Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Food: Prawn and pork paella (50g protein)

This makes enough for two portions.  Cooking time approx 45 mins. Protein (50g per serving).

250g cooked frozen jumbo prawns (40g protein)
1 x red pepper
1 x yellow pepper
1 x Courgette
1 x aubergine
1 x red onion
400g chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup of peas
1 cup brown rice
1/2 bag of fresh spinach
2 x pork loin steaks (30g protein each, 60g total)
Smoked paprika
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
Extra virgin olive oil
Olive oil

Put the brown rice on to boil.

Chop all of the veg into fairly big chunks and place it into a very large saucepan or frying pan, along with the spinach.  Add enough extra virgin olive oil to coat, cover in lots of paprika (to taste) and cook on a medium heat.  Stir frequently.

Dice the pork into small cubes. Put a couple of good glugs of olive oil into a small frying pan with 2 to 3 teaspoons of smoked paprika and a pinch of ground fennel seeds.  As the pork and coat well before placing on a medium to high heat.  Cook until brown, then spoon the pork pieces into the pan containing the veg, leaving the oil behind.  Add the chopped tomatoes to the mix and stir well.

When the rice is done, drain and add to the pan containing the veg and pork.  Mix well.

Add the frozen prawns. These should be pre cooked, do the just need to be heated, so will not require much coming time.

Once the prawns are fully defrosted and hot throughout, remove from heat and serve.

If you want more protein per serving, add another pork loin steak.  Pork loins are extremely high in protein, low in fat and are fairly inexpensive.  You can usually pick up a pack of 6 loins for under £5 or $8.

The ingredients listed above are half the amounts purchased.  The veg usually comes in packs that mean you can get 4 servings out of the purchase, making the cost per meal about £3 or $4.50 thereabouts.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Food: New quick quark recipe (55g protein)

1 x sweet potato
250g quark
1 x red onion chopped
120g salmon trimmings
1 x teaspoon of horse radish
Crushed black pepper
Microwave the sweet potato on full power for 10 mins. While that is cooking, chop the onion. Put the onion, horse radish, quark, salmon and black pepper into a bowl and mix until even. When the sweet potato is done, arrange everything on a plate and eat. Viola!
I had half eaten the dish in the photo.
There's roughly 55g protein in this dish.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Nutrition: Insulin sensitivity

I recently came across the following video on YouTube, from one of the many fitness guru's that post their videos on YouTube.  In the video, the presenter talks about the effects of high intake of carbohydrates versus low intake of carbohydrates.  While much of what is discussed is factually correct and is actually a useful source of information on the topic, there is an element of untruth surrounding the topic of insulin sensitivity at around the 2 minute mark.  The presenter describes insulin sensitivity with relation to consumption of carbohydrates as follows:
The gentleman that eats the pasta and feels very energetic, most likely has good insulin sensitivity.  The gentleman that eats the pasta and feels like he has to go to sleep, most likely does not.
Video in question

While true, that you can use sugar consumption and the body's reaction as a benchmark for insulin sensitivity, the untruth is in the order of the statements.  Since the vast majority of healthy people exhibit tiredness after eating carbohydrates, this statement suggests that it is abnormal or those healthy people are exhibiting signs of insulin insensitivity; or type II diabetes as described by our presenter.  Don't fear, feeling tired after eating "a big bowl of pasta" is a perfectly normal hormonal response to an increase in blood sugar.  Let me explain why...

This is an essential amino-acid that cannot be synthesised by the body and thus must be obtained through food. The significance of this amino-acid in relation to this topic, is that this particular amino-acid is used by the brain in order to produce the neurotransmitter, serotonin.  If you are thinking that serotonin sounds familiar, then that's because you may have heard it used to describe tiredness; we will discuss this in a moment.  tryptophan has to compete against a whole array of other amino-acids in the blood stream, in order to get absorbed by the brain.  Under normal circumstances, these other amino-acids act like a barrier and prevent absorption.  However, if other amino-acid levels are reduced, then concentration of tryptophan increases and thus more tryptophan is able to enter the brain, with the effect of an increase in serotonin production.  Generally, foods rich in carbohydrates are also a primary source of tryptophan.

This is a neurotransmitter that is used by the pineal gland, just below the brain, to secrete a endocrine hormone called melatonin.  The more serotonin released by the brain, the more melatonin that is secreted from the pineal gland.  Let's see what melatonin does...

