Calories in Watermelon Chunks

Closeup bowl of watermelon on a bench

History claims that watermelon originated in southern Africa but ever since it spread to both Asia and Europe, there are almost fifty varieties of the fruit that remain a popular choice with people all over the world, with the red flesh variety being the most commonly variety of them all.

How about this fruit being healthy in terms of nutrients and calories?

Right off the bat, you can say that when watermelons (square or oval) are cut into chunks, they are rich in good nutrients while also having a rather meager count when it comes to the number of calories.

Yes, each sweet and juicy watermelon chunk that you eat is only about 35 to 40 calories or so, and the low calories in watermelon chunks making it a popular choice on a diet. But it’s most redeeming quality is being able to quench one’s thirst, making it a popular fruit to eat during the summer months.

When it comes to nutrients, watermelon has carbohydrates, protein, Potassium, Vitamin A and C and Iron in sufficient quantities. The only downside with eating watermelon is that the sugar content is pretty high, so it is important to keep that in mind. The biggest benefit of eating this fruit is that it is fat-free and has no sodium. Alternatively, an average-sized watermelon is almost 1355 calories while a single wedge is about 86 calories.

(Here’s the complete nutritional break-up of watermelon chunks at this link.)

As a final word of caution: remember not to buy watermelons that are hard or that have cracks, bruises and spots.

In other watermelon related news: the Japanese, who are known to always come up with something different, have come up with square watermelons (which freaked out Japanese shoppers at first). Crazy but true.


Calories in Cantaloupe

So what do peaches, all kinds of melons, blueberries and pineapples have in common?

They’re summer fruits, and are a foodie’s delight during a season that can get very hot and dry. Yet when it comes to the cantaloupe (which is a type of melon along with the muskmelon and honeydew melon), it’s normally available almost always throughout the year.

In stark similarity with the watermelon, most varieties of melons (including the cantaloupe) have their origins in Africa (and India), leading to the cultivation of these melons in both North America and Europe.

The North American cantaloupe is known for its reticulated appearance and orange, sweet flesh but what dieting buffs will be most interested in, are the calories in cantaloupe. It that has been known to be an excellent food choice if you are trying to lose weight. And in similar fashion to other fruits and vegetables, the number of calories per cup (about 177 g) of cantaloupe balls touches a modest of 60. That’s right, only 60 calories in a cup of cantaloupe.

If that’s not enough, there is little or no fat content in eating this melon (about 0.3 g consisting of saturated and polysaturated fat) while not containing any cholesterol at all with protein existing in minimal quantities (1.5 g). Along with total carbohydrates (14.4 g) and sodium (28 g), this fruit contains Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium and Iron in substantial quantities. Rich in polyphenols antioxidants, this vegetable is beneficial for the immune system and the heart as well.

So, you can see why this melon is an excellent choice for a diet but what one must keep in mind is the danger of Salmonella is ever prevalent on the surface of this melon (and most recently in papayas) in particular, and so it is advised that when buying any melon (including cantaloupe), one must wash it careful before cutting them apart from avoiding bruised melons completely.

Dining out on a Diet

If you are on a diet, and are struggling to figure out what to eat when you go out, keep reading for my strategies on dining out on a diet. These will help you make it through events, dinners and parties and still maintain close or strict adherence to whatever diet plan you are on:

When dining out, unless it is the rare occasion where there is no planning involved, always do your homework. If you are going to a restaurant to eat, look at their menu in advance and select meals that are diet friendly. Almost every restaurant (aside from Fast Food chains) will have items on the menu that are either low-fat or low calorie or can be made so with a few changes.

Don’t be afraid to ask for changes when you order. If grilled chicken and mash are on the menu, ask the waiter to replace the mash with some mixed vegetables or just a simple plain salad. Substitutions can be made anywhere for any meal. Some restaurants even cook with a different oil if you ask them to.

