Day 90 of 90: What I Learned (nutrition)

Today was a nutritional disaster, on top of the daily food intake I ended up having 3 jam tarts and kebab, chips and some cola not to mention a protein shake and a few tablespoons of peanut butter (I guess when I started eating I couldn’t stop – on top of that I cut my finger making a fruit salad, what a day). Needless to say I think the cutting phase can come to an end and I will share with you what I learned about nutrition over these 90 days and post my final results tomorrow evening:

1. Forget Cheat Days: Although, there maybe times when you slip or times when a social occasion might mean that you will end up having fried food or a few beers do not make a whole day of it…err like I almost did. Hey if you train hard it is no big deal but what you don’t want to do is go nuts.

2. Keep Protein Levels High: Before I began I did not have a clue about macro-nutrients. Keeping your protein levels high is essential to keeping you full, building muscle and losing weight.

3. Protein Shakes Are Great: Your post-workout nutrition is often considered one of the most, if not the most, important meal/shake of the day. This is because your body is at its most absorbent after intense activity (or first thing in the morning). Shakes then allow you to receive an instant hit of protein (please remember that different varieties are needed for different goals so do a little research i.e. for lean muscle and weight loss go for something low in carbs, low in fat and high in protein).

4. Control the Carbs: Starchy carbs like porridge oats, brown rice and plain popcorn are great and are needed to help provide energy and build muscle but I wouldn’t  eat too much of them and would limit there intake after 6pm. White bread, potatoes and white pasta I would try to eliminate altogether.

5. Have Unlimited Salad/Veg: This will provide you with numerous health benefits, will keep you full and provide you with much needed fibre.

6. Lots of Fruit: Now I know fruit is filled with carbs and natural sugar but again it is filled with fibre. If your wanting to lose weight again restrict your fruit after 6pm but before this have a anywhere between 2 to 4 portions a day.

7. Eating Fat Does Not Make You Fat: The fat found in nuts, oily fish, lean meat and avocado is essential for a healthy lifestyle and should be limited but should not be completely removed from any healthy diet.  I try and have by diet mainly consist of healthy fats, protein, green carbs (fruit and veg) and a little starchy carbs (porridge for breakfast and maybe a small portion of brown rice for lunch and/or dinner).

8. The Water of Life: The water of life is water. It is calorie free, helps you avoid over eating (try a glass next time your hungry) and, in my humble opinion, tastes great. I try always to have a glass/bottle with me,_p particularly at night…I will warn you though, that these water-only crash diets are extremely unhealthy and an over-consumption of water is detrimental not only to your bladder but to your health.

9. Crank Up Your Metabolism: Grapefruits, lemons, chilli, celery, green tea, raspberries etc all help boost your metabolism so try and get some metabolism boosting food/drinks in daily.

10. Preparation Helps Maintain Progress: By having a few boiled eggs, cut salad and fresh fruit in the fridge and some cooked meat in the freezer it will help you stay focused. Often nutritional discipline is lost when you are hungry but have nothing prepared.

So that, in no particular order, is some of the most valuable lessons I learned over the 90 days and something I hope to maintain in the future.

Cutting Day 6 – Total Failure

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Day 74 of 90: Protein Porridge – A Great Way to Start the Day

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One of the best ways to start the day is with breakfast. Ok, admittedly, of late I’ve been having two breakfasts (Pre-Workout + Post-Workout), though the question you might have is what should you have for breakfast. Well porridge, particularly the whole grain variety, is considered one of the best breakfasts you can have and is one of my staples. It is high in protein, high in fibre, high in slow-burning carbs (that’s the good carbs), is low in GI and low in calories. Further than this it is delicious and pretty versatile; you can have it in yogurt, with fruit, nuts and even with flavoured protein powder, which is exactly what I did today.

You see, because I wasn’t in the gym today until the late afternoon, Sunday is my rest/cardio day, I normally hit a protein shake to keep my protein levels high but today I thought I’d try it in my porridge (ok I couldn’t be bothered washing my bottle too) and guess what it was delicious – another advantage of flavoured protein. So why not give it a shot, it makes a nice little change and turns breakfast into a wee treat. (nutritional value link)

TODAY’S FOOD LOG
Breakfast: as above
Snack 1: grapefruit
Snack 2: tangerine
Lunch: vegetable soup (given to us by a friend too)

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Desert: Indian sweets

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Post-Workout: all-in-one shake
Dinner: chicken biryani, vegetable samosa and an Indian chicken tikka burger with a can of vimto

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Snack: meat samosa

Note: today has been a nutritional disaster partly because it is the Muslim festival of Eid and our neighbours brought round food and because a new Indian sweet shop opened so I thought I’d test them out. Having said that if you train hard this is no big deal, I’ve already upped my training considerably.

