What is it & how does it work?

Appetite is a very useful evolutionary adaptation that compels us to consume nutrients and energy, the lack of an appetite (seen in elderly and sick people) would result in a lack of compulsion to eat, which ultimately leads to weakness and decline, it makes sense then, that the biological strive to survive axioms have led us to 21st century living, where our super sensitive hunger mechanisms, combined with dizzying levels of distraction and hyper-palatable and calorie dense foods, and a general increase in self-indulgence, have culminated in mass obesity and overweight globally. Appetite is frequently cited as a root cause of indulging or overeating.

This makes sense, as it is incredibly hard to ignore hunger, and the low blood sugar, temper and general lethargic feeling that can come with it. That being said, a simple understanding into how our appetite is regulated from a physical point of view, and a psychological point of view, can help us easily tame this beast.

Let’s look first at what appetite specifically means, a desire to eat (not always from hunger) or a lack of desire to eat i.e. lack of appetite, both are flipsides of the same mechanistic control. Let’s look at the control center for biological hunger, which is the hypothalamus (more specifically, the infundibular nucleus). From this segment of your brain, a whole variety of hormones are released, which either stimulate or suppress your appetite.

The main players in making you feel hungry are the neuropeptides Neuropeptide Y (NPY) & Agouti related – peptide (AgRP), both of which are stimulted via ghrelin release. Ghrelin is released from the mucosa of your stomach and into the brain via blood-brain barrier, when you haven’t consumed food in a number of hours, and blood sugar levels begin to decrease. This trio of compounds results in a decrease in leptin circulation and activity, which is the hormone resulting in us feeling satiated. This tends to happen in tandem with glucagon secretion and decreased insulin secretion, which makes sense, as these are hormonal responses to lower blood sugar levels.

On the flip side, there are two main neuropeptides that inhibit our appetite and make us feel full, which are effected by a large amount of circulating hormones. Pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) and Cocaine & amphetamine – regulated transcript (CART) are the big players in making you feel full, these are enacted on by leptin & insulin (note that these rise when we eat, in tandem with blood sugar increases), and suppress NPY, AgRP and ghrelin. Other players in this game include incretins (CCK/GLP-1/GIP). all of which are secreted by your GI tract when you eat, CCK reacts mostly in response to consumption of fats & proteins, and inhibits feeding desire, GIP aids insulin action and results in better energy storage capacity, GLP-1 delays gastric emptying and inhibits glycogen breakdown – soe research shows that simply thinking about eating can stimulate the three prior hormones. There are a number of other minor appetite effectors that work at appetite suppression and NPY inhibition.

Slowing down gastric motility, making us feel full, gastric emptying rate, aiding insulin secretion and suppressing our hunger hormones, these are all important elements to remember for the follow on article.

This is the hormonal basis for appetite regulation, though there is also a psychological basis too, and an illness effect. Being chronically sick can result in leptin release, this often happens with chronic diseases and cachexia (inflammatory state resulting in weight loss via appetite suppression). Our mind can also have a hindering or enhancing effect in our appetite, stress can cause cortisol and glucocorticoid release, and can result in increased appetite, whereas anxiety can stimulate our fight or flight response, shutting off digestive processes to favour vital functions and blood flow to muscles (this makes sense as fight or flight is an evolutionary response to threats, and prepares us to flee quickly from predators). The final aspect of the psychological and non-homeostatic appetite regulation is boredom, and hedonism.

In the 21st century, it is not uncommon to have multiple screens on the go, to multitask and alongside the general deifying of being busy all the time, it is no wonder that we are not good at being bored, or relaxing. These are typically the scenarios where we may experience cravings and a desire to eat, though not necessarily hunger, which is an important distinction. When we have a gap in the typical level of stimulus we are used to, i.e. when we relax or slow down, we feel uncomfortable, and we are conditioned to fill this gap with any form of food, usually junk food, which kicks off the pleasure centers in our brains, making it the perfect antidote to being bored, or stressed, or frightened etc…

The next article will look at the practical aspects of what we can do with this information here, a lot of which will be based on slowing down digestion, how we can suppress appetite, how to maximize leptin levels and how we can deal with comfort eating once and for all.

For an in depth look at how you can control your appetite, and how you can integrate this knowledge into your dietary approach, why not sign up for online coaching and finally stop being a slave to your diet and weight today.

Till next time.

E

What are the factors that drive this forward?

Knowing exactly how and why iron deficiency happens and slip slides into anemia is important in preventing it’s occurrence. Knowledge is power in a scenario like this.

Presuming you have read the last article outlining a background on iron requirements and digestion, you should now have some background understanding and context for this segment, if you haven’t read it, get it here.

Simply put, given that our body loses approximately 2mg (0.002g) of iron per day, and our body can store between 1-3g, you can do the math and see how not consuming any iron rich sources (or bioavailable sources) can lead to a gradual drop in iron stores. Just to clarify prior to getting into this article, there are two ways that anemia can occur (three, technically), the first one is anemia of chronic disease, which arises from chronic inflammation resulting in increased hepcidin expression, the second is genuine dietary insufficiency. Third is massive blood loss, as blood contains red blood cells and iron, if you have a heavy periods and shorter cycles, that increased bloodloss will result in drops in storage and iron levels, however, this is being classed as a technicality in my books, as female athletes have higher intake requirements as it stands, to counteract this.

