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Check back here regularly to find out what's new in the world of Nutrition or to read my latest nutrition or training based ramblings....

Free Crossfit Nutrition Guide

Basic Nutrition Guide - Crossfit
Simple booklet that covers the basics, with a nod to the Paleo diet, to get your nutrition on track, enabling you to get the most out of the hard work you put in at the gym.
crossfit nutrition.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [565.1 KB]

Free Basic Nutrition Guide

Basic Nutrition Guide
Simple booklet that covers the basics needed to get your nutrition on track, enabling you to get the most out of the hard work you put in at the gym. Ideal for the BST Warriors and lifting beginners
GeneralBST nutrition.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [576.6 KB]
12 Week Fat Loss Experiment
Read the summary of my journey into single figure bodyfat using nothing but simple, easy nutrition....no gimmicks just a bit of common sense and consistency!
12 week fatloss.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [308.7 KB]

Dairy free Experiment







Following on from the positive effects of going gluten free I decided to up the stakes and see if there would be any further benefits of going dairy-free, in addition to gluten free, for the month of February.

 

The suggested benefits of going dairy free include reduce nausea, anxiety and stress, improved sleeping patterns, digestion and increased energy levels. Some also suggest it can result in the loss of more stubborn fat stores.

 

The main issue with dairy is the ‘lactose’ for which many, even though they may be unaware, can have an intolerance which can put the digestive system into a state of stress. This is believed to be especially
prevalent when consuming treated milk products. Furthermore, some believe that the extensive farming techniques used today results in modern milk being full of medicines and hormones that can have an adverse effect on the human body.

I have never been aware of any personal issues with dairyn and believe that removing an entire food group without due reason only acts to make life more difficult and a diet less sustainable. That said, in the name of science and curiosity I felt I should at least give it a go.

 

Thoughts on the experience

Quite simply – I love dairy!!! Normally I get much of my fat and protein intake from whey and cheese (I LOVE CHEESE) and milk plays an important part in my post-workout re-feed, generally drinking around 12 pints a week, so I knew before I started it would be tough. However, even I was surprised about how much I was missing the dairy from about the third day and by the middle of the second week I was dreaming of cheese! As a result, come the second weekend, whilst wondering through Morrison’s ‘Market Street’ surrounded by cheeses from all corners of the globe, I crumbled and indulged the craving with a fair sized wedge of cheese...it tasted good, so so good but the pleasure was soon followed by pain in the form of stomach cramps and then a night long battle with the...well I’ll leave it as that but I think we all know what I mean! I’m not sure if this was a result of the cheese or just coincidence but either way the effect was to keep me on the straight and narrow and strictly adhere to the no dairy for the rest of the month, something that suddenly seemed to become a lot easier.

 

As would have been expected, significantly more thought is required in eating a dairy (and gluten) free diet. I did all I could to keep my daily macros identical to what they had been previously (running at
maintenance) in order to make the experiment as fair as possible. As such I had to increase my intake of oily fish, fatty cuts of meat and nuts to boost my daily protein and fat intake which normally would have been filled by dairy. In all honesty, this was actually far easier and more enjoyable than I had
expected.

 

Initially I had been intending to go as close to a paleo style diet as possible but I soon found this to be a step too far as I just could not physically consume enough PWO carbs in the form of vegetables fruit and berries to hit my target and was soon feeling the detrimental effects to my training. Not wanting to sacrifice this I decided to introduce quinoa and some rice into my PWO re-feeds. Outside of this the remainder of the diet remained as ‘paleo’ as it could practicably be.

 

Results of the Experiment

I did not experience any notable decrease in nausea (not that I suffered anyway), anxiety or stress. Sleeping patterns are impossible to comment on due to having to contend with the sleeping patterns of a four month old! Again, there was no real noticeable increases in energy levels, however, I did find quite a large improvement in my digestion.

Training remained the same and there was no significant positive or negative effects outside of normal progression.

