2016/08/23 19:49:06
James Leave a comment


This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker August 2009 edition
The nectarine (Prunus persica var. nectarine) is a smooth-skinned peach of the family Rosaceae, known for more than 2,000 years from Chinese origin. They are grown throughout the warmer temperate regions of both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. The word 'nectarine' means sweet as nectar, and this is very likely the obvious origin of the name.

The nectarine is a modern variant of the peach, and trees of both fruits are very similar, but nectarine fruits look more like plums than peaches because of the smooth skin. The stones of the two fruits are alike in appearance. As in peaches, there are clingstone and freestone nectarines. When some peaches are crossed or self-pollinated, the resulting seeds that carry the factor for smooth skin may result in nectarines, so you may see nectarines appear on peach trees as a result of this process. There are more than 150 varieties of nectarines worldwide and 95% of nectarines produced in the USA come from California.

Nectarines have red, yellow or white flesh and are a source of vitamins A and C, fibre, niacin and potassium. They are commonly eaten fresh, or cooked in conserves, jams, and pies. Other ways to enjoy nectarines are:
  • Bake halved nectarines in a pan sprinkled with cinnamon and honey
  • Poached nectarines in fruit juice
  • Puree ripe nectarines with skim milk, low-fat yogurt, or orange juice for a tasty breakfast treat
  • Serve pancakes, waffles or French toast with sliced or chopped nectarines
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2016/08/18 19:02:45
James Leave a comment

The Perfect Tricep Pushdown

This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker July 2009 edition
Tricep pushdowns are a great exercise for the triceps, and if done correctly will isolate the triceps bringing maximum stimulation for growth. However, too many people do not perform them properly; they use too much weight and end up swinging, leaning over too much, bringing the shoulders in or not doing the full movement. Keep the weight lighter and do the exercise fully; this will bring maximum stimulation to the whole triceps muscle.

Attach a straight bar to the top portion of a cable machine. Grab the bar with your palms facing down, less than shoulder-width grip and position the bar at about chest level and slowly lower the bar downward. Make sure to keep your elbows in while extending your arms and have a slight bend in your arms when you reach the bottom of the movement. Do not let your wrists bend back; these too must be kept straight. Squeeze hard at the bottom; even lean into the weight very slightly and push the bar towards the ground to get an extra inch or two of movement for maximum contraction. Slowly let the bar comes back up to the starting position while keeping your elbows in. Keep your lower back arched and your chest out through the movement.

A common error is not controlling the weight on the way up and using momentum on the way down. Tricep pushdowns should be performed slowly and controlled; if you're struggling to do this, lower the weight. Some people lean over the bar as you can move more weight this way; whilst this looks impressive, you're not actually getting full contraction of the triceps and it's a less efficient way of training them.

Performed correctly, truces pushdowns are a very effective mass builder and shaper for all heads of the triceps, although principally working the long head.
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2016/08/13 16:57:15
James Leave a comment

Rhubarb Relish for Chicken - Two Recipes

These recipes were written by Big Les & were originally published in The MuscleTalker May 2009 edition
Recipe 1
750g diced rhubarb
100g sweetener (experiment with this to taste its usually 140g of sugar)
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
250ml cup orange juice
1 or 2 chilli (jalapeno) peppers, seeded and chopped
2 shallots minced

Measurements are approximate - the best way to make this is to experiment. With this recipe you stick it all in a pan, bring to boil, simmer and stir regularly until its relish like (took me about 30mins)

Recipe 2
20g brown sugar
100g sweetener (again experiment for taste)
350g finely-chopped rhubarb
350g finely-chopped onion
250ml malt vinegar
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp freshly-ground black pepper

Once again, stick it in a pan, bring to the boil, simmer and stir regularly until relish like in consistency; again, about 30mins.

Both can be stored in the fridge. They work brilliant with chicken, but also try with baked potato and tuna, on a cheese sandwich, and even on salmon (so I am told!)

More great recipes available in our Muscle Menus ebook available for Kindle at Amazon.
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2016/08/12 19:31:23
James Leave a comment

Echium Oil

This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker June 2009 edition
Over the past months we have been hearing the words 'echium oil' cropping up more and more frequently, so I thought it was time I did some reading to find out what it's all about and if there are any worthwhile nutritional benefits from including it in a diet.

Echium oil is obtained by refining oil extracted from the seeds of Echium plantagineum. Plants of the genus Echium from Macaronesia have a very high amount of the omega-6 fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and the omega-3 fatty acid stearidonic acid (SDA). Omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids are found in many foods such as oily fish, avocados, nuts, seeds, sunflower, rapeseed, flaxseeds / linseeds and olive oils and foods made from these ingredients. Both types of polyunsaturated fatty acids have positive health effects if consumed in the correct balance.

Some omega-3 fatty acids are found in certain vegetable oils, such as linseed / flaxseed, walnut and rapeseed, but these aren't the same type of specific fatty acids as those found in oily fish. Evidence suggests that the type of fatty acids found in vegetable sources may not have the same benefits as those in fish, which is why we're encouraged to consume oily fish at least twice a week. Obviously this is not ideal for vegetarians, but with echium oil there is an alternative. Echium oil is rich in SDA, which is naturally converted to the important long-chain omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in the body, but up to five times more than other botanical omega-3 oils.

