Are You Staying Hydrated? Why Hydration Is So Important For Performance.

Are You Staying Hydrated? Why Hydration Is So Important For Performance.

Hydration both when exercising, and not exercising, is important. The human body can go weeks without food but only days without water.  We need fluid for many bodily functions including regulating body temperature, moving waste products and nutrients through the body. Throughout the day we are always losing fluid in ways we cannot really measure such as through breathing, small amounts through the skin and also our urine. We don’t need to be surgically attached to a water bottle day and night, but we all need to be more aware of how much we are drinking.

Fluid Performance

In simple terms, to remain hydrated during light activity to marathon training, you need to drink enough fluids to match what you are losing. It is hard to advise a generic daily intake, though many may hear a general estimation of having 6-8 cups of water a day as a starting point. How much fluid we need though is governed by so many factors such as environment, length and intensity of exercise, metabolic rate and even genetics. Training for a marathon, your fluid needs will be higher than those that don’t exercise. On the days you train, you will need more fluid than on the days you don’t.

Day to day hydration basics

One really clear, straight forward indicator to show us if we are hydrated enough or not is the simple colour of out wee. When I go to the loo and it is clear, I feel a smug sense of achievement. The reality is, most of us can’t maintain that all the time. There are certainly external factors that will determine how much fluid we require, such as our environment or personal factors related to body size, the amount we exercise or how much we naturally sweat. You need to make sure you are drinking enough to keep your fluid balance, and writing it down or tracking it on an app is worthwhile.

Let’s keep it simple, and discuss the day to day. Keep an eye on the colour of your urine. Is it relatively clear or dark? Simply by monitoring this you know you need to drink more or you are hydrating well. When you wake up have a glass of water before your breakfast. Make sure you have a drink at each meal and carry a water bottle with you when you go out so you always have fluid with you. If you are training that day, when you get back from your session drink 250 – 500mls of water depending on session effort.  Continue to drink little and often until your urine is straw coloured. This indicates good hydration. Good news as well, teas and coffee in moderation also count towards your daily fluid requirements. They do not dehydrate as common thought says, so you can drink them guilt free, as long as you keep out the sugar!

How hydration affects performance

As during the day, how much fluid we need during our long runs can vary hugely between individuals.

The American College of Science and Medicine’s main message is that the goal of drinking during exercise is to prevent excessive dehydration and excessive changes in electrolyte balance to avoid decreased performance.  You can do this by listening to your body and drinking to thirst, or by estimating sweat rate so you can gauge the exact amount of fluid lost and therefore have know how much fluid to drink to match your losses during exercise. It must be noted though, sweat rate can vary from day-to-day and if you are serious about determining your fluid requirements, you will need to estimate your sweat rate under different conditions and exercise intensities (see end of blog on calculations). Methods include tracking pre and post-body mass or simply checking urine colour.

Water or Sports Drinks?

Studies have shown that flavoured drinks that contain carbohydrate and sodium enhance intake and fluid absorption. This makes sports drinks ideal. Sodium should always be ingested when large salt losses occur, e.g. those with a high sweat rate, exercise over 2 hours, or very “salty” sweat. Water is still fine, but it won’t stimulate fluid intake in the same way and therefore a more planned approach to drinking may benefit to ensure consumption matches requirements.

Top Tips

  • Fluid requirements are highly individual.
  • Drink when you get up and regularly during the day.  
  • Tea and coffee also count!
  • Continue to drink little and often to maintain hydration
  • If you stay hydrated during the day, you will start your exercise hydrated
  • Rehydrate after exercise to replace fluid lost through sweat during exercise

During Exercise

  • DO NOT drink at rates great than sweat loss.
  • Drinking during exercise is not always necessary, but if you are doing a long run or it is particularly hot, sweat rate will be increased, therefore, taking on fluids during activity will help prevent dehydration and symptoms related to it.
  • For longer duration (over 1hr) sports drinks are ideal as they not only hydrate well due to added electrolytes, but they also provide carbohydrate
  • Sodium should be included in fluids that are lasting longer than 1-2 hours where sweat loss has been high.