 

With regards to weight loss/fat loss the following shows some of my vitals at the start and end of the experiment and before and after photos:

 

 

3rd
  February

28th
  February

Weight

103kg

104kg

Chest

47”

47”

Waist

36”

35”

Thigh

26”

26”

Arm

18”

17.5”

Neck

17”

17”

  
The measurements show a slight increase in weight whilst seeing a 1 inch reduction in waist size and a small loss on the arm. I think there is a definite overall loss of body fat which can be seen in the increased
definition, especially on the back. There is also a noticeable increase in vascularity which can not be seen in the photos.

 

Conclusion

In all honesty I was rather hoping that there would be no benefits seen from going dairy free (my love of dairy makes me biased!) but unfortunately there does seem to be some positives, most significant being
improved digestion and fat loss. Will I continue to go dairy free? – No way! Personally I don’t
believe the benefits out way the sacrifices and cutting out an entire food group, when there is no real need to (if you have an intolerance then that is different), only goes to make the diet unsustainable in the long term. However, what the experiment has taught me is perhaps I should reduce the amount of dairy I consume and what I do eat should be from the most natural source possible i.e. unpasteurised cheeses and organic milk and yoghurt to minimise potential issues with medication, hormones and gut stress.

Omega 369 – The marketing gimmick

 

If you are in to your health then it is likely you would have heard of Omega 3, 6 and 9, some might even be supplementing with it. The purpose of the following ramblings is to help those who do supplement with Omega 3, 6,9 save some money and also their health!!!

 

The simple fact is Omega 3,6,9 supplements are not necessary! Furthermore they can just be adding to poor health, the following will explain…..

 

Here are the facts….

  • Omega 3 is essential for survival.
    It has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Omega 6 is essential for survival.
    It has inflammatory properties.
  • Omega 9 is not essential

 

The long chain fatty acids 3 and 6 cannot be created by the human body and as such they need to be consumed via food. Omega 9 can be created by the body from other fats and therefore you do not need to consume it….period! Besides, the old cooking favourite Olive oil is full of Omega 9 anyway.

 

Omega 6 is essential and, in the past, people have died from Omega 6 deficiency…but this was over a century ago and much has changed since then. Over the last few decades our diets have dramatically
changed and now just about every food we eat contains Omega 6. This can be through nuts, corn fed animals, vegetable oils and grains.

 

“But Omega 6 is essential so more is better, right?”…..WRONG!



 

A little Omega 6 is good but too much is a disaster for your health, putting your body into a state of inflammation. A state of inflammation is good at times, such as post exercise, as it allows for adaption and growth to occur, but for the majority of the time we want to be in an anti-inflammatory state – this is conducive to good health and disease prevention.

 

It is believed that the ideal ratio for Omega 3:Omega 6 is from 1:1 to 1:4 but with today’s diet the majority of people are up to 1:20/30. So if our diets are so rich in Omega 6 then why do we have Omega 6 supplements?...and that is my point!

 

Omega 3 and 6 compete for the same enzymes. By supplementing with Omega 6 you are just decreasing the chance of your body being able to use what Omega 3 you are ingesting. So if you want to get the benefits of the Omega 3 in your diet (you do) then you need to reduce your consumption of Omega 6 – the first step ‘Stop supplementing it!!!!’

 

At this point you may be wondering why 369 supplements exist. The simple answer is that it sells! When confronted with terms like ‘complete’, ‘ideal ratio’ and ‘triple omega’ people think they are getting more for their money whilst the supplement companies can fill their capsules with cheaper ingredients!

 

So the overall message is to concentrate on increasing your Omega 3 intake and forget about supplementing 6 and 9.

 

Ideally we want to be getting the majority of our Omega-3 intake from whole foods such as oily fish, grass fed meat, flax seeds, organic eggs, walnuts and even green algae. To give an idea of amounts, 100g of salmon contains about 2g Omega 3. However, I am very aware that this may not be possible all of the time and as such a helping hand may be required in the form of supplements.

 

Omega-3 fish oils are readily available and reasonably cheap, although you may want to buy the highest quality you can afford. It is recommended that people try to consume between 2 and 4g of Omega 3 (DHA & EPA values combined) per day. Taking 2-3 1000mg capsules with every meal will help the body gain a more favourable balance.  

Building good strength and fitness is like building a house.....

