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!

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Flaxseed Bread

MIMG_0498.JPGy middle daughter, Evie (7), has serious issues with gluten (and oats!). She’s tested negative for coeliac disease, but if she has even a small amount food of bread, cake or pasta she will be doubled up in pain a few hours later. As for many people with gut issues, stress and worry are also a major factor in making the problem worse. She desperately misses London since we had to move to N. Ireland 8 months ago: our
house, her school, her friends, and most of all her Dad who still lives there.

It’s lucky that I’m a dietitian, as I’m well used to managing patients with coeliac disease and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, but practically it can be tough to avoid gluten. Birthday parties are notoriously difficult to negotiate (what kid can’t resist a tiny bit of cake!). The availability of gluten free foods is a million times better than 10 years ago, but they can be expensive and often loaded with sugar. I like making as much of my family’s food as possible, and this bread is fab for her……….the flaxseed is brilliant for gut health and constipation, and the eggs and almonds provide terrific sources of protein. And very importantly, it’s so easy.

If you are watching your carbohydrate intake, needing gluten free, or simply want a highly nutritious healthy bread, then I highly recommend this very easy ecipe. For anyone who has tried Irish wheaten bread, this has a very similar texture.IMG_0861.JPG

Flaxseeds for dietary fiber, manganese, vitamin B1, and omega-3 healthy fats. Almonds are a source of vitamin E, copper, magnesium, and high quality protein, fiber, and phytosterols. Eggs are a very good source of high quality protein, vitamin B2, selenium, B6, B12 and minerals such as zinc, iron and copper, fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

There is about 1000 kcal, 54g protein, 5g carbs in the whole loaf. So if you cut 6 slices, that’s about 170kcal per slice.

Ingredients: 

Ground flaxseed – 1 cup

Ground almonds – 1/2 cup

Eggs – 4

Baking powder – 1 teaspoon

Method:

1) Beat together eggs & 3 tablespoons of water

2) Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl: 1 cup ground flaxseedUnknown copy 9, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 cup ground almonds

3) Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mix well. Put in a loaf tin, cook for 20 minutes at 200 degrees C.

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.

 

Wee Bytes – Ready Brek

Ready Brek – it’s such a kiddie food, surely no self respecting grown up would be eating
this for breakfast?! And isn’t it loaded with sugar?

Well you could be missing out…….this is pretty great stuff, and doesn’t deserve to be tarred with the same brush as other sugary breakfast cereals.

Ready Brek is simply ground up oats with vitamins added (there is no added sugar). The ingredients are: Wholegrain Rolled Oats (60%), Wholegrain Oat Flour (38%), Calcium, Niacin, Iron, Riboflavin (B2), Vitamin B6, Thiamin (B1), Folic Acid, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12. Add some milk, and you’ve a wonderful combination of carbohydrate, protein, soluble fibre and all those lovely vits and minerals.

Two ways with Ready Brek:

In a bowl: Put a mug full of milk in a bowl, microwave for about 90 seconds, or until boiling. Sprinkle in the Ready Brek and mix until you get your desired consistency. Tasty extras to add:

  • cinnamon
  • raisins
  • chopped banana
  • a scoop of protein powder
  • a teaspoon of cocoa powder
  • an egg – yes really, crack one in and mix well while the RB is piping hot

Add more milk if it’s too hot or you like it extra milky.

Smoothie: Blend together 200-300ml milk, 1 banana or some berries, 1/2-1 mugful of Ready Brek, drizzle of honey. Quantities of ingredients depends on how hungry you are, or how hard you training. I came up with this smoothie idea for one of my little GB gymnasts who was struggling with fatigue due to training coming up to the World Championships…… they got a Gold by the way 🙂

Perfect for sport

Because the oats are ground up, Ready Brek is easily and quickly digested, therefore brilliant to have 1 hour before an intentse training session e.g. a swim, run or bike; or after for recovery refuelling.

Before a 6am run or swim, I usually have a ripe banana and milky coffee, and then have a Ready Brek Smoothie as soon as I get home. I need very quick recovery food otherwise I feel very tired later in the afternoon.

 

 

5 Ways to NOT look haggard

When a lady gets to a certain age, we start to sit up and take notice of tubs of expensive face creams. The word anti-ageing is banded about the beauty industry with aplomb, and the pseudo science convinces us of the latest miracle product will make us look ten years younger.

Don’t get me wrong, there is some good stuff out there. According to London skin guru Caroline Hirons there are only a few ingredients that have scientific backing for effectiveness (in true dietitian style, scientific evidence is everything). Specific ingredients to look out for include sun protection (SPF), vitamin A/retinol, and glycolic/lactic/salicylic acid.

