The Top 10 Foods For Athletes

The Top 10 Foods For Athletes

Whatever your level, if you’re an active person select these nutrient-dense superfoods for your best performance!

  1. Dark green vegetables

AdobeStock_56178614.jpgKey nutrients: B Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants

Mineral-rich leafy greens are key foods in any athlete’s diet, providing nutrients for energy production and fibre. The darker green they are, the higher concentrations of antioxidants. Antioxidant-rich vegetables help regulate the body’s inflammatory process. Vegetables such as kale and spinach also contain carotenoids and flavonoids, two powerful antioxidant families that protect cells from free radicals that cause oxidative stress.

  1. Eggs

Key nutrients: vitamin D and Leucine

Basket of organic eggs in a rural farmers market
Eggs pack a protein punch

Eggs provide protein in a low calorie package. Egg yolks are also a good source of vitamin D essential for bone and muscle health. And there are the BCAA (branch chain amino acids), particularly Leucine in eggs that are vital building blocks for muscular growth, as well helping to promote fat oxidation and endurance.

  1. Bananas
Bananas
Bananas fuel performance

Key nutrients: potassium, choline and vitamin B6

Potassium is one of the electrolytes lost after intense exercise, so replacing this is vital to aid recovery. Choline is needed for healthy nervous system activity and for healthy cell structure. Vitamin B6 in bananas is crucial for red blood cell production, and assists in carbohydrate metabolism.

  1. Milk
Organic White Almond Milk
Organic White Almond Milk in a Jug

Key nutrients: carbs, calcium and protein

A combination of carbohydrates and protein make milk an ideal post exercise muscle recovery drink as consuming the macronutrients together allows muscle tissues to repair faster. Calcium is known for boosting bone health and in a two-year American study looking at the affects of different nutrients on bone density, it was shown that an extra cup of milk a day was found to reduce runners’ incidence of developing a stress fracture by 62 per cent.

  1. Lean red meat
fresh raw meat
Lean red meat is a healthy choice for athletes

Key nutrients: iron and B12

The easiest and quickest way to get iron and B12 on board is to eat red meat. Red meat has had a bad press but if you choose organic, or grass-fed, and avoid processed meats, you’ll be sure of getting plenty ‘performance nutrition’! Iron deficiency can result in poor performance, and symptoms include, tiredness, shortness of breath, and elevated heart rate.

  1. Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, trout, tuna)

Dried smoked spratKey nutrients: Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs)

Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and trout are all good sources of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation and are excellent for heart health, too.

  1. Quinoa

AdobeStock_82504648.jpegKey nutrient: Amino Acids

Quinoa contains twice as much protein as rice or cous cous, and it’s gluten-free and fibre-rich. This nutrient-dense grain doubles up as a source of low GI carbohydrate and the bonus is that the protein in quinoa has a near perfect blend of nine essential amino acids, which we need to build lean muscle mass and recover well.

  1. Blackcurrants (New Zealand CurranNZ)

bowl-blackcurrants

Key nutrient: Anthocyanins

These universal plant pigments responsible for the red, purple, and blue hues in foods have lots of health-promoting qualities. They have a positive affect on blood flow, and studies have found that taking a supplement such as CurraNZ (NZ Blackcurrant) increases lactate clearance, enhances fat metabolism, improves endurance and boosts recovery.

  1. Almonds
Almond nuts isolated
Almonds are a healthy and nutritious snack

Key nutrients: Vitamin E, calcium and magnesium

Eat a small handful of almonds at least three to five times per week for a top source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that many athletes can fall short on. Almonds also help lower bad cholesterol, whilst raising levels of good cholesterol. Almonds are a great source of calcium and magnesium too, both vital for bone and muscle health in athletes.

  1. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin heap
Take seeds daily

Key nutrients: Zinc, magnesium, vitamin E, iron

High carb diets may decrease zinc absorption, so topping up levels with a daily handful of pumpkin seeds is the perfect answer! Zinc has an important role to play when it comes to immunity, so very relevant for endurance athletes who train hard, and often compromise their immunity. Pumpkin seeds are also a very useful vegetarian source of iron.

8 ways to measure fitness & health

8 ways to measure fitness & health

Monitoring successful progress is motivating, gives you routine and results. Tracking exercise works. A 2013 study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine1 linked tracking to weight-loss success. Follow these eight tips and be the best you can be!

  1. START BY SETTING SOME HEALTH AND FITNESS GOALS

Studies have shown that written goals help people achieve results in both business and in achieving health and fitness targets. Identify SMART goals, i.e. goals that are, sustainable, measurable, achievable, relevant and timed.

