Creatine… Should you believe the hype?

Supplements or Nah: Volume 2

You’ve dabbled in Whey Protein, might have even tried some pre-workout but now it’s time to step you supplement game up, is creatine the way forward?

What is creatine?

Creatine is a naturally occurring substance, it can be found in the diet mostly through meat and fish (Roughly 3-5g per kg). It is also produced by the kidneys, pancreas and liver. Creatine is stored in the muscle and is a vital component of energy production during high-intensity exercise such as sprinting or lifting weights.

Benefits

  1. Well researched and safe – This is fundamental for any supplement you are looking to include in your diet. Creatine is one of the most well researched supplements on the market. While no supplement is completely safe, as mentioned in my blog about protein (Check it out here) creatine has a solid evidence base to demonstrate it’s usefulness and safety
  2. Increased muscular endurance – Creatine supplementation allows your muscles to resynthesize ATP (the bodies main fuel during high-intensity exercise) more effectively. This means you can pump out more reps per set, meaning progressive overload and serious gains!
  3. Increased work capacity – Along with getting more reps in a set you are able to recover and maintain this enhanced performance through multiple sets which means you perform more work throughout your workout.
  4. Increased lean body mass – Creatine = more muscle, the two factors above mean that over time creatine supplementation will allow you to gain more lean body mass and get to your goal physique faster.
  5. Increased Strength – A larger muscle is usually a stronger one, along with the ability to do more work in your training sessions, creatine supplementation has been proven to increase strength gains.

Drawbacks

  1. Water retention – some people taking creatine can experience rapid weight gain of 1 – 2kg, this weight gain is due to increased water retention in the muscle cells, so if you are trying to cut weight for any reason this is something you should consider.
  2. Side Effects – Some people experience symptoms such as muscle cramping and stomach pain however these symptoms are not massively common.
  3. Non-responders – for some people creatine will not elicit the effects described, these are called non-responders, I’m not sure there’s any research to determine what percentage of people this is but it’s widely estimated at around 20-30% of people. So it’s kind of a joy kill if you make the investment and see no gains.

How to supplement creatine?

Firstly, we are referring to oral supplementation, because it’s easy and proven to be effective. Creatine as a supplement is not something you can take once and expect to see the effects immediately you have to do something called ‘Creatine Loading’ this is essentially just increasing the amount of creatine that is stored in the muscle cells.

There are two ways to do this with oral supplementation:
Consume 20g per day (5g x4 throughout the day) for 5 days or;
Consume 3-5d per day for 30 days.
Following this, you need to maintain supplementation (3-5g per day depending on current lean body mass) in order to keep creatine levels elevated.
You should try to take your creatine alongside a carbohydrate or carbohydrate and protein containing meal.

In terms of the type of creatine, you should be taking the most studied form is Creatine Monohydrate this is proven to be effective, the science around many other variants is shaky even if the supplement companies do a good job of marketing them. You can get them in both powder form or in tablet form, whichever you find more convenient.

Below are some links to products I’ve tried and would recommend, but there are tons of great products out there and as I said previously creatine monohydrate is the way to go so as long as that’s your main/only ingredient you should be good to go.

Bulk Powders – Pure Creatine Monohydrate 1kg
The Protein Works – Creatine Monohydrate 1kg
MyProtein – Creatine Monohydrate 250 Tablets

Personally, creatine is just about the only supplement I really value, it was the first ever supplement I took and I personally saw the benefits, years later seeing the research, it’s still a supplement I believe in. With a lot of supplements, it’s really hard to prove they work, the research just isn’t there. Or even if there is you would be better off adjusting your diet (Whey Protein for example). However, it’s really difficult to get large amounts of creatine in the diet and we know it works, I think that’s what makes this supplement so great and so trusted.

Let me know what you think? Is creatine in your supplement draw?

Sources/Find Out More

THE SAFETY AND EFFICACY OF CREATINE MONOHYDRATE SUPPLEMENTATION

Easy Oaty Energy Bars

Instant energy – to power your training!

When you’re about to step into the gym for a big leg day, or out on the road to a long run you need to make sure you stay fuelled up this recipe is the ultimate fuel up.

No more buying overpriced bars, it’s time to make your own! I love the combination of the simple sugars for that instant energy hit along with the complex carbohydrates or the oats and the fats from the butter for longer lasting energy. All in a package that won’t weigh you down and have you feeling too heavy. People often neglect the importance of having the energy to get through your training, while I’m not suggesting you go pig out in McDonald’s, you do want to make sure you have the energy to maintain your intensity throughout your workout.