Race day

  • Start the race hydrated, having little and often during the morning (300-600ml) In endurance races, drink early and taking ‘little and often’ is better than large doses
  • Do not over drink, weight gain after exercise shows an increased risk for hyponatremia
  • If it is hotter than you are used to on race day, be prepared to slow your pace, as drinking more fluid won’t necessarily cool you down
  • After the race you need to drink 150 % of fluid lost (if 1kg weight is lost, you need to drink 1.5 litres) over the next one to two hours and then little and often through the remainder of the day.

What are SMART Training goals, and How To Set Them

What are SMART Training goals, and How To Set Them

We all want to achieve something when it comes to fitness and training, and likely lie in bed at night thinking about it, visualising we’d done it. But, many of us put up mental barriers to this achievement or end up letting life or other commitments get in the way. A dream of hiring a wizard or genie, and then going back to bed hoping those achievements will magically manifest through no hard graft, may float across your apathetic psyche. But this would also make you delusional. Wizards? Come on.
What is feasible, however, is breaking the overwhelming tasks into bite-size portions you can chomp away at over time, giving you a much better chance of success in the long run!

Setting the right training goals will be the answer to your success and progression. But, when sitting down – notebook and pen in hand – this can sometimes be very hard to formulate by yourself without a structure. SMART Training goals are the fundamental starting point for any decent coach (worth their salt) and their athlete or client. Starting off on the right foot is important. Discussing and setting agreed goals with someone who supports you will ensure you have a fair chance at understanding what is expected of you.

SMART Training goals

We use SMART as an acronym for the below words. It provides the fundamental building blocks for athletic programming, however is completely applicable for goal setting in any area of your personal or working life.


As a coach I heard the following, “I want to train more often and get stronger”, “I just don’t want to be fat anymore”, “I want to run fast”. These are great statements which drive the emotive powers in you to succeed, however they are very hard to analyse progress against. By making these aims more specific goals, you’ll be able to track progress and any gains you make.

For example – “I want to get stronger at deadlifts”.


There are a lot of variables when it comes to sport and fitness, so setting a goal which is easy to measure will help you in the long run. Apps and fitness trackers are ideal for this element as they allow you to monitor your own progress through the dashboards and feedback. Giving yourself numeric or data led measurable factors can help you fully understand what you want to achieve and how to improve. For example, “I want to run a faster 10k” or “I want to increase my deadlift from 40kg to 80kg”. These are very trackable, allowing you to break these goals down even further to understand what you need to do each week or each session.  


Nobody likes feeling like they’ve let themselves down or underperformed, it feeds negative thought patterns and can really knock confidence. You’d be surprised to know how many times I have witnessed this in the fitness industry alone, and I’m sure other coaches feel the same.

I once trained a woman whose former PT had her carrying a huge lunchbox everywhere, intaking 6 meals a day like a pro bodybuilder. She had 3 children, a partner who worked away 4 days a week and was caring for an unwell parent. And why did this PT do it? Because that’s what worked for him. In fitness, one size definitely doesn’t fit all. We must always look at the unique conditions surrounding each individual’s personal life situation and their needs. She was getting so demotivated and demoralised with this way of living, feeling like she was always falling short of what was expected of her. She became extremely stressed and started feeling more negatively about her body because she felt the physique she wanted was never within reach.

To me, that former PT was not only robbing her blind, but kicking her in the process. We soon had her on a normal ‘real meal’ plan that coincided perfectly with busy family life, reduced food waste and was a ‘food first approach’ to vitamin and macronutrient intake. Unsurprisingly, she began making great progress. She had more time to spend on fitting in extra home workouts, alongside being less stressed and therefore being a happier Mum for her kids. Give yourself a fighting chance and ensure you can feasibly achieve your goals.

For example: “I want to lose 3kg of fat in 6 months, to make running easier on my joints” This is a totally achievable, healthy goal.

Realistic & Relevant

We’d all like to be faster than Usain Bolt, (…or Rachel Atherton in my case, look her up) but there are just going to be goals that are outside of our genetic potential or natural physical talent. Now, it’s not to say that you shouldn’t dream big, honestly, I urge you to dream big.  Just give yourself a fair chance to attain the goal. If you can plan and visualise exactly what you need to do with hard work and commitment to reach the goal, then it’s likely it’s realistic. For example, you may need to put on a bit of muscle or lose some body fat first, but if it’s done healthily and is realistic for your body mass, then you’re onto a winner. A respectable coach can help you do the math and calculate how much is correct for you in the time span you’re working with, and taking into account the relevance of this goal to your personal abilities.

For example: “I want to squat over my bodyweight”. For someone with a healthy musculoskeletal structure, this is doable. For some, it could take 6 weeks, for some 2 years. It totally depends where you’re starting from, and needs to remain relevant to your own fitness journey. But, this goal can be broken down into more manageable chunks, such as adding 2.5kg to the bar each week for example, using a traditional 5×5 weightlifting method. Therefore making it realistic and relevant.


Ahh the old clincher, when are you going to do it and how long will it take? Remember all the above points fresh in your mind when you decide the time frame you are going to set. All those ‘crazy fools in the gym over Christmas’ know full well that that’s when the hard work for their summer body begins. Chances are, they will be the ones grinning in a budgie smuggler, six pack gleaming with a well earned Mai Tai in hand, over last-minute Larrys who signed up to the gym 3 weeks before their flight to Ibiza. Give yourself a chance to train long enough for your goal so that it is feasible to do. It sounds brutally obvious, but I could count on far more than 2 hands the amount of times people have given me a goal that’s 6 weeks away. Impending brides and grooms being the worst offenders! No, Jeff, I cannot halve your bodyweight in one thirtieth of the time it’s taken you to put the weight on because you’ve just had a very late suit fitting. No amount of expert programming, or perfect marathon training, can work magic like that.

Remember that your body needs time to adapt to training levels, different dietary intakes, different routines around training and different methods of training. Planning as far as you can ahead will increase your chances of success hugely!

For example: “I want to run a marathon in under 4 hours in 6 months time”

By Tess Underhill, Content Manager, Personal Trainer and two wheel enthusiast.

Fight The Fads

Fight The Fads

In this day and age we have more information than we could ever want. We are informed and rich with knowledge. However, there can be such a thing as too much information.

Nutrition is something that many claim to be an expert on. If someone finds a diet that works for them, such as gluten free or no carbs, they talk about it and sing its praises for its life changing effects. This is great (for them), but many jump on the bandwagon, follow suit and expect the same life changing effects to occur to them. This won’t happen!

Here are some useful things to remember when being faced with the decision to follow suit, or carve your own path!

1. Nutrition is individual

We are all different. Although there is a tonne of science to guide us on what to eat and what’s healthy, remember, we are all individuals and will react differently to food intake.  Nutrition advice should be personalised to each and every one of us, what works for one may not work for you. Just because your friend has lost weight eating a particular diet, does not mean that it will be the healthiest thing for your body and meet your unique activity needs.

2. Nutrition advice should NOT be anecdotal

Is the article you are reading based on a personal journey or proven facts? Although it’s great to hear of wonderful success stories, they aren’t useful. Beware of “anecdotal advice”. This means the advice is based on personal observation, case study reports or random investigations rather than scientific evaluation. Be information savvy!

3. Nutrition advice should not be faddy – it should be life long

If it sounds too good to be true then it normally is!

We are all attracted to things that promise a quick fix. Jumping on the latest fad or craze won’t produce what they promise. Small, considered changes are more likely to be the answer to your problems. Dietary changes should never make you feel deprived and it should never feel like a big effort. Also, maintaining the right nutrition intake for you over time will promote lasting effects, rather than ‘Yo-yo dieting’ between fad diets which can harm your metabolism or cause health issues in the long term.

4. Scientifically proven?

“Scientifically proven” doesn’t mean it’s true. Read articles with an inquisitive eye and ask yourself some questions such as, is it a sponsored article promoting a product? Are they trying to sell you something? Additionally, not all scientific papers produce legitimate results. Is the claim based on a single study or a few? Is the study on animals not humans?

If you are really keen to follow up on the science, look for studies that are randomised, double blinded placebo-controlled trials.

5. What qualifications do they have?

Ensure you listen to those that have the right qualifications. Keep in mind anyone can call themselves a nutritionist as it is a protected title. Look for a Registered Dietitian or Registered Nutritionist affiliated with the nutrition society. If you have particular dietary needs, or are undertaking specific exercise and activities requiring dietary adaptations, it is always wise to go and see a professional so they can best support and inform you further.

Take home fact!

Nutritional education should allow you to change eating behaviours which will be long term and sustainable, rather than short lived fads and reaction to anecdotal advice, which will not provide a holistic approach to your personalised nutrition.

Written by registerd dietician Alex Cook, @thesportsdietician for Amplify Life

Overcoming Anxious Thoughts and Self-Doubt.

Anxiety, overthinking, self-doubt, negative mindset, intrusive thoughts… all terms that have now become much more commonplace in conversations within the last few years with the rise in open communication about mental health. I’ve wrestled with them all in various ways, and in many situations been slammed down by them, KO’ed and left staring in the mirror wondering how I got so beaten up. The worst thing? It really never needed to be that way. I’ve learned some effective methods (mostly the hard way) of how to combat those negative, self-doubting voices creeping in and succeeding, and I hope they can help you too on your own journey.


These negative mindsets affect your capacity to make rational decisions and perform to your natural ability. I call them gremlins, or brain chimps. You can miss out on really amazing life opportunities and situations due to them, and you can’t get that time back. Put your hand up if at some point you’ve literally heard these inner fears manifest into horrible little chatty gremlins, telling you why you won’t be able to do something. Guessing you’ve all got your hands up. It sucks, is demoralising and can become increasingly exhausting and overwhelming to deal with regardless of whether you hear them in your day to day life, at work or during sport and exercise.

So how do we face them? Do a Sméagol and screech “Go away and never come back!”. Well, kinda, but using your inside voice, and not sat on a rock wearing only a rag round your middle which isn’t that socially acceptable in most places. (Apart from maybe Swindon.)

My story? 4 years ago I trained as a Personal Trainer, and also simultaneously learned how to ride a mountain bike, and it quite possibly saved my mental health. This is not a “go do something that scares you and you’re cured of all anxiety forever” type of article, but I’ll use my life experiences to show you why this methodology of dealing with those pesky brain chimps is genuinely effective. No one wants to not be able to seize life by the horns because of their own noisy brain, and you don’t have to.

Acknowledge the thoughts. Don’t suppress them.

Imagine the thoughts as a person. Then label that person an emotional state that is causing the things to be said. Fear, jealousy, self loathing. Once you have identified them, you have separated them from yourself. They are not you.

When I used to arrive at a bike park, I’d see a bunch of (seemingly) mega confident blokes all getting their bikes ready. I would instantly start the negative spiral of “what the hell are you doing here, you’re fairly slow and people are going to laugh at you”. So before I’d even got on my bike and faced the roots, I was already battling some obstacles. By identifying these voices as fear, and not my own voice, I could in a way feel like I could answer back and say “Not today mate I want to have fun, sod off”. It takes some time to get used to doing, but it does work.

Proper preparation, leads to proper performance.

Think back to the morning of your exams in school. The exams where you had actually been far more preoccupied with sport/seeing friends/bebo/myspace/puberty/gigs/msn, and knew you hadn’t put in as much work for possibly other more favoured subjects. Walking into the exam hall with sweaty palms and the feeling of impending doom. All down to poor preparation. This feeling feeds the gremlins, and makes their voices louder and harder to eradicate.

When I turn up to a race I undoubtedly get the gremlins on the brain radio, especially when I’m racing steeper, more technical tracks with jumps where there’s a bigger risk of injury. However, because I know I have prepared my bike and my kit, done my strength and conditioning in the gym to keep me strong and primed for what I physically need to do, there’s no extra doubt for me to feed the gremlins. When they start the usual narrative I can just stop it right then and there, knowing I’m physically capable to perform the task, and the rest will come down to talent (or lack thereof) and luck. So when I hear “what if you crash”, I can say, “There’s no reason why I can’t get down, I’m capable”. It’s the same principle if you’ve got a big scary meeting at work coming up, if you’ve prepared what you need to take in, have done your research and truly know the agenda, even an intimidating boardroom dragon can’t catch you out. Which brings me onto my next point.

There’s a difference between what you can affect, and what you can’t.

Don’t sweat the stuff you can’t change. And for what you can change, take steps to affect the variables that lead up to a situation where you know there’s a potential for you to doubt yourself and feel anxious. Subconsciously resigning yourself to what will be and what you can’t change, will help you take deeper breaths and lower your heart rate. This will relieve feelings of tension and anxiety, and distance yourself in your mind from harmful voices intending to block your rational thinking.

