Cytosport Protein Powder: Review

atheltesProtein is an essential component of the human diet. It is a macronutrient, like fats and carbohydrates and as such you need quite a lot of it to stay healthy. This is especially the case for athletes, and those who have active lives.

However getting enough protein can be difficult. Especially because protein cannot be stored in the body in the same way that carbohydrates and fats can be. Therefore it is essential to replenish your bodies protein supplies in your diet. As an athlete it is especially important to ensure you are getting enough protein, as you need it for recovery.protein

Protein rich foods include red meats, poultry, beans, nuts, eggs and seeds. These sources of protein are all clean and are great for your body. Getting protein from foods is all well and good, but it can be tough if you don’t feel like eating after a tough work out or if you are out of the house.

Protein shakes can be a great alternative, however not all are made equal. It is important to make sure that you find ones that are made of good quality protein and have few unnecessary additives.

Cytosport is one company that sells high quality, high protein products. Their products are clean and most are safe for college and elite athletes as they do not contain any banned substances. I tried a couple of the shakes that they make; muscle milk and monster protein.

Powder

Skake

I used the vanilla creme muscle milk powder to make a protein shake. It was creamy and smooth, and had no lumps- which is pretty unheard of in terms of the protein shakes that I have tried.

 

 I have also used the vanilla protein powder to make protein pancakes! I added some summer fruits to the mix which added a lovely sweetness to the pancakes. These pancakes are a great way to start the day and the perfect meal to have after a hard workout. Feel free to add extra toppings such as peanut butter, yogurt or maple syrup.

protein pancakes

I mixed the chocolate Monster Protein powder into Greek yogurt and sprinkled some nuts, raisins and oats on top to make a deliciously sweet and nutritious evening snack.

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LARABAR: a review

Larabar promotes itself on making products that are simple, pure and delicious. If I am honest, and after trying a range of their bar’s and products, I cannot argue with them. Many of their bars only contain 3 or 4 ingredients, all of which I understand and could find myself. I always find this reassuring as I prefer to eat only wholesome and natural products.

Larabar also caters for a range of special diets. Many of their bars are gluten free and vegan. Containing only nuts and fruits. In addition to this, many of their products are raw and so can be eaten by people following raw food diet.

I tried a few of their bars in order to be able to write a review, but I have since bought many more and have no doubt that I will continue to buy their products.

Apple

As a lover of apple pie I couldn’t resist trying the apple pie flavor Larabar. The bar contains only 6 ingredients, and provides a quarter cup of fruit and 5 grams of fiber. It was really tasty, being not too sweet, and lightly spiced with cinnamon and raisins. The bar also has almonds and walnuts for a little bit of crunch and a nutty finish. I decided to add a little peanut butter to the bar as I can’t get enough of the spread, but I am sure the bar would have been delicious on its own.

pumpkin

As it is autumn and fast aproaching the holiday season, I couldn’t say no to trying the seasonal pumpkin pie Larabar. I was a little sceptical as I am not the biggest fan of pumpkin flavoured things normally, but once I took my first bite into the bar I was proved wrong. I really enjoyed the rich festive taste of the bar. Additionally, the bar only contained 8 natural ingredients so I couldn’t say no. However, as it is a seasonal bar it is only around during the holidays, so I am going to have to stock up!

The ALT bar range are great for after training sessions as they have the added benefit of being high in protein with each bar having 10g.

pb

As I have already mentioned, I am a lover of peanut butter and all things of that ilk. As a result when I saw that there was a peanut butter cookie Alt bar I just had to try it! I am glad I did because it was delicious. It reminded me of eating cookie dough from the mixing bowl, but with only natural and healthy ingredients eating this Alt bar left me feeling good, and not guilty for eating all of the dough! I would definitely recommend giving the Alt bar’s a try.

Another type of bar that Larabar offers is the ‘uber’. These bars are nutty and sticky. They do not contain the same amount of fruit as the other bars mentioned but what they lack in fruit they make up for in nuts! The sticky, sweetness of the bars comes from honey and brown rice syrup, not from unhealthy sugar alternatives. There are a number of flavours available. So far I have only tried the Roasted Nut Roll, but I am going to head to the shops after writing this as I want to try the other flavors that are available!

nutty Let us know if you see any new Larabar products in stores near you. We would love to know what you think, and we don’t want to miss out on any yummy Larabar products!

Lotus Foods: a review

Lotus foods offer a range of great tasting products all of which are made from rice. As a lover of rice I couldn’t wait to try some of the products that Lotus foods have on offer.

