I often get asked about what supplements people should take and whether supplements are necessary. Supplements are really individual and if you aren’t sure whether you need to take a supplement then you should consult a doctor – it can be dangerous to take some supplements that you don’t need.
That said, here are the supplements that I take and the reasons why.
Although this is pretty mainstream, it is still a supplement. I use this as I want to eat a higher protein diet but I struggle to hit my protein goals. Protein powder is a convenient way to get protein throughout the day. It is easier to whip out a shake in the gym changing room than it is to set there and eat a chicken breast. You also don’t need to worry about it going bad sitting in your bag all day.
Creatine is one of the few sports supplements that actually is actually backed up with scientific research that supports its use.
There are various energy systems in the body that we use to perform exercise (or activities) at certain intensities and durations. For high intensity, short durations (up to 6 seconds) we use a system called the creatine phosphate system, activities that would use this energy system would include lifting weights and sprinting. The way that creatine works is that it allows you to use the creatine phosphate system for longer which means that you may get a couple of extra reps of your weights or you may be able to sprint for longer at maximum intensity. It basically gives you a couple of extra seconds before the body starts using a different energy system and lactic acid starts causing that burning sensation in your muscles. Extending the amount of time that you can lift a weight by a couple of seconds may not sound like a lot, but it will support you to reach your strength, power and speed related goals. However, if you are supplementing with the hope that it will increase your endurance then it won’t – this uses a different energy system.
I have been supplementing this for about a month now and I can feel the difference when I’m in the gym. It’s pretty incredible stuff…I’m surprised it’s legal! (I’m joking it’s perfectly safe for a healthy person).
Creatine monohydrate is probably the cheapest form of creatine and that is all that you need. It is a relatively inexpensive supplement and it is one of the most effective.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is found in certain foods but is mainly made by our bodies on exposure to sunlight. However, living in the UK, we are not exposed to the sun enough during the autumn and winter months to make enough vitamin D so the NICE guidelines advise supplementation of 10mcg per day during these months. Personally, I have found that I am less prone to colds in winter months since I have started supplementation but that could be placebo! However, placebo is enough for me and I’ll continue to pop a pill during those long, dark months!
You can pick up vitamin D tablets quite cheaply in most supermarkets but remember to check with your GP before you supplement.
The evenings are getting lighter, the clocks going back are nearly upon us and we’re all starting to think about our summer holidays. Invariably, thoughts then turn to ‘beach bodies’, ‘how to get fit quick’ and basically how to lose half our body weight in… ohhhh I don’t know….three weeks?!
In this post I want to speak to you about sudden, drastic weight loss. The type where Sarah from tells you that she’s lost 6 lb in a week. The kind of weight loss that if we aren’t achieveing we think that we’re failing in our diets and promptly give up diving in to the Cadbury’s Cream Eggs and putting on more weight than we started with.
Let me let you into a little secret…when somebody is losing more than 1 kg a week (2.2lb), they aren’t just losing fat. It is not possible to lose any more and if you do lose more weight than that in a week, then it won’t be fat. It’ll be glycogen, water and protein (i.e. muscle). Losing weight and losing fat are two different things. Weight can be anything, chop of an arm and you lose weight, but it isn’t going to affect your body composition.
Why is losing more than 1kg per Week Damaging?
Well, first of all, from a psychological point of view it’s going to be pretty damaging. Water and glycogen weight can fluctuate by up to 1 kg so it’s likely that at some point you are going to put that back on, at least partially. If initially, you do see big changes on the scale (and just to reiterate…this is weight not fat), then this will not be sustained. Think about how you are going to feel when you ‘just’ see a modest weight loss of 1-2 lb, probably not too good.
Losing more than a kilogram per week means that you are almost certainly going to be losing those bootie gains you worked so hard for. To lose 2kg of fat in a week you would have to cut 14,000 calories from your diet in a week. Now, for a lot of women that may be what they need to achieve energy balance (i.e. where the amount of calories that you eat is the same as the amount of calories that you are using). Are you telling me that you didn’t eat or drink anything apart from water all week? That’s highly unlikely, and dangerous if true. However, there are less calories stored in a kilo of muscle. This means that when you burn muscle you lose more weight for fewer calories. Now this might sound like a good, thing but it isn’t because muscle takes up a lot less space than fat so you won’t actually get much thinner. Plus having muscle is awesome for the following reasons:
being strong feels so good;
muscle is more metabolically active which means that it uses more calories just to keep you alive;
muscle looks good. I mean if you’re in this for aesthetics then you probably realise that heroin chic is not so chic. Why just be skinny when you can be wonder woman?
When in a calorie deficit, your body burns muscle rather than fat where it can. Although this seems counterproductive, you can’t really blame your body because it is simply trying to keep you alive. From an evolutionary point of view, when you are in a calorie deficit your body panics and does all it can to ration its energy. One of the ways that it does this is by burning muscle for fuel. This serves two purposes: firstly it accesses fuel and secondly, muscles are expensive to run. They use up more energy just existing than fat does so if your body can get rid of some muscle, the amount of energy that it needs to stay alive is lower. In terms of your brain trying to keep you alive when it thinks that food is scarce, this is a win-win.
