2018/01/28 13:48:55
James Leave a comment


This article was written by Big Les & was originally published in The MuscleTalker June 2011 edition
Apples have been around a long time and were possibly the first tree to be cultivated. Apples were an important winter foodstuff in Asia and Europe where they could be stored just above freezing. As Food of the Month has consistently discovered, you don't get to be a foodstuff that is cultivated for thousands of years without delivering some worthwhile nutrition.

With 1.8g fibre per 100g and 6mg of vitamin C and only 47 kcals, the apple makes a good case for its inclusion in the cutting season. However, when we look at the micronutrient content of apples a bit more closely, we see how it could live up to its reputation of keeping the doctor away. Apples punch well above their weight in terms of polyphenol content. We know that polyphenols have a role in preventing cellular damage, and that diets which are rich in polyphenols are associated with positive health outcomes such as lower risk of heart disease and cancer, and we also know there is a lot of research yet to be done on polyphenols. Significantly research is finding that extracting single compounds is not yielding much, and that the active ingredient in food is 'food' rather than a particular compound found in that food. If you want the health benefits of an apple, eat an apple. Notably, the concentration of polyphenols is highest in the apple skin.

The most prominent flavonol in apples is quercetin, followed by kaempferol and myrucetin. Chlorogenic acid is the primary phenolic acid and if you much a red apple you get anthocyanins. Analyse your apple some more and you find phlordzin and epicatechin. It appears that apples use their polyphenols to protect themselves from UV-B radiation.

If you wondered why apples go brown, this too is related to their high polyphenol content. When the apple is sliced or bruised enzymes called polyphenol oxidases (PPOs) are released and these cause the apple to quickly turn brown. When damaged apples also release large amounts of ethylene gas that increases the rate at which fruit and vegetables spoil - so one bad apple really can spoil the whole bunch!

Now apples are back in your basket, it's time to pick a good one. This is easy: bruised ones are off the menu, and any apple close to a bruised one can stay on the shelf too. Apples should have rich colours, green and yellow apples with a slight blush of colour have the richest tastes, while pale fruits tend to be rather bland. Look for firm fruits and treat them with care, beyond this choice is determined by personal taste and intended use. Red and Gold Delicious apples should be the sweetest, Braeburn and Fuji slightly tart, while Pippin and Granny Smith are the tartest but retain their texture best when cooked.
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2018/01/13 12:59:04
James Leave a comment

Failure: Success' Less Popular Brother

This article was written by Tom Daly aka MuscleTalk Member geneticallyjacked & was originally published in The MuscleTalker June 2011 edition
Failure is a word which has been vilified in contemporary society. A little two syllable word which inspires dread in the heart of even the most powerful men. Everybody encounters setbacks in their lives; it's inevitable, yet it can greatly reduce self confidence. This does not need to be the case: a perceived failure can be the precursor to your greatest success. "There are no failures, just experiences and your reactions to them" (Tom Krause). A happily married man, most likely had to suffer through failed relationships before meeting his wife; while these failures could have been upsetting, I'd imagine many would admit they were worth it for the lessons learned. This won't apply to everyone but is worth noting, nonetheless.

I recently encountered some personal failures and it greatly affected my motivation. However, through lessons learned from training and the accompanying lifestyle, I have regained my confidence. You see, this lifestyle teaches us a different mentality to regular society members. We have learned to embrace failure, because it's how we improve. I step into the gym each day with the intention of working my muscles to failure. It makes me stronger. Why shouldn't this be the case in regular life too? It is but, in the midst of failure, it can be hard to see how this will make you stronger. Experience is a great teacher, everyone makes mistakes, but when you fail and learn from those mistakes you become a stronger person. "I didn't fail the test; I just found 100 ways to do it wrong" (Benjamin Franklin).