This is an endocrine hormone that is released into the blood stream to regulate the body's sleep-wake cycle, among a whole host of other antioxidant properties.  It lowers body temperature and causes drowsiness, by suppressing nervous activity to the brain.

Insulin, another hormone secreted by the pancreas, has many functions.  One of its primary functions is to allow liver, muscles and fat-cells to absorb glucose from the blood stream.  It also allows these cells, if required, to absorb amino acids, excluding tryptophan, from the blood and has various anabolic effects.  So what?

The missing links
So how does insulin, tryptophan, serotonin and melatonin relate to this topic?  Well, the answer lies in the effects of insulin on amino acid levels in the blood as opposed to glucose levels.  When the amino acid levels in the blood are reduced, tryptophan is left behind in higher concentration.  This allows tryptophan to enter the brains blood barrier and thus results in the production of serotonin and thus melatonin.  Good insulin sensitivity is in fact indicative of high levels of melatonin and thus lethargy and tiredness after uptake of carbohydrates.  If you feel more energetic having just eaten "a big bowl of pasta", then this would indicate blood glucose saturation and low levels of insulin in the blood: insulin insensitivity.  The density of tryptophan would actually be reduced, even though there is an uptake of tryptophan from the carbohydrates, since the glucose molecules are larger and more prominent than most other molecules in the blood stream.

So lets correct that original statement:
The gentleman that eats the pasta and feels like he has to go to sleep, most likely has good insulin sensitivity.  The gentleman that eats the pasta and feels very energetic, most likely does not.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

WOD: Jump rope side swings/switches

Been practising this technique for a while, maybe a couple of months or so, and finally cracked it yesterday.  Before then, every attempt seemed to look messy or I would end up lashing myself up in the jump rope, whipping myself in the face or throwing the rope across the gym - accidentally of course!  The thing that seemed to help with practising this routine, was to practice the manoeuvre without the rope, visualising foot placement and timing in my head.  This approach seemed to pay off and it all came together very quickly within the past couple of weeks.  I have only been using the rope once or twice a week lately, figuring that less is more when it comes to allowing your brain time to memorise the routine.  Anyway, here's a video of yesterdays session, including some of the less desirable instances, of which includes the rope throwing incident.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Food: Post workout lunch

My usual concoction of kale, veg, beans, sweet potato and eggs had a slight twist today with the addition of some quark!  Quark is a "virtually" fat free cream cheese, which seems to behave like cream cheese in the sense that, when you add it to hot food, it melts.  Awesome!  So I added a whole tub of this to my lunch today, which when you consider that 100g has 13g of protein and 4g of carbs (that's it!), it is a really easy and cheap way to boost the protein content of the meal.  I dropped an egg (6g protein) and added this, giving a combined protein content of approximately 77g.  That is a bit excessive I know, but this is one of two meals I eat in a day, given the intermittent fasting protocol I choose to follow.

Here is a picture of the eggs, veg mix and quark before I combined them.

Here is a picture after I combined the veg and quark; notice the creamy Carbonara look to the whole thing.

If you are wondering how I made it all, I used two microwaves at work to cook the sweet potato, veg and eggs before mixing the quark in straight out of the fridge.  The sweet potato is buried beneath the veg, whole.  Here are the ingredients:

5 x whole eggs [organic] (30g protein, vitamins)
3 x tomatoes (carotene lycopene - a REALLY powerful anti-oxidant)
1 x red onion (sulphur, quercetin - another REALLY powerful anti-oxidant)
1 x yellow bell pepper [organic] (vitamin C, carotene lycopene)
1 x medium sweet potato (complex carbs, vitamins, fibre)
400g Haricot beans [organic in water, drained] (15g protein, fibre, folate)
Kale (Vitamin C)
1 x 250g tub of quark (32 g protein)

This is what I call super-food!!

PB: 40kg (88lb) Bench Press for 14 reps

New personal best for repetitions on this age old simple routine.  I went on to complete another three sets, though progressively fewer reps on each.  I go to failure on everything at the moment, with the regime I am following, so it's fairly difficult to maintain the same repetitions for each set, unless I want to rest for longer and potentially be in the gym for in excess of an hour!

My last effort was 12 repetitions at this weight, so 14 is a good step up.  Though 14 is now too many and I need to grab something heavier.  Unfortunately, dumbbells only go up to 40kg here, so will be looking to find a new gym in coming weeks.  However, I am offloading next week, so there isn't any immediate rush.

