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2017/12/29 19:05:00
James 14 comments

Olive Oil

This article was written by Big Les & was originally published in The MuscleTalker May 2011 edition
Olive oil extraction goes back over 5000 years to 2600-2240 BC, which is a long time, as with pretty much every food that has enjoyed centuries of consumption, olives and olive oil is a food packed with nutritional goodness.

Consumption of olive oil has spread massively from the Mediterranean, which still leads the world in consumption per head, to be a worldwide habit, and with increasing interest in health and longevity olive oil consumption has continued to rise.

Olive oil has a reputation as a good health oil, so let's look a little more closely. Chemically speaking olive oil is triacylglycerols, free fatty acids, glycerol, phosphatides, pigments, sterols and bits of olive (and sometimes olive leaf). The main triacyglycerol is oleic acid, a monosaturated omega-9 fatty acid, 55-83% of the total, linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid, which is 3.5-21%, palmitic acid, a saturated fatty acid, 7.5-20%, stearic acid, a saturated fatty acid, 0.5-5%, alpha-linolenic acid, a polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid for 0-1.5% of the olive oil. Olive oil has no trans fatty acids present, and to be classified as olive oil by the International Olive Oil Council, the linolenic acid content has to be lower than 0.9% of the total.

When talking about the health benefits of olive oil a lot of focus has been on the presence of omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids. However, the benefits of olive oil run deeper than just its favorable fatty acid profile. Olive oil is also a rich source of polyphenols: up to 5mg per 10g grams, where many other nut and seed oils contain no polyphenols. Our understanding of the health benefits of polyphenols is still in its infancy, but we know these compounds when consumed as food bring many health benefits, from lowering the risk of heart disease cancers to healthy skin and eyes. The main phenol compounds in olive oil are hydroxytyrosol and tryrosol.

The colour of olive oil comes from pigments such as chlorophyll, pheophytin and various carotenoids. And we know that carotenoids act as antioxidants, an arsenal that is added to by vitamin E. Olive oil is also a rich source of vitamin K, found in green leafy veggies and essential for healthy blood coagulation.

Convinced that olive oil is more than just health fats in a tasty liquid, here's more about the International Olive Oil Council (IOOC) based in Madrid. The IOOC regulates around 95% of the world's production via its 23 member states, although the USA is not a member, and it is their classification of olive oils that is used in the UK.

Extra-virgin olive oil is produced only from virgin oil production and refers to oil that has both less than 0.8% acidity and is judged to have a superior taste. Virgin olive oil is from virgin oil production where the oil is produced via only physical production methods and has an acidity of less than 2%; it is judged to have good taste. Pure olive oil is usually a blend of refined and virgin oil production.

Refined olive oil is obtained from virgin oils where refining does not alter the chemical structure of the fatty acids and has a free acidity of not more than 0.3%, and has characteristics fixed by the IOOC. Much of the olive oil produced in the Mediterranean is too highly acidic or other wise poor in quality that it needs to be refined to produce an edible product.

Olive oil is great for you but you need to treat it carefully, especially it needs to be kept in a dark and preferably cool place. Strong light, artificial or natural causes photo-oxidation which makes for rancid olive oil. Olive oil will slowly oxidise over time naturally. However, photo-oxidation can occur at up to 30,000 times that which occurs naturally in the oil itself. When oxidized fatty acids such as linoleic and linolenic acid are destroyed, the oil itself will have an unpleasant flavour and odour - often bitter due to the presence of peroxides.

Extra virgin oil and even virgin olive oils are best used cold because heating burns the unrefined particles, while cheaper refined olive oils are better for cooking because they retain their characteristics. Also the strong taste of extra virgin oils can easily overpower a dish while the more subtle taste of refined oil complements it.
2017/12/20 20:46:42
James 3 comments

Christmas Pudding Nutrition

This article was written by Big Les & was originally published in The MuscleTalker December 2011 edition
The now traditional Christmas, or plum, pudding is widely regarded to have its origins as a soupy porridge known as frumenty, although you can see it's a forerunner in the very earliest of mince pies. Being a dish which could keep for a long time, along with another Christmas tradition, mulled wine, plum pudding was developed as a way of keeping food from spoiling over the winter.

Early frumenty could contain beef fat (suet), prunes, currants, raisins, spices and sometimes even meats were added. This dish was definitely runny with a more soup like consistency. By the 17th Century, frumenty was more pudding than soup with eggs, breadcrumbs and even beer being added and we recognize the dish as the plum pudding we see today. It is commonly said when talking of Christmas pudding that it was banned by Oliver Cromwell, sadly. Although Oliver and his friends were kill-joys, they did not actually ban Christmas pudding; instead it was decreed that Christmas day be a fasting not feasting day. They also tried to make a lot of other fun things illegal, and when ousted their laws were simply ignored or reversed. So with Oliver gone, the path was clear for the Christmas pudding to once again become England's favorite pudding.