If the venue hasn’t been decided, then pick cuisines that have food that serve food that you can eat on the diet. Mexican is always good for those on the slow carb diet, while sashimi can be good for low carb and high protein meals, though beware that the calories in sushi can be quite high if you order the wrong items. And as I mentioned above, substitutions can make a lot of meals diet friendly.

Another strategy is to fill up on foods rich in fiber and protein. They will keep you satiated for longer and if consumed a little prior to going out, you are likely to eat less and suffer less temptation.

There are some things to avoid when eating out: They are foods with gravies, cream sauces, au gratin etc. know what you are eating before you do. General restaurant buzzwords can mean something completely different to what you think it might be. Do your research and be prepared.

Avoid large meals like Buffets. Psychologically it is very difficult to avoid eating more when there is more choice available. Studies have shown that the amount of eaten increases with the amount and variety of food available. Once again, less is more.

What you do, don’t control your food choices and then drink your calories. When it comes to drinking out, have a look at this post on low calorie alcoholic drinks. But if it is non-alcoholic beverages you are looking for, try a diet soda. If diet soda’s are not your thing, lime juice without sugar or plain black coffee should be your staple. It does take some getting used to but once you do, its the perfect drink for any meal.

The Best Hamstring Exercises

If you want to build your hamstring muscles, either for strength or in the case of women, to tone the thighs and buttocks, here are the best hamstring exercises. All of these exercises are based around the barbell deadlift; which is, hands down, the number one exercise for hamstring growth.

1. Barbell Deadlifts

Deadlifts are a fundamental exercise that engages nearly all musculature or range of motion among the legs. Deadlifts are also called a core exercise by some folks since they need functional stability from the surrounding muscles. When done with proper form, Deadlifts work efficiently towards making you stronger and exhausting more calories than any other leg-centric exercise.

Doing Your Deadlifts Right

The barbell should be resting on the floor. The barbell shouldn’t be moving due to any depressions on the ground or slope of the surface and it shouldn’t be placed over a material that tends to make the barbell slip from its original position. You should be standing in such a manner that the barbell is just above your toe joints and positioned right in front of the shins. Check your stance by evaluating your shoulders. Your legs should be stretched apart as much as your shoulder width. Now, bend your knees a bit to grab the barbell.

Starting with a lighter load is recommended since Deadlifts can be rather demanding for first-timers. Take care when you are bending your knees. When reaching down, the knees should be within the spread of your elbows. This stance helps to lift more weight without inducing too much pressure on the lower back and avoids risk of causing any injury. Besides the conventional grip, you can use the alternate grip. Here, one hand is facing your chest, i.e. in the pronated position and the other hand is facing downwards, i.e. in the supinated position.

As you try to lift the bar off the floor, use your entire body to do so and not just your arms or your hips. Take care of keeping your arms straight and the knees slightly bent. Deadlifts are perhaps the only exercise besides a weighted squat that tend to engage such a wide group of muscles including that of the hips and legs apart from the glutes, the lower back and the arm. Ensure that your back is not in a curved position. This can cause an injury and is the major reason why many people struggle with heavy Deadlifts. The appropriate stance can be easily achieved if you keep your head up and use your hips to push your body up. Most critically, keep the bar close to your body as you attempt the lift. As you rise further and enter a more straightened position, don’t try to hyper-extend. This means that you shouldn’t jerk as you are lifting as this can induce damage on the lower back. Remember, you need a regulated thrust to complete the Deadlift and not an abrupt push.

Use these variations in your workouts, either on different days if you do a multi-day split or as part of your lower body workout. You can pair these up with the best leg exercises to completely workout the lower body.

2. Stiff Leg Deadlifts

These are a very comprehensive and the most traditional way of executing Deadlifts. This variation is best recommended to those into mass-building regimens, particularly for the hamstrings. The set-up is similar to traditional Deadlifts. However, the feet should be positioned in a slightly narrower stance. Here, the knees should be bent and spread within the width of the shoulder. The reason for this stance is to reduce the load on the lower back. Thus, the driving force comes from the glutes and hips. Ideally, the hips should be the fulcrum of the body movement.

