Food for thought

Fat shaming and the normalisation of plus sized bodies

By | Food for thought | No Comments

This is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while now. And before anyone reading this gets their back up, please read on first! I’ve been pondering on how I pitch it and what to say predominantly because it’s a sensitive subject. It would be hard not to upset anyone. But that’s the point right, someone will be upset because you can never please everyone. I get it. Fat shaming. Being fat phobic. And generally not appreciating those in bigger bodies is not right, it never was, and never will be. I’ve been a victim of it, my friends have and my family too. Diet culture is damaging to self esteem as well as our body in the physical form. But after all that I still feel we may be in danger of normalising plus sized bodies. I’m not talking about generally carrying a bit of excess fat, this is common and something that isn’t generally anything to be concerned about. I’m talking about being significantly overweight or obese. Are we in danger of making it so ok to be carrying large amounts of excess fat that we lose sight of the health implications. And those implications are that 63% of UK adults are either overweight or obese and with that comes metabolic disease, type II diabetes, increased risk of cardiovascular disease and back problems to name just a few. Let’s also not forget our NHS is in crisis. When is enough, enough and how do we make people understand that whilst there is no ideal body, no universal standard for anyone, carrying significant excess weight can reduce your quality and length of life. Yes, some people will naturally be bigger and some smaller, depending on their genetics and lifestyle.

The very recent study by Mattarak published in June this year (2018) does raise some alarm bells. Whilst it’s not overly new in terms of thinking the physical statistics on people underestimating their weight and therefore underestimating their risk of disease is staggering.

  • Underestimating body weight was more common in men and those (of both genders) in a lower socio-economic group.
  • Men were also less likely to be trying to lose weight
  • And those who did underestimate their overweight or obesity were 85% less likely to try and lose weight than those who accurately knew how much they weighed. 85%!!

We need to find a way for everyone to be comfortable talking about weight. No, it doesn’t define us, who we are or what we think. But it can impact how we live.

We need to not make weight the main driver. Of course, it will be part of many peoples journey, but there needs to be other goals, other priorities. Cooking, moving, improved mental health, learning to build new habits. In my private consultations I always encourage my clients to have other goals, than just being weight focussed.

Those promoting nutritional brands, supplements or methods offering a short term fix with no scientific backing need to continue to be called out. So, us as health professionals can keep promoting the right stuff whilst not being bogged down in one stop solutions that don’t work. It’s not ok.

People need to be patient, something we seemed to have lost since social media appeared and technology ruled our lives. Change takes time.

We as health professionals need to be honest with our patients and clients about a subject which is always the elephant in the room yet is causing so much pain to them and to others. We need to be compassionate and help them understand positive changes that can and will help them in the long term. And collectively we need to find a solution which can positively impact those in lower socio economic groups, these are the group of people who need this education the most. #foodforthought

Omega 3: supplement or not to supplement? That is the question.

By | Food for thought, Guidelines, Media Responses | No Comments

Last week we saw the media share their views on the recent Cochrane review, omega 3 fatty acids for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease.

In the UK it’s recommended we consume two portions of fish per week, one which should be oily (mackerel, salmon, fresh tuna, herring, sardines to name a few) to enable us to obtain decent levels of omega 3 fats important for cardiovascular health, brain function and reducing inflammation. Omega 3 fats are essential which means our bodies cannot make them, we must obtain them from our diet. There is no UK dietary guideline for consumption levels of these fats however research suggests one portion of oily fish per week provides adequate amounts. But what if you don’t eat fish, for personal or health reasons? Well, you can either choose other sources, such as rapeseed oil, walnuts and soya products, or take a supplement. Or can you?

Once again we are hit by a headline, not wholly representative of the actual study in question. So here’s a short overview:

This study in question was a meta analysis, where a search criteria is provided and many already published studies are collected based on them meeting or not meeting the criteria. In total there were twenty five studies which made the cut.

In this case the criteria included both genders, across many different continents both healthy and some with pre-existing medical conditions. This is a major limitation of this study (but more on that later). Participants were given a supplement rather than obtaining omega 3’s from the diet.

The review claims to compare the effect of omega 3 supplementation on heart disease risk and death as well as mortality from all causes.

The conclusion was supplementation shows no change in mortality from any cause. But don’t stop taking your supplements yet. Whilst supplementation wasn’t successful in these individuals, it may be because they already have cardiovascular disease. There was no sole comparison of what supplementation can do for a healthy individual. In addition, there was no reference made to the impact of omega 3’s coming from your diet either.