Furthermore SDA and GLA have been found to work synergistically to help the body make the beneficial EPA. Research shows that 1g of SDA from echium oil can help the body produce as much as 300mg of EPA (James et al, 2003). It is claimed SDA rich echium is five times more effective at converting to EPA than alpha-linoleic acid from flaxseed oil. Thus echium oil is a great solution for vegetarians and vegans.

Also echium oil has been shown to increase plasma and neutrophil long-chain (n-3) fatty acids and to lower serum triglycerides in hypertriglyceridemic humans. (Surette et al, 2004). In the food industry echium oil has applications as a good ingredient in a range of food products, including milk and yoghurt based drinks, breakfast cereals and nutrition bars and in nutritional supplements.

Echium oil is an ideal nutritional omega-3 and -6 supplement for those who are vegetarian, vegan, allergic to fish or simply can't stand the taste of oily fish, to help boost the levels of the important fatty acids in the diet.

  • Surette et al (2004). Dietary Echium Oil Increases Plasma and Neutrophil Long-Chain (n-3) Fatty Acids and Lowers Serum Triacylglycerols in Hypertriglyceridemic Humans. The American Society for Nutritional Sciences J. Nutr. 134:1406-1411
  • James et al (2003). Metabolism of stearidonic acid in human subjects: comparison with the metabolism of other n-3 fatty acids. Am J Clin Nutr. 77(5):1140-5
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2016/08/11 21:17:07
James 2 comments

3 Ab Exercises

This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker May 2009 edition
The following are three really effective ab exercises to help you achieve rock hard, defined abs. Ab exercises won't spot reduce fat from the belly, but strong abs are will strengthen the torso and help protect your spine.

The bicycle exercise is a great movement to target the rectus abdominis (i.e. the 'six pack') and the obliques (the waist):
  • Lie face up on the floor and lace your fingers behind your head
  • Bring your knees in towards the chest and lift your shoulder blades off the ground without pulling on your neck
  • Straighten your left leg out while simultaneously turning your torso to the right, bringing your left elbow towards your right knee
  • Switch sides, bringing your right elbow towards your left knee
  • Continue alternating sides in a 'pedalling' motion for 12-20 reps

Vertical Leg Crunches
This is another effective movement for the rectus abdominis and the obliques. To do it right:
  • Lie face up on the floor and extend your legs vertically with knees crossed
  • Contract your abs to lift your shoulder blades off the floor, as though reaching your chest towards your feet
  • Keep your legs in a fixed position and imagine bringing your belly button towards your spine at the top of the movement
  • Lower and repeat for 12-20 reps

Exercise Ball Crunches
Exercise balls are excellent pieces of equipment to help strengthen the abs. You can perform crunches on the ball:
  • Lie face-up with the ball resting under your mid/lower back
  • Cross your arms over the chest or place them behind your head
  • Contract your abs to lift your torso off the ball, pulling the bottom of your ribcage down toward your hips
  • As you curl up, keep the ball stable
  • Lower back down, getting a stretch in the abs, and repeat for 12-20 reps
2016/08/09 08:32:31
James 2 comments

Consuming Fruit and Veg in Season

This article was written by James Collier RNutr & was originally published in The MuscleTalker May 2009 edition
We all know fruit and vegetables are good for us, and you've probably heard of the campaign '5 a Day!' encouraging us to consume five servings of fruit and vegetables a day. A mixture of fruit and vegetables needs to be consumed to provide a balance of vitamins, minerals and fibre, and different fruits and veg are higher in different vitamins and minerals; this is why we're advised to mix our colours. For example, oranges are packed with vitamin C, carrots are high in vitamin A, leafy green veg contain iron and vitamin B2, bananas provide potassium and so on.

Eating fruit and veg in season is ideal because with age the content of vitamins and minerals in fruit and veg can be less. The following list gives examples of better fruit and veg choices per season:

Asparagus, cabbage, broccoli, brussels, leaks, parsnips, swede, beans, lettuce, onions, peas, spinach, apples, oranges

Peppers, carrots, sweetcorn, onions, peas, tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries, cherries, peaches, plums, raspberries

Cauliflower, sweetcorn, cucumbers, peppers, cabbage, spinach, apples, cherries, grapes, oranges, pears

Broccoli, brussels, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, spinach, butternut squash, apples, oranges

All-year round:
Bananas, watercress

If you're confused about what one 'portion' is then use this guide:
  • 1 apple, banana, pear, orange or other similar sized fruit
  • 2 plums, satsumas, kiwi fruit or other similar sized fruit
  • ½ a grapefruit or avocado
  • 1 large slice of melon or fresh pineapple
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables, beans or pulses
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of fruit salad or stewed fruit
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of raisins or sultanas
  • 3 dried apricots
  • 1 cupful of grapes, cherries or berries
  • 1 dessert bowl of salad
  • 1 small glass (150ml) of pure fruit juice or smoothie
2016/08/08 15:10:43
James Leave a comment