I obviously could not try all of their products, although I would have loved to, so I decided to try a couple of the convenient ramen and microwave rice products that Lotus foods have on offer. I could not recommend them more highly.

The first product I tried was the ‘Forbidden Rice Ramen with Miso Soup’. I took the ramen with me to a recent race that I competed in. As the ramen is so easy to make, and ready in only 4 minuets, I thought it would be an ideal post race meal.

Ramen1

I ate the whole ramen packet despite it suggesting that it would be enough for two, but after a hard race I was hungry so easily ate it all. I also added two boiled eggs, and a handful of veg to the noodles to make them into a full meal. I really enjoyed the noodles, despite the noodles being black, which put off a couple of my friends. The noodle meal kept me full for a good few hours, which is usually unheard of!

I also tried a couple of the other ramen products. I added a range of things to them. I particularity enjoyed the noodles with chicken, peas and baby sweetcorn. I would suggest experimenting with a range of protein and vege’s. I am sure nuts and seeds would also be great as they would add an extra crunch.

rice

An additional, and really great product that Lotus foods has on offer is their ‘Heat and Eat’ rice bowls. These single serving rice products are an easy way of making a healthy meal in no time. The rice bowls are really healthy, gluten free and full of vitamins. As the rice used was precooked they allowed me to make delicious meals really fast. Which for me is great when I come in from training and am hungry and tired. I tried a couple of their rice varieties, and like with the ramen, I enjoyed experimenting by adding some protein and vege’s to the rice.

rice3

In addition to experimenting with my own recipes for the ramen and rice bowls, I also tried a couple of the recipes that Lotus Foods posted on their website. One of my favorites was the Asian Tuna And Jade Pearl Rice Ramen Salad. The recipe which serves 2 is below.

Ingredients:

Tuna Salad

  • 1 can Tuna packed in Olive Oil
  • 3 Green Onions, diced
  • 4-5 small Sheets of Seaweed Snacks, cut into small piecesrice with tuna
  • 1 tsp Tamari, or Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Jade Pearl Rice Ramen Salad

  • 2 Jade Pearl Ramen Cakes
  • 1 Carrot
  • 1 Daikon Radish
  • 3 Green Onions
  • 1Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1tsp Tamari or Soy Sauce

Garnish

  • Green Onions
  • Hard Boiled Egg, quartered
  • Shirracha  (optional)

Preparation:

To make the Asian Tuna Salad:
  1. In a medium bowl add tuna along with the olive oil, mix in green onions, seaweed, tamari, lemon juice and garlic gomasio. Gently mix together and set aside.
To make the Jade Pearl Rice Ramen Salad:
  1. In a sauce pan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil, add the 2 Jade Pearl Ramen Cakes and cook for 4 minutes, until tender.
  2. Strain, rinse with water and set aside.
  3. Peel the carrot with a vegetable peeler, after the first layer is removed and tossed into the compose, keep peeling the carrot into long strips. Do the same with the daikon radish. Cut the root end off the green onions and remove the first layer.
  4. Slice the green onions in half lengthwise, then into 2 inch strips.
  5. Toss carrots, daikon and green onions with the Jade Pearl Rice Ramen, gently mix together with your fingers. Add in sesame oil and tamari, toss a few more times.
  6. To plate: place Jade Pearl Rice Ramen onto plate, place Asian Tuna Salad on top, garnish with green onions, hard boiled egg and shirracha.

Let us know if you come up with any other recipes that include Lotus Foods products.

Fasted Training

Fasted training is training without eating before hand, for example before breakfast. This type of training has become a topic of conversation in many fitness and health circles. But the benefits of this training are hotly debated.

plate

It is known scientifically that as exercise intensity increases, i.e. from walking to running, so does the bodies usage of carbohydrate. But does this mean that we have to consume carbohydrate before training in order to train effectively?

banana

Fat is one fuel source that everyone has plenty of stored in their bodies. But using fats to fuel high intensity activity is often inadequate as the metabolism of fat is a slow process. As a result, the body can’t keep up with the energy demands by using fats alone if you exercise at a high intensity for along period because the body needs lots of energy quickly. Protein is another source of energy but again its metabolism is a relatively slow process as the proteins have to be broken down before they are in a form which the muscles can use.

fat

Fasted training usually means training first thing in a morning without having had any breakfast. This means you will become glycogen depleted very quickly as your blood sugar will be low and much of your liver glycogen will have been used in your overnight fast. As you start to exercise your muscle glycogen is also used up very quickly. Fat becomes the dominant fuel source, and training in this way does improve the metabolic pathways for burning fat.