The vast majority of people develop anemia from sub-optimal diets, elite athletes during more intense blocks of training may have inflammation related increases in hepcidin, which may have a degree of an effect, though this is unlikely to be as strong as an deficient diet, and the effect of hepcidin in this scenario is more transient in nature, whereas a poor diet is a constant. Let’s look at a number of measures that are looked at when we take iron status into account, and which help with diagnosis, and providing medical professionals and dietitians with a plan of action for intervention.

  1. Haemoglobin (Hb): The protein molecule that carries iron and oxygen around the body. This is the most used marker to test for anemia, low Hb signifies anemia presence. For adult females levels are typically 12-16g/dL, for men its 14-18g/dL.
  2. Haematocrit (Ht): A measure of the thickness of the blood, as red blood cells are large molcules, measured the volume of red blood cells against total blood volume. Female ranges normally 36-44%, whereas men are typically 40-50%. (Fun fact, levels above 50% may begin to be used as a cut off for blood doping in lieu of drug testing in the future).
  3. Ferritin: This is your storage iron, and can vary greatly, this will be the most telling read of iron deficiency, if stores are low but Hb is normal, an individual is iron deficient, but not anemic, and may not even feel any symptoms, ranges are 30-300ng/ml for men and 10-200ng/ml for women.
  4. MCV: Mean corpuscular volume, this is essentially a emasure of the average size and volume of your red blood cells, the normal range is 80-100fL, below this is called microcytic, in range is normocytic, above range is macrocytic. Most microcytic anaemia is caused by thalassemia or iron deficiency, resulting in smaller red blood cells, whereas macrocytic anemia is usually due to B vitamin deficiency resulting in irregularly large red blood cell production at DNA levels. Normocytic anemia means your blood cells are normal, but that you have very few of them, this can be caused by a range of diseases.
  5. TIBC & Transferrin saturase: Total iron-binding capacity is a measure is how much iron is bound to transferrin transporters, transferrin saturase is essentially another way to measure this. Normal ranges are 240-450mcd/dL for TIBS. The higher this number, the harder your body is working to absorb iron from your intestines.

If we think about it a little, it would make sense that pre-menopausal females are going to be at higher risk of iron deficiency, due to menstrual cycles, having a plant based diet due to lower bioavailability of the iron and a high degree of inhibitory phytates and oxalates, competed in a sport with chronic foot striking like running due to red blood cell rupturing and haemoglobin loss as a result. There a couple of factors that come into play also when it comes to food choice, pushing to lose weight and lower fat diets can tend to push individuals to avoid iron rich sources, social and cultural norms such as food trends and aversion can effect intakes (red meat aversion, vegan propaganda, judgement, religion, finance, personal preference to name a few). We must also acknowledge that adequate intakes of B-vitamins (folate and B12 specifically need to be taken), as they are co-factors in iron metabolism and DNA production, these are found in most animal products, poultry, dairy, grains and nuts, Celiac disease or IBD would be more likely to cause deficiency here than one’s actual dietary provision of said vitamins.

Other inhibitory factors to iron absorption include chronic usage of antacids and PPI medications, high dose divalent minerals (Calcium/Zinc/megnesium), tannins in teas and coffees (the amount of people who was down iron medication with these is super annoying…)

If you made it to now, you could see how this issue might progress forwards, having a poor diet with a lot of inhibitory factors, a poor awareness of where you can get iron from combined with inadequate overall dietary intakes. If we factor in a menstrual cycle and intensive training blocks, it really isn’t a surprise that so many female athletes are developing iron deficiency and anemia, with a good proportion of male athletes suffering too.

Up next, how can an athlete bolster themselves against iron deficiency, what to look out for and how not taking care of this can have disastrous effects on your performance!

Until next time,

E

This article is going to be the first on the topic of iron, how much we need, the roles it plays, how it’s used, digested and how our body’s maintain our iron stores, and how athletes are more prone to having lower iron stores. This will all result in a final breakdown of anemia or iron deficiency development, and it’s effects on athletic performance.

Iron is found in our diets in both plant and animal products, and it is found in it’s elemental (ferric) form. Human’s need to consume iron on a daily basis, as we can store between 1-3g in the body, in various forms, but we lose iron all the time via intestinal cell recycling (enterocytes), sweat, menstrual cycles and loss of skin cells. These losses account for approx. 1-2mg per day. Iron is used to carry oxugen around the blood and in the muscles, it is also used ot make red blood cells in bone marrow and is stored in the liver mainly as ferritin, this is your back up store, inadequate iron will result in poorer oxygen transport, saturation and breathing difficulties, it can also lead to extreme fatigue and cognitive impairment.