CrossFit Training

This article was written by Drew Price BSc Masc ACSM Cert RNutr & was originally published in The MuscleTalker April 2009 edition
CrossFit is a combination of conditioning, Olympic and powerlifting, and gymnastics. It means different things to different people: For some it is the hardcore personal training regimen of the US marines and for some it's redemption through exercise. For others it is a spoon fed exercise program that will see you doing too many dangerous things and excelling at nothing. For me CrossFit is firstly an occasional bit of fun but also something that forces me to train differently. When you're a strength and conditioning specialist it's often nice to dump your training onto other people, pulling you out of your bubble and forcing you to do things in a different way. Because of my interest in CF, I was commissioned to write and article for Men's Fitness that saw me talk to the guys running it including Greg Glassman who started the system, and travel to a franchise gym CrossFit, Wyre Forest.

The gym, run by Phil Oliver, bore little resemblance to most UK gyms; a converted barn about 30' by 30' room with a very high roof. All the way down one side was a built in cage for pull-ups with a reinforced bar about 4' from the wall on pillars with various rings and bands hanging off it. Dotted around the other three sides of the room were quality Oly bars, bumper plates, dumbbells, kettlebells (from 6kg to 52kg), medicine balls, slam balls. One Concept-2 Rower and a spin bike were the only machines in residence.

Phil was very friendly, motivated and attentive and the clients, though they came in dreading it all wandered out very tired but very happy. There was a really good group atmosphere and sense of achievement at the end of the session. Regardless of what you think about CrossFit, 'functional training' and metabolic conditioning, etc, it was good to see old guys pushing 40+kg above their heads safely again and again and middle aged women doing pull-ups.

We ran through a full warm up and then did two CF workouts (usually only one is done a day five days a week) 'Fran' and after a short rest 'Karen' (see below). As the photographer was a little late we then went on to do a load of other things like sets of barbell overhead squats and about 100+ kipping pull-ups, kettlebells and finished with some gymnastic ring work. After about 6 weeks layoff with broken ribs I just about survived, a lot of fun and a real breath of fresh air. I look forward to going back there sometime soon.

Training for me was:
  • Warm up
  • 5 rounds
  • 10 air squats
  • 10 press-ups
  • 10 overhead squats (with piping)
  • 10 sit-ups
  • 10 medicine ball cleans

21 reps, 15 reps, 9 reps
45kg thrusters supersetted with bodyweight pull-ups for time (7 mins and some change, pretty average)

This is a massive lung buster, there simply isn't anywhere to breath and of course after 21 reps with 45kg you have to start using the body as a unit transferring power from the legs to the arms which means a tight core and even less time to catch your breath. The pull-ups are just there so you don't get a chance to rest!

150 wall ball throws: full squat down then throwing a 10kg medicine ball from the chest to 12' against a wall and then catching, repeat 149 times more for time: 10 mins 20 something. This is just a 'grit your teeth and go for time' type thing.
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2016/08/05 16:33:53
James Leave a comment

Milk: A New Perspective in its Role in Improving Hydration

This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker April 2009 edition
Milk is known as a popular source of nutrition for growth and good health providing protein, calcium, some vitamins and energy, but there is new research from the University of Loughborough indicating milk has an important role in the rehydration of athletes.

Poor hydration is the most limiting factor for performance, as during sports there can be considerable fluid loss through respiration and sweat. During short less strenuous exercise sessions, loss can be easily recuperated after exercise, but during longer bouts of harder exercise, more specific attention is needed to provide fluid; particularly if you're training twice per day. More information.

Not only do we lose water while exercising, but we continue to afterwards, plus, we also pass urine afterwards as a result of fluids drunk even if we're still below optimal hydration level. This obligatory urine is in order to eliminate waste product of metabolism. So we may need to drink as much as 150% of fluid lost during exercise in order to bring about and maintain rehydration post exercise.

Both the electrolyte and carbohydrate content of fluid drunk around exercise will affect speed of rehydration through the rate of gastric emptying and absorption of fluid. The sugars also provide some energy replenishment and sodium is an important electrolyte for fluid retention.

A study in 2007 (Shirreffs, Watson & Maughan) compared the effectiveness of skimmed milk in restoring hydration levels in athletes compared to water, milk with additional salt added and a commercially available isotonic drink containing carbohydrate and salt. The results showed that skimmed milk produced a significant improvement in rehydration compared to the other drinks. The authors concluded that the 'naturally high electrolyte content of milk (sodium, potassium and chloride) aided in the retention of fluid and the maintenance of euhydration four hours after the end of drinking, although the differences in gastric emptying rates due to the presence of protein and fat in the link cannot be discounted.'

Milk also has the benefits of protein post workout, and the carbohydrate lactose is an important energy and carb store replenisher. Also milk is more tooth friendly than a sports drink which may contain both caries-inducing sugars and acid.

Shirreffs SM, Watson P & Maughan RJ (2007). Milk as an effective post-exercise rehydration drink. Brit J Nutr 98: 173-180
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