2017/03/27 15:31:01
James 1 comment

Lentil Curry

This recipe was created by Big Les and was originally published in The MuscleTalker January 2010 edition
** Ingredients
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion
  • 2 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp finely chopped/grated ginger
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp fenugreek (optional)
  • 150g (6 oz) red lentils
  • 750ml (1¼ pints) vegetable stock (a stock cube is fine)
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • A little salt
  • (For the spices the dried jar versions do the job nicely)

** Directions
  • Chop onion and garlic. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, and fry the onions and garlic with the spices for about 5 minutes over a moderate heat
  • Add lentils, tomatoes and water, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Add more water if it gets too dry and starts to stick to the bottom of the pan
** Information
Serves 4 (ish). You can add veg to this; just remember if you do then you need more stock and slightly more of the spices (it will also make more servings the more you add).

More great recipes available in our Muscle Menus ebook available for Kindle at Amazon.

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2017/03/27 15:24:30
James Leave a comment

Lentils aka Lens culinaris esculenta

This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker January 2010 edition
We have been eating the lentil for over 8000 years and it even makes an Old Testament Appearance when Esau gives up his birthright for a bowl of lentils and some bread. The lentil is a pulse, growing two to a pod in a bushy legume plant that is resistant to drought and easily cultivated in a variety of conditions. The world's largest producer is India, with most of its production used domestically. The second largest producer is Canada, with most coming from the province of Saskatchewan.

You can expect any food that has been cultivated for thousands of years to be a nutritional heavyweight, and the lentil is no exception. It has the third highest protein content of any plant based food; only hemp and soybean have more, and is very low in fat. Consumed as seeds, lentils contain 6 of the 8 essential amino acids, missing only methionine and cysteine, however, once sprouted they contain all 8. In 100g of boiled seeds you get approx 9g of protein, 20g of carbohydrate, less than ½g of fat along with 10g of fiber. Not only do lentils have an outstanding macronutrient profile, they back this up by being excellent sources of potassium, thaimin, folate, manganese, molybdenum, tryptophan and phosphorus; all while being one of the best plant sources of iron around.

The lentil is established as a staple food for vegetarians in many parts of the world, and, as you can see from its nutritional profile, it is worthy of a place on any athlete's plate. Add to their great nutritional profile the fact that lentils are cheap, easily prepared and as dried seed do not spoil, the lentil is an almost perfect food.

Although there are thousands of varieties of lentil you are most likely to see 3: brown, red and green. Brown lentils have their seed coat in place and hold their shape when cooked, red, yellow or orange lentils have their coats removed and have been split. Brown lentils are the least expensive variety. Red lentils cook quickly but do not hold their shape well and are therefore well suited to soups and purée dishes. Finally green, French or Puy lentils: these are the gourmet's lentil and therefore the most expensive. Like the brown lentil they hold their shape well when cooked, they also tend to have the richest and strongest taste of the lentil family. In general lentils have a mild earthy flavour and are well suited to rich flavoursome dishes.

Because lentils are supplied dried they should be easy to buy in perfect condition; firm, dry, clean and unshrivelled. You can buy lentils in a can, but there is no need because they do not require soaking and are so easy to prepare. Dried lentils will fade with age, but their flavour is not noticeably affected; for best results keep in an airtight container and eat within the year. Cooked lentils may be refrigerated up to one week in a sealed container. Cooked lentils can also be frozen up to six months; however cooked lentils tend to disintegrate when reheated.

Before cooking it is advised to check dried lentils for foreign objects and to rinse them till the water runs clear because they are not necessarily washed in production. As a guide brown lentils take 35 minutes to boil, green lentils 20 and red 10-15 minutes and should be cooked 3 parts water to 1 part lentils, and they may require more water depending on the required consistency. Lentils that have not been split can be sprouted at home and added to salads and other dishes.

Packing a healthy nutritional punch, easy to cook and store, it's time to give our hearty lentil curry recipe a try and put the lentil on your menu.
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2017/03/25 15:35:07
James Leave a comment

Biceps: 35s - 21s with a difference!

This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker March 2010 edition
The exercise 21s will be familiar to most of you; it's certainly been around long before I started weight training; and that's some time ago! But for those of you who don't, it's basically a variation of bicep curls which really works the muscle: Assume the standing barbell curl position, preferably with an EZ bar, holding the bar with your arms down. Raise the bar to 90° only then lower and repeat seven times. Immediately curl the bar fully so your biceps are contracted but your upper arms are still in align with your torso, then lower the bar to 90° and repeat seven times. Lastly perform seven full reps from full extension to full contraction of the biceps, squeezing at the top.