Although iron is found in both plant and animal products, animal sources are typically more bioavailable, as they contain heme iron (hemoglobin + myoglobin), which is absorbed better than the non-heme iron found in plant products, due in part to the high level of phytates found in plant foods, which impact on absorption. The absorption rate of heme iron is around 15-35%, whereas non-heme iron absorbs at rates of 2-20%. The varied rates of absorption are down to the bioavailability, transporter acitivity and inhibitors – Calcium, Zinc, Magnesium, Polyphenols and tannins (things that give tea & coffee colour) will all impede on iron absorption. It is recommended to get between 10-20mg per day, people following plant based diets should aim closer to 20mg, whereas standard diets can aim between 10-15mg. Unless an individual has iron deficinecy anemia, classified as low ferritin stores, haemoglobin, increased transferrin and TIBC, supplements are not recommended. Iron shouldn’t be taken in a prophylactic manner, to prevent deficiency, in certain cases, it is warranted, but this is not applicable to 99% of poeple reading this. Interestingly enough, your body actually down-regulates iron absorption rates when your stores are adequate or high, to keep it in or bring back to range.

It should be noted however, that consumption of vitamin C with iron rich foods, over rides any absorption inhibitors, as it is acidic, and helps activate the ascorbate ferrireductase transmembrane protein along cytochrome B, transforming the ferric iron into ferrous iron. Ferrous iron is then shuffled byt DMT1 into the intestinal cells (enterocyte). Heme iron has the distinct advantage of being absorbed directly by heme transporters, whereas the ferric iron must be reduced into ferrous iron first.

The vast majority of iron absorption occurs in the duodenum and the jejunum, these are both sections of the small intestine, and both are in close proximity to the stomach. This is likely due to the fact that iron requires an acidic environment (remember vitamin C a.k.a. ascorbic acid) to be better absorbed. Iron absorption is typically somewhere between 1-2mg per day, we do not absorb all of the iron from our diets, this is a good thing, as our bodies have no real excretion mechanism, it simply leaves our body when cells die, or with blood loss. Iron absorption is closely controlled by ferroportin and tranferrin, ferroportin is essentially the door that allows iron out of the intestinal cells into the blood, and transferrin is what carries it around the body to the liver, muscles or bone marrow. When iron levels get too high (there are reference ranges fro men and women), the body releases hepcidin, which blocks ferroportin, essentially trapping iron in intestinal cells, thus rendering us unable to absorb iron. Haemochromatosis is a genetic condition, where individuals have defective hepcidin, and the iron can build up to limitless levels. High levels of serum iron are neurotoxic, and cause a lot of redox and tissue damage, alongside providing a perfect growth medium for infectious bacteria.

That’s requirements and absorption in a nutshell, our bodies have an easier time absorbing heme iron sources, but it is still possible to get your needs via a plant based diet (harder to do), and there are things that will impact on our iron absorption, which is lower than you may have thought. Your body is very clever and resourceful at managing iron levels, and will exude a series of responses including changing ferroprotin, transferrin and intestinal ferric reductase activity, and hepcidin levels, in order to maintain tight control of our iron levels.*

*In a healthy person

Next up, how anemia and iron deficiency occurs, followed by a final article on anemia & athletes.

There had been a LOT of hype in recent times due to the coronavirus outbreak on the links between nutrition, health & immune function. A lot of this information has been poorly supported by evidence, misleading or simply false. Such claims include ketogenic diets preventing you from catching COVID, or certain supplements boosting your immune system.

Let’s just clarify something before we get into this, there is essentially nothing you can do to prevent you from catching a virus, the healthiest people in the world can get a virus, if your immune system is in proper order, you will have a better chance of fending off the virus, or simply experiencing milder symptoms. In individuals who are immunocompromised or with underlying illnesses, the ability of the innate immune system is not as strong as it is in normal healthy adults. So to clear the nuance, you can be immunocompromised or have immune dampening, for a variety of reasons, but you CANNOT boost your immune system or have a supercharged one. It’s not like a see saw.

So, what are some things you can do maintain a normal healthy immune system?

1. Eat adequate calories, especially if you are active and exercising. Depleted glycogen stores can dampen immunity and exaggerate stress response to exercise. Excess weight loss or prolonged hypocaloric dieting can result in decreased white blood cell production. A good rule of thumb would be 45kcal/kg/day.

2. Eat your protein. Remember, protein is the material for everything in your body, you need protein to build white blood cells. Loss of muscle mass in clinical scenarios results in increased susceptibility to infection, poorer recovery and decreased ability to fight illness. To note, this level of muscle loss is not typically seen in normal adults, this is more appropriate for elderly or ill folks, who may have mobility issues, or difficultly swallowing food, so make sure your elderly or more vulnerable relatives do get a good source of protein. Nutrient reference values are 0.6-0.8g/kg/day for normal healthy adults.

3. Drink up. Mucosal secretions are one of the first barriers of defence in illness. Staying hydrated will help keep mucus thin and easier to shift. Thick mucus congealing sinuses or in airways can help infection spread and worsen. 35ml/kg/day will keep your sinuses happy.

