EAT: SCI-MX Ultra Whey

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There are plenty of arguments out there about whether there really is an anabolic window or not but to me it’s really important to refuel with protein no more than half an hour after a heavy weights or HIIT workout. In my experience I suffer less with DOMS the next day, and I’m also less hungry in the following 24 hours – if you’ve ever experienced post-leg day hunger you’ll know what I’m talking about here!

Whether you’re a window believer or not, there’s no denying it’s important for athletes who train hard to get their protein requirement, but with most modern meals tailored Joe Public’s fat- and carb-laden tastes it can be tough to get the 1.4g/kg bodyweight needed for strength training into your system.

In steps protein powder. Most of my food is made from raw materials, rarely eating anything with more than two ingredients – but I recognise the convenience and nutritional value of protein powder, so make an exception. Previously I would just choose the cheapest option, which was frequently GNC’s own-brand whey. At 20g of protein a pop and 100 kcals, I could just about knock it back if I held my nose – though it left an artificial taste in my mouth long after I’d drained my shaker. Why did I put up with the bitter aftertaste, as someone so discerning about the rest of their diet?

Thankfully, SCI-MX came to my rescue by sending over a sample of their gamechanging whey protein, the Ultra Whey Protein*. It has a whopping 35g of protein per serving with only 177 kcals, comparable to 110g of chicken breast.. and I think we all know which is the more convenient choice when you’ve just finished up at the gym. Ultra Whey contains leucine, isoleucine and valine – three Branched Chain Amino Acids, essential for repairing torn muscles and preventing muscles from breaking down. There’s also added glutamine, which is important when consuming high levels of protein as glutamine supports your kidneys in maintaining your body’s acid-base balance.

SCI-MX have worked to make the shake taste like a true milkshake, without the added sweetness. Whilst there are still two sweeteners on the ingredients list the taste is not overwhelming like other wheys I’ve tried. In fact to me the shake tastes and smells like Easter eggs, and I look forward to it post-gym – it’s more like a treat than a supplement.

My one little bugbear is the lack of ladies on the SCI-MX website. I can only assume that this is representative of their current market, though given they’ve reached out to me, maybe they’ve realised that women train hard and need nutritional support too.

Basically, there’s a LOT of thought gone into this product from SCI-MX, and it’s perfectly tailored to supporting athletes’ bodies to be the best they can be. Now I’ve done more research into protein powders and I’m aware of things like BCAAs and glutamine I’ll be making a much more considered choice from now on – and knowing the work that has gone into Sci-MX’s Ultra Whey, it’s a product I’ll be no doubt turning to again and again.

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EAT: Healthy Living in Knutsford

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Working out and eating out do not often go hand-in-hand; it’s all too common to go in with the very best of intentions but become swayed by the cheesy, carby, deep-fried delights on the menu. Easier to avoid eating out altogether, right? (Right.. haha!)

But what if you could treat yourself to a meal out without the temptation, and eat a meal carefully created for your nutritional needs by a personal trainer? Cool Italian restaurant Gusto have developed a menu with newly-launched personal training studio Nxtep – situated just off the sweet main road of Knutsford, King Street – to support your body post-workout and help you stick to your eating plan, whilst also enjoying yourself.

Exercise causes your muscles to work and tear slightly; your muscles then use protein to repair and grow after working out. That’s why it’s important to refuel with protein post-workout, else your body can’t repair the muscles to the point it needs to, ultimately slowing your metabolism. The Gusto Healthy Living menu prioritises protein, with salmon, sea bass and chicken dishes, taking into account the nutrients within: omega 3 for its anti-inflammatory properties, magnesium and potassium to rebalance electrolytes after a serious sweat-fest, and vitamin B12 to help you process energy and boost your mood.

This week I got to have a nosy around the luxurious Nxtep studio whilst trying out the nutritious yet delicious Gusto goodies. Nxtep has all the mod cons – including a resistance machine I’d never seen before, with handles and pulleys, below – along with a good old squat rack and free weights, yet still manages to look like a glamorous bar. I could easily imagine the space nestling on Kensington High Street – incidentally where founder Laura cut her personal training teeth. Certainly it put my PureGym membership to shame; I don’t think I’d ever want to leave if I was a client at Nxtep!

