Too much too soon

I was feeling better on Thursday having made it almost 24 hours without the more unpleasant symptoms of stomach flu. My protein heavy dinner had gone down and stayed down without incident, so I resumed my normal diet.

However, I was still feeling really tired and needed an afternoon nap to get through the day. My abdominal muscles were also feeling really battered, but I still felt the need to go to javelin training. It was technical session, which is not usually that intense. If it had been a strength training session in the gym, or a run, I would have skipped it. As well, my first planned competition of the season is now less than a month away and I didn’t feel I could afford to miss a technical skills session.

Unfortunately this was not a great choice. I am not a very good thrower at the best of times but I just couldn’t seem to get it together. I thought I simply wouldn’t throw as far, but my coordination simply wasn’t there either. Coach would ask me to work on a particular aspect of my leg work and it would take me three or four tries to get anywhere close, by which point I was so focused on the legs my upper body technique was all over the place. Very frustrating!

What’s more, not only did I feel really depleted afterwards, but my post workout sandwich (heavy on protein, fat and fibre) resulted in a return of stomach cramps. I found myself sipping apple juice in an attempt to settle my stomach before bed. Clearly a case of too much too soon, for very little gain!

The Score for 23 March:

Calories: Protein: Carbs: Sugars: Fat: Sat Fat: Fibre:  
1855 106.26g 247.74g 90.02g 51.43g 16.42g 30.61g  
23% 53%   25%    
     
Calories burned through exercise: 254      

What I ate:

Time Item Amount Calories Protein Carbs Sugars Fibre Fat Sat Fat Alcohol
08:00 Centrum Multivitamin,  Vitamin E 400IU, Vitamin D 25 µg
Tap water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Soft boiled eggs, 2 large 125g 163 15.75 0.00 0.00 0.00 11.25 3.13 0.00
Free From pure oats 50g 171 6.40 30.30 0.60 4.30 2.70 0.50 0.00
made with boiling water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Tesco mixed frozen fruits 110g 44 0.99 8.69 8.69 2.20 0.22 0.00 0.00
Ground flaxseeds 10g 45 2.21 0.30 0.18 2.37 4.00 0.45 0.00
Black tea 450mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
10:00 Twinnings cherry and cinnamon tea 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
12:15 King Prawn stir fry with carrots, broccoli, peppers, onions, mushrooms, ginger and sweet chilli sauce 285g 157 20.91 21.25 11.36 3.32 1.01 0.44 0.00
topped with cashews 20g 116 3.64 5.38 1.18 0.66 8.78 1.56 0.00
Wai Wai brown rice vermicelli 50g 186 3.40 42.10 0.00 0.95 0.40 0.15 0.00
Green tea 350mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Plum 61g 25 0.36 5.28 5.28 0.96 0.06 0.00 0.00
Yakult light milk drink 65mL 27 0.80 8.80 2.90 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
15:45 Natures Path Mesa Sunrise cereal 50g 195 5.00 40.00 6.50 5.00 1.65 0.25 0.00
with skimmed milk 200mL 69 6.80 10.00 10.00 0.00 0.20 0.10 0.00
topped with sliced nectarine 87g 39 1.22 7.83 7.83 1.04 0.09 0.00 0.00
17:00 Javelin training
18:45 Sandwich made with Genius brown sliced gluten free bread, 2 slices, with 74g 185 1.85 33.30 1.78 7.40 4.88 0.37 0.00
Baked chicken breast, 80g 108 25.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 1.52 0.48 0.00
Tesco extra mature cheddar, 41g 170 10.41 0.04 0.04 0.00 14.31 8.90 0.00
and Baxters Albert’s Victorian chutney 26g 39 0.26 9.15 8.37 0.47 0.08 0.00 0.00
Sliced tomato 96g 18 0.66 2.91 2.91 0.94 0.28 0.09 0.00
21:00 Tesco pressed apple juice 200mL 98 0.60 22.40 22.40 1.00 0.00 0.00 0.00

Using salts to rehydrate

Sports drinks really can help with rehydration

I was feeling a little better on Wednesday, though still far from well. My stomach was still tender and my appetite much less than usual, so I was once again on simple carbohydrates and avoiding protein, fat and fibre. But by the evening I felt well enough to try a baked chicken breast, which accounted for almost half the day’s protein.

As I was still feeling dehydrated, I had a bottle of water with an electrolyte tablet in the afternoon. Electrolytes are just mineral salts like sodium, potassium and chlorine. Fluids are absorbed from the gut and into the blood faster when their salt concentration closely matches that of blood. By adding mineral salts to water, you make it closer to concentration of your blood, which means it is absorbed better and does not encourage the body to increase urine production the way plain water can. In other words, you rehydrate faster.

This is why the sports drink was invented. In essence, a sports drink is simply water with some simple sugars and electrolytes. Yesterday I talked about how adding some simple carbohydrates can also help with rehydration. While being ill is one of the few times simple carbohydrates are appropriate, the more common occasion is extended periods of exercise. Endurance athletes can produce sweat at rates exceeding 1.5 litres an hour and about 90% of this comes directly from the blood. Drinking anything when exercising can slow dehydration substantially, but having something with some salts and sugars can really improve performance. What’s more, the salts and sugars in sports drinks also stimulate thirst, so athletes usually drink more when they have a sports drink. This is especially important when exercising in the cold, as most athletes don’t feel as thirsty.

Clearly serious dehydration will impair sporting performance, or your ability to get through a workout. However, mild dehydration caused by sweating is not that big a deal. So while sipping water during exercise is always a good idea, there’s no need to reach for a sports drink unless the session is going to be very sweaty (such as an intense interval session on a hot, sunny day) or well over an hour. Which is why most power athletes who exercise at a lower intensity, such as myself, rarely use them.

