Tuesday Tip

Tuesday Tip: Are BCAAs worth it?

Tuesday Tip: Are BCAAs worth it? 🥤

This week’s tip may seem a bit specialist but I’ve had lots of people asking me about these. BCAAs (branched chain amino acids), the supposedly vital pre-workout supplement (usually taken as a drink) which helps muscle recovery and building – are they actually worth taking?

In general – No. Why not?

#1 They don’t build muscle

BCAAs contain leucine, valine and isoleucine, 3 of the 9 essential amino acids for muscle growth/repair. You need all of them, not just those 3. There are also recent studies showing they can actually inhibit muscle growth. Taking them on their own creates competition with other amino acids for absorption, making it harder for the body to use the other “building blocks” to form new muscle tissue.

#2 but…

But “I read that BCAAs increased muscle protein synthesis!” Maybe, but most of these studies have serious limitations, including being conducted by the companies that make them! They’re often compared to water in these studies which isn’t a fair comparison. When compared with other protein sources BCAAs show no benefits.

#3 They don’t reduce muscle soreness.

A recent study showed no reduction in muscle soreness by taking BCAAs which is one of the many benefits proponents of them claim.

#4 They’re empty calories

They’re not zero calories. Think about it – how can they be no calories if they’re amino acids and used for muscle synthesis? Of course they have calories (check the packet!). So you’re taking on extra calories for zero benefit.

#5 They can make you eat more

Recent studies have found BCAAs actually increase your appetite and make you eat more. They also have no impact on fatigue or tiredness. Many reports of this are anecdotal – in most actual studies they have no impact at all.

BCAAs have no nutritional benefits. Unless your diet is devoid of protein, BCAAs will do nothing to help you look better, feel better or perform better. So rather than wasting money and calories on BCAAs just because someone at the gym or on Instagram said they’re ‘vital’ simply have a balanced diet, with normal amounts of protein instead.

Happy Tuesday 🤗

Xx

Recipes

Amazing Protein Packed Flapjacks

I get hungry, especially after a workout and I love a good flapjack or energy bar but I hate the fact that so many of the store bought ones are just full of sugar. Many of the ‘healthier’ versions I’ve bought are tasteless and unappetising so I thought I’d create some homemade protein flapjacks – full of good things!

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These don’t take long to put together and you can always substitute things if you don’t have them in the cupboard or don’t like them.

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You will need:

300g rolled porridge oats (gluten-free or spelt if you want)

100g desiccated coconut

100g flaked almonds

100g Pumpkin seeds

215g dried, soft Prunes

315g dried dates

175g Almond butter (or your nut butter of choice)

100g Liquid sweetener (I used rice malt syrup but you can use agave, maple syrup, honey etc)

2 tbsp Coconut oil (measured when solid)

4 tbsp Vanilla protein powder (any brand you like – you can also omit this is you want)

4 tbsp Water

2 generous tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Salt

Preheat the oven to 170 C.

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Line a baking tin (I used a 20 x 20cm one) with baking paper. Mix the oats, almonds, pumpkin seeds and coconut together and pour into the baking tin. Place in the oven for 20 mins or until starting to brown. Make sure you turn regularly with a wooden spoon so the whole mixture gets toasted.

While that’s in the oven pop the dates and prunes into a blender or food processor and blitz to a paste. You may need to keep stopping to scrape the mixture back down in to the bowl. It doesn’t need to be completely smooth – a few lumpy bits are good!

Remove the oats from the oven and stir the protein powder through the mixture. Allow to cool.

Put the date mixture, nut butter, liquid sweetener, coconut oil, water, cinnamon and salt in to a large saucepan and heat very gently. Stir and allow the mixture to come together. Remove from the heat and pour the oats into the liquid mixture and mix really well.

Using a spatula scrape the mixture back into the lined baking tin and press down firmly. Then allow to cool and pop in the fridge. Do make sure you lick the saucepan (once it’s cool enough!!!) because the mixture is divine when warm! 🙂

Once it’s chilled you can cut in to slices. It makes the perfect post workout snack on the go and is great to pop in to lunchboxes too!

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Tuesday Tip

Tuesday Tip: Post-workout Protein

Tuesday Tip: Post-workout Protein 🥤

The post-workout protein shake is a common sight at gyms, but do you really need protein immediately after your workout? Well yes and no, and here’s why.

# 1 What was the workout?

If it was a short, low intensity session then no. If it was a long (90 min), weights based session then possibly yes. Protein is needed for muscle repair and building so you may need protein after a long, tough weights based workout. BUT even if your goal is to add muscle you only need a little protein post-workout to kick start recovery. If you take too much your body can’t metabolise it and stores it as fat. Short, low-intensity sessions don’t require you to rush to refuel unless you’re already hungry.

