10 things about Greek yogurt

Many athletes train a significant amount of time during the week. But I have a hunch that the last 20 minutes of a work out, or even the entire duration of a workout, is spent thinking about what to eat once your done training. The thought process for me starts healthy. A lovely piece of turkey and salad that you left in the fridge is quickly turned into a flavour exploding stir fry or curry. My brain tends to start this way also, but turkey and salad tends to be seen as protein and carbs. Then without knowing where the time has gone, I’m making fish and chips :-/

Ever since the moment my auntie gave me a chocolate button at 2 months old, I have had a sweet tooth. And I thank my auntie for that. Yet, when in training staying away from sugar at dessert time is a tough thing to do. Hello Greek Yogurt…

1. Greek yogurt was originally made in Greece, clearly…Made from milk, it goes through a process that reduces the excess fluid which gives Greek yogurt its stiff texture.

2. Due the processes used, Greek yogurt tends to be lower in lactose and carbohydrates, but manages to hold on to a good level of protein.

3. Greek yogurt is not only good to use as a dessert with berries and nuts, it is able to hold its texture in hot dishes without curdling and ruining your food.

4. In terms of vitamins Greek yogurt offers a good level of vitamin D. For those of us like to train, vitamin D has a positive effect on the structure and function of skeletal muscle, especially in older athletes as they are more susceptible to muscle degeneration. (Hamilton, 2011: Asian Journal of Sports Medicine)

5. The most common use of this think yogurt is in the making or tzatziki, which is a greek dip or sauce used in many Greek dishes. It is easy to make yourself.

6. Unfortunately the supermarkets will store a range of Greek yogurt varieties. Steer clear of the not as healthy Greek ‘style’ yogurts. These may not use the same processes or milk types that produce the high vitamin D and protein, and the low lactose carbohydrate, yogurt we love so much.

7. You can get yourself 10.3g of protein and only 4g of carbs in a 100g serving of Greek yogurt

8. Greek yogurt is highly recommended for those who are pregnant, simply because of the nutrition one can get from it.

9. Many curry’s or moroccan dishes require the use of natural yogurt, even a number of Italian dishes like to add a bit of ricotta or creamed cheese. STOP! There is nothing wrong with a bit of experimenting in the kitchen using Greek yogurt.

10. Dessert recipe…get yourself your desired dollop of Greek yogurt in a bowl (don’t be too greedy), and add a teaspoon of Nutella. Miss this in well and then add some chopped nuts and sliced banana. Nutella is nutritionally sound and is packed with the good fats that we require. Plus with its powerful hazelnutty flavour, you don’t need too much of it in this dessert dish. Which means the jar of Nutella can last a bit longer. Everyones a winner!!!

There are a few different types of good greek yogurt brands out there. Supermarkets may well do their own version. For me however, I prefer the ‘Fage Total 0%’ Greek yogurt.

If you try one thing in the off-season, it should be Greek yogurt

@_granto

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Winning a race to needing spinal surgery

A few months ago I was struggling with a bit of back pain. The only activities I could comfortably do were cycling and swimming. Running became difficult. So I rested a few weeks, headed out, and gave running a shot. It was safe to say, stick to riding and swimming for a while and see what happens.

Being the ‘competitive type’ that some people are labelled these days, I searched for an open water race close to where I live. A cute little organisation called SleekerSwim were holding a race in Lake Windermere. A small entry found its way across cyber space and then up popped my name on the ‘confirmed entrants’ list. They held two distances, a 2.3km and a 1.65km. Having only really raced and trained for 400m swims predominately associated with sprint triathlons, I favoured the 1.65km race.

A good solid 3 weeks of following a training program was on the cards which I followed religiously. The diet however, started to take a hit as I found my appetite and hunger increased massively. The offers on Nutella at Waitrose never really help either, especially with a recovering chocoholic. My 3 days sober from chocolate did not last long and the 750g tub was polished off in 4 days. Despite this, and a few boozy evenings, one being my Wedding day, I cracked on with the pool training.

Through all this, I had a few visits to the doctor, which turned into a visit or two to the hospital and eventually a spine specialist.  I receive some contradicting pieces of advice, but continue to train as best I can anyway.