There are also other benefits of such training:

1. Improved insulin sensitivity.

  • Insulin is released when we eat to help us absorb the nutrients from our food. The hormone initiates the removal of sugars from the bloodstream and directs them to the liver, muscles, and fat cells to be used as energy.
  • However, eating too much and too often increases the bodies resistance to insulin’s effects, and while poor insulin sensitivity increases the risk of heart disease and cancer, it also makes it harder to lose fat.
  • Eating less frequently (i.e. fasting more regularly) can help, because it results in the body releasing insulin less often, so we become more sensitive to it. This then helps individuals to lose fat and also get blood to their muscles.

insulin

2. Increase of growth hormone (GH).

  • GH is a hormone that helps the body make new muscle tissue, burn fat and improve bone quality, physical function, and longevity.
  • Along with regular weight training and sleep, fasting can help to increase the body’s GH. The effect ends when the fast does, which is a compelling reason to train fasted in order to keep muscle-friendly hormones at their highest levels.

gh

However, there are two major drawbacks to fasted training where fat is the dominant fuel:

1. It is not possible to train as quickly as would be possible on carbohydrate as the body cannot produce energy from fat fast enough.

2. The immune system relies on carbohydrate to function. Prolonged endurance exercise causes a drop in immune function regardless, and a low carbohydrate availability only makes this worse. This can leave the body more prone to coughs and colds- not ideal if you are wanting to train hard.

So, based on the drawbacks of using fat for fuel, and the benefits that can come of such training for example by improving the metabolic pathway for fat metabolism, it has been suggested that the best way to use fasted training is at selected times, such as the early season, when the sessions are of a lower intensity and performance is not so important. Ideally fasted sessions should be no longer than 60 minutes so that the immune system is not put under too much stress.

cold

Finally, to conclude, you should not train in a fasted state for all of your sessions, and based on current research during your racing season, you should train how you race.  Therefore the “train low, race high” approach should not be followed all the time as it does not improve performance. It must be remembered that carbohydrate is the dominant fuel for performing, and therefore carbohydrate should be available to the body in training in order to develop these metabolic pathways. Additionally, everyone is different. Fasting will not work for everyone, and the only way to see if it helps you to reach your goals is to try it out.

keep-calm-everyone-s-body-is-different

See more at: http://www.scienceinsport.com/sports-nutrition/sis-endurance-nutrition-running-nutrition-articles/sis-to-carb-or-not-to-carb

For more information: Burke, L.M. (2010). Fueling strategies to optimize performance: training high or training low? Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 20(Suppl. 2), 48–58.

Killer Chairs- Really?

An article that was recently published in Scientific American stated that sitting as much as we do is bad for our health. The study reported that standing more, even at a desk job, could lower risk for obesity, illness and death.

Americans (and other Westerners too) sit on average for 13 hours per day. We sit when we work, eat, shop, date, relax and play computer games.

chair 2chair 3

We think nothing of sitting, but it has been reported that chairs are lethal. This is not something that has been reported in one study, but in fact over the past 20 years there have been over 18 studies, covering 800,000 people which back up the claim. For example, in 2010 the journal Circulation reported that it had been found that adults who sat more than 4 hours per day watching television increased their risk of death from any cause by 46% compared to those who watched TV for less than 2 hours per day. Scary stuff I think you will agree!

tv

But why is sitting so bad for us? 

Sitting for short bursts is fine, but when you sit for long periods it becomes bad because the human body, surprisingly, was not designed to be idle. Sitting, which obviously results in an overall lack of movement, has been found to slow metabolism, reducing the amount of food that is converted to energy. This promotes fat accumulation, obesity, and all of the associated conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. Sitting after a meal leads to high blood sugar spikes, whereas getting up after you eat can cut those spikes in half, so lean people are also not safe from the perils of the chair.

obese

NEAT

NEAT, or non exercise activity thermogenesis, is the energy a person expends going about his or her everyday life. It has been suggested that by increasing an individuals NEAT time, it could help to reduce the incidence of disease, illness and obesity.

By sitting all day long people are ignoring their innate drive to move that is as biological as breathing. Also, by sitting so much we are going against how our bodies have been designed to work. The hypothalamus which is located in the brain and manages appetite, will make you hungry if you are active, for example if you spend a whole day raking leaves. Further to this, there is a feedback system from the muscles senses muscular overexertion and signals a person to sit and rest after a hard day of work. However, in the modern chair-based environment we have overwhelmed this biologically driven balancing act and so we eat when we don’t need to and sit when we do not need rest. Something is not right there, and something needs to be done!

raking

What can we do? 