4. Eat your fruit, veg & nuts. Superfoods aren’t real, but you do need micronutrients and vitamins for proper immune function, and certain antioxidants will help immune function. Hit your 5 a day, aiming to get 5 different colours, a portion of veg is approx 80g, or a handful. The most important vitamins and minerals are vitamin D, C, Iron & Zinc. A handful of nuts will help this, they are like nature’s little multivitamins.

5. Sleep adequately and regularly. Get your 7-8 hours a night, try cut out the phone or screens beforehand, limit caffeine about 6hrs pre bed. Poor sleep makes you less resilient to everything.

6. Stay active and exercise moderately, this helps keep your immune system ticking over – intense exercise and overtraining will do the opposite, exercise has a hormetic zone in terms of beneficial immunity & health effects. WHO recommends 30mins/day of moderate activity.

Stay healthy,

E

‘Tis the season to be jolly, but it doesn’t need to be the season to ruin all of your health & fitness ambitions.

If you are like me, and all of the clients I ever had, or, you are just a normal person, then this topic will probably concern you, year in, year out. So what can you do to make sure that you don’t have to sacrifice fitness goals for festive celebrations, or vice versa. I am not one for ruining Christmas, so I looked closely to figure out some surprisingly easy things we can do on a day to day basis to manage weight, health and social life. I think it’s possible to do it all, so that everybody wins, here’s how to do it.

#1

Don’t buy those boxes of Roses or Celebrations, these are diabolical for weight management and general health. If you don’t have them in your house, you don’t eat them, simple, the mantra “out of sight, out of mind” rings true here. Three Roses sweets contain 160 calories, need I say more?

#2

Don’t binge blindly, or inefficiently. Indulging has become part and parcel of Christmas, go for seasonal treats, not treats that are readily available all year round. If you selectively opt for treats, you will be less likely splash out.

#3

This one is simple but useful, if you drink spirits, go for clear ones and try mixing them with water, sparkling water or sugar free soda options. If you are a beer drinker, make every 2nd drink non-alcoholic, or make it a sparkling water. These small decisions add up, and gain compound interest over a month of heavily socializing.

#4

Under no circumstances should you get a takeaway after a night of drinking. For a myriad of health reasons, including the fact that alcohol acts as an organic solvent, enabling frying chemicals like acrylamides to get into your circulation (really not good), you are adding North of 1000 calories on to night of liquid calories. One night like this is enough to undo 5 days of “good behaviour”.

#5

Just because it’s Christmas time does not mean you have to be a slob. Whip out your smartphone and aim to hit 10000 steps per day, research shows that this is the amount of activity that can positively impact waistline and general health. Try get to the gym or pool before a night out, to help somewhat balance out the calorie intakes.

#6

Try actually chewing your food. This one gets a lot of people. You are supposed to chew your food 20-30 times per bite, nobody does that (certainly not me), aim for 10-15 chews per bite, cutlery down between bites and sip some water or sparkling water with your dinner. I guarantee you won”t finish what a normal portion is for you.

#7

Eat your veggies first, then your protein, then your carbs. Just try it, you are less likely to go for seconds, order of eating actually can alter appetite, consumption amounts and how your body reacts to your meal after eating it.

#8

Don’t go mad on the sauce – metaphorically and literally. Keeping gravies, white sauce, cranberry sauces and dips to a minimum will really drop your calorie and sugar intake.

#9

Stop using oil like an Irish person. If you are roasting something, use 1kal spray oil, you’ll get the effect you desire, olive oil and the likes are meant to be freshly added to a cooked meal, not used as a cooking medium.

#10

Head over to my social media pages to get some useful tips & tricks, you can find my Facebook by clicking here, Instagram here and Twitter here.

#11

Get some peace of mind and sign up for January online coaching by clicking here, or booking a 1-2-1 consultation, which are all on special offer for the month of January.

Merry Christmas, and looking forward to helping you smash your New Year’s goals!

E

healthy eating recipe Evan Lynch for weight loss

Healthy eating recipe: Low calorie cauliflower soup

Soups are one of the best meals you could have at dinner when following a healthy diet plan. Are you looking for some healthy soup recipes? Then, here I have one of the healthy and creamy soup recipes for your dinner. This soup has minimal ingredients and more flavors. This soup is ideal for anybody looking to stick to a lower calorie option and is also ideal for low carbers or athletes on rest days, cauliflower is a massive vitamin C source, but is also a FODMAP so may cause issues for those with irritable bowel syndrome. I hope you enjoy the recipe, I am an Irish weight loss & sports nutrition expert currently based in Clonmel, if you want to chat to me about your diet, why not book yourself in for a session in my online clinic, from the comfort of your own home at a time that suits you. Click here to get to my online clinic booking page.

Let’s see how to cook this healthy soup for your dinner, if you like this recipe you can see more at my cookbook right here, and use FITNUT10 for 10% off. If you want more recipe ideas you can click here to follow me on Instagram!