Race day arrives and I didn’t really have any nerves because I knew it would be the last race of the season for me. I go through the typical signing on and getting a new swim cap and getting my number drawn on my hand. Back at the car I get my wetsuit on in record time, then walk down for race brief, then get in the surprising warmer than expected water in Windermere Lake. I say warmer than expected, it was still cold enough to take your breath away. One guy even opted out of wearing a wetsuit, nutter!

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We get about 2 minutes to acclimatise before the race kicks off, and oh my days, it kicked off. The pace was faster than what I had trained for, so i had to bare in mind that some of these guys were out and out swimmers. It felt like a lifetime untill we reached the first boy and I could feel myself backing off a bit and tried to pace myself through the commotion of everyone. I eventually reached the second boy, which i was told was the midway point for those on the 1.65km race. So I take a tun back an had to double check with the canoeist marshal who reinforced me that I was at the right turning point. The reason I had to ask was because I happened to be at the front (something I’m not that used to).

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So naturally I continue, but I began thinking ‘maybe I’m the only one doing the 1.65km’. Now that would be embarrassing, yet to my surprise people were turning at the boy and chasing me down. For whatever reason, I was unable to relax throughout the race. I normally swim bilaterally which means taking a breath after every three strokes. In this race I was breathing every two strokes, but I didn’t want to stop to relax as I had people behind me, so I swam on and put some distance into the 2nd place swimmer. I finished the 1.65km in 20 minutes which some people may think is ok, but I felt I had so much more to give if I was able to relax and find a rhythm. I would like to think, with that time, that I may be able to get 2km in under 30 minutes in order to put me in a good position for some of the olympic distance triathlons I’m planning for next year.

However, with all this swimming, and being unable to run, and having a bad back, I found out that I need spinal surgery. I go under a week Thursday and really unsure what to think or feel 😦

So, I may have to have a longer than expected off-season and a longer and harder than desired pre-season. Nevertheless, people have had worse and gone on to do more, so why not look to do a 70.3 ironman 🙂Image

Bolton IronMan 2013

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Today marked the 5th year that the IronMan has come to Bolton in Lancashire. This year came with some spectacular athletes as everyone could fight for age group qualifying slots to represent their own country at the world championships in Kona Hawaii.

The race started at Pennington Flash near Leigh where athletes completed a 2.4 mile swim circuit. Next, the 112 mile bike course took in some of Lancashire’s greatest scenery over Rivington and Belmont. Riding over Belmont provides a challenging climb which needs to completed 3 times before the riders dismount to take on a full marathon. The 26.2 mile run course goes from Horwich into Bolton town centre, where athletes are cheered on and congratulated by hundreds of spectators. Around the closed roads of the 140.4 mile race circuit, an organiser at a feed station estimated that a good few thousand people were out and about to see these crazy psycho’s athletes race, many of which will be spectating for around 17 hours.

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I went over to the Euxton railway bridge to catch a glimpse of a few members of my triathlon team who had entered. I had never expected so many people and so much positivity and encouragement. Spectators were shouting, ringing bells, blowing horns and clapping every rider that passed. Just off the road was a number of food stales and music vans to keep the spectators motivated and full of energy. By the time I arrived the racers were already on their second lap of the bike route. Some riders looked better than others, many riders were keeping inside their own zones, and others appeared as though they were about to collapse.

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Having seen the athletes come around the sweeping right turn I got to thinking ‘I could do this’. I think anyone could do it with the right training and some entry level equipment. There is probably only 20% of athletes who would place themselves in the competitor/elite category  whereas the other 80% are simply aiming to finish. Even though I have had a little success in the shorter distances of triathlons, the IronMan distance is something I would be happy just to finish. However, having thought about it in more detail, racing for 10, 11, 12 hours is not something that attracts me too much. The one thing that these IronMan athletes will always have over me is that phrase in a conversation…’I have done an IronMan’. That phrase is probably the only reason I would like to complete one.

All in all, it was such a buzz to see so many different types of people taking part in this race, and for that, I am inspired. And, as I type this blog, I am thinking of those people who are now on the running course, because it has just starting raining.

Maybe i’ll do this in a year or two, when i’m more of a crazy psycho.

Faster NHS for sporting general population

Right now I’m sat outside a hospital with a feeling of slight elation. I have always had a problem with hospitals and doctors. Although the staff are always first class, highly qualified and usually will bend over backwards to help. The one thing that restricts them immensely is the system that they have to abide to.

