Dear Coffee, This Is Why We Love You

Wake. Roll. Stand. Walk. Kettle. Water. Coffee tin. Cafetiere. Two spoons. Hot water, not 3445401448_0de5016d5b_b.jpgboiling. Gently stir. Wait……………….and plunge.

So archaic, so basic, so simple. The Coffee Ritual.

But in this era of ‘clean eating’ how can something that is so good not be bad for us? How often do we hear that we should cut out caffeine, because it is a toxin poisoning our bodies?

We all know that coffee wakes us up. Scientific research shows that caffeine increases alertness, concentration, vigilance, improves mood, reduces perception of pain and increases time to fatigue. These effects can be so positive, that in elite and professional sport, we actively harness this potential to legally improve athletic performance.

But is your coffee habit actually good for you? 

Coffee beans, as well as the brew, are a very rich source of polyphenolic compounds, specifically chlorogenic acids (CGA). 
Research shows that CGA has a wide range of potential health benefits: anti-diabetic, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and anti-obesity. There is also growing evidence that coffee can reduce or delay the onset of Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimers.
CGA is an antioxidant meaning it can help prevent cellular damage from free-radicals that occur with pollution, smoking, eating unhealthy food and drinks, strenuous exercise and as a byproduct of normal metabolism. It’s also thought that polyphenols contribute to the body being in an anti-inflammatory state, which is associated with a lower risk of several chronic diseases.
Based on the evidence from 34 studies from 2010 – 2016, coffee consumption in moderation, is safe and may be beneficial in both healthy persons as well as people with high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias and diabetes. Therefore, coffee restriction may not be warranted for these patients, although some caution should be exercised in some people sensitive to caffeine.
cup-latte-coffee

 

Is ‘fresh’ coffee better than instant and decaffeinated coffee?
  • There is a broad range of CGA in coffee that you can buy
  • Coffees which are roasted to a lesser extent or which contain a proportion of unroasted coffee have more CGA 
  • Surprisingly, there was no difference in CGA between instant coffee in a jar and coffee made by a cafetiere
  • Decaffeination seems to have little or no effect on the CGA content 

 

More fascinating caffeine body facts: 

  • Caffeine is absorbed rapidly and totally in the small intestine in less than 1 hour
  • In women, the metabolism of caffeine is slower during pregnancy, as well as when taking oral contraceptives. This means that the effects of caffeine a felt for longer.
  • Cigarette smoking doubles the rate of caffeine clearance by increasing the liver enzyme activity, which may be one of the explanations for the higher rate of caffeine consumption among smokers!
  • Coffee reduces the absorption of Levothyroxine (a common medication for hypothyroidism which should ideally be taken on an empty stomach)
  • Excessive caffeine intake may increase ‘unstable’ bladder in women i.e. suddenly being desperate for a wee
  • Dehydrating effects of caffeine are not likely to have adverse consequences for healthy adults who normally drink caffeine

 

Any negatives? The effects of caffeine in coffee is variable, depending on the sensitivity of each individual. This is because caffeine is primarily broken down in the liver by an enzyme called cytochrome P450 oxidase. Depending on your genetics, some people have more of this enzyme than othersSome people find they get jittery after a few sips. Other side effects include insomnia, irratibility, headache, abdominal cramping and diarrhoea.

So, it’s best to know your own body and how much caffeine you can tolerate. If you have a good tolerance, limit yourself to a maximum of 6 cups per day. Certain groups such as pregnant women and children should limit the amount. Pregnant women should have no more than 200mg of caffeine per day (approximately 2 cups of coffee).

 

 

 

 

Smoothie Bowl

6216be92664c268834e07ac1a29edd4aThis is something I make in seconds for my kids as a very healthy pudding. They love it. It’s somewhere between ice-cream and a smoothie. For me, I sometimes have it as a breakfast. I add a handful of oats, and if I’ve just had a bike or run, a scoop of protein powder.

Why it’s great:

Yogurt: calcium, protein, good bacteria for the digestion Berries: antioxidants,
phytonutrients and fibre. Oats: for slow release energy, soluble fibre, B-glucan cholesterol lowering, carbs for replacing muscle glycogen stores post workout. Protein powder: 20g extra protein post workout for muscle recovery and maintenance, also keeps you feeling full up for longer. 