 

Firstly you need good foundations, without these anything you build on top will sooner or later collapse! As such, you firstly need to dial in your nutrition and make sure you are getting enough, good quality sleep.
The importance of these cannot be overstated! Good quality whole food should be the order of the day...everyday!


Only once these foundations are in place and set firmly into your life should you think about moving upwards with the supporting walls and structure. A good training program is then essential. In should contain all the big compound movements, it should use your time in the gym efficiently and have sensible progression programmed in. Simple is often the best approach (depending on your level and ability) so don’t over complicate things for the sake of it or because you have just read the latest ‘workout of the week’!

 

It is important to remember that building too high for the foundations can also cause the structure to collapse and the same goes in strength and fitness. Over train and progression will be stunted or injuries will occur – less does often mean more and strength and fitness is definitely a case in point. Listen to your body as there are many signs that indicate you are overtraining.

 

Once a strong and suitable structure is in place then you can think about adding the roof or, in strength and fitness terms, the few ‘essential supplements’!

For me there are only a few: Good quality whey, fish oils and creatine. BCAA’s and Leucine maybe others to consider but you should know why and when to add them!

 

Finally and only once all these other factors are in place and well grounded should you think about adding the finishing touches. These are often expensive, are nice to have but in reality don’t really add a lot. For this I refer to the plethora of different supplements available. Look at any supplement site and you can’t
help to get excited about all the benefits (often alleged) that are associated with each of the products and you end up wanting them all but, before you remortgage the house, weigh up whether the expense, as well as the hassle of having to take something else, is really worth it for the minimal benefit...for most of us the answer is probably ‘no’!

Quick question....which of these is the healthiest?:
a) 52g Mars Bar
b) 136g Sirloin steak

If you don't know the answer then to help you out here is the breakdown:

...Mars bar has 9g fat, 36g carbs (mostly sugar) and 2g protein and is full of additives and highly processed ingredients and practically devoid of any nutrients.
The steak has 7g fat, 0g carbs and 42g protein, has nothing added and is packed full of vitamins and minerals.

The healthy choice is clear…well you would think so anyway. However, both of the examples contain 240kcals and as such they would be seen as equal by anyone following certain weight loss diets/programs based on counting calories, thus the chocolate bar would be, and for many is, a viable choice over the steak.

The important lesson to be learnt is that NOT ALL CALORIES ARE EQUAL! Diets based on calorie consumption are fundamentally flawed. They promote low fat eating, potentially to the detriment of nutrient absorption and hormone production, on the basis of the higher calories contained in fat, enable the individual to make poor decisions (as in the example above) and teach nothing about good nutrition. They may well achieve weight loss in an individual (in the short term) but at what cost to your overall health?!

So, do yourself a favour, ditch the calorie counting and just make the right choice….simple, fresh, good quality meat, fish, dairy and vegetables.
Low Carb Diets
 
It’s that time of year again when every other person seems to be on a diet. There seems to be an ever increasing number out there (most of which are shocking and are likely to put your health in a worse position than when you started) but s...till the one that reigns supreme is 'the low carb diet' (this, by default, includes the Paleo style of diet).

Low carb diets are proven to be effective weight loss protocols but only when done properly so if this is your chosen route this year then here are a few tips:

1) Understand what you are trying to achieve - are you just reducing your normal intake of carbs (fat loss through calorie defecit) or trying to eliminate them as much as possible in an 'Atkins' style (fat loss through ketosois)? If it is the latter then you need to be aware that this vastly reduces the types of fruit and even veg you can eat which can make it boring and unsustainable for many.

2) If you train hard or compete in a sport then very low carb and/or ketosis diets just aren't suitable for you...your performance WILL suffer!

3) If you are attempting fat loss through ketosis then you need to understand that the general principal of your nutrition should be very low carbs:moderate protein:high fat. Effectively fat becomes your bodies fuel source, not protein! Without the high fat you will be creating too much of a calorie defecit which, over a prolonged period, can cause metabolic crash, making future weight gain easy and fat loss difficult. Furthermore, not enough fat and too much protein will be telling your body to use protein as the favourable fuel source, resulting in reducing lean muscle mass rather than burning the flab.

