Monday, 17 August 2015

Supplement Series: Protein Shakes

As many of you will be aware, various supplements can be taken in addition to a regular diet to give health, performance and weight benefits. This post will feature protein and protein shakes, specifically the pros/cons and the optimal time for consumption. 

It goes without saying that protein is found naturally in the diet in both meats and plants, which when eaten in appropriate amounts is adequate for the synthesis of muscles, red blood cells, enzymes and the synthesis of other regulatory compounds (e.g. DNA and hormones). However, when exercising excessively or doing large amounts of strength training additional protein in the form of protein shakes may be beneficial. 

To give an idea of how much protein is required for different people etc. an endurance athlete requires 1.2 - 1.4 g per kg BW (for example, a 100kg person would require 120 - 140g of protein) and a strength athlete would require 1.2 - 1.7 g per kg BW. To induce a training adaptation e.g. increasing muscle mass, a higher rate of protein synthesis is required, therefore more protein is needed within the diet.

A typical protein shake serving will include around 20 - 25g protein which is fairly similar to that of 100g of chicken breast (27g). The key benefit of a protein shake over consuming a high protein meal, is convenience. You can easily take protein powder to the gym for example, allowing you to consume protein straight after a workout. In addition, you can buy protein powder which is fat and carbohydrate free, therefore not impacting upon daily macro content.

- The ingestion of protein (1.2 - 2.1 over a 12 week period of resistance training has been found to increase lean body mass by 5%.

Timing of ingestion:
- There has been no differences found between ingesting 20g protein immediately before or after exercise.
- Protein synthesis was higher ingesting 10g protein immediately after exercise compared to 3 hours later.
- Therefore, the optimal timing of protein ingestion appears to be immediately following exercise termination.

- Additional fat gain can occur if consuming protein with a high fat/carbohydrate content.
- A high protein diet can put excess strain on the kidneys due to excess ketones.
- Protein shakes may also cause gastro-intestinal discomfort.

Overall, when consumed in appropriate quantities, protein and protein shakes seem effective in increasing muscle mass when taken alongside resistance training and immediately after exercise.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Running 101 [2]

Following my latest post on the pros and cons of running I thought I would give some advice on how to gain the most out of each run and how to minimise potential injuries. All of this will be featured around creating and maintaining a 'good' running technique.

Flexibility in muscles, tendons and ligaments is crucial in avoiding injury. Therefore before and after each run it is important to complete basic stretches of the major leg muscles to improve and maintain flexibility. 

A good posture is key to allowing an efficient run and ensuring maximum oxygen flow to muscles. Ensure a fairly upright position with the chest pulled up and shoulders back. A slumped position requires more muscles to hold the body up causing an energy wastage.

The majority of leg injuries occur due to over striding and therefore placing the foot down in front of the body instead of directly below. The knee should only be bent at a 90 degree angle when running. 

It is important to coordinate the upper and lower body when running. When in coordination the load of the run is taken off of a single muscle group and spread throughout the entire body. The upper and lower body should be completing a similar amount of work.

When breathing during a run the chest shouldn't be rising and falling, you should adopt a technique called 'belly breathing' utilising the full abdomen capacity to fully inflate/deflate the lungs, making use of more oxygen per breath. 

Finally, it is important to remain relaxed when running. This will reduce the likelihood of straining tight muscles. You will also notice a lot more of your surroundings and therefore have a more pleasant running experience.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Running 101

Running appears to be one of the most popular forms of exercise among adults these days. It's hardly surprising when it can be done literally anywhere and can be easily slotted into a busy day. With saying this, it makes me wonder whether running is as good as people seem to think it is.

It is true that running promotes fitness quickly and is an efficient calorie burner in comparison to other activities. The benefits also go deeper as endorphins are released to give you that 'feel good' factor as well as having the anti-depressive effect like many other aerobic activities. 

However, there appears to be many disadvantages, which for some, may considerably outweigh any health/fitness benefits. Running is a high impact activity and therefore puts the body under a considerable amount of stress, particularly but not limited to joints (mainly knees and ankles). Over time, when running on a regular basis the stress upon joints can cause injury which will result in the termination of exercise for some time. Research has also shown a negative effect upon kidney function due to high impacts.

As I am sure many runners will admit, running has an addictive effect, and can consume an individuals mind with compulsive urges to run. It may also be used as a form of self-punishment, both of which may negatively effect the mental state contradicting the benefits originally thought. 