The Score for 22 March:

Calories: Protein: Carbs: Sugars: Fat: Sat Fat: Fibre:  
1672 94.60g 233.26g 98.31g 36.83g 11.32g 23.20g  
23% 56%   20%    
     
Calories burned through exercise: 0      

What I ate:

Time Item Amount Calories Protein Carbs Sugars Fibre Fat Sat Fat Alcohol
08:00 Centrum Multivitamin,  Vitamin E 400IU, Vitamin D 25 µg
Tap water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Soft boiled eggs, 2 large 120g 157 15.12 0.00 0.00 0.00 10.80 3.00 0.00
Newburn Bakehouse by Warburtons gluten free crumpets 129g 218 5.20 43.42 1.95 1.82 1.82 0.65 0.00
with butter 3g 22 0.02 0.03 0.02 0.00 2.47 1.56 0.00
and St Dalfour Raspberry fruit spread 19g 47 0.10 11.20 11.20 0.40 0.16 0.00 0.00
Black tea 450mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
10:00 Fresh ginger tea with a splash of lemon juice and 1 tsp honey 250mL 25 0.00 6.25 6.25 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
12:15 Tesco finest vine ripened tomato and lentil soup 300g 182 7.80 19.20 8.40 4.50 7.20 0.60 0.00
Nairns gluten free wholegrain crackers 28g 128 2.97 16.49 0.50 2.13 4.70 1.85 0.00
Tesco finest Elderflower jelly 120g 81 0.96 17.16 16.92 0.84 0.84 0.24 0.00
15:30 Activia natural yoghurt 150g 96 7.50 9.90 9.90 0.00 2.90 2.00 0.00
Natures Path Mesa Sunrise cereal 50g 195 5.00 40.00 6.50 5.00 1.65 0.25 0.00
Sliced nectarine 90g 40 1.26 8.10 8.10 1.08 0.09 0.00 0.00
Tesco sweetened dried cranberries 26g 84 0.08 19.35 16.25 1.38 0.40 0.05 0.00
16:00 Sleep
17:15 Nuun lemon lime electrolyte tablet 1 tablet 5 0.00 1.00 1.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
in water 750mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
20:00 Baked chicken breast 131g 175 41.47 0.00 0.00 0.00 2.47 0.78 0.00
Sweet potato mash 168g 152 2.40 32.96 9.25 3.50 0.38 0.10 0.00
Steamed broccoli 102g 40 4.30 3.20 1.90 2.50 0.60 0.20 0.00
Gravy made with 10g Bisto Best chicken gravy granules in 100mL boiling water about 75mL 25 0.43 5.00 0.17 0.06 0.35 0.04 0.00

Image Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_ejzett’>ejzett / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

When simple sugars are called for

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been ill with stomach flu. Monday night/early Tuesday morning was awful, I got very little sleep and lost most of what I had eaten the day before.

You will notice that Tuesday’s diet was very high in sugars and simple carbohydrates, and fairly low in protein and fat. This is not an attempt to improve my mood and energy levels after a sleepless night, but a targeted eating strategy . Basically, simple sugars are the easiest thing to digest. Not only do bland carbohydrates like porridge sooth an upset tummy, but they are digested very quickly and easily. Protein is much harder to digest – in fact the reason stomach juices are so acidic is to break down protein. So are fats (so no eggs at breakfast). Fibre can also be problematic as it broken down by the bacteria in the gut. If you’ve had a bad bout of flu with diarrhoea, then you will have fewer bacteria to deal with the fibre in your food. What’s more, the muscles around the intestine contract to move fibre through, so if you have stomach cramps, you really don’t want to encourage further contractions. So to give my overworked digestive system a break, I was avoiding protein, fat and fibre.

The other reason to stick to simple carbohydrates is they help with rehydration. Any diarrhoea or vomiting will lead to dehydration, as we lose a lot of fluids when this happens. What’s more, if you’re running a fever you’ll sweat more, which dehydrates you further. Dehydration can quickly become a serious problem when you’re ill and if nothing else will delay recovery. As I’ve discussed before, the problem is if you simply drink a load of water all at once, the body responds by increasing urine production, to prevent the salt concentration in your blood from being diluted.

The solution is to add some simple sugars and electrolytes to your drink. As they need digesting, this slows down the rate at which the water reaches your bloodstream, so your body has time to adjust. Plus adding salts makes the concentration closer to that of blood. In other words, having some simple sugars along with water will help you to rehydrate more quickly than simply drinking water alone. Which is why I spent the morning on the couch with a large pot of tea with sugar and milk (lactose sugars and electrolytes).

You can tell I was feeling somewhat betty by the evening as my appetite had returned and I felt well enough to try some cheese!

The Score for 21 March:

Calories: Protein: Carbs: Sugars: Fat: Sat Fat: Fibre:  
1998 60.55g 304.02g 156.89g 54.50g 19.58g 30.51g  
12% 61%   25%    
     
Calories burned through exercise: 0      

 

What I ate:

