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 80 of 90: Superfood – Peanut Butter

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25g – 141 kcal – 3.1g carbs – 6.4g protein – fat 11.5g (2.1 of which are saturated)

Since beginning my training I have come to love peanut butter, not the ones with added sugar or salt but the 100% natural one, which you can get in health shops and weight lifting websites. And here’s why.

1. It’s cheap: Apart from tasting great you can pick this stuff up for about £6-£7 per kg. The best tasting one I’ve found is also the cheapest (£5.49) and can be purchased from Muscle Food (PS: it’s UK only and there is a £30 minimum spend) (link).

2. It’s full of fibre: This means apart from the fact that it is very high in calories, it is great for weight loss.

3. It’s full of protein: Since it has a high protein content it helps aid muscle growth and muscle growth in turn speeds up your metabolic rate.

4. It’s full of fat: Now before you freak out, it’s full of the healthy kind, this will keep you fuller for longer and will aid muscle growth.

5. It’s full of potassium: This helps maintain good blood pressure and kidney health.

So, you see, you might not eat peanut butter by the spoonful like me but it might be something you to consider.

TODAY’S FOOD LOG (carb-loading)
Pre-Workout: grapefruit
Post-Workout: all-in-one shake
Breakfast: porridge, banana and mixed nuts
Snack: plum and apple
Lunch: tuna salad with dark rye bread
Snack 1: tablespoon of peanut butter
Snack 2: apple
Dinner: pork casserole and couscous

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Snack: tablespoon of peanut butter
Evening shake: whey
Snack: tangerine and banana

Day 64 of 90: BIG eats – Getting in Shape Does Not Mean Starving Yourself

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When I first began working out I used to think that to get in shape meant drastically cutting my food intake. This, however, is a myth which is not only damaging to moral but leaves you feeling constantly hungry, slows down your metabolism and reduces your ability to gain or maintain muscle (muscle is an active tissue which burns more calories even when your doing nothing and gives you body tone). So, instead of just recording my food log, I thought I would go through a typical meal giving some of the nutritional benefits for eating what I was eating.

Lunch: beef cubes, broccoli, tomato, mushroom (all of the aforementioned were oven cooked), cottage cheese and chilli.

Lean Beef: Whilst, many people try to avoid red meat, lean red meat can be filled with nutritional goodness (except if you deep-fat-fry it, of course – interestingly enough, unhealthy preparation and the fat content of beef burgers is usually why beef gets such a bad press).

Beef contains vitamin B and zinc which is great for the production of muscle-building testosterone, iron (iron deficiency can cause a lack of energy and anaemia), protein for muscle and regardless of the animal’s diet contains a similar fat profile. This means that although, you might want to go for free-range, organic, grass-feed beef it makes little nutritional difference which is great, particularly when you are unable to find out the source.

Broccoli/Mushroom and Tomato: All of these food are superfoods in their own right. Between them they are high in fibre (which helps with weight loss), packed with protein (for muscle), maintain blood sugar (to stop tiredness), suppress hunger, detoxify the body, aid with bone health, boost the immune system and help your body use oxygen efficiently. Not to mention their so low in calories that you can eat any amount at every meal – if you want to, that is.

Chilli: Honestly, I just add it for flavour but again it relieves stress (weight training can physiologically increase stress levels), boosts you metabolism (meaning you’ll burn food faster) and helps with blood circulation (vital when training) – the vitamin c also, helps boost your immunity to disease that’s why you never find an Indian with a cold (ok that part might not be true).

Cottage cheese (low fat variety): Not only is this stuff versatile (you can use it with sweet or savoury dishes) it is packed with protein (for muscle), calcium (for bones) and phosphorus (for energy).

So, as you can see, good healthy lean foods aid your healthy lifestyle not hinder it.