Screenshot 2016-06-10 14.31.39
Set goals on our unique dashboard launching soon…
  1. TIME WHAT YOU DO

Set the weeks and months ahead to achieve your goal, e.g. 16 weeks for a marathon. Then set the hours of training you can do per week – three, five, seven? Then set the time you’ll allocate to each session, including sets/and reps. “Timing gives you structure, and you can measure success with time. For example, you’ll be able to run for longer as the weeks go by in a marathon schedule. After six or more weeks you’ll find you can do more in the time you set for reps. For example, you can do more squats in three minutes, or run faster in five,” explains Amplify PT, Tristan Thrower.

 

Screenshot 2016-06-10 14.34.31
You’ll be able to set weekly time targets
  1. UNDERSTAND YOUR HEART RATE

Your heart gives you the most accurate feedback as to how your body is responding to training. For example, your resting heart rate will lower as you gain aerobic fitness. Elite endurance athletes have a resting heart rate as low as 40 beats per minute. Knowing your heart rate will help you to work in the correct training zone. Use an app such as Strava to monitor the zone you have trained at, for example, your threshold, tempo or V02 Max.

  1. MEASURE INCHES, FAT PERCENTAGE – NOT WEIGHT ON THE SCALES

“It’s better to measure the inches you lose, than worry about pounds and kilos,” says Tristan, “as you get fitter and stronger, you’ll create lean muscle mass which may mean you weigh more. And weight can fluctuate depending on what you’ve eaten, what you’ve drank and the time of day,” he adds. “Measuring (and lowering) body fat is a tangible measure of success. Keep fat percentage within the healthy ranges,” he adds. Use the American Council on Exercise’s chart and tools to work out what your fat percentage should be.

  1. MEASURE STEPS FOR HEALTH

Measuring steps has become a popular way to measure activity at home and in the workplace. And moving can get results, as the NHS UK point out, “A person aged 45 and weighing 70kg (about 11 stone) can burn around 400 calories by walking 10,000 steps briskly (3 to 5mph).”

  1. KEEP A RECORD

Keeping a food diary is standard advice for anyone who wants to lose weight and with technological advances this is easier than ever with websites and apps that will do the calorie, fat and nutrient counting for you. Measuring what goes in and what goes out are great ways of getting back on track if you’ve put on a few pounds. Apps such as MyFitnessPal can help you track what you’re eating and give you feedback on the nutrients you’re getting. And logging training using apps such as Strava, or Endomondo give you a reference point to see what’s worked and what hasn’t.

  1. FOCUS ON RESULTS

Reaching an end result, e.g. a race time, or a goal weight is the best indicator as to whether training is working. “If you’re a runner a good way to measure your fitness is to take part in a weekly parkrun.org 5K run. For swimmers why not try a 400M-time trial once a month? And for cyclists join in a time trial at your club for a fitness blast and a way of measuring your fitness and progress,” suggests Tristan.

  1. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131205141850.htm

 

Common energy zappers

Common energy zappers

On our soon to be launched Dashboard, we ask you every day what your energy levels are like to get an overall picture of your health and wellness. Feeling Tired All The Time (TATT) is one of the most common reasons people visit their GPs, and as many as one in five report feeling unusually tired with one in 10 have prolonged fatigue, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Here, health journalist Jo Waters explores the most common reasons for depleted energy. 

Lack of sleep and poor quality sleep

  • Not enough sleep: Sleep is often the first casualty for busy people so try and get enough – adults aged 18 to 64 need seven to nine hours, according to the US National Sleep Foundation.
  • Obstructive sleep apnoea: If you’re waking feeling groggy and with headaches even after 7 to 9 hours of sleep , it’s possible you have sleep quality problems due to obstructive sleep apnoea. This is where your airways momentarily collapse for a few seconds several times a minute, depriving you of oxygen while you sleep. You might not even be aware of it (or you may wake up others with your snoring!). See a doctor for an assessment.
  • Insomnia: If you suffer from problems getting to and staying asleep, avoid day time naps, exercising too close to bedtime, caffeinated drinks in the evenings and deal with sources of stress and pain that wake you. 

Poor diet and vitamin/mineral deficiencies

Eating a balanced diet providing you with enough calories and a full range of vitamins and minerals from all food groups is crucial for energy levels, as is not skipping meals.

