Peanut Butter Protein Bites

This is a great snack to keep in your freezer at all times., minimal prep time and it is gluten/ refined sugar free.

Ingredients:
1 ½ cup of oats, blend into flour
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp natural smooth peanut butter (substitute: almond butter)
¼ cup maple syrup, or agave nectar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup almond flour
2 tbsp mini organic dark chocolate chips

  1. In a blender, blend oats into fine flour, set aside. Do the same with the almonds. In a standing mixer combine coconut oil, peanut/almond butter, vanilla and agave nectar/maple syrup, until smooth.

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  2. Add the almond and oat flour and beat again until well combined. Fold in the chocolate chips after.

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  3. Roll dough into small balls, about 1 tbsp of dough each. Place the finished bites in a container that is freezer safe. You can enjoy our protein bites as soon as 10 minutes of freezing. Store in your freezer for up to a week. ENJOY!

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Open Scissors and Your Lifting

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This is a very common sight: a sweaty intense looking guy cranking out pushup after pushup on the floor. It looks impressive at first glance, but on second glance, you notice a big “C” shaped arch in his low back, so much in fact that his belly button almost touches the floor each rep! Then wait, you realize that only half of his body is moving – the top half. Is this really a pushup you might wonder? Does this position do our pushup friend any good? Today we answer these questions and more!

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The horrible open scissors position; notice the poor low back and head position here.

This excessively arched low back position has been referred to as “open scissor syndrome”. Low back position that is compressed like this may be linked with increased muscle activation in this area. Why would this be? Most likely, something else, often the glutes are weak, so the low back takes over the mobile role of the hip extensors. The low back is supposed to be a stable joint, so this can lead to injury, muscle imbalance and pain over time. Often times, those with low back pain exhibit excessive back muscle activation and low abdominal activation. The lats or the serratus anterior could also be inactive, and the muscles of the upper back can be overactive. This restricts the mobility up top and once again the low back is forced become hypermobile.

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Normal positioning is seen on the left; overarched “open scissors” is seen on the right.

Open scissors not just makes you look like you are weak and have no idea what you are doing, but it stalls your training results. Without proper closed scissor position, your ability to activate the right muscles at the right time and breathe under load is impaired. This means you will not progress to lift bigger weights or lift for longer sets very fast in any exercise! Training the midsection muscles and improving body awareness here is key.

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The dead bug exercise. Creative name aside, it is one of the best core training exercises out there.

Midsection training exercises should focus on keeping strong closed scissor position. You may notice that as you fatigue the scissors want to open up. Don’t let them. Either make the exercise a bit easier or take a break. The deadbug, the bird dog and the plank are the most basic of these exercises for improving lumbar stability and midsection strength. Take as long as it takes to get the low back flat and hold it there with normal breathing. Once mastered, progress to sitting exercises and hold the closed scissor position. Breathe. Once that is mastered, go on to standing and then full on dynamic exercises. By now, keeping the scissors shut should be second nature!

References:
Kolar, P., Kobesova, A., Valouchova, P., & Bitnar, P. (2014). Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization: assessment methods. Recognizing and Treating Breathing Disorders, 93.

O’Sullivan, P. B., Phyty, G. D. M., Twomey, L. T., & Allison, G. T. (1997). Evaluation of specific stabilizing exercise in the treatment of chronic low back pain with radiologic diagnosis of spondylolysis or spondylolisthesis. Spine, 22(24), 2959-2967.

Radebold, A., Cholewicki, J., Panjabi, M. M., & Patel, T. C. (2000). Muscle response pattern to sudden trunk loading in healthy individuals and in patients with chronic low back pain. Spine, 25(8), 947-954.

Banana Nut Loaf

 

Today’s recipe is quickly made, easily stored and a definite comfort food for many.

Ingredients:
1 ¼ cup spelt flour (or any other type of flour)
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup vegan butter (or regular unsalted butter)
1 cup of organic cane sugar/coconut sugar
3 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed with a fork
½ cup of walnut pieced
½ cup of pumpkin seeds

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and start by mashing the banana.

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  2. In a standing mixer cream together the coconut/cane sugar and vegan/regular butter.