Today's workout was as follows:
Dumbbell bench press:
    Set 1:    40kg x 14
    Set 2:    40kg x 9
    Set 3:    40kg x 8
    Set 4:    40kg x 7

Dumbbell Shoulder Press:
    Set 1:    24kg x 11
    Set 2:    24kg x 8
    Set 3:    24kg x 7
    Set 4:    24kg x 6
Weighted Dips:

    Set 1:    40kg x 9
    Set 2:    40kg x 5 + 2 eccentric
    Set 3:    40kg x 4 + 1 eccentric

Push-ups to failure: 30 repetitions

Disappointed with the Dips, had pushed 40kg for 12 a couple of weeks ago, so not sure what's going on there.  Similarly, the shoulder press seems down, so the offloading week next week hasn't arrived too soon.  Up on finisher push-ups though, so pleased with that; this shows chest endurance is improving, despite endurance going into decline with triceps and shoulders.

Friday, 18 May 2012

IF: Post 22 hour fasting meal

Finally!  22 hours on from my last meal and I made it through to the next.  Despite tempting dry roasted peanuts on offer in the cupboard when I got home, I persevered and waited until 6:30.  My meal was a liver, bacon and onion dish with asparagus, courgette and sweet potato; my wife had hers with peas.

So, has it actually done anything?  Well, it's really too early to tell.  I am back to my usual 16/8 rota today, until next Thursday when I may try this 22 hour fast again.  So, as usual, I stopped eating at 8:30 last night and I won't be eating until at least 12:30 today.  Coffee is brewing and gym beckons, so I'll sign out shortly.  But first, I thought I'd video cooking the meal, just so you can see what the portion size is, etc.  Oh, it tasted great by the way!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

IF: Hunger spikes

Not been long since my last blog entry, but just wanted to log this hunger spike I am having right now, namely to make a note of the time but also to help take my mind away from it.  Hunger spikes typically occur about 4 - 5 hours after eating.  Sleep will typically throw this askew, since we would generally sleep for longer; hopefully 7 - 8 hours or more.  I have often wondered how long it would be after the first surge in hormones before the next surge of hormones occurs that makes you get that hunger feeling.  At this point, I am not starving, so the feelings are completely psychological, developed by hormonal changes occurring in my body.  These feelings will gradually subside over the next couple of hours and I will forget I was ever even hungry.  I am expecting to get another hunger surge right before I eat, since the psychological act of cooking will no doubt stimulate a hormonal response again.  According to research, when I eat, my body will overcompensate with growth hormone production, to maximise on nutritional uptake.  This is where some of the benefits to IF are to be made!

Anyway, lets set this as a 14 hour precedent, which means you will experience hunger 14 hours after having eaten your last meal, when fasting through sleep, and 5 hours since awakening.  I woke up at 5 am this morning, as I do every morning, and I was at work by 6:30 am.  I am planning on going to the gym for some last minute rehab (light cardio, stretching), in preparation for tomorrow's lifting programme.

Summary so far (to be continued...):
Eat -> Stop (8:30pm) -> Hunger (10:30am) -> (...) -> Eat (6:30pm)

IF: 22 Hour day

Today is a very sedentary day, with little exercise, so it's perfect to throw in a 22 hour fast.  Essentially, I haven't eaten anything since 8:30 last night, which was some dry roasted peanuts that followed the chilli con carne I made with a smal sweet potato (Meal 2).  Although I only had two meals yesterday, they were substantial and I must have gotten around 160 g of protein and 50 - 60g of carbs, with all the macros from the kale, onions, peppers, beans and whole eggs I consumed.  It is now 9:45 am and I haven't eaten for over 13 hours.  I have another 9 hours before dinner.

I had been supplementing my fasts with whey protein isolate (pretty much pure unflavoured whey), but this is not ideal since it's calorific and thus is technically breaking fast.  Now I have opted for BCAA powder, which is virtually zero calorie and is much smaller doses (5g) compared to the whey (20g).  So all I have consumed this morning is a multi-vitamin tablet, cod-liver oil, black coffee (no sugar), water and my BCAA powder (5g).  I will be dosing up with another 5g of BCAA at about 2pm, and there after it will be just water until about 6pm, when I will hit the food.