We are not on a one way road to our deaths due to sitting as we are not prisoners of our environments. Technology such as computers and computer games have played a massive part in the daily cycle of sitting and eating, but technology can also help us to solve the problem.For example, we could use our mobile phones to take calls in work which would allow us to wander around whilst talking. Also, recent video games that link computers to physical competitions; the Nintendo Wii, encourage movement, and so can help to reduce the time spent sitting. At work, desks could be redesigned so that employees could stand or treadmill desks could be developed to allow office workers to do their jobs while moving.

treadmill

There are so many possible ways of increasing the amount that we move and reducing the time that we sit, so what are you waiting for?  Although we in a sea of killer chairs: adjustable, swivel, recliner, wing, club, chaise longue, sofa, arm, four-legged, three-legged, wood, leather, plastic, car, plane, train, dining and bar, we do not have to succumb to their dangers- amazingly we do not have to use them. If you read this article whilst standing up then congratulations—and if you didn’t, get up! It is our responsibility to change our health- so get started now.

bike

For more information: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/killer-chairs-how-desk-jobs-ruin-your-health/

 

 

 

Physical Activity and Brain Power: A Link?

There are many studies which suggest that children might do better in school if they’re more physically active. If this is the case for children, then what is to say that exercise could also improve brain power in adults?

brain

child

Studies looking at kids have found that regular aerobic exercise can help to expand their working memory i.e. improve their ability to mentally manipulate facts and ideas to solve problems. This suggests that exercise is linked to academic achievement.

So for children it would seem to be a very good idea to ensure that they are doing at least some physical activity every day. This can include things such as: cycling to school, playing football with friends at break times, going swimming, walking the dog etc.

run

Further to this, it has been found that intellect and other mental functions, can be improved with aerobic exercise in young adults. Studies have found that those who exercise regularly post quicker reaction times, give more accurate responses, and are more effective at detecting errors when they engage in fast-paced tasks in the lab.

housework

It is often the case that young people do less and less activity as they get older for a range of reasons which include; university lifestyle, increasing work or family commitments, and a lack of motivation. However as it has been suggested by lots of studies, exercise is beneficial to brain function and as such it is important to incorporate at least some activity into the lives of young adults. This activity could be going to a gym class, swimming, going for a jog or even doing house work.

Finally, research on older adults has found that regular aerobic exercise can also boost the mental functions that typically deteriorate with age. These functions include the ability to pay focused attention, to switch among tasks, and to hold multiple items in working memory. One study found “significant increases in gray and white matter volumes” in areas of the brain associated with executive control in older adults who exercised regularly for 6 months compared to control groups. The improvements in brain function were noted following aerobic exercise, but not following resistance exercise.

cycle

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-exercise-boosts-intelligence-2013-3#ixzz3EZ8gcN42

PB2

As you’re probably aware my love of peanut butter, well any nut butter in general, is strong so when I was given the chance to try PPB I was not going to turn it down! I got the opportunity to try Chocolate PPB, PPB, and PPB sweetened with Stevia, all of which were amazing!

ppb_powdered_peanut_butter_combo

I loved it so much as used it in a number of ways. I added this PPB to my smoothie and created a thicker, peanut addition which was delicious. I made it into a thicker consistency by adding less water, and I used it to top rice cakes, finished by a dollop of strawberry jam.

photo 4

I also used it as a porridge topper. It was the perfect, healthy and indulgent finish to a perfect breakfast. I even tried it as a sauce for pancakes- the recipe for this dish is below!

photo 3

PPB is powdered peanut butter, made by squeezing out the oils and dehydrating resulting in 90% less fat than regular peanut butter. This results in less calories, and less oilyness, so is a perfect substitution to regular peanut butter for anyone trying to reduce calorific consumption.

PPB has a strong peanut taste and is can be made into the consistency of choice. I used the PPB to make both a peanut sauce by adding more water and also a peanut spread by reducing the quantity of water added.

Definitely a product which I would recommend, especially peanut butter lovers looking for something new to try! So versatile and delicious!

Refreshing Berry and PPB Smoothie

photo 1

1 banana

1 tbsp chocolate PPB

1 handful of berries

Squeeze of agave

200ml milk

Blend, serve and Enjoy!

Protein Pancakes topped with PPB

photo 2

2 eggs

1 scoop protein powder

Dash of cinnamon

Squeeze of agave

Whisk together the ingredients together.

Fry small round pancakes on each side for about 30 seconds.

Stack and top with PPB sauce (regular PPB with added water to reach the saucy consistency).