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Eating healthily and trying MYHK

15 Jun MYHK pea risotto

I’ve been working hard to eat healthily this year. I’m fortunate enough to be supported by The Athlete’s Palate, but it’s still hard for me. I expected to have an increased appetite whilst marathon training (especially as a breastfeeding mum), but I’d forgotten that that hunger sometimes lingers after the race. I’ve also been struggling with my appetite because I’m so tired. My baby looks like my husband, but she definitely has some of my personality traits. I’m sure I’ll be glad that she is extremely determined at some stage, but right now, I’d love it if M would sleep. She just wants to run around all the time. She might only be 7 months old, but she can already walk a bit (and can run when she holds my fingers!)

To make my life as easy as possible, I always make sure that I plan my meals in advance. This ensures that I have the necessary ingredients at home and that I don’t have to make meal decisions when I’m hungry. I also prepare my breakfast the night before, so that when I get up it’s easy for me to finish making it. In the evening, Stuart usually looks after M whilst I make our dinner – this gives them a chance to play and gives me a break as I enjoy being in the kitchen. However, I find lunch the most challenging meal as M needs lots of attention. Sometimes I choose to have a salad that i can prepare the night before, but at other times, I just need something quick, easy and filling. I try not to resort to ready meals as most of them are bland and unhealthy. Lots of supermarkets have ‘healthy’ ranges, but they are often uninspiring or there aren’t many vegetarian options.

I was given the chance to try three new ready meals by MYHK (my healthy kitchen), which sounded like a perfect solution for my problem. The meals are all under 500 calories with no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives. They include fresh ingredients and have other (specified) nutritional benefits.

The three meals that I was sent to try were:

  • Chicken Paella
  • Prawn Katsu
  • Pea, Mint and Rocket Risotto

I’ve been a vegetarian virtually all of my life, so I recruited my husband to try two of the dishes. (The other flavours that are available are: Moroccan Prawn, Roasted Mediterranean Vegetable Risotto and Oriental Chicken).

Chicken Paella

The special advantage of this meal is that it’s low in fat and high in protein and fibre.

MYHK chicken paella

I’m definitely not a food blogger and neither is my husband – we completely failed to take a photo of this, so here’s one that we’ve ‘borrowed’ from the MYHK website.

Stuart says: “Paella wouldn’t usually be something I’d choose but I enjoyed this one. The chicken was a step up from the majority of ready meals and was good solid pieces and nicely flavoured. The chorizo was less oily than some and was a nice addition. I would have preferred a slightly stronger flavour but the meal wasn’t bland.  It did feel like the meal was balanced and the ingredients went well together. The portion size is broadly equivalent to most common supermarket ready meals and I would have preferred a slightly larger size (particularly if I were undertaking a higher training load).”

 

Prawn Katsu

The special advantage of this meal is that it’s high in protein and low in saturated fat and sugar.

Stuart says: “This was my favourite out of the two. I enjoy a curry and this includes katsu which I’ve eaten in Japan. The split of sauce to the ingredients worked really well with this meal as the rice didn’t get soggy when being microwaved but was easy to eat and mix together. The prawns were reasonable quality and a bit more generous than seen in some other meals. The sauce was really nice albeit the pickled carrot packs a punch and it was spicier than I expected – I don’t mind relatively hot food but I know Tamsyn would have really struggled with a vegetarian version. The lighter jasmin rice helped balance the heat but I could see some people getting put off. As with the paella I would have preferred a slightly larger size although this would be filling compared to the usual ready meals seen.”

 

MYHK prawn

 

Pea, mint and rocket risotto (vegetarian)

The special advantage of this meal is that it’s 1 of your 5 a day, and it’s also low in sugar and saturated fat.

MYHK pea risotto MYHK pea risotto close up

Risotto is one of my favourite meals, but I’ve never made it at home. There are several reasons for this – firstly, my favourite risotto is mushroom risotto and Stu hates mushrooms, but secondly, I believe that risotto can be time consuming to make as you need to stir it continuously.

This risotto isn’t just made with Arborio rice, but also with quinoa. I liked this as it gave it a slightly different flavour as well as increasing its nutritional value.

As soon as I opened the packaging, I could smell the peas and mint – they were really aromatic and got my taste buds watering.

The risotto was topped with rocket (arugula). This is quite a bitter leaf, but paired with the creamy onion sauce, I thought it balanced nicely. Another interesting touch to cut through the creaminess was the addition of some pickled red cabbage. I adore red cabbage and would never have thought of pairing it with risotto before.