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  •  Cauliflower – 1 large head (1.5 kg)
  • Onion – 1 large (roughly chopped)
  • Garlic – 1 (chopped)
  • Chicken or vegetable stock – 800 ml
  • Whole milk/ heavy creamy –  ¼ cup
  • Salt – as per taste 
  • Black Pepper – 1 tsp.
  • Cumin powder – ½ tsp.
  • Olive oil – 2 tbsp.
  • Greens/thyme – (finely chopped) for garnishing

Instructions/Method:

  • First of all, wash the cauliflower and cut it into small florets.
  • Take a large and open pot, add olive oil, and heat it over medium-low flame.
  • Add garlic and stir it until light brown.
  • After that, Add onion or cook it unit they are soft.
  • Add cauliflower and cumin; stir it for 5 to 7 minutes until soft.
  • Now, add vegetable or chicken stock and cook it for 10 minutes.
  • Once the cauliflower is soft or cooked, blend the soup using a hand blender until a smooth mixture.
  • After that, add heavy milk or cream, salt, pepper, and mix all the ingredients well.
  • You can adjust the thickness of the soup by adding more stock.
  • At this point, you can taste or adjust the spices as per your taste or choice.
  • Turn off the flame and Pour the soup into a bowl, garnish it with some greens.
  • Your healthy and creamy soup is ready.
  • Enjoy!

Recipe Note:

  • You can also use brush olive oil on fritters instead of using olive oil spray.
  • If you are going to blend it in blender jag or jar then, you will have to let it cool down first.
  • You can store the leftover in an airtight jar or container in the refrigerator for up to 2 to 3 days. 

Nutrition Facts:

  • Calories – 176
  • Carbohydrates – 14g
  • Fat – 8g
  • Saturates – 3g
  • Protein – 8g
  • Fiber – 6g
  • Sugar – 10g
  • Sodium – 520mg

healthy zucchini pancakes recipe for weight loss Evan Lynch sports nutritionist & weight loss expert

BAKED ZUCCHINI FRITTERS

Are you looking for healthy recipes for weight loss? Then, here I have the best recipe for snacks for you. Most of the time, zucchini dishes are fried, but we will keep them healthy and bake these zucchini fritters. You will enjoy the perfect crisp even after baking them. These fritters are healthy, easy to make, suitable for anyone on a low carb diet, they are gluten-free.

Now let’s see how to prepare this healthy snack. For more recipes like this you can check out my recipe book here and if you want to get some professional insights into how you can easily lose weight (without having a miserable diet), why not book into my online nutrition clinic at a time and date that suits you, by clicking right here.

Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Servings: 7 to 8 Fitters

Ingredients:

  • Zucchini – 2 large
  • Onion – 1 small (finely chopped)
  • Salt – 1 tsp. /as per taste
  • Black pepper – ½ tsp. /as per taste
  • Egg – 2 large
  • Olive oil spray
  • Garlic – 1 tbsp. (minced)
  • Almond flour – 1 cup ( finely grounded)
  • Coconut flour – 1 tbsp.

Instructions/Method:

  • First of all, peel out the zucchini and wash it.
  • Now, grate the zucchini using the grating attachment of your food processor.
  • Take a large and open bowl and set a strainer atop of it. Place all the grated zucchini in the strainer and add ½ teaspoon salt in it.
  • Mix it well and let it drain for at least 20 minutes.
  • After 20 minutes, press the zucchini with the spoon to extract all the extra liquid. 
  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. cover the baking tray with parchment paper and spray it with some olive oil.
  • Now take a large and open bowl and transfer the drained and grated zucchini in it. 
  • Add chopped onions, garlic, salt, freshly grounded black pepper, coconut flour, almond flour, and eggs.
  • Mix all the ingredients well.
  • Now take a scoop and scoop out the zucchini fitter’s mixture into the already prepared baking tray. While using the back of the spoon, lightly flatten the fitters and shape them into rounds.
  • Once you set all the fitters in the baking tray, spray the tops with some olive oil.
  • Now, set the tray in the oven and bake the zucchini fritters until they are wonderfully fragrant or golden brown. It will take 10 minutes on each side. 
  • Flip the side after 10 minutes and spray some olive oil again.
  • Once they are done, place or transfer the zucchini fritters into a plate. The crispy, healthy, and low in carbs snack is ready to eat.
  • Serve immediately with your favorite sauce or yogurt.
  • Enjoy!

Nutrition Facts:

  • Calories – 260 (2 fritters)
  • Carbohydrates – 12g
  • Fat – 20g
  • Protein – 10g
  • Fiber – 6g
  • Sugar – 4g
  • Sodium – 289mg

Healthy chicken & pasta recipe for weight loss by Evan Lynch, sports nutritionist

Tomato penne with chicken

Are you a fan of pasta? But you can’t have it because of your strict and healthy diet plan. Then here I have an amazing, light, and healthy recipe for you. The best thing about this delicious pasta recipe is that it is full of flavors with fewer ingredients. This penne pasta with tomatoes and chicken is the best recipe for your lunch or dinner. Let’s see how to get after this quick and easy dish, if you like this and want more, you can get my recipe book, complete with over 30 recipes (including their calorie + mark breakdowns) by following this link here. If you are looking to manage your weight a little better or looking to include healthy recipes like this into your diet, why not book a consultation with me here in my online clinic?