  • Lack of iron: Iron-deficiency anaemia is caused by a lack of iron in the diet due to low levels of haemoglobin (red blood cells) which carry oxygen around the body. Women below the age of the menopause are particularly at risk if they have heavy periods, as well as pregnant women. Runners may also be at risk of anaemia because the impact of the foot on hard surfaces causes red blood vessels to burst, a condition called foot stroke haemolysis. Ask your GP for a blood test to check your iron levels. Rich sources of iron in food include red meat, leafy green vegetables, eggs and dried apricots. Boost iron absorption by drinking a vitamin C-rich juice at meal times, but avoid tea and coffee because this can inhibit it.
  • B12 deficiency: Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include extreme tiredness, lack of energy, depression and muscle weakness. The most common cause is pernicious anaemia where your immune system attacks healthy cells in your stomach, preventing absorption of vitamin B12. B12 deficiency is also more common in people who eat a vegan diet (no meat, fish or dairy products). You may need B12 injections or supplements to pep up your B12 levels.

Common medical causes of tiredness

  • Type 2 diabetes: An estimated 594,000 people in the UK have undiagnosed diabetes where the body doesn’t produce enough insulin to function properly or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin. Symptoms include tiredness, weight loss, thirst and passing large amounts of urine. Your GP can run blood tests to check your sugar levels. If diagnosed early you may be able to control your diabetes with diet and exercise alone, but some patients also need medication.
  • Underactive thyroid: This is where your thyroid gland doesn’t make enough of a hormone called thyroxin for a healthy metabolism. Symptoms may include feeling tired, muscle aches, thinning hair, sudden weight gain, dry skin and a hoarse voice. See your GP to arrange for a thyroid function test. If diagnosed you’ll need to take thyroxine tablets.

Psychological causes of tiredness

Stress, anxiety or depression can make life feel like a struggle and sap your energy as well as affect your sleep. See your doctors to talk about your feelings you may need to be referred for a talking therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy or need a course of antidepressants.

Too much or too little exercise

If you’re training remember to have regular rest days and to plan your exercise so you don’t overdo it. Exercising generally though should leave you feeling more energised. A University of Georgia study found healthy adults who began exercising lightly, three days a week for just 20 minutes reported higher energy levels and less tiredness after six weeks.

 

5 Ways to kick start motivation

5 Ways to kick start motivation

You’ve committed to getting fitter and healthier, and you are full of enthusiasm at the moment, but you have a track record of dropping out and are worried it will happen again – here’s how you can stay on track.

  1. Set yourself a goal: Setting a goal gives you an end to your plan of action. A well-known longitudinal study of Harvard graduates found that those who had clearly defined, written, goals were the ones who went on to achieve the greatest success.
  2. Find something you enjoy: Eating plans and exercise can seem like a chore. But finding something you love to do is simple, running or dog walking, tennis or even gardening are all great ways to exercise. Cooking is fun and experimenting with healthy nutrients and ingredients can be as enjoyable as the eating!
  3. Make healthy your default setting: New research has found the most consistent exercisers are those who made it into a specific type of habit – such as jumping out of bed automatically when they hear their alarm and heading for the gym. The aim is to make being healthy your default setting so you don’t have to think about it. Plan andyou’re your workouts, record what you eat, and the nutrients you take in. Be as methodical and practical as you would work meetings or social events – that way they’ll actually happen.
  4. Tell people what you’re doing: Good friends will want to encourage you on your getting healthier plans (and some may even join you – so even better). If you’ve made a public commitment, you’ll have more motivation to carry on and earn their praise. Setting up a Just Giving sponsorship page for a charity event can be a great motivator too, once people have donated money for your chosen charity you’ll have the added incentive of not wanting to let them down.
  5. Track your progress: Whether it’s a wearable, a phone app, or simply a pen and paper, tracking your health and fitness progress and using data, stats and graphs will get you to your goal. faster

Staying motivated

  • Dangle the carrot: If you respond to bribery, promise yourself rewards for your exertions. If you meet a friend for a Saturday morning class – why not have a coffee and catch-up/beer and watch the match afterwards?
  • Download some music for workouts: We all have our favourite songs that make us run that bit faster or dig in the cross trainer with more oomph. Load them onto your i-Pod and enjoy.
  • Work with your body clock: Are you an owl or a lark? Is it realistic for you to get up an hour earlier and run before work to or will you find it easier to pop to the gym after work? If neither are realistic (particularly tough for working parents), think about how you can fit more exercise into your daily routine – brisk walks at lunchtime, walking all or part of the way to or from work and then maybe some classes and a long run at the weekend may be the best solution.
  • Eat to suit your day: Don’t believe you have to rigidly stick to one particular time of day to eat. Research has found if you are under-eating or over-eating for your needs, your performance and recovery and management of your weight will all be affected. What matters is the nutrients you get in over your day, so manage eating plans to suit your lifestyle.
  • Talk to an expert: An assessment of your fitness and nutrition goals are worth the investment. An expert can give you a fresh perspective and advise you on how train, and what to eat.