Overall, I really liked this meal. It was a reasonable size for a ready meal (although I’d have preferred a slightly larger portion with a few more calories) and looked appetising as well as tasting good. The price is more than a lot of ready meals, but comparable with the types of things I like, such as Bol ready meals.

 

These meals are currently available from Waitrose and Ocado with an RRP of £3.95.

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The Athlete’s Palate

11 Feb

I’d been hoping to share this post with you a while ago, but I’ve had more than my fair share of setbacks. Firstly, I had a cold, then Baby M hit the dreaded ‘4 month sleep regression’ early (cue waking every 45 minutes at night!!!) and the finally, my beloved MacBook Pro’s hard drive failed. Fortunately, things are looking up this week: I no longer have a cold; M is back to sleeping for 2 hours at a time and completely amazing Ben has fixed my MacBook… so now I just need to get my blog back on track.

If you’ve been reading recently, you’ll know that I’ve managed to find some free mum and baby fitness classes (Buggy Mums). There’s hope that there will be a free ante- and postnatal pilates class coming soon. I’ve also found that a local leisure centre runs a variety of mother and baby classes during the week, including Buggy Bootcamp; Legs, Bums and Tums; and Baby Spin. I’m hoping that I can book onto some of the spinning classes soon as I’ve not managed to use my bike much recently.

So… the big part of the puzzle that is missing is tackling my nutrition. I was fortunately that I only gained about 7lbs when I was pregnant and I weighed less than before I got pregnant after having Baby M, but Christmas and broken sleep have taken their toll on me.

The Athlete's Palate Ambassador

A while ago, I applied to be an ambassador for The Athlete’s Palate and was delighted to be chosen. This year there are 7 ambassadors. If you’ve not heard of The Athlete’s Palate before, here’s some information:

The Athlete’s Palate is dedicated to empowering athletes by encouraging wellness through holistic nutrition and sports. Our goal is to increase athlete’s involvement in sports and understanding the benefits of holistic nutrition – mind, body, spirit & sports.

Our athletes promote sport, have good sportsmanship, are involved in their community and lead a healthy lifestyle. They are of all ages and range from recreational to professional.

One opportunity leads to another, so the brand is collaborating with some other great brands – don’t be surprised if you hear me mention:

I had a fantastic phone interview with Julie from The Athlete’s Palate and agreed to keep a food diary for a week. However, this was a food diary with a difference. I had to take a photo of everything that I ate and drank. This is a clever idea as it means that Julie is able to see my portion sizes and also I always have my phone with me, so I could just take a quick snap of things… however, it felt a bit more challenging than that. I had to overcome some inhibitions when I was out with others as I felt a bit embarrassed about it. When I explained to my friends what I was doing, they were really interested. It has made me realise that I couldn’t be a food blogger/Instagrammer as when my food is in front of me, I want to eat it, not style it and take pretty pictures!

Here’s a sample of what I had in that week:

One of the challenges that I encountered was the current shortage of leafy greens, including spinach, courgettes and lettuce. When I was working, I ate salad for lunch every day, but it’s much harder when the key ingredients are not available!

I also had to note down my mood and the state of my health. It was unlucky that my week coincided with having a heavy cold. I always seem to get ill at the end of January 😦 It didn’t help that I’ve been really disorganised and my reliever inhaler ran out.

Julie also came up with some ‘food for thought’ for me. I’ve always believed that I drink healthily. My favourite drink is water and I drink a lot of it. If I’m cold I will have jasmine tea or hot chocolate, but try not to indulge in too many hot chocolates. My local tap water does not contain fluoride, but I had not considered the other chemicals that are added to make it safe to drink. Stuart and I moved into what we hope will be our ‘forever home’ just over a year ago, and I am now looking into reverse osmosis water filters. If anyone has any links to academic papers about drinking reverse osmosis water, I’d love to read them as there’s a real mix of information online.

I now need to plan my next week’s meals based around some key nutritional information from Julie.

Do you plan your meals in advance?

Please visit The Athlete’s Palate to read about the other ambassadors.

Fast Fuel – eating for success… and a giveaway

11 Oct

Even if you’ve not been following my blog for long, you’ll know that nutrition is important to me. I’ve successfully managed to lose weight by eating a healthy balanced diet and have only put on 7-8lbs by Week 39 of pregnancy by eating well, so I’m always interested in learning more about nutrition.