Traditionally Christmas pudding is made on the first Sunday before Advent, which in some parts is known as 'stir it up Sunday'. In 1714, George the First gave plum pudding his seal of approval, and the Quakers' called it the "invention of the scarlet whore of Babylon"; two things which, no doubt, served to enhance its appeal. It was also in the 1700s that meat disappeared from the dish as storage and preservation techniques improved.

In 1830 Eliza Action published the first recipe for Christmas pudding, and it was under Queen Victoria that it became a firm Christmas tradition, although that had started with George the century before. It's also said that the ingredients, making and garnish of pudding are symbolic of Jesus, the apostles, the Magi, and Jesus crown of thorns, while others see them as rather tasty.

All of this history brings us to the nutritional value of a Christmas pudding which, I hope you can see, is at best somewhat dubious. Although it should have a good amount of fibre! However, with estimates that average Christmas day calorie consumption is 7000 calories, a serious Christmas day cheat would be well advised to hit the calorie dense and immensely unhealthy Christmas Pudding as a way to push to the top of any Christmas day calorie challenge.
2017/11/19 11:36:27
James 9 comments

Protein Powder

This article was written by Big Les & was originally published in The MuscleTalker January 2011 edition
Some people will decide to invest in a protein supplement for the first time; others will be trying out new products or just mixing things up. With an eye on cost here is a quick guide:
  •     The only - and I mean only - time you need a protein powder supplement is after a heavy weights workout. That is a workout where you break some tissue down! At this time you want nutrients in a hurry - so it's whey, and at least 70%. There are concentrates, isolates and high peptide based formulas - if you are on a budget then concentrate will serve you very well, isolate is for anyone not looking at title contention, the peptides - you need to be an advanced trainer to even have a chance of seeing the difference.
  •     Don't have your post workout whey with milk! Just don't, it defeats the very reason you are having whey by adding in casein that slows digestion down.
  •     Boosting your intake: protein powders are quick and convenient, so if you want one for extra nutrition through the day then you can pick a blend with casein, which is absorbed slower and so is not suitable post workout. If you are on a budget then skimmed milk powder in with whey is great home made version.
  •     Don't just look at protein content percentages. It's easy to be seduced by products that pack high percentages of protein. But what you want is quality protein that is high in essential amino acids and glutamine. This means you are looking for products that are high in whey or whey peptides and casein. Vegetable proteins are good for gas!
  •     A note about soya protein: so it is excellent protein but you need to know that it is impossible to source soya that is guaranteed not to be genetically modified.
  •     Don't dose scoop: protein powder is a food. If you are skimping and trying to make it last, you need to re-evaluate your protein strategy. The only time to be measuring your powder is pre-contest or on a very serious cutting phase!
  •     Don't overdo it. Yes protein powder is food, but the best food is good old food itself. Real foods contain nutrients not found in whey and protein powders, so don't try to live off powders, unless you don't want to be at your best of course.

Finally, protein powder is a bit like wine, one man's merlot is another man's paint stripper. Get samples, try out different products and flavours, and remember variety makes life much more fun.

2017/11/18 10:10:19
James 1 comment

Supplements: Miracle or Placebo?

This article was written by Tom Daly aka MuscleTalk Member geneticallyjacked & was originally published in The MuscleTalker May 2011 edition
There is a lot of division within the bodybuilding community regarding supplement use. The vast majority of bodybuilders, as well as powerlifters or strongmen, will have a favourite supplement brand or product. There are a plethora of products from simple proteins and weight gainers, to test boosters and nitric oxide pre-workout energy boosters.

The major question is "how many of these supplements actually work?" I would like each of you to recall the various products you've tried over the years. How many are you still using? Not many, I'd imagine. Yet we all, me included, will be excited and eager to try a new product which promises ungodly strength and mass gains.

The benefits of protein and creatine are well established by science; these two have a part in every serious athlete's stack. However, even within these groups there is some derision. Should I use hydrolysed whey protein, liquid beef protein extract, casein, egg, soy, goat's urine? Ok, I made up the last one but you get my point. The question is the same for creatine, should I use creatine monohydrate, creatine ethyl ester (CEE), creatine phosphate or creatine citrate? These questions are common on any bodybuilding or weightlifter forum. An arm chair expert will explain at length how CEE is the only creatine worth buying as it won't cause the bloating associated with creatine monohydrate; or that one is wasting their time with regular whey protein powders because hydrolysed whey is easier to absorb. Are any of these questions necessary? Who cares? This is not brain surgery and it's not as complicated as some deluded 160lb arm chair bodybuilders make it seem. The difference between these compounds is miniscule. Anecdotal reports from various test subjects suggest there is no difference at all, except hydrolysed whey is more expensive.