Let’s revert back to the title – Omega-3 fatty acids for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. But it’s not really examining that is it? Because first up it only measures supplementation and secondly prevention would generally mean those without the disease already? Wouldn’t it? It’s quite difficult to claim omega 3 supplements don’t prevent cardiovascular disease if the participants already have it? Perhaps something like “the impact of omega 3 supplementation on cardiovascular risk and all cause mortality in those with pre-existing medical conditions” might be better. Anyway I’m getting a bit sciency now….so moving on!

As always, if you can obtain your omega 3 fats from foods, please do, because you get so many other benefits from them too!

Sources of omega 3

Oily fish: salmon, tuna steak, sardine, herring, mackerel, oysters, anchovies,

Other sources: rapeseed or canola oil, chia seeds, walnuts, flax seeds, soya beans or soybean products

Only resort to a fish oil supplement if you don’t (and can’t) have any of the above in your diet throughout the week. And if you think you may need a supplement make sure you check with your doctor, dietitian or nutritionist for the best one for you. This will depend on your own personal circumstances including things like if you take other medication or think you might be pregnant.


Abdelhamid. A, Brown. T, et al. Cochrane Database of of systematic reviews. Omega-3 fatty acids for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. 18th July 2018.

Food in Morocco part 1 – Marrakech

By | Food for thought | No Comments

We’ve been getting itchy feet about going on holiday as it’s been quite a while. I’m such an avid traveller that having such a big break between trips actually made me extra excited about this one. I took full advantage of a week away from social media, only responding to messages from friends and family. It really helped. We all know the accounts that are filled with sunny beaches and feet by the pool whilst we are hitting the daily grind, no one needs that in their life. So instead, here’s just a quick summary of our trip with all the foodie highlights.

Lamb tagine with prunes and walnuts

We arrived to the longest immigration queue I’ve ever seen, about an hour and twenty minutes to get through but once we finally got out of the airport the sun was setting which was stunning. A short cab ride later we arrived at the beautiful Riad Nashira, where we were staying for three nights. We were tired but instead of chilling at the riad we opted for their restaurant recommendation and went to a cute little Italian/Moroccan fusion restaurant. When you arrive in Marrakech most hotels recommend a guide take you for your first few trips as the medina of Marrakech can be quite daunting, and very easy to get lost in. We arrived at what looked like a door in the wall but once inside it opened up into the beautiful space with trees and mismatched furniture. We both opted for tagines, one lamb, one chicken. The couscous that arrived with it, I simply cannot even explain how good it was. Pretty sure it had butter added to it as it a rich yellow colour and the flavour was absolutely divine. The lamb was soft and fell apart as I ate it, and the dried fruit gave an added depth of sweetness.

Sunday. Breakfast at Riad Nashira was brilliant. So much to choose from, I didn’t know where to start. Fresh fruit, eggs, bread, quiche, salad, coffee, tea and juice, basically everything, a little bit like a buffet. Weirdly the Moroccans love cake at breakfast time, we didn’t add that into our feast. We then went out exploring, the hotel guide showed us how to get to the medina. All the little alleyways and streets look exactly the same so it’s easy to see how people get lost. We sampled our first mint tea in the Kasbah district. The sugar is insane and was unexpected. In Morocco they also pour mint tea from a height so that it forms a foam on the surface. Note: ask for it without any sugar, we also skipped lunch. We then visited the secret gardens of Marrakech. We were pretty tired on our return so headed to Café Arabe which is perfect for drinks with a view but the food was average. We fancied going for a glass of wine which is why we opted for this location, reviews were mixed but sometimes you’ve just gotta go with it. Being a Muslim country alcohol isn’t routinely served, many restaurants and hotels do have a licence though.

Food delivery truck in the Kasbah district of Marrakech

Tagines cooking our lunch at Ouzoud Falls

Monday. An all day trip to Ouzoud Falls, three hours each way, took up most of the day. This is a trip I would recommend to anyone, we also ate more tagines, couscous and Khobz (this is the handmade bread which is sold by street vendors and in restaurant they supply by the bucketload to your table). It has a crisp crust but is soft in the middle, it can be made with any type of flour. Dinner was at Nomad. We had tried to get in here for lunch the day before but it was fully booked. Despite it being freezing, even though they had patio heaters, the sunset was gorgeous and the food very tasty. I opted for the Moroccan spiced lamb burger, we had a side of green beans which were crunchy, garlicky and I finished the entire bowl! Nomad is just around the corner form the spice quarter, and that’s one thing about Morocco that is inspiring, their use of spices gives so much flavour.