I can’t change whether the weather or conditions are going to be horrendous during a race, whether there are people out there naturally faster than me that can beat me, or whether I have been able to memorise tracks enough in the little practice time I’ve had to not crash (they mostly all become a blur anyway). So I’ve learnt to not obsess over these and let what will be, be. However, I can change into the right clothing and protective kit, change the psi in my tyres, my suspension settings, my attitude to the track and nutritional intake to help me perform all day. Acceptance of the things you can’t change also massively helps you have more FUN. Which is why we do these stupid, crazy dangerous sports in the first place right?

(…you can tell I was an ‘interesting’ child to raise, my poor poor mother.)

Write things down!

Don’t underestimate the power of putting pen to paper, or nowadays, thumbs to screen. I have an exercise for you that someone did with me years ago, and I’ve done, since, with college students I’ve given talks to about their future career options. It’s powerful, do it.

  1. Write down the main thing, or things, you want to achieve, as if this was future you and you HAVE achieved them. Imagine you have, feel the satisfaction of how proud and happy it would make you feel.
  2. Write next to each thing a reason why you feel you can’t or won’t achieve them. Be totally honest about your fears and reservations about yourself. Writing them out and seeing the words can sometimes be very surprising and almost painful, as it’s visualising the horrible brain chimps comments of self doubt. It’s not nice, and you see how ridiculous they can be which again reaffirms that those thoughts are separate from you as a being. You wouldn’t say these things to someone else, (unless you’re not particularly nice), so why let them be said to yourself.
  3. Write next to that reason whether you can change it or not. For those you can’t change, smile and wave the worries away. For what you can change, use it as an actions list to get cracking on and do what you need to do. Having imagined the feelings of achievement, imagining someone taking that feeling away from you is gutting. Don’t let your own mind be the reason that is taken away from you.

Congratulate yourself on your achievements!

No one likes a bragger, but truly don’t be afraid to give yourself a big pat on the back when you succeed. When I started riding mtb  or lifting weights, the smallest thing would feel like such a huge win, let alone the bigger stuff like standing on a podium. When I was driving home I would have a think, or a debrief chat with my friends about how pleased I was when I finally cleared that bigger jump, or increased my squat PB by 5kg. They don’t have to be monumental, but keeping things in mind when you start to doubt yourself will give you more positive ammo to load up your gremlin cannon with. You’ve earned it, and your strength will continue to grow through your persistence of what you want to achieve.

Don’t compare yourself to others.

You are your own person, and circumstances for success will be different for everyone. Through following the above points, you’ll remind yourself of your own goals and recipes for good performance. It’s fine to use other people to aspire to and use for motivation. But, don’t measure your success directly in line with theirs. Also, remembering again your teenage years, everyone was so preoccupied with their own body concerns and embarrassments, that you barely noticed anyone else even existed. No one else truly cares about your failures, but you. Which finally brings me on to…

Failure is learning.

So you didn’t win against the gremlins this time, didn’t prepare enough or you failed due to external forces that you couldn’t change. Learn from it. Accept you are human, imperfectly beautiful, and that it is a journey. Acknowledge what you could have changed, and again use that as your motivation for next time. The times I’ve driven away from a bike park feeling horrendous because the fear got the best of me and I didn’t have the metaphorical ‘cajones’ to do something, I could count on more than my hands. Use this feeling as your comeback to the gremlins next time they give you a hard time – so what if you fail? You tried. Knowing you tried reinforces your strength in character and no one can take that away from you. Especially not the gremlins!  

Why is Vitamin D Intake So Important?

Why is Vitamin D Intake So Important?

Sometimes called the “Sunshine Vitamin”, Vitamin D is involved in so many physiological functions, when looking at the detail, you almost wonder if there is anything this vitamin doesn’t do!  It has received increased attention in the last 10 years, with many people taking daily supplements as part of their everyday routine.

Vitamin D is normally obtained through exposure of the skin to UVB through sunlight. This is great in the summer months, but during the winter, when days are shorter and exposure to sun is less, we run the risk of developing a Vitamin D deficiency. This is quite widespread in those that live in northern latitudes where sunlight levels are lower, including little old us here in GB! Another great reason to lap up any winter sunshine when it appears, let alone because it makes training or being outdoors much less bracing!