Training FoodAs we saw in Rio, the world’s greatest athletes have an entourage of professionals behind them to ensure they’re properly prepared for the games. Elite sports nutritionist and author of Amazon’s #1 best-selling book in the fitness training section, Training Food, Renee McGregor is one of the people who works with Olympic and Paralympic athletes to get them fully fuelled for the big games. Renee is a hugely respected registered dietician and sports nutritionist who works with both amateur athletes and those at the very elite levels of competition. She is a performance and clinical Dietician/Nutritionist, accredited by the Health Professions Council, and The Sports, Exercise and Nutrition Register, and is a member of The British Dietetic Association, and The Sports Nutrition Group. Renee works with individual athletes, and runs workshops for coaches and squads, alongside guest lecturing on sports performance at The University of Bath and appearing at sports conferences.

This month Nourish Books is publishing two new books by Renee to help everyone, from amateur athletes to those standing on the Olympic podium, to properly fuel their fitness:

I’m really excited to have been sent an advance copy of each of the books for review. As you may be aware, I adhere to a vegetarian diet, but I appreciate that this isn’t for everyone (and I think my own life might be easier if I could bring myself to eat meat/fish!)

Food for Running Success

Fast Fuel - Food for Running SuccessThe first half of this book focussing on giving the reader information about how to fuel properly with chapter on the basics, training and fine-tuning; the second half of the book features recipes that are divided into five sections:

  • breakfasts
  • light meals
  • main meals
  • snacks and portables
  • desserts

There is a single recipe on each page and each recipe includes nutrition information per portion as well as information about the number of servings, preparation time and cooking time. This information is essential for any time-pressed athlete. I think my only criticism would be that there are no photos of the food, which is what I like to see in a recipe book!

In the first section of the book, there are sample menus made out of the recipes that have been included, so it is easy for a runner to put together a nutrition plan using the information. The advice that is given is clear and practical, but I was reassured that it was backed up by science. Some of the recipes have clearly been developed by someone with similar tastes to mine, such as the Black Forest Porridge. I also particularly liked the rosemary and paprika vegetable and bean hot pot… so much so that I ate it before thinking about taking a photo – oops!

Food for Triathlon Success

fast Fuel - Food for Triathlon SuccessThis book follows a similar structure to Food for Running Success, so I won’t explain it here. Also, many of the recipes are the same, so it’s probably best to decide whether you are predminantly a runner or a triathlete, rather than investing in both editions. My favourite recipe so far in this book is the Tofu Pad Thai. I have to admit that I modified it slightly (coriander is the food of the devil), but I’m sure most people would love the recipe exactly as it is.

Both books include a detailed bibliography, so if you want to read more about the research behind the recipes, it’s easy to follow it up.

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed reading these books and intend to try out many of the recipes over the next few months. There are sound scientific principles behind all of the recipes, which are explained in an accessible way. Also, although the benefits of specific foods are explained, Renee does not advise faddy eating or cutting out entire food groups.

 

Giveaway

I have one copy of each of Renee’s new books to giveaway to UK residents.

Fast Fuel giveaway Terms and Conditions

These books are for anyone and everyone with an interest in fitness and in keeping their bodies properly going, so if that sounds like you, why not enter?

 


Update:

The books were won by Michelle Dorrington and Norbert-Daniel Acatrinei. I hope they enjoy them 🙂

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Choosing a bike, parkrunning and some exciting post

8 Oct

Following the theft of our bikes in August, we’ve been busy improving our home’s security (along with 1001 other home improvements). We’ve had a burglar alarm installed, locks changed, additional locks installed, secure lock points fitted and various other improvements, so we’re moving in the direction of being able to get new bikes, which means it’s shopping time.

I was really happy with the bikes I had, but it’s not possible to replace like with like, so I’ve had a think about what would best suit my needs. I previously had an aluminium road bike that I used for touring and wet weather riding and a carbon road bike that I used for most of my cycling and triathlons. Some people have recommended getting a tribike, but I don’t have the bike handling skills, like riding in a group and am quite likely to do a reasonably hilly Ironman, so I’d rather have a good aero road bike.

As for my second bike, my Giant Defy was perfect for touring Japan, but with a baby on the way, I’m unlikely to do any multi-day cycling events in the near future, so I don’t have a need for a touring bike. However, I will still want to cycle in winter and I am determined to improve my bike handling skills. I was inspired by watching people do cyclocross training at Southampton Outdoor Sports Centre whilst I was at the running track and would really like to give it a go. The events are not very long (under an hour), so it should be possible to fit in some over the winter months. This means that I have decided to purchase a cyclocross bike as my second bike.