Day 58 of 90: Beginning with Breakfast – The Most Important Meal of the Day

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Although, it is popular among some to skip breakfast, it is a meal that should not be missed as it is the most important meal of the day. Breakfast not only helps kick-start the metabolism, reduces the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, it also provides the essential vitamins and nutrients needed for the mind and body to function throughout the day. So, here are some answer to some FAQ’s about breakfast:

1. When should I have breakfast? Ideally, breakfast should be eaten within an hour or two of getting up, there is, however, an exception. I will get up at 5 am and will have a black coffee in the morning (to suppress hunger and give me an energy boost), an all-in-one protein shake after training (7 am – 8.15 am) and breakfast at 9 am (Mon-Fri). This is because training on an empty stomach enables the body to burn fat. If you train with food in your system your body will first burn that before going into the fat reserves.

2. What should I eat? Well, I would recommend that you should try to have all of the macro nutrients (protein, healthy fat and carbohydrates – carbs are essential if breakfast is eaten straight after training as it is needed to build muscle).  So what does that look like:

Lean Protein: eggs, protein shakes, kippers (if you can have them for breakfast – I can’t) and lean meat can be added to omelettes or scrambled eggs.
Healthy fat: one hundred percent natural peanut butter (you can get it from health stores or bodybuilding websites), milk, low fat Greek yogurt (unsweetened), mixed nuts, seeds and fish (again, if you can stomach it).
Slow burn carbs: wholewheat porridge oats (not instant), shredded wheat and bran flakes are good.

3. What Should I Avoid? Avoid breads (particularly croissants, bagels and white bread), cooked breakfasts (a healthy alternative is lean turkey bacon, mushrooms, tomato, a little beans, homemade burger and poached/boiled egg), sugary cereals (they’ll give you an initial sugar rush and later in the day, a come down), breakfast bars, protein bars and muesli (these are often filled with junk).

4. What do you have? Even though I like to keep my diet varied I’m quite habitual when it comes to breakfast (and lunch). After training I have a all- in-one protein shake and then I have porridge – it is a nutritional super-food (usually with fruit, some kind of nut and occasionally mixed seeds and goji berries).

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(Today’s – porridge, raspberry and mixed nuts)

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(Tommorow – porridge, organic Greek strawberry yogurt, with raspberries and mixed nuts. If you do it the day before and put in the fridge it softens the oats – delicious!)

5. How much should I eat? It is often said that you should have breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. This is because you have all day to digest what you had at breakfast and if you do manual work or workout you body should burn everything that you’ve taken in. Personally, though, I wouldn’t go mad at breakfast because it will make you feel lethargic and put a lot of strain on the digestive system. A good breakfast is in but a buffet breakfast is definitely out.

Ok peeps, hope that helps, here’s today’s food log.

TODAY’S FOOD LOG (no food from 7pm till after workout)
Post-workout: all-in-one shake
Breakfast: as above with a tablespoon of peanut butter
Snack 1: half a mango
Snack 2: an apple
Snack 3: a pear
Lunch: omelette (mushroom, chilli, onion, garlic, coriander, spinach and sun-dried tomato) with salad

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Snack 1: beef cubes
Snack 2: pineapple, mango and raspberry smoothy

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Evening meal: tofu and tuna (two very lean sources of protein) salad and homemade hummus

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Snack: a tablespoon of peanut butter
Protein shake: whey

Day 55 of 90: Losing Body Fat, Not Body Weight

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Today, I had a meeting with a friend I have not seen in a while.  He has been training and eating healthy for sometime and has lost 3 stone in weight.  Instead of losing weight now he wants to begin to focus on dropping his body fat percentage and here’s why:

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Weight is not a great indication of health or body shape.  You see you can weigh less and look puffy and saggy or you can weigh more and look toned and fit.  Personally I dropped 7.4lbs (from 11.96 stone) and 9.2% body fat (from 24.6% to 15.4%) in 30 days (I will do another assessment on day 60) but my aim has always been body shape and NOT weight (in fact, I don’t mind putting on some weight).  Here’s how I did it:

1. Weight training: I’m not against cardio but weights will help you hugely.  The key, however, is frequency and intensity – train regularly (at least 2 or 3 times a week) and train hard. [PS] Fat loss is particularly more effective if you train hard on an empty stomach…I try to stop eating after 7pm mon-fri.

2. More food: That’s right…lots of protein, lots of fibre and lots of healthy fats (fish, lean meat, eggs and 100% peanut butter (link) – you can get it in health stores or online) but cut down on the carbs (stick with porridge, sweet potato, brown rice etc but I only have them in the first half of the day and on Fridays and avoid white rice, bread and potatoes all together)…Just remembered, if you lose weight through drastic, protein/fat deficient dieting you will lose muscle this means it’s hard for the weight to stay off (muscle keeps your metabolic rate up) and means you’ll look skinny fat (basically flabby) or like a concentration camp victim.