Moroccan spiced lamb burger at Nomad 

Tuesday: a 3 hour bike tour around the city with an orange juice stop in the square while we watched the henna ladies and snake charmers, followed by shopping in the souks. Bartered and got a gorgeous Moroccan rug. We lunched at Le Jardin, (by the same owner as Nomad). The kefta tagine had been on my list of foods to try, minced beef with eggs, a bit like shakshouka but with meat instead of veggies, also with couscous.

What’s very prevalent is fruit juice. There are markets stall selling it everywhere, its automatically poured at breakfast and is on every restaurant menu. It’s no surprise with alcohol not being served, but I couldn’t help to think about all the sugar. And also meat, there is lots of meat, be very prepared for that. And for for everyone trying to sell you everything, takes a few days to get used to.

Foodie highlights

  • Mint tea, lamb tagine, lamb burger at Nomad, kefta tagine, and bike tour with a pit stop for juice!

Non-foodie highlights

  • Bargaining in the souks, Ouzoud Falls, beautiful Riad Nashira

More to come on our next stop in the beach side haven of Essauira soon…..

Protein water, two words which should never be paired

By | Food for thought, Rants | No Comments

I know……it’s not new and in the last twelve months we’ve seen protein added to a plethora of products. Some for good reason and others not so much. In the snacking market there are now tasty bars with added protein, not to mention the quark/yoghurt combo on chilled supermarket shelves to name a few. We are almost in the realms of protein fortification. Although generally in nutrition we refer to food fortification in reference to micronutrients such as vitamin D or B and minerals iodine and calcium.

Protein water. So firstly, there’s nothing really wrong with water in general, it doesn’t need to be changed, perfectly fine how it is. We use it to hydrate our bodies which are made up of around 50-60% of it (1). We’ve already got sparkling and several sugar free flavoured varieties as well as coconut water. And then this turns up. There are several brands on the market and I honestly commend anyone who is trying to start up their own business in a market which is saturated with new products. But please, if I can ask just one thing – food and drink has to actually taste nice. Forget the claims, forget how good it supposedly is for you or what it’s going to do because if you don’t like it you won’t go back for more. And if you do then perhaps rethink your priorities.

I thought, why not, and gave it a try. I was excited, I’d seen this product and wanted to try it, I opened the lid, slowly, carefully and took one sip. Then almost spat it out. The taste was so strong of something artificial, even though it contains no artificial colours of flavours? It went in the bin. 20 grams of protein, no thanks. You see you can get that (and many other nutrients might I add) from food.

½ a medium chicken breast

150g of cottage cheese

3 whole eggs,

200g of Greek yoghurt

to name a few.

Taste is key, it’s what keeps us loyal to certain foods. So, use water for its sole purpose – hydration and food for its purposes – a few which include providing us with protein and micronutrients too. Let’s not mess with the things which are already doing ok. Please.


  1. Royal College of Nursing, DIY Health Check Point.



By | Food for thought, Media Responses | No Comments

In the last 10 days the media have saturated us with a few main headlines relating to food and diets. The first being ultra-processed foods and cancer and the second relating to low fat or low carb diets being better for weight loss and the third focussing on millennials and body weight. I just want to clarify a few things:

The thing is, there is no perfect way to eat. There are no good foods and no bad foods. What works for one, won’t for someone else, that’s why it takes time to get it right, for you. We are creatures of habit, we stick to what we know which is why often people struggle to try new things and change habits that have perhaps been there since they were first born. We like our comfort zone and that’s ok. We live in an environment where whatever we want, we can have, almost instantly and that will have detrimental effects in the long term.