3. Romanian Deadlifts

A rather popular variation of the common Deadlift, this is a completed hamstring exercise. This variation allows bending of the knees a bit more than the usual, to ensure greater comfort when lifting heavily loaded barbells. The Romanian Deadlift does reduce the workout effect on the hamstrings but it raises the safety for the lower back and is particularly recommended to those who are working-out around a history of back problems.

4. Glutes Hamstring Raise

This is perhaps the least known of all Deadlift variations. It is used mainly in traditional power-lifting circles. As the name suggests, this deviation of the conventional Deadlift ensures that the glutes are worked upon extensively. It helps to raise the muscle mass across the entire lower back area. This Deadlift option is reserved for the more experienced lifters and not novices. To attempt this exercise, you need to lock your ankles. This means using an object like an Ab-Bench where you can lock-in your ankles. You have to position yourself face down while doing so and place some shock-absorbent material like wet towels under the knees. With the feet fastened, ensure that the knees are kept bent at around 90 degrees. Ideally, you should be kneeling halfway on the floor. As you lower your upper body on to the floor, you will realize that the load is immense across the glutes and you would need to engage the hamstrings to drag yourself back into the kneeling position.

5. Plate Drags

You should start by holding on to something stable like the lower end of a gym machine as you lie down on a gym mat. Now, start by extending the legs fully and place your heel within a weight plate, i.e. in the hole of the plate. Gradually, try to slide the plate towards yourself. This induces contractions in the hamstrings, creating a great workout for the legs. While doing so, the opposite leg should be kept extended. This is like mimicking a leg curl but the movement is more controlled.

6. Good Morning Deadlifts

This is the more radical variation in the traditional Deadlift since the barbell is rested on the upper back. This means that the traps and deltoids muscles are also engaged. However, ensure that the barbell is not sitting on the spine or the neck. Holding the bar a bit lower, i.e. in the power-lifting style, is the recommended choice here. The head and the back should be as straight as possible. The bend should come at the waist with the knees locked-in and bent minimally. This essentially means that the upper body is just about parallel to the floor. Good Mornings are not recommended to gym beginners due to the workload they induce on the entire posterior region of the body.

7. Stand-up Leg Curls

Essentially a free standing variation of the machine-based leg curl, here you are required to do the lying leg curl albeit when standing up and by using one leg at a time. This exercise might have started as a substitute for lack of leg curl machines in gyms but it is now recommended to all those who want to increase the muscle tone in their legs.


Low Fat Chicken with Chilli and Lime Recipe

Here’s an absolutely great and healthy chicken thigh recipe that is low fat and low calorie. In terms of the chilli in the recipe, if you feel that there might be too much heat, you can cut down on the chilli and then slowly increase it if the heat is manageable. This is a recipe that can be used on the slow carb diet.

Nutrition Information: 196 Calories and 7g of fat per serving.

500g (1lb 2oz) boneless chicken thighs, skinned and halved
juice of 2 limes
2 teaspoons Ginger puree
2 teaspoons Garlic puree
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon Ground Roasted Cumin
2 teaspoon Ground Roasted Coriander
1/2-1 teaspoon Sugar
225g Boiled Onion Puree
200ml warm water
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Coriander leaves
1-2 green chillies, cut into Julienne strips
2 red chillies, cut into Julienne strips
1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala

Put the chicken into a non stick pan, at least 25cm (10in) in diameter, and add the lime juice, ginger and garlic purees, chopped onion and turmeric. Stir to mix thoroughly. Place the pan over medium heat and cook gently until the contents begin to bubble, then cover and cook for 10-12 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. At the end of this time, the chicken will have released its juices.

Remove the lid and increase the heat slightly. Cook the chicken until the juices are reduced to a thick paste – this will take four to five minutes. Stir frequently to ensure that the thickened paste does not stick to the bottom of the pan.

Add the cumin, ground coriander, chilli powder, salt and sugar. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook for further 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add half the onion puree and cook, stirring frequently, for three to four minutes or until the onion puree is dry enough to coat the pieces of chicken. Repeat with the remaining onion puree and warm water, then cook, uncovered, for four to five minutes or until the sauce has thickened.