A limitation for my second bike is that I would like to purchase it through the Cycle to Work scheme, which means that it needs to cost under £1000. I looked at various options online and narrowed it down to four bikes:

  • Ridley X-Bow 20 disc
  • Giant TCX SLR 1
  • Colnago World Cup Disc
  • Focus 2016 Mares AX Disc 105
Giant TCX SLR 1 2016

Giant TCX SLR 1 2016

Stuart has also been researching bikes and has produced a shortlist, so we decided to take our shortlists to Vankru, our fantastic local Retul bike fitters. Although they can make (almost) any bike more comfortable, it definitely better to see Garth and Mark before buying something, so that they can advise which bike’s geometry would suit your build and flexibility best.

After having a good look at my data and the specs of the bikes that I was interested in, Mark advised against the Colnago as it’s quite an aggressive bike, however, the small in the Ridley or Giant or the XS in the Focus would be fine for me. I was also told to bear in mind that the Focus is slightly more aggressive. I asked whether Mark had any further recommendations based on my data (and price range), and so he suggested that I might want to look at a Cannondale CAADX. It was really good to get this feedback, and meant that I was able to rule out the Colnago.

This morning, I was able to fit in Southampton parkrun. I met up with Kim at the start and our friend Kate said that she’d join us for a social run as she’s racing the Royal Parks half marathon tomorrow. (Good luck, Kate!) We had a lovely social run, that I really enjoyed.

Finishing parkrun with Kate (and Kim)

Finishing parkrun with Kate (and Kim)

Considering we were chatting (and I’m 39 weeks pregnant), our finish times weren’t too bad either:

southampton-parkrun-8th-october-2016

Next Saturday is my due date, but maybe I’ll be able to squeeze in another parkrun before the big event!

After parkrun, Stu and I joined Tobie and Charlotte for some more bike chat. Charlotte ran a PB at parkrun, which was great and Tobie was saving his legs ahead of a cyclocross race tomorrow… which is precisely why Stu and I wanted to chat to him. Not only does Tobie know bikes inside and out as he runs Bike Guy (bicycle servicing), but he also rides and races a lot. So, we’d spoken to the experts about which bikes would fit us and had moved onto another expert who could advise on which bikes have fewer maintenance issues.

Of the four bikes that were left on my shortlist, Tobie advised against the Ridley as it had the lowest spec out of all of the bikes. Apparently, the Giant wheels may buckle under stress, but this is prefer to the Cannondale wheels, which are more likely to end up with broken spokes, which create further problems. Again, Tobie advised that the Focus is a purer cyclocross bike. So, my shortlist was down to the Focus and the Giant.

I’ve seen both of the bikes before, but thought it might help me to make my mind up if I viewed them again. unfortunately, neither bike is in stock in any local bike store. The guys at the Southampton Giant Store (formerly Wessex Cycle World) have always been really helpful, so I went there in the hope that they might be able to order in the Giant for me, but they said they haven’t been able to get any since about June.

I’ve thought about which of the bikes I prefer and the Giant is the one that appeals to me slightly more. Frustratingly, I’ve had a few battles with the online Cyclescheme vouchers, but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to order it online next week.

After our visit to the bike shop, Stuart and I went into town to have a look at bike shoes in Decathlon. I currently own two pairs (a lovely pair of Pearl Izumi Tri Flys that I wear for triathlons and a very cheap pair of Specialized shoes that I wear in winter)… but they both work with Speedplay pedals, which aren’t suitable for cyclocross. Aside from my failed visit to the velodrome, I’ve never used any other pedals, so asked Tobie and Charlotte for their advice. They recommended Shimano M520 pedals and Tobie said they were cheaper in Decathlon than anywhere else, so a pair somehow fell into my basket… I also ended up with a new pair of shoes:

btwin-mountain-bike-shoes

I spent quite a while choosing between these and a black pair of Shimano shoes. The Shimano shoes were slightly lighter, but I found the toe box quite wide (and I’m quite partial to turquoise!) So, I’ve got the shoes, now I just need the bike!

When I got home, I found that some exciting post had arrived – an Energy Snacks box of Sports Nutrition products.

Energy snacks img_7883

You can choose whether to sign up for a subscription to this service or just to order a one-off box. If you sign up for the mailing list, you’ll receive 10% off your first box.