The Healthy Living menu is available in the Knutsford, Cheadle Hulme, Alderley Edge and Didsbury restaurants – ask for the menu on its own when you sit down and you won’t even have to read the “p” word (… that being pizza).

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Wholesome Eats at Jamie’s Italian | Restaurant Review, Manchester

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I had it all figured out, this trip to Jamie’s Italian Manchester*. I checked the menu the week before; decided on the Superfood Salad with chicken. Maybe share some olives with Chris to start, one glass of wine, no dessert. I even had this blog post title sorted: “Clean Eats and Jamie’s Italian”. Yes! It could be done, eating clean at a restaurant, and at an Italian, no less.

What I hadn’t factored in is that I had an extremely busy day on Friday which meant I only ate two boiled eggs and a pack of cooked chicken, then I went to CrossFit before hitting the restaurant. Unsurprisingly after my rubbish eating day I was also pretty rubbish at CrossFit – a bar was loaded up for me and I couldn’t even clean it. Relaying my food diary for the day to the coach he remarked that I would probably go and eat a whole cow now… And after the idea of steak was planted in my head, I couldn’t get it out. It had to be done.

So. At Jamie’s. Incredible building, previously a bank; high ceilings, atmospheric small dining areas, rad original features – this sounds silly but you have to go to the toilets – just a really cool place without any pretention. Our waitress was so shiny and enthusiastic, describing the specials to make you want all of them, at the same time. And believe me, I was certainly hungry enough (Later it was revealed that our waitress was studying catering and hospitality at university and loved working at Jamie’s so much she was going to do her placement year there. Aw).

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I had olives to start, which were those lovely meaty types that you only get in Italy and proper Italian restaurants, served with ‘music’ bread; sort of like a tortilla but managed to have a lovely doughy taste. Then my main meal arrived – which, of course, was steak. I chose the 8oz rump which came with fries (half of which I donated to Chris) and I also chose to have seasonal vegetables on the side, including KALE! If I had to take a mark away it would be for the presentation of my meal, which wasn’t particularly inspiring, but hey, it’s steak. It could just be slapped on a plate for me and I’d still enjoy. This one had been grilled to medium-rare perfection, and was wonderfully juicy. Finally, my starvation-and-CrossFit-induced hunger had subsided. But I wasn’t too full for a dessert…

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After fries, a bottle of wine, and the biggest portion of cheesecake known to man, I can hardly call this experience clean eating. But I could tell everything was freshly made with seasonal ingredients, and any butter or oil added was clearly noted in the menu. Chris is insistent that we go back again, and I’m inclined to agree; perhaps next time I’ll be a touch less hungry and I will actually have the Superfood Salad. But now I know the steak is that good? We’ll have to see.

* We attended as guests of Jamie’s Italian – thanks! This review is still honest and my opinion will never be bought.


EAT: No Run, Just Food

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Wednesday nights sees the weekly meeting of my running club, the Manchester Road Runners. I’ve only been going for a few weeks but I feel right at home: there’s no snottiness, it doesn’t matter how fast your miles are or how far you run, as long as you show up, have a bit of a run, then hit the pub afterwards for a cheeky post-workout drink.

This week though was a lot less running and a lot more food. An awful lot more food (remember I said my balance was a bit out of whack last week? Yeah). Red’s True Barbecue opened on Manchester’s Albert Square a few months ago and is already a bit of a cult classic in the city, with at least a half hour wait on a weeknight. Luckily we’d booked and no sooner were we sat down than our food was in front of us. You would think that for someone who only started eating beef a few months ago I’d be cautious with my meat, but nope: I love getting stuck into a good burger. I had the double cheeseburger though I actually picked off the bacon and cheese to give to my boyfriend, who also had half of my chips. It may not look like a huge portion on the plate, but it was sure filling!

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Eaten too frequently burgers are not great for you, especially when they’re covered in fatty sauces, bacon and cheese. However, it’s not all bad news! Picking good quality beef (grass-fed is perfect) keeps the saturated fat low, and the less processed, the better. Beef is packed with protein and also contains zinc, B vitamins, and iron – which women especially can be deficient in. For me it’s a monthly treat rather than weekly, and I mix up my protein sources and eat lots of fresh fruit and veg too.