How to be mindful

How to be mindful

Are you permanently stressed–out, constantly mulling over the past and worrying endlessly about the future? Do you lie in bed fretting – just wishing your mind would go quiet so you can sleep? Many of us in the 21st century live in a heightened state of anxiety, chasing our own tails, unable to relax and enjoy what is happening in the moment, living inside our own heads and failing to notice what is all around us.

Mindfulness is a mental health toolkit designed to teach people to live in and enjoy the moment, putting aside your troubles from the past and not fretting about what lies ahead.

Some describe mindfulness as treating yourself more kindly or teaching you to rediscover your joie de vivre. Of course it’s now a new idea – we’ve all heard the expression “smell the roses” and the concept of enjoying and learning to live in the moment is the basis of ancient Buddhism.

If you apply it to physical exercise – for example, running – it’s about becoming more aware of your body in the moment, of each step you take, concentrating on your feet and how they feel and focusing on your breath, so you are in the moment, enhancing your enjoyment.

Does it work?

If mindfulness sounds a bit hippy–dippy–summer–of–love–ish – be reassured it is an approach that’s underpinned by a solid basis in scientific research. The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence recommends mindfulness as a way of preventing depression in people who have had three or more bouts of depression. Research has shown it as effective as antidepressants.

The benefits of mindfulness in preventing serious depression and emotional distress have been proven by 10 clinical trials, according to the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, based at Oxford University.

Having said that it’s not a one-size-fits-all cure for depression and anxiety in everyone and research is still ongoing into who benefits most from mindfulness.

Also it’s not just a treatment for people with clinical depression – it can be a useful approach for anyone who is stressed out, rushing around and at risk of burnout as a way of “checking-in” with yourself and what’s going on around you. You don’t have to be stressed or ill to benefit from the strategies it can teach you to live with more appreciation and less anxiety.

What are you taught?

You’re encouraged to:

  • Reconnect with your body and the sensations you experience.
  • To make a conscious effort to be aware of the sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment – come off auto pilot in other words.
  • Remind yourself to notice your everyday surroundings – sometimes it’s suggested you do this at a set time of day – but it doesn’t have to be sitting cross-legged on the floor – it could be sitting on a train to work or a few minutes sitting in your garden or other quiet place.
  • Name your thoughts and feelings – for instance be able to recognise a negative thought – like a cloud in the sky or a bus passing by – without necessarily being affected by it.

How can I learn to be mindful?

Sessions are typically offered in a group situation and last eight weeks and include meditation and breathing exercises and are available through the NHS in some areas. But there are also free online courses that have been scientifically validated.

There also books and CDs to guide, such as Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Dr Danny Penman (available from Amazon £10.49 ) which comes with an accompanying CD with meditation exercises.

  • Find out more by watching this YouTube lecture by Professor Mark Williams of Oxford University’s Oxford Mindfulness Centre.

Sleep and why it matters

Sleep and why it matters

It’s amazing how even the fittest, healthiest people who eat well and make the effort to work out can neglect their sleep needs.

Busy people often cut back on sleep when under pressure – failing to realise sleep issues can lead to long term health problems such as an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and even dementia, as well as short term drowsiness and tiredness.

But there are more subtle effects too – including the effects on higher executive function –  the higher level cognitive skills you need for planning, problem-solving and working memory. This can lead you to being under par at work. Sleep deprivation can also affect your self-control, emotions and decision-making.

Why sleep quality matters too

It’s not just sleep quantity that matters – but sleep quality too. If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) – where your airways momentarily collapse for a few seconds several times a minute, depriving you of oxygen while you sleep – you might not even be aware of it, but it’s interfering with your body’s metabolic processes. This can raise your blood sugar and blood pressure and lead to weight gain, heart disease and diabetes.

If you snore and suffer daytime sleepiness you could have undiagnosed OSA, so it’s important to get tested and treated. Other risk factors for sleep apnoea include being overweight, having a thick neck, smoking and having a large tongue or large tonsils or adenoids.

Why your body needs sleep

We spend a third of our life asleep, but don’t think of it as time wasted.  When you’re sleeping your blood pressure drops, breathing slows down and the body goes to work on  repairing and rebuilding tissue. Sleep is also the time when hormones are released which are essential for growth and muscle development and the regulation of ghrelin and leptin,  the “hunger” hormones which control appetite (sleep deprived people tend to eat more and gain weight). Cerebral spinal fluid is pumped more quickly throughout the brain during sleep, washing  out  waste so you wake up mentally refreshed.

