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9 Great Ways to Use Hemp Protein Powder

For over 12 000 years, humans have cultivated Hemp for both food,  fibre and oil.

The seeds of the hemp plant were used by ancient cultures as a source of nutrition and healing, a practice now catching on in the western world following multiple scientific studies confirming hemp’s benefits.

Hemp protein powder is made by grinding hemp seeds, into a fine powder. This makes incorporating hemp into the diet easy and convenient.

What Makes Hemp Protein Powder So Good For You?

Let’s start with its pure nutritional facts. It’s called a protein powder because of the incredibly high protein content found in hemp seeds.

Hemp Protein contains all 20 known Amino Acids, including the 9 Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) our bodies cannot produce. Proteins are considered complete when they contain all 9 Amino Acids in a sufficient quantity and ratio to meet the body’s needs.

Hemp Protein is free of Tryspin inhibitors that block Protein absorption and oligosaccharides which cause stomach upset and gas.

Approximately 65% of the Protein in Hemp Seed is made up of the globulin Protein Edestin which is found only in Hemp Seed. Edestin aids digestion, is relatively phosphorus-free and is considered the backbone of the cell’s DNA. The other third of Hemp Seed Protein is Albumin, another high quality globulin Protein similar to that found in Egg Whites. Moreover, hemp protein contains a litany of vitamins and minerals that promote good health, including:

Chlorophyll, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Thiamine, Niacin, Vitamin B-6, Riboflavin, Folate,  Phosphorous, Potassium, Iron, Zinc, Magnesium, Beta Carotene and more.

If you wish to learn more about the benefits of hemp as a food and food supplement, please read this post.

Now that you know all the good things hemp protein can do for you, let’s talk about nine great ways to use hemp protein powder.

How to use Hemp Protein Powder – click on the links to take you to some recipes that include Hemp Protein Powder

Smoothies and Shakes

Incorporating hemp protein powder into your favourite blended drink is a straightforward and portable option for any time of the day.

Cereal

While cereal can make a quick and easy meal at any hour, there’s no doubt that it provides a much-needed boost at breakfast time.

Hemp protein powder can be mixed into any traditional cereal to provide extra protein for your busy day, but here is a home-made cereal that packs a real nutritional punch.

Protein Bars

Protein bars are another convenient way to get nutrition on the go. Unfortunately, too many processed protein bars you find in the stores have ingredient lists more like candy. The good news is that making your own healthy energy bars is straightforward and doesn’t even require baking.

Oatmeal/Porridge

Few things can hit the spot like a bowl of warm oatmeal porridge on a cold morning. The heat and the health benefits both flow throughout the body, providing comfort and nutrition. By adding hemp protein powder, this wholesome traditional meal offers even more goodness.

Muffins

Perfect for breakfast, brunch, dessert, or even parties, muffins are some of the most versatile baked goods you can make. This recipe provides a tasty way to get some extra protein, fiber, vegetables, and fruit.

Ice Cream

Sometimes you just crave a sweet treat, and ice cream is as smooth and tempting as it gets. By adding some healthy ingredients, you can dive right in without any guilt. The best part? You don’t even need a fancy ice cream machine.

Brownies

Ice cream isn’t the only sweet treat that can be transformed with hemp protein powder. Hemp protein can replace flour in baked goods since flour is just ground grain protein. Unlike regular baking flour, hemp protein retains its other nutrients.

Pancakes

Pancakes have made a huge comeback in recent years. Once quaint breakfast relics of small town diners, or cursed frozen toaster blocks, pancakes and flapjacks have grown up and become a welcome addition to any meal. And now, they can even be healthy.

Cooking With Hemp Protein Powder

If you’ve never used hemp protein powder before, one of the first things you’ll notice is that it tends to give foods and drinks a slight green colour. This is due to the rich amount of chlorophyll present. This green tinge is completely natural, so don’t let it scare you off.

Hemp protein powder has an earthy and nutty flavour .

Like anything, some people like it more than others. If you don’t particularly care for its taste, there are a couple of ways you can still take advantage of it.

The first is to use it in recipes alongside ingredients with intense flavours, like those above that use chocolate, dates, and bananas.

All the recipes provide using unflavoured, original flavour Hemp Protein Powder.

Summary

As you can see, hemp protein powder is a remarkably versatile ingredient. It can be added to raw foods and beverages or used in cooking or baking. It’s an all-day companion that goes as well with breakfast as with dessert and is ideal for portable energy snacks or smoothies.

Hemp protein powder can be a valuable ally for your health, for basically every part of your body from your skin to your inner organs, your digestive system to your brain.

We hope you enjoyed these recipes and that they got your imagination fired up thinking of other tasty things you can make with hemp protein powder.

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Getting back to Gym after the Festive Season

By Tom Holland
After the indulgences of the holidays, come the New Year Resolutions to get fit, lose weight, go to gym more, be more active …. Yet, then one is faced with actually doing all those things – and the major portion of that resolution means you have to actually go to gym.
This however, can be a daunting exercise (no pun intended) if you’ve let yourself go a bit .. or if it has been a while since you’ve actually set foot in this establishment.
Well, we understand and hope to provide you with a bit of comfort and motivation to make that leap.
Here are four tips to help boost your confidence and help you get a toe in there :

WEAR CLOTHES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL GREAT
Ever notice how many people at the gym wear the same outfit over and over again? That could be because they really like the way it makes them look. Go shopping and invest in a few outfits that you absolutely love and that you think you look great in, clothes that accentuate what you feel good about. This can help your confidence exponentially.
And, if you want to wear that baggy T-Shirt and Track pants, till you feel better about your body, then wear them! |If you want to, make that “outfit” a goal.

ASK FOR HELP
Another reason you may feel self-conscious at the gym is that you’re not sure how to do certain exercises or use certain pieces of equipment. You really want to do that ab exercise with the medicine ball, try that leg press machine, or run on that new treadmill, but you don’t want to embarrass yourself by doing anything incorrectly and drawing attention to yourself. So you might end up not doing any of them at all.
Realize that everyone was a beginner at one point and that they all had someone teach them what to do. So ask for help, whether it’s working out with a fit friend you trust or paying for a session or two with a personal trainer or making an appointment to just walk through with one of the gym staff so they can point out equipment and explain how they work.
You’ll be amazed how great you will feel by overcoming your fears and finally doing what you thought you couldn’t. You can also start seeing results from challenging your body in a whole new way.

REALIZE EVERYONE IS SELF-CONSCIOUS
I have worked with celebrities, professional athletes, politicians, models and top CEOs and can tell you one absolute, unequivocal truth – everyone is self-conscious. Everyone! No matter how perfect or confident they may seem to be, even the seemingly fit and beautiful have what they perceive to be their flaws. So if you think you’re the only one who doesn’t feel 100% confident at the gym, think again. You’re in very good company.

DO IT FOR YOU
Finally and most importantly, go to the gym for you. Make it your time to focus on yourself. Go to feel good in the moment, or maybe to help release some stress. Go to feel better about yourself in the future, making positive changes for you. Look inward by putting on your virtual blinders and blocking out everything around you that doesn’t enhance your experience. The more you focus on you and the less attention you pay to what’s going on around you, the more comfortable you will be.
The gym can and should be a positive place, somewhere you look forward to going. Take control of the experience by implementing these tips and you can make it a fun, enjoyable, life-long habit.

*Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, CISSN is an internationally-recognized exercise physiologist, certified sports nutritionist and freelance writer.

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Your 14-Step Guide to Weight Loss During Training

By Lynda Wallenfels
Your fastest self on the racecourse is light and lean. Combining “light and lean” with “strong and healthy” is the Holy Grail of optimal performance, and together work to create those peak moments you train so hard for. While under-fueling is the fastest route to over-training, over-fueling will not make you into a lean performance machine. The perfect balance takes action and attention to detail.