I think after that feast it’s back to running next week for us motley lot!

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The Protein Pick and Mix Review & 10% DISCOUNT CODE!

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The Protein Pick & Mix. The very name of this online store fills me with the joy of being a kid in a candy shop, with the added benefit of potential GAINZ on top. Everything is available is single servings so if you’re wanting to try out new shakes, supplements or snacks, this is the place for you. Seriously, I love this store – upon clapping eyes on their site, I knew I had to make a cheeky order!

You can get a 10% discount off your first Protein Pick & Mix order by clicking this link (let the page load fully!)

Their branding is spot on, with everything from the candy striped background to how my order arrived – in sweetie bags with Protein Pick & Mix stickers to match. My delivery arrived within two days and I am now a member of the Brownie Points scheme, meaning my loyalty will be rewarded with store credit. A fantastic offer for such a relatively small company. I decided to try out the much-hyped Quest bars and also a nut butter that the sound of tickled my taste buds…

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Quest bars are the toast of the fitness world, and I’m not one to miss out on a hype. They contain 20g of protein with around 170 calories per bar, so in theory a great treat if you’re trying to lean out. There’s one small catch for me, though: they’re horrible! To me it’s like eating a piece of dried-out old chewing gum. They taste really overly sweetened – despite having no added sugar – and my teeth felt funny afterwards. I also feel the picture on the front of the pack is misleading – I, perhaps naively, expected the bars to vaguely resemble the snacks they’re named after, like cookies & cream or peanut butter cups. Actually, they just look like reformed cake batter.

Although I’m glad I finally tried them this is not an experience I will be repeating!

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Good news, though: I LOVED the other product I ordered from the Protein Pick & Mix, which was Nuts ‘N More‘s Almond Cinnamon & Raisin butter. They seem to have trouble keeping these guys in stock so it seems I’m not alone in being a fan. Although it was a little strange at first, especially the texture, the more I eat it, the more addicted I am! I’ve found it’s best alone on rice cakes as the flavours really complement each other, and with smoothies, yoghurt, or pancakes, adds a real flavoursome kick. There are 7 grams of protein per tablespoon and also 8.5 grams of good fats from the almonds and added flax, for only 96 calories.

I will definitely be ordering from the Protein Pick & Mix again – partly to get my Nuts ‘N More fix and to try out some new things, but also because of the beautiful package you receive. It’s like that Friday after-school treat trip to the sweet shop all over again – but a lot healthier!


How To Get Enough Protein On A Vegetarian Diet

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Next week is National Vegetarian Week! Why, you ask, would that interest a bona fide meat-eater such as myself? It may surprise you to hear that it was actually only in January that I moved over to the dark side. I found that the harder I trained, the hungrier I became – and only the densest of protein-rich foods would fill me up. Hence the meat cravings, and the abandonment of the vegetarian lifestyle I’d led for ten years.

That’s why the current trend of vegetarianism for health interests me. Mitra Wicks wrote about part-time vegetarianism in this month’s Om Yoga Magazine: the self-professed “fine meat” lover tries out a plant-based diet for a month to reap the healthy benefits. Whilst it’s true that studies show a meat-rich diet can be detrimental to your health, Anita Bean also states in Sports Nutrition that athletes need between 1.2 and 1.7 grams per kilogram bodyweight – and I mean athletes as in individuals who train hard, not just the Jess Ennises and Mo Farrahs of this world – compared to a sedentary person who only needs 0.75 grams per kilogram.

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So how do we strike a balance? You’d be amazed to learn just how many foods protein is present in, though it’s difficult to get sources as dense as meat. To poke a litle fun at switch to being a meat-eater, I set myself a challenge to try get as much protein in one evening meal as I possibly could – without resorting to meat, dairy, or even fake meat!

Kidney beans: 8g per half can (120g). Beans are a perfect source of protein for vegetarians – they’re full of fibre, stabilise blood sugar and are inexpensive.