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  1. Add the eggs, vanilla and bananas to the fluffed butter. Mix until well combined. Now add the flour, salt and baking soda. Lastly fold in the nuts.

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  1. Prepare a baking pan, line with parchment paper and fill the batter into the pan.

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  2. Bake the banana nut loaf for 45 minutes. Let it cool on a cooling rack for five minutes before serving it either warm with a scoop of your favourite ice cream or fruit. You will find the loaf to be even more delicious the next day. Simply store in an airtight container. ENJOY!

 

Protein & Your Kidneys

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Protein rich foods are one of the more basic ingredients in an athlete’s kitchen. Too often, people have been misinformed and misunderstand protein intake. How many times have others expressed concern for the amount of protein an athlete eats? In mainstream media, we are often told that a high protein diet will lead to kidney problems. As a strength athlete myself, I am used to hearing these claims, and was at first appalled by this. In the end, I decided to dig into the evidence and then bombard these concerned “health experts” with some cold hard research evidence.

Below we have part of the filtration system in a kidney. The kidneys are responsible for regulating fluid balance in the body. High protein intake, in this case 35% of total calories, increases the glomerular filtration rate. Supposedly, consuming excess amounts of protein increases filtration pressure in the kidneys, which is claimed to “strain” the kidneys and lead to renal damage.

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A simplified look at glomerular filtration in the kidney.

This is an adaptation that is exactly comparable to getting stronger muscles as you lift heavier weights in the gym. Once you eat less protein, your kidneys will adapt and again slow the filtration rate. In healthy people and athletes, there is no evidence to support a “straining” of the kidneys. Strength athletes in particular have higher protein needs, especially during short periods of weight loss. Consuming more protein in the diet gives the body the building blocks it needs to rebuild and as preserves lean muscle mass.

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In some research, different diets have been tested on various clinical populations. It was found that only in those who already had kidney issues was high protein intake an issue. Those who saw detriments to their kidney function with high protein foods, already has kidney diseases.  Because a higher work rate is imposed on the kidneys, it makes sense that those with kidney pathologies do not do well on a high protein diet. The protein intake in research subjects did not cause the malfunction, rather diet in this population needs to match the lower work capacity of the kidneys. This does not leave athletes or those looking to lose weight in the clear to load up on protein. As always, quality sources are key and good lifestyle habits are also important. If you are not taking good care of your health and are training hard, you may be overloading your internal organs and putting yourself at risk for future pathologies.

References
Martin, W. F., Armstrong, L. E., & Rodriguez, N. R. (2005). Dietary protein intake and renal function. Nutrition & metabolism, 2(1), 25.

Mettler, S., Mitchell, N., & Tipton, K. D. (2010). Increased protein intake reduces lean body mass loss during weight loss in athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 42(2), 326-37.

Breakfast Quinoa Risotto

A hearty breakfast recipe made with quinoa, which is high in protein, gluten free and low in calories. This is a vegetarian dish, however you may add any other source of protein, for example chicken.

Ingredients:
2 knobs of coconut oil
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup of quinoa
2 ½ cups vegetable broth
a handful of shredded cheese, choose your favourite
2 cups of arugula
one bunch of green onions
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
½ cup of fresh mushrooms, sliced
salt & pepper
dash of olive oil

  1. In a medium size saucepan heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes.quinoa
  2. Add the quinoa and broth, bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer, covered for 14 minutes.qunioa
  3. Fold in the cheese and cook until quinoa is al dente and the risotto is still somewhat brothy. Remove from heat and fold in arugula and season with salt and pepper.qunioa2
  4. In a separate pan heat olive oil and saute green onions, tomatoes and mushrooms for about 5-7 minutes. Until green onions and mushrooms are lightly browned.quinoa3
  5. Plate quinoa and add your vegetables or protein of choice. You may add a sprinkle of cheese or a little more olive oil on top. ENJOY!

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Electrolytes for Maximum Energy

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Electrolytes. They are known to help athletes push harder and recover faster and even help cure the occasional hangover. This week we look at how electrolyte supplements work, when to use them, and how to concoct your own electrolyte drink. Electrolytes are electrically charged molecules that moderate muscle contraction.