4) These diets do not give you a licence to go out and stuff your face with anything that is low carb. Yes, you will probably still lose some weight in the short term but at what cost to your health in the long run? Good quality whole foods (organic if possible) should make up the vast majority of your nutrition. You can choose the fattier cuts of meat (cheaper and tastier!), oily fish, eggs and good quality hard cheese to increase fat intake and where there is still a short fall you can top up with coconut oil (amazing simply eaten off the spoon), nuts, seeds, olive oil based dressings and even double cream. With each meal you should also have a large helping of dark leafy greens and veg and/or some berries (darker the better).
Its a Lifestyle NOT a diet!!
 
Most fad diets work on a basis of creating a large calorie deficit. Whilst they often do get quick results (as often shown in the media eg lose 7lbs in a week), the diets are unsustainable and can cause a metabolic crash. In many cases, once off the diet, the weight quickly returns and, due to the metabolic crash, is harder to lose.

If fat loss is your goal you need to aim for an approx calorie deficit of 500kcals/day to achieve a weekly loss of circa 1lb. This can be easily and sustainably achieved through simple changes in diet and/or exercise (I believe heavy resistance is best). With the exception of extreme cases, 1-2lb per week is ideal target (although progress is best measured in inch loss rather than weight). End result may take longer but there is a higher chance of sticking with it and not relapsing into old habits.

Slow and steady may not win the race but chances are you will only have to run that race once!

Eggs - Natures Multivitamins

 

“A couple of eggs a day keeps the doctor away” is not the analogy we grew up with but probably should have been!
In the last few decades eggs have been given a bad rap, firstly the issues with salmonella, now resolved through the introducti...on of the Lion stamp, and lately their association with high cholesterol and heart disease, again something that has recently been shown to be a fallacy (see earlier post on cholesterol). Thankfully, now all is forgiven and limits on recommended daily consumption lifted, I think eggs can now take a rightful position amongst the line-up of ‘superfoods’.
The average large hen’s egg not only contains approx 8g of high grade protein but it is rich in anti-inflammatory Omega-3 poly unsaturated fatty acids and loaded with vitamins and minerals, notably selenium, iron and B series vitamins, all of which are highly ‘bio-available’ from a cooked egg. Below are just a few reasons why you should ditch the cornflakes for a couple of eggs each morning:
They can boost your memory
Egg yolks are rich in choline, an essential nutrient that acts as a precursor for acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter involved in many functions like memory and muscle control.
They can help you see better
Lutein, a carotenoid found in eggs, is thought to prevent oxidative damage to the eye and reduce age-related eye disease. Egg yolks also contain vitamin A, which in adequate amounts, helps prevent night blindness, regulates the immune system, and prevents mutations during embryonic development.
They make your bones stronger
Egg yolks contain some vitamin D, which aids in calcium absorption and helps prevent osteoporosis.
They can help you get a leaner, stronger frame
It is the ultimate source of high biological value protein — the kind that keeps us full (reducing chance of snacking between meals), helps grow healthy tissue, and repairs muscles after exercise. It is also a good source of riboflavin, a B-vitamin used in carbohydrate and fat metabolism.

Cholesterol – the basics

 



The term cholesterol has been hot topic for a number of years with everyone spouting their ‘numbers’ and companies marketing products to reduce them, yet most people don’t actually know what it is. Cholesterol is just another organic molecule in our body which, in chemistry terms, looks like this:  
  
  
One of the largest mainstream misconceptions is that cholesterol is “bad.”  This could not be further from the truth.  Cholesterol is very good! Cholesterol is absolutely vital for our existence. It is a major building block in all cell membranes and is required for steroid hormone and bile production,
therefore NO Cholesterol=NO life.
Approx 75% of the cholesterol within the body is made by the body itself with the remaining coming from the cholesterol we ingest. Of the cholesterol that we are
able to ingest, more than 50% is unsuitable for use by the body and so travels straight through! With this in mind we can conclude that eating cholesterol rich foods has very little impact on the cholesterol levels in the body.

 

Within the topic of cholesterol you will almost certainly hear people referring to ‘good’(HDL) and ‘bad’(LDL) cholesterol. However, this is a miscommunication that has resulted from the medical profession attempting to simplify things – All cholesterol is good! The only ‘bad’ outcome is when the cholesterol ends up in the wall of the arteries, a process that can lead to heart disease, but this is reliant on other factors – it is thought that approx 75% of heart attack sufferers cholesterol levels did not indicate cardiac risk!