Chickpea & spinach soup: 4.4g per half can. Chickpeas are also legumes, the same as beans, and share many of the same benefits. This can is one of my “emergency” meals but I thought it would be good to make it the base! Plus this ad-lib addition is in keeping with the thrown-together quality of this dish.. Ahem.

Mushrooms: 2.2g per cup. I used to think that mushrooms were mega protein dense, due to their presence in most veggie meals, but I actually think this is due to their meaty texture rather than macro content. Still, not bad for a vegetable – calorie-for-calorie, broccoli has 1.2g.

Quinoa: 8g per cooked cup. A trendy superfood, and with good reason – it contains all nine amino acids and has twice the protein of rice.

Green pepper: 0.5g per half pepper. For taste, texture and colour!

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Total protein per portion: 23.1g. Perhaps not in the lofty heights of 50g for a steak but not bad for a plate full of vegetables.

This dish did fill me up and is something I would happily add into my weekly menu, though perhaps not suitable for the day after legs day: my muscles need more fuel after lifting heavy. I’d have been interested to hear if Wicks felt any better after her meat-free month, especially seeing as I felt stronger after ceasing vegetarianism! It just proves that your diet is a very personal thing, and whilst you should take into account what the experts say, how you feel is the best indicator of a healthy lifestyle.


Two Days With Myprotein | Sports Nutrition Review

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Post-spinning, work canteen selfie

Last week I lost 3lbs. Great news, right? Well.. No. Not to me, as I’d been using MyFitnessPal to maintain weight exactly. Worryingly I don’t measure my body fat percentage often enough to know whether that 3lbs was made up of fat, or whether it was muscle, organ tissue, or any of the other stuff necessary to make my body function. So – as someone who doesn’t own a heart rate monitor or FitBit – I’ve bitten the bullet and increased my food intake.

It’s tough. One: because society dictates that women should always be eating less, and despite detesting this outdated viewpoint, there is still a small part of my being screaming we can’t eat more! We’ll get fat! And two: it is surprisingly hard to figure out enough different meals and snacks that fit my macros throughout the day to both hit my calorie target and also inspire my palate.

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In step Myprotein. After receiving a pack of goodies, I decided to use them to bulk out my diet in as many interesting ways as I could over two days. On Thursday I began my day with my usual breakfast, muesli and Greek yoghurt, but with half a scoop of strawberry Impact whey protein mixed in. This stuff comes in a huge variety of flavours including unflavoured, useful for adding to all sorts; the strawberry taste made it feel like a real treat and I found myself less hungry throughout the day. Pre-evening workout I made a shake with the strawberry whey, a banana, peanut butter and almond milk, which tasted incredible but made my HIIT workout harder from sloshing around in my stomach too much! Definitely my mistake – it’s perfect for chilling out after the gym, though.

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Friday morning, pre-spinning. I attempted to make pancakes using the MyProtein mix, and it was an absolute disaster with pancakes in bits, leaving the house eating them half cooked..! I’m not the best at using the frying pan at the best of times (seriously, even my omelettes end up in pieces) so maybe 6am wasn’t the best opportunity to test these out for the first time – I cheated on my own challenge and made them again Sunday morning. This time they turned out delicious, and even my mum enjoyed them, although when completely plain they are a touch eggy they’re the perfect vessel to add berries, peanut butter or dessicated coconut to.

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Obviously the much more civilised Sunday morning attempt.

Post-spinning I had an Oats & Whey Flapjack, which again surprised me how full I felt for the rest of the morning. Over the two days I added in Chocolate Smooth whey protein shakes which taste like advent calendar chocolate; on Friday night I had a warm one which was deliciously comforting after a long week.

Okay, so I wouldn’t eat like this every day – I’d be missing out on nutrients you can only get from whole, fresh food. However, the MyProtein products certainly filled me up which is no mean feat considering my usual appetite, and I really enjoyed thinking of new ideas to add to my diet! By the end of the second day protein was 40% of my intake, so I should have benefited from some muscle growth over the two days. Usually I’d pick one of these options to add in every day to supplement my diet, and have it post-workout.

With thanks to MyProtein for providing the samples for this post – you can shop their products here and until April 30th new customers can enter code NEW10 for 10% off your order.