Ingredients

  • 225g Oats
  • 50g Butter
  • 75g Soft Brown Sugar
  • 3tbsp Golden Syrup
  • Optional – chocolate or dried fruit

Methood

  1. Place sugar, syrup and butter into a pan on low heat, stir gently.
  2. Add oats and stir the mixture until it comes together
  3. Place it in a pan and bake for 20 – 25 minutes until it’s golden brown
  4. Let it cool for 10 minutes
  5. Slice and serve

Don’t let the simplicity of the recipe put you off, they’ve been described as surprisingly addictive and are the perfect pre-gym snack.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Fat Loss 101

5 Fat loss hacks to get lean in 2019

Getting lean/losing weight/cutting whatever you want to call it… for most people, it isn’t an easy process. But it certainly is simple. There’s lots of good information and a whole lot of bad information, out there! This is my attempt to give you some basic principles on how to bring your goals to life.

Calories matter

This is not to say that everyone should be counting every calorie or be scared of food. Calories matter they are a measure of the energy you are putting into your body and the energy your body is using. Fundamentally, if you are wanting to lose weight you need to be consuming fewer calories than you expend. Personally, I like to keep a track of my calories because I like to eat lots of the sweeter things in life and that helps me make sure it doesn’t get out of hand. But there are many ways to achieve the same results and I will explain these later.

Get yo’ protein up!

I’m not about to sell you some magic powder to drink, but protein is definitely your friend during your cut. Why is protein so important? Firstly, because it’s necessary for the maintenance of the muscle mass you’ve been working for in the gym. As well as this, a high protein diet is going to help you feel fuller and this will reduce the urge to binge eat. There is lots of information around how much protein you should consume, if you are cutting I would recommend 1.8 – 2 grams per kilogram of body weight and this should help limit the amount of muscle mass you lose (Phillips and Van Loon, 2011). For some people getting their protein up may mean the use of shakes and supplements. But it’s just as easy to do this with food. Some of my favourites are O% Fat Natural Yogurt, Egg Whites, Chicken, Milk, Black Beans (shout out my vegans). These are just to name a few, if you’re struggling for high protein meal ideas, then check out some of the Flavaful recipes on the blog.

Keep it light…

One easy way to lose weight that doesn’t involve tracking macros or counting calories is to eat food that is less dense in energy. For a lot of foods, this could simply be switching to the light/low fat/less sugar option. Making a few of these switches to things you eat every day could well result in the caloric deficit you need to lose weight without a whole bunch of stress and effort on your part. Obviously, you have to be careful, drinking a diet Coke doesn’t mean you can have that fourth cookie, and for some products, you need to check that it is actually less calorific rather than just impressive marketing. But this is an easy win and while cutting is definitely a journey and there is no magic pill, you want to make it as painless as possible and this helps.

Move more

All the points above largely deal with energy intake but energy expenditure is just as important a part of this equation. If you’re looking to cut you need to move more, there are so many ways you can do this without it being a chore. Go on a  fun a walk in the morning, take the stairs, do the vacuuming, go play sports. Whatever it is, moving more is going to increase your caloric expenditure and help make your cut a little bit easier to maintain.

Not So Fast!

When it comes to losing weight people are very impatient. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked for advice on how to get in shape, I’m like cool what are your goals? and the response I receive is well I’m going on holiday next week, abs got to be poppin’. There are many reasons why this kind of mindset is not the best, it tends to result in a lack of results at best and often times will drive people to try crash diets and whatever other fads Instagram is selling. When it comes to cutting slow and steady, for most people, wins the race. A slower cut allows you to maintain more muscle mass, which will help you gain definition as you lose fat mass. It also means you’ll be able to eat more, which means better training sessions, less chance of getting ill and most importantly less chance of being ‘Hangry’ which your friends and family will appreciate.  The amount of weight you should aim to lose each week is going to vary between individuals depending on training status and where you’re starting from. But Garthe et al., 2011 recommends 0.7% of body mass per week and I think this is a good starting point for most individuals.

I hope this was useful, it’s really just an introduction to a topic that is so interesting and often times so misunderstood. If you happen to like this blog, I’ll come back with part two.

Let’s help each other, share your fitness secrets in the comments, what helps keep you on track with your fitness goals?

Sources/Learn more

WEIGHT MANAGEMENT FOR ATHLETES AND ACTIVE INDIVIDUALS

Phillips, S.M. and Van Loon, L.J., 2011. Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. Journal of sports sciences29(sup1), pp.S29-S38.