It’s All About the Food

For endurance athletes to lose weight, nutrition plays much more of a vital role than exercise. Athletes should be focusing their exercise habits on performance development first and foremost. Training solely to burn extra calories leads to either eating more calories or over-training by under-fueling, neither of which results in fat loss. It’s all about the food.
Fat loss takes time. Water loss can happen overnight. Your goal should be fat loss, which means patience is required. Avoid being too aggressive with your calorie deficit goals. Aim for a 300- to 500-calorie deficit per day for healthy long-term fat loss that is sustainable while base training and building fitness. Starving yourself with too few calories will make your caveman brain switch on starvation mode. This shuts down fitness development and locks down fat stores. Extreme under-fueling will sabotage your training and lead to a litany of other problems such as hormone imbalance, bone loss and immune system depression. To achieve your optimal race weight, you must stay healthy.

When Should You Ramp Up the Weight Loss?

You have more flexibility with nutrition during lower intensity off-season and base training periods. Once you have moved into your higher intensity build, peak and race periods, your fueling and recovery demands are too high to maintain a calorie deficit while building fitness. Don’t wait until eight weeks before your peak race or assume the weight will just come off while training. That only happens to a lucky few with the right genetics. The rest of us need to take action by following a detailed plan to achieve our optimal race weight.

How-to Steps For Practical Weight Loss

Follow this list of actions one by one until you reach the point where you are losing 0.25 – 1.0 pounds per week of body weight. If you are within three to five percent of your race weight it is likely you only need to follow steps 1-3.

  1. Get started now by eliminating all soda, including diet soda.
  2. Next eliminate alcohol, candy, cakes, chips, sweets and all junk food. For many athletes this step is enough to create their gradual weight loss mode.
  3. Maintain a 300- to 500-calorie deficit per day.
  4. Fuel for your training sessions before, during and after. These are not times to skimp on nutrition.
  5. Reduce your carbohydrate intake on rest and recovery days. These are the times when training glycogen depleted has little impact on your fitness progress. Eat a light, low-carbohydrate, high-protein dinner the evening before a rest day.
  6. Athletes who are already eating a whole food, nutrient dense diet need to start their weight loss journey with portion control. Even the best foods can be overeaten.
  7. Sleep eight hours per night. Sleep deprivation inhibits fat loss.
  8. Protein intake should be maintained at normal levels despite a lower overall daily calorie intake. This means increasing the proportion of protein in your daily diet up to 25 to 30 percent of daily calorie intake. Focus on lean protein sources such as meat, fish, seafood and eggs. Dairy is a controversial component of a weight loss plan. Some athletes benefit from dairy and others do not digest it well. Use your own experience to decide if dairy is a healthy part of your diet. Maintaining protein intake will maintain your lean body mass and focus weight loss on fat loss.
  9. Load up on vegetables by filling half of your plate with veggies at most meals. Fruits are a healthy component of any weight loss plan, but should be eaten in moderation.
  10. Utilize nutrient-timing techniques. Instead of a recovery drink after training, time your training session to end at meal time and eat one of your daily meals for recovery. This can eliminate 250 to 400 calories from your daily intake without any drawbacks.
  11. Limit grazing and focus on meals. Avoid snacking while watching TV, working or surfing the internet.
  12. Fast overnight. No food after 8 p.m.
  13. Don’t cheat. Cheat days and cheat meals will knock you off your weight loss trajectory.
  14. Identify times you pack in unneeded calories as a habit and create a strategy to change it. For example, almond butter is my weakness. I really like watching TV with a jar of almond butter in one hand and a fork in the other. This quickly leads to 500 calories down the hatch. Willpower or putting a sticky note on the lid telling myself not to binge is ineffective. Not having it in my pantry in the first place is my best strategy. Be your own support system and set yourself up to avoid your own pitfalls.

If You Measure It, You Can Change It

Use a food diary app (or good old-fashioned pen and paper) to measure your calorie intake for three days. Learn the nutrient profile of foods you are eating to make accurate dietary decisions.
Track your body weight or body fat percentage in TrainingPeaks and graph it out over time using their dashboard tool. Seeing your milestones and goals achieved on a chart is motivating.
dashboard-weight-loss

Additional Tricks and Tips to Stay on Target

Join a challenge for social support and motivation. Groups often get together for a nutrition or weight loss challenge such as The Whole-30. Sharing goals, recipes and excitement with friends can make staying on plan fun.
Read up while losing weight to keep your mind focused and brain waves full of information leading you down the right path to your goal.
Set realistic goals and provide rewards for yourself. These can be tangible, such as a blingy bike part or intangible, such as dropping your threshold mile pace by 10 seconds.
Throw out all junk food from your fridge and pantry. If you don’t have easy access to your trigger foods, they don’t go in your mouth.
Use smaller plates to help with portion control.
Add a glycogen-depleted training session. Once or twice per week do a steady 30 to 60-min aerobic training session in heart rate zone 2 or power level 2 in a fasted state first thing in the morning. Refuel with breakfast immediately after. Training in a glycogen depleted state will enhance fat burning and boost your fat loss.
There is no doubt getting down to race weight is challenging and requires sacrifice. Embrace the hard work and earn your rewards. It will put you in the position to have the best races of your life.
Lynda has been coaching off-road athletes for 16 years and racing professionally for 18 years.

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5 Incorrect Assumptions People Make About Training for an Ironman

By Steven Moody
As a qualified coach (and spending half of my time either in Lycra or Ironman-branded gear) it invariably comes up in conversations with “normal” people about the absurdity to the type of training and races I do.
One of the more consistent responses in these conversations is somebody explaining to me how much they would love to (but could never!) do an Ironman race.I used to just nod in agreement, but as I built my coaching expertise, I found myself challenging people’s standard assumptions people made about why they personally couldn’t achieve what I’ve helped others achieve for years.

In my experience, their reasons for not being able to take on an Ironman normally fall into one of these five categories:

Reason 1: “I am too old/big/slow/tall/short to do an Ironman.”

Have you ever watched an Ironman in person? And by in person, I specifically mean not watching on TV where the cameras zone in on the chiselled pros battling it out at the pointy end of the race. Because if you have you will have witnessed athletes of all ages, shapes and sizes racing on the exact same course as the professionals.
Ironman is a very personal journey, and people will have different race strategies and goals on the day. These can range from just finishing to qualifying for the world championship—my point is there are no physical barriers to doing an Ironman, if you are willing to really chase that goal.

I always push the fact that people should see a race in person; at a minimum you will be uplifted by the strength of human spirit and more than likely be inspired to take on a challenge of your own.

Reason 2: “Oh I would never have the time for Ironman training.”
Typically when people say this to me, I conversationally ask them what TV programs they watch or how much time they spend on social media. When we go through the list—it can add up to around 10 hours a week! That huge chunk of wasted time is where I tell them I “find” the time for myself and my athletes. It was actually there all along.
So essentially it is a question of priorities—we can find time if we want to—it is up to you if you choose it to be on the couch watching Game of Thrones or out on in the fresh air preparing yourself for an epic challenge.
(it’s worth noting I am a massive Game of Thrones fan—but I tend to watch it on my turbo!)

Reason 3: “I would not know where to start.”
When I hear this, I ask what the person does for a living. The breadth of answers always fascinates me. Firemen, teachers, bankers etc. Digging a little deeper, I ask if they have ever faced a scenario at work where they needed to reach out to experts, and without fail, the response is always yes.
I ask them why is this different to approaching an Ironman challenge. I tell them that they should look for someone who has completed an Ironman and ask them how they went about it and start their research there.
Better still, if they seem really serious, they should seek out a plan or a qualified coach to help guide them on their journey.

WARNING: Asking a recent first time finisher can turn into quite the monologue as they eagerly share every detail of their journey including weight loss stats, epic cycles and inevitably the feeling of accomplishment as they turned onto the finishing chute.

Reason 4: “I would love to if only I could swim!”
When was the last time you were in a pool? When I ask people that, their minds typically drift back to the last holiday where they splashed around in the sunshine. So having established that they can actually swim, I ask whether they have ever had their stroke analysed or taken swim lessons.