When breaking fast, it's important to consume fibrous foods first, to ensure that digestion does not become congested with protein dense food, having been emptied during the fast.  I will be supplementing with ground psyllium husks, to improve my fibre uptake.  Other than that, my fibre intake this evening will come from kale and onions, with my first fasting meal being liver, bacon and onions with sweet potato mash.

Reference Day:
Until now, my reference day has been on a Monday morning, first thing.  I will be moving this to a Friday, since I will be making Thursday a consistent extended-fast day, with every other fast day being 16 hours instead of 22.  In theory, since I consume lots of carbs on the weekend, versus carbs I am consuming during the week, a Friday morning reference day makes more sense.  So tomorrow will be my first point of reference for Friday's, tailing from Monday's reference.  Let's see what fat loss it will show for this week.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

IF: Meal 1

Just a sample fast breaking meal. Fast between 8:30pm and 12:30pm the following day, so 16 hours.

Sweet potato
6 eggs
Red onions
Cannelloni beans
Cajun seasoning
Coconut oil
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh basil

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Lower and Upper Body Conditioning Drills

I have blogged about this workout before, so won't go into too much detail.  If you want to know more, then look through my historic posts for "ICT 4".  This is the first time I have videoed the routine, so just wanted to post the new video.  I have condensed the video into a split screen to make it more interesting and reduce the running time.

Of note, it's worth watching around the 8:06 mark when my son decided to come and get in on the action.  I have no intention of actively encouraging him to participate in the future, since I believe it will be far more effective to allow him to see me exercising and want to participate.  Child psychology works in funny ways, usually when you don't want them to do something, they will do it and vice versa.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Intermittent Fasting or IF

I have seen information on this recirculating the web just recently, and have never really taken much time to share my experience of it.  So better late than never!

I first discovered the principles of IF a few years ago through Bjorn Granum's blog: Muscle and IF.  The idea that you would essentially starve yourself for intermittent periods, either each day or on selected days of the week, seemed to go against all the misinformation I had built up from reading fitness magazines many years prior.  So it was difficult to initially accept the idea and thus I began researching it, finding anything I could about it and how it works or doesn't.  I found a number of sources, but mostly were biased sources with no scientific study.  I had to go on the opinion of body-builders and fitness experts who claimed to use the philosophy and who made huge claims about its success in fat loss or control.

It was in its absolute infancy all those years ago, more so than today.  Because of this, I decided adapt my eating habits to this fasting protocol and test just how good it could be and how detrimental to gaining muscle it might be.  However, my own research was short lived, though I don't really recall why I stopped.  I think I just slowly slipped out of the protocol, since one of the weird things about it, is that it doesn't feel like a fad diet regime that requires constant motivation.  You find after a month or so, it becomes second nature to not eat after a certain time or before a certain time.  You become at one with the feeling of hunger and it almost becomes a challenge to push yourself a little further each day, maybe half an hour or an hour longer before breaking the fast.  It was at this point I think I began to slip out, having conquered various different periods of fasting.  Because the protocol was being followed for so long, I also forgot why I started and totally lost track of my progress.  Looking back, I remember I did get my fat percentage down below anything I had previously been before, while still maintaining all my strength.  The fat loss was extremely visible, so I actually didn't need a set of scales to monitor it.

With the recent surge in IF, it seems there is a lot more information about now than previously.  One I would recommend is this article by John Berardi.  For the first time, someone qualified to put a scientific face on the idea has taken up the philosophy and applied himself to the IF protocol over a six month period to test its impact.  There is also a downloadable e-book on the research.

I don't want to regurgitate or plagiarize this or any other new information on IF, so I will end here.  But before I sign off, I will say is that there is no substitute for trying something like this yourself and building your own conclusions.  Like everything, what works for me may not work for you. Try it yourself, write about it and share your story.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

WOD: Magic 50

Actually, I have two workouts of the day.  Originally, I opted for a variation on Ross Enamait's Enhanced Interval Training 1 (EIT 1) routine.  I had to quite heavily modify it, since I didn't want to be reworking my legs again with the squats in it, coupled with limitations on space where I train for sprinting.  Ideally, EIT routines are better served outside than in, but the weather here is really poor at the moment.  Anyway, due to the modifications, EIT 1.1 has actually been kicked to the curb by the Integrated Circuit Training (ICT) routine: The Magic 50.  But if you're still interested in the EIT variation, then that's listed below also.