This whole burning muscle for fuel phenomenon is exactly the reason why most personal trainers recommend weight training when you are in a calorie deficit. If you keep training your muscles, then your body recognises that you need them and you should maintain a higher proportion of muscle. So rather than training to gain muscle when you are in a calorie deficit, you are actually training to keep what you already have.
So my advice to you is if you want to lose weight, take the sensible slow and steady route of losing 0.5-1kg (1-2 lb) per week.
What advise would you give to somebody to help them lose weight sensibly?
This protein-packed blueberry and banana smoothie bowl is ready in less than a minute and is simply delicious. I’ve been unwell this week, to the extent that just standing is difficult, so the only food that I’ve been able to prepare is of the quick and easy variety. That said, I’m trying to feed my body nutrients so I wasn’t going to compromise with an easy, but nutrient poor, breakfast. The frozen ingredients in the recipe make this breakfast nice and cold, which soothed my throat a treat.
I’d recommend this smoothie if you’re ill, or if you’re not because it really is good. I’ll be having this again on a busy work day.
1 banana (frozen is ideal but fresh is absolutely fine
1 scoop of vanilla protein powder
A handful of frozen blueberries
2 Tablespoons of greek yogurt
150-200 ml milk of your choice
High protein granola (or whatever else you fancy)
Roughly chop the banana into your blender (I use a Nutribullet for smoothies)
Throw in the blueberries and yogurt then top with milk
As I’m in a long-distance relationship, I’ve had to get a fair few long-haul flights over the past few years. Here are some hints and tips that I’ve picked up to arrive healthy and happy.
I’m pretty good for staying hydrated I have to say. I’m one of these weird people who actually likes drinking water. However, the day before a flight I always make sure that I drink plenty of water as well as making sure that I drink plenty of water on the day of the flight itself.
Now, plastic bottles are the scourge of the planet but did you know that in any airport there is always somewhere that you can refill your own water bottle? I take one of those metal bottles (which keeps water nice and cool for 12 hours) and fill it up. I make sure that I drink a bottle full while I am waiting for the flight to be called and then fill it up right before I get on the plane. I make sure that I have two bottles of water for the flight and then take up the offer of drinks on the plane. Generally, I avoid the free alcohol (unless it’s a night flight when I’ll have a glass of red wine with my dinner) and drink juice to hydrate. I rarely turn down a chance for a drink.
Don’t Feel Obliged to eat the Plane Food
So people have mixed opinions on plane food but I think that we can all agree that in cattle class it’s not the best. The food also tends to be fairly low on protein and has, on occasion, made my stomach feel bad by the time that I’ve landed. I sometimes eat the plane food but I tend to feel better on the flights where I stick to my own snacks. I like to take fruit, yogurt, nuts (unless it’s a nut-free flight – although I’ve only ever been on one) and protein flapjack/bars. This way I feel like I’ve had some vitamins and minerals as well as protein. But make sure that you are mindful of portion sizes! We tend to bloat on planes so you won’t be able to comfortably eat as much food as you usually do (which is why plane food portions are so small).
Remember that if you’re on a really long flight that you might want to reduce your fibre intake a little to avoid bathroom embarasment and to spare everybody else!
This can make the difference between feeling fresh when you land and feeling a bit gross. I take a makeup remover wipe, a mini hydrating spritzer, a thick moisturiser (only because my friend managed to talk me out of taking one of those sheet masks), anti-bacterial gel for hands (I’ve been known to wipe the tray in front with this and a tissue), hand cream, perfume, toothpaste and a toothbrush. I also take makeup if I’m trying to impress and apply it about an hour before landing (before the descent!).
You’ll have to experiment with what is best with your hair but I find that if I straighten it then coil it up on the top of my head in a topknot and leave it for the duration of the flight, when I let it down is is smooth yet wavy with nice volume.
Okay, so this is pretty hard to do on a plane. Before the flight I try to walk as much as possible, as in laps of the departure lounge. You are going to be sitting down for hours and when you arrive you may be tired so it’s worth trying to get those steps in early.
When on the flight, try and do some stretches to make sure that the blood is flowing. I like to wiggle as much as I can and contract and relax muscles just to keep the blood flowing (I also wear compression socks). When you get up to go to the toilet, try to do a few stretches while you’re up – you’ll feel so much better when you’re back in your seat.
Be mindful of Time Zones
So jetlag can really screw you over. I am so sensitive to it, it’s a nightmare. Keep an eye on the time when you’re on the flight and you may want to set your watch to the time that it is at the destination (although be careful about doing this when you have a connecting flight because you don’t want to get confused and miss the connection!).
As much as you can, try to eat at meal times at the destination and sleep when you would be sleeping in the destination. Sleeping on a plane is hard (especially if you’re tall). I find a neck pillow indispensable (in addition to using the little pillow that most airlines provide) as well as a large thick scarf that can be used as a blanket. I use the airline’s blanket to put around my lap (as who knows how clean they are?!) and put my scarf around the top half of my body. To block out what is going on around me I use an eye mask and ear plugs.
So those are my main pieces of advice for long-haul flights – what do you suggest?