For novice swimmers, simply fixing a few key elements from stroke analysis and/or lessons can make huge leaps forward in their swimming ability.

As a coach swimming is one of my favourite disciplines to teach/monitor as there are always lots of low hanging fruit that will help the athletes’ confidence and ability soar to the point that they are chomping at the bit to tackle that 3.8km swim!

Reason 5: “I have never even run a marathon.”
When people ask this I usually respond by asking them if they’ve ever swam 3.8km or ridden 180km. Typically, their answer is “never.”

People fixate too much on the marathon element of the Ironman, I believe this is mainly as it a more tangible event that they can get their head around!

However, in the Ironman world, as I tell my first timers, it is just a long run at the end of a long day.
It is not necessary to have completed a marathon before an Ironman. It can help —but not as much as people think.
Even in my training plans, I typically do not let my athletes exceed 26km in the longest runs they will do. The body can only take so much mileage. It is all about training smart and building slowly.

If you train and prepare properly, you will be amazed at what your body can do on the day boosted by adrenaline and thousands of cheering spectators!

No more excuses!
In conclusion, unless someone explicitly says they have either no interest in taking on such a challenge that is a half or full Ironman, I can easily dismantle the barriers they are putting in front of themselves.
So if you have ever watched an Ironman race or jealously viewed a club mates finisher medal, I would urge you to challenge your own limitations.

Steven is Ironman University and Triathlon Ireland certified and specializes in helping time crunched athletes realize their goals.

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3 Things Triathletes Need to Do in their Off-Season – To Get Better Results Next Year

by Ben Griffin
At the end of any key race many triathletes are lost as to what they should be doing regarding their own training. Whilst the months prior have been filled with many long, hard swim, bike and run sessions, there is now a gaping void to fill and often it is hard to know what to do with all those extra hours.
I find most athletes are aware that the body needs a break at this stage, but I find many athletes are not sure exactly how they should best utilize this down time.
If you are someone who isn’t necessarily concerned with performance, then the off-season should be used to enjoy yourself and take a break from training and racing. It is great to start socializing with friends who you most likely haven’t been able to catch up with as regularly as you’d like. It is also a great opportunity to undertake any different challenges or off-season sports that you haven’t had as much time for.
However, if you are committed to improvement and want to maximize your training during the off-season so that you are ready for some PB’s next season, then you need a specific and targeted approach to your own training.
Here are the three most important things you should focus on in order to head into next season with that extra performance edge:

Get strong

Whilst strength training is slowly gaining traction with endurance athletes it still seems many athletes are reluctant to incorporate this type of training into their own regimen at the expense of another swim, bike or run session.
A strength training program for an endurance athlete is very different to typical strength routines that power athletes most associate with strength programs. Therefore, make sure your strength program is reflective of your own individual needs.
One thing I regularly say to athletes is that you rarely slowdown in an Ironman because you are out of breath, you usually slow down because your musculo-skeletal system starts to fatigue and break down, so getting in the gym will help resolve this and build your durability.

2. Work on your weaknesses

I regularly hear athletes say they are determined to work on their “weakness” during the off-season, which I agree with. However, when the grind of doing something that is harder and typically less enjoyable than other disciplines hits home many athletes find it hard to stick it out and instead revert to doing the things they enjoy more and are better at.
There is nothing wrong with doing this however, if you look at your opportunity for improvement, you will usually find the biggest scope for improvement comes in your weakest and least enjoyable discipline, so stick it out and be patient. Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Patience and consistency will be rewarded! Don’t be worried if your stronger disciplines suffer a little bit, sometimes you must go backward to go forward again. Your strength will usually always be your strength, so relax and know that the form will come back when you reintroduce that discipline back into your training.

3. Critically analyze your previous race season

This is one of my biggest issues; when I see athletes fail to understand why a race didn’t go as intended. While it also very important to analyze your good race days, I find bad race days (while super frustrating) usually provide the biggest opportunity for education.
Probably the biggest and most frustrating issues I see are when athletes blame nutrition for a poor run performance, when really it was because a lack of run conditioning. Or when an athlete falls away during the back end of an Iroman ride, which they will put down to a tight back or some other pathology, but really it was because they did most of their riding in a group and didn’t spend the necessary time in the TT position honing their skills.
Be sure to be honest with yourself about your performance, because sometimes nutrition and/or a tight back are legitimate reasons why your race didn’t go to plan. This usually means checking your ego at the door before you analyze the performance.
For most of us athletes the sport is not our livelihood, therefore it is also important to reinvest your time and energy back into work, family and friends, all of which have usually had to make some sacrifices over the final few months to support your training and racing. Remember to make these people the priority again before you focus on improving your own performance next year.

About Ben Griffin – Ben is an exercise physiologist and coach with Craig Alexander’s Sansego Coaching Team. He is a 14-time IRONMAN finisher (PB of 9:15) and enjoys helping both age-group and professional athletes reach their goals.

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The Best Recovery Practices for Endurance Athletes

You know that sensation, when you have bottomless power, breathing is deep, and pushing hard feels so good? When you are strong, motivated, and invincible. These are the days when you slay your training and smash your race goals.
The secret to these training days and hitting race day in peak form is nailing your recovery.  Two recovery practices are foundational and must-not be missed:

Nutrition
Sleep
While there are many more accessory recovery techniques that can be used to complement nutrition and sleep, if you are not getting in the right nutrition and enough sleep, the accessory recovery techniques will have minimal advantage. You should focus your efforts on getting those two recovery habits perfected to get the most bang for your buck.

Post-Exercise Recovery Nutrition
For weekend warrior athletes training two to three times per week, following a normal daily nutrition plan with no special additions is sufficient for optimal recovery before the next training session.
For athletes training once per day or more often, refuelling for the next workout as quickly as possible is crucial. Refuelling accurately and consistently after workouts will restore muscle and liver glycogen stores, replace fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat, promote muscle repair and bolster the immune system.
Athletes who optimize post-exercise nutrition will perform better in their next training session and accumulate more high quality sessions than athletes skipping post-exercise recovery fuelling.
There are two post-exercise recovery fuelling windows. The first is within 30 minutes of a hard or long training session. The second is in the two to three hours post-exercise.
Short easy training sessions do not require special recovery nutrition. Athletes are best sticking to their daily nutrition plan with a normal whole foods meal after easy training sessions.

30 Minute Post-Exercise
Fluid, electrolytes, carbohydrates and protein are the foundation of proper recovery nutrition. Immediately on finishing a workout, start replacing fluid and electrolyte losses with a sodium containing drink or water plus sodium containing food.
Estimate fluid losses by weighing yourself before and after training and drinking 500 to 700 ml of fluid for every ½ Kg lost.
To restore muscle glycogen and promote protein synthesis, consume 0.8g per kg of body weight of carbohydrate and 0.2g per kg of body weight of protein within 30 minutes of finishing exercise. For a 70kg athlete this would be 56g of carbohydrate and 14g of protein.
Fluid, electrolytes, carbohydrates, and protein can be replaced with a commercial recovery drink, a homemade smoothie or with real food plus water.
Additionally, antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin A, probiotics, medium chain triglycerides and L-Glutamine can shorten recovery duration and are good additions to a recovery drink or snack.

Two To Three Hours Post-Exercise
Continue your recovery nutrition two to three hours post-exercise by eating a whole foods meal. It is okay to eat earlier than this if you are hungry but do not delay this post-exercise meal more than three hours.
This meal should contain a combination of carbohydrate, about 20g of protein and some fat. Dividing daily protein intake into four or more 20g meals has been shown to have a greater stimulus on protein synthesis than two big meals with 40g protein per meal or 8 smaller meals with 10g per meal.
A 20g helping of protein is the sweet spot to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
After a training session on a hot day, immediately cool your body down if your core temperature feels hot by drinking cool fluids, sitting in cool water or air conditioning and pouring iced water over your head. Cooling off will halt continued dehydration and increase your appetite.