Time Item Amount Calories Protein Carbs Sugars Fibre Fat Sat Fat Alcohol
08:00 Centrum Multivitamin,  Vitamin E 400IU, Vitamin D 25 µg
Tap water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Free From pure oats 50g 171 6.40 30.30 0.60 4.30 2.70 0.50 0.00
made with boiling water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
topped with sultanas 25g 74 0.68 17.35 17.35 0.50 0.10 0.03 0.00
and ground flaxseed 10g 45 2.21 0.30 0.18 2.37 4.00 0.45 0.00
8:00 to 11:00 Decaf black tea 900mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
with skimmed milk 160mL 56 5.44 8.00 8.00 0.00 0.16 0.00 0.00
and sugar 15g 60 0.00 15.00 15.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
12:00 Tesco pressed apple juice 200mL 98 0.60 22.40 22.40 1.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
12:30 Tesco butternut squash soup 300g 82 1.20 7.50 7.50 4.50 4.20 0.30 0.00
Nairns gluten free wholegrain crackers 28g 128 2.97 16.49 0.50 2.13 4.70 1.85 0.00
Yakult light milk drink 65mL 27 0.80 8.80 2.90 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
13:30 Tesco Twists cheese and onion 40g 161 3.96 27.72 1.32 2.24 3.32 0.52 0.00
14:00 to 17:00 Sleep
17:30 Newburn Bakehouse by Warburtons gluten free crumpets 131g 218 5.20 43.42 1.95 1.82 1.82 0.65 0.00
with butter 3g 22 0.02 0.03 0.02 0.00 2.47 1.56 0.00
and St Dalfour Raspberry fruit spread 20g 47 0.10 11.20 11.20 0.40 0.16 0.00 0.00
Plums, two medium 148g 62 0.89 13.02 13.02 2.37 0.15 0.00 0.00
Decaf black tea 450mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
with skimmed milk 100mL 35 3.40 5.00 5.00 0.00 0.10 0.00 0.00
and sugar 7g 28 0.00 7.00 7.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
19:30 Tesco finest vine ripened tomato and lentil soup 300g 182 7.80 19.20 8.40 4.50 7.20 0.60 0.00
Tesco finest raspberry jelly 120g 73 0.96 14.76 14.40 1.32 0.84 0.24 0.00
21:30 Nairns gluten free wholegrain crackers 28g 128 2.97 16.49 0.50 2.13 4.70 1.85 0.00
Applewood smoked cheddar 15g 61 3.75 0.02 0.02 0.00 5.16 3.24 0.00
Jarlesberg cheese 21g 72 5.60 0.02 0.02 0.00 5.60 3.46 0.00
Mature cheddar cheese 20g 83 5.08 0.02 0.02 0.00 6.98 4.34 0.00
Black seedless grapes 100g 66 0.40 15.40 15.40 0.70 0.10 0.00 0.00
Baxter’s Albert’s Victorian chutney 13g 19 0.13 4.58 4.19 0.23 0.04 0.00 0.00

 

Falling ill

Unfortunately I have been ill with stomach flu for the past couple of days. Hindsight being what it is, I can see how I was already falling ill well before I had serious symptoms.

Monday’s diet started off OK. I had my normal breakfast of porridge and eggs, and some gluten free chicken wraps for lunch. I suppose the first sign was feeling quite tired and blah before I went to the gym – hence the extra energy bar and glass of milk. Things did not improve during my workout, which just felt much harder than normal. I wear a heart rate monitor for all of my workouts (it’s how I get the calories burned number) and despite taking it relatively easy, found my heart rate was also much higher than normal. This should have been my first clue.

After my post workout meal my stomach was really unsettled, which I put down to indigestion and all the extra fibre.  In any case I wasn’t hungry for my dinner, and ended up making myself a plate of cheese and crackers to nibble on in front of the TV. It seemed to settle my stomach so I followed it up with some salty snacks and plenty of water. I didn’t want to have more cheese as I knew it was high in fat and calories. Turns out I needn’t have worried about the extra calories as they didn’t stay put long enough to be fully absorbed.  I was up most of the night with all the classic symptoms of stomach flu.

That being the case, I would take my totals for 20 March with a pinch of salt!

The Score for 20 March:

Calories: Protein: Carbs: Sugars: Fat: Sat Fat: Fibre:  
2318 140.90g 245.95g 105.53g 78.79g 23.34g 44.34g
25% 43% 31%
Calories burned through exercise: 358

What I ate:

Time Item Amount Calories Protein Carbs Sugars Fibre Fat Sat Fat Alcohol
07:15 Centrum Multivitamin,  Vitamin E 400IU, Vitamin D 25 µg
Tap water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Soft boiled eggs, 2 large 115g 150 14.49 0.00 0.00 0.00 10.35 2.88 0.00
Free From pure oats 50g 171 6.40 30.30 0.60 4.30 2.70 0.50 0.00
made with boiling water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Tesco mixed frozen fruits 100g 40 0.90 7.90 7.90 2.00 0.20 0.00 0.00
Ground flaxseeds 10g 45 2.21 0.30 0.18 2.37 4.00 0.45 0.00
Black tea 450mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
11:45 Two Bfree quinoa and chia seed wraps with 101g 250 7.60 36.00 5.30 11.50 5.80 1.40 0.00
Baked chicken breast, 100g 135 31.90 0.00 0.00 0.00 1.90 0.60 0.00
sliced tomatoes, 104g 21 0.73 3.22 3.22 1.04 0.31 0.10 0.00
mixed salad leaves, 20g 8 0.64 0.64 0.06 0.66 0.06 0.04 0.00
and Helleman’s real mayonnaise 10g 72 0.11 0.14 0.13 0.00 7.90 0.63 0.00
Apple 115g 60 0.46 13.57 13.57 2.07 0.12 0.00 0.00
14:45 Trek Peanut Power energy bar 55g 203 10.20 25.70 21.10 3.00 6.00 1.00 0.00
Skimmed milk 250mL 87 8.50 12.50 12.50 0.00 0.25 0.00 0.00
15:15 Gym session
17:00 MaxiNutrition Lean protein powder, chocolate 40g 140 20.00 13.00 12.00 0.00 0.90 0.30 0.00
in water 275mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Heinz 50% less sugar Beanz 200g 134 9.00 19.80 4.60 7.40 0.40 0.00 0.00
Genius brown sliced gluten free bread, 1 slice toasted 34g 87 0.85 15.30 0.82 3.40 2.24 0.17 0.00
with Sunpat crunchy peanut butter 21g 128 5.21 3.05 1.41 1.53 10.23 1.93 0.00
and honey 6g 20 0.03 4.86 4.86 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
20:00 Nairns gluten free wholegrain crackers 28g 128 2.97 16.49 0.50 2.13 4.70 1.85 0.00
Tesco extra mature cheddar cheese 36g 149 9.14 0.04 0.04 0.00 12.56 7.81 0.00
Edam, mild 20g 63 5.20 0.02 0.02 0.00 4.74 3.16 0.00
Black seedless grapes 100g 66 0.40 15.40 15.40 0.70 0.10 0.00 0.00
21:00 Tesco Twists cheese and onion 40g 161 3.96 27.72 1.32 2.24 3.32 0.52 0.00

