainly evident in the sheer strength of some Belgian beers. Single (around 3%) double (around 6%) and treble (around 9%) are all dwarfed by beers reaching in excess of 12%.

It is evident that Belgians know how to drink, but they also know how to eat. A tradition linked to festive occasions, freshly made and sprinkled with icing sugar, gaufres or wafels are an indulgence you cannot pass up! Simply the name Belgian waffles rolls off the tongue like something you learned in elementary school. There is nothing quite like watching your fork cut through the corner of a thick Belgium waffle, as the intoxicating sweet scent hits your nostrils. Do not let the sheer thickness fool you, these waffles are light as air with a subtle crispiness, a wonderful display of melt in your mouth ecstasy. Eat to your heart’s content and still walk away feeling satisfied, not bloated nor lethargic.

Belgian chocolate is world-renowned and for good reason. Belgian chocolate manufactures use high-quality cocoa beans and generous amounts of cocoa butter. Traveling to Belgium and not sampling chocolate would be equivalent to touring Paris and not stopping to gaze at the Eiffel Tower. While the majority of hand-made chocolates here are pralines, you get the sense they know what they are doing and have been doing it for a very long time. Handmade Belgium chocolates are generally inexpressive, sampling a handful might only set you back a Euro or two. Start small as these chocolates are very rich and you will get your fill very quickly. Go in hungry and leave feeling like a million bucks, as there is nothing quite like watching someone slip on a fitted white glove, select and then package your chocolates in a highly appealing baggy.

Belgian frites (fries) are arguably the best fries in the world. Surprisingly despite the thickness of cut, these fries are plenty crunchy. Fries are submerged in two oils with different temperatures until crisp and served with a heap of mayonnaise.

Belgians have enough confidence in their home-grown beef that they eat it raw, Filet Americain style. While I was not brave enough to try that, I did enjoy Moules (muscles). Traditionally muscles are served in a big bucket along with fries. Muscles in white wine are a good place to start, but be sure only to eat the muscles which have opened.

So whatever your tastes buds, there is something here for you.

*Source material: Top 10 – Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp and Ghent

“Beer” photo provided by Chow

“Waffle” photo provided by Flickr user: nibblekibble

“Chocolate” photo provided by Flickr user: Leonidas Belgian Chocolate

“Fries” photo provided by Penguin says Feed Me!

“Mussels” photo provided by Lets Talk More


But I don’t want to bulk up!
February 1, 2011

“I have to be careful, I don’t want to bulk up.” “I was told not to do that, it’s a bulking exercise.” Statements like these continue to leave women’s lips as others encourage them to take up weightlifting. It is so commonly used; as if even looking at a dumbbell would make a woman’s muscles start to swell.

Mindsets like these could not be farther from the truth. No doubt pictures of unnaturally dark women walking around on stage with shoulders bigger than your average male have frightened the masses away from weights and into cardio based lifestyles.

The ugly truth is: unless you plan to dedicate most of your days to grueling workouts, eat a high-calorie diet along with high amounts of protein, have predisposed genetics for gaining rare amounts of muscle tissue, have unusually high amounts of testosterone or use anabolic steroids, the likelihood of you bulking up with a casual approach to weightlifting is next to none, it is impossible!

Gaining large amounts of lean muscle takes years of dedication. Even most men must be extremely patient. In fact, strength training, resistance training and weightlifting will sculpt your muscles into a fit and athletic body. At the very least it will lift and tone your body in all the right places. If by some miracle you do gain undesirable amounts of muscle then by all mean stop! Muscle, as you will soon see, is very difficult to build and very easy to lose.

Hitting the weights just might be the one thing your exercise routine is missing. Although we primarily think of building muscle while lifting weights, you might be surprised how much more fat you will lose instead. If you already are a heavyset person, I guarantee, you will shrink not grow.

Even if you are more concerned about losing fat, the advantages of using weights cannot be overlooked. If you have not read my post regarding resistance training and its affect on your metabolism and ultimately long term fat loss, check out Break through!

*Photo provided by Women On The Fence


Is weight training for me?
December 19, 2010

Why should we consider training with weights to strengthen our muscles?

“Weight training builds muscle mass which is ultimately the best tip for anyone seeking to lose the flab. As your body accumulates muscle your metabolic rate will increase, which in turn will help you burn more fat. End of story!” MuscleMag International

Weight training is just the ticket if we cannot picture our life without cheats. Having more muscle mass will give us more freedom to indulge; thus maintaining our figure while still taking pleasure in daily cheats. On the other hand, if we are living with minimal amounts of muscle mass then we will find our food choices much more limited.

*Photo provided by Microsoft Office Online Clip Art


Your Metabolism… Another piece to the puzzle
July 21, 2010


Is your metabolism running at a snail’s pace? A very important bit of knowledge you need to know is; just what is your metabolism? It’s commonly misunderstood, and understanding your metabolism is the only way you can start to speed it up. Yes, you need to know who your enemy is and how he operates before you can defeat him! Or in your case, making your metabolism work for you and not against you.

What is Metabolism?

“Metabolism is the rate at which your body burns its way through calories just to keep itself alive–to keep your heart beating, your lungs breathing, your blood pumping, and your mind fantasizing about the Caribbean while crunching year-end accounting figures. Your body is burning calories all the time, even while you’re reading this sentence. The average woman burns about 10 calories per pound of body weight every day, the average man, 11 calories per pound.

There are three main types of calorie burn that happen throughout your day…

Calorie burn #1: The thermic effect of eating.

Between 10 and 30 percent of the calories you burn each day get burned by the simple act of digesting your food. Now that’s pretty cool–satisfying your food cravings actually makes you burn away calories. But not all foods are created equal. Your body uses more calories to digest protein (about 25 calories burned for every 100 calories consumed) than it does to digest fats and carbohydrates (10 to 15 calories burned for every 100 calories consumed)…

Calorie burn #2: Exercise and movement.

Another 10 to 15 percent of your calorie burn comes from moving your muscles, whether you’re pressing weights overhead, running to catch the bus, or just twiddling your thumbs…

Calorie burn #3: Basel metabolism.

This one’s the biggie. Your basal, or resting, metabolism refers to the calories you’re burning when you’re doing nothing at all. Sleeping, watching TV… –your burning calories all the while. In fact, between 60 and 80 percent of your daily calories are burned up just doing nothing…” Fat Wars


*Photo provided by Microsoft Office Online Clip Art


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