The Benefits of Good Sleep
Studies have shown increasing duration asleep leads to increased performance and mental well-being in athletes. We also know chronic sleep debt impairs performance and reduces motivation to excel.
Foundation sleep recommendations for adult athletes are 8 to 10 hours per night plus a 30 minute nap between 2 to 4 PM. I know that is a tough call for most athletes to achieve along with all the other responsibilities of life.
Junior athletes need even more sleep with 9 hours per night plus a 30 minute nap in the afternoon.

Increasing Your Sleep Quality and Duration
Along with sleep duration, sleep quality and sleep phase also affect the regenerative qualities of sleep. Sleep quality can be improved by reducing disturbances by wearing earplugs and sleeping in a cool, dark room.
Following a pre-sleep routine of relaxing activities, avoiding light exposure from screens in the hour before bed, avoiding stimulants such as caffeine after noon and alcohol in the evening may increase your sleep quality and duration.
Restless leg syndrome can occur in athletes with low serum iron levels and disrupt normal sleep patterns.
Exercising late in the day can make sleep elusive for some athletes. Summertime evening group training or local races make sleep especially hard to come by. Following up an intense evening session with inadequate sleep is a poor combination. Athletes losing sleep after these evening sessions are advised to switch their intense training sessions to the morning and put their evening hours towards lower intensity activities such as yoga, stretching, and massage.

Measuring Your Sleep
If you can measure it, you can improve it!
Use a sleep tracking app to measure your sleep duration and quality then identify factors that improve it. I was able to identify that red wine helps me fall asleep more quickly but it reduces my sleep quality and duration. I confirmed much to my dismay that avoiding screens e.g. laptops, TV, phones etc. in the hour before bed dramatically improves both my sleep quality and duration.
It is easier to sleep in the spring, fall and winter than mid-summer due to long days. Cover your bedroom windows with foil or install light blocking curtains to darken your bedroom and help extend your sleep time.

Accessory Recovery Techniques
After you have taken care of the big two, nutrition and sleep, there are many accessory recovery techniques to add to your routine; stress reduction, massage, compression, active recovery, stretching, foam rolling, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, rolfing, cupping, cryotherapy, hydrotherapy, sauna, dry needling, supplements such as tart cherry juice, and more.
Stress reduction is one of the more important accessory recovery techniques. Trying to add too many accessory recovery techniques on top of an already busy schedule may add stress and be counterproductive. Pick a few accessory recovery techniques you enjoy and have easy access to, rather than trying to fit every single one of them into your schedule. For example, dipping your nightly sleep time below 8 hours to log 30 minutes in the sauna is not a good trade off.

Take Rest and Recovery Seriously
We are all busy. A common mistake many athletes make is to use their rest days to run endless errands and their recovery weeks to tackle bigger projects. One of my athletes built a deck behind his house in a recovery week! He ended the week sore and exhausted and we had to follow that week up with another recovery week in order for any quality training to get done.
On your rest days and recovery weeks, plan massages and lots of downtime, put your feet up and really unload fatigue. Recover as hard as you train.

Example of a Post-exercise Recovery Routine

  • Finish race or hard training bout and grab a recovery drink to sip during your cool down
  • Take a 10 minute ice-bath or cold river soak
  • Clean up and shower
  • 10 minute stretch
  • 20 minute compression legs such as Elevated Legs
  • 30 minute nap
  • Meal with 20g protein and a combination of carbohydrate and fat
  • Go to bed with enough time to get 8 hours of sleep

Eat well, sleep well and recover fast because your competitors probably are doing it!

References :
 Nutrition to Support Recovery from Endurance Exercise: Optimal Carbohydrate and Protein Replacement. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26166054
Post-exercise carbohydrate-protein supplementation improves subsequent exercise performance and intracellular signalling for protein synthesis. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21522069
Nutritional strategies to promote post-exercise recovery http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21116024
Sleep as a recovery tool for athletes  http://blogs.bmj.com/bjsm/2014/11/17/6066/
Sleep, recovery and human performance http://canadiansportforlife.ca/sites/default/files/resources/Sleep_Recovery_Jan2013_EN_web.pdf
The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball Players http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3119836/
Influence of tart cherry juice on indices of recovery following marathon running http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19883392
 

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Top 5 Dietary Fat Myths Busted

By Kim McDevitt, MPH RD on August 28, 2017
top-5-fat-myths
Top 5 Fat Myths

The discussion around fats and our diet has gone across the spectrum and back again. There was a time when we were told to avoid fats of any form, launching the fat-free dietary craze and then we ran in the complete opposite direction, thanks to Atkins and the low-carb lifestyle, practically maxing out our dietary fat intake.

So where’s the line? How much is too much and what’s not enough? And, if you are going to eat fat, what foods are best? Because, you’ve likely heard, not all fats are equal.

Let’s work through some of beliefs and notions and schools of thought around dietary fat, all while understanding one bottom line. Not all fats are not bad. But, the type of fat and how much fat you eat MATTERS.

Myth 1: No form of dietary fat is okay to eat

Yes, there are dietary fats that you should limit. These include avoiding trans-fats and saturated fats, due to their ability to raise cholesterol and potentially have negative consequences on your health . Avoid these fats by limiting your intake of foods that are high in these fats, including butter, meats, margarine as well as processed and deep fried foods.

However, these are not the only types of dietary fat. There are also “good fats” which include mono-unsaturated fats and poly-unsaturated fat that includes Omega-3 fatty acids. When these are eaten in moderation and replace trans-fats and saturated fats, they have the potential to have positive affect on heart health.

Beyond heart health, dietary fat also helps with the absorption of fat soluble vitamins, vitamin A,D, E and K.  Foods with this type of fat include olive oil, sesame oil, avocado, peanut butter and many nuts and seeds. Omega-3 ALA is a fatty acid that cannot be made in the body, therefore you must get them from your diet. Omega-3 ALA can convert into different types of fatty acids once in your body, These are known as DHA and EPA with plant based source being ALA. Walnuts, flaxseed oil and ground flax, chia or hemp seed are high in Omega-3s ALA.

Myth 2: Fat-Free Foods are a smart snack choice

There was a time when it seemed every food marketed and manufactured was fat-free or offered a fat-free alternative.  Fat tastes good! And fats are also slower to digest in our body (Mahan, Kathleen. et al (2012). Krause’s Food & the Nutrition Care Process. Elsevier/Saunders. 13th edition.  , versus carbohydrates). So, with the removal of fat the addition of other ingredients including sugar, salt or other unhealthy ingredients occurs in order to make up for removed flavour, texture and taste.

Myth 3: Eating too much fat will make you fat

Along with the fat-free craze came the notion that the more fat you eat the more fat you will have on your body. While it is true that per gram fat yields higher calorie than protein or carbohydrate (9 calories per gram versus 4 calories per gram), the type of macronutrient isn’t the root of the problem. Rather, overall total calorie intake and exceeding your daily calorie needs is likely to result in increased weight gain.

Myth 4: Eating fat will increase your risk of heart disease

While it is true that excessive intake of trans fats may increase your risk of heart disease, plant-based sources of unsaturated fat can help support heart health. Monounsaturated fats may positively influence cholesterol in the body  thus supporting heart health. These fats may help reduce bad cholesterol levels in the body thus supporting heart health.  Good sources of monounsaturated fats include: avocado, olives, olive oil, almonds, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.

Myth 5 : So you’ve actually bought into the ‘fat-is-good’ craze but now you’re pushing the other end of the spectrum. How much fat is too much?

Today there are just as many articles out there promoting a high-fat diet as there are shunning it. And, thanks to many people seeing weight changes by restricting carbohydrates and increasing fats, it has become a popular way of eating. However, you can overdo it. As mentioned above, there are some fats you should be avoiding all together, others you should limit and some that you need to make sure you’re including!