Image Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_yeletkeshet’>yeletkeshet / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

A much better diet week

Daily averages for the week:

Calories: Protein: Carbs: Fat: Alcohol: Fibre
2062 20% 46% 31% 3% 34g
1.55g/Kg 3.67g/Kg  
 
Total exercise calories this week: 2063  

This week’s diet has been pretty good. I’ve averaged just over 2000kcal per day, with four days below the target and three days above. I only had one day where I didn’t get at least five portions of fruit and vegetables, and I averaged over 30g of fibre and 99g of protein a day.  At the same time, I was able to enjoy cheesecake on Friday and a large gluten free Italian meal on Saturday night, complete with half a loaf of garlic bread (so very fluffy and delicious but 480 kcal on its own!). This meant it didn’t feel like a week without treats. More importantly, this felt like a way of eating I can sustain.

If there’s one area where I could improve, it was in the exercise I got. As I’ve gotten busier, I’ve found it more difficult to fit in all the sessions I want to do. So you’ll notice there hasn’t been much running lately, which is a problem as cardio burns the most calories in the least amount of time and encourages the body to use fat as fuel. What’s more, I was feeling slightly unwell on Friday afternoon so I skipped the gym. I did have a leisurely hike on Saturday and extra time on the treadmill before Javelin training on Sunday. These activities together burned roughly the same calories as a gym session, but will not build muscle in the same way. And as I’ve said before, more muscle means more calories burned at rest and a higher metabolism.

So this week I’ll be looking to plan my workouts better, so I get enough cardio and strength training.

The Score for 19 March:

Calories: Protein: Carbs: Sugars: Fat: Sat Fat: Fibre: Alcohol:
2114 111.56g 242.60g 100.37g 60.25g 13.01g 39.92g 16.52g
21% 46%   26%   6%
     
Calories burned through exercise: 697      

What I ate:

Time Item Amount Calories Protein Carbs Sugars Fibre Fat Sat Fat Alcohol
08:00 Centrum Multivitamin,  Vitamin E 400IU, Vitamin D 25 µg
Tap water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Soft boiled eggs, 2 large 115g 150 14.49 0.00 0.00 0.00 10.35 2.88 0.00
Free From pure oats 50g 171 6.40 30.30 0.60 4.30 2.70 0.50 0.00
made with boiling water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Tesco mixed frozen fruits 100g 40 0.90 7.90 7.90 2.00 0.20 0.00 0.00
Ground flaxseeds 10g 45 2.21 0.30 0.18 2.37 4.00 0.45 0.00
Black tea 450mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
11:30 Bfree quinoa and chia seed wrap with 49g 125 3.80 18.00 2.65 5.75 2.90 0.70 0.00
sliced Baked chicken breast, 62g 83 19.78 0.00 0.00 0.00 1.18 0.37 0.00
sliced tomato, 97g 19 0.68 3.01 3.01 0.97 0.29 0.10 0.00
mixed salad leaves, 10g 4 0.32 0.32 0.03 0.33 0.03 0.02 0.00
and Helleman’s real mayonnaise 6g 43 0.07 0.08 0.08 0.00 4.74 0.18 0.00
Trek Peanut Power energy bar 55g 203 10.20 25.70 21.10 3.00 6.00 1.00 0.00
Easy peeler oranges, 2 small 112g 53 1.02 10.85 10.85 1.70 0.23 0.00 0.00
12:00 Warm up + 25 min treadmill run
followed by Javelin Training
15:30 Homemade carrot and lentil soup 350g 217 8.93 26.68 9.45 4.69 7.53 1.47 0.00
Activia natural yoghurt 150g 96 7.50 9.90 9.90 0.00 2.90 2.00 0.00
Natures Path Mesa Sunrise cereal 50g 195 5.00 40.00 6.50 5.00 1.65 0.25 0.00
Sliced plums, 2 large 135g 56 0.81 11.88 11.88 2.16 0.14 0.00 0.00
Sunflower seeds 5g 30 1.04 0.57 0.13 0.43 2.58 0.23 0.00
Pumpkin seeds 5g 30 1.51 0.54 0.07 0.30 2.46 0.44 0.00
19:45 Homemade chilli con carne with extra vegetables 310g 278 23.01 21.85 14.64 5.49 9.16 2.14 0.67
Brown basmati rice 130g 150 3.75 30.83 0.51 1.44 1.23 0.29 0.00
Glass of red wine 150mL 127 0.15 3.90 0.90 0.00 0.00 0.00 15.85

Cortisol: The reason stress makes you fat

Gentle exercise is by far the best way to lower cortisol levels

You may have heard that stress causes weight gain. At first this might seem obvious: When we’re stressed, we tend to skip the gym and comfort ourselves with high fat, high sugar foods. However, stress causes far more problems that can be accounted for by a couple of missed gym sessions. The culprit? A little hormone called cortisol.

Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands which sit on top of the kidneys. Cortisol levels naturally rise overnight, peaking about 7am, and help get you up and going in the morning. They then gradually fall during the day, dropping to their lowest levels in the evening, to help you sleep.

Cortisol is also released in response to stressful situations whether they be physical (an intense workout) or emotional (a fight with your boss). Cortisol prepares the body for fight or flight by narrowing the arteries and increasing heart rate. It also floods the body with glucose, so muscles have an immediate energy source. It then inhibits insulin production so blood glucose levels stay high. As well, “non essential” functions like the immune system, digestion and reproduction are suppressed.

The problem is modern life is full of stressors that cannot be solved by fight or flight. This leads to constant high levels of cortisol.  Long term high levels of cortical are a serious risk factor for weight gain and obesity, for several reasons. High cortisol levels mean high blood sugar levels, and since insulin is also suppressed, can lead to insulin resistance. What’s more, with all the glucose in the blood not being absorbed into cells, you get cells crying out for energy. Studies have shown a direct association between cortisol levels and calorie intake. Higher cortisol levels mean an increased appetite and cravings for high calorie, high sugar foods, particularly in women. Cortisol also causes triglycerides to be released from storage and moved to visceral fat cells. Visceral fat is the stuff in your abdomen around your organs and is strongly linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Clearly managing stress levels is an important part of weight loss and staying healthy. And by far the best way to manage cortisol levels is with exercise. While cortisol levels rise during exercise, the physical activity burns off the glucose released into the blood and hormone levels soon return to normal. In other words, you “use” the elevated heart rate and glucose levels for their intended purpose, so there is no lasting harm. The second best way to manage cortisol is to cut down on caffeine. The reason you feel more awake and energetic after a cup of coffee is caffeine increases levels of cortisol. Fine in small doses in the morning, not so good in the evening if you’re planning to sleep that night.

Of course stress is as much mental as it is physical. Having a proper laugh at a funny film, taking a relaxing bath, or visiting with friends all help to reduce cortisol levels. In other words, doing things that keep you relaxed are as important for weight loss as what you eat!

The Score for 16 March:

Calories: Protein: Carbs: Sugars: Fat: Sat Fat: Fibre:  
1847 106.65g 201.79g 61.68g 65.17g 18.05g 30.14g
23% 44% 32%
Calories burned through exercise: 327

 

What I ate:

Time Item Amount Calories Protein Carbs Sugars Fibre Fat Sat Fat Alcohol
07:45 Centrum Multivitamin,  Vitamin E 400IU, Vitamin D 25 µg
Tap water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Soft boiled eggs, 2 large 115g 150 14.49 0.00 0.00 0.00 10.35 2.88 0.00
Free From pure oats 50g 171 6.40 30.30 0.60 4.30 2.70 0.50 0.00
made with boiling water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Tesco mixed frozen fruits 100g 40 0.90 7.90 7.90 2.00 0.20 0.00 0.00
Ground flaxseeds 10g 45 2.21 0.30 0.18 2.37 4.00 0.45 0.00
Black tea 450mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
10:00 Fresh ginger tea with a splash of lemon juice and 1 tsp honey 250mL 25 0.00 6.25 6.25 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
12:15 Pork loin steak, grilled, fat removed 81g 157 15.92 0.00 0.00 0.00 10.30 3.77 0.00
with Baxters Albert’s Victorian chutney 19g 30 0.20 7.04 6.44 0.36 0.06 0.00 0.00
Brown basmati rice 130g 150 3.75 30.83 0.51 1.44 1.23 0.29 0.00
with Kikkoman Tamari gluten free soy sauce 7g 4 0.70 0.14 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0
Cauliflower, microwaved 93g 35 3.35 2.79 2.33 1.67 0.84 0.19 0.00
Broccoli, microwaved 81g 32 3.44 2.56 1.52 2.00 0.48 0.16 0.00
13:00 Green tea 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
16:00 Activia natural yoghurt 150g 96 7.50 9.90 9.90 0.00 2.90 2.00 0.00
Natures Path Mesa Sunrise cereal 50g 195 5.00 40.00 6.50 5.00 1.65 0.25 0.00
Sliced plums 97g 41 0.58 8.54 8.54 1.55 0.10 0.00 0.00
Sunflower seeds 5g 30 1.04 0.57 0.13 0.43 2.58 0.23 0.00
Pumpkin seeds 5g 30 1.51 0.54 0.07 0.30 2.46 0.44 0.00
17:00 Javelin Training
18:45 Tesco free from seeded sandwich thins with 51g 127 3.98 16.47 0.56 5.51 3.88 0.31 0.00
Baked chicken breast, 92g 124 29.03 0.00 0.00 0.00 1.75 0.55 0.00
Sliced tomato, 97g 19 0.68 3.01 3.01 0.97 0.29 0.10 0.00
and Helleman’s real mayonnaise 10g 72 0.11 0.14 0.13 0.00 7.90 0.63 0.00
Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa chocolate bar, 2 squares 20g 113 1.90 6.80 5.80 0.00 8.20 4.80 0
21:00 Tesco Twists cheese and onion 40g 161 3.96 27.72 1.32 2.24 3.32 0.52 0.00

 

Dehydration: More than just water

I had a really bad sleep last night. As regular readers will know, I suffer from bad allergies but am not taking any medications for them at the moment. Even after sleeping in a bit and having a good breakfast, I still felt exhausted and unwell so I went back to bed for an hour.

I then had my first breathing test (spirometry) at the hospital in the afternoon. This involved breathing into a tube so they could measure the amount of air my lungs can hold, then giving me a drug to open up the airways and measuring again. The drug they gave me was a version of Ventalin, the stuff in every asthmatic’s blue inhaler. Normally the dose is two puffs however, for the test the nurse gave me five! Somewhat unsurprisingly, this opened up the airways nicely. But it also made me feel incredibly shaky, headachy and lightheaded. It made getting home on public transport fun!