The main problem, however, is that we blame ourselves for our failures. This is pointless, since we have learned a lesson from failing and are therefore a different person, aware of our mistake. We need to accept this and move on without dwelling on past mistakes for any longer than is necessary to learn where we went wrong, to avoid it in future. Do me a favour, when you encounter a setback, decide how you will fix it and do it, continuing with your life as if you never failed. This will make you a happier person and also extremely successful. The phrase 'we only fail when we give up' has become a cheesy cliché at this point, but clichés are often born from truth. When we encounter a setback it can be easy to give up. If we train hard everyday and eat well, but aren't seeing the results we want, it can be difficult to maintain the required dedication and intensity. This is the time we need to redouble our efforts; we need to identify problems and solutions rather than losing motivation.

An illness or injury can be even more difficult to overcome, it feels like all your effort has been for nothing and you have lost all you have worked for. This isn't the case, training has changed you. You have the knowledge and dedication to regain what you lost, and it will take much less time than when you first built it. This is a function of neural adaption (Carroll et al 2010). Being upset about losing size, strength or definition won't bring it back, but not giving up will, and you will not only regain but improve on your best.

Success rarely follows a straight line. Some of the most successful men in history failed dismally before finally achieving success. Henry Ford's first two car manufacturing companies went bankrupt; Ray Kroc; the entrepreneur and marketing genius behind McDonald's was a failed real estate agent; Isaac Newton, noted physicist, was a failed farmer (Thoughts2Think 2007). The now multi-billionaire wrestling (sports entertainment) mogul Vince McMahon failed dismally by creating some terrible characters in the 80s and early 90s, leading to a loss of interest and financial woe, before finally admitting his mistakes and allowing the wrestlers creative control over their characters personalities. The transformation of Rocky Mavia to The Rock was a prime example of this as well as 'Ringmaster' Steve Austin to Stone Cold (Foley 2000).

All of these people went onto amazing success, the second thing they have in common is that they refused to give up. They identified the reasons for their failures and learned from them. The only conclusion: failure can be good, as long as you refuse to quit. That is a lesson which is clear in life. Everyone reading this has one thing in common: love of training and its accompanying lifestyle. So, when you encounter a setback, don't quit, do what this life had thought us: get under the bar and back to the table and try again.

Carroll TJ, VS Selvanayagam, S Riek1, JG Semmler. Neural adaptations to strength training: Moving beyond transcranial magnetic stimulation and reflex studies. http://onlinelibrary.wile...-1716.2011.02271.x/pdf
Foley M, 2000, Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks.
Thoughts2Think, 2007, Great Men and Their Failures. http://sukumaran.wordpress.com/2007/03/06/great-men-and-their-failures/
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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.
2017/12/22 14:38:25
James Leave a comment

Nutrition of Christmas Dinner

This article was written by Beau Radclyffe-Thomas & was originally published in The MuscleTalker December 2012 edition
Usually when talking about eating over the Christmas holidays, the common themes are 'unhealthy' and 'fattening', however there are some surprising health benefits to your Christmas dinner, which become a great way to justify indulging yourself over the festive period.

First up is turkey, a very lean white meat which is naturally low in fat, especially when the skin is removed. A great source of high quality protein, it's a typical part of a bodybuilders diet whether its Christmas time or not so feel free to indulge. Not only is turkey a high protein, lean meat, but is rich in vitamins B3 and B6, vital for brain health and energy production as well as zinc and selenium, which benefit the skin and immune system.

Cranberry sauce is packed full of antioxidants and nutrients that are essential for good health such as magnesium, calcium, zinc and potassium as well as vitamins A, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and vitamin K. Cranberry sauce is also low in calories and high in fibre.

Although most people dislike them, brussel sprouts come with a range of health benefits. This traditional Christmas vegetable is high in fibre, which aids in digestion and can help lower your cholesterol, sprouts are also packed with antioxidants and contain vitamins A, C and E and contain especially high levels of vitamin K, which promotes bone health and is essential for brain and nerve function. Another Christmas vegetable, carrots are packed with carotenoids including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and lutein, these antioxidants protect the eyes and vision as well as helping protect against cancer.

