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. 

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

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

Are you starting off next year, like you start off every year, with resolutions that you already know are destined to burn out around mid February? Maybe you even have an idea in mind, maybe you want to wait until after the Christmas period is over?

There is a reason you make new years resolutions every year, it’s because we all to often set our goals too high, or make them too vague, and never actually think about what it might mean for making changes on a day to day basis. Perhaps you get sucked into the social media version of what healthy eating is, or you subscribe to the notions that your fitness ambitions need to be hardcore, or you get behind the idea that you need to cut out almost everything from your diet and survive off of a diet of meditation and lettuce?

I stand against all of the above, and I would confidently say that I could help you reach New Year’s ambitions (if they are related to health & fitness), and that it will be easier than you think it will be or should be. One word that is thrown out as a buzz word quite a lot is tailored nutrition, real tailored nutrition cannot be given to you day 1, it is like figuring out a puzzle, and can take some time, real tailored nutrition is when you actually enjoy your diet but still get all your goals with no compromise on your health.

Here’s a list of things that won’t happen if you book a consultation with me for January:

  1. You won’t be banned from drinking alcohol.
  2. You won’t have to avoid chocolate or whatever your favorite treat food is.
  3. You won’t be eating only lettuce.
  4. You won’t be eating foods you dislike.
  5. You won’t have huge expensive shopping lists.
  6. You won’t be spending your life in the kitchen.
  7. You won’t be disappointed.

Fill in the forms below to book a consultation or to inquire about the fitnut online coaching services, and I’ll get in touch with you ASAP. Book in advance for January and you’ll receive a 20% discount.

Book a consultation today and get your New Year’s Resolutions on track once and for all.

‘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

The answer may or may not surprise you, read on to uncover the answer.

No.

God no.

No way, José.

Not a trace, Grace.

Don’t believe me, read the law.

https://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2006:364:0005:0024:EN:PDF

Spoiler alert: You don’t need to drink bulletproof coffee, you don’t need to shovel carbs down your throat and you don’t need to “convert” to ketogenesis.

The key to maximizing endurance performance, or performance in general, is getting the required adaptations from ALL sessions, you could be shooting yourself in the foot, unwittingly, read on to find out more.

This is a topic that gets hotly debated by many, mostly people on polar opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of high fat and high carb advocates, with both side putting forward their centerpiece argument, be it mitochondrial biogenesis or mTOR pathway activation. Both sides are correct, but it is important to note that both sides are equally as dogmatic and pedantic as they are correct, in technical terms, and nobody wins. Once again, the answer lies in the murky grey area as to how to use carbs & fats in your sporting or fitness endeavors to get the absolute most out of it. In summary, the low carb approach can be looked at almost in the same light as ergogenic aid (a supplement), there are certain sessions where it is beneficial, it has drawbacks if over utilized and it is not magic in isolation, also the results are less likely to benefit increasingly elite athletes.

So why can’t we go low carb for all the time? You can, if your training regime consists solely of easy aerobic work, you don’t train everyday and your not really buzzed about your performance, as your recovery will be impeded, thus your progression will be. If you have no tough sessions, nothing with a hint of intensity, no actual performance goals, and you don’t mind feeling sluggish, then go bananas (or avocados, rather), do all the fasted cardio you can manage, but just consume your carbs after training, don’t hold out on glycogen repletion. If you have an actual race season, some performance goals and you work all elements of your aerobic and anaerobic system (any reps, hill sprints, intervals, weights, threshold work etc.) then you cannot* do those workouts off of no or low carbs. *Technically you can, BUT your rate of perceived exertion will be much higher, your oxygen cost for a given intensity will be much higher and you won’t be able to actually go near the high end of your aerobic capacity, your exercise tolerance will also drop a bit. With increasing intensity, less blood flow gets to your adipose tissue, meaning less fats are metabolized (lipolysis rates go down when intensity rises), when the PH of your muscle drops as a by product of acid formation, transporters involved in getting long chain fatty acids into mitochondria are inhibited, also in part due to a depletion in free carnitine, which acts to buffer excess Acetyl Co-A produced, to allow for maintained intensity (Acetyl Co-A accumulation down regulates how your body makes more fuel available for work). These things all result in you feeling like your parents stuck a limiter after 4th gear in your car. If you want to get the most out of the tough work your doing, if you need to power up a hill or indeed you have a race (which has short bursts of sprints, climbs etc. which often dictate race placings), that isn’t the time for low carb. I hope that makes sense, in essence, if your workout is hard, or intense, only carbohydrates can match the rate of feul burning needed, and won’t be inhibited by the by-products of high intense exercise.