This makes 21 reps. But there's a variation of this which blasts them even more: After the first seven reps, at the 90° point simply hold the weight for 7 seconds before doing the top half seven reps. Then after the second 7 reps, at the full contraction lift your upper arms up by bending at the shoulder so they are as near to 90° as possible and hold for 7 seconds. Then finish with the final seven full reps.

It's basically the same as 21s but with two lots of 7 second holds in different positions. You will not be able to do much weight, so drop the weigh down and work out what you can do. To summarise:
  • 7 reps from the bottom to 90°
  • 7 seconds holding at 90°
  • 7 reps from 90° to the top
  • Lift upper arms out to the front and hold for 7 seconds
  • 7 full reps

7 + 7 + 7 + 7 + 7 = 35; hence the name!

This is a great exercise to incorporate into your routine. By simply doing one set of 35s at the end of a bicep workout you will destroy them. Or do 3 sets of 35s followed by just two sets of strict concentration curls and you'll feel like you've had one obliterating workout on the biceps!
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2017/03/24 12:42:14
James Leave a comment

Fruit Juice & Fruit Juice Drinks - what's what?

This article was written was originally published in The MuscleTalker January 2010 edition
For the main, juice drinks can be categorised into fruit juice and fruit juice drinks. Fruit juice is a drink which contains 100% pure fruit juice and no other added ingredients. Fruit juices can be classified into 'freshly squeezed' and 'from concentrate', both contain similar energy, carbohydrate and fibre, and both count significantly towards vitamin C intake. A 150ml serving counts as one portion of the 5 fruit and veg per day, though only one serving per day can count (more information).

Juice drinks are products which are made up of less than 100% pure fruit juice, though the composition of them can vary considerably. Juice drinks include, ready-to-drink, cordial and squash dilutable drinks and 'high juice' drinks.

In addition to these, there are also 'fruit smoothies' which are typical combinations of fruit juice and crushed fruit. The Department of Health has recently revised advice regarding commercial fruit smoothies: any smoothie which contains at least 150ml fruit juice and at least 80g of crushed fruit (or vegetable) pulp can claim a maximum of two of the five portions of the 5 a day.

There has been vast research in to the use of fruit juices and good health. It's pretty obvious that consuming fresh fruit juice instead of sugary drinks is preferable. However, consuming whole fruit has more health benefits than just the juice. Fruit juice is acidic so is cariogenic and can affect dental health, although it is not as cariogenic as sugary drinks where the sugar sticks to the teeth. The advice is clear: avoid sugary drinks, include some fruit juice and drink plenty of water every day.
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2017/03/07 18:25:15
James 7 comments

Green Tea & Green Tea Extract Supplements

This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker March 2010 edition
Green tea is grown in China and it has been shown to have a number of health benefits. Its caffeine content is lower than normal Indian black tea, and it also contains higher amounts of antioxidants; the most prevalent antioxidants being its catechins. Catechins are what we know as the supplement green tea extract or, more precisely epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG is lipolytic, which means it breaks down body fat.

The most famous study where green tea extract was shown to be an effective fat-burner independent of caffeine was Dulloo, et al 1999. These showed EGCG to be significantly effective in increasing 24-hour energy expenditure and fat oxidation in humans, independent of any effects of caffeine.

A more recent study (Gregersen, et al 2009) gave 15 healthy weight males 1) 150mg caffeine, 2) green tea catechins (600mg), 3) caffeine plus catechins or 4) a placebo on four different days. Levels of energy expenditure and fat oxidations (i.e. fat burning) were calculated using very accurate methods. Combinations of caffeine and catechins were found to be the most effective at raising energy expenditure and fat oxidation.

It's great for anyone into bodybuilding, health and fitness to enjoy 2-3 mugs of green tea a day. However, many people just don't like drinking it; whilst it is perfectly palatable, is just not as nice as a normal cup of tea! The good news is that green tea bags are available infused with flavours like lemon, mint and camomile: try a few until you find your favourite. To get the full benefits of the catechins, let the tea bag stew for 5 minutes or more and do not add milk, as some amino acids in milk will bind the catechins, and negate some of their positive effects.

The more potent alternative to drinking green tea is using green tea extract supplements. These are perfectly safe and contain higher concentrations of catechins. They are worth considering in any supplement arsenal both for weight loss and health purposes. Of course, though, no supplement is going to be effective for weight loss unless you have a suitable nutrition regimen and exercise plan.