3. Log what you eat: I’m doing it for 90 days after that it should just be a lifestyle

4. Boost your metabolic rate: link

5. Get assessments at the gym or doctors instead of jumping on the scales all the time: this way you can see how much of your body is made up of water, muscle and fat.  Hope that helps guys – here’s a guide which might help with goal setting.

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Todays Food Log (no food from 7pm till post-workout)

Post-workout: all-in-one shake

Breakfast: porridge with mixed nuts and a tablespoon of peanut butter

Snack 1: half a tub of strawberries

Snack 2: peach

Snack 3: a fresh fig

Lunch: chicken salad with chilli pickle followed by melon

Snack 1: 2 kiwis

Snack 2: a tablespoon of peanut butter

Dinner: poached egg and salmon salad

Evening Shake: Whey shake

Day 50 of 90: Curing Insomnia

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Yesterday I spoke about the importance of sleep and how muscle is actually built as much on the pillow as it is on the bench (link). So after a couple of good nights sleep I thought I would give some tips on curing insomnia. Something I suffered with for years. So, in no particular order, this is what I’ve found that helps:

1. Keep the bed for sleeping (well and of course…:-): watching TV, reading, working or playing video games in bed will mean that your subconscious will associate the bedroom with activity and not rest. What you want is to walk in and your mind to automatically begin to wind down because it knows exactly what it’s there for.

2. Have a bath: I shower in the mornings, however, every now and then I will take a nice relaxing bath which helps chill me out gets rid of any muscle soreness, gives me an opportunity to do some reading and gets me ready for bed.

3. Do not have anything to eat or drink up to an hour before: obviously if you eat something, particularly if it’s heavy, sour or spicy, you will struggle to sleep and could end up with indigestion or heart burn. Fluids will also have you going to the toilet…The only exception I would make is a little water bottle on your bedside cabinet. This will help with any late night dehydration but sip it rather than glugging it and make sure you go to the toilet, whether you feel like it or not, immediately before bed. (You’ll be amazed at how your increase in protein and water, whilst training, will have you getting up all night if you let it, so empty the tank when you can).

4. Avoid caffeine for two/three hours before bed: caffeine is a stimulant which, is ok in small doses, but has some negative side effects. One of which is it keeps you awake. I try to limit myself to one cup in the mornings and NEVER have it after mid-day.

5. Try a hot glass of milk or a malt drink: again you don’t want this too close to getting in bed but it is a renowned natural cure for insomnia.

6. Skip the exercise: when I was younger I would aim to do 50 press ups before bed. The problem with this, however, is that it gets the adrenaline pumping which disrupts sleep. You are better getting up 10 minutes earlier to do your press ups (or whatever you do) and bit o doing anything before bed.

7. Turn your phone on silent: ok unless you work for MI5 (or your on call or something) you don’t need your phone on. In fact, using electrical devices, like tablets and smartphones, before bed is known for significantly disrupting sleep.

8. Sort your life out: basically, all the bins should be out, your clothes should be ironed and the lunches made before you get into bed.

9. Have regular bedtimes: these do not have to be rigid but if your body knows you normally go to bed anywhere between 9:30 -10:30pm and you get up at 5am most days, then it will adjust accordingly…On rest/cardio days I do not set an alarm at all but still end up getting up somewhere from 5:30am – 7am.

10. Keep a notepad an pen at hand: it’s amazing that while preparing to sleep you remember the weirdest things and have your most creative ideas (maybe it’s just me then). If you don’t note them down you will forget them or you might end up thinking about them all night.

Added to this I would remove any noise (like ticking clocks), put in black out curtains and incorporate some physical training into my life (particularly if you do a non-physically demanding job). If you do this hopefully you should be able to turn your back on insomnia and get yourself a good night’s sleep. It worked for me – normally.

TODAY’S FOOD LOG (no food from 7pm yesterday till after workout – today is my carb-loading day)

Post-workout: all-in-one shake
Snack: plain popcorn
Breakfast: porridge, goji berries (it’s a carb super food link) and walnuts
Snack 1: a tablespoon of peanut butter
Snack 2: plain popcorn
Lunch: chicken breast with brown rice and veg (kidney beans, broccoli and spinach) with chilli.

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Snack 1: as above minus chicken
Snack 2: a tablespoon of peanut butter
Snack 3: plain popcorn
Dinner: Mexican chicken and vegetable (onion, celery, mushrooms, kidney beans, chilli and carrot) spicy rice
Evening shake: whey
Snack 1: mango and vanilla Greek yogurt
Snack 2: 2 tangerines and a peach
Snack 3: a small bowl of cornflakes

Note: I wouldn’t normally do chest twice in the week but boxercise was cancelled and the bench was set up.