Roast potatoes are a complex carbohydrate that provide lasting energy and are a much better choice than more sugary options. They contain a surprising amount of vitamin C; one medium potato contains almost half the recommended daily intake. Roast potatoes are also rich in B vitamins and minerals such as potassium, magnesium and iron as well as being a source of dietary fibre, which promotes gut health and aids digestion. They are rich in vitamin B6, which benefits brain and nervous system health as well as benefiting energy production.
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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.
2017/12/17 09:55:11
James Leave a comment


This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker December 2010 edition
Last year it was stuffing, so for this year's Christmas newsletter it is another traditional Christmas food: cranberry. Cranberries are a group of evergreen dwarf shrubs, they are found in acidic bogs throughout the cooler parts of the Northern Hemisphere. The flowers are dark pink, with distinctive petals and the fruit is a berry which is initially white, turning red when ripe.

Cranberries are available fresh or as processed products, such as juice, sauce and for a snack, dried. Cranberry sauce is the traditional condiment choice for Christmas and the American Thanksgiving meals.

The majority of health professionals believe there is a clear association between a diet which is high in fruit and vegetables and a low risk of chronic disease. Cranberry is a healthy fruit that is often over looked; they contain the most antioxidant phenols compared to 19 commonly eaten fruits. Recent research shows that these significant amounts of antioxidants and other phytonutrients may help protect against heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

Cranberry juice is more commonly used for urinary infections; they contain proanthocyanidins (PACs) that can prevent the adhesion of certain types of bacteria, including E. coli, associated with urinary tract infections, to the urinary tract wall. The anti-adhesion properties of cranberry may also inhibit the bacteria associated with stomach ulcers and gum disease.

If you have a relaxed approach to your diet over the festive period then pile on the cranberry sauce, it will make you feel better about the rest of the meal!
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2017/11/24 23:47:35
James Leave a comment

Lack of Energy During Training

This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker June 2011 edition
One frequently asked question on the forums is from people looking for ways to improve their energy levels while working out. However, it's not just pre-workout nutrition which needs to be addressed; it's your whole eating plan, especially in the time after your workouts. The best time to fuel for a workout is after the previous workout.

Have a good quality simple carb source as part of your post workout shake, immediately after you put down the last dumbbell of the session or step off the exercise bike. Dextrose (glucose) or maltodextrin are fine, but if you want the crème-de-la-crème of carb powders, try Vitargo. Maltodextrin in a chain of glucose and, although strictly speaking a complex carb, it's digested and absorbed very rapidly helping to replenish the stores as the time when uptake of carbs is high. Vitargo is a high molecular weight carbohydrate which is even more quickly absorbed than maltodextrin. Vitargo is pricy, but well worth it if you're a competitive athlete or you train exceptionally hard.

You'll need to follow your post workout shake with some low glycaemic index (GI) carbs - carbs which are digested and absorbed very slowly - within an hour of finishing training. Ideally have these as part of a meal. Good choices are basmati rice, wholewheat pasta, new potatoes or sweet potato. These will help top you up and provide the slow energy input. Indeed, include low GI carbs at all your meals.

So, now you've got your post workout nutrition sorted and, assuming that the rest of your food is suitable, then you can look at having something to give you that pre-workout boost. Have a protein and carb meal or snack about two to two and a half hours before your workout. Then about 20-30 minutes before have something like three oatcake biscuits. Oatcakes are low GI so will provide the energy for the end of the workout. I also suggest maybe a banana and a protein drink at this time.

The above is the 'essential' protocol for pre-workout nutrition. If, however, you want to try a commercial pre-workout drink supplement, there are some very good ones around. There are some great reviews on MuscleTalk, but look for ones which include beta-alanine, nitric oxide, taurine, citrulline malate and caffeine as the key ingredients. Like I say, these are by no means essential - and I certainly wouldn't want you to relay on them - but they can be useful aids in getting through a gruelling workout.
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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.

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