Also bear in mind, for those of you reading this, who are shaking their heads, tutting and repeating over & over that “I am an endurance athlete, I ONLY use fats, because the intensity is LOW”, to you guys/gals, I say, you couldn’t be more incorrect. Fat oxidation is optimized between 45-65% of your VO2max, easy running or jogging would be just about over that range, so unless you plan on strolling race day, or your Sunday long runs are actually strolls, you are using carbs also. Now, it is a sliding scale, and it is still possible to train low carb, I’m just making a point, that carbohydrate metabolism is ALWAYS involved, from low to high end of range. Elite marathon runners will belt around 26.2 miles at 85-90% VO2max, non-elites wont get quite that high, but not from it, you guys are simply slower at running, the intensity may not differ though, triathlon would be similar, there is a case for Iron-man being an exception (which I disagree with, but that’s another blog entirely). So even for longer “slower” events, this still applies.

So when CAN we use the low carb approach, and how do we do it? Great question, let’s take a look. If you are in off season, which is winter for cyclists and most runners, then this is the time to do it, reason being is that you have no races upcoming (no important ones), and the majority of your training is easier in terms of intensity, so recovery has a little more wiggle room at this time of year. Carb fasted sessions take a bit longer to recover from in terms of glycogen depletion and repletion, which in turn can suppress your immune function, and can make subsequent bouts of exercise feel more difficult or be poorly executed. For these reasons, it is silly do it in race season, or in a block of high intensity, where recovery and session performance are PARAMOUNT to adaptations and athlete confidence. So keep it for easy weeks, off season & cross-training. Pick which sessions to try fasted or low carb based off of the following criteria:

1) How long is the session, if its <100 mins, go for it. You have enough body glycogen at low intensity exercise to last approx 100 mins, I wouldn’t push it past that. If your run is longer, take a gel at THIS point and complete the rest of your session.

2) If it’s ONLY easy cardio, go for it. If your questioning this, read the article again.

3) Can it be done first thing in the morning, or after breakfast, if so, do it. It’s okay to train fasted, or to have one meal as a low carb meal (or low GI – you more so don’t want any insulin response for “low carb” training). I don’t think it’s a good idea to opt for low carb protocols for a whole day, as it tends to be restrictive and you cut out many staple foods, risking the overall health composition of your daily diet (remember, I’m a dietitian… health first!!)

If you satisfy all the above criteria, go mad, and enjoy it. Low fat sessions can improve your ability to efficiently oxidize fats, and it can cause elevations in circulating PGC-1a, an enzyme that leads to mitochondrial biogenesis, basically the powerhouse units of your cells get bigger and more in number, meaning you can tack on points to your aerobic capacity.

For more information, or advice regarding how you can optimize your training around your life, goals and needs, get in touch. I specialize in endurance athletes and am confident that if you haven’t already addressed this topic, that nutrition can add dividends to your sporting performance. Get in touch via the website or email me at: fitnutspectrumfitness@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading,

E

INTRODUCTION

            I want to cover this topic as part of what I am calling the practical application series for athletes, as oftentimes, the link between knowledge, perfect plans and actual results is the application and execution. We are often overexcited and overly ambitious in the planning stage, that we sometimes forget that all we need are simple steps to get us to our goals. The first article I am covering in this series is travel, domestic & abroad, and how to manage your nutrition when you don’t have access to your kitchen, local supermarket, mother’s cooking or even familiar foods. Personally, I was lucky enough to travel quite a bit with my own athletics career, though this mostly spanned Europe, and as such, the time differences were not too extreme, and the food wasn’t too different, so it was manageable. One example I can recall however, is racing in Slovakia, in a town called Dudince, the supermarkets only had sparkling water, which I hated at the time, and, if taken on board during the race, would have caused me to projectile vomit with the force of a Cola-Mentos rocket.

This article is going to cover managing nutrition in foreign places, managing travel and not having your circadian rhythm affected too much if you require a long-haul flight, and minimizing the side effects of long-haul flights (jet lag), such as fatigue and gastric discomfort. If you are a professional athlete, odds are you travel a lot, and are in foreign places the majority of the year, adapting a mesocycle of nutrition planning to suit an altitude or warm weather camp, or indeed, for competing abroad, such as the Tokyo Olympics next year, will inhibit as much as possible and deleterious effects on performance.

JET LAG & SLEEP

Jet lag, or circadian desynchonicity, comes about due to there being mismatches between an individual’s body-clock, and the daylight hours in their immediate environment. Your body clock syncs itself based on exposure to light and dark primarily, it is controlled by your suprachiasmatic nucleus in your hypothalamus, and is fed information by the intensity and wavelength of light that hits your retina. Your hypothalamus also controls a lot of hormone release and pulse rhythms, over a 24-hour period, which are affected by desynchronised clocks. If your body clock is out of sync, you will find yourself staring at the ceiling at night, you may lose your appetite, you will be fatigued, will likely have some gut issues and will absolutely have a performance decrease, and these will mostly effect an individual for a 24 hour period, though a larger time difference may take longer to adjust to.

Zeitbergers are environmental cues that can stimulate the rhythm and activity of our circadian rhythms, light is the strongest zeitberger, whereas non-photic zeitbergers include temperature, meal timing, exercise, social interaction and pharmacy (including caffeine and alcohol). To break it down to basics, we want melatonin spikes around 10pm, and cortisol spikes in the morning around 6-7am, wherever we are in the world.