Day 45 of 90: I Can See the Finishing Line

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After many false starts, a number of encouraging friends and a couple of providential circumstances, like having 2 newly built gyms on my doorstep (my membership gives me access to 8 gyms in the local area), I began a daily training/eating log 45 days ago (I’ll post my results again on day 60). Again, after learning so much and having others ask me loads of questions, it eventually morphed into a training blog.

So today I just want to encourage you to have goals that are clear enough that you can measure them (mines was to train daily and eat clean for 90 days – I was hoping after this I’d be fit and it would become a lifestyle), flexible enough so you can change them (the more I learned the more I added to my diet and training plan), quantifiable enough so you can measure them (I’ve trained everyday but one and although I’ve had some cheat meals I’ve only had one day, day 13 I think, which was a nutritional right-off – I never would have known this without recording these things daily) and realistic enough that you can achieve them (I’m not saying don’t go big I’m just saying my goal wasn’t to grow 12 inches and play for the Chicago Bulls). If you do this you will be able to achieve more than you ever thought was possible. Now I realise I’m only half-way through but I can actually see the finishing line from here and therefore, I’d like to encourage you (in what ever sphere it might be – paying off the mortgage, getting a degree, losing weight, saving up to go abroad etc etc) to do the same. Who knows you might achieve something amazing.

TODAY’S FOOD LOG (no food from 7pm yesterday till my morning shake)

Morning Shake: all-in-one shake (with today being my rest/cardio day I keep up the shakes so my protein levels are high and my food levels are low…Or lower than they would be 🙂
Breakfast: 1 boiled egg, 1 poached egg, a bunch of cherry tomatoes and a little hot lime pickle (no starchy carbs today)
Snack 1: an apple and a tablespoon of peanut butter
Snack 2: a handful of walnuts and a tablespoon of peanut butter
Lunch: Turkey and vegetable stir fry with chilli dip (we seem to be having a lot of stir-frys lately – homemade and healthy though)

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Snack 1: a whole mango (ok my wife had a slice)
Snack 2: a handful of turkey bits (I’ll put the recipe up tomorrow)
Post-workout/Evening Shake: whey shake and an apple (I train late on Sundays so I thought I’d have shake after the workout instead of at 7pm, when I start intermittent fasting)
Dinner: cooked turkey salad
Snack: a banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter (great combo BTW)

Note to Self: since my training is light today, I don’t really have a rest day, I’ve started making it a no carb day. Which is fine but, it is amazing how hungry I get without my morning porridge. This means I’ll have to keep the snacks at hand to stop me being hungry or slipping into junk food. I could have murdered a kebab and chips tonight.

Day 40 of 90: Carb me up Scotty – 5 SuperFoods

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Although carbohydrates are the least essential macro-nutrient in your diet (protein, fats and carbs – in order of importance), if you deplete your carbs your body will burn fat instead, good carbs are essential for muscle gain and the energy needed for endurance training. So I limit my starchy carbs to the morning or straight after training and load up on carbs one day a week between heavy sessions and try and go without on rest/cardio days (its called carb-loading here’s a link). So here’s a guide on 5 of the best carbs you can have.

1. Coucous: it’s like rice and goes with everything
100g – 73.1g carbs – 15.2g protein – 365 kcal

2. Brown pasta: as above
100g – 73g carbs – 12.5g protein – 355 kcal

3. Brown rice: Although, is down at number 3, because it has lower protein, I love this stuff.
100g – 74g carbs – 6.9g protein – 350 kcal

4. Porridge oats: great with banana for breakfast.
100g – 60g carbs – 11g protein – 356 kcal

5. Goji berries: you can get them in any supermarket or health store and they normally come with mixed seeds. I pour mine on my porridge, but I’m out.
100g – 57.7g carbs – 12.3g protein – 285 kcal

Here’s a link to the bonus food – a super snack which actually ranks above the oats. (link) And to my top 5 non-meat protein sources, I’ll do meat tommorow. (link)

TODAY’S FOOD LOG (no food from 7pm yesterday)
Post-Workout: all-in-one shake
Breakfast: porridge with a banana followed by a tablespoon of peanut butter
Snack 1: a sheet of roasted seaweed and some cherry tomatoes
Snack 2: an apple and some mixed seeds
Lunch: chicken breast, cooked spinach, cottage cheese and salad followed by a tablespoon of peanut butter
Snack: some cherry tomatoes
Afternoon shake: whey shake
Snack: a little chicken
Dinner: lean beef and vegetable chilli
Snack: a peach
Evening shake: whey protein