ULTRA-PROCESSED, a word, as a nutrition professional that never really entered my vocabulary until last week. In this day and age we’d be hard pressed to find something that’s not ultra-processed and be able to live the lives we do without using them. From coffee, to bread and hummus to tinned tomatoes, these are all processed. We are busy, and often we don’t have time to prep, chop, cut, steam, bake, fry and serve up a dinner for 6, so buy the pre-cooked rice that you can cook in the microwave and if you have the time to cook a roast dinner from scratch on a Sunday then do that too. There is no doubt that many of us do consume too many processed food, some which is ultra-processed, normally from the less nutritionally dense category. When we examine diet and the link between disease there are so many other factors that come into play, physical activity, smoking, stress and alcohol consumption to name a few. So don’t demonise one thing, I thought we were done with that, just try to get it right most of the time, because that’s real life and pretty normal for most. Oh and ultra-processed, I don’t think we need to contend with another word in the food industry, processed is surely enough.

LOW CARB OR LOW FAT – there is no right answer. If weight loss is a goal for you then it’s a consistent calorie deficit and diet quality that’s important. It’s about taking time to assess your diet as a whole and make small and sustainable changes that you can maintain forever. If you want to measure weight loss then you are going to need to measure what you are eating and when you are moving. Every single short term diet you have ever been on will have reduced your calorie intake in some way, more than likely through the companies own clever marketing, however in a way that isn’t sustainable so keeps you returning time and time again. It takes time to work out what a consistent calorie deficit will be for you, enough to keep you feeling satisfied and not so low that you feel hungry and can’t maintain it whilst ensuring you till enjoy food. And you know what, most of the time it’s hard to do this alone, so get professional advice, you might pay an accountant to deal with your finances so why not do the same for your food intake. Even if its just to take a look at your overall diet to make some positive changes.

MILLENIALS – scaremongering was perhaps not the best way to promote this article to the general public, that also included fat shaming which is something I detest. There is no doubt that carrying excess weight can be detrimental to your health and is linked to many health conditions, such as cancer and type 2 diabetes. But using overweight or obese as a general terms isn’t helpful. All we need to do is look at the environment we are surrounded with and it’s no wonder we are where we are. Education is pivotal, awareness is vital but no matter how educated we are if all we have is what’s right in front of us that’s generally what we’ll end up having. We do need more regulation, we need help from the government and we need more businesses supporting the health and wellbeing of their employees and students.

CONSISTENT THEME – eat a bit of everything, keep it balanced, you know your own limits and do not under any circumstance demonise food. EVER.


Store cupboard essentials

By | Food for thought | No Comments

A few people have asked me recently about what I keep in my cupboards to whip up quick meals or lunchboxes when inspiration and energy is lacking. Luckily I’m quite creative when it comes to cooking, I can usually rustle something up with whatever I can find in the cupboards, fridge or freezer, but baking, well that’s another story, never been my strong point, even when I follow recipes! So, here’s a quick list of some of my essentials, with some recommendations of quick dishes you can whip up when you simply aren’t feeling it. This is just a base list, it’s not exhaustive by any means, but ensures you will always find something to satisfy your taste buds and your hunger.

Dry cupboard
Rice (either brown or white)
Jumbo oats
Tinned tuna
Tinned tomatoes or passata
Veggie stock cubes
Soy sauce
Fish sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Balsamic vinegar
Rapeseed oil
Extra virgin olive oil
Rice wine vinegar
Sesame oil
Malt vinegar
Peanut butter
Mixed seeds
Plain flour
Baking powder
Rye flour
Self-raising flour
Desiccated coconut
Chia seeds
Ground almonds
Sweet potatoes
Free range eggs

Herbs & Spices
Paprika (smoked as well as normal)
Ground coriander
Ground cumin
Dried chilli flakes
Sea salt

Freezer – do underestimate the power of freezing as much as possible, it’s a lifesaver
Sliced bread and/or tortilla wraps
Mince (beef, lamb, pork, chicken or turkey)

Chutney of some sort (at the moment I have Waterhouse Fayre Devon Ale chutney and a beetroot relish)
Sweet chilli sauce
Minced garlic

I haven’t really included any meat or fish and fruit or veg here as I believe that shopping for personal taste and trying to buy I season is always best. A colourful fruit bowl will tell you that you have a multitude of vitamins and minerals. In terms of meat and fish it just really depends, I’ll usually have chicken thighs, mince and smoked salmon, and more recently, tofu.

When cooking grains, always cook extra as they’ll keep in the fridge for 4-5 days. That way if you are stuck you can literally mix them with anything for a quick bowl of goodness, hot or cold.

For an easy dressing, 1 tsp tahini and olive oil, lemon juice, S&P in an old jam jar – put the lid on and shake. Any extra will also keep in the fridge for 5 days.

