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 75 of 90: Cutting out the Condiments

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If I’m perfectly honest I would have condiments with everything, lime pickle, tomato ketchup and chilli sauce, particularly. The only problem is, however, that since I’ve been logging my food I’ve come to notice how full of sugar, salt and empty calories this stuff is and whilst I’m still working my way through a 1 litre bottle of chilli sauce (3/4 the way through) I wanted to share with you a healthy alternative that I’ve started to use.

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Well, I’ve begun to use a chilli and garlic spice grinder. What is good is that not only does it JUST contain dried chilli, sea salt and dried flakes of garlic but it comes in a variety of different flavours and can even be refilled with other herbs and spices. This then allows me to add some much needed flavour to the blandest of meals whilst still cutting out the normal rubbish that can be found in most condiments. So if you are looking at cutting or just interested in a healthy lifestyle it might be something you want to consider too.

Pre-Workout: a banana and a tablespoon of peanut butter
Post-Workout: all-in-one shake
Breakfast: porridge and mixed nuts followed by a tangerine
Snack: a tablespoon of peanut butter
Lunch: grilled spicy chicken with mushrooms and tomato
Snack: an apple and carrot
Dinner: white lentil and goats cheese tart with salad
Snack: a kiwi
Evening shake: whey
Snack: wholegrain oat and fruit bagel (I wouldn’t normally have carbs after mid-day but I was famished and couldn’t be bothered with protein).

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 37 of 90 ”Snack Attack: A Snacking Super-Food”

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If your anything like me you could always have a little snack. So what if I told you there was a snack that was cheap, easy to make, high in protein, high in fibre, relatively low in calories and comes in sweet and savoury varieties. You’d probably be interested, right?

Well there is such a snack and it’s called popcorn and today, my carb-loading day, I decided to make some (I stay low carbs all week but carbs are needed for muscle so I load up once a week between 2 big sessions and on rest/cardio day go without starchy carbs all together). It is pretty easy really, all you need is:

1. 30g of natural popcorn. I used a protein scope this makes a medium saucepan full.
2. Place it in a saucepan on medium heat with a little oil (I used olive oil).
3. When it starts to pop turn it on low and put the lid on.
4. Shake it about until finished.
5. It is now ready to eat and you can serve it plain or with some liquid honey (you can also add ground coconut, crushed nuts or cinnamon with the honey) or a little lemon and chilli. Just stick it in a plastic tub and shake in the ingredients.

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nutritional value 100g [Asda’s popcorn]: 374 Kcal (I’m not a fan of calorie controlled diets you might want to limit your consumption) > 63.3 Carbs (0.9g of which is sugar) (again not good for no-carb diets, which I’d advise against) > 14.5g Fibre > 12.9 Protein

FOOD LOG (no food from 7pm till after workout)

Post-workout: all-in-one shake

Breakfast: porridge with banana, mixed seeds and goji berries followed with a poached egg.

Snack 1: popcorn with lemon and chilli

Snack 2: handful of walnuts and macadamia

Lunch: 2 pieces of mackerel with brown rice and salad

Snack 1: a peach and banana followed by mixed seeds

Snack 2: 2 pieces of dark rye wheat bread

Dinner: lean beef chilli with brown rice and salad

Snack 1: popcorn and honey

Snack 2handful of walnuts and macadamia

Evening Shake: whey and milk

Meal 4: oven-cooked beef with dark rye wheat bread and salad

Snack 1: grapefruit [I will be up most of the night writing an essay so I’ll bin the intermittent fasting tonight].

note: Having been on low carbs for a while had begun to make me feel a little lethargic at times (I normally limit my starchy carbs to oats post-workout but today I have had them for every meal and in a few snacks). My carb-load today though has got me feeling great, has cured my carb cravings, and has given my body plenty of healthy carbs to burn and to go towards muscle production.