What is my point you may wonder? Simply that we should concentrate on our training and proper diet and results will follow, supplement with protein powders and creatine but don't be fooled into emptying your savings for false promises and catchy slogans and shiny ads.

The Placebo Effect
A placebo is a simulated medical intervention. This practice is often used by the control group in case control studies in order to judge the efficacy or safety of an actual medical intervention. Placebos can, however, have a surprisingly positive effect on a patient who knows that the given treatment is without any active drug, as compared with a control group who knowingly did not get a placebo. This effect is explained by the power of our own minds and attitudes to influence or body. A positive mindset has been known to produce miraculous results. Arnold Schwarzenegger's rise to movie star and government is a prime example.

Now on to the crux of the matter: supplements classed as 'special' products. I can't name any companies or products for legal reasons, but you guys know the one's I'm referring to. Some major companies make several expensive products which promise results which seem too good to be true. They are. I'd wager many of you have tried these products. I'd wager more that few still use them. These products are based on science which is shaky at best. The studies never contain sufficient people to achieve statistical significance and are simply underpowered. The studies are often funded by the manufacturer and many of the amazing results such as "7 pounds of muscle gain in 7 days" are based on genetic freaks who may have never touched a weight before.

How can they get away with advertising these products in this way? The word 'may' is an amazingly ambiguous word; it suggests results are possible but doesn't promise anything and so, there is no legal responsibility. Do me a favour go to your local supplement shop and take a look at the product labels. How many contain the word 'may'? The vast majority.

Why do we continue to buy these products? After training for a number of years results are slow and training and chicken with rice become mundane. We want to believe a product can achieve wonderful things. I do too. They really can't. At best we 'may' gain .25lbs of muscle from this product. Is it worth the astronomical expense and constant search for the newest and best supplements? This is money which could be spent on red meat and chicken which will add much more mass. Guaranteed! I'd rather save my money for something important. I'm not telling you what to do; I'd just like people to think and not be too quick to empty your savings for a capsule full of sugar and promises. The placebo effect can be powerful but it doesn't last very long.

"Doctors are men who prescribe medicines of which they know little, to cure diseases of which they know less, in human beings of whom they know nothing" (Voltaire)
1 comment
2017/11/11 06:58:08
James 1 comment


This article was written by Big Les & was originally published in The MuscleTalker April 2011 edition
Agave nectar is touted as an alternative to both sugar and honey, presented as 100% natural, often organic and even raw, on the face of it agave nectar looks like the perfect solution. With a lower glycaemic index and glycaemic load than other non-artificial sweeteners it is an attractive product.

Made from the same plant as tequila, agave nectar appears to have impressive credentials. From manufacturers' websites you are presented with the impression that agave nectar dates back to the Aztecs and is a traditional product, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Agave nectar dates back to approximately 1990. It is made in both Mexico and South Africa; its production varies slightly depending on the variety used. In South Africa only blue agave is used, and in Mexico blue agave is also often the dominant crop. To manufacture agave from the blue agave the pineapple like core is used, while for the agave salimiana the stalk is cut before it fully grows and the liquid that collects in the core is collected daily.

Once juice has been obtained, the juice is then either heated to hydrolyse the polysaccharides into simple sugars, or treated with enzymes to hydrolyse the polysaccharides into simple sugars or more commonly heated and treated with enzymes to hydrolyse the polysaccharides that occur in the plant into the simple sugars of the final syrup. The syrup is then filtered and clarified to produce the nectar on the shelves. In pure chemistry and food production terms the processes used to produce agave nectar are the same as used to produce high fructose corn syrup from corn starch, deploying the same genetically modified enzymes and chemical agents to convert the indigestible polysaccharides (mostly insulin) of the agave plant into fructose and dextrose units. Raw nectar products do not use heat in the production process.

Agave nectar, depending on how it is processed can be up to 70% fructose, which is a very high concentration indeed; higher than is found in fruit and without the fiber, vitamins, and other goodies a whole food product brings. Agave nectar is also higher in fructose than high fructose corn syrup.