For £21.99 the October box includes:

Energy

  • 32Gi – Sport Chews – Orange
  • 32Gi – Sport Gel – Raspberry
  • GU – Energy Gel – Chocolate Outrage
  • GU – Stroopwafel – Caramel Coffee
  • High5 – IsoGel X’treme – Tropical
  • Mule Bar – Energy Bar – Apple Strudel
  • PowerBar – PowerGel Shots – Cola
  • Sweet Peaks – Energy Sweets – Citrus
  • Tribe – Energy Bar – Cacao & Almond

Hydration

  • OTE – Hydro Tabs – Blackcurrant
  • Virtue – Energy Water – Lemon & Lime

Recovery

  • PowerBar – Recovery 2.0 – Raspberry Cooler

I’ve tried some of the products before (PowerBar cola PowerGel shots used to be my ‘go to’ for marathon training), but there are other products that I’ve never heard of or seen in the shops.

The items arrived in a lovely package, so it was really exciting to open it up, and it would make a great gift for a friend who has just signed up to train for a longer distance race, such as a half or full marathon. The only slight disappointment for me was that the Stroopwafel is Caramel Coffee flavoured – I love similar products, but cannot stand coffee, so I’ll have to get Stu to be the product tester for that item!

How’s your weekend been so far? Are you watching the Ironman World Championship?

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Catching up

11 Sep

The last few weeks have been hard work, which is why I haven’t been blogging regularly. It’s taken me a while to shake off the despondency of having my bikes stolen. Fortunately, I have my work bike back, so I can cycle to work. We’ve improved the security on our garage and are seeing a specialist about additional measures this week. This has been prioritised over getting new bikes as I know a number of people who’ve replaced stolen bikes only to be hit again a few months later.

A friend has recognised that the photo of my bike that was shared on Gumtree was taken outside the Bright Water Inn (Wetherspoons) in Shirley, Southampton. If any of you live in that area and can keep an eye out for my bike (or any of the other 3 that are still missing), I’d be really grateful.

I’ve been quite tired recently and am looking forward to finishing work in 3 weeks time. I’ve been doing parkrun every weekend, but haven’t done as much other training as I’d like.

southampton-parkrun-218-27th-aug

Southampton parkrun 27th August

Southampton parkrun 3rd September

Southampton parkrun 3rd September

southampton-parkrun-220-10-sept

Southampton parkrun 10th September

I’m a bit annoyed with my time for the last run as I recorded a quicker time on my Garmin and the friend I ran with (and finished with) had a finish time that was quite a bit faster. We’ll just have to make sure we go faster next weekend! I find it strange that running is more comfortable than swimming – I seem to get out of breath a lot faster in the pool, but perhaps it’s because we’re all more competitive there.

I fitted in a track session with Southampton Tri Club this week and really enjoyed it. It’s been a while since I’ve been to the track, but it’s one of my favourite types of running.

I had a bit of excitement recently as Runners’ World sent out a photographer to take pictures for an article that will probably be in the October 2016 issue. It’s about ‘running inspiration’ and running with friends. I was interviewed about how my friend, Jez, inspired me to start running and how that has made me go on to run 5 marathons and become a Run Leader before becoming a coach. The photo shoot was great fun – Jez and I went down to the track, which was fortunately very quiet.  We had to do all sorts of posed pictures including ‘tying our shoelaces’ (I had elastic laces on) and stretching whilst holding onto each other. I can’t share any photos yet, but after the embargo is over, I should be able to post a few here. There were also a few photos taken of us running together, and then we came back to my garden to have a few more pictures taken in front of a white screen. I laughed throughout the whole shoot, whereas poor Jez found it rather awkward. I also made sure that I dressed in my finest for the pictures – my 2016 SOAS team vest and shorts with my matching Brooks trainers.

Although I haven’t been doing my usual amount of training, I have spent hours in my garden and have managed to turn it from a derelict wasteland to something that doesn’t look too bad. I just need the weather to stay nice so that I can spend a couple more days outside. (I’d also make more progress if I could get rid of the garden waste more easily).

Tidier garden

I really should have taken before and after pictures… and since taking this, I’ve removed the enormous bush on the right hand side.

I’ve also painted a few rooms and my mum has been up to help finish off my kitchen renovations. My fitted bench seat finally has cushions on it, which looks really good and is much more comfortable than just chipboard!

Having spent most of this weekend decorating (changing our bedroom from a hideous shade of rose-pink to pale blue has taken hours), we decided that we needed to do something fun, so Stu and I went off to look at bikes in a couple of local bike shops. I’ve got a few bikes in mind, but none of them are as unusual as this bike I saw when we were in Denmark:

wooden bike in Denmark

Sadly, none of the bikes that were stolen can be replaced like-for-like as they’re not available any more, so Stu and I are both having to make some tough decisions about what we want. I think I’d like to get a nice carbon road bike (but perhaps with tri bars) to replace my Kuota, and a cyclocross bike to replace my Giant Defy. It’s been a few years since I bought a bike on the cycle to work scheme, so I may see whether I can find an appropriate cyclocross bike in a local shop.