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Above are the 5 types of electrolytes present in the body.

There is ample evidence to support performance benefits with the use of electrolytes. Although the activities and electrolyte amounts vary between studies, it is clear that replacing electrolytes either with balanced food or a drink helps recovery. Electrolytes are most important for training sessions and events that are over 60 minutes. Prolonged activity creates imbalance by using up electrolytes in energy producing reactions and forming water. Take a portion of electrolytes during and after your workout.

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Electrolytes may be beneficial for treating muscle cramps and heat injury that are particularly common with high intensity, prolonged exercise as in a bootcamp or obstacle race. As a muscle contracts repeatedly, contraction factors are moved across cell barriers as energy is converted and released. This action can create an imbalance in the tissue and result in muscle spasm. If left, overworked  muscles become tight and less able to perform work. Clearly, this is bad news if you want to perform well.

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Electrolytes may also be effective for treating tension headaches. Often times, water intake can improve the achy pain of a headache. Adding electrolytes to water allows more water to be captured and stored in the tissues. The benefits have been variable and may depend on the cause of the headache.

Electrolyte supplements are available from some companies, but can also be made from basic ingredients in your kitchen. Equal parts of salt and potassium chloride can be mixed with three times the amount of sugar or honey to provide balanced hydration.

References
Armstrong, L. E. (2002). Caffeine, body fluid-electrolyte balance, and exercise performance. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 12, 189-206.

Stanton, A. A. (2015). Migraine Cause and Treatment. Available at SSRN 2690927.

Von Duvillard, S. P., Braun, W. A., Markofski, M., Beneke, R., & Leithäuser, R. (2004). Fluids and hydration in prolonged endurance performance.Nutrition, 20(7), 651-656.

Crunchy Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

These crispy cookies are made with almonds and oats, so naturally gluten free. Once you made them, maybe hide half, because they are addicting.

Ingredients:
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
¼ cup vegan butter or coconut oil
¼ cup roasted almond butter or peanut butter
¼ cup coconut sugar or brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ sea salt
1 cup gluten free rolled oats, blend into flour
1 cup almonds, blend into almond meal
¼ cup dark chocolate chips

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  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl mix together flaxseed and 3 tbsp of water and set aside for 5 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

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  1. In a standing mixer beat together vegan butter and almond butter until combined. Add sugar and beat for one more minute. Beat in flaxseed and vanilla until combined.

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  2. One by one beat in baking soda, baking powder, salt, oat flour, and almond meal. The dough should be slightly sticky. If you think the dough is getting too dry, add a bit of almond milk. Lastly fold in chocolate chips.

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  3. Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Place the balls on a baking sheet, lined with parchement paper. Make sure to leave a lot of space between cookies, as they spread while baking. (Mine were too close together).

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  4. Bake cookies for 12-14 minutes, the cookies will be soft coming out of the oven. So let them cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack for 10 minutes.

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    ENJOY!

Build with BCAA’s

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Branched chain amino acids or BCAAs are an amino acid that has a branched molecular structure. Amino acids are present throughout the body and are used for various energy producing functions. BCAAs have been found to be metabolized mainly in the muscle tissue.

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Because of this BCAAs have become a popular supplement for enhancing muscle recovery after strength training, sparing muscle mass during fasting and increasing overall protein intake. Overall supplementing with BCAAs can keep the body in an anabolic state and maintain lean mass.

BCAAs are the most basic units that are put together in different ways to make proteins. Many amino acids can be made in the body, while essential amino acids can only be acquired from food or supplements. In exercising populations BCAAs in the muscle are broken down at a faster rate. It has be postulated that replacing BCAAs in the muscle will have a good effect on performance. Aside from exercise training, BCAAs have a known benefit for treating liver disease.

BCAAs can be taken in powder or tablet form. Powder forms are commonly flavoured because on their own BCAAs has a very strong taste. Most supplements are a balance of three BCAAs and are taken in 20g doses.

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The structural form of the three essential BCAAs in muscle tissue.

BCAA intake is most beneficial before, during and after exercise for promoting muscle synthesis and reducing muscle soreness. Supplementation makes this more convenient. After a squat training session, the group that supplemented with BCAAs had less fatigue during the lifts and experienced less muscle soreness the next day. BCAA supplementation has also been observed to increase muscle power output in trained lifters.