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines help us navigate this by recommending the following:

  1. Consume less than 10% of your calories per day from saturated fat
  2. Total fat intake for adults age 19 and older should make up 20% to 35% of your diet. This means if you eat 2 000 calories per day around 500 of those calories should come from fat. Aim to hit this goal from the unsaturated good fats, like :
  • Avocados (monounsaturated fat)
  • Olives (monounsaturated fat)
  • Nuts (walnuts are rich in Omega-3s ALA)
  • Seeds (chia, flax and hemp seeds are rich in Omega-3s ALA; pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds are rich in monounsaturated fats)
  • Cold-pressed oils (Such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, hemp seed oil)
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Master These 7 Tiny Swimming Improvements for Big Performance Gains

By Nick Meyer

What would give you the most time savings in an IRONMAN 70.3 or IRONMAN-distance swim? Would you say it’s the weeks of structured training and improving your cardiovascular efficiency or effectively performing open water drills and skills (i.e. sighting, pacing and navigation) more efficiently?
What if I told you that small skill improvements would give you more noticeable results? Indeed, by applying the theory of marginal or small one percent improvements to every aspect of your triathlon swimming, you can get the most benefit and time savings. These are in the form of open water swim skills and drills, tips, insights and advice for improving your swim stroke and technique, not numerous hours in the pool or lake.
If you can improve everything you do in the water by one percent, then the net effect is a much greater performance in the water than just cardiovascular efficiency alone.
This article will help you to apply this theory to open water swimming 70.3 and Ironman.

The Aggregation of Marginal Gains in Open Water Swimming

It’s so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making better decisions on a daily basis.

Almost every swimming habit that you have — good or bad — is the result of many small decisions over time. It takes lots of perfect practice to ingrain movements into muscle memory, and into actions where our neuromuscular system eventually enable these patterns to become automatic. For every action in water, there is an opposite and equal reaction. This can be unforgiving at times, yet when performed correctly can help propel us forward with greater ease, speed and power through the water.

Meanwhile, improving by just one percent often isn’t notable (and sometimes it isn’t even noticeable). But it can be just as meaningful, especially in the longer swims of an IRONMAN or IRONMAN 70.3.

And from what I can tell, this pattern works the same way in reverse. (An aggregation of marginal losses, in other words). If you find yourself stuck with bad habits or poor results, it’s usually not because something happened overnight. It’s the sum of many small choices — a one percent decline here and there—that eventually leads to a problem.
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There is power in small wins and slow gains. This is why average speed yields above average results. This is why the system is greater than the goal. This is why mastering your habits is more important than achieving a certain outcome.
So where can you find these tiny percentage improvements in your swimming technique for open water?

1. Sighting and Navigation

Did you know that you can add 20 percent or more to your overall open water swim race distance by not sighting effectively or often enough? We often see GPS swim tracks where swimmers have gone further than they expected. For example, swimming 2700m in a 1900m IRONMAN 70.3 swim due to poor sighting.

Sighting every six to eight strokes and checking on your navigation reference regularly is important to swimming and sighting effectively (and ensuring that you swim in a straight line). It’s best to sight on something higher like a darker tree, building, or spire, than a buoy in the water! Learning to sight efficiently while swimming in open water saves time and energy.

  1. Sight after you breathe, there’s more time for water to clear from your goggles, thus improving visibility, and less drag from pulling your head directly forward out of the water.
  2. Practice sighting off landmarks such as highly visible buildings or other structures on shore. Don’t rely solely on race buoys as they can be harder to see while in the water. In a race choose these landmarks beforehand while you’re warming up or during practice swims.

Practice sighting by turning your head slightly forward either before or after taking a breath. When sighting after a breath, you are more likely to rely on peripheral vision, which will also reduce drag.

2. Pacing for Open Water Swim Racing – Sprinting and Threshold Efforts

Being able to maintain and control your race pace under fatigue, and maintaining your technique becomes even more important in the IRONMAN 70.3 and IRONMAN swim legs.

If for example your goal is to swim 3800m in open water in 64 minutes, the pace you want to hold for each 100 meters is a 1:36 pace. You want to be able to hold this pace throughout your 1,900m or 3800m swim distance.
Build up to this gradually over time, starting at 10×100, working up to 40x100m.
Many triathletes wonder if they should sprint off the start line of a longer swim race. Be aware if you haven’t conditioned your body for some sprints over a number of weeks that you’ll produce high levels of lactic acid during the initial several hundred yards of the swim, and as such you may not recover for 10 to 15 minutes. That is a lot of lost time  until you can swim at your target race pace again, and it is likely to have diminishing returns in your overall time.
Try this swim session and see how you feel. It will make you as strong as an ox, and as fast as a cheetah using positive split intervals.

SUPERSETS X 5

  • Swim a good warm-up and cool down with this session as this set is very tough and you need to be prepared to work very hard.)
  • 5 x 150m as 50m front crawl flat out, then straight into 100m at 80-85 percent effort with 60 seconds rest at the end of each 150m.

Great swimmers have a variety of speeds, including warm up, aerobic training speeds, lactate speeds and pure print speeds. Having knowledge and an inherent feel for what these are will help you in swim races, and in particular knowing whether to sprint in mass starts.
By learning what your race pace is (and how to hold onto it), by making minor adjustments to your technique, by drafting and sighting well, you can create valuable savings in the water.
One way to check if your pacing is on target is to see if you can do even splits (+/- 3 seconds) over 15 x 200 meters free at your race pace with 60 seconds rest in between. Work up to this pacing test over a few weeks.

3. Technique for Turning around Buoys Effectively

Do you feel like you lose your way a bit when turning around buoys in open water? Or, when you’re racing, are you filled with dread at the thought of being punched and kicked just as you’re about to breathe?
Try swimming slightly wider around the buoy away from the corner where everyone tends to congregate. Practice turning around the “T” at the end of the lane in the pool first, then progress to open water. You’ll need to sight straight after your turn to re-align with your navigation point ahead quickly.
Depending on the race course, you may end up performing up to four or five turns around a buoy or other non-moving object in the water. You should be practicing to use these pace changes to your advantage.

  • Choose an object in the water to practice turns.
  • When approaching the turn, you should transition to one-side-only breathing with every stroke.
  • The side you breathe on needs to be facing whatever object you are turning around (another sighting drill).
  • Try to cut the turn as close as possible, which may require you to use short, choppy strokes.
  • Practice transitioning from a tight, choppy turn back into a long, relaxed glide, as you would do in the race.
  • Go for eight to 10 turn repeats.

Also practice doing “Crazy Ivan” turnarounds in open water, where you turn a full 360 degrees. Keep your strokes short and in the direction of your turn, keep kicking, and arc you body around the buoy. Over emphasizing the turn like this makes it easier in a race—and it’s fun too!

4. Drafting Techniques that Will Help Save You Time and Effort in a Race

You could save as much as 18 to 25 percent of your energy swimming in open water by drafting efficiently and effectively. This means you could save up to 90 seconds over 1900m, or three minutes over 3.8km!
By swimming in someone’s wake who is slightly faster than you, you’ll save quite a bit of your energy in open water, enabling you to swim faster than you would normally. Practicing swimming in close proximity to others will ensure you get used to this feeling.
There are two methods of drafting, one where you position yourself about 12 inches behind the swimmer’s feet, and the other where you swim close to the lead swimmer’s hip. Make sure you keep sighting in each position. Don’t necessarily trust that the swimmer you’re drafting is navigating perfectly.
However, by drafting effectively, you can significantly reduce your oxygen uptake, heart rate, blood lactate,  and rate of perceived exertion. Additionally, your stroke length is dramatically increased when in an ideal drafting position.

5. Mass Starts Techniques

Does a feeling of panic start to overcome you when you think about open water mass starts? There are several things you can do to manage these fears.

  1. Position yourself in the pack so you breathe toward the group. For example, if you normally breathe in a race to your right, start on the far left hand side. This way you’ll be out of the melee of the main group, and in your own space more.
  2. Float horizontally in the water prior to the start so you can get the best send off when the gun goes. This also gives you more space around you than a deep water “legs down” start position, limiting people swimming on top of your legs.
  3. If you don’t want to be a part of all those flying arms and legs, then plan your escape route before the race starts. Don’t start in the middle of the front. Start at the back, where nobody else will really want your space in the water.

6. Adapting to Wetsuit Swimming

Swimming in a wetsuit can give you between a seven and 10 second improvement over 100m than swimming without one. Also, as you go higher up the product range, the available technology helps you to swim faster and stay more stable and higher in the water.
The overall savings can be as high as two minutes for an IRONMAN swim, (The test group for this study were all tested with Race Zone 3 wetsuits, at the same heart rate, and perceived effort of exertion on the same size loop in a lake).
Practicing drills which make you feel slightly disorientated in the pool are very useful for distraction control and maintaining your rhythm and tempo when swimming in a race. This way you can also be accustomed to getting bumped about by other triathletes swimming in close proximity to you.
We would recommend the following swim drills to help you get the most out of swimming in your wetsuit:

  • Zips
  • Turnarounds
  • Barrel rolls and somersaults
  • Eyes closed with sighting
  • High elbow recovery
Zips Slide your thumb up your side from hip to armpit Promotes high elbow recovery
Barrel rolls While doing front crawl, keep kicking and rotate yourself 360 degrees mid stroke holding a lead arm in front for balance Body roll and power in core /obliques and helps develop muscles used in rotation
Turnarounds Practice turning around the “T” at the end of the lane in the pool first, then progress to open water. You’ll need to sight straight after your turn to re-align with your navigation point ahead quickly Teaches you to do buoy turns effectively in open water. Try to make them as tight and fluid as possible
Eyes closed swimming Practice this in a pool, in the middle 10 to 15 meters of the lane close your eyes to see if you can stay swimming straight (only if no one else is swimming in the lane, or in an organized club session) This shows you if your stroke pulls you to one side or is uneven, and you’re likely to do this in open water. If you do, sight more often (every 6-8 strokes consistently)
Chicken wings Touch your hands into your armpits High elbow recovery
Somersault Front somersault start in deep water, with 15 yards max effort, 35 yards easy. Repeat  6 times. 60 seconds rest in between each Good for distraction control and maintaining tempo / rhythm. These can be combined with barrel rolls for a real challenge to maintain our rhythm and tempo

7. Sea Swimming

The sea can present many different challenges to your normal swim stroke. For example, in choppy water, if you keep your fingers just above the surface of the water, then you are quite likely to have an unexpected wave come along and cause your hand to enter the water below your shoulder. In order to allow a reasonable stroke, you need to have a much higher recovery with your hand in open water.
Top Tips for Sea Swimming

  1. Sighting in swell: You would have no doubt seen in the Olympics open water race, it a slightly different technique to sighting in flat water. Due to the size of the swell you’ll either need to lift your head higher, or sight on the crest of the wave. If it’s choppy be prepared to sight more, as the currents can move you around more than normal.
  2. Navigation: Sight on something that’s high if you can, or if swimming parallel to the beach, sight horizontally as well as forward to maintain your position.
  3. Bilateral breathing: It’s recommended to be able to breathe bilaterally while swimming in the sea, for two reasons. One is for making sure you hold your position in a group and to make sure the currents are not moving you around too much. Two, if you’re swimming a rectangular course and the swell is high, then sighting toward the beach going out and back, will stop you from swallowing lots of water— if you’re breathing in toward a wave rather than from away from it.
  4. Drafting in currents: If there is a current pulling you away from the first buoy, try angling yourself into the current more. So if the current pulls you to the right, swim more over to the left about 30 degrees, so you’ll then be drifting in an arc to the right spot to turn next to the buoy.
  5. Wading: Running in the water up to knee height, by flicking your feet out laterally and your knees inward slightly. Doing this will help you to run and keep your feet clear of the sea water and waves. This is much quicker than swimming at this depth.
  6. Dolphining: To get past the breaking waves, it’s best to use a dolphining technique. This involves a mixture of a butterfly swim technique, with launching yourself into a dive, touching the sea bed / sand with your hands and then pushing yourself back up again into a dive. Only do this until the water is about waist deep, after this it’s best to start swimming normally.
  7. Beach starts: You can have a lot of fun with this next exercise as long as you have a safe beach entry for practice. Be sure to check for submerged objects that you might not have otherwise seen when entering for your warm-up. If you’re with friends, divide yourself up into pairs and label yourself one and two while standing on the beach looking out to the water.Upon the command “Go!” attempt a safe beach entry into the open water using wading and porpoising skills. Once you are deep enough, swim 40 strokes away from shore before turning and swimming back fast to the beach, making sure you avoid any head-on collisions with any other swimmers in the process. Run up onto the beach and tag your partner. Let them do the same 40 strokes before you take over again and then each do 30 strokes, then 20 strokes, then 10 strokes.

Conclusion

By applying these small, one-percent gains from every aspect of your swimming technique, they can all add up to something fundamentally larger than the original whole you once knew as your swimming stroke! Let’s see how much we can help you improve your swimming technique and fitness over the next few months, so you can have the best swimming season yet.

About Nick 
Nick de Meyer is the author of Speedy Freestyle, a front crawl swim drills book, and he is a level 2 British Triathlon Coach.

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How to Make the Jump from Marathons to Ultras

Andrew Simmons – Lifelong Endurance

With more and more people signing up for ultra-marathons—are you starting to get the itch too? These guidelines will show you how to make the jump from marathons to ultras and give you some key tips for having the best race possible.

It All Starts With a Plan

Longer distances will require more time in many aspects. Make sure you have the time to commit to training. Starting with a good training plan or a coach and an idea of how many hours you can train each week is key. Take some time to find the right plan and the right coach to suit your needs and your training availability.

Know Your Time Frame

If you’re currently in good shape you can prepare for a 50Km in roughly 12 weeks. However, if you’re starting from scratch give yourself plenty of time, up to 24 weeks to prepare for your event. Add an additional eight to 10 weeks of training for events that are between 50Km and 100 miles in length.

5 Tips for Your Best Race

Run Where You Race – Or As Close As You Can

It can be hard to find trail access in urban areas, however it’s a pretty safe bet most ultras will take you off road and onto a trail. For some, finding a trail or technical section can require some creativity, but it is worth the extra effort and possible drive time.

Getting onto a trail and off the roads can beneficial in multiple ways; it helps break up training by taking you out of your comfort zone, gets you into new training situations and will require you to think on your feet. Thinking on your feet and even getting a little lost is a crucial part of long-distance run training and developing a strong sense of direction and the ability to cope in the event of a mistake is a necessary skill.

Take to trails in small doses if you’re not a regular trail runner. If you’re totally lost, remember that trail running offers the bonus of less impact on you and your body. Less impact and more time on feet will help increase your durability both mentally and physically. It won’t always be easy!

Throw Away Your Ego

The first thing you’ll notice is that kilometre splits and hitting very specific times go out of the window at first. If you think you’re going to run a consistent pace front to back in an ultra, you will come to a harsh realization at your first hill or technical section.

Ultra-marathons require a “manage it as it happens” approach. While a road marathon requires supreme fitness, an ultra requires similar fitness with the added challenge of solving problems as you run. Running down a steep technical hill with rocks and roots and then quickly back up a wet culvert requires good fitness and the ability to control yourself so you can get to the finish line in one piece.

Time on Your Feet Is King

This doesn’t mean you can’t use fitness markers to your advantage in a race. A majority of ultra-marathon plans are based on heart rate (HR) and require you to find a comfortable zone that you can run in and then endure for four to seven hours to complete the course.