As a teenager, I would devour hand me down magazines from my Auntie Ann. images.jpegMagazines are mostly full of nonsense, but I did pick up one tip: using sun screen everyday. I’ve been doing this since I was 16, I think it’s made a difference……..although recently there are times when I catch a reflection of myself in a shop window and think “s*** I could give Iggy Pop a run for his money”.  We all know stress, sleep deprivation and smoking are bad for our skin, and I can tick a box for all three (my ‘social’ smoking habit as a student was hopefully so short lived that no long term image was done)

Here are 4 ways to look after your skin…….

    1. Smoking – if you do this, and you don’t want to have skin like an old bag. Stop. Simple as.
    2. Sun – don’t stick your face in the sun everyday to get a tan (or a ‘tawn’ as we say here in Northern Ireland). Be sensible. A little sun is important for vitamin D, but you can get this from exposing arms and legs for 20 minutes without sun cream. For your face, protect it from the sun. Apparently you don’t necessarily need to use a separate suncream everyday as a lot of moisturisers and foundations have an SPF.
    3. Sugar and refined carbohydrates – there had to be a dietary contribution to this post! If you want to reduce the wrinkles, step away from the sugar. In a nutshell, skin damage from the inside may be caused by a reaction called ‘glycation’. This is a process in which collagen fibres (the scaffolding of your face) are reduced in elasticity by losing the cross links between the fibres, leading to wrinkles and lines. Sugar and reined carbohydrates also promotes inflammation in the body, which is not good for the skin.
    4. Healthy fats – Essential Fatty Acids are important for a multitude of functions in your body. If you’re not getting enough EFAs in your diet, your skin may be dry, red and more prone to spots. EFAs can improve skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. Fats are also needed for your body to absorb vitamins A, C, D and K.
    5. Sleep – this seems like kind of an obvious one, but fundamental to the cause! In a study published in 2015, chronic poor sleep quality is associated with increased signs of ageing, diminished skin barrier function and lower satisfaction with appearance. I have a number of clients who have reported that one of the happy ‘side effects’ of improving their diet has been better sleep: a very unscientific and anecdotal statement for me to make, but worth mentioning.

Anti ageing diet:

AVOID:

  • sugars – I’m not saying ‘never’, but keep in check sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar,  honey, agave syrup, glucose, sucrose, dextrose, fructose, corn syrup etc. Yes, unfortunately even the trendy sugars are ‘sugar’.
  • high glycaemic index foods – These are refined carbohydrates which are digested quickly – white breads, white rice, cakes, biscuits, fruit juice, sweet fizzy drinks, energy drinks etc.

DO EAT:

    • healthy fats – these are anti inflammatory and help to keep blood sugar levels lower – salmon, mackerel, sardines, flaxseed, walnuts, cashews, olive oil, avocado, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds. Here’s a guide to healthy fats. Healthy fats in sensible amounts are good. If you are overweight then go easy on these – have a handful of nuts rather than the bag, one mackerel fillet not three.
    • whole grains – replace refined carbs (generally anything made with white flour or sugar) with wholesome alternatives as these have a lower glycaemic index so keeping blood sugar levels down. Beans, lentils and oats are particularly good.
    • antioxidants – sunlight and smoking cause oxidative damage by generating ‘reactive oxygen
      Eat it, don't lie in it

      Eat it, don’t lie in it!!

      species’. So lots of vegetables, the more variety in colour the better…..red cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, avocado, beetroot, kale, carrots, peppers, and spinach. Fruit is good too with top marks for deeply coloured strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, plums, apples. Green tea and black tea (builder’s tea).

So in a nutshell (excuse the pun!!), here’s yet another reason fill your boots with loads of colourful veg, some fruit, oily fish, nuts, lentils, beans, and other whole grains. If you need recipe ideas, here you go: recipes.

 

 

low sugar biscuits

Hob Nobby Biscuits (low sugar)

Here is a recipe for biscuits that are low sugar, high in fibre and very importantly: high in taste and crumbliness! The original recipe is one from my Mum’s very old and battered ‘Belfast Cookery Book’. I’ve simply replaced half the sugar for desiccated coconut. If you compare these biscuits to HobNobs (an oaty biscuit you can buy in the UK) they are 60% lower in sugar.

They are very popular with my kids, and popular with me because I don’t have the ‘mummy guilt’ about them having a biscuit with too much sugar.

Ingredients:

4oz butter/margarine

1 oz caster sugar

1oz desiccated coconut

2oz plain flour

5oz porridge oats

Method:

  • Cream the butter and sugar together
  • Add the dry ingredients
  • Roll in to a ball. Flour a surface and your hands.
  • Roll out the dough to biscuit thickness with a rolling pin
  • Cut out biscuit shapes.
  • Put on baking tray, and put in oven (180 c) for approx 20 minutes or until starting to turn crisp and golden.

 

 

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.