How much sleep  do you actually need?

Mrs Thatcher famously got by on three hours sleep a night but most of us need a lot more  than that. After a two year study, the US National Sleep Foundation revised its recommendations in 2015 as to how many hours we need per night, as follows:

  • school age kids (six to 13): 10 to 13 hours;
  • teens (14 to 17): eight to 10 hours;
  • adults (18 to 64): seven to nine hours;
  • older adults (over 65): seven to eight hours.

What about power naps?

A short day time nap of under 40 minutes can refresh you – but nap for any longer and you may be raising your risk of metabolic syndrome, the medical name for a number of symptoms that can lead to heart disease including high blood pressure, excess fat around your middle and high blood sugar and cholesterol, according to new research from the University of Tokyo.

How to sleep better

Unfortunately, insomnia, difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep long enough to feel refreshed, affects one in three people.

But there are some simple ways to sleep better including:

  • Sticking to a set time for bedtime and getting up – even at weekends and on holiday.
  • Keeping your bedroom cool and dark with no light pollution, a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Practising a winding-down routine with a warm bath, relaxing music and a milky drink before bedtime.
  • Saving worrying for daylight hours. Write down what’s worrying you and block it out when you’re in bed.
  • Avoiding heavy meals, too much alcohol and smoking for two to three hours before bedtime.
  • Getting treatment for medical conditions that wake you at night including joint pain, restless legs syndrome, cramps and nocturnal trips to the loo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why you need to stay hydrated

Why you need to stay hydrated

If you’re a runner or gym bunny it’s probably already on your radar that you need to keep your fluid levels topped up before, during and after exercise, but even the most sedentary of office workers need to take care to keep hydrated, too.

Dehydration is a growing problem

Surprisingly, despite our cool and wet climate, dehydration is a growing problem in the UK; a survey by the National Hydration Council revealed dehydration was the cause of tiredness and fatigue in one in 10 GP consultations for the complaint. And hospital admissions for dehydration rose by 57 per cent between 2003 and 2013/14.

Dehydration and exercise

Research has found it’s not uncommon for athletes to lose six to 10 per cent of their body weight due to water loss during strenuous events. But even being as little as two per cent dehydrated can affect performance. Visit the Amplify Shop for a great range of hydration products you can take on board whilst training.

Athletes are especially vulnerable to dehydration at the beginning of a new season when they are not acclimatised to changing weather conditions or sudden increases in activity levels.

How much do you need to drink?

Drinking enough fluids is something most of us don’t think about enough especially when we’re busy. We rely on our thirst sensation to prompt us to top-up but experts warn this is unreliable because by the time we feel thirsty we’re already dehydrated.

Official guidelines from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends an intake of 2.5 litres of water (fluid) for men and 2.0 litres of fluid for women per day, via food and drink. EFSA says of this 2.5 or 2 litres a day, 70 to 80 per cent should come from drinks, and the rest from food.

Obviously, there are lots of variables – if you exercise, you’re advised to drink extra fluids, for example, a large glass of water (200ml) for every 45 minutes of exercise as a rough guide. You may need to drink more if you’re working out in hot weather though and the extra intake you may need will depend on your body size and how intensely you exercise.

If you’re pregnant you need to drink an extra 0.3 litres of water a day and 0.7 litres more a day is you are breastfeeding – on top of the normal 2 litres a day recommended.

Does it matter what you drink? 

The short answer is not really… Water is the healthiest option as it is calorie and fat-free, but tea and coffee are okay as well but bear in mind they can have a mild diuretic effect and make you pass more urine if you drink a lot of them. Alcohol has a dehydrating effect too, so it you are on a boozy night out, try to drink water between refills.

How do you know you are dehydrated?

Water makes up for 75 per cent of our body weight and performs several vital functions in the body including carrying nutrients and waste products, controlling body temperature, lubricating moving parts and acting as a shock absorber for joints. It also makes up 73 per cent of the brain.

This is why the symptoms of being dehydrated are quite literally felt throughout the body and include headaches, concentration problems, tiredness , dry eyes, constipation, greater susceptibility to urinary tract infections such as cystitis and kidney stones, as well as migraines.

Severe symptoms

More severe symptoms include a rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, not passing urine for eight hours, feeling tired or confused, a weak pulse , sunken eyes, semi-consciousness, dry skin which sags slowly back into position when pinched, cold hands and feet and seizures. These symptoms need urgent medical attention, usually rehydration on an IV drip in hospital.