It was later on at the train station when I realised the other reason I was feeling so poorly is I’d had very little to drink that day. Normally I would have an herbal tea at my desk in the morning, and sip water all day. But I’d spent the morning in bed and the afternoon at the hospital. As usual with these things, the tests at the hospital had taken far longer than planned, so I didn’t bring any snacks or water with me. I’d had my usual amount of black and green tea, but I’ve found anything with caffeine has a mild diuretic effect on me.

The problem with dehydration is that it’s not just about water. The fluids found inside the body, like blood and intracellular fluid, contains a variety of minerals (sodium, potassium, calcium, etc.) in carefully controlled concentrations. Too much water might dilute the concentration of these minerals, so if you simply down half a litre of water in one go, the kidneys ramps up urine production to get rid of it.

This is why when I got to the station and realised I was dehydrated, I didn’t just reach for a bottle of water. As previously discussed, coconut water is high in potassium, but is rather low in sodium and chloride (salt) so I also went for some salty snacks. The simply carbohydrates in coconut water and rice cakes also encourage the body to absorb more water, so you rehydrate faster. I tried to balance this with a bit of protein, so I didn’t get a sugar spike and felt fuller for longer.

Lesson learned: Always take water and a snack, no matter how long you plan to be gone!

The Score for 15 March:

Calories: Protein: Carbs: Sugars: Fat: Sat Fat: Fibre:  
1771 88.46g 229.38g 100.96g 50.53g 14.47g 29.23g  
21% 52%   26%    
     
Calories burned through exercise: 0      

What I ate:

Time Item Amount Calories Protein Carbs Sugars Fibre Fat Sat Fat Alcohol
08:45 Centrum Multivitamin,  Vitamin E 400IU, Vitamin D 25 µg
Tap water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Pan scramble with eggs, 2 large 115g 150 14.49 0.00 0.00 0.00 10.35 2.88 0.00
Onion, 23g 9 0.28 1.82 1.29 0.32 0.05 0.00 0.00
Green pepper, 40g 8 0.32 1.04 0.96 0.64 0.12 0.04 0.00
Spinach, 20g 6 0.56 0.32 0.30 0.42 0.16 0.02 0.00
and Tesco extra mature cheddar cheese 10g 41 2.54 0.00 0.00 0.00 3.49 2.17 0.00
Genius brown sliced gluten free bread, 2 slices toasted 60g 147 1.48 26.57 1.42 5.90 3.89 0.30 0.00
with butter 7g 52 0.04 0.08 0.04 0.00 5.75 3.65 0.00
and St Dalfour Raspberry fruit spread 22g 54 0.12 12.88 12.88 0.46 0.18 0.00 0.00
Black tea 450mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
12:15 Homemade carrot and lentil soup 350g 217 8.93 26.68 9.45 4.69 7.53 1.47 0.00
Tesco free from seeded sandwich thins 54g 134 4.21 17.44 0.60 5.83 4.11 0.33 0.00
Skimmed milk 250mL 87 8.50 12.50 12.50 0.00 0.25 0.00 0.00
Plums, 2 small 119g 50 0.71 10.47 10.47 1.92 0.12 0.00 0.00
13:00 Green tea 350mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
15:30 Snack a Jacks mini rice cakes, sour cream and chive 26g 108 2.00 20.40 1.70 0.30 2.00 0.20 0.00
Kings Rib eye flavoured beef biltong 30g 79 15.09 1.85 1.71 0.36 1.19 0.49 0.00
Innocent coconut water 500mL 95 0.50 23.00 17.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
19:30 Homemade chilli con carne with extra vegetables 310g 278 23.01 21.85 14.64 5.49 9.16 2.14 0.67
Brown basmati rice 130g 150 3.75 30.83 0.51 1.44 1.23 0.29 0.00
Fresh blueberries 48g 32 0.34 6.96 4.80 1.15 0.14 0.00 0.00
Yoomoo frozen yoghurt ice lolly, mixed berry 1 lolly 74 1.60 14.70 10.70 0.30 0.80 0.50 0.00

 

Missing my targets

Daily averages for the week:

Calories: Protein: Carbs: Fat: Alcohol: Fibre
2492 20% 44% 33% 1% 36g
1.9g/Kg 4.28g/Kg  
 
Total exercise calories this week: 1992  

This has certainly not been my best diet week. I averaged 2492 kcal per day, when my target is 2000! My previous highest average daily calorie intake was 2430 and that was after I spent four days on holiday in London! Even then, it was three days of indulgence followed by three days of eating much less. This is the first week where I have had over 2300 kcal every single day (except Sunday); accompanied by large amounts of sugar and saturated fats, of course. This is not so much missing the target, as shooting in the opposite direction.

It would be easy to say that I felt stressed and out of control all week, but that was only true on Wednesday. Looking back, my diet was quite healthy and junk food free on Monday and Tuesday, simply high in calories. On Thursday it was only a small bag of chocolates extra and on Wednesday and Friday, it was one massive meal that was out of control, the rest of day was fine. It was a combination of factors that led to so many high calorie days.

I’ve found some people simply do not love food as much as I do. They can have a single chocolate biscuit and be completely satisfied. These people can easily work a small daily treat into their diet without it hurting their healthy eating goals. When I let go and eat as much as I want of whatever I want, it’s always a thousand calories! That being the case, I’m going to have to be much stricter about planning and sticking to my healthy eating plan.