I’m here, sat outside the hospital due to a number of frustrating events that are due to a frustrating NHS system. Maybe we aren’t paying enough national insurance, or maybe the guys at the very top are working just for their pay cheque, I’m not sure. But I bet the decision makers of the NHS on £100k+ wouldn’t be as caring and considerate as the ground troops on £20k.

I have had nerve pain in my lower back after doing some cross training by playing a bit if football. I don’t recall hurting my back during the session, but the next morning I was in agony. Having pleaded to be squeezed in to see my doctor, I was referred to see a specialist. Instead someone thought I should see a physio first. A bit of a time wasting and money saving tactic I’m sure. So I call the doctor, who says to call the hospital, who says to call a guy in appointments, who says to call the physiotherapy department. Only to find out there’s nothing on my file about it. So, I call the doctors, who then realise the problem and referred me a second time to see a specialist. The doctors explained how the system is a pain because what one doctor asks for is usually not what the next doctor thinks is the problem. Anyway, I get a call from the specialist who says the next appointment is in September. WHAT! I’ve had 3 weeks if this pain already, so yeah, I’m happy to hold out for another 2 months. NOT A CHANCE! NIT GIOD ENOUGH! Then I get a call from a different hospital saying ‘we want you next Friday and we will scan you on the day if the doctor thinks its needed’. That’s what I want to hear. The biggest frustration of all is that my own personal physio told me what the problem was 3 weeks ago.

Thankfully the sun is out while I write this outside the hospital reception. Being a sports person who competes and trains and works hard, the last thing I want is to spend time out of training and competing. I can swim and ride, but running is tough to do until j get my back fixed. Q

My questions are simple:

1. If we are sports people, why are we put into the same system as older people who have back ache for the last 15 years because of old age. That’s no disrespect to the older generation, but I would like to compete in my sports for another 20 years yet. Can we not devise a system to help athletes and the sporting population get faster care. If pay a bit extra for that.
2. Secondly, if I go to A&E with back pain that is really hurting, why does the drunk guy with a cut on his arm get seen before me. I hurt my back trying to improve my health and fitness. Whereas he cut his arm because he is wasted and started fighting which tends to lower the perception of our community. Please, see the difference is who is being a better human being.
3. Also, why are private health care packages so expensive. A company wanted £80 a month from me because of my sport and the level I competed at at the time. And, if I paid my private health care, would I be able to pay less national insurance because I’m not using the NHS as much.
4. And lastly, what if national insurance went up to meet the level of private health care insurance, do we think the NHS would be faster at seeing people.

I haven’t scan in 10 minutes, I’m just happy I can finally get this sorted.

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Beetroot will help you Beet your opponents

Not something we buy often.

When walking through the supermarket, most people will go for the usual fruit and vegetables; bananas and potatoes etc. This may be because of the ease of consumption and cooking recipes available. Plus the kids like chips and anything that is sweet. People may have heard about these ‘superfoods’ but not really read too much about them. In most cases superfoods such as blueberries and salmon are usually expensive. However, there is one vegetable that deserves its place as a superfood and is not expensive to buy. I’m talking about beetroots.

Despite the fact that, from fresh, they look like round podgy purple carrots, you can treat them just like you would a potato. Yes, I know that once you have started to peel a beetroot it looks like you have blood all over your hands. Yet, with a little bit of peeling, chopping and imagination you can make some really nice meals with beetroot. I would personally go for the fresh stuff and not the pre-peeled packet that you can often find in the supermarket. Most supermarkets will pump any vegetables that are in a packet with extra additives or preservatives to give it a better colour, taste and to make it last longer on the shelf. These unnecessary additives etc do not work that well inside your stomach. An old nutritionist of mine once said to me ‘stay fresh and eat fresh’. The fresher the products, the more vitamins and minerals you will get from that particular food source. Even professional football clubs realise the importance of fresh nutrition. For example, Chelsea Football Club invested in local farms in order to grow their own fruit and veg, in order to put it on the players plates within 24 hours.

But why buy it?

Beetroot holds something called nitrate. This nitrate helps your body in a number of ways. In the nutrition journal, Coles and Clifton (2012) found that taking in beetroot juice lowers blood pressure as part of a normal diet. In another journal, the consumption of whole beetroot vegetable was investigated against running performance (Murphy et al, 2012). They found that eating a nitrate rich vegetable like beetroot can improve running performance. If you are like me, then you will want to know why this happens. When you eat your beetroot, the nitrate within it is converted into nitric oxide. This new form of nitrate is what the body uses to open your veins up in order to help your blood flow through your body. If the veins and capillaries are wider, the blood has more space to travel through, and so lowers the blood pressure, and hence, helps a person perform harder for longer. If you are unsure whether to buy the juice or the veg, either because you are on a low carbohydrate diet or you are counting your calories, a cup of whole beetroot is under 40 calories and under 10g of carbs, whereas a serving size of 250ml of beetroot juice is 98 calories and closer to 22g carbs (due to natural sugars etc). I must admit though, drinking beetroot juice takes some time to adjust to. So, they include a bit of apple juice to make it palatable. Plus, having a bottle off beetroot juice in the fridge gives you fast access to those all important nitrates, but don’t be alarmed when your urine turns pink, its normal. So my advice is to buy both. Beetroot juice is in pretty much all of the supermarkets for £2.99.

What can I do with a whole beetroot?

So yesterday I tweeted that I would provide a cheeky beetroot recipe. This recipe makes about 6/7 little burger shaped patties, and you can mix it up and add extra bits and pieces to get it to taste however you like.

You need:

  • 3 beetroots (peeled and grated)
  • 1/4 onion (peeled and grade)
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 2 table spoons of flour or pure fine oats

The process:

  1. After grating everything, we want to get all the extra juice out of it, so place the beetroot in the the middle of a clean cotton kitchen towel and bring the corners together and start twisting. You can drain the fluid into a cup and use this later to drink yourself.
  2. Once most of the fluid is drained, place into a large bowl and add the grated onion and the beaten egg. Give this a good mix and add seasoning and anything extra you wish. I had a little bit of chorizo or bacon to go with this.
  3. At the 2 tablespoons of flour and mix through the grated beetroot.
  4. Next, go and wet your hands (so the mixture doesn’t stick to your hands) and then shape a small amount of the beetroot mixture into a ball and then flatten it like a burger.
  5. After you have completed this with all of the mixture, put a pan on medium to high heat and at some olive oil or rapeseed oil. Then you place the beetroots patties into the pan and cook on each side for 4-5 minutes.
  6. Once cooked, put a nice poached egg on top and you have a stunning meal for lunch.
Enjoy with a poached egg on top

Enjoy with a poached egg on top

British Sport – Our Time

When wasn’t it our time?

My first recollection of sport was at the age of four, and I could hear my father screaming at the television at the England team who were taken to the Mexico 1986 World Cup. And bellowing his advice to the likes of Gary Lineker, Glenn Hoddle, and Peter Shilton. We actually only finished eighth that year, after some of the worst performances my father had ever seen by the England squad. In the summer of 1986 an American won the Tour de France a German won Wimbledon and the British Lions didn’t even go on tour. Nevertheless, we did win the ashes, all be it not very convincingly. The British culture of sport was mainly dosed in alcohol, fighting and bullish behaviour. It is safe to say that we were decades away from winning anything. As a nation we were behind in so many of the sports that we allegedly invented all those years ago.

Slowly getting better…

It is hard to define when the turning point of British sport was. Although there were moments of greatness over the last 20 years. For example Jonny Wilkinson’s last second drop goal in the Rugby World Cup. Chris Boardman’s ride to glory in the Olympics. At home we had some of the toughest leagues and best sports to watch in the world. Yet, when we take all that talent into international duty we have a tendency to flop. The build up to the Olympics has had a huge effect on our sport. I am not saying that the Olympics was the major turning point, but the money and the funding that went into it surely helped our individual athletes. Sport and the sciences that are around it are becoming ever more popular. As a lecturer in sports science I’m seeing more and more students wanting to come onto the courses I deliver. And they are also looking to go on to studying sport sciences and related specialities at higher levels. Therefore, along with athletic talent, we are now getting the people to make this talent better. However a sport scientist also needs an athlete to work with. To which, this is also being improved with the variety of sports and the huge encouragement that schools and colleges are giving students to continue in their sports throughout their teenage years. And now, in 2013, it is fair to say that we have carved the way to sporting excellence. But we are not there yet. Although we are winning, we are doing it in the hardest possible way. For example, Lee Halfpenny missing that kick to secure the victory on the Lions tour. When Justin Rose just missed his approach shot on the 14th hole in the U.S. Open. When when Andy Murray dropped two sets in the final at Wimbledon.