Garthe, I., Raastad, T., Refsnes, P.E., Koivisto, A. and Sundgot-Borgen, J., 2011. Effect of two different weight-loss rates on body composition and strength and power-related performance in elite athletes. 
International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism21(2), pp.97-104.

Supplements or Nah?

Volume 1 – Protein

Protein, Creatine, Pre-workout there are tons of supplements out there. Supplements to help you gain muscle, lose fat, train harder whatever you want to achieve, there’s a supplement for that.

With so much out there it’s hard to know what’s useful and what’s useless! In this series of blogs, I’m going to address some of the big dogs of the supplement world, their benefits, their drawbacks and whether you should be investing in them.

Protein

Perhaps the first supplement most people reach for on their fitness journey, because to get big you need to be hitting that protein powder after every workout right?

What is protein?
Protein is one of the 3 key macronutrients your body needs to survive, its made up of building blocks called amino acids, 20 in total 12 of which can be produced by the body, 8 must be sourced from the diet. Proteins provide structure to the cells of the human body and importantly they are essential in the building and repair of muscle tissue. For most people, meat will be a key source of protein, produce such as beef and eggs are rich in essential amino acids, however, protein can also be sourced from plant-based products such as soy.

So how much protein do you need?
The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for protein is between 0.8g – 1.2/kg b.w. This means for most people reading this it is unlikely you will be deficient in protein. However, if you are in the gym trying to make some gains, you might want to have a little extra, more protein = more gains? Well to a certain point yes, Phillps (2013) recommends 1.4 – 1.6g/kg b.w. for those engaging in resistance training with the goal of building muscle. So for an 80kg person, this would amount to 112 to 128g of protein per day. For some context, this is roughly 2 chicken breasts, 4 eggs and a piece of salmon, so easily attainable baring in mind you will also get some protein in smaller quantities from other foods such as rice and bread.

No Whey Bro!
Even though they’re many types of protein supplements on offer today we are going to talk to talk about the most commonly used one. Whey protein is a milk-based protein, you’ll usually find it in powdered form.
Whey is a popular choice because it’s high in essential amino acids which is important for any good protein, it digests quickly and it’s relatively cheap.

Benefits

  1. It’s Quick – Every nutritionist worth they’re salt will preach to you it’s a food first approach. Supplements are just that, a supplement, something to be added, they are not a replacement. However there are times when you don’t have time to get a meal, you might be at work or on the go. A protein shake is a quick, easy way to get some dietary protein in.
  2. It’s Filling – if fat loss is your goal, protein is your friend for two main reasons, it’s going to help you preserve lean mass, there is some research to show it may be beneficial to consume up to 2g/kg b.w. of protein when in a caloric deficit. It will also help fill you up making you less likely to go raid the cookie jar. Which is obviously very helpful when you’re trying to get lean.
  3. It’s Versatile – Whey protein can be consumed as a drink but it can also be used as an ingredient in tons of recipes from pancakes to cookies, there are tons of great blogs, cookbooks and websites that will give you great recipes you can make with your whey protein. If that’s something you want to see more of let me know in the comments and I will whip up some stuff in the kitchen and share that with you all.

Drawbacks

  1. Varying quality – Depending on the brand of protein you go for there are huge variances in the quality of the protein you will get. Accurate labelling has been a problem in the supplement industry since there has been a supplement industry and protein is not exempt from this so it’s difficult to ensure that 25g or protein they claim on the bottle is true.
  2. Safety – I’m not trying to scare anyone and for the most part whey protein is a very safe supplement. However, there have been multiple reported cases of athletes getting busted for doping in relation to supplements they are taking and for banned substances appearing in supplements. There is a risk with every supplement, as mentioned above labelling is not always accurate and not every company is as diligent in there testing. So when you are looking for supplements to take it’s important to choose a reputable brand with rigorous testing procedures. If you are a drug tested athlete you should be taking supplements from tested batches in order to make sure you don’t get caught out and for your health in general.
  3. Cost – Depending on your brand of choice 1kg of whey protein can cost you anything from £20 – £45 for which you’d get roughly 40 servings which may last you just over a month with daily use. Depending on your budget this could be a significant cost to you. Especially considering the amount of actual food you can buy for a similar cost.

