400Kcal a day diet…n=1

So yesterday I posted on FB about doing a 400Kcal diet for about a week to understand a little more about very low calorie diets and the psychology behind it.  See link below:

https://www.facebook.com/a5972s/posts/10155020742213730?pnref=story

Fair to say it got a few people curious.  The principle behind it is basically Intermittent Fasting with a limitation on calories set to no more that 400Kcals.  One of the first things that struck me was how alert I’ve felt on waking up, like incredibly so.  My sleep has also been consistent and deeper than usual.  In an effort to curb hunger, I’m drinking more, so overall my body is responding very well.

Am I hungry?  Around 4pm I do feel like I could eat something, so I plan to eat around 5pm and make use of all the calories.  All week I’ve played around with trying to get a wide variety of nutrients into my body, so today I’ve planned on creating a chicken and vegetable soup by using a slow cooker (great for this time of year).

Before I go into the ingredients, I’m actively measuring a few key health markers so that I can track what I’m doing and more importantly how I’m feeling during this week.  I’ve lost around 2kg in 4 days, mostly water and today I measured my blood glucose level and its around 3.3mmol/L, so overall not too bad.  Sleep quality and focus have massively improved amongst other markers showing improvement.

So todays meal breaks down a little like this:

400kcalSoup

So I have around 79Kcals to play with so I’m going to opt for a Cox Apple at 71Kcals, bringing me to just under 400Kcals for the day.  Important to know that critically I’m aiming for volume and satiety as its another 24 hours until tomorrow evening where I go again.  Psychologically I’m good shape and the weight is consistently falling off due to being in a massive calorie deficit.

Watch this space 🙂

The end of a 60 hour ‘water only’ fast…

So an opportunity came about where I didn’t have much in the way of plans this weekend just gone so at the last minute I decided to take part in a 60 hour fast.  The plan was to finish my last meal at 8pm on the Friday night and start the fast around 9pm.

I was interested more in how fasting would make me feel in terms of health and mindset.  I also decided that taking bloods at intervals during the fast, would provide some statistics later on.

So here’s a breakdown of the timeline…

Hour Interval Glucose (mmol/L) Notes
Hours 1 – 16 Hour 1 Baseline 10pm (5.2)

Hour 12 9am (4.6)

Hour 15 Midday (5.2)

For the first 16 hours I felt pretty good.  I was taking on water regularly and I didn’t start to feel any dips in energy until around the 16 hour mark.  No feelings of hunger either.  I’ve done IF in the past so getting to 2pm without the need to take in food is no big deal for me.
Hours 17 – 21 Hour 21 6pm (4.6) Energy dropped significantly, felt extremely tired and started to think non-stop about food, so decided to head to the gym to a) take my mind off the food craving b) Deplete all remaining glycogen c) get an endorphin rush from the exercise.  Combination of cardio & strength training accounting for around 500Kcal.  Felt pretty weak by the end of it which I guess was the point.
Hours 22 – 43 Hour 36 9am (5.0) Around the 22nd hour I started to get headache that increased in intensity.  I was hydrating regularly, urine was pretty clear so this to me felt like my body was switching to ketone production to fuel the body in the absence of calories.  The headache remained right up to hour 41 before tailing off rapidly.  Energy levels had increased a little and not really enough to take part in exercise so I chilled and watched the tennis.
Hours 44 – 56 Hours 46 7pm (4.3) This was a fantastic period to be in.  Energy increased exponentially and I felt amazing.  Did some gardening and kept myself active.  Interestingly, although I was thinking about food regularly, I didn’t feel hungry at all – quite surreal.
Hours 57 – 58 Woke up to a horrendous headache, urine was dark so this to me signified the lack of hydration during the sleep cycle.  After waking up, drank around a pint of water and the headache quickly disappeared.
Hours 58 – 60 Hour 59 8am (3.8) Took bloods fairly soon after waking and glucose was down to 3.8 mmol/L.  Felt pretty good after the intense headache and ready to return to eating normally.

 

‘Breaking the Fast’

3 Poached Eggs / Half an Avocado / Onions, Pepper & Mushrooms fried in a little Goats Butter and a Jazz Apple with a glass of water.

Statistical Graphs

Weight Loss (a drop from 81.8 – 79.9kg)

weight

Glucose

 

glucose

Sleep Overnight 1

sleep1

Sleep Overnight 2

sleep2

 

Conclusion

There were periods during the fast where I could have easily given in to the mental queues to eat, so I learned a lot about the feedback I was getting.  I took to bed early on both the Saturday night and Sunday night and through sleep monitoring it became apparent my sleep was more consistent and deeper than usual.  Period of low and high energy levels were anticipated, however energy levels towards the end of the fast went through the roof.  A word on caffeine also; prior to the fast I was consuming around 6 cups of tea a day and a cup of coffee, so the early headaches I was getting may have been the lack of caffeine that was going into my system.  Since the fast I’ve switched to water instead and I’ll feel so much better for it.

Happy to field any questions regarding the fast, just enter a comment in the box below and I’ll get back to you.

Change the mind, change the game

mindset

I talk a lot about mindset these days because your mind is the driving force behind how you feel on any given day.  Have you ever had that Monday morning feeling when your motivation is so low, just getting out of bed is a challenge? I hear you, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  You could choose to be thankful that you have another day in which to prove to the world that your existence is worth something, its all about mindset.

High profile actors, singers and media personalities didn’t get to where they are by chance; they put in hours and hours developing their craft until the point came that they were good at what they did.  We all have that capacity to focus on something we truly believe in, but it needs to start somewhere and that somewhere is believing in yourself first of all.  Being able have the self confidence to start something is half the battle.  We all have a skill that we can develop into something and if you put the hours in, you can maybe get a fee for what you do.  Continual self improvement is something we should all aspire to.

By all means have a long term goal, but along the way plan out smaller milestones and be prepared for setbacks.  You only fail when you give up entirely, however, learning from failure is actually a success, because you improve and adjust your mindset.  There are times when you have to dig deep for motivation but there are a couple of tricks I use to push forward through the hard times.

  1. Think about the task you are doing is for someone else and you’re letting them down if you fail.  Its surprising just how much motivation you can draw from believing that what you are doing will fail someone like your spouse or children.
  2. My favourite is to think about someone who decided to tell you that you were going to fail and proving them wrong.  The worst critics I’ve found are family and friends and they are the ones that may potentially derail your progress, but stay the course because the end goal is worth all the heartache.

Being negative is a default mindset for many, choosing to see the glass as half empty instead of half full.  Once you change your mindset to a more positive outlook, life becomes a lot simpler; you carry yourself in a different way and people around you respond better when you have a ‘can do’ attitude.

When people say to me that they struggle to stay motivated, I always respond with ‘despite how bad you think things are, there are people in the world who are inherently worse off than yourself’ and once you grasp that, your outlook hopefully changes to a more positive one.

#changethemindchangethegame

Human Performance

It occurred to me yesterday after speaking to a student on the train back from London, that although I principally deal in nutrition, I pay particular attention to human performance.  People tend to think of performance in terms of athletes, but just getting people to function in the way their bodies are designed to function is also an area I pay close attention to.

Its true, the human body is complex, however, strip away all those complexities and you have an instrument that is looking for balance.  If you place it in a cold environment, it will find a way of keeping warm, the same can be said in reverse.

There are so many variables that contribute to this balance, nutrition just being one of them.  Sleep, stress and environmental factors all play a role in maintaining equilibrium.  There seems little point in having the best nutrition plan available if 99% of your daily life if full of stress and anxiety, so human performance is a way to bring all of these factors into line.  Think of an orchestra where each of the different instruments play all at once or worse still not at all.  It is my role as a human performance specialist to allow that orchestra to play the most amazing concerto they can.

You may be surprised to learn that often just by making a few subtle changes here and there can yield huge positive results so here’s a few points to take away:

  • Adopt the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid)
  • Eat more Fruit and Veg (Eating more of this will inevitably push out the bad stuff like cakes and biscuits etc!)
  • Vary your protein sources (Meat, Fish, Eggs, Nuts, Seeds etc)
  • Get more quality sleep (Having a short nap during the day can help massively too)
  • Spend a little time on YOU each day (Find a hobby, play a game, listen to music, meditate, go for a walk etc)
  • Don’t take life too seriously and look for ways to develop yourself (Always wanted to learn a language, then why don’t you?)
  • Enjoy all that life has to offer and look for the positives in every situation.
  • Don’t try and change everything at once, start a process of gradual change and set realistic goals

Hopefully you get the idea and if any of this resonates with you, don’t delay, start today 🙂

Processed meats cause cancer….The evidence…

So you may have seen the headlines over these last few days about processed meats causing cancer according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), so where’s the evidence to support the claims?

Firstly, various news outlets reported the claims…links below

BBC NEWS: Processed meats cause cancer says World Health Organization

US NEWS: Bacon, hot dogs and other processed meats are linked to cancer, UN health agency says

So my friends over at examine.com did a rather splendid follow-up article looking at the evidence, link below.

Scientists just found that red meat causes cancer … or did they?

So in conclusion…

It’s important to remember that just because something is shown to have carcinogenic effects, doesn’t mean it will cause cancer. An increased risk can be small or big, and while the increase seen with processed meat is relevant because it’s avoidable, the risks are still nowhere near something like smoking cigarettes. – examine.com

Everything in moderation…

Everything in moderation is a phrase that I’ve come to despise over the last few months.  You tend to hear it a lot when the media find yet another food to have a go at and yesterday was no exception.

If you are non the wiser then yesterday the WHO (World Health Organisation) decided to list some red meat items like bacon and sausage as carcinogenic.  Depending on who you spoke to, the overwhelming response of people canvassed via the media and social media appeared to be in favour of ‘Everything in moderation’.  So is this an acceptable motto to use when it comes to our health?

For example, If I consumed a moderate amount of arsenic, would that be OK?  I can assure you the health outcome of that scenario would not be great at all, so when I posted this on a nutrition forum, I received the delightful response…’Well nearly everything!’

So let me give you a few more scenarios…

  • What about a person suffering from Celiac Disease? Is gluten OK in moderation for them?
  • How about the child with ADHD? Is a sugar based cereal moderately OK for him/her?

The point I’m trying to make is that we really do have to pay attention to how we take care of ourselves and not just moderately so and also moderation is a completely individual thing as a moderate amount of food for a 400lb male is nowhere near moderate for a 125lb female.

While I appreciate that there is so much misinformation when it comes to nutrition, to really live, thrive and be happy, you must first take your health in your own hands and educate yourself and not just passively view what you put in your mouth.

Once you begin to focus of your own health you also begin to take charge of it and of course the choice to live and choose how to eat is yours and your alone but please don’t excuse yourself by declaring ‘everything in moderation’.

My quick and easy slow cook Chilli…

Serves 2

Prep Time: 20 mins

Ingredients

  • 500g of 5% Lean Mince
  • 1 Red Pepper
  • 1 Very Large Onion
  • 400g Chopped Tomatoes
  • 230g (Drained Weight) Red Kidney Beans
  • 2 Tblspns Tomato Puree
  • 1 Beef Stock Oxo Cube
  • 1 Tspn Paprika
  • 1 Tspn Chilli Powder (Add more for extra spicy)

Method

  • Cook the mince until brown then remove the excess fat before adding to the slow cooker.
  • Throw everything else into the slow cooker and give it a good stir
  • Either slow cook for 8+ hours or put your slow cooker on high then cook for 4 hours if lacking time.
  • This can also be cooked in a large saucepan on medium heat for around 40 mins

Nutrition per serving

Kcal: 566, Pro: 65.5g, Fat: 12.5g, Carbs: 48g

If I only had a brain…

Scarecrow

I can’t even begin to explain what a week I’ve had…

For the last few weeks I’ve been involved in completing some psychometric tests as part of a study into the health of the human brain…cool huh?

The culmination of these assessments ended this week with a series of brain scans that will be used as part of a wider study that involves eight universities across the UK.   The information will be collected together so that it can be analysed. The overall aim is to better understand how the healthy human brain looks in MEG (Magnetoencephalography).  This is a technique for directly measuring brain activity. Brain cells communicate with one another by exchanging small electrical currents and these currents induce a magnetic field that is distributed around the head. Such fields are detectable using a MEG scanner and their measurement allows the universities to determine the location of any electrical activity in the brain, and how the patterns of that electrical activity change over time.

So the first part of the day I had my head in a MEG scanner which was then followed by more psychometric tests and then followed up with a series of brain scans using MRI.  The cool thing about this MRI is that MRI technology was first conceived in Nottingham by 2003 Nobel prize winner Peter Mansfield and is one of very few with a tesla rating of 7 (Geek Mode: on)…In other words the imaging they can get from this machine is extremely detailed.

I have to say that the whole day was so awesome that its taken me a couple of days just to process all the information I was handed at the end.  Its safe to say the human body absolutely fascinates me since I took a very keen interest in my own health 5 years ago but any chance I can get to help out in future is definitely something I’m keen to pursue going forward.

So here are a couple of images taken on the day of my brain…Glad to see one exists!

HeadShot1

HeadShot2

Is this item as healthy as its claimed to be?

We’ve all been there…we see a product on the supermarket shelf that markets itself as healthy so we put in the basket and feel good for making the right choice.

I’ve seen a few of these of late; the breakfast cereals with the added Vitamin D, the box of Tea Bags with the extra Vitamin B6, the list goes on, but what grinds my gears a little is the way they market these products to the unsuspecting public.

Maybe I’m being a little too harsh but marketing has become a bit of a buzzword of late. Having Vitamin claims in BIG BOLD letters right on the front of the packet can be a tad misleading if you don’t know what you’re looking for on the back of the packet under ‘nutritional information’.

For any company that markets its product with extra vitamins and minerals, they have to include a ‘Nutrient Reference Value (NRV) as part of the nutritional information label.  NRVs are based on levels of nutrients associated with nutrient requirements.  The good news for consumers is that not only does it have to represent the included dosage but they also have to represent this as a percentage of Recommended Daily Intake.  So if you have an NRV of 11% then the likely dosage isn’t going to be great…

BUT

This is where the marketing machine gets to work because they can and will promote their product on the basis that its healthy for you and sometimes in a misleading fashion.  I would ask therefore that if you see a product marketed as healthy, just take a few moments to look at the nutrition label on the back, because chances are you paying inflated prices for minimum health benefits.

Do I eat takeaway food?

A curious question I was asked the other day…In fact I get asked all the time what foods I eat, so lets get a little context here…

As a nutritionist, no food is off limits but it really depends on what your goals are…

Would I eat tonnes of pizza if my goal is fat loss? probably not!

That’s not to say I don’t eat pizza, I do, I choose to make my own though because I can get all creative with the ingredients, and my version of pizza is substantially healthier than the type of pizza you would find on the high street.

I guess it come down to a number of factors and making your own food should be a high priority.  Why do I say this? Well you really get an appreciation of the value of food and you also get a couple of important life skills, time management being one of them.  Cooking food that brings everything to a conclusion at the same point is pretty impressive once you’ve mastered it and there nothing that beats that feeling of accomplishment when you have a meal that you’ve prepared and cooked yourself.

When time is a limiting factor, we tend to default to ready made foods that we can quickly heat up in the microwave or order in like takeaways, yet these foods are relatively expensive, calorie dense and nutrient poor compared to buying in single ingredient foods like fruit, veg and quality sourced proteins.

Case in point would be a meal out for a family of 4 for around £60, yet with a little planning you could source around 4-6 days worth of food for the same money.

So instead, why not take some time to prepare nutritious food at the weekend that you can quickly heat up during the week if you are tight for time?

…a bit of planning can go a long way 🙂