Lets be good in at least one sport…

I remember being in a meeting about two years ago and one member of staff was discussing how ‘we need to be good in at least one sport’. The Spanish football team have dominated world football for the last five or six years. And now it looks like there will be a shift, moving across Europe into Germany. We were never able to perform well at one particular sport on the international stage. From watching England in World Cups and European Championships, to watching the Ashes, to watching the British Lions and the England rugby teams, to watching Murray get to so many finals and not hold the trophy. It was always so painful getting to the last hurdle and then falling.

 

‘Every time you win, you’re reborn; when you lose, you die a little.’ George Allen.

 

As a nation we have felt what it’s like to die again and again. However our nation has been reborn in sport. To summarise our success this year:

  • Scott Waites won at the BDO World darts Championships.
  • England dominated in the T20 against New Zealand in March.
  • Andy Murray won the Sony open tennis in the US.
  • We’ve had a number of British winners at 3 and 6 of Silverstone and also in formula 3.
  • Chris Froome won the tour of Romandie.
  • We have British winners in rallycross, speedway and superbikes on the international stage.
  • Our junior England rugby team won at the IRB junior world Championships.
  • Justin rose won the US open.
  • The British Lions won 2-1 in their tour against the Wallabies
  • We had a British driver win as part of a team in the 24 hours of Le Mans.
  • Andy Murray finally won at Wimbledon.
  • Chris Froome won the 100th and best Tour de France to date.

And it’s only July. At last we are a nation to be feared and not laughed at. Other nations take us seriously, because we now have an abundance of talented athletes, and we also have the best sport science and the best equipment and we leave no stone unturned when we want to win.

We have more talent in the bag too!

Electrolyte Replacement

Some people use them, others assume its something an electrician uses to fix a fuse box in dark a place. So before you go asking your electrician how many batteries his electrolyte needs, here is a quick lesson on what they actually are.

The majority of endurance athletes will take part in sporting events that will last anything from 30 minutes to 6 hours and above. Many of the Ironman races are around the 10 hour mark depending on fitness and terrain. But exercising for that length of time is not something that can be done without providing the body with the right fuel. To be able to go harder for longer an athlete requires to take in something known as electrolytes. Electrolytes mainly consist of words that you will probably forgotten since you were in chemistry class at high school. Nevertheless they are vital aspects to an athletes performance.

The five most important electrolytes are sodium, chloride, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. And if anyone can remember the chemistry lesson where you set fire to magnesium, you will recall that it went bright white with indescribable heat. And, guess what, this stuff is needed in your body. Possibly one of the most important electrolytes is sodium, as explained by Rehrer (2001) as it helps to maintain plasma volume and hydration in the body. The majority of these electrolytes escape the body through our sweat, and sodium as we know is what gives sweat that salty taste. If an athlete was unable to take in sodium as part of their nutrition fluid intake strategy, it will lead problematic consequences. Sodium has an important role to play in terms of the brain. Low-sodium in the bloodstream can lead to an athlete experiencing confusion and lethargy during an event. Something of which is definitely not needed in the closing kilometers of a triathlon.

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In an endurance event it is suggested by Shirreffs et al (2007) that 176 to 552 mg of sodium should be consumed per fluid liter. This can then be increased to 920 mg for ultraendurance events such as the Ironman (Rehrer, 2001). In a field study Noakes (1993) discovered that athletes consumed 0.5 liters/hour. However, these athletes held a sweat rate of 1.0-1.5 liters/per hour, which therefore highlights the importance that sodium can in help the fight fatigue when included in a sports drink. The America College of Sports Medicine recommended that an athlete should consume 0.5 to 0.7 grams of sodium per litre of fluid per hour (cited in Campbell & Spano, 2011), although some studies have suggested taking anything up to 2.9 g (Maughan, 1991). It is important to note however, that in an event that has a duration of under an hour, the importance of fluid and electrolyte replacement is possibly not as great.

So, if at this moment in time you are waiting on the delivery of an energy powder or electrolyte powder then I can offer a substitute for the time being. It is as simple as filling up your water bottle with water and a fruit cordial of your choice and adding a pinch or two of salt. And this becomes increasingly more important with the weather been so warm at this time of year.