Reserve a little of the fresh coriander and each variety of chillies for garnish and add the remainder to the chicken along with the garam masala. Stir well and remove the pan from the heat. Garnish with the remaining coriander and chillies.

You could serve this with tandoori bread or chapatis or flatbread and a salad.

The Best Leg Exercises

These are five of the best leg exercises you can add to your workout routine, to build and strengthen those leg muscles.

1. Barbell Back Squats (also known as Full Squats)

Squats have traditionally been recommended to the serious, gym-devoted crowd since they engage nearly 100% of the musculature in the legs and lower limbs. Doing Back Squats means that maintaining functional stability is vital. This in turn translates into engaging nearly 95% of the body’s muscles for maintaining the right posture. With proper form, Back Squats work very well towards gaining more muscle and developing an overall, stronger frame apart from helping to burn more calories.

Setting-up: Barbell Back Squats

The barbell should be resting on the upper back, i.e. on the trapezius muscles and shoulders or the deltoid muscles. The idea is not to position the bar on the spine or neck. Bodybuilders are prone to setting-up the barbell much higher whereas power-lifters tend to grip the bar a bit lower. The power-lifting stance is more recommendable. This allows in keeping the head in a firmer, straighter stance and keeps the chest higher during the squat. This also reduces the stress on the neck and back. While executing the squat, remember to keep your abs tight and the head titled upwards. The chest should be puffed outwards and the knees a bit behind the toes. During the bottom part of completing the squat, the thighs should be positioned parallel to the floor. When coming upwards from the squat, the main objective should be to keep the chest up and the head back while the hips should give the momentum to the entire body movement. A properly-executed squat should be tiring, inducing a feeling of literally humping the air since the hip-centered thrust needs to powerful and energy-sapping.

2. Barbell Front Squats

Barbell Front Squats are quite similar to back squats. However, there is one, basic difference, i.e. the bar is placed along the front section of the shoulders. This means that the bar is resting on the anterior deltoids. This exercise engages the shoulder muscles more than the back muscles. There are two, common ways of executing this squat:

Basic Front Squat Position—here, the bar is lifted and placed on the shoulders as soon as it is lifted from the squat rack. For this, using proper arm extension is vital. You need to ensure that the arms are extended-out straight with the palms facing down. This is ideal way to grasp the bar. At the time of lifting the bar, your elbows should be pointing outwards, straight and slightly elevated. This helps to maintain the bar in the required position.

Alternative Front Squat Stance—this is called the Olympic style of executing a squat wherein the squat is finished in a mode, called the ‘high hang’. This means that the bat should still be seated on the upper chest with the fingers positioned underneath the bar. Here, the grip of fingers is in the shape of a hook with the elbows pointed upwards. This stance is recommended to those with strong fingers and wrists.

3. Barbell Lunges

Lunges are considered among the three, most effective exercises for the lower limbs, particularly the legs. Lunges are counted next to deadlifting, just behind squats. It has been observed that women are most likely to execute their lunges with dumbbells, using their bodyweight in a minimal way with the aim of toning their body. On the other hand, the more dedicated weight-trainers and weightlifters consider barbell lunges as a necessity for shaping the legs along with increasing the lifting prowess of legs.

Getting the Lunge Right!

The starting position is almost similar to the one discussed above for executing a good squat. This essentially means that you need to keep the barbell rested on the upper back. Alternatively, you can use dumbbells instead of a weighted bar. The lunge can be conducted in one way only, i.e. the one foot should move forward with the other foot back. This requires proper positioning of the knees. The knees should be bent with the lunged or forward-bending thigh being parallel to the ground. The rear knee should be pointing downwards. The most common variation to this kind of conventional lunge is the stepping lunge. Here, you can either lunge forward using one foot or step forward using one foot as the movement-inducing body part. Either of these lunges when done alternatively, i.e. by using alternative feet for moving backwards or ahead, becomes a walking lunge. The conventional lunge is also called the stationary lunges since it involves no stepping. The other variation is the Bulgarian Split Squat. Here, you have to place your rear foot on an elevated object like a bench. Thus, the movement becomes split and this is why, this variation is also called a Split Squat. These squats are ideally meant for those who want to focus on developing their quadriceps and overall, lower body stability. Remember, while trying-out any of these variations, you should keep your body vertical, i.e. upright.