  • Dulloo AG; et al. 1999. Efficacy of a green tea extract rich in catechin polyphenols and caffeine in increasing 24-h energy expenditure and fat oxidation in humans. Am J Clin Nutr 70: 1040-1045.
  • Gregersen NT; et al. 2009. Effect of moderate intakes of green tea catechins and caffeine on acute measures of energy metabolism under sedentary conditions. BJN 102 (8): 1187-1194
2017/03/01 17:26:11
James Leave a comment

How much Cardiovascular Exercise for Beginners?

This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker January 2010 edition
We're constantly reminded that we need to be including cardiovascular (CV) exercise in our lifestyles for good health; but why? Reasons why cardiovascular exercise is important include:
  • CV exercise is an effective way to burn excess calories which can aid weight loss and weight maintenance; being overweight is associated with a number of health problems
  • CV exercise can help reduce the risk of heart attack, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, some cancers and other diseases
  • CV exercise can help reduce stress levels
  • CV exercise can strengthen your heart so that it does not have to work as hard, thus improving physical fitness
  • CV exercise can increase your lung capacity
  • CV exercise can make you feel good and sleep better

A step by step guide for the beginner is:
  • Choose an activity that you will enjoy. The best form of cardio is one that you will actually get off the couch and do rather than one that you do because you have to.
  • Start with two or three sessions per week ideally on non-weights days or at a different time of day to weight training. If this is not possible then following a weight training session is fine.
  • Begin with 5-10 minutes warm up of light activity to gradually increase your heart rate towards the point where you can still communicate clearly but are slightly catching your breath.
  • Continue for as long as comfortably possible. This may be 5 minutes, it may be longer. Do not be disheartened if you struggle, this will quickly improve as long as you are consistent and strive to improve over time.
  • Aim to add 2 minutes to the sessions on a weekly basis to build up towards the 30 minute mark. Do not bother monitoring distance or pace; just strive to improve the duration that you can comfortably exercise in the target zone: the point where you can still communicate clearly but are slightly breathless.
  • Once you are at the level where you can comfortably exercise for 30 minutes or longer you have developed the base required to progress towards a more advanced program. Beginning where you want to be, rather than where you are actually, will usually result in injury and despair. Do not run before you can walk!
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2017/02/27 13:33:59
James Leave a comment

Developing the Muscles of the Middle Back

This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker February 2010 edition
Developing the middle of the back is not an area of training which you read about very often. You often see exercises for the lats, upper back and lower back, but rarely the middle. This is mainly because developing this area is of little concern to beginners, and even to intermediate bodybuilders. However, it could be a concern to some more advanced trainers especially those considering competing.

Where exactly am I referring to when I say 'middle back'? I mean the inner part of the lats and lower part of the traps: a well developed middle back will have a thick crevasse between the muscles running along the spine. If you are looking at a perfectly developed middle back you'll be able to wedge your fingers in when the poser does a rear double biceps pose, and when they show a rear lat spread, the lats will almost protrude out in the middle. It is an area which is often not so well developed in competitive bodybuilders; even those of a high standard. Granted, unless pointed out to you, this is not a flaw which is obviously noticed on stage, but it is an area judges will notice and when you're competing at a high standard, it could be the difference between winning or not.

Like I said, for the beginner this is probably of little concern. But when you've caught the training bug for a while and you think one day you may compete, why not add some mid-back training as part of your back routine to help develop thickness?

Exercises for this area include deadlifts; they pretty much work the whole back. Also performing bent-over rows and T-bar rows slightly differently to focus the central back area; rather than bending right over, tilt your torso at less of an angle with a slight bend at the knees and your head up - bring the bar up to the abdomen and then lower it. Low pulley rows will also work the mid back: on full contraction continue to lean slightly forward as you bring the V-bar to the torso and really squeeze - you'll really feel this in the mid-back.
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2017/02/23 13:08:06
James 1 comment

Baked Bean Casserole

This recipe was created by Big Les and was originally published in The MuscleTalker November 2009 edition
** Ingredients
  • One 420g can baked beans
  • One onion finely sliced
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 chicken breasts, diced into very small pieces
  • Garlic to taste and you can even mix in a little quark with the tomato if you like a creamy taste
** Directions
  • Pre-heat oven to 190°C /Gas 5
  • Put alternate layers of beans, onion, tomato, and chicken in a greased baking dish, then repeat with another layer and you can sprinkle with grated cheese if you are so inclined (and bulking)
  • Bake in the oven for 45 minutes
More great recipes available in our Muscle Menus ebook available for Kindle at Amazon.

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