The variations of Vitamin D deficiency status between individuals can also be seen as a result of dietary intake, clothing worn during exercise and overall lifestyle (30). Whatever the reason for Vitamin D deficiency, it can have a significant effect on not only sporting performance but more importantly overall health and wellbeing.


Why do we need Vitamin D?

Vitamin D plays many vital roles in our body. The most renowned is its role in aiding the absorption of dietary calcium, and subsequent role in maintaining bone health. So, without Vitamin D present, we don’t absorb as much or any calcium from what we eat and drink, missing out on its vital benefits without realising. It also plays a crucial role in muscle function, recovery, and repair. A study in the Journal of Physiology showed that supplementing with 4000IU/day of Vitamin D had a positive effect on recovery following a bout of damaging eccentric exercise (31).

Vitamin D also plays an important role in immune function.  A study in 2011 looked at Vitamin D levels in college athletes over the winter and spring. It showed that those athletes with Vitamins D levels less than 95 n.mol.1 experienced one or more episodes of upper respiratory tract infection compared to those with higher concentrations of measured Vitamin D.


Where can I get Vitamin D from and how much should I take?

Vitamin D exists in very few foods, but mainly oily fish, red meat, liver, eggs yolks and fortified foods such as cereal and spreads). As a result, it’s very hard to meet daily requirements through food consumption alone. The Department of Health recommends taking a daily supplement of 10 micrograms  (400 IU) through the winter months and all year round if you are not outside very often or you wear clothes that cover you up when outdoors.

If you are deficient you may need to supplement with more, however, as there are not clear signs to look out for it is hard to judge. General signs such as recurrent injury, fatigue and muscle soreness can be warning signals but hard to identify, as a lot of athletes can feel like this simply as a result of training.  Rather than guessing, the best way to find out is having a blood test. This can give you a clear answer on whether you need to supplement or not and will be advised by your Dr or dietitian as to what level to take. Although rare, as Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin (excess amounts get stored, rather than excreted) there is always a chance that you can obtain too much Vitamin D if you supplement with high levels without a clear reason to. Although we know maintaining Vitamin D levels within the recommended amount is beneficial for our health and athletic performance, it is still unproven that Vitamin D supplementation is a direct performance enhancer.


Vitamin D’s effects on Cardiorespiratory Fitness (CRF)

Vitamin D also plays an important role in immune function, especially if you’re active.  A study in 2011 looked at Vitamin D levels in college athletes over the winter and spring. It showed that those athletes with Vitamin D levels less than 95 n.mol.1 experienced one or more episodes of upper respiratory tract infection compared to those with higher concentrations of measured Vitamin D.

Additionally, a recent study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology looked into a link between Vitamin D and cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF). They tested the blood of 2000 subjects to determine their Vitamin D levels compared to their VO2 max (a marker of cardiorespiratory fitness showing how efficiently your body utilises oxygen).

They found that those in the higher quartile of Vitamin D levels had significantly higher VO2 max levels, compared to those in the lower quartile. This suggested an association between CRP fitness and Vitamin D levels. However, it is a bit of a chicken and egg scenario as the researchers are still yet to conclude from this if CRF is better because of higher Vit D levels, or if Vit D levels are better because of higher CRF.

The general consensus is that Vitamin D deficiency can affect athletic performance, but it is still unknown if Vit D supplementation in those that are not deficient will have the same effects on performance and recovery as those that have a proven Vit D deficiency. More studies on this are needed.


Article by Alex Cook, The Sports Dietician



Top Winter Riding Safety Tips from Our Cycling Expert, Jonny Bellis

Top Winter Riding Safety Tips from Our Cycling Expert, Jonny Bellis

Riding in the winter is key to maintaining a good level of fitness and setting you up for the next season. However, it can be dangerous as the nights draw in and the weather turns cold, wet and windy. Staying safe on the road is key, and the last thing you want is an incident or a bad experience to derail your season preparation!

Here are my top tips for riding safely in the winter and making the most of your time in the saddle!