First of all, we went to Hargroves Cycles in Totton. We’ve looked at their bikes online and have visited the store previously, but I was disappointed to find that they had a disproportionate number of mountain bikes in stock, with relatively few road and cyclocross bikes. Also, most of the bikes didn’t have their sale prices on them, so we had to look a few up on the Hargroves website. However, it was refreshing to see a female member of staff who was really lovely.

Then we went over to the Giant Store. I bought two of my three bikes there when it was CycleWorld Wessex, so I know the staff are good. It also has a reasonable range of Liv bikes, including some of the triathlon and road bikes that I wanted to see. The Envie Advanced Tri bike sounds like a good option – it’s a lovely aero road bike with tri bars, but I don’t love the colours!

Reduced Liv Envie Advanced Tri

I love the colour scheme of the Liv Avow Advanced Pro (black, jade and purple), but don’t think a TT bike is right for me. I don’t have the bike handling skills and also I like to take part in group rides.

I managed to identify my Kuota on Gumtree fairly quickly as not only did it have a women-specific saddle on it (plain black instead of the usual black and white), but it also had my name visible on the crossbar. I hated this when I first got it (especially as the font was unattractive and didn’t match the rest of the bike), but it served as a good identifier, so I’ll make sure my next bike has some distinguishing features. Orbea bikes can be completely customised and I’m keen to look at the new range from Ridley (but their website hasn’t been fully updated yet). Have you seen any interesting or unusual bikes that have caught your eye? I definitely want something that isn’t too common.

I’m also interested in getting an anti-theft bike tracker. A few years ago, there was a surge of these (mainly through kick-starter projects), but none of them seem to be available any more. Ideally I’d like something discreet, such as a spybike top cap tracker, as that would be unlikely to be noticed by an ordinary bike thief. A friend has recommended TrackR. It’s for sale in the UK and there seem to be some local users. This review was interesting: https://bikeindex.org/news/bike-index-meets-trackr-a-review-ensues If anyone can recommend a similar product, I’d love to know about it.

Recently, I’ve been eating Dr Zak’s high protein peanut spread on toast. I love porridge, but just can’t eat very much in the morning at the moment, so this has been a life saver. I’ve tried it in two flavours:

  • sweet banoffee pie
  • chocolate fudge brownie

Dr Zaks peanut butter

I can’t decide which I like best. They both taste good, but I think the sweet banoffee pie one spreads a little more easily. They’re also both suitable for vegetarians and do not contain palm oil, so I don’t feel guilty consuming them. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered there are five other flavours, which sound equally delicious:

  • Salted Caramel
  • White Chocolate & Coconut
  • Apple & Cinnamon
  • Cherry Bakewell
  • Fresh Raspberry

…and I’m sure I saw pictures of some other new flavours on Twitter. Yummy! Have you tried any of the new flavours?

I’ve now only got 10.5 days left at work before I go on maternity leave, so I’m starting to think about my plans for next year (alongside the challenges I’m likely to face). I’m looking whether it will be possible to do some training courses whilst I’m on maternity leave to get me closer to my goals. ideally, I’d like to find something that is distance learning or else a blend of online and evening/weekend sessions. I’m looking at the following:

I’d really like towards becoming a personal trainer. I’ve also looked at a lot of nutrition and dietetics courses. Sadly, I don’t have the time or money to go back to university for another degree (and can’t afford a part-time/online degree), so I’m thinking of doing a Precision Nutrition course. I’ve worked with a Precision Nutritionist before (Sam) and found him to be very helpful.

I also need to think about my race goals for next year. I have no idea how long it will take me to get back to training, but would really love to do Southampton Marathon in April 2017, and am still considering doing Ironman Weymouth in September 2017 (as per my original plan)… but if Stuart would like to have a fair shot at an Ironman next year, I wouldn’t stand in his way as I was so disappointed on his behalf by what happened around his attempt at Ironman Copenhagen. When I’ve firmed up my plans, I’ll decide whether I’m going to work with a coach, or whether I’m going to go it alone. I’m also keen to take part in some cyclocross training in Southampton and perhaps enter some races.

Have you started thinking about your race goals for 2017? What will be your A race?