Is it something for a bodybuilder? Personally, I don't think so at all. Fruit is something for a bodybuilder certainly, but adding a concentrated supplemental fructose with its specific metabolism that first replenishes liver glycogen and then gets stored as fat without any impact on circulating or muscle glycogen levels, is not a way to be lean in my book. This would be enough, but it appears that fructose in higher amounts causes appetite and hunger to be stimulated via the inhibition of leptin. For me the case against agave nectar is pretty well stacked when you consider that there are alternatives sweeteners and ingredients available, such as honey, maple syrup and even table sugar.
1 comment
2017/10/29 12:41:37
James 2 comments

Oven-Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

This recipe was originally published in The MuscleTalker October 2010 edition
  •     Pumpkin seeds
  •     Cooking spray, olive oil, or butter
  •     Optional: salt, garlic powder, onion powder, other seasoning

  •     Rinse the pumpkin seeds and remove the pulp. Spread on a baking tray and leave overnight to dry
  •     Preheat the oven to 120ºC / 250ºF (Gas mark 2) and line a baking sheet with foil
  •     Toss the seeds in olive oil or what you wish to use and sprinkle with chosen seasoning
  •     Bake for 1 hour, turning them every 15-20 minutes, until golden brown
  •     Once cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 months or up to a year in the fridge
 More great recipes available in our Muscle Menus ebook available for Kindle at Amazon.
2017/10/01 09:48:28
James 1 comment

Cheat to Beat Mind Games

This article was written by Aaron Hallett & was originally published in The MuscleTalker March 2011 edition
Everyone at some stage in their life goes through a period where they want to reduce body fat, lose that belly, drop a few dress sizes, find those ever elusive abs or even diet down for a bodybuilding show.

For everyone who has dieted and managed to keep the ball rolling by dropping weight each week and seeing results, that alone can inspire and motivate to keep on plugging away. However, as you start looking back at the number of weeks spent working hard, your head starts playing games just when you thought your mind and body were on the same team.

Now, some cravings can be ignored and dismissed but when that is all that occupies your mind, opposed to the original goal which was supposed to occupy that cranial space, this is when some fall off the wagon. Sometimes people fall so far off the wagon they end rolling for a mile in the gutter and the wagon is now a distant dot on the horizon. Many never even attempt to rejoin the wagon, the psychological effect of remorse and guilt is too much to go through every time they give in to temptation.

A way to control these cravings is to sometimes give in to them, allow them, enjoy them and look forward to them. If you are staring back at the weeks of dieting gone by and the prospect of many more in front of you, how will you fare if all you think of is getting off the diet?

Having a planned cheat meal, not cheat day, a cheat meal, can be the needed carrot (or carrot cake) on the end of a stick you need, it also removes the forbidden fruits scenario where you only want it because you can't have it.

On the last meal on the last day of the week, allow yourself one hour to enjoy a meal of your choice with a desert of what ever you fancy. You can still accomplish your goals with that meal in there; many people have cheat meals staggered throughout their dieting and continue to lose weight, remove the guilt, look forward to it and enjoy it!

It's placed on the last day of the week because you will be spending the week physically and mentally working hard to earn that reward and will start the new week afresh. It's the last meal because it will remove the temptation to extend it further into your day. It will be a welcomed psychological break you sometimes need to avoid dieting burn out, it will also reinsert a dose of normality back into your life when you can sit with friends or family and all enjoy a meal together.

Dieting is never easy but you can make it that little bit more bearable.
1 comment
2017/09/13 17:02:52
James 26 comments


This article was written by Big Les & was originally published in The MuscleTalker February 2011 edition
Although pork is the most commonly consumed meat in the world, forming the staple in many countries, it is not a meat that is commonly thought of as a bodybuilding staple food, and it is a good question to ask why. If we discount any conspiracy theories involving Joe Weider and the US Beef industry then we have to look at its nutritional content.

Of course pork is not just one meat, it is a variety of different cuts, and the nutritional content varies significantly by cut. For example 100g of belly pork contains 258kcal, 19g protein and 20g of fat, while a pork chop weighs in with 227kcal, 15g protein, and 18g fat. However, this is not the whole pork story. Pork fillet is lean; containing 147kcal, 22g protein and 6.5g fat, whereas chicken comes in with 148kcal, 32g protein and 2.2g of fat.

With 10g of protein less than chicken and a similar price it becomes easy to see why pork fails to make a regular appearance on the bodybuilders table. When choosing meat both chicken and lean beef (steak) are simply better, and if you want to increase your fat intake, fish trumps pork due to the high saturated fat content of pork compared to the more desirable fats found in oily fish. In bodybuilding terms, pork is the guy that doesn't train legs, looks good for a while, but ultimately isn't complete.

Of course, variety is a good thing too, and pork can find it way onto your plate now and again, not only in the off season bacon sandwich.
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