  • Lights – lights on the front (white) and back (red) of your bike are crucial to ensuring you are visible out on the road. Chances are if you’re commuting you will be doing so in the dark, as daylight hours are reduced. Similarly if you are on the club run at the weekend, foggy, misty, or overcast conditions are more likely in the winter months. Strong lights to show what’s ahead will make your rides safer, as well as making vehicles aware of you on the road.
  • Training indoors – on the indoor trainer (turbo or rollers), wattbike or similar. If it is icy, pouring with rain, snowy, frosty or below 3C, you reduce the risk of illness and crashing by training indoors. Turbo trainers are a great tool for training – allowing you to do controlled efforts while staying warm, dry and comfortable. You can get as much benefit from a 50 minute ride with efforts indoors, as you can from a two hour road ride in the cold, where you will be taking risks. No dirty bike to wash too, bonus!
  • Winter kit – You need to be prepared for all types of weather when riding in the winter. Warm gloves are key to ensuring you have feeling in your hands to brake and change gear. A warm, waterproof jacket is also a great bit of kit, as is a thermal baselayer to wear under your jersey. You could also take a rain cape for your back pocket, just in case of showers. It’s wise to wear a buff around your neck, to keep your neck and chest warm, especially for if you stop and don’t want your body temperature to drop too much. This can also be pulled up around the face to minimise the amount of cold air you are breathing in.
  • Roads – Due to bad weather, the condition of roads may be compromised so extra care is needed. As I mention in my beginner 12-week plan, look out for potholes or cracks in the road, and identify them to the group you are riding with. Some potholes may be covered with water or leaves and simply look like a puddle, so try to maintain concentration and be aware. Signalling the road surface is even more important riding in groups, to ensure everyone stays upright. Roads may also be more slippery so cornering and stopping needs to be done with extra care. Don’t grab your brakes, and when cornering, go a little more slowly in and out of the bends.
  • Winter Tyres! – During the winter months, with bad weather conditions and poor road surface, you have the option to change to a more durable tyre. Tyre brands will all have several winter options that are generally heavier, grippier and thicker, to reduce the likelihood of punctures or skidding.
  • Fuelling on the bike – You will burn more calories on the bike when you are cold as your body works harder to stay warm. Therefore fuelling sufficiently on the bike is crucial to ensuring you can enjoy longer rides in the winter. Even though it is cold you still need to drink and make sure you eat a good mix of carbohydrate and protein every 30 minutes to keep your resources topped up. 


Riding in the winter is tough and it’s hard to stay motivated when the weather is grim and there are less hours of light to ride in. However, you will be grateful for the winter miles next summer when the sun is shining and you’re feeling fit – so enjoy riding your bike, and with these tips you can stay safe out on the roads too!

Article by Jonny Bellis OLY – Former professional road cyclist with Team Saxo Bank, and elite private coach. 

Jonny Bellis was one of Britain’s most promising, up and coming cyclists; a member of the GB squad with the likes of Mark Cavendish, Sir Bradley Wiggins and Sir Chris Hoy and part of the world’s number one professional road team, Team Saxo Bank. When Jonny won bronze in the Under 23 World Road Race in 2007, he became the first British male rider to medal in over 40 years and also represented Team GB in the 2008 Beijing Olympics at the age of just 19.

His burgeoning career took a monumental detour after a horror scooter accident in 2009. He spent 3 weeks in an induced coma, contracted repeat life-threatening infections, suffered a stroke and was told he’d be paralysed from the neck down. In just over a year after this tragedy and after a gruelling recovery process, he incredibly made it back to the start line at the top of his game at the Tour of Britain. He retired in 2015 and now inspires the next generation as a coach. He provides a true and unique depth of experience and we’re proud to have him on board as our cycling expert.

Download the Amplify Life app for free to follow Jonny’s expert plans and get stuck into your training journey! To speak to Jonny directly about 1-1 coaching you can contact him through his website below.

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

Green Vegetable Salad

Key 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


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


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


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


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)

saskia-van-manen-558622-unsplash.jpgKey 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

james-sutton-207988-unsplash.jpgKey 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)


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


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


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.

Getting Carbs Right for Sport

Getting Carbs Right for Sport

Runners love pasta parties, and endurance athletes are fuelled by gels and sweets, but do we need to rethink our relationship with carbs for the best performance? Runner and coach, Fiona Bugler and sports nutritionist Lucy Ann Prideaux report.