 

References

Attia. P (2012) The Straight Dope on Cholesterol – Part 1
[online] Available at http://eatingacademy.com/nutrition/the-straight-dope-on-cholesterol-part-i

 

Lundell. D (2012) Surgeon speaks out on what really causes heart disease [online]

Available at http://www.sott.net/articles/show/242516-Heart-Surgeon-Speaks-Out-On-What-Really-Causes-Heart-Disease





Ketosos & Green Tea 

 

Having retired from rugby in October 2011 I was left with no real goal or purpose for training for the first time in my life. I needed a new focus and, for a reason I can't remember, I decided to try and have a go at the competative strength game...but....to cut a long story short, it didn't work out, too many past injuries coupled with hips of a 70 year old cut this venture short. However, within the six or so months that I had been training specifically for maximum strength I had gained a fair bit of unwanted 'excess', and was in need of ridding myself of the unwelcomed baggage quick sharp.

 

I began cutting back in the last week of March using a long term, sustainable nutrition plan. Progress was slow, but steady as all good weight loss programmes should be and I was averaging just over half a pound a week whilst maintaining, and in some areas, increasing strength. In 6 weeks I went from a weighty 19st 8lbs to a slender 19st 4lbs…happy days!

 

However, as good as it was to be moving in the right direction I wanted more and I wanted it now! With a “de-load” week starting 7th May there was a window of opportunity to turbo charge the weight loss and so I decided to bring out the big guns….Ketosis!!! (something that has interested me for a long time but have never had a chance to experiment with).

 

What is Ketosis?

For those of a scientific ilk, there are a number of websites that provide the in depth biochemical breakdown of the process ketosis - Google Search

Ketosis occurs when the glycogen levels in the muscles and liver have depleted, resulting in the body resorting to using ketones for energy. These ketones are a product from the breakdown of fatty acids derived from lipid stores. Put simply the body burns fat for energy.

A state of ketosis is achieved by following a very low carbohydrate diet.

“ahh, the Atkins diet” I hear you say…. well yes and no. Ketosis is the driver behind a number of weight loss protocols including the famous Atkins and Dukan diets. It is also used by many fitness athletes and S & C coaches in various guises and this is just my take on it.

 

 

Diet

Quite simply no carbs! Well within reason. It is practicably impossible to eat zero carbohydrate as berries, vegetables, condiments, sauces etc will contain minimal/trace amounts of carbohydrate so the aim is to eat as little as possible. Personally I have 50g a day of carbohydrate of any type as a maximum, though in reality I will probably only get 30g a day.

 

Calculating my maintenance calories gives values of 3650-3900Kcal a day, giving a median value of 3800kcal. Therefore, having a daily target of 3000kcal will give a deficit of 800kcal a day, equating to 5600Kcal/week or in terms of fat 1.6lb a week and that is before any additional calories spent through training.

I will try to consume 300g of protein (minimum of 1g per pound of body weight plus some for luck) a day, making up the rest of the calories with fat:

 

 

3000Kcal          -         (300g x 4*)    –      (50g x 4*)   =            1600kcal

Calories allowance        protein                  carbohydrate         calories to make up

 

 

1600Kcal ÷ 9*                               = 178g a day of fat max

 

*1g of protein = 4Kcal, 1g of carbohydrate = 4Kcal, 1g of fat = 9Kcal

 

 

For example, a typical days food would be:

  • 450g chicken drumsticks
  • 200g cheese
  • 100g protein powder (low carbohydrate)
  • 400g beef chilli
  • 100g Peanut butter
  • Salad (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion & pepper)
  • Berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries)
  • Bucket full of green tea and 3-4 litres water
  • Tablespoon of fish oils

 

 

Ideal foods

Every effort needs to be taken to consume whole foods and avoid processed rubbish which does mean some preparation and foresight is required in preparing food for work or going out etc.

The requirement of fat means that fattier and thus cheaper cuts of meat are ideal, as is mince (beef/lamb/pork), fish, eggs and cheese.

