Recipes, Research & Stratergies to Fuel your ambition
Author: Nutrition 4 Fighters
My name is Ross and I am as passionate about nutrition as I am about martial arts. I've strived to learn and grow my knowledge base over time and this blog is the result! I claim to be no expert and have definitely changed my views over time as to how to approach nutrition, but like most things in life, there's more than one way to do things.
Although the humble naan bread is most closely associated to accompanying one of Britain’s favourite take aways, it’s also a simple convenient accompaniment to anyone of breakfast, lunch, dinner or a pre or post training snack.
Naan breads often include a few different ingredients but this recipe completely simplifies things and gives you a quick, easy and tasty recipe.
Combine your naan with a decent protein source and some tasty veggies for a far more exciting lunch time alternative to your standard sarnie. Best of all, barring a little salt and herbs, you really only need two ingredients!
1 cup of self raising flour
1/2 a cup of half fat Greek yogurt
1/2 tbsp of Rosemary (optional)
Pinch of salt (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and using hands, thoroughly mix ingredients together.
Sprinkle flour on the a clear surface. Take a palm sized handful of the mixture and roll it out until its approximately 2mm thick.
Melt half a tsp of coconut oil in a frying pan and coat the pan completely.
On a medium setting, heat for around 3/4 minutes on each side. You should have enough mixture for around 5 naans.
This curry doubles as a pretty damn amazing evening treat whilst also being a recovery day special. It’s loaded with anti inflammatory spices such as ginger, turmeric and cumin to support mopping up some of that damage caused by heavy training and the rigours of life.
Red meats such as beef steak are also a good source of iron. There are two kinds of iron, heme and non heme iron. Heme iron is from animals and non heme is from plants. Heme iron is far better absorbed by the body than non heme, which is especially important to be aware of if you’re a vegetarian of vegan.
Low iron levels may be the reason behind low energy levels and poor recovery. Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body. It’s also helps make myoglobin, a protein that provides oxygen to muscles.
Both low iron levels and high levels of inflammation in the body can be detrimental to recovery and hinder making progress towards fitness and health based goals.
(Serves 2/3 people)
225g Sirloin Steak chopped up
1 medium diced onion
4 cloves of garlic minced/finely chopped
1 red sweet pepper roughly chopped
Handful of halved cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp of ground ginger
1 tbsp of cumin
1 tbsp of turmeric
2 tbsp of chopped coriander (one chopped finely, the other roughly chopped)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1/2 tin of coconut milk
1 tsp of sea salt
1 tsp of cracked black pepper
2 tbsp of coconut oil
Melt both tbsp of coconut and melt on a low heat. Once melted, add the spices, finely chopped coriander, salt & pepper and mix into a paste.
Add onions and lightly cook until translucent. Now add meat and garlic. Continue to cook on low heat until the beef is browned on the surface.
Add chopped tomatoes, stir and cook the meat on a low heat for roughly 2/3 minutes.
Add coconut cream and roughly chopped coriander, cherry tomatoes and the sweet pepper.
Cover the curry and allow to simmer on low heat for 15/20 minutes.
Serve with either rice or if watching your calories, cauliflower rice or just as it is in a bowel.
Today’s post is looking at how athletes can best cannulate their protein intake to repair and build muscle. This process is called Muscle Protein Synthesis, (MPS), and is an essential daily function for many bodily functions other than just building or repairing muscle mass.
Although the intake of protein is essential to fully maximise muscle growth, there are important factors to consider. Firstly, and most importantly, you may well preserve you current muscle mass with the right intake of protein, but don’t expect to add to it without doing the required training.
You won’t stimulate new muscle growth without a stimulus. This stimulus is of course, resistance exercise. Even for athletes who don’t wish to build hypertrophy, (bulk), having a better muscle to fat ratio is a far preferable situation for everything from performance to injury prevention.
The quality of your protein is important. Yes, many foods will contain some proportion of protein. However, to build muscle you need to take sources that contain the 9 Essential Amino Acids, (EAAs), that your body can’t produce itself. Foods containing a high concentration of the branch chain amino acid, (BCAA), leucine have been seen to achieve the best results.
Food choices that include the 9 EAAs and are high in leucine include;
Ok, so now you know the why and the what, here’s the how. MPS is maximally stimulated at 0.3g of protein per kg of body weight, (bw), per meal.
An ideal strategy is to include four feeding portions of 0.3g/kg bw and one of 0.6g/kg bw before you go to bed. A pre bed higher dose of protein may be needed due to the duration you are sleeping without any nutritional input. Athletes should be sleeping minimum 8 hours therefore a dose of 0.6g/kg bw will lead to a favourable increase in MPS while sleeping.
A greater intake of protein may well be essential for older athletes. This is particularly for over 50s when a process called anabolic resistance begins to set in. This makes muscle less sensitive to protein intake. Therefore older athletes should shoot for 0.4g/kg of bw to maximise MPS.
Although not quite so important for recreational athletes and indeed, recreational drinkers, but be mindful that alcohol has been seen to inhibit MPS. Therefore if after size, limit the boozing as much as you can.
Quite a lot has been made about meal timing and especially protein timing. Minimal evidence exists however that protein timing is essential for muscle growth.
After exercise the muscle is sensitised to protein intake for up to 72 hours. While it may do no harm and may have benefits such as muscle soreness management, it is not essential for muscle growth.
However, at the elite end of sport, the 1%s can make the difference. There is good evidence that 4 doses of 20g of whey protein was mildly superior to one bolus dose of 80g. It is also clearly an easy option to digest!
Thanks for reading, please hit me up with any questions or queries!
Write, today’s recipe is a banger of a post gym session or recovery day treat. They can be cooked up, allowed to cool and taken as a post training snack or even better, served fresh and eaten any time of day or night!
The spice of your choosing is a particularly nice addition with a personal fave being nutmeg. Also, I’ve proposed using Whey protein. Whey protein has been proven to be the best choice for muscle protein synthesis, due in part to its high leucine content. However, do just use your protein powder of choice.
2 large eggs
1/4 cup of whole oats
1 medium banana
1 scoop of protein powder
1 tbsp of Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp of baking powder
1 tsp of either nutmeg/cinnamon/ginger
Combine all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth
On a low to medium heat, melted a small amount of oil in frying pan
Place palm sized portion of mixture into the pan. Allow to cook until bubbles start come fully through the mixture, (around 2/3 minutes)
Today’s recipe is another snack time treat and is a perfect option for a pre workout or rest day snack.
Almonds are one of the stