A spoon full of protein

Protein Shakes; Why, when and what for? And should women drink them?

My understanding of protein is this, without it in our diets we are unable to maintain, build and repair the muscles we have. I don’t just mean the ones we have worked on tirelessly to hone and sculpt, I mean all of them. Even if you’ve never entered a gym in your life, without protein we would still not be able to build, repair and maintain our muscles. Protein is also essential to our immune system which helps us fight off disease and infection. It has also been said to help skin, hair, nails and eyes all stay healthy.

Why?

Protein can be found from many sources such as Animals (Meats like beef and chicken) or from other sources such as eggs, Nuts and Seeds, Legumes, Fruits and Cereals and Wheats. So with such a wide variety of protein sources why is it that in most gyms across the world will you see people chugging a pre or post workout protein shake? Well the answer is suggested that this is because when the protein is taken in shake form, it can be broken down quicker than when it is in a whole foods form and so it can get to work quicker.

So that answers the why a protein shake question quite easily. The answer to the when and what for questions however are slightly harder to answer. And the reason for this is because the what for will determine the when.

When?

It is widely debated that the consumption of protein post workout within a 20-60 minute window is the best way to get protein in to the system, and so help the growth and repair of the muscles that have been recently worked. I believe that it is from this stand point and assumption that the question “Should women take protein shakes?” come from.

The advertising and packaging of protein will often display a well-muscled male individual surrounded with buzz words such as growth, bulk and gain. Here they are only really highlighting one feature of the product and it is this that will probably dissuade a female consumer, as most often their goals are to reduce weight and size not increase it.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition claims that high quality proteins are more satisfying than carbohydrates and fats and so can improve the body’s metabolism. An increase in metabolism will actually help with a fat loss target. Therefore if consumed before a workout the increase in metabolism will help the calorie burning effects during a workout.

It has also been suggested that consumption of a protein shake during a workout can also have fat loss benefits as well. This is because the protein consumed during the workout will replace the energy already expended and so you are able to push on with your workout for longer which will give you the opportunity to burn even more calories and improve fat loss.

So in conclusion, protein is an essential nutrient and so should be consumed by everyone no matter whether they are training or not. Yes a protein shake is helpful as the easily broken down protein can get to work quicker, however the when is dependent on your own personal why.

So, in short. Yes women should drink protein shakes. Yes they are more effective than protein in food and yes they can help you lose weight!

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What are you on?

Fad diets… yes or no?

First things first, the word diet has been long associated with the cutting out and removal of often the ‘good’ foods we love that are often bad for us. We replace of them with something that is a real punishment for us, which is probably why like most people I have failed at sticking to a diet or twelve. But the thing is the word diet isn’t the dirty word we have made it. Diet is actually the word that describes the foot that we take in, in order to live and function and survive. A person can have either a healthy or an unhealthy diet but they can’t ever not be on a diet. When someone refers to being on a diet what they are most likely referring to is a conscious switch they have made between an unhealthy diet and a healthy diet. Our diets are made up of 3 essential Macro-nutrients called Fat, Protein and Carbohydrate and lots of Micro-nutrients such as Iron and Zinc.

Fats, Proteins and Carbohydrates are essential to our everyday living in the sense that they provide us with the energy to move and function as well as being important in the repair and protection of the body. Therefore it does not make any sense that we would follow a fad diet plan such as the Atkins Diet that totally abolishes the use of one of these sources of energy. Yes the Atkins diet has shown to have success in allowing people to lose weight, however it has also been shown that this weight loss is only in the short term and that long term benefits do not seem to be as readily achievable.

So if diet plans like Atkins isn’t our answer what is? Well it’s quite simple actually. If we put more energy in to our body than we are able to expend, then the excess energy is stored away to use at a later date, which is why we start to see fatty deposits appear on our body if this is repeated too often. Therefore, in order to reduce the excess energy stores we have built up it stands to reason that we should expend more energy than what we put in to our system. Therefore if we continue to eat as we do now but took up a lot of exercise it would be possible to increase expenditure above intake and allow us to lose weight.