Sausages and burgers can be ok though you will find that the only really suitable ones are the more expensive as the cheaper options are often filled with rusk (carbohydrate) so always look at the label.

Adding flavours is essential to keep meal time interesting and increases the chance of you sticking with the diet, however it is worth noting that many bottled sauces and marinates contain a fair amount of sugar so once more read the label.

 

 

 

Fruit and vegetables can be a little more tricky. Lots of salad is the easiest way, especially with a good blob of mayo or drizzle of dressing. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, suede, courgette, green beans, peas, mushrooms and a little carrot are my usual suspects.

Other than a handful of berries I will steer clear of fruits as most are pretty laden with sugar and dried fruits are a definite no go area - Sultanas have a similar sugar content to “Haribo Star Mix”!!!

 

 

 

It is often a struggle to get enough fat throughout the day so when needed I will cook with excess butter, eat some nuts/peanut butter and best of all, add some double cream to a protein shake!

 

Training

The first week of the diet coincided with my scheduled de-load week. Lifting at only 60% of maximum, I was unable to notice any detrimental effects on my training. However, the second week was back to 100% and, although only doing three sets of 4 reps on the major compound lifts, the training felt noticeably harder and the results showed that I had effectively lost 1-2 reps on each lift. I was expecting a greater loss in strength so I took this as a positive.

 

 

 

Experience

I started the diet on Tuesday 8th May. The first two to three days everything felt as normal as the body continued to run off the glycogen stores in the muscles and liver (approx 2000-3000Kcals worth in someone of my size). By the end of day three (around 6pm!) the glycogen was depleted, something I could physically note by the “hitting the wall” feeling and a huge craving for anything sweet. Battling through this for an hour or so whilst munching on a steak with pepper sauce the body entered a state of ketosis and I emerged out of the other side feeling amazing! For the following 8 days the feeling of being full of energy remained with me as I went about everyday tasks, only feeling slightly sluggish during training sessions after the first 15 to 20mins!

My diet has not included much in the way of carbs for a number of years, mainly due to my fat tendencies, so sticking to strict very low carbs comes quite easily and when combined with a love of cooking I found the whole experience to be quite enjoyable.

 

 

! After this time the energy within the muscles is used up and is slow to replenish due to the ketosis reaction being slower than the equivalent breakdown of glycogen. This could have been avoided by eating a good spoonful of coconut oil prior to training as the fatty acids within it can be used directly by the body without breaking it down first, but I didn’t have any!!!

 

Results

Following 11 whole days on the diet, approximately 8 of which would have been in Ketosis the results were as follows:

 

Measurement

Before

After

Difference

Weight

19st 2lb

18st 8lb

-8lb

Body Fat (approx)

20%

17%

-3%

Waist

40”

39”

-1”

Belly (naval)

42.5”

40.5”

-2”

Chest

49.5”

49.5”

0

Neck

18

18

0

Arms

19”

18.25”

-0.75”

Thighs

30”

28”

-2”

 

 

Conclusion

Considerable fat loss in a short space of time is what everyone wants right?! I found it easy and a great way to shed the flab quickly with results that speak for themselves, but before everyone throws away the bread, rice and potatoes and makes a bee line for the butcher you might want to consider a few things:

 

  • Firstly and most importantly, for most people this sort of diet is unsustainable. This diet means you have to forgo a lot of the nice little things we like to eat. Bread, pasta, sweets, ice cream, pastries… I could go on, and going to a restaurant can be an onerous task. As strong as your will power may be, eventually you will crack and any sustainable diet should not exclude those little treats once in a while. I see it more as a tool to call upon for short durations of up to two weeks when those love handles require a bit more than gentle persuasion to vacate the area!
  • You need a strong will power.
  • You need a basic understanding of nutritional make up of food stuffs.
  • You need time and foresight to prepare food, it is difficult to find the appropriate sort of foods when you are out and about.
  • An understanding partner – eating in this way can really annoy those around you!

 

I would certainly call upon ketosis again when the need arises but until then I will continue to experiment with more sustainable protocols….watch this space!

Protein sources - Nutritional breakdown
Meat values.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [205.2 KB]

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