Is it worth the investment?
It depends – I am not going to be the one to say it’s useless, I think it’s a great supplement. If you are often on the go or you just can’t stomach that extra meal, whey protein is a great way to get that extra little bit of protein into your body. However, you still need to eat and there is never going to be a replacement for eating well (nothing legal anyway) that’s going to get you the same results. If you’re just starting out on your fitness journey, way before you start ordering tons of powder you need to get your meals in order, get some training under your belt and then you can start really considering whether whey protein is the right investment for you.

What do you think? Are you heading straight to the shops to get your protein fix or is it just one big scam? Let me know in the comments!

Learn More/Sources

PROTEIN CONSUMPTION AND RESISTANCE EXERCISE: MAXIMIZING ANABOLIC POTENTIAL

WEIGHT MANAGEMENT FOR ATHLETES AND ACTIVE INDIVIDUALS

Not Jerk Chicken

Everybody loves Jerk, its the meal people ask me to cook for them most often. And the recipe everyone wants to see. Even though Jamie Oliver is out here selling Jerk rice *Laughs out loud*, in order to make Jerk you need a Jerk pan and meat! In my opinion, Jerk has three key elements Scotch Bonnet, Pimento (All-spice) and the method of cooking. All of this is to say the recipe I’m about to give you is not Jerk Chicken but it takes inspiration and borrows some of those flavours to make something delicious and easy to make. 

We already spoke a little bit about the history of Jerk, check out that blog here. But this dish has a different history. One that dates back to around 2009 in my kitchen. I was 12, and fell in love with all the Jerk flavours I discovered in Jamaica. I didn’t have a Jerk pan and England was far too cold to be outside on the BBQ (this was pre-global warming madness). However, I did have an imagination and I knew what Jerk tasted like to me, so I went to work. The product was so good, I was cooking for every church, family and community gathering. I never wrote the recipe down, I refused to share it with anyone but today I’m going to share it with all of you! 

Also, as it’s nearly I though I’d give you all a little gift, a bonus recipe… the best coleslaw you ever tasted. Enjoy! 

Ingredients 

Chicken

  • 600g Chicken
  • 1 Lemon
  • All-purpose Seasoning
  • 1 Onion 
  • 5 Cloves of Garlic
  • 1 Tomato
  • 1/2 Scotch Bonnet
  • Pimento or allspice
  • Thyme
  • 50ml BBQ sauce 
  • 200ml Water
  • 2 tbsp Honey

Method

  1. Squeeze your lemon over the chicken and rub it down in the juice this will help get rid of any raw flavours. 
  2. Cover the chicken in a generous dash of all-purpose seasoning.
  3. Put this chicken in the oven and let it cook until it’s golden brown in colour (30 – 35 minutes) 
  4. Finely chop your tomato, onion, scotch bonnet and garlic 
  5. Heat a frying pan to a medium heat and add your tomato, onion and garlic
  6. Cook them for 4-6 minutes until the onions have caramelised. 
  7. Add your BBQ sauce, honey and water 
  8. Add your pimento, thyme and scotch bonnet then cover your pan and leave it to simmer for 15 minutes
  9. Once your chicken is brown you’re going to add your sauce to the chicken, pour it, brush it, throw it whatever your style is.
  10. Pro Tip – save a little sauce to add to the chicken once you’ve served up
  11. Let it cook for another 20 minutes. 
  12. BOOM! There you have it, NOT Jerk Chicken!

C’Slaw

Ingredients 

  • 1/2 Green Cabbage
  • 1 Red Sweet Pepper 
  • 1/2 Red Onion
  • 2 Carrots
  • 3 Chilli Peppers
  • 1/2 Mango 
  • 1 tsp Honey
  • 100g 0% Greek Yoghurt 
  • 20g Extra Light Mayonnaise 
  • Salt and Black Pepper (to taste) 

Method

  1. Thinly slice your cabbage, pepper, onion and chillies and then add them into a large mixing bowl 
  2. Grate your carrots and add them to the bowl as well
  3. Cut your mango into small chunks 
  4. Then add the honey, yoghurt and mayonnaise 
  5. It’s time to get your hands dirty, get in there and mix it around
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste and maybe even some hot sauce (if you’re brave enough)

Let me know in the comments if you want to see the macros and I will update the post and add that in for you all. 

This one is for all of you that struggle in the kitchen and everyone who wants something that’s nice and easy to make. So get cooking and let me know how you get on. Also, comment your ideas for what I should call this I feel like this dish needs a name so let me know. 

I’m in the process of improving the blog, so expect more regular content… more recipes, more fitness advice, more Flava! Make sure you’re following the blog on Instagram, Facebook and by email so you can stay up to date!

Peace and Love, 
B