The movement to ‘train low carb and race high carb’ has gathered momentum in recent years amongst triathletes, cyclists – and even runners! And former carb fans, such as world renowned running expert, Tim Noakes, author of the The Lore of Running have had a complete change of view, saying excess amounts of carbs (especially high GI, sugary and refined carbs), are not good for runners and that sugar and processed food is responsible for the obesity epidemic and shocking rises in diseases such as diabetes (Diabetes doubles in twenty years ) found that there is 3.7 Million people living with diabetes in the UK.

Carb diet options for athletes

So how does the ‘traditional’ endurance athlete’s high-carb diet work? The body will easily adapt to a high-carb diet, becoming highly efficient at metabolizing carbohydrates for energy. In a long run or race for example, a runner may top up with energy-boosting carb gels. If they don’t have gels, they may under perform not because carbs are the only answer, but because their body has adapted to carbohydrate metabolism, burns carbs quickly, and needs regular top-ups. It expects to receive regular amounts of glucose to continue making energy.

The theory goes on that if you train the body to use fat when you run you do not need to be loading up with extra carbs. However, some athletes find that during this transition period, when relying too much on burning fat as fuel it’s harder to move faster or step up a gear, as the body can’t make energy quickly enough, and they run out of juice during training – and catastrophically, on race day. Many opt to ‘train low’ on carbs (50 per cent fats, 25 per cent carbs, and 25 per cent protein) for five to 10 days. Then, one to three days before a race, they opt for carb-loading with 80 per cent of their food coming from carbohydrates, 10 per cent from fat, and 10 per cent from protein, and take carbs on board during the race, i.e. ‘race high’.

We still need carbs – but watch your GI score

Carbs do supply readily available energy for performance but it’s important that the carbs we eat are healthy and we understand that not all carbs are equal. Carbohydrates are ranked using a scoring system called the glycemic index (GI). The GI score of a food is based on the rate at which it breaks down into sugar (glucose), how fast it is absorbed, and consequently how quickly is raises levels of blood glucose.

High GI Carbohydrates breakdown quickly during digestion, and release glucose into the blood very quickly.

Examples: processed ‘white’ foods, pure sugar, and energy gels.

✗Eating too many high GI foods can block the ability to burn fat.

✗High GI foods don’t fill you up and you’ll get hungry again quickly.

✓High GI food can provide fast-energy replenishment or be used during exercise – e.g. energy gels.

Low GI Carbohydrates breakdown slowly, releasing their glucose gradually into the blood stream.

Examples: Apples, pears, plums, oranges, grapefruits, raspberries, blueberries, kiwis, fresh figs; brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, barley, a few wholegrain breads such as dark whole rye bread, soy/linseed bread, and vegetables.

✓Provide longer-lasting energy, and a more sustained feeling of fullness, therefore aid in fat loss.

✓Generally, these foods are higher in fibre and nutrients, too.


The ultimate solution and best diet for athletes, is one that is flexible and includes moderate amounts of healthy carbohydrates balanced with quality proteins and essential fats. During periods of intense training, and leading up to long endurance events, the athlete should increase the amount of carbs, based on their particular energy expenditure, and their response to carbohydrates. Trial and error is necessary to a degree, and eventually the individual finds the perfect amount for them to train, recover, and race successfully.


5 Ways to Kick Start Your Motivation

5 Ways to Kick Start Your Motivation

You’ve committed to getting fitter and healthier, and you are full of enthusiasm at the moment to get started in the New Year right? However, you have a track record of dropping out when life gets in the way, and are worried it will happen again.
Here are our tactics to help you stay on track and succeed in your journey.

  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 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. You can have excuses or results, not both!
  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. Being able to go back and look at what you were doing when things were going really well for you is invaluable, you can use it as motivation to get you back on track and as a blueprint of personal success.

Staying motivated

  • Dangle the carrot: If you respond to bribery, promise yourself rewards for your exertions. If you smash that weekend class you’ve been meaning to get to or run a certain distance – reward yourself with a big meal, a luxurious bath, or put some money towards a sports massage each time you hit your goals.
  • 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 or make a killer Spotify playlist, and see your motivation rise!
  • 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, 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, more about your physiological needs and what to eat. Our Amplify Life expert training plans and coaching advice will give you extra support as you face the new year full steam ahead!

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.