4. Barbell Step -Up

Step-ups can be interpreted as a variation of the lunge. These too are essentially leg exercises that are both functional cum performance-enhancing exercise. This is because Step-ups mimic bodily movements that work towards increasing the overall postural stabilization across a wider range of motion.

Getting Your Step-ups Right!

You need to get started in the same way you set yourself for executing a squat. Ensure that the bar is firmly pressed on the upper back area. The most recommended items to serve as the elevation medium is a bench or a gym stool. Ensure you use a box that is sturdy. It is always better to get started with a slightly shorter box and increase its height gradually. The box should be heavy enough to support your weight. The other option is to use dumbbells that help to strengthen the grip in a better manner. It is better to get started with lighter weights in the dumbbell step-up as compared to the barbell step-up since the dumbbell variation tends to induce more stress on the grip.

The starting posture of the step-up is similar to that of a lunge but here, you need to make sure that the heel is rested firmly on the box. You need to use your legs and not the hips to propel the body weight upwards. During the step-up, the rear foot should be up and move on to the box. The second leg is used for stepping down. Most beginners cannot distribute their weight evenly on the second leg through the range of motion and end-up with restricted motion. The idea should be to keep the knee and thighs as high as possible and in front of the body. Once, you can go higher up in this posture, the step-up seems more like a kick. This variation is called the high knee kick step-up that is often referred to as merely ‘high knees’. This form of step-up is used mostly by the sprinting athletes.

Women trying the step-up are recommended to use some additional exercises that can aid developing their strength that is used for doing step-ups on a consistent basis and with increasing weight range. Women are recommended to use additional exercises like shoulder presses, dumbbell curls and shoulder raises for increasing their overall body conditioning that aid in executing better, more controlled step-ups.

5. Sprints

Sprints are among the most recommended of gym exercises particularly for those who want to improve their cardiovascular fitness along with increasing their functional muscle mass. The basic reason is that Sprints is both an anaerobic and aerobic exercise regimen rolled into one. Among all the other exercises mentioned here, Sprints are perhaps the most active in terms of engaging a wider group of muscles and help to increase the quad muscles dramatically. This is why Sprints is recommended to all those who tend to indulge in exercises that required more, lower-body power and where serious lifting is required. Thus, Sprints is found among all kinds of power-lifting routines. Sprints can be executed in a normal manner or in the form of speed training. They help to tone and raise the muscle mass throughout the legs. They tend to induce such intensive contractions that coordinated muscle movement and engagement of all the bigger, lower body muscles becomes rather necessary.

Executing Sprints

Try to use a more natural surface for trying Sprints, such as grass or a track, i.e. any place outside the gym where there are no space restrictions. The surface should not be too hard and shouldn’t be uneven in a manner that it can hurt you. For performing sprints, you would be using your legs and arms to drive the maximum effort. Start by pumping the arms from the front to back. This helps to increase the momentum. On every step, the knees should be lifted high. This means that the quads should be almost parallel to the surface below, i.e. more parallel when compared to the posture required for executing squats or lunges. Wearing sprint-friendly, athletic footwear is a must. Interval sprinting requires more effort in shorter bouts. You can alternate it with walking rigorously rather than allowing your muscles to cool down and lose their stretched state.

Such exercises are best used when they are blended into a workout. This refers to creating a full-body workout regimen where exercises like sprints or squats are combined with a comprehensive upper body training regimen. The emphasis should be to choose only one such rigorous lower body exercise, each day. Overdoing such exercises can lower your optimal performance and impede the results apart from inducing the risk of over-training.


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