Keeping yourself in an aerobic zone allows you to utilize onboard energy more efficiently and will keep you feeling fresh longer. Tip over your HR threshold a few too many times and you may find your race a lot tougher during those last 10 miles.

Mileage is not always the best marker when going off road; time on your feet matters more than the weekly mileage totals. You’ll find that if a majority of your work is truly aerobic, you’ll be running slower than you may have been in previous training build ups. This will require you to reframe what’s important in your ultra training. Looking at your total weekly hours and building up to more consecutive hours will be key to building yourself into an ultra-marathon runner.

Pressure Test The System

Ultra-marathon training on the surface simply requires you to run longer, pushing you out of your comfort zone mentally and physically. One of the biggest roadblocks for a successful first ultra is not having tested yourself at your race effort. You may find that you need to adjust for electrolytes after two to three hours, that you do better with solid food the first half of a race, or that you need to change shoes because your feet swell in warm temperatures. These small nuances can have a huge impact on your race—especially once you start looking at 50km and above races

Hydration and fuelling strategies should be tested on your long runs and you should start to note what it feels like when you’re dehydrated or low on fuel. Your long runs are your chance to try out new fuels. Learning how to work through a bad stretch in a long run is a vital learning experience in many ways!

A key component to your success is getting in the training but also replicating what you’re going to expect to see on race day; think about the terrain, major elements like long hills, extended descents or race day conditions like extreme heat or cold.

You’re Stronger and More Capable than You Think

It’s hard to imagine what running 50kms or more will feel like and I can’t even tell you what you will personally experience. To some that extra five miles is an eternity and to others it’s a natural and more comfortable progression.  Pacing yourself and taking the race aid station to aid station is going to help you break the race into manageable chunks. Give yourself a boost at each aid station as a reward, or imbibe in an aid station treat (believe me they have some amazing things at these trail races!).

An ultra requires mental persistence, self-affirmation and a belief that you can complete it. Many professionals utilize mantras to keep them focused and “in the zone.” Others like to use music, podcasts or other tactics to push the little monster out from inside their head. Using a motivational tool or pacer can be a huge help  toward ensuring your success on race day.

Recovery

First and foremost, ultras are longer than you’ve ever gone before. In both training and racing, you’ll be pushing your body into new territories.  This can come with its own aches and pains; post-race you’ll want to give yourself an extra seven to 10 days of low mileage on top of your normal marathon recovery protocol.

Following your first ultra you should allow yourself five days of low impact activity directly following and roughly 10 to 14 days before you return to your normal training or start to focus on your next event. Remember, the first one always takes the longest to recover from! In rare cases there can be minimal soreness; don’t let this fool you. Long distance racing takes a larger and more impactful metabolic, mental and physiological toll that can put you down for longer than you think.

Take this time to enjoy activities you missed out on during peak training and maybe sleep in a little and slowly introduce yourself back to training. After all, recovery is the second best part after the race itself!

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Why Am I So Hungry All the Time?

Why am I so hungry all the time? Have you ever asked yourself that question? Sometimes it’s real hunger and we need to eat but other times we are ravenous just 30 minutes after eating! What’s up? Today we’re taking a look at hunger, what causes it and what we can do to manage it.
WhyHungry1
WHY AM I SO HUNGRY ALL THE TIME?
It’s crazy, right? You just ate a huge meal and an hour later, you’re starving. What gives? Why am I so hungry all the time?! You might feel like you’re always hungry, or maybe you’re not hungry at all until you eat, and then you’re ravenous, or maybe y0u just ate a huge meal, feeling totally stuffed, only to be hungry again shortly after. Your hunger is always there and often in charge of your whole day.
FIRST OF ALL, YOUR HUNGER ISN’T IN CHARGE
I’ve been there, guys. My hunger used to be in charge, big time. The slightest sensation of hunger and I was in a panic that I needed to eat and I needed to eat now. I’ve since accepted that my hunger is not an emergency. Hunger isn’t in control and you have the power to decide how to respond to it.
AM I REALLY HUNGRY?
If you’re reading this, chances are you aren’t starving. We are lucky enough to live in a part of the world where we have access to as much quality food as we need. Your body will be just fine if you don’t feed it at it’s beckon call.
I’m not saying don’t listen to your body. Often, we’re legitimately hungry and it’s time to re-fuel. However, sometimes what we’re experiencing isn’t true hunger. If we can develop a better understanding of hunger and use our common sense, we can determine if we’re truly hungry and need to eat.
Our bodies are highly intelligent and complex but they don’t always know exactly what’s best for us, so next time you find yourself “starving” when you recently ate a meal, it’s time to look a little further. In addition to feeling hungry, sometimes our brains come in with an appetite and ask for things we really don’t need. Say hello to cravings!
It can be challenging to make quality food choices if you’re always hungry. You arrive home from work ravenous and it’s tempting to grab the first thing you see rather than preparing a healthy meal. You ate a sugary breakfast that left your stomach asking for more just 30 minutes later so you decide to hit the vending machine. Feel too hungry, too often and it’s almost impossible to consistently make good food choices.
If you’re constantly battling hunger, eating quality food in the right amounts becomes difficult to maintain, so we end up making poor choices and so continues the cycle.
What might be missing in your diet and what aspects of your lifestyle could be improved to help manage hunger?
WhyHungry3
WHAT CONTROLS HUNGER
Hunger is primarily controlled by hormones and hormones are affected by the what and how much we eat. There are a number of key hormones that affect hunger. Leptin and ghrelin are considered to be the “hunger hormones” but serotonin, dopamine, neuropeptides and glucagon also play a role.
Understanding how ghrelin and leptin work can help us get hunger under control and reduce the frequency and intensity of hunger sensations. Today, we’re just going to look at ghrelin because it’s the bad boy responsible for making you feel so damn hungry all the time.
WHAT IS GHRELIN?
First of all, I think ghrelin is an appropriate name for this hunger hormone, don’t you think? It reminds me of gremlin, or some pesky, little monster that lives in our bellies, always freakin’ hungry and demanding that we feed it. Rawr!
Ghrelin is secreted by the stomach and is responsible for causing feelings of hunger, hanger and “I might die and/or kill someone if I don’t eat.” Ghrelin also encourages the body to store fat, particularly around the liver and abdominal area. Just what we’re looking for, right?
Luckily, we can tame hunger by controlling ghrelin levels though food and lifestyle choices. Ghrelin is affected not only by what we eat but by everything from stress to sleep, so approaching nutrition from a total wellness perspective can go a long way.
AGAIN, WHY AM I SO HUNGRY ALL THE TIME?!?
We know that ghrelin is responsible for causing us to feel hungry and that ghrelin levels are affected by our food and lifestyle choices. What is it exactly that we’re doing and eating that’s affecting ghrelin? Let’s look at how we can manage ghrelin, then look at what else can increase hunger.
WhyHungry4
5 WAYS TO CONTROL GHRELIN LEVELS

  1. Avoid very low calorie diets.Heavily restricting calories (we’re talking 1000 calories per day or less) increases ghrelin production and abdominal fat storage. Your body is like, hey I’m starving over here! I’m gonna store every little bit of food I get, just in case I need it. This doesn’t mean you can’t reduce body fat though a slow and steady calorie deficit but extreme restriction of calories is dangerous for both your physical and your mental health.
  2. Eat fibre and high-volume foods.When the walls of the stomach experience stretching or pressure from high-volume, fibrous foods, ghrelin production is suppressed. Keeping the belly full of high-volume foods can go along way in managing hunger. I find including a few servings of vegetables at breakfast really helps keep me full throughout the morning.
  1. Eat more omega-3s. You can use an omega-3 supplementwith EPA and DPA and/or include plenty of foods in your diet that contain them. When we don’t get enough EPA and DHA, it can increase ghrelin production and thereby fat storage around the abdominal area. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids has also been shown to boost leptin and reduce inflammation in the body.
  2. Support healthy digestion.A healthy gut can help control hunger and body weight. To promote healthy digestion, enjoy fermented foods and beverages, digestion-supporting foods, spices an d herbs and consider a probiotic supplement.
  3. Eat less fructose.Fructose raises ghrelin levels and suppresses hormones that trigger fullness. This doesn’t mean you can’t eat fruit but you try to avoid processed foods which typically have a high amount of fructose in them, often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. There’s nothing good in there. Eat real food.