See recipe nutrition facts down below along with methods!

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • Penne pasta – 180 g
  • Boneless chicken – 1 cup (diced)
  • Olive oil – 2 tbsp.
  • Garlic – 2 cloves (minced)
  • White onion – ½ small (diced)
  • Tomato puree – 4 tbsp.
  • Cherry tomatoes –  4 (cut into 4 pieces)
  • Salt – as per taste
  • Black pepper – ½ tsp.
  • Green onion – 1 (chopped)

Instructions/Method:

  • Take a large and open pan, add 4 to 5 cups of water and boil the pasta as per packet instructions.
  • Once the pasta is done, drain and keep it aside.
  • Now, take an open frying pan, add 2 tbsp. of olive oil and heat it over medium-low flame.
  • After that, add minced garlic and stir it until light brown.
  • Add chicken to the pan stir it for a minute.
  • Now, add chopped onion and cook it with the chicken. 
  • After that, add salt and pepper as per your taste.
  • Mix all the ingredients well and add tomato puree.
  • Now cover the pan and cook the chicken until it’s softened.
  • Once the chicken is done (it hardly takes 1 or 2 minutes), add boiled pasta and cherry tomatoes.
  • Mix all the ingredients well.
  • At this point, you can taste and adjust the salt and pepper.
  • Your penne pasta with tomatoes and chicken is ready to eat.
  • Serve hot and garnish it with some green onions.
  • Enjoy!

Recipe Note:

  • You can use whole wheat penne to make it healthier.
  • You can also add different freshly chopped vegetables such as carrot, bell pepper, or any other favorite vegetable of yours.
  • If you are a fan of cheese, you can also sprinkle some cheese on pasta.
  • Avoid the garlic & onion if you have IBS and opt for garlic infused oil instead to keep the flavour!

Nutrition Facts:

  • Calories – 232
  • Carbohydrates – 20g
  • Fat – 8g
  • Protein – 20g
  • Fiber – 3g
  • Iron – 2mg
  • Sugar – 6g
  • Sodium – 684mg
Evan Lynch healthy recipe sports nutrition

Mixed berry smoothie bowl

Are you tired of eating the same breakfast every day? Then here I have a delicious and healthy recipe for you. It will keep you energetic and active for the whole day. A smoothie bowl of raspberries and blueberries is one of the most satisfying breakfast dishes with different fresh fruits. This is also going to be the best breakfast for your healthy diet routine. This bowl of fruits is going to be the best start to your day. It will give you the feel of silky and smooth ice cream.

We will use frozen and fresh fruits in it that is a perfect combination for a perfect smoothie. We will use honey instead of white sugar to make it healthier. We will use plain yogurt and almond milk to enhance its flavors and to adjust the consistency. 

If you are looking to manage your weight or your diet, why not book a consultation in my weight management clinic here to get a helping hand? If you would like to find out more, you can simply contact me here and we can chat!

Prep time: 10 minutes

Servings: 1

Ingredients:

  • Frozen raspberries – 1 cup
  • Frozen blueberries – ½ cup
  • Sliced banana – 1 medium
  • Plain yogurt – ½ cup
  • Almond milk – ½ cup (unsweetened)
  • Honey – 1 tbsp.
  • Ice – 3 tbsp. (crushed)

Toppings:

  • Fresh blueberry – 7 to 10 
  • Fresh raspberries – 5 to 7
  • Low-fat granola – 2 tbsp.
  • Chia seeds – 1 tbsp.
  • Few Mint leaves – for garnishing

Instructions/Method:

  • Add frozen raspberries, blueberries, raspberries, and banana in a blender.
  • Now, add yogurt, milk, honey, and crushed ice in the blender.
  • After that, blend all the fruits or ingredients.
  • Blend it well until the thick and smooth mixture.
  • Now, you can taste it and adjust the sweetness as per your choice.
  • By adding some more milk, you can adjust the thickness or consistency of the smoothie.
  • Now pour the smoothie into an open bowl.
  • Add toppings like fresh raspberries, fresh blueberries, chia seed, and granola.
  • Garnish it with few fresh mint leaves.
  • Your yummiest and healthy smoothie bowl for breakfast is ready to eat.
  • Enjoy!

Recipe Note:

  • If you want to use fresh berries instead of frozen, you can increase the quantity of ice.
  • In this recipe, we used honey to keep it healthier, but you can also use white sugar.
  • You can also use flavored yogurt instead of plain. Soya yogurt is fine if you are lactose intolerant or plant based!
  • You can also top your smoothie with some nuts.

Nutrition Facts:

  • Calories – 360
  • Carbohydrates – 63g
  • Fat – 7g
  • Protein – 23.9g
  • Fiber – 11g
  • Sugar – 27g
  • Sodium – 191.5mg

Note:

The nutrition facts mentioned above may differ as per the freshness of used fruits or ingredients. 