However as we are looking at Diet it is also possible to do this by changing our intake. As previously stated, the food we eat is full of energy. This energy is normally called a calorie (Another word with a bad reputation). On average a man should consume about 2500 calories a day and a Woman should take in 2000. It has been found that in order to lose 1lb (≈0.5Kg) of body fat in a week we would need to reduce 500 calories a day. (It is recommended that you eat at least 1200 calories a day)

So now we know that a reduction in calorie intake can help us lose weight what is the best way to do this? After all, that’s all Atkins was really doing, he was reducing energy intake by removing the most common source of energy. Well the NHS Eatwell Plate lays out the required proportions of each food type that we need in order to have a healthy and balanced diet that will supply us with all the nourishment we need. If we combine the 500 a calorie a day reduction, increase our everyday activity and eat the different food types in the proportions suggested by the NHS, then we can safely reduce our weight, gain all the nutrients we need and maybe be able to say ‘Im on a balanced diet, I can have a little bit!

Chocoholics Anonymous

Like most of us, I didn’t believe I had willpower when it came to food.

In particular I’m talking about cake, biscuits and most of all; chocolate. Basically, I, like a lot of people, love everything we shouldn’t have too much of.

That is however, until I recently met up with a friend who had given them all up for a month…yes a month! So that inspired me to do the same.

Like most of us I love chocolate and would happily consume some form of it every day. My addiction is so bad that I can’t eat it in moderation. It had to be all or nothing if I was going to cut down.

At first it was really difficult…

My housemate (who shall remain anonymous) is a fellow chocoholic who has no want or need to give up chocolate. This doesn’t help. She has no consideration. She is always cooking brownies (are you serious? Chocolate and cake…together)

Left over chocolate cake was left on the side to remind me what I was missing out on. But I persevered!

With my need for chocolate trying to get the better of me and no substitute in sight I needed a deterrent. A constant thought that would prevent me from raiding the corner shop.

So, I decided to do some digging and this is what I found:

When you buy chocolate the brands tend to split the calories up into “per portion” which usually means a pitiful three squares or four chocolate buttons…a lot less than what anyone (Well me at least) would consider a portion.

Keeping this in mind a small bag of Cadbury’s chocolate buttons is 170 calories! And a standard 49g bar of Cadbury’s chocolate is 260. Out of all the popular chocolate bars the lowest I could find was Cadbury’s Fudge at 110, and that’s not going to satisfy any chocoholic!

Exercise helps me feel less guilty, but what’s the point in only burning off calories from chocolate when you could be burning off calories from meals?
What can we do to stop the damage? The number of calories we burn will depend on how much each of us weighs. An 11 stone woman, like me, would have to cycle at a moderate pace for 123 minutes for a 160g Thorntons Milk Chocolate Egg. That sounds like a lot of peddling!

It is said that you need to burn 3,500 calories to lose a pound. If you don’t consume extra calories that bad foods possess, you don’t need to burn them off. The exercise you then do could be better used to burn off those problem areas.

So what happens after my month is over?

I’ve found that my sweet tooth is less dominant in my life, and after seeing those statistics I know that refusing chocolate is going to do me more good than bad. I know it sounds simple, but there is nothing like a few statistics to really grab your attention.

So, give it a go, find your inner will power, take control of your body and give up comfort foods for a month.

No thank you, i’m sweet enough.

Fat vs Sugar                                                      

Most of the people that I have met down the years who, when they realise I work in fitness will without hesitating ask the question “How do I get rid of the fat?” while simultaneously holding the spare tire around their waist. However is it fat that we need to be careful of or is it our sugar intake?

Resent research funded by the National Institutes of Health in America and published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggests that it is not the fat in cakes and alike which attracts our taste buds but the high sugar content instead. Furthermore Dr. Stice, a senior research scientist at the Oregon Research Institute as quoted in the New York Times suggested “We do a lot of work on the prevention of obesity, and what is really clear…….is that the more sugar you eat, the more you want to consume it.“As far as the ability to engage brain reward regions and drive compulsive intake, sugar seems to be doing a much better job than fat.”

So is sugar addictive? Well Dr. Avena from the New York Obesity Research Center at Columbia University has found that sugar does affect the opiate receptors which are responsible for regulating pain, reward and euphoria in rats. Furthermore once the sugar was taken away the animals showed withdrawal type symptoms.

So think about that next time you pick up a low fat yoghurt!