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Friday Five – 5 simple post-workout snacks

1 Jul
apple and peanut butter

“Apple Peanut Butter Stack” by Tower Girl is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

If I’ve done a workout, but it’s a while before my next meal, I often have a snack, just to take the edge off my hunger. I quite like to have a protein shake, or some yoghurt with protein powder, but sometimes, I fancy something different:

  • apple and peanut butter
  • porridge with ground almonds and dried apricots
  • dark chocolate
  • dark chocolate coated almonds
  • chickpeas, broad beans and cashews

What are your favourite post-workout snacks?

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Weightloss and running

29 Jun
running in New York

Running in New York ©pexel

In the last week, I’ve seen loads of adverts on Facebook about losing weight through running. Whilst I believe that starting to run can help to kickstart weight loss for many people, it’s not usually a long-term solution for weight loss… if it were then I’d be wasting away by now!

However, that doesn’t mean that running and weight loss are incompatible. A 2014 study by Cornell University showed that runners who have fun lose more weight than those who take their training seriously. Here are a couple of summaries of the research:

running couple

Sporty couple © pexel

One of the reasons why I love running is because I view it as a sociable activity. Even when I’m pushing myself hard in a race, I know that there will be time to chat with friends before and after the event and if I’m doing a long run then I see it as a chance to have a conversation with a friend for a couple of hours. When else do you get that kind of opportunity?

Has running helped you to lose weight? Was that one of the reasons why you took up running?

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I’ve got the Power

25 Apr

Powerbar

It’s the 30th anniversary of Powerbar, so I was sent some new products to try: Energize muffins and Energize bars.

As soon as the box arrived, I got excited – how cool is the product packaging?!

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Sadly, I won’t be able to try the muffins for a week or two as this is what my kitchen currently looks like. I moved at the very end of October and have not had an oven since then (my cooking arrangements consisted of a microwave and a two-ring hob that I purchased from a discount store), so I’m really excited that it won’t be long before I have not one, but two ovens! The Energize muffins will be one of the first things that I bake!

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I tried out the almond vanilla flavour first and really enjoyed it.

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These are the items that were in my box.

chocolatepeanutMango tropicalGingerbreadBella ItaliaAlmond vanilla

The only one I’m not sure about is the Bella Italia flavour bar as I’ve not had a savoury bar before. Have you tried it? What did you think?

Finally, I found it interesting to read this New York Times article: ‘After The Biggest Loser their bodies fought to regain weight‘ As someone who lost a lot of weight through undereating, I know that it really screwed my metabolism up, which is why I work hard to eat healthily and to lose weight at a slow and steady rate.

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Train like a champ

15 Jan

In December, the lovely people at Gym Vit sent me Cherry Champ natural superfruit supplement. The product contains Montmorency cherry and beetroot, so I was excited to try it.

Cherry Champ

The benefits of tart cherry juice for athletes

There have been a number of studies that have demonstrated the benefits of Montmorency cherry juice for endurance athletes. The main outcomes of the studies indicate that cherry juice can help with post-run inflammation and muscle recovery and that the melatonin in cherries can help improve your quality of sleep.

I don’t have any problems with the quality of my sleep – and I’ve yet to find a product that can miraculously increase the number of hours available for me to spend in bed – but I would like to recover from hard training more quickly.

The benefits of beetroot for athletes

It has been recognised for some time that nitrate-rich food can increase endurance.

At one stage, I ate beetroot every morning before having my porridge, but I really don’t like the taste, so I gave up after a while. I also bought beetroot juice, but that also tasted unpleasant. I’ve tried concentrated beetroot shots and beetroot flapjack, but beetroot is one of the very few vegetables that I don’t like and there doesn’t seem to be any way of making it taste good!

One top of including two recognisably beneficial ingredients, the product is also vegan. I’ve been given the opportunity to try other products, but as a vegetarian, I won’t try a product that isn’t suitable for vegetarians.

Anyway, back to my product review…

The packaging states:

May help with:

  • Stamina & energy
  • Joints & flexibility
  • Muscle recovery
  • Tissue growth

The bottle contained 60 capsules and the recommendation was to take 1-3 capsules a day preferably with food for at least 2-3 week continuously. I was also advised to avoid caffeinated beverages. I did really well at avoiding caffeine whilst I was at home, but I will admit to drinking a few (4?) cups of Earl Grey tea since I’ve been back at work – mainly because it has been so cold!

The website for the product looks really professional, with some beautiful images, so I will admit that I was a little disappointed by the packaging, however I realise that any costs involved in branding would have to be passed onto the customer, so this is one way of keeping costs low. I also thought the bottle was a strange shape, however, I quickly realised the advantage. The bottle is about 12cm tall and 2cm wide, so it was easy to tuck it onto a shelf in my kitchen or pop it into my lunch bag to take to work.