This is the final part of the series relating to iron, and will focus predominantly on how this effects athletes, when it’s time to supplement, symptoms to look out for and how you can keep yourself healthy. If you haven’t read parts I & II, covering how iron is absorbed, digested and regulated in the body, you can get part one here, and part two here.

Many people supplement blindly with an iron supplement, assuming that it is a silver bullet and flawless plan for treating and preventing anemia and iron deficiency. There are a number of drawbacks to using iron supplements, including the potential for gastric upset and the ease at which they can lead to toxicity levels. So what, then, can or should an athlete do to keep anemia at bay?

Just to reiterate the fact that there is a difference between iron deficiency and anemia, the former being a depletion in storage iron in the liver, spleen and bone marrow – resulting in depressed stores, decreases in decreased transport and an increase in TIBC, eventually leading to decreasing serum iron (see previous article if that doesn’t make sense). Iron deficiency starts to turn into anemia when ferritin levels drop below 12ug/L and your haemoglobin starts to fall out of range. Taking an iron supplement before this point will have no impact on performance, and one should wait until they are down near this 12ug/L range before supplementing with iron. Until you get to this stage, the best thing to do is to bolster your diet with foods rich in haem-iron and fortified products such as grains and cereals.

How can you tell if you are iron deficient or anemic? The simple and most effective answer is to get a blood test, it is a good idea to this annually anyway, or bi-annually if you are an elite athlete or in the at risk demographic (female endurance athlete). That really is the only definitive way to draw a distinction and place you in a distinct spot on the continuum of iron deficiency, but if your like me, you hate needles, and you won’t get a voluntary blood unless it is absolutely vital, what else can you do to keep tabs of your iron? There are a few physical and clinical signs you can look at, that may point you towards a conclusion.

Having pale skin, thinning hair, kyphosis (spoon shaped fingernails), pale conjunctiva (the red bit behind your eyelids) and noticing a decrease in training performance, by becoming short of breath much quicker and having a decreased exercise tolerance. Whilst this is useful info, it is important to note, that clinical and physical symptoms don’t usually precipitate until you are anemic or borderline. Alongside this, ferritin depression without drops in serum iron or haemoglobin, doesn’t actually impact on your ability to perform on the track, on the road or on the bike, as your oxygen transport capacity isn;t effected until your haemoglobin levels drop.

So, right now, what you can do is book a blood test (maybe wait until COVID has relaxed a tad), and ensure you get adequate iron intake, and pay special attention to the rich food sources and inhibitors, and start emphasizing this on a day to day basis. The biggest thing is to swap to wholegrain products over white options, getting your green veggies, pulses and nuts in on a day to day basis, consuming vitamin C with all these examples and if it’s possible, include lean red meat or offal 1-2 times per week, liver if you can hack it (I cannot).

If you would like some help with nailing your diet, click here to sign up for online coaching, and nail much more than optimizing your iron intake, or, if you just want a 60 minute session with a dietary analysis to get some quick and effective pointers, then click here to book a session in the athlete clinic, at a time that suits you, from the comfort of your own home!

I hope you enjoyed this three part series on iron, it is a vital nutrient for any athlete or sportsperson to optimize in their diet, and can very easily and quickly unravel an athlete’s sporting ambitions. I would love to hear your feedback, if you found it useful or helpful, and if you think others can benefit from it, please share it!

Happy trails,

E

Are we asking the wrong question?

Challenging biases

            This is a much nuanced topic that I come into contact with multiple times per day, as humans we are conditioned to classify and qualify everything, giving things labels and grouping them together, it helps make us feel in control. Ironically, when we do this with foods, the opposite happens and in most cases it will simply leave you fearing every food choice you make, wondering if what you are eating is taking days off your life, or adding inches to your waistline. The short answer, for those who dislike reading, is that there are neither good foods nor bad foods as such; it’s all a matter of context.

            Let’s take for example, white pasta, sweet potato and 40g of cornflakes, if we control for portion sizing, which one is better? Is it fair or even useful to look at foods like this? Out of the 3 options, the pasta would have slightly more protein, and the sweet potato would have more fibre, but the cornflakes would probably be fortified with a lot of vitamins. Each has their strengths. When we have a bowl of pasta, it is common to add oils, sauces, meats and consume with bread and maybe a dessert. If you have a sweet potato, odds are you have quite a large portion, and you may decide to fill it with some cheese and bacon, and have some meat and vegetables with it. The cornflakes, you can add milk. Are any of these bad? Let’s discuss.