Travelling East, crossing more times and time of flight (leave/land) will all affect the degree of jet lag one experiences, if you are simply hopping the Irish channel from Dublin to London, for example, this section is irrelevant, if you are going on a training camp to South Africa, leaving from anywhere in the Northern hemisphere, listen up. What can we do?

  1. Over the counter melatonin, doses of 2-8mg have been shown to decrease jet lag, OR, if you dislike taking pills, pistachio nuts have seriously high amounts of natural melatonin in them. Talk to your pharmacist about this one, it would be a good idea to take it when it starts to get dark, in your country of visit (either figure out when on the plane you need to take it, or wait until you land.
  2. Caffeine/coffee. I don’t travel without coffee; indeed, I don’t do much without coffee, but caffeine can increase daytime alertness, coffee during the day will help maintain circadian rhythm, and delay melatonin release by approx. 40 mins if a 200mg dose is taken 3 hours before bedtime (it is worth noting that a cup of coffee is about 80mg, I do not suggest taking a 200mg dose of caffeine), but simply having 2-3 cups during the day may help, if combined with the above point.
  3. Meal timing has mixed evidence and data in humans to conclusively say whether or not it has a large effect on circadian rhythm. Some research shows that timing of carbohydrates can affect sleep quality, with data showing that high CHO meals pre bed can inhibit deep sleep over the first half of the night, versus lower carb options. A higher carb meal 4 hours prior to bed can decrease sleep onset latency, some research shows that low carb diets (classed as 1% energy from carbs in this study) increased deep sleep, though this is not practical, convenient, nor is it conducive to sporting performance.
  4. To maximize your sleep quality (quantity & quality are NOT the same thing), you need to ensure your room is dark, or that you have an eye-mask, opt for a quiet environment, or get ear plugs. If you can, make sure you room is cool and well ventilated, try not to leave air-con on all night, as it can give you throat and sinus irritation, and effect your sleep.

EATING ON THE GO

            This can be tricky, as for many, the thought of travel often spurs about a frenzy of excitement, or anxiety, both of which may lead someone to forget to eat. Managing an adequate and balanced intake is important for athletes with high energy needs, and athletes in weight category or power to weight ratio sports, who cannot afford to eat in excess. Before the flight, to avoid stomach upset or motion sickness, it is advisable to avoid alcohol and large meals, the aversion of caffeine for habitual consumers may actually be a bad idea, as withdrawal is more likely to affect these individuals, than motion sickness would. For the anxious flyers, water, crackers, popcorn and small dairy based products may help ease the stomach.

            In flight, it is worth noting that sense of taste & smell is often vastly decreased as a result of pressurized cabin air, and it is worth noting that to combat this, some airlines actually increase the sugar and salt content of their product ranges on board. For longer haul flights, one to two meals may be given on board. It may be necessary to supplement food intake with protein bars, nuts, seeds, dried fruit and rice cakes, to ensure adequate intake and to have options to combat boredom eating. Constipation on long haul fights can be problematic, so inclusion of some kiwi-fruit, prunes or chia seeds would help combat this. Insoluble fibre supplements such as Optifibre can also dissolve into a glass of water and help move things along, so to speak.

            My personal recommendations for some cabin bag snack and airport feasts are as follows, see below:

  • Airport: Bland smoothie or protein shake + rice cakes/crackers (coffee if habitual).
  • Cabin bag: Bag nuts (cashew/almond), dried fruit (apricots/figs) + protein bar.
  • After landing: 1 x sachet Dioralyte + cup green tea (I get sore throats after flying).

EATING ABROAD

            So, now that you have landed, foreign place, no full cupboards, no dinner to come home to, routine out the window, how will you manage? The first thing is to practice food hygiene, as some places just have less stringent quality control than others, and that’s just objectively true, and to avoid high risk foods. Here’s what we need to do:

  • Start with the obvious, wash your hands after using the toilet, and bring a sanitizer around with you.
  • Have your own personal water bottle/shakers/cutlery.
  • Don’t always assume tap water is fine, it is not always the case, if in doubt, go with bottled sources.
  • Avoid the buffet spots, these are full of foods that have been laid out all day, and have been heated/reheated continuously, also, they may be on display for the world to sneeze on. Go freshly prepped if you can.
  • On the same token, avoid raw foods, salads, sushi, raw egg, unpasteurized dairy, steak tartare and pâté, as these are all foods that are most likely to not be washed, or to be contaminated. Just don’t risk it.
  • Bring plan B solutions with you. I rarely leave county Tipperary without a few bags of microwave rice, a tub of whey, dried fruit and nuts. These are your reliables.
  • Don’t look at being abroad as a holiday and as an excuse to let loose, don’t hide behind it or have it as a foregone conclusion that nutrition is out of the window.
  • If food availability is poor, adding olive oil to meals and any high fat dairy you can get your hands on.
  • If you have a routine, try emulate it as best possible.
  • Bring a multivitamin, as insurance.