The Score for 12 March:

Calories: Protein: Carbs: Sugars: Fat: Sat Fat: Fibre: Alcohol:
1895 106.19g 195.46g 70.37g 60.99g 16.25g 31.48g 16.44g
23% 41%   29%   6%
     
Calories burned through exercise: 510      

What I ate:

Time Item Amount Calories Protein Carbs Sugars Fibre Fat Sat Fat Alcohol
08:00 Centrum Multivitamin,  Vitamin E 400IU, Vitamin D 25 µg
Tap water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Soft boiled eggs, 2 large 115g 150 14.49 0.00 0.00 0.00 10.35 2.88 0.00
Free From pure oats 50g 171 6.40 30.30 0.60 4.30 2.70 0.50 0.00
made with boiling water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Tesco mixed frozen fruits 100g 40 0.90 7.90 7.90 2.00 0.20 0.00 0.00
Ground flaxseeds 10g 45 2.21 0.30 0.18 2.37 4.00 0.45 0.00
Black Tea 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
10:00 Black tea 350mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
11:45 Tesco free from seeded sandwich thins 61g 152 4.76 19.70 0.67 6.59 4.64 0.37 0.00
Baked chicken breast, 93g 125 29.67 0.00 0.00 0.00 1.77 0.56 0.00
sliced tomato, 100g 20 0.70 3.10 3.10 1.00 0.30 0.10 0.00
spinach leaves 12g 3 0.34 0.19 0.19 0.25 0.10 0.01 0.00
and Helleman’s real mayonnaise 10g 72 0.11 0.14 0.13 0.00 7.90 0.63 0.00
12:15 Javelin training
15:00 Natures Path Mesa Sunrise cereal 50g 195 5.00 40.00 6.50 5.00 1.65 0.25 0.00
with skimmed milk 200mL 69 6.80 10.00 10.00 0.00 0.20 0.10
Homemade fruit salad with pear, orange, plum, kiwi, nectarine and blueberries 160g 79 1.22 16.49 15.39 2.94 0.33 0.00 0.00
Yeo Valley natural yoghurt 95g 77 4.84 5.32 5.32 0.00 4.27 2.75 0.00
Sunflower seeds 5g 30 1.04 0.57 0.13 0.43 2.58 0.23 0.00
Pumpkin seeds 5g 30 1.51 0.54 0.07 0.30 2.46 0.44 0.00
15:45 Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa chocolate bar, 2 squares 20g 113 1.90 6.80 5.80 0.00 8.20 4.80 0
17:30 Twinnings cherry and cinnamon tea 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
19:30 Homemade chilli con carne with extra vegetables 275g 246 20.41 19.38 12.98 4.87 8.12 1.90 0.59
Brown basmati rice 130g 150 3.75 30.83 0.51 1.44 1.23 0.29 0.00
Glass of red wine 150mL 127 0.15 3.90 0.90 0.00 0.00 0.00 15.85

 

Old habits resurfacing

On Saturday we visited my husband’s family as it was his mom’s birthday. It’s a two hour drive each way, but we decided to simply go up for the day, rather than stay overnight. Unfortunately old habits took over, which made this another high calorie day.

We had lunch on the road and even managed to find a gluten free sandwich at the coffee shop in the rest stop. A bit low in protein, but some steamed milk took care of that. However, I was unable to leave without picking up some chocolate snacks for the car. This was always a tradition in my family. My parents rarely kept chocolates or crisps in the house when I was growing up but we got to have these foods when we travelled. Looking back I’m sure the “road food” (as we called junk food) helped to keep us kids happy and quiet for long hours in the car, but it is an unhealthy habit that has stuck with me. I find it really hard to spend more than an hour in a car without snacking. Even if I just ate, even if I’m not really hungry, old habits just take over.

So, having had an extra 400 kcal in chocolate, I decided to skip my afternoon snack. And this turned out to be my second mistake. By the time we arrived home that evening, neither my husband nor I were in any mood to cook. We ended up having left over Chinese food, and since I missed my afternoon snack I found myself absolutely starving. So instead of a healthy 500 kcal dinner, I had close to 1500 kcal – again!

In both cases, old habits had a part to play. I could have packed some healthy snacks for the trip, but deep down I still have the attitude that calories consumed in a car don’t count somehow. I could have enjoyed the Chinese food on Friday night then made sure it was a one time treat by throwing away the left overs. But I simply cannot waste that much food (there was enough left for both my husband and I to have a second complete meal). Even if that food is cheap and unhealthy.

Problem is, these old habits are invariably unhealthy or high calorie ones. If I’m going to lose the fat and keep it off, I’ll need to plan carefully to break the cycle.

The Score for 11 March:

Calories: Protein: Carbs: Sugars: Fat: Sat Fat: Fibre:  
2976 122.34g 277.39g 140.60g 142.44g 37.60g 21.38g
18% 38% 44%
Calories burned through exercise: 0

 

What I ate:

Time Item Amount Calories Protein Carbs Sugars Fibre Fat Sat Fat Alcohol
08:00 Centrum Multivitamin,  Vitamin E 400IU, Vitamin D 25 µg
Tap water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Soft boiled eggs, 2 large 120g 157 15.12 0.00 0.00 0.00 10.80 3.00 0.00
Genius brown sliced gluten free bread, 2 slices toasted 68g 170 1.70 30.60 1.63 6.80 4.49 0.34 0.00
with Sunpat crunchy peanut butter 32g 195 7.94 4.64 2.14 2.34 15.58 2.94 0.00
and honey 9g 29 0.10 7.34 7.27 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Black Tea 450mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
11:00 Green Tea 350mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
12:15 Costa British roast chicken salad gluten free sandwich 1 package 355 14.80 28.50 2.10 2.00 17.60 3.40
Costa steamed skimmed milk with vanilla shot small 146 10.50 25.40 25.10 0.00 0.30 0.20 0.00
Cadbury mini eggs 88g 435 4.05 61.16 60.28 1.14 18.92 11.44 0.00
14:00 Black tea 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
15:30 Black tea 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
19:45 Sweet and sour pork 125g 305 9.75 26.50 14.13 1.50 17.38 2.88 0.00
Duck in a ginger and pineapple sauce 155g 485 21.55 9.92 7.44 0.47 39.53 11.78
Szechuan chicken 84g 218 26.72 2.12 1.27 1.27 7.64 0.42 0.00
Egg fried rice 200g 382 8.60 60.60 0.00 2.20 9.80 1.20 0.00
20:30 Homemade fruit salad with pear, orange, plum, kiwi, nectarine and blueberries 200g 99 1.52 20.61 19.24 3.67 0.42 0.00 0.00