Ingredients:

  • frozen berries: 1 big handful per person
  • Oats: 1 small handful per person (about 30g)
  • Natural yogurt: 3 tablespoons per person
  • Honey: 1/2-1 teaspoon per person

Method: whizz up in a blender, in my blender I’ve to give it a shake every few seconds to get all the ingredients down to the bottom.

Eat with a spoon!img_1066.jpg

If you use a flavoured yogurt, there’s no need to add honey as it should be sweet enough already.

 

Here’s what I used this evening……

Idiot Proof Poached Eggs

Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods that you can eat: high in protein, omega 3 fats, lutein, choline, all the B vitamins, as well as vitamins A, D, E, K, and iron.

Poached eggs should be one of the easiest, cheapest and healthiest meals. But it can be hard to not end up with a watery pile of mush. There is a lot of advice out there on how to achieve the perfectly poached egg: the freshest eggs possible, adding vinegar to the water (am I the only one to end up with vinegary eggs?!) or the ‘swirling the water’ method.

For the first time in my 39 years, I came across this genius method for the perfect poached egg. Or for 10 poached eggs if you need that many!! It’s idiot proof, which is a stroke of luck for me.

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Location: a big family brunch at my cousin Wendy’s house in Holywood – that’s Holywood in N. Ireland; rather than Hollywood, California :). There were 13 of us so that’s a lot of eggs to poach! I was a bit skeptical as this clingfilm escapade unfolded in the kitchen, but trust me…..

 

Here’s what you need:
egg(s)

cling film

any cooking oil4820A52D-F11E-49D0-B839-BDF5C02AA2B7

Ramekin, or small bowl

  1. Boil some water in a small sauce pan. Once boiling reduce to a simmer

 

  1. Tear some cling film, about double the width of the ramekin

 

  1. Oil the cling film by dribbling in a few drops of the oil. Spread around with your fingers or a pastry brush

 

  1. Break the egg in to the cling film

 

  1. Gather up the edges of the cling wrap and twist, making sure that you have the egg enclosed well. You can secure it with a little elastic band or something similar.F593DFC8-DBA5-40ED-ACE0-CAEF8944851B

 

  1. Place in the simmering water until the egg white has set. Put as many of these little parcels in the water as needed (use an appropriately sized saucepan to fit them in obvs)

 

  1. Lift the egg out of the water using a spoon and cut away the cling film

TA DA!!!!

Athlete’s Top 10 Shopping List

For professional, elite and serious amateur athletes, heavy training schedules can mean massive amounts of calories need to be eaten each day. 4500kcal for a rugby player is normal, for a tour cyclist this could be 7000kcal, while for a 45kg gymnast they may only need 1700kcal. Whatever the calorie needs, athletes need to pack in as much nutrition punch as possible. That means forgoing nutrient empty junk food, and swapping for food and drinks that will fuel the training and recovery. So what are the things that regularly appear on the pro’s daily shopping list?

For optimum nutrition, performance and health, there is nothing better than REAL food. The incredibly complex makeup of food simply cannot be artificially produced in a supplement powder or pill. Real food provides phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fibre, protein and possibly, many other beneficial constituents that science hasn’t identified yet.

Sports drinks, supplement shakes and bars can be useful as a stop gap, when good food is not readily available, or when calorie requirements are so high that it is difficult to achieve with food alone. I often use an analogy of the bricks of a house being food, and supplements being the chimney. If you don’t have the nutrition basics of food (walls and roof) in place, it is daft to think that there is any point to having a chimney (supplements).

Here are some top foods that should feature on your shopping list. These are all mostly ‘nutritionally dense’ meaning that they are choca-block full of good nutrition allowing your body to train, perform and recover to it’s maximum potential:

  1. Vegetables – often overlooked in favour of carbohydrates and protein, and served as an after thought with just a spoonful on the plate. Vegetables are absolutely essential to maintain health, providing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phyto chemicals, fibre etc. all of which simply cannot be bottled or put in a pill. Vegetables also ‘feed’ the healthy bacteria in the digestive system. Easy staples include broccoli, onions, spring onions, peppers, and carrots – not very adventurous, but that is fine! Fresh, frozen, boiled, steamed, microwaved, stir fried, raw…….just get. them. in!LN_012697_BP_9.jpg
  2. Oats – for breakfast, you can’t go far wrong with oats. They are high carbohydrate, so idea to have before or after training. Oats come in various textures, from the very fine in Ready Brek, to the chunky Flahavins. You can add all sorts of things to basic oats to add some oomph: milk, raisins, sliced banana, cocoa powder, cinnamon, desiccated coconut etc. You can also put them in a smoothie for breakfast or for post training recovery. 10 ways with oats
  3. Milk – protein, carbohydrate, low fat, calcium for bones and muscle function. Added to tea, coffee, porridge and breakfast cereals. Research shows that milk post-exercise is just as effective and recovery and rehydration, if not more so, than commercially-available sports drinks005045.jpg
  4. Coffee – because it’s one of life’s pleasures, but also when taken before/during exercise, caffeine has been proven to enhance athletic performance. A recent study showed that two cups of coffee improved endurance performance by 4%.
  5. Peanut butter – good for protein, energy and good fats. If you are trying to drop body fat/weight then go easy as it’s very high in calories – too much is often one of the biggest mistakes for my weight loss clients! Mix a tablespoon in to porridge or spread on oatcakes/rice cakes.
  6. Eggs – one of the most nutritious foods that you can eat: high in protein, omega 3 fats, lutein, choline, all the B vitamins, as well as vitamins A, D, E, K, and iron.  Omelettes, poached, scrambled, fried or to make egg fried rice. You can even mix one in to hot porridge (just don’t put in the microwave with the oats or you’ll get scrambled oat-eggs……yak!)
  7. Rice – carbohydrates are very important for fuelling exercise,
    for recovery, and for the immunity. White rice can be particularly useful when there is only an hour or two between training sessions and fast release carbs are needed. Whole grain rice is higher in fibre, digested more slowly, and is more filling.
  8. Chicken – high protein, low fat, and very versatile. There are endless ways to use chicken: plain grilled, a whole chicken roasted, stir fried, mixed with light mayo and veg in wraps, stuffed with pesto and cheddar cheese. One of the easiest ‘recipes’ is a whole chicken in a slow cooker for 6 hours.
  9. Yogurt – the high protein ones can be particularly beneficial for athletes eg. Total greek yogurt, Danio, Liberte etc These have double the protein of normal yogurts (greek ‘style’ is not usually higher in protein), so good for muscle repair and maintenance. Yogurt also contains ‘probiotics’ which are beneficial for the digestion and immunity.
  10. Salmon – or any oily fish (mackerel, sardines, fresh tuna). Oily fish is the best food source of anti inflammatory omega 3 fats which is essential in every athlete’s diet to reduce muscle inflammation and delayed onset muscle soreness. Aim to take at least 2-3 times a week. If you don’t like any of these fish, then I advise taking daily fish oil supplements.288543.jpg

 

For loads of recipes using all of the above ingredients click…….here!

Seriously Healthy Pancakes (2 ingredients)

It’s Shrove Tuesday, yay for pancakes! But do they seem like a chore to make? Would you like a super speedy, easy AND healthy pancake recipe??

This pancake mix takes about 1 minute to prepare using a banana and 2 eggs. It’s ready to cook immediately! They are awesome with a big dollop of greek yogurt and some warm berries……I use frozen berries that have been blasted in the microwave to defrost 🙂

The pancakes mix is easier to make with a blender – just blast all the ingredients together,  but it can also be done with a fork.

Ripe bananas

1 Ripe banana

2 Eggs

2 Eggs – high protein

  1. Mash the banana very well – the more ripe the banana the easier this is
  2. Crack in two eggs and mix with a fork. (You can also do this in a blender).
  3. Optional: add in a handful of oats to increase the carbohydrate and fibre for sustained energy.
  4. Pour some mixture in to a lightly greased frying pan (ideally a non-stick one), allow to cook on a medium heat for a minute or two. You’ll see little bubbles appearing, take a peak underneath to see if it turning brown. Flip over and cook the other side.

Extras: a simple drizzle of honey/maple syrup, or greek yogurt topped with berries.

FullSizeRender

Take to work or school (pic courtesy of my sis!)

 

Tip: if you are watching your weight, studies show eating eggs for breakfast can help. Eggs seem to help you to feel full up for longer and keep your blood sugar levels steady.

 

Easy Peasy Healthy Ice-cream

 

 

Like most of the recipes on this website, I use this one a lot, and it definitely lives up to the Fast Fit Food ethos. It uses 3 of the basic ingredients that I always have a stock of: natural yogurt, frozen berries and bananas. It is perfect as a pudding or as a snack, and it’s one of the recipes I give to my athletes for pre or post workout as it contains great amounts of protein and carbohydrates.

