Wheat – friend or foe?

This post is a guest blog by Nutritionist and Registered Dietitian Dr Megan Rossi. Follow her instagram here or visit her website

 

Confused by all the anti-wheat hype? Here’s the low down on the evidence behind whether or not wheat is for you. Grain-based foods, including wheat, are an important source of nutrients, such as B vitamins needed for cell metabolism and dietary fibre for gut health. In addition, any diet that unnecessarily restricts food groups can create nutritional imbalances. In fact, many foods advertised as wheat-free have added sugar and fats to compensate for the functional qualities of wheat.  What’s more, recent studies including over 300 000 people (without coeliac disease) have suggested those with low intakes of wholegrains compared to those with high intakes have an increased risk of type two diabetes1 and having a heart attack2.  So typically my answer to the common question “Is wheat bad?” is no! Whole-grain wheat (which is the minimally processed type of wheat) is healthy for the majority of people.

HOWEVER, there is a subset of the population who don’t tolerate wheat, which is typically related to one of three wheat components:
1) Gluten (type of protein in certain grains including wheat, rye and barley) main conditions: Coeliac disease– requires strict avoidance (effects 1% of the population3);  & Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS)- newly defined condition with mechanism poorly understood (effects 1-6% of the population4)
2) Wheat proteins (proteins in wheat, other than gluten) main conditions: Wheat allergy– requires strict avoidance (>0.2% prevalence in adults1); & Non-coeliac wheat sensitivity (NCWS)- suspected crossover with NCGS.4
3) Fructans (fermentable carbohydrates found in many foods not exclusive to wheat) condition: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) (15% prevalence5)- does not require strict avoidance of wheat nor is it known to carry any long-term health risk, although the associated gastrointestinal symptoms can be debilitating.
Non-coeliac gluten/ wheat sensitivity is a newly defined condition that recognises a wide spectrum of gastrointestinal and extra-intestinal symptoms including brain fog and fatigue. Given the co-existence of gluten and other wheat proteins in many foods identifying the culprit component ie. gluten vs. other wheat protein such as amylase-trypsin inhibitor (ATI) can be difficult which is why the terms NCGS and NCWS are often used interchangeably. The gold standard method to diagnose NCGS and NCWS is a placebo-controlled food challenge using isolated gluten and wheat protein.

If you suspect you react to wheat your first step should be to rule out coeliac disease and wheat allergy with your General Practitioner. It’s important you take this step so that you can determine how strict you need to be with your gluten/wheat exclusion, for instance, even traces of gluten from cross-contamination using a chopping board or toaster can have serious consequences for people with coeliac disease and wheat allergies. Once these have been ruled out the next step is to see a registered dietitian who can help identify whether you have NCGS/NCWS or instead are reacting to fructans (which may form part of a larger group of food exclusions known as FODMAPs). Unfortunately, there is no blood/breath/stool test that can accurately determine food intolerances, other than lactose intolerance (so please don’t waste your time or money!).

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Dr Megan Rossi is a Nutritionist and Registered Dietitian with a PhD in the area of Gut Health. Megan works as a Research Associate at King’s College London and Consultant Dietitian across industry, media and has just opened up a Gut Health clinic on Harley Street in London. To keep updated on the latest gut health news connect with Megan on social media @TheGutHealthDoctor
Web: www.drmeganrossi.com

References:

  1. Zong G, Lebwohl B, Hu F, et al. Abstract 11: Associations of Gluten Intake With Type 2 Diabetes Risk and Weight Gain in Three Large Prospective Cohort Studies of US Men and Women. Circulation. 2017;135:A11-A11.
  2. Lebwohl B, Cao Y, Zong G, et al. Long term gluten consumption in adults without celiac disease and risk of coronary heart disease: prospective cohort study. Bmj. 2017;357:j1892.
  3. British Allergy Foundation. 2016. allergyuk.org.
  4. Canavan et al. The epidemiology of irritable bowel syndrome. Clin Epidemiol 2014; 6:71-80.
  5. Giorgio et al. Sensitivity to wheat, gluten and FODMPAs in IBS: facts or fiction? Gut 2016; 65:169-178.

 

 

Rhiannon – Winter wellness

This is a guest blog post by leading Harley Street nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert, taking us through some advice to keep us fit and healthy this winter. Find Rhiannon’s socials at the bottom of the post and enjoy!

 

As we enter these next few cold wintery months, our immune system can often get shot down by illness, whether that is cold and flu, sore throats or generally feeling exhausted. But what can we do to keep our wellness high and working in the winter?

Following a balanced diet full of nutrient dense foods such as complex carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats and of course vegetables and fruit are the key to a successful healthy winter. While there is no, one food that dispels infection, there are plenty of foods that can be introduced to help prevent infection and keep your body fit and healthy.

 

5 KEY STAPLE FOODS FOR IMMUNE SYSTEM:

  1. Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits are full of Vitamin C, which is known globularly for its benefits to the immune system. Vitamin C is highly concentrated in immune cells that help fight infections fast, and since our bodies do not produce or store it, we must source it from the diet! Popular citrus fruits include; oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit. Have a piece of fruit for a snack, or infuse your water intake with lemon and lime!

  1. Spinach

Spinach is also a brilliant source of Vitamin C. But additionally, spinach is full of beta carotene and antioxidants, which increase the ability of your immune system. Spinach is also a darky leafy green, which we hear so much about as they are full of vitamins such as A, K, C, and B and minerals such as magnesium and calcium.  Cook your spinach, or eat it cold, either way claim the benefits of spinach.

  1. Ginger

Spice up your foods. You can even try a whole range of spices such as garlic, chili peppers, and turmeric to boost immunity and enhance circulation. Ginger is great to remedy a sore throat, and acts as an anti-inflammatory. Ginger is great in hot water on a cold winters morning, as well as in autumnal soups.

  1. Yogurt

When buying Yogurt, it is always important to look for one that contains “live and active cultures” as these cultures will stimulate your immune system to fight infection and disease in your body. Yogurt is also a great source of Vitamin D which can often be low during the winter months, but is needed in the diet as it can be beneficial to the immunity. A thing to note, often pre-flavoured yogurt contains high amounts of sugar so try to choose a plain yogurt and top with your own fruit for flavour!

  1. Protein

Everybody in their lifetime has been given chicken soup or broth when they are ill in bed.  Poultry, such as chicken and turkey is high in Vitamin B6. This vitamin plays a vital role in many chemical reactions in the body, such as forming new and healthy red blood cells.  Additionally, when making chicken broth, the use of boiling the bones holds benefits such as gut healing and immunity.

Vegetarian sources of protein, especially pulses, contain tons of fibre and nutrients to keep you fighting fit. Quinoa has a complete amino acid profile, which is excellent for the building blocks of protein (the structure of our body) and add some pulses to your meals. Pulses can also be a great source of iron and B vitamins providing you with energy and ensure your veggie sources are fortified as often as possible to get B12.

In total, we should be focusing on not only macronutrients, but the micronutrients that are often forgotten, such as vitamins A, B and C, and minerals such as Iron and Zinc.

Apart from keeping our diet full of goodness, there are other ways to keep your body both mentally and physically well in the next coming months.

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Follow Rhiannon on her Instagram to see delicious food like this!

EXERCISE

Getting out and about, breathing in fresh air does your health a world of good. But also exercising stimulates the release of endorphins which makes you feel “happy”.

 

CLEANLINESS

Illness can spread fast in a home, especially the common cold. Preventing infection from spreading around the entire family is vital, and cleaning surfaces, door handles and objects that everyone touches; TV remote, toilet handle can minimise contamination from family member to family member.

 

REST

Taking enough time for yourself, to recuperate can be beneficial for your health. Getting enough sleep at night can make a big difference when waking up the next morning. We all know when we don’t get enough sleep we feel grouchy, and this can affect the rest of the day, and even your immune system. So be mindful in the winter months, give yourself rest to maintain your health.

 

There are so many ways to a healthy winter, and most are basic. Eat well, sleep enough, and get out. Most seem like common sense, but making an active effort to follow through can be beneficial in the long run and the key to winter wellness.

 

Don’t forget you can pre-order Rhiannon’s book, Re-Nourish, released on the 28 December 2017!

 

Vegan pumpkin soup (and more)

The season for pumpkins is undoubtedly now, but what do you actually do with them? Do you carve them and then leave them to rot? Or buy pumpkin spiced lattes in ode to Halloween? Well let me tell you – pumpkins are a hugely under-rated vegetable (actually technically a fruit), filled with all sorts of vitamins and minerals, including carotenoids (great for your eyes), fibre (keeping you fuller for longer), vitamin C (to help fight off those winter colds) and potassium (good for lowering blood pressure)

Looking at a pumpkin though, you might think ‘what the hell do I do with this’? I know I sure did – I wasn’t even sure how to cut it! The great thing about pumpkin it can be used in a huge variety of dishes. Almost the whole pumpkin can be used too, including the seeds.

To cut, I used a serrated knife and cut it in half, before scooping out the seeds into a bowl. See further down on what to do with the seeds! This soup is super (souper) easy to make, makes enough to feed a family and is a perfect side or starter at a dinner with some crusty bread and, for non-vegans, cheese (I recommend gruyere).

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Pumpkins come in all shapes and sizes

Ingredients:

  • 1 pumpkin
  • 1 onion
  • 200ml vegetable stock
  • 1tbsp vegetable spread (or butter if you’re not vegan)
  • Olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper

 

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees
  • Cut the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds and pith (see bottom with what to do with the seeds) and cut the halves into three each.
  • Score a crisscross pattern into the quarters and place on baking trays covered in baking parchment or tinfoil.
  • Pour olive oil on top of the pumpkin and sprinkle the salt and pepper on top
  • Roast for 30 minutes until soft when poked
  • While the pumpkin is cooking, dice the onion and fry until brown in a saucepan
  • Add the vegetable stock and simmer until pumpkin is cooked
  • Remove the pumpkin from the oven and leave to cool enough to touch it
  • Cut away the flesh from the skin of the pumpkin and place in the food processor
  • Add the vegetable stock and onion mix
  • Blend (in batches if need be)
  • Add salt and pepper to taste and serve!

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To use the seeds: wash using a colander and remove the pith (the orange gooey bit) from them. In a bowl, coat in olive oil, salt and any other seasoning (I LOVE a little curry seasoning for this). Spread on a baking tray and cook until crunchy and very lightly browned. Make sure not to burn! Enjoy as a healthy snack any time of day.

 

OK, so I absolutely hate waste, and sadly soup is hard to make with skins, so what do you do with all those leftover skins? I have 2 ideas – pizza and miso-glazed pumpkin.

 

Miso glaze:

  • 1 tsp miso
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1tsp lazy garlic/garlic paste
  • 1tsp lazy ginger/ginger paste

Mix all up and spread on the skins. Bake in the oven for another 15 minutes.

 

Pizza:

  • Tomato paste
  • Oregano
  • Cheese (vegan or real)

Spread the tomato paste on the skins, top with grated cheese and oregano. Bake in the oven for another 15 minutes. Enjoy!

 

I hope these recipes give you some ideas of what to do with one of the most under-rated and best value vegetables/fruits out there. My advice would be to go on Halloween or shortly after, stock up and make all of the above recipes! How do you use your pumpkins?

Shoot with David Wren

Here are some photos from my recent shoot with the amazing David Wren, one of my favourite to date!

I look forward to sharing the rest of these on my instagram too 🙂 Hope you like them as much as I do!

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For shoot enquiries please email meldunbar@wmodel.co.uk or beatrice@wmodel.co.uk

Nutrition pre and post workout

When you’re training hard, whether it’s for a race, match or just life in general, you’d be wrong to think that your hours spent training are all that’s important. The amount you train can only get you so far – your food intake fuels your training and so what you eat can determine your progress day by day. Trying to workout without any fuel is like trying to go on a roadtrip without filling up with petrol: you’re not going to get very far!

If you’re working hard on your regime it’s important to compliment it with a good diet. Learn the best foods to eat before and after your workout to get the most out of your training.

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Make sure you fuel yourself properly before doing intense exercise (photo by David Wren)

Before you workout

When it comes to fuelling for your workouts carbs are your best friend (hooray!). They can provide energy that is easily accessible to your body and means that you won’t burnout half way. Complex carbs will keep you fuelled for long periods of time, whereas simple carbs are immediately available for your body to use, and are helpful for that extra kick of energy. If you’re training hard you’re also likely to sweat a lot, so consider eating something that has a little salt/minerals too (bananas!).

Food is important, but be careful of eating too much, too close to your workout. After we eat (especially carbohydrates and large meals), we release melatonin, the hormone that prepares us for sleep. Try to eat around 2h before attempting an intense workout. The smaller the snack and the less intense the workout the closer together they can be. Boost your energy without causing a food coma by eating something like these (and don’t forget to keep hydrated!):

  • Fruit (banana)
  • Slice of wholemeal toast and an egg/ ¼ avocado
  • Energy ball
  • Small smoothie

 

After you workout

Your body has worked hard for you during your training session, breaking down muscle fibres to rebuild new, stronger ones. You will have depleted your glycogen stores in your muscles too, especially with endurance exercises, so these need to be restored. However, be careful of the ‘I earned this mentality’ – whilst a protein shake or lean protein and toast may help, it doesn’t follow that an entire extra meal and packet of crisps will be better! Try one of these balanced options within 30 minutes of ending your workout to replenish your muscles without ruining your progress:

 

  • Wholemeal toast, peanut butter, ½ banana
  • Protein shake with berries
  • Low sugar protein bar or ball (preferably homemade)

 

There are so many contradictory pieces of advice out there when it comes to fuelling your workouts. It doesn’t help that all our bodies are different, as are our training styles, goals and lifestyles. What really matters is finding something that works for you and your routine. You should do what feels good and healthy to you – some people can’t eat at all before a workout, others can’t finish a workout without food. What is most important is that you’re feeding yourself enough of the vital nutrients to achieve the fitness gains you want to see – our bodies are engines designed to run on the fuel of food, and deprivation will lead to minimal improvement, if any.

 

What I do:

I eat up to 1.5h before a workout, usually something small like a homemade oat biscuit, slice of toast or banana. If I’m really tired and I know I’ll be working out later, I’ll also have a coffee a few hours before, but I save this for emergencies so it continues to have an effect! After I workout I’ll just have a simple protein shake with milk to allow my muscles to recover, but at the next meal (usually dinner) I’ll eat carbohydrates to replenish lost glycogen stores.

Healthy quorn cottage pie

Recipes that will feed you all week, or feed an entire dinner party without a fuss are definitely some of my favourites. Coming home from work, sometimes all you want is something that you can shove in the microwave or oven and eat, and sadly the number of healthy options are limited. This cottage pie packs in 5 vegetables (although you can add as many as you like), protein and hella flavour, all for next to no money per portion and less than an hour spent in the kitchen.

I am all for sustainability, and sadly eating meat is one of those things that, for me, cannot be justified no matter how good it tastes (I actually don’t like meat at all, but know that lots of people do). This recipe works for anyone who enjoys meat but also wants to reduce consumption. Quorn is an amazing substitute for meat that is very high in protein, low in fat and has a much lower carbon footprint than any meat. Read my reasons for being pescetarian. Either way, this dish is easy, delicious and super healthy – definitely one for your weekly meal prep!

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Use seasonal and local vegetables where possible – read why

Ingredients:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 large courgette
  • 1 pepper
  • Vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 300g quorn (I get mine frozen)
  • Turmeric, chilli, salt, pepper
  • 30g cheese (optional – for a vegan option omit or use vegan cheese)

Method:

  • Boil the kettle and preheat the oven to 180 degrees C
  • Scrub the sweet potatoes and chop into small chunks to boil (I don’t peel them but if you’d rather do that feel free – leaving them as is increases the fibre content)
  • Finely chop the onion and fry with some olive oil and the garlic clove
  • Finely chop the carrot, courgette and pepper and add to the mix, stirring until soft and browning
  • Drain the sweet potatoes once soft, saving 200ml of the water
  • Add the quorn mince to the vegetables
  • Use one stock cube, stir into the hot water, add the soy sauce and pour over the vegetables and quorn
  • Leave to simmer for 10 minutes (or less if the quorn is not frozen)
  • Pour the veg into a large dish
  • Mash the potatoes, adding the spices and salt and pepper
  • Top the vegetables with the mashed potato and sprinkle over the grated cheese, if using
  • Cook for 25 minutes in the oven, until browning at the top
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Before being cooked

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The final product. Enjoy!

Chocolate protein truffles

This recipe is a staple that should always be found in your fridge if you’re into fitness or love chocolate. The only problem is, as soon as you make them, they’re basically gone straight away, especially if you have sisters! But at around 30 calories a bite, you can make a few batches and not feel terrible if you eat them all (been there, done that, no regrets).

Per ball – P: 4.1g, C: 0.6g F: 1.4g, 30 calories

Ingredients:

  • 120g protein powder of choice*
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 50g ground almonds **
  • 150-200ml almond milk
  • Honey/agave/maple syrup (optional, to taste)

* I use nutristrength chocolate whey isolate. You can use vegan protein but you may have to use more milk. Salted caramel and various other proteins work really well here too! Experiment and let me know what you come up with.

** If you like peanuts, peanut flour created smores truffles – SO GOOD

Method:

  • Mix the dry ingredients together make sure they are well blended.
  • Add the milk slowly, mixing as you go. I usually use around 170ml with whey protein. You may not need the full 200ml
  • Add the honey/sweetener at this point and mix in
  • You should get to the consistence where it is extremely hard to mix but not dry.
  • Wet your hands and grab small (walnut sized) balls of mixture and roll into a ball (the mixture, not you)
  • Pour cocoa powder onto a chopping board/flat surface. Roll the ball in it using your palm.
  • Store in the fridge (best when eaten cold).

Enjoy!

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F45

F45 originated to combine the most dynamic and effective training styles to date and make them available to the masses. The classes are highly structured (with the structure depending on the class you go to) where you spend a particular amount of time at each station, carrying out an exercise for a set amount of time before either moving on or doing the same exercise after a short break.

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Pros: The exercises aren’t complicated and are demonstrated at the beginning of the class. They are also displayed on the boards at the front of the room so that if you forget what you’re supposed to be doing, there’s something there to guide you. The boards at the front also count down your time at each station, rest periods and show how far through the class you are, which is great if you’re lacking motivation or don’t think you’ll make it through the class! Also, although a lot of people can fit into a class there are also multiple trainers – I’ve always had either 2 or 3 which is useful if you need someone to motivate you. My first class was fun – I sweat loads, had plenty of endorphins afterwards and felt like I had fit in a good workout in a relatively short amount of time.

 

Cons: Much though I love to get my sweat on, I feel like F45 is all about the calorie burn and not so much about technique or quality, or the reasons behind each exercise. I’ve done a lot of training and whilst I’m no expert, I feel like a lot of the exercises lack direction or purpose and are more there to keep your heart rate high (which they do with reasonable success). In addition, in most of the classes I’ve been to the emphasis is getting in as many reps as possible in the time given, which doesn’t lie well with my ethos of ‘time under tension’ and ‘move with purpose’. Sit-ups can be really great, but if you’re trying to get in as many as possible in 45 seconds the chances are you’re not doing them as well as you could. To be fair to F45, there is nothing there saying you have to fit in a certain number of reps, but the feedback from the trainers during the session suggests that speed is more of a priority than technique.

 

I enjoy F45 for the sweat-fest that it always is. However, in my most recent session I burned a mere 370 calories, which whilst it is 100% NOT the reason I train, is somewhat disappointing considering that seems to be the entire aim of the class. F45 is not alone in this, and as someone recently said, there has been a rise of classes that are all about ‘fast fitness’ – sweating for 45 minutes without much focus on form etc.

 

So would I recommend F45? Absolutely – when I first went I loved the high intensity and fast-paced atmosphere. However, as I become more ‘in tune’ with my body and now workout for health and flexibility more than just aesthetics, I start to see flaws in most workouts. These ‘fast fitness’ workouts are great when you’re first getting into fitness but leave something to be desired when it comes to training with purpose.

 

All opinions here are my own. I am not a qualified personal trainer but have done my fair share of different workouts over the years. I would always advise people to find a workout that gets them moving and that they enjoy. If you love this class, I cannot see how that could possibly be harmful to you, so please continue! I know I’ll continue to go if I want to sweat a lot, but unlike some other classes I do, it won’t be my weekly go-to workout.

 

Price: £20 for 7 days when you register (great deal!), but otherwise £25 per class.

10 class bundle for £200

Visit: https://f45training.co.uk

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Holiday fitness – how to stay on track

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Holidays are a great time to pick up something new – waterskiing KILLS my glutes

Holiday time! The moment we can get away from everyday life, relax and enjoy ourselves. But for people on a fitness and health journey, holidays can sometimes be a time of anxiety, getting away from the everyday routine that they’ve come to rely on to see results. For others it can be an excuse to abandon healthy eating and exercising, which can see you go back on months of progress.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I love holidays, I love good food and I think it’s amazing to be able to take a proper rest from working out every now and again. However, I also have been in both positions here: where I have temporarily ‘fallen off the bandwagon’ and also where I overexercise in order to compensate for what I deemed ‘bad’ foods. After years of trying, I have finally got the balance of health on holiday right – I’m able to enjoy the holiday without feeling the need to overdo it – on either food or exercise.

 

You should return from your holidays feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. If you’ve got a rigid workout routine at home, think about this time as a chance to shock your body by doing different exercises, so that when you return you are able to continue seeing progress that perhaps wasn’t so fast before.

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Walk/run – it’s a great way to see lots of your destination in a short space of time

 

My top tips:

  • Eat three meals a day. It can be tempting to skip meals, or to graze throughout the day, especially if your accommodation is all-inclusive. Try to stick to regular meal times and not eat in between unless you’re actually hungry. The heat may make you feel less hungry, but having a health salad midday can help you to make healthy choices when it comes to dinnertime.

 

  • Move! Gymming is 100% NOT the only form of exercise. In fact, it is only one of almost countless ways to get your heart rate up. Walking and running are great ways to explore a city or the surrounding countryside. Ask your hotel for good running routes and don’t forget to take water. Even just walking around the local town for half a day or doing an hours swimming should be sufficient for a day’s exercise. Try not to spend entire days doing absolutely nothing.

 

  • Be wary of the buffet – fun though it may seem, buffets are an absolute killer when it comes to a healthy diet. Choose different foods everyday and try not to have a little of everything – four course breakfasts are not ideal if you’re having them everyday! Enjoy the variety, but don’t let it overwhelm you.

 

  • Try a new sport – if you’re in a hot country, maybe try horse riding, surfing or waterskiing, or maybe switch from skiing to snowboarding if you’re on the slopes. Using different muscles to normal can help you progress faster than you would usually. Not to mention it’s great fun to find new sports that you’re good at!

 

  • Drink LOTS of water. This will help keep you full and is super important, especially in hot countries even if you’re not doing very much!

 

  • Find a new gym routine. Often hotel gyms are very basic, with lots of cardio equipment and some light weights. Use this time to practise bodyweight workouts or workout different parts of the body – a 10kg dumbbell might not be much for squats but that’s plenty for an arm workout. Use this to your advantage!

 

Most of all, do what makes you feel good. If you find yourself dreading the even idea of the gym, head outside and do something totally different – it could be your body’s way of saying you’re burnt out. Spend the time remaining active and healthy, but also allowing your body and mind to rest. Enjoy your holiday!

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Maybe a little bit burned, but at least not burnt out.

Carbs – what, when and why?

Carbs – the dirtiest word of the last few years. Ostracised through no carb diets, endorsed by celebrities, demonised through gluten-free diets and all round rejected by many trying to be fit and healthy.

But where did this come from? It’s easy to follow suit when our favourite and most well respected influencers start to promote a particular way of living, but I would urge you to do your research before taking on a new ‘extreme’ diet (and yes, this does include cutting out carbohydrates).

 

What are carbohydrates and why do we need them?

Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients required in our diet, along with protein and fats. They are our body’s preferred source of energy, providing far more ATP (unit of energy) than either protein or fats. Carbohydrates are essentially anything that isn’t a protein or fat.

Starch and sugar are the important carbohydrates in our diet. Starches are found in foods you would traditionally think of as ‘carby’, such as pasta, some vegetables and rice, and sugars are found naturally occurring in foods such as fruits and dairy products (lactose is a sugar). Fibre is found in carbohydrate and you can’t digest it – it keeps your heart and digestive system healthy.

Carbohydrates are broken down by the body into simple sugars. The more complex the carb, the more energy it takes to break it down and the less it spikes your insulin levels. Simple carbs, if not used for energy (for example by exercising), may be turned into triglycerides (if not needed by the muscles or liver), which can then be stored in fat cells.

 

So when should I eat them?

The simple answer is whenever you eat a meal! I know a lot of people are afraid of eating carbs before bed or before a certain (arbitrary) time in the evening. However, your body should be fuelled before training with carbohydrates and refuelled after training with a mixture of carbs to replenish your muscle’s glycogen (energy) stores and protein to repair damaged muscles.

Enjoy complex carbs:

  • After training to replace lost glycogen in muscles and increase nutrient transportation to them
  • In the morning to replenish glycogen stores lost overnight
  • Evening carbs aid the production of tryptophan, which can help sleep.

Simple carbs:

  • Useful if you need a quick energy hit. A fruit before a workout will help you push that little bit harder. This is why endurance athletes have energy gels whilst running – these provide the muscles with instant energy. This is useful on a run but not so much when sitting at a desk or lying in bed so choose the timing of simple carb consumption carefully.

 

Good carbs? Bad carbs?

Whilst I hate to label foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, it can be useful to know which foods should be eaten in moderation and which should be eaten frequently. Generally, carbohydrates with lots of fibre in are great for your body, maintaining healthy digestion and helping to slow the absorption rate of sugars. These include foods such as wholemeal bread, brown/wild rice and root vegetables.

Carbs that should be limited are those that have been highly processed (the ‘simple sugars’), as these contain low fibre levels and may produce insulin spikes, creating a rollercoaster of blood sugar levels. These include goods such as cakes, biscuits and some granola. Pure sugar, as a form of carbohydrate, is the quickest to be absorbed into the bloodstream, especially when consumed without other wholesome foods. This includes some fizzy drinks, sweets and honey.

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Cake – simple carbs at their finest. Just eat them in moderation

So how much should I be eating?

Everyone needs carbohydrates everyday. There is no fixed number that works for everyone – this depends on your age, activity level, sex and a million other factors. Different things work for different people, but the important thing is to be eating enough fibre and getting enough micro as well as macronutrients. If you’re not sure if you’re getting it right, or experiencing digestion issues, visit a registered nutritionist or speak to your doctor.

There’s no one size fits all, but generally the more endurance exercise you’re doing, the more carbohydrates you should be eating. If you’re sitting at a desk all day, realistically you don’t need as many carbs as someone who has a very active job or someone who runs 10km every morning.

In all, carbs should be making up anywhere from 45-65% of your diet for the average person. If this seems like a lot to you, just remember that almost everything has some form of carbohydrate in it. Without tracking, it’s hard to get these numbers right, but including oats or wholemeal toast with breakfast, vegetables at lunch and dinner and slow release carbs with dinner can ensure that you are getting enough to provide you with sufficient energy and nutrition to fuel you through the day.

 

A nutritionist’s point of view:

I spoke to Rhiannon Lambert, Harley Street nutritionist and author of Re-Nourish: The definitive guide to optimum nutrition (which you can pre-order here for release on December 28th). Check out her Instagram and Twitter.

“Carbohydrates are a fundamental part of any diet, without them, we cannot aid our bodies performance and lift its mood. Carbohydrates – especially complex or starchy ones such as sweet potatoes – are a good source of energy and fibre, which helps your digestive system stay healthy and keeps your blood sugar levels steady. Better still, they contain all sorts of micronutrients that help to release the energy from food.

The misconception that all carbohydrates are created equal is quite simply incorrect. We benefit from the additional fibre and nutrients in wholegrain produce in comparison to the refined carbohydrates, which don’t contain as much nutritional value.

My top advice is to know your portions and to include some carbohydrate at every meal, Your balanced plate should contain protein, carbohydrate, vegetables or fruit and a small amount of good fat. For example, salmon fillet with roasted vegetables in olive oil and a portion of brown rice.

Although some people experience initial weight loss from a no-carb diet, most can’t maintain it. Fad diets don’t work; a healthy, balanced diet is the yardstick we should all be aiming for. If you want to lose weight, look at portion control and upping your exercise so that you’re burning off more calories that you eat. It’s that simple.”

 

I hope this article helps you in some way. Sometimes nutrition can seem like a bit of a minefield, but sticking to healthy, ‘real’ foods (ones you have to cook from scratch) is a great place to start.

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For a great post-workout meal, try this high protein salmon and prawn linguine