References
Crowe, M. J., Weatherson, J. N., & Bowden, B. F. (2006). Effects of dietary leucine supplementation on exercise performance. European journal of applied physiology, 97(6), 664-672.

Shimomura, Y., Yamamoto, Y., Bajotto, G., Sato, J., Murakami, T., Shimomura, N., … & Mawatari, K. (2006). Nutraceutical effects of branched-chain amino acids on skeletal muscle. The Journal of nutrition, 136(2), 529S-532S.

 

Strong & Explosive with Creatine

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Creatine is one of the few supplements that has a lot of cold hard evidence to back up what it does. Creatine is a naturally high energy molecule in the body that is used in the short duration high intensity phosphocreatine system. This system, also called the ATP-PC system fuels short bursts of energy with intracellular stores of creatine when the need can’t be met with oxygen. The creatine molecule is stored in the muscle and has high energy phosphate bonds. It it the detachment of the phosphate bonds that releases energy.

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High intensity intervals just got easier.

Meat, fish and eggs can provide some creatine in the food form, however real effects are best gained with creatine powder. Supplementing with creatine is most common among strength and power trainees. If your training demands short burst of all out intensity, taking creatine is proven to help you recover faster from each intense bout and go hard for the next one. Although some of the effect will lessen when you stop taking creatine many of the benefits are lasting. The biggest plus is that you can push harder, you can build more muscle and train more frequently.

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Creatine is water soluble and mixes easily with most protein powders.

Creatine can be taken in cycles or can be loaded to build up stores in the muscles. Cycling creatine refers to taking a set dose for a period of time and followed by stopping the dose. To load creatine, slightly higher doses are taken each day. When taking creatine, you must ensure you stay well hydrated. Creatine is stored with water in the muscle, so naturally you will need to consume more water. To prevent stomach issues, creatine is best taken with meal and dissolved in a glass of water.

One of the newer findings on creatine is that it has positive effects on mental clarity and decision making. This effect is especially prominent in older adults. Creatine is stored in all types of body cells and can provide energy during conditions of stress or low oxygen. It is by this mechanism that creatine supports all body cells, not just the muscle!

References
Greenwood, M., Farris, J., Kreider, R., Greenwood, L., & Byars, A. (2000). Creatine supplementation patterns and perceived effects in select division I collegiate athletes. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 10(3), 191-194.

Persky, A. M., Brazeau, G. A., & Hochhaus, G. (2003). Pharmacokinetics of the dietary supplement creatine. Clinical pharmacokinetics, 42(6), 557-574.

Rawson, E. S., & Venezia, A. C. (2011). Use of creatine in the elderly and evidence for effects on cognitive function in young and old. Amino Acids, 40(5), 1349-1362.

A Balanced Meal

The complete dinner with a source of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables. Easily made within half an hour.

Ingredients:
salmon (I used one half side)
½ cup of thinly sliced fennel
whole wheat pasta (I prefer penne)
asparagus
fresh lemon juice from one lemon
½ tsp chilli flakes
olive oil

For the creamy sauce:
1 medium size sweet potato, peeled, cut into chunks
1 garlic clove
½ tsp turmeric
¾ cup almond milk, unsweetened
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
salt & pepper

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Steam sweet potato. Wash and pat dry salmon, lay into tinfoil (slightly fold up edges of tinfoil), drizzle with olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Add thinly sliced fennel on top of the salmon and season with salt and pepper.

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2. Bring water to boil in a large pot with a pinch of salt. Make another tinfoil bed for the asparagus. Wash asparagus and trim rough ends. Drizzle with olive oil, add a bit of salt and red chilli flakes. Set timer for 20 minutes and put tray with salmon and asparagus in the oven (both should be cooked through at the same time). Now add pasta to boiling water.

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3. Make sauce for pasta, in a blender combine the sweet potato, garlic, nutritional yeast, almond milk, turmeric and salt & pepper. Once pasta is cooked, drain and combine with creamy sauce. Serve everything together. ENJOY!

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