Tips for minimising running injuries:
- Minimise time spent running on concrete, choose routes based on dirt or grass.
- Alternatively you can run on a shock absorbing treadmill or an indoor running track.
- Always wear appropriate running shoes designed to support the foot/ankle and absorb shock.
- Replace running shoes when they begin to show signs of wear.
- Females should wear a supportive bra or chest support.

To sum it up, running appears to be a great form of exercise when isolating your view to fitness benefits alone, however the high risk of injury suggests that maybe other forms of exercise should be considered.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

IIFYM Talk [2]

Following my recent talk on the IIFYM nutrition concept, I thought I would share some of the macro contents of some basic and popular foods to help any of you further understand the concept or to help you get started. 

200ml semi skimmed milk - Carb 9.6g, Protein 7.2g, Fat 3.6g
250ml Coke - Carb 27g, Protein 0g, Fat 0g
250ml diet coke - Carb 0g, Protein 0g, Fat 0g

100g chicken breast - Carb 0g, Protein 31g, Fat 3.6g
135g sirloin steak - Carb 0g, Protein 37.8g, Fat 3.9g 
90g salmon fillet - Carb 0.2g, Protein 19.4g, Fat 1.4g

75g whole wheat pasta - Carb 46.7g, Protein 9.1g, Fat 1.9g
75g brown rice - Carb 55.5g, Protein 5.2g, Fat 2.1g
100g sweet potato - Carb 21.3g, Protein 1.2g, Fat 0.3g

100g banana - Carb 23.2g, Protein 1.2g, Fat 0.3g
Typical apple - Carb 15.7g, Protein 0.5g, Fat 0.1g
100g strawberries - Carb 6g, Protein 0.8g, Fat 0.1g

100g milk chocolate - Carb 56.5g, Protein 7.5g, Fat 30.5g
100g Ben&Jerries cookie dough ice cream - Carb 30g, Protein 4g, Fat 15g
100g Haribo starmix - Carb 77g, Protein, 6.6g, Fat <0.5g 

The actual macro content per consumption would obviously have to be altered to suit the chosen serving size, however, these values give a rough estimate of the contents of some popular foods.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015


I recently discovered a nutrition concept called 'if it fits your macros' or 'IIFYM', which basically revolves around having a set amount of carbohydrates, protein and fats per day and from there you can eat whatever you want as long as by the end of the day all of your macro nutrients (macros) are balanced.

With a controlled yet flexible diet, weight loss or weight gain is easily achievable by altering the macro content per day. For example for weight loss you may decrease fats and carbohydrates, and for muscle gain you may increase protein.

A simple macro calculator, like the one below, can be used to work out the quantity of each macro needed to satisfy your goals (e.g. weight loss or muscle gain). From there all you need to do is look at the nutritional information displayed on food packaging to calculate the macro content for each meal/snack throughout the day and keep a running total.

Although, IIFYM seems like an easily diet for achieving goals, it should be ensured that a  balanced diet remains to encourage a healthy lifestyle. As with any nutrition/diet plan exercise should be recommended in conjunction.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Meal replacement (weight loss) shakes - the good, the bad and the ugly

In recent months, a few people close to me have decided to use meal replacement shakes for weight loss, which has sparked an interest in me to research whether this relatively simple and easy weight loss method is effective and whether the weight loss can be maintained even after 'normal' eating has resumed.

It seems obvious that drastically cutting your calorific intake for the day will elicit weight loss, but is this healthy losing weight so rapidly?

Okay, so lets break the advantages/disadvantages down into subsections to take a closer look at the impacts:

1. Weight Management
- More weight is lost per year with shakes than when using a reduced calorie diet
- Protein based shakes have been found to provide the most beneficial results

2. Nutrition
- Important nutritional components are absent in shakes e.g. antioxidants, vitamins and minerals

3. Convenience
- Shakes win hands down on convenience as they are easily prepared and can be consumed on the go

4. Continued Weight Loss
- Although weight is easily and rapidly lost when replacement 1-2 meals daily with a shake, as soon as you stop this weight loss strategy and return to 'normal' eating habits the weight lost is very easily re-gained
- The above weight gain (often resulting in yo-yo dieting) is due to a decrease in the metabolism when consuming shakes, which when your normal diet is resumed remains lower than usual, resulting in the body storing excess energy, and therefore storing excess fat
- Its not all doom and gloom though, weight re-gain can easily be avoided by ensuring a high protein diet and taking part in resistance based exercise

To sum it all up, if seriously considering using meal replacement shakes as a weight loss tool, I would recommend ensuring a healthy/balanced diet remains in conjunction and only using the method for short-term weight loss to avoid yo-yo dieting.