And here’s a few things I’d make using the ingredients above:

  • Sweet potato jacket with tuna and spinach
  • Spicy tomato spaghetti – use the tinned toms, garlic, onion, mushrooms, oregano, and spinach to make the sauce. Mix with the spaghetti and add feta to serve
  • Baked eggs – tinned tomatoes, dried chilli flakes, garlic, oregano – crack the eggs into the mix and bake in the oven. Serve with a slice of bread
  • Mix & match bowl – boiled eggs, cooked grains from the fridge or a tortilla from the freezer warmed in the oven, spinach, feta, fresh tomatoes diced, mixed seeds.

Be creative, and so what if it goes wrong? I can however assure you that if you build a plate with lots of food you love, it won’t go wrong. It just won’t.

The Deal With Vitamin D

By | Food for thought, Guidelines, Vitamins | No Comments

Personally and professionally, I’m not one for supplements and believe that an adequate balanced diet incorporating all the major food groups with lots of fruit and veg should do it. That being said, it’s come to that point in time, when for the general population in the UK, it just isn’t enough. (1)

So listen up, I’m aiming to keep these blog posts short and sweet, with ample levels of evidence, but that you can get through in max 5 minutes, because quite frankly everyone is so busy they don’t have time to read lengthy posts.

Vitamin D comes in two forms, D2 and D3. We obtain D2 from plant food sources and D3 from animal sources such as red meat, oily fish, egg yolks as well as sunlight. But D3, and that’s where it’s a bit more complicated as in addition to the diet, the majority of it comes from being synthesized in the skin with the presence of sunlight. (4) However in the UK, from October to March the sun just isn’t strong enough to work with the skin and generate vitamin D3. (1)

So we need to supplement. What’s the deal? It’s a minefield I know…

Most of the general population only require a vitamin D supplement of 10micrograms. This applies to all over the age of one, my tips are:

  • Health food stores tend to have good deals on supplement tablets but be careful on which tablets they are promoting, online might be more suitable just make sure it’s a credible store.
  • You only need 10micrograms, not 20, not 25, not 50, so only buy a tablet that contains 10micrograms, your bank account will thank you and your body won’t use the extra vitamin D from a higher dose as it simply doesn’t need it.
  • It shouldn’t cost you more than £4.00 for a bottle of 100 tablets – if it does shop elsewhere or check to make sure you are buying the right dose.
  • Read the label – make sure it’s D3, make sure it’s only 10mcg and that you aren’t getting ripped off.
  • You can also get vitamin D supplements through the Healthy Start programme (3)
  • Babies under the age of one consuming infant formula are fine as it already contains adequate vitamin D levels. Those over the age of one should have the same supplement level as adults however vitamin D drops may be more palatable.
  • Those with dark skin should consume a vitmain D supplement all year round.

The likelihood of having too much vitamin D in your system is low and generally the risk only builds up with an intake of more than 100mcg per day so you are generally pretty safe. (5) And why do we need it? It promotes calcium absorption in the gut, it’s needed for bone growth as well as healthy teeth, it’s really important in immune health and for cell growth and metabolism. (2)

If you have a medical condition which is affected by vitamin D, speak to your GP before taking any supplements, however for the majority a daily dose is absolutely good for your health.

So go now, on your way home from work, on your way to the shops or jump online. Make it a habit, your body will thankyou until the sun consistency brightens up our days from April onwards!


  1. Public Health England,
  2. Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) Vitamin D and health report, 21st July 2016
  3. Healthy Start – 2017
  4. Tripkovic, L. et al. Health benefits of vitamin D dependent on type taken. Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, May 2012
  5. NHS choices, vitamins and minerals. March 2017



Is Meat So Mighty After All?

By | Food for thought | No Comments

Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently you’ll know that meat has been making headlines on both the health, animal welfare and sustainability fronts. With new research being released weekly, apps available for download encouraging plant based eating and documentaries being aired on Netflix claiming meat to be a group one carcinogen – are we in danger of meat the general public being left completely confused?

The Evidence

There’s truckloads of research on the benefits of reducing meat consumption for human health. One of the main nutrients likely to the rise with a reduction in meat and increase in plants is fibre. This means your digestive system reaps the benefits and your body loads up on essential vitamins and minerals.

There are also potential environmental benefits, with beef and lamb topping the UK list of food related greenhouse gas emissions. Beef comes in at 35kg of CO2 per kilo, versus vegetables at 2.5kg (1). In 2012, WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) reported that categorised by cost, meat and fish is the largest group of avoidable food waste, totalling to a whopping £2.1billion (2). These are numbers that we can clearly improve on.

Technology may pose some answers to the above, helping us gather statistics to ensure we know exactly what’s going on, but sadly that is not always enough. Knowledge is one thing, but it is not always sufficient to create real behaviour change. At a recent nutrition conference Professor James Stubbs drew me into his thought provoking conversation about the psychological barriers of decreasing our meat consumption. I was intrigued, mainly because it was so true.

Global meat consumption has almost doubled in the last 50 years from 63g per person per day in 1961 to 115g per person per day in 2009 (3). Even today, meat is still linked with wealth, status and luxury and a massive cultural shift is needed before we will witness large scale reduction. For us, changing non-food related behaviours is preferred, more acceptable and seen as a greater priority for climate change (4). We’d rather recycle and use eco-friendly plastic forks than sacrifice our Sunday roast. Behaviour change is complicated and takes long term investment to see a real difference, but the rewards can be hugely positive, especially when it comes to food.

Within the UK, 60% of men and 40% of women exceed government advice to consume no more than 70g red & processed meat per day (5). 70 grams is the equivalent of 2 slices of roast beef or 1 large lamb chop daily, and yet we are over consuming. At the same time, we have other important nutrients such as fibre, where we are way off the mark. If we could only decrease consumption of some of the food groups we have a little too much of and replace them with those that we struggle to get enough, we may just be on the way to achieving a more rounded picture of health.

The argument should not be about a few of us completely cutting meat out – I would never advocate removing food groups from the human diet – but about everyone making a few small changes. After all, if we don’t start making some soon, there won’t be a planet left for the generations after us to enjoy.

So maybe swap the beef burger for a veggie pattie occasionally, enjoy the parmigiana with aubergine now and again and perhaps try a lentil dahl instead of your chicken tikka.

And on a side note, for all those ‘High Fat Low Carb’ advocates out there, I believe the contribution to our planet may be something that’s not been heavily discussed yet? Might be worth adding to the agenda at Ketofest….


  1. Green R, Milner J, Dangour A, et al. The potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the UK through healthy and realistic dietary change. Climatic change. 2015; 129:253-265
  2. WRAP, Household food and drink waste in the United Kingdom, 2012
  3. FAOSTAT, 2013
  4. Macdiarmid J, Douglas F, Campbell J. Eating like there’s no tomorrow: Public awareness of the environmental impact of food and reluctance to eat less meat as part of a sustainable diet. Appetite. 2016; 96:487-93
  5. Westland & Crawley, Healthy & Sustainable Diets in the Early Years 2012

Pushing The Limit With Protein

By | Food for thought | No Comments

Working not only as a nutritionist, but also as a fitness coach means my exposure to the misinformed is way above average. And protein ranks high on the agenda.

The challenge that has faced us for some time now is how to ensure that fitness professionals approach nutrition with their clients in the right way. Currently exercise professionals have the choice to complete additional training in the area of nutrition, which in the majority of cases is a course run face to face or via e learning. With nutrition being a constantly changing area of scientific research, this is barely enough time to cover the basics, and even with a three-year degree under my belt, endless learning is still part and parcel of keeping up to date. But with the fitness world being ultimately responsible for building beautiful bodies, surely this is ample qualifications and knowledge to advise clients on how to eat well…isn’t it?

No….it’s not, and I question whether we are putting consumers at risk by not having enough nutrition support within the fitness bubble?

Walk into any exercise establishment and you’ll spot a protein shake in someone’s hands within seconds, followed by a vending machine stocking more of the same and a selection of brightly coloured, poorly branded protein bars. The new circuit of boutique gyms (particularly in London) all sell protein shakes post workout at anywhere between £5 and £8 a go. Many contain protein powder, nut milk and some form of nut butter, and it’s likely that your protein intake from this alone is well up there with the total daily recommendations (55g for men and 45g for women for the average person). And then there’s the huge number of calories that these contain, with many people then going on to eat breakfast straight after.

The fact of the matter is that most people who consume a balanced diet don’t need protein supplementation, or any additional protein intake. The problem lies in a lack of understanding as to what a balanced diet actually is. With restriction of some foods (especially carbohydrates) being so common, there is a tendency to over compensate by increasing our consumption of others. Add to this our innate nature and want for something new, and the protein market has had the opportunity to boom in recent years. After all it doesn’t look or sound as good to go home and mix up a post workout shake, than order one at the gym to have in your hand as you finish you final set or bicep curls.