TODAY’S FOOD LOG
Pre-Workout: a boiled egg
Post-Workout: all-in-one shake
Breakfast: porridge and mixed nuts followed by a tablespoon of peanut butter
Snack: a grapefruit
Lunch: as above and a tablespoon of peanut butter
Snack: a boiled egg
Dinner: chicken and vegetable soup
Smoothie: nectarine abs mixed berries
Snack: a tablespoon of peanut butter
Evening Shake: whey and milk

Note: since I have reduced muscle mass, I have decided to stop intermittent fasting and have now begun having a pre-workout snack.

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 47 of 90: How to Snack Between Meals

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If your anything like me you were told not to snack between meals now not only does this misinformation leave you hungry (if your anything like me) but it also means that your metabolic rate will not be working at its optimum rate. You see smaller meals more often keep your body burning nutrients which in turn uses more calories and keeps your metabolic rate high. The key, however, is that you should you should be snacking well.

Well, I used to be a fan of beef biltong/jerky that was until I saw the amount of additives and preservatives that were in it – not to mention the salt. However, I have begun getting meat, cooking it in the griddle pan and adding my own seasoning. What’s great is that it’s cheaper, healthier and, because I can add what I want, tastier. I’ve done turkey breast and maggi, prawn, lemon and chilli and today I did beef (by itself). So why not give it a try – cut it small and it cooks in minutes.

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TODAY’S FOOD LOG (no food from 7pm till after training)
Post-Workout: all-in-one shake
Breakfast: porridge with walnuts and almonds
Snack: fruit salad, almonds and Greek yogurt
Lunch: tuna and egg salad followed by a kiwi
Snack 1: prawns pieces (as above)
Snack 2: handful of walnuts
Dinner: soy shepherds pie (minus potato) with salad
Snack 1: half a mango
Snack 2: beef pieces (as above)
Evening Shake: whey shake

Day 42 of 90: Nature’s Amphetamines

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Youngsters, or people pretending to be young, guzzling on energy drinks seems to be quite a familiar sight these days. The truth is that not only do these drinks give you energy but the sugar in them rots your teeth and the excessive caffeine, among its many other side-effects, lowers the muscle building hormone testosterone. So your question might be other than a good diet, regular exercise, rest and (in some cases) a change of careers what can be done for a short-term energy boost.

1. Mint: this can come in various blends of tea and even shower gels which can give you the boost you need. I think the natural ingredients shower gel range does there’s for £1 in most supermarkets.

2. Coffee: while too much coffee is bad, and can actually lead to caffeine poisoning, a little can boost your metabolism (so can help with fat loss), suppress hunger and can give you the boost you need. I drink a cup of black coffee every morning before the gym, however, I would limit my use to 1 or 2 cups as your body quickly builds up an immunity to it and too much caffeine will have a detrimental effect. negative effects of caffeine

3. Honey: again, not only can honey boost your metabolic rate but it can be used as a natural pick me up. The carb content is high so I only put it in coffee on my carb-loading day or take a teaspoon of it (and a teaspoon of peanut butter for protein) before going on long runs. It also works well in porridge oats. health benefits of honey

4. Multi-vitamins and minerals: what’s to say here except they may plug holes in your nutrition. These have been a regular part of my routine, on and off, since childhood.

5. The power-nap: this is anything from the 20-40 minute lie down to a couple of hours. This normally varies from person to person but anything more than 30 mins or naps in the evening will mean I won’t sleep at night. It’s up to you but these can do you the world of good.

FOOD LOG (no food from 7pm till after workout)
Post-Workout: all in one shake
Breakfast: porridge followed by a tablespoon of peanut butter
Snack 1: a tangerine and a banana
Snack 2: a tablespoon of peanut butter
Lunch: salmon, homemade turkey burger, cottage cheese and salad followed by a fruit salad
Snack: chicken breast and cottage cheese
Dinner: homemade beef and veg chilli with oriental salad followed by an apple
Snack: handful of walnuts
Evening shake: whey and milk followed by a teaspoon of honey.

Note to self: yesterday’s tiredness is still there but is beginning to abate. Possibly a consequence of 2 late nights back to back and the low carbs because the honey perked me up.