#2 Carb to protein

It’s more important to refuel with a combo of carbs and protein. A ratio of 4:1 or 3:1 of carbs to protein is ideal. The protein kick starts recovery and the carbs replenish energy stores in muscles. For 15-30 mins after a long workout the enzymes which pull carbs in to muscles peak. If you miss that opportunity the enzymes are no longer able to pull carbs in to your muscles which starving them and inhibiting repair.

#3 But what about after I’ve done weights?

You’re unlikely to deplete your muscle’s carb stores during a weights session anyway so you don’t need to rush to get a protein shake in. Instead just make sure you get protein via a balanced meal within 2 hours of your workout.

So you really don’t need to bother unless you’re training for long periods (90 mins), at high intensity (or you’re a body builder). At best you’ll be wasting money on shakes you don’t need, at worst you’re adding a load of extra calories which are just going to be stored as fat. You need to eat protein throughout the day so aim for around 1.2 – 2g of protein per kg of bodyweight. For most people, eating a balanced diet, you’ll get this from your meals so there’s no need to boost the protein further. If you do longer training sessions, or are very hungry after a workout, then the perfect post-workout snack is actually chocolate milk – a perfect ratio of carbs and protein (dairy or soya milk), or some greek yoghurt and fruit.

Happy Tuesday 🤗

Xx

Recipes

Vanilla brekkie smoothie

This is my brekkie almost every day – it’s easy to grab and go, and I make a batch of 4 or 5 so I don’t have to worry in the mornings. You can switch the protein powder for nut butter if you like, I use the powder because it helps to keep me full and gives a balanced brekkie for me. Don’t worry about the spinach – you can’t taste it at all, but it does give a load of extra vitamins and minerals and studies have shown it also helps to increase exercise performance so it’s worth including!

This makes a full large blender load (I use a vitamix which holds almost 2 litres) and I split that between 4 or 5 shakers, each is about 250 – 75 cals. I use frozen spinach for ease but you can use fresh too.

You will need:

2 bananas

1 litre of your milk of choice (I usually use light soya, but go for whatever you fancy)

2 very large scoops of protein powder (I use a vanilla one usually and the scoop is equivalent to about 2 heaped tbsp)

8 cubes of frozen spinach (or 2 large handfuls of fresh)

Large handful of ice

Pop it all in the blender, whiz until smooth and creamy. Pour into shakers and store in the fridge. I usually add a couple of cubes of ice in the morning just to keep it cool.

Enjoy! 🙂

Xx

Tuesday Tip

Tuesday Tip: Are protein shakes necessary?

Tuesday Tip: Are protein shakes necessary? 🥤

Protein shakes – all the rage, essential gym kit eh? But are they really necessary?

Protein is definitely essential, especially for maintaining and building muscle, so i it helps with recovery and is also great at keeping you feeling full. But the reality is most people’s diet includes more than enough protein as it is. Average daily recommended intake is 55g for men and 45g for women’s (with heavy exercisers needing a bit more: 1.2 – 1.7g per kg body weight). It’s not hard to get that in your meals e.g. 1 egg: 6g, 1 chicken breast: 20g, 30g cheddar cheese: 7.5g, 1 serving cooked beef mince: 18g, 1/2 pot cottage cheese: 18g, 1 tin of tuna: 25g, 1 serving Greek yogurt: 18g etc. So it’s pretty easy for most people to eat the required amount, with no shakes or powders required.

Of course, the issue comes when you factor in timing. In an ideal world you want to get some protein in within 30 mins of a strenuous workout. So that could be a reason to grab a shake… but you could save some pennies and instead go for something simple like a glass of milk (dairy milk contains 8g protein, soya milk contains 7g), or one of the best post-workout recovery drinks – chocolate milk (perfect carbs: protein ratio).

Aside from saving money you will also be protecting your health. Recent research shows that too much protein in the diet can increase your risk of osteoporosis amongst other health issues. Plus if you’re already eating a good diet then all you’re doing is taking on extra calories you don’t need – which could stall your weight loss attempts. They’re also not ideal as a meal replacement – unless you combine them with other ingredients. For example as an on the go brekkie option they’re great – when combined in a smoothie with banana, milk, etc to give you a range of nutrients and a good balance of carbs too.

So if you’re eating a balanced diet, and working out at a normal level (i.e. not an Olympic athlete!), then don’t stress about protein shakes as they’re really not necessary at all! Save your pennies!

Happy Tuesday 🤗

Xx