Ghrelin is also affected by stress, exercise and sleep, so always remember that total wellness is key!
Okay, we looked at how we can control ghrelin production but what else has an effect on hunger? Well, there’s one huge factor that not only causes hunger but neglecting to manage it can have a number of negative impacts on the body. Did you guess what it is? Yep, blood sugar!
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HOW BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS EFFECT HUNGER
Maintaining stable blood sugar is one of the most important jobs the body does for us and we don’t always make it an easy one. We sometimes overeat or eat too much sugar, creating spikes in blood sugar that our body has to scramble to correct. This is tough on the body and is at the root of diabetes, obesity and a number of other health concerns.
BLOOD SUGAR PEAKS AND VALLEYS
Hunger is triggered by low blood sugar and this triggering can happen whether you actually need re-fuel or not. If our blood sugar gets too low, our energy levels drop and we experience hunger sensations. Alternatively, high blood sugar can be toxic and dangerous for the body. Big spikes in blood sugar cause big crashes in blood sugar, which causes hunger, leading to overeating and poor food choices. Maintaining stable blood sugar through a healthy diet can go along way in reducing hunger.
WHAT CAUSES SPIKES IN BLOOD SUGAR
Well, it’s pretty simple. Eat foods primarily made up of sugar and you’ll experience a spike in blood sugar and consequent crash. High blood sugar can also be caused by overeating. When we overeat, our bodies go into overdrive to deal with an abundance of sugar.
As the body deploys insulin and quickly compensates to bring blood sugar levels back down, we experience low blood sugar shortly after eating. That’s your body sending you a message that you need to bring your blood sugar levels back up ie. hey, I’m hungry, feed me!
When we experience this kind of hunger it’s pretty clear we don’t need to eat again.We just ate. Don’t add fuel to the fire. Let your body deal with the effects of overeating before you give it more to handle.
HOW TO PROMOTE STABLE BLOOD SUGAR
There are plenty of ways we can assist the body in maintaining stable blood sugar. Blood sugar levels are always going to go up and down but the key is preventing big peaks and valleys. Eat a bunch of sugar on an empty stomach, spike your blood sugar, the body compensates, crashing blood sugar levels, the body sends you a hunger message, you eat again, the cycle continues.
You don’t need to immediately react to that hunger!
Ideally, we’d prevent these blood sugar spikes in the first place. Lets look at a few ways we can help promote stable blood sugar levels.
10 WAYS TO BALANCE BLOOD SUGAR

  1. Include healthy fats at every meal.Fats have the lowest impact on blood sugar levels and help increase satiety by slowing down the absorption of glucose into the blood stream. Get those avocados and nuts into your diet!
  2. Eat enough protein. Compared to carbohydrates, protein is digested more slowly and when it’s consumed on it’s own, doesn’t create the spike in blood sugar that carbs do. Remember, low-sugar protein powder and bars are okay to help supplement protein but it’s important to include whole food protein sources in your diet.
  3. Eat a balance macronutrients at each meal to help slow down the digestive process. Carbohydrates are essential and typically make up somewhere between 40 and 60% of a healthy diet. The key is to include a balance of carbohydrates, fats and protein with every meal to help slow down their digestion and keep you full. That being said, sometimes we want quick digesting carbohydrates, for example, when we’re weightlifting or performing high-intensity exercise but we’ll look at that another day!
  4. Eat more non-starchy vegetables.These high-volume, fibrous veggies are digested more slowly than starchy vegetables and have a low impact on blood sugar.
  5. Avoid alcohol. Alcohol can cause an immediate rise in blood sugar and then a large drop a few hours later. If you do consume alcohol, do so in moderation and with some food in your stomach.
  6. Include fibre with every meal.Similarly to fat and protein, fiber can help to promote satiety and help slow digestion, preventing spikes in blood sugar. Fiber also provides a range of other health benefits and is a very important part of a healthy diet.
  7. Excercise. Exercising on a consistent basis lowers your blood glucose and helps keep blood sugar levels stable.
  8. Start the day with a balanced, higher protein meal.Even though I love oatmeal and smoothies at breakfast, it’s important to include a balance of fats and protein. A good choice for vegans and vegetarians is a non-starchy vegetable scramble with tempeh or quinoa porridge with nuts and hemp seeds.
  9. Don’t skip meals. Eat balanced meals and snacks every 3-4 hours or so to help keep blood sugar stable and prevent overeating.
  10. Eat ceylon, or true cinnamon.True cinnamon has been shown to help balance blood sugar levels. Try mixing it into tea or coffee, using it in baking and other recipes, sprinkling it on hot and cold cereal and even using it to spice curries. There are a number of benefits to including ceylon over regular cinnamon in your diet, so while it’s a bit of a splurge, if you can get your hands on some, I think it’s worth it.

LIFESTYLE CHOICES AFFECTING HUNGER AND BLOOD SUGAR
Stress, exercise, dehydration and sleep all play a roll in hunger.
STRESS MANAGEMENT
Not managing our stress levels can cause cortisol levels to remain high in the body, effectively increasing our appetite. We’ve all been there. Stress eating, emotional eating, whatever you want to call it. High stress levels can effect our appetite, which is psychological drive that causes us to crave particular foods, not to be mixed up with real hunger. Mindful eating and bringing awareness to times you overeat can distinguish between appetite and true hunger. A food journal is often helpful in this case!
EXERCISE, HYDRATION AND SLEEP
As for exercise, daily movement promotes a healthy metabolism, proper digestion, helps to manage stress and of course, has wide range of other health benefits. Do it. Every day!
Dehydration is huge too, and you’ve probably heard it 100 times. Drink more water! As for sleeping, a lack of quality sleep may have a direct effect on how hungry we feel. Sleep duration has been found to reduce levels of leptin, an appetite suppressing hormone and increase levels of ghrelin, stimulating hunger. Not only that, a lack of quality sleep effects mood, recovery, memory, blood sugar and energy levels. I’ll be talking about my routine for a great nights sleep in an upcoming post. Don’t miss it!
NOW WHAT?
Alright! That was really fun to chat about. We talked all about ghrelin, how to manage it to control hunger and what we can do to promote stable blood sugar. Where to go from here….
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
When it comes to nutrition and fat loss, knowledge is power. Arm yourself with the tools you need to succeed. Read, listen to podcasts, surround yourself with people who share similar goals and that you can learn from. The more we understand about our bodies and how powerful the food we eat is, the easier it becomes to consistently make quality food choices. That chocolate chip muffin might not be as appealing when you know it will cause a spike in blood sugar, causing you to crash and leaving you feeling hungry shortly after eating it, creating an endless cycle.
WHERE TO START
If that all seems overwhelming to you, don’t worry about it! Pick one thing to focus on. Maybe you start by including one omega-3 rich food in your diet every day. Or maybe instead of a whole chocolate chip muffin, you eat half along side a big tofu and vegetable scramble. Maybe you focus on getting to bed an hour earlier this week.
Improvement over perfection, guys. It’s a lifelong journey and it isn’t a linear one! These aren’t the rules and they certainly aren’t set in stone. Sometimes we’re going to eat the damn (vegan) doughnut. These are simply some steps you can take to help get a hold of your hunger. One step of a time, you don’t have to do all these things at once. Perfection only sets us up for failure.  Consistency and steady improvement are the golden ticket.
It’s never to late to educate yourself, improve your diet and keep striving towards your best self. When we feel good, feel comfortable in our skin and have plenty of energy, everything in life gets easier, so keep after it, guys!
Strive to be the best version of yourself, at any given time, with what you have.