 

Using exercise to manage allergies

Part of the reason I am struggling this week is that I am really suffering with hay fever. As previously mentioned, I have numerous allergies which means I take a daily anti-histamine. Not just in the spring in summer, but year round. Obviously this is not ideal! Fortunately I have a good doctor who is sending me to see a specialist next week. The bad news is I cannot take any medications to mange my symptoms for at least a week before.

So for the past few days I have been dealing with the usual symptoms of allergies: Sneezing, runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, itchy and sore throat, and an ever increasing cough (caused by mucus dripping from the nose down the back of the throat into the lungs). I’ve been lucky so far that these various symptoms have ebbed and flowed, so I’m rarely in real discomfort for more than an hour. I might have a sneezing fit then spend the next couple of hours blowing my nose. Or I might get some pollen in my eyes, rub them without thinking, then spend the next hour with red, swollen and streaming eyes.

However, the biggest impact on my life has been the fatigue that goes with untreated allergies. Just like a cold, the above symptoms can make it hard to sleep or to get a solid unbroken night’s sleep. My husband tells me I’ve started snoring, which aside from disturbing him  means I’m at risk of sleep apnoea (when you stop breathing briefly, so your brain wakes you up). The second problem is that keeping your immune system on high alert takes energy and resources. It’s exhausting producing all that mucous and all those extra white blood cells.

At the same time, I know one of the best remedies for an overactive immune system is exercise. Exercise is massively anti-inflammatory. Remember the problem with allergies and inflammation is a load of white blood cells that have nowhere to go and nothing to do. But when you exercise you create micro tears in your muscles that need to be repaired. This gives the white blood cells something to do, clearing away the damaged muscle cells so new ones can be created in their place.  There are also several hormone and gene expression effects of exercise that work to lower the levels of pro-inflammatory white blood cells long term.

So even though I feel the need for extra sweets and caffeine to get through the day, I won’t be missing any of my workouts this week!

The Score for 9 March:

Calories: Protein: Carbs: Sugars: Fat: Sat Fat: Fibre:  
2333 115.28g 308.47g 131.06g 66.84g 24.02g 37.76g  
20% 53%   26%    
     
Calories burned through exercise: 353      

What I ate:

Time Item Amount Calories Protein Carbs Sugars Fibre Fat Sat Fat Alcohol
08:00 Centrum Multivitamin,  Vitamin E 400IU, Vitamin D 25 µg
Tap water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Soft boiled eggs, 2 large 125g 163 15.75 0.00 0.00 0.00 11.25 3.13 0.00
Free From pure oats 50g 171 6.40 30.30 0.60 4.30 2.70 0.50 0.00
made with boiling water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Tesco mixed frozen fruits 100g 40 0.90 7.90 7.90 2.00 0.20 0.00 0.00
Ground flaxseeds 10g 45 2.21 0.30 0.18 2.37 4.00 0.45 0.00
Black Tea 450mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
12:30 Tesco free from fusilli pasta 70g 248 4.90 54.88 0.35 1.40 0.70 0.14 0.00
with homemade tomato sauce with onions, mushrooms, green pepper and cannellini beans 250g 168 8.19 17.53 7.60 7.05 5.79 0.91 0.00
and Merchant Gourmet ready to eat beluga lentils 52g 75 5.77 9.62 0.36 3.33 0.83 0.16 0.00
Tesco Parmigiano Reggiano 3g 12 0.97 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.89 0.59 0.00
Honeydew melon, peeled and sliced 173g 35 1.05 7.35 7.35 1.75 0.18 0.00 0.00
Green tea 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
13:30 Cadbury mini eggs 88g 435 4.05 61.16 60.28 1.14 18.92 11.44 0.00
15:45 Yeo Valley natural yoghurt 150g 123 7.65 8.40 8.40 0.00 6.75 4.35 0.00
Natures Path Mesa Sunrise cereal 50g 195 5.00 40.00 6.50 5.00 1.65 0.25 0.00
Sliced nectarine 93g 41 1.30 8.37 8.37 1.12 0.09 0.00 0.00
Sunflower seeds 5g 30 1.04 0.57 0.13 0.43 2.58 0.23 0.00
Pumpkin seeds 5g 30 1.51 0.54 0.07 0.30 2.46 0.44 0.00
16:30 Javelin training
19:00 MaxiNutrition Lean protein powder, chocolate 40g 140 20.00 13.00 12.00 0.00 0.90 0.30 0.00
in water 275mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Baked chicken breast 54g 72 16.59 0.00 0.00 0.00 1.03 0.32 0.00
Merchant Gourmet red and white quinoa 125g 231 7.63 35.75 1.88 5.00 5.25 0.63 0.00
Broccoli, microwaved 98g 40 4.30 3.20 1.90 2.50 0.60 0.20 0.00
and Cucina Glaze with Balsamic vinegar of Modena 15g 39 0.08 9.60 7.20 0.08 0.08 0.00 0.00