I was worried that the capsules would have an unpleasant beetroot aftertaste, but they didn’t. If anything there was a slight taste of cherries, which was pleasant.

It’s really hard for me to comment on whether the product lives up to the claims on the packaging. I was feeling more energetic at the end of December, but it also coincided with me having time off work and a break from training as my local pool was closed. As soon as things got back to normal in January, I got a heavy cold that wiped me out for a week. Likewise, I have been feeling more flexible, but I have also been putting more effort into my stretching routine at home.

I haven’t quite finished the course of Cherry Champ capsules, so will continue taking them and let you know whether I think there have been any other advantages or disadvantages of this product.


 

I was provided with 60 Cherry Champ capsules free of charge, but this review and the opinions in it are entirely my own.

Friday Five – 5 foods to avoid for a healthier and happier life

8 Jan

It’s the start of the year and if you made any New Year’s Resolutions, it’s likely that one of them related to weight-loss. I couldn’t find any UK statistics, but data from University of Scranton, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology showed that ‘lose weight’ was the #1 new year’s resolution.

For many people, this will mean taking a hard line on what they eat, which can backfire and lead to binge eating and other unhealthy habits, so how can you make some sensible changes to your diet?

Should you cut out carbs?

Is it OK to eat after 7pm?

What about fasting every week?

What I’m going to suggest is a strategy that is more sustainable and which is specific to you.

These are the foods you should almost never eat:

  1. Any food that you find addictive

You know the kind of thing I mean – it’s that jar of Nutella that keeps luring you back to the cupboard, or the biscuit barrel… or, for me, the open bag of granola. It can even be snacks that are healthy, such as nuts – they key is in moderation.

If you know that there is something that you eat compulsively, then it’s best to avoid it, or purchase it in smaller packets.

nutella

2. Any food that doesn’t make you feel good

I’m fairly lucky in that I have a cast iron stomach, but many of my friends find that certain foods can have unpleasant or uncomfortable side effects. A friend of mine gets a little ‘gassy’ if he eats pork, so that’s something he avoids.

I know it’s not a food, but drinking cola makes me giddy and hyperactive, so I try not to drink it too often. However, I don’t drink alcohol and I do like cola, so I’ve not cut it out completely.

3. Any food you don’t enjoy

At the start of my weightloss journey I swapped my lunchtime sandwiches for a home made salad. Amongst the sald vegetables that I included was celery. This may be normal for you, but it was a change for me.

I hate celery. Celery soup is fine, but I just don’t like raw celery. I’ve tried to like it for years, but I’ve come to the conclusion that there are plenty of other vegetables that I enjoy, so why should I torture myself with a food that has little nutritional value?

Beetroot, goat’s cheese and marmite are beloved of many vegetarians. I won’t deny their merits, but as I dislike the taste of them, it makes eating them an ordeal.

I don’t advocate cutting out entire food groups, but if there are particular foodstuffs that don’t tickle your tastebuds, just don’t eat them! Enjoying your meals means that you are less likely to be tempted by unhealthy items.

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4. Any food that makes you feel guilty

So many times I’ve eaten something that doesn’t sound like it should be included in a diet plan – brownies, Danish pastries, ice-cream, cookies… I have a sweet tooth, but maybe for you, it’s crisps or savoury treats.

The problem is that it doesn’t always end at one item. It spirals. I have a bar of chocolate… and then I feel guilty that I’ve ‘failed’… so I’ll have some cake… and then I give up and have some biscuits… until I’ve spent the day/weekend/week bingeing.

I then promise myself that I’ll start again on Monday… but the cycle happens again. I eat something that makes me feel bad and it escalates into a situation where I no longer feel in control.

I now decide what is OK for me to eat and try not to be too strict. Eating a doughnut is not a failure, it is part of a balanced diet. As long as I eat well the majority of the time, the odd less healthy item is fine.

5. Any food that isn’t really food

As much as possible, I prepare my food at home from scratch. This is proving to be a challenge at the moment as I only have two hob rings and a microwave (what I would give for an oven!) However, it’s not impossible.

What I can avoid is anything that contains lots of additives. Instead of choosing a ‘low fat’ yoghurt (that is probably packed with artificial sweeteners), I opt for a full fat plain yoghurt. If I want a treat, I choose dark chocolate in preference to cheap milk chocolate.

Don’t try to change everything at once. Remember the 80:20 rule. As long as you’re doing well the majority of the time, then the odd ‘less healthy’ meal is OK.

What are your personal healthy eating guidelines?