Benefits: yogurt provides good bacteria for the digestion as well as calcium and protein,   the berries and banana provides fibre; potassium and healthy carbohydrates from the bananas, antioxidants from the berries…..I could go on! 

I try to use nice ripe bananas – they are sweeter and easier to digest that greener ones. If you can buy yellow ones with brown specks, or allow them to ripen in the fruit bowl, then there is no need to add any extra sweetness e.g. from honey.

The type of natural yogurt you use is up to you: I usually use full fat for my kids as it gives a thicker creamier texture. If you are watching your weight, then use a low fat natural yogurt which usually Unknown-10276994has about half the calories. Contrary to popular belief, low fat natural (plain) yogurt does not have any added sugar or sweetness. If you are trying to increase protein in your diet, then go for Total which have twice the amount of protein as standard natural yogurts. Liberte has the advantage of having some fruit added, without too much sugar. All of them have the healthy bacteria!

If you are lactose intolerant, simply swap the natural yogurt for lactose free yogurt. Vegan? then go for soya or coconut yogurt.

Healthy, easy ‘ice-cream’images-3

Ingredients:

  • 500g pot of natural yogurt
  • 2 frozen ripe bananas (peel before freezing)
  • handful of frozen IMG_0905berries/any frozen fruit

 

Method:

  1. images-3Chuck the ingredients in to a blender and whizz up until smooth.
  2. To make more ice-creamy, you can put the mixture back in to the freezer for a few hours, then give it a good stir before serving.

 

7 reasons you’re exercising more and not losing weight

So you’ve started eating better, walking more, going to the gym, or you’re training for a 5km race. Brilliant! You expected the weight to drop off, so why aren’t you seeing RESULTS?

Here are 6 top reasons:

  1. You are ‘good’ all day with your eating and are distracted enough to avoid eating too much. But by the evening you are hungry and attack the bread, cheese, breakfast cereal, biscuits, ice-cream etc. This is the most common mistake I see my clients making. You need to eat more during the day to stop the evening over eating.
  2. Exercising can result in an increase in your appetite, so you eat more. If you are genuinely more hungry, ensure you are eating protein at each meal (eggs, fish, chicken, cottage cheese are great choices), lots of fruit/veg, a high protein yoghurt, milky coffee or tea, water. Consider bringing a meal forward by an hour if you are ravenous.
  3. You eat more before and/or after your session to fuel the exercise. One of the most common mistakes I see is someone having a milkshake drink after 40 minutes in the gym to aid recovery, often followed with in a few hours of a normal meal. A typical bottle of milkshake will provide 300-400kcal, essentially replacing the calories you’ve just burned off. If you are exercising to lose weight, then you need a calorie deficit ie. burning more than you eat/drink.
    Post exercise shakes have their place, but watch the extra calories!

    Post exercise shakes have their place, but watch the extra calories!

    Although extra food/drinks may be necessary for long and strenuous workouts, for shorter workouts less than an hour, the need isn’t as significant. Normal meal and snacks around exercise should be enough eg. snack of an apple or banana 1-2 hours before a workout, yoghurt after.

  4. You are trying to be too healthy – yes really! You’re think you’re doing all the right things – snacking on nuts or rice cakes with peanut butter; lots of avocado in salads; extra pumpkin seeds and flaxseed in your porridge. Thing is, even healthy fats are high in calories: a tablespoon of most nutty things  have about 120 kcal. Half an avocado has about 150 kcal. They all add up.
  5. You think you can eat what you want because you exercise – if only! A 3 mile run will burn approximately 300 kcal. Not an excuse to have 6 biscuits or a whole pizza. Rewarding yourself with high fat/calorie ‘treat’ food can cancel out the good work done. Even professional athletes who have multiple training sessions each day have to be careful with their diets.
  6. You need to change your workout – you run for 40 minutes three times a week, or sit on a exercise bike and do some crunches. Your body adapts to what you do day in day out. You need to challenge your body. If you want to change, you need to change what you are doing!
  7. You sit down for the rest of the day – You have an intensive workout for an hour, so you don’t feel so bad about taking the car for journeys that you could walk. You need to stay as active as you can, humans are born to move. If you feel too exhausted to do anything but sit down for the rest of the day, you are probably over doing the exercise.