And when it comes to marketing protein, the use of elite athletes for promotion may be impacting the general public’s perception of its effects. I am still constantly advising clients of mine that after their 45-minute gym session they don’t need a “sports drink”, even though some of their favourite athletes, footballers, runners and F1 drivers can be seen drinking them on television. This is years after the sugar content in sports drinks has been high on the agenda, so how long will it be until the true effects of protein supplementation will be experienced by the general public?

The main thing to remember is about protein is that it simply cannot be stored, so what your body doesn’t use for cell building and repair will be lost the next time you go to the loo. If you want to find out if you are consuming adequate protein, then speak to a qualified nutritionist or dietitian, they’ll give you the low down. And as for your personal trainer, general eating healthy eating advice is within their remit, but anything further is not. After all you wouldn’t get legal advice from your mechanic would you?

Want a simple alternative to your gyms £8 protein shake? A smoothie made up of the ingredients below will provide you with a perfectly adequate 20g of protein, as well as being a good source of fibre, carbs and one of your 5 a day. And more than that, it also makes a great breakfast.

2 tsp flax seeds, 200ml semi skimmed milk, 100g of Greek yoghurt, 1 x medium banana, 2 tsp of chia seeds and 2 tsp of desiccated coconut and a handful of spinach.

So You Quit Sugar?

By | Food for thought | No Comments

Sugar – the demon? Well not really…

“I’m off sugar” – my bestie said to me one day on the phone. I sarcastically rolled my eyes and thought here we go……So she’s only living off meat, fish, water and not much else. And here lies the problem.

It’s currently fashionable not to consume sugar. Apparently everyone is doing it, yet not understanding that it’s physically impossible for us, as humans, to live without. While most people are aware of the dangers of the “white stuff” (coined media term), headlines such as it being as addictive as cocaine aren’t doing us any favours (see the link there, white stuff, cocaine, addiction…….sigh)

Let’s get the sciency bit done and dusted first shall we. I’ll make it as simple as possible. The human body uses the food and beverages we consume as energy for us to live. The food we eat is made up of three macro nutrients known as carbohydrates, fats and protein, (there is also alcohol but let’s leave that to the side for now) and the body uses them as energy in that order. Carbs are energy source number one. Carbs come in two forms – starches and sugars and the body is only able to store a very small amount of them in the form of glycogen, so they are used up straight away. Unlike fat and protein, sugars can readily be used as energy, almost as soon as we consume them. During intense exercise like running, we usually have enough sugar to keep us going for about 90 minutes before we need to re-fuel, or our body will start trying to convert stored fat into energy.

It’s kind of complicated, as sugar has many different forms and therefore many different names – sucrose (table sugar), fructose (found in fruit), lactose (found in dairy). There is also glucose, which is sugar in its simplest form and all of the aforementioned sugars break down into it. Starches are also broken down into glucose to be used immediately, or if they are to be stored they will be converted into glycogen. Once the body has used up all its glucose, and converted the small amount of glycogen back into glucose to be used, it will then start using fat as an energy source. This usually happens at very low intensity and over long periods of time. Once that’s been used, it will then do the same thing with protein, although this is a very last resort. I’m hoping by now you are all still with me? Point in question, we need sugar, fact!

Let’s be frank here, too much “white stuff” is likely to rot your teeth, the statistics on childhood teeth removal is telling us that. Just like too many cigarettes may impact your breathing capacity and too much sitting on your arse will impact your mobility. But teetotal isn’t the answer. In fact it’s physically impossible and will result in far more health problems than teeth removal alone. So how about we remember that treats (which to be honest usually contain sugar, a lot of it, things like cakes, chocolate, cookies, wine), are actually consumed as treats? To quote the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of a treat is “an event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure”. Therefore we should savour and enjoy them, as we should everything else we consume, accepting that some things will give us greater enjoyment than others.

And the natural sugar (which is still sugar) is found in foods which also contain many other beneficial nutrients – think fruit (raw or dried), some veg and milk as examples – let’s go easy on giving that too much bad press.

And back to my bestie. What she really means is, she trying to adopt a more nutritious lifestyle and educate herself about food. It just doesn’t have the same ring to it though, shame.