Magic 50:

My time: 12 minutes dead it would seem.

My EIT 1 variation, dubbed "EIT 1.1":

6 Pull-ups
12 Burpees
24 Push-ups
100 Sprinting in place jump rope turns

Complete this 4 times with no designated rest, as fast as possible.

Alternatively, I might up the 100 rope turns with 100 double-unders.  Adjust as you see fit.

Monday, 7 May 2012

WOD: Jumping 550

Tonight, after a long day with the kids, I still had some unspent energy left, so put the last 10 minutes of daylight to work with this little circuit.  My aim was to get warmed up and complete it before the sun set fully, so I had roughly 15 minutes.  I began with a little warm-up on the rope, which I have omitted from the video.

I haven't seen this workout anywhere though I am pretty sure I am not the first to have conceived the idea.  But I will dub this workout the "Jumping 550" anyway.  It's designed as a short circuit to be completed in under 10 minutes, comprising of five circuits of 100 rope turns and 10 burpees, hence 550.  By the end of the workout, you will have completed 50 burpees and 500 rope turns as fast as possible and with as little rest as possible.  I strived for no rest, but still found myself struggling for breath in the thin air after three rounds of burpees.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Bruce lee ping pong / table tennis

I came across this on Facebook recently and was blown away.  It's the first time I have seen this footage, so will definitely be watching the recent BL documentary.  Legend: Bruce Lee.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Dynamic 2/3 day splits

At the moment I am working on a three day split that can be broken down to Push, Leg and Pull.  I have completed one cycle with last week as my first off-loading week for the program.  I intend to complete 2 cycles before changing it up slightly, with different routines.  Off-loading week is fully focused on strength endurance and conditioning, helping to maintain good stamina and CV.  The three day split is all body-building style work, going to failure on each set, with every fourth week before the off-loading week, introducing drop-set pyramids to really finish me off.  Some of this is DC style, while the rest is pure age-old simple man versus iron.

This week is worth mentioning, since it has been a diversion from the 3 day split, forcing an unusual 2 day split integrating some of day 1 into day 2 and 3.  This is due to holiday time and no access to heavy equipment.  So Weds saw just over an hour of work, with today comprising of an equal amount of volume.  Yesterday was a mini conditioning drill, with 10 minutes of burpees pull-ups, some light jump rope conditioning and stretching.  Today now has me finished for the weekend, with another Monday miss due to bank holiday next week and fathering duties.  So next week will see another 2 day split across Tues, Weds and Thurs, with Friday off to attend a wedding.  Busy times!

What I am really trying to express here though, is that it is still possible to complete the muscle building volume for the entire week in two days by dropping some conditioning.  The conditioning can be picked up at the weekends if really necessary.

The 3 day split:


  • Dumbbell bench press
  • Shoulder press
  • Standing roll-outs
  • Weighted dips
  • One-arm triceps extensions
  • Push-up finisher: 1 set to failure


  • Deadlift
  • Leg press
  • Glute-ham extensions
  • Bodyweight squats finisher: 1 set to failure


  • Lat pull-downs
  • Incline biceps curls
  • Seated row
  • EZ curl
  • Chin-up finisher: 1 set to failure

The 2 day split:


  • Deadlift
  • Leg press
  • Glute-ham extensions
  • Dumbbell bench press
  • Shoulder press
  • Toes to the bar finisher: 1 set to failure


  • Lat pull-downs
  • Incline biceps curls
  • Seated row
  • EZ curl
  • Weighted dips
  • One-arm triceps extensions

Thursday, 3 May 2012

WOD: 50 Burpees Pull-ups

This workout is done for time.  No designated rest intervals, though I have found breaking it up into five repetition sets with a tabata style rest interval works well.  Five repetitions takes me roughly 20 seconds, with 25 to 30 seconds rest before the next set.  Optimally, I should be looking to achieve 20 seconds work versus 10 seconds rest; this will see an overall time under 5 minutes.  This is fairly realistic given 50 burpees can be achieved in 2 and a half minutes without stopping.

If this is too easy, then simply increase the volume to 100 burpees instead of 50.

My time:

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

160 kg (350 lbs) deadlift - new PB

A new personal best for me.  Previous PB for deadlift was 150 kg for 7 reps.  I will be lightening for endurance next week, so will see in two weeks if I have made any headway with my volume for this one.