Calorie talk

            If weight loss is your goal, which it is for most people, the main thing you need to look at is your calorie balance during the day, that is the most important thing, and the only thing that actually matters. Yes, we get bogged down in metabolism, fat burning foods, fad diets and dietary modification, however, the fact remains that behind all that, it is calories in versus calories out, it is the first law of thermodynamics, it is as true as the fact that gravity keeps your feet on the ground. If it were breakfast time, the cornflakes would probably be a better option than the other two choices, simply because it’s a breakfast food, use semi-skimmed milk and you are all good. If it were lunch time, the sweet potato would be a good choice, bake one medium potato and stuff it with some low fat cottage cheese and chicken, have it with a side salad, and then you have yourself a good and balanced meal! At dinnertime, opt for the pasta, don’t have bread with it, take it easy on the oils/pesto and try bulk up the dish with veg rather than meat, and that’s dinner. If your confused as to why I didn’t discuss how any of the above were bad options, it’s because they are not and I was making a point, all foods can have a place in your diet, as long as stick with portion sizing, go low fat when you can, include some healthy fats and vegetables, then the individual food item you are worried about, becomes more or less irrelevant.

            If I take 11 g of oil, 5 teaspoons of honey or a 25g scoop of protein powder, which all have 100 calories roughly speaking of fat, sugars and protein respectively, NONE OF THESE are any more fattening than the other. Note that oils and fat rich foods are more calorie dense, but it is calories that matter. Does that mean that having some olive oil, avocado and nuts is bad? No, it is very necessary for baseline health to get your fats in. So, we can now stop classing foods as good or bad based on their fat content, we simply know we need less high fat/high calorie food for weight maintenance.

The “bad stuff”

            Let’s go for a taboo topic, chocolate, croissants, pastries etc. I assume these may be a source of dread, anxiety or even guilt for you, but they don’t have to be. I put “junk food” on EVERY ONE OF MY CLIENT’S plans, EVERY DAY. Let that sink in, elite athletes, professional athletes, some of the fittest people in the world, see here for a sample, they eat junk food every day. There is a condition to this however, and it is the portion. In strict clinical guidelines, and using all the guidelines and world health organisation points, a nutritionist or dietitian may tempted to tell you to avoid all the foods you like, however in real life, with real people, who have real feelings and urges, this doesn’t work. If chocolate is something you hold dear to you, you can 3-4 squares per day, and it doesn’t have to be dark chocolate either (which I personally think tastes like Monday morning). Croissants and pastries are a little harder to get around, as they have very high fat and calorie contents, however, I would say two-three per week is fine. Let’s do a dogmatic exercise, with junk foods, or “bad foods”, a small portion is okay, and for the beneficial mental effect, ability to enjoy your diet, and the added likelihood of you sticking to a healthier eating pattern, I consider it good!

So, if we all agree that a small portion of chocolate is good, does that mean a bigger portion is better, and a huge portion is absolutely fantastic? No, not even close, for reasons I hope are obvious. Let’s look at it in another light, broccoli, the well-respected green vegetable, including a few florets of this in your daily diet is super good for you, but if getting some is good, surely that means in this case, that eating a whole head a day for example, could probably cure death? No, not even close. In fact, eating too much fibre will make you constipated, give you gas, stomach cramps, and nausea, and if you have IBS or any gastric condition, will ruin your day. I wanted to include examples of the importance of portion control, for both foods you view as healthy and unhealthy. Just to reiterate, eating lots of chocolate, and having it at every meal, would be bad for you, and you would likely gain weight, have pretty bad cholesterol and maybe poor control of your blood sugar, and you would always be hungry, that doesn’t mean you can’t have it, it just means stick to a small portion, and enjoy it! If you ate broccoli at every meal, which may not be ideal, for the reasons mentioned above, that doesn’t mean you should eat no broccoli.

The “very bad” stuff

One last point I want to touch on, is the way we pathologize foods, and relate them to diseases. I deal with diabetics Monday through Friday, and the advice for them is to monitor their carb & fruit portions and to eat little and often, it is similar to normal healthy eating. Diabetics are advised to opt for wholegrain options where possible, to better control their blood glucose, this is where some confusion arises, and “does that mean white bread will give me diabetes?” I hear you ask. No, it simply means that a diabetic requires extra steps and care to regulate how quickly sugars from meals transfuse into their blood. A perfectly healthy person will not get huge blood sugar spikes, or diabetes, if they eat some white bread, note I am not saying to eat white bread, I am making a point, wholemeal is better for you, but white bread isn’t bad or dangerous. A similar thing is seen with protein intake and kidney disease, a lot of the studies that “show” that protein shakes and higher protein intakes are bad for you, came to their conclusion via studying high protein intake effects on people who had existing kidney disease, which can be made worse by intaking large protein amounts. This does not mean that a healthy person consuming a higher protein diet should expect to develop kidney disease, that isn’t how it works. A quick tip, if anyone tells you to avoid “that one specific food” or to “eat these foods to stop this disease”, they are liars, wasting your time and making food more confusing than it needs to be.

To summarize, most of the things you worry about relating to foods make almost no difference. No foods are really off the table, you can eat healthily, balanced and still have the things you like the most, and still hit your goals! Pay attention to portion control, include your veg, your fruits and eat little & often. If you have a specific condition, you should seek my help or the help of a dietitian, or if you are someone who is plagued by food guilt, anxiety or simply no longer know what is okay to eat or not, come see me and book a consultation or sign up to the online coaching service, details of all and a sign up pathway are available here, or follow me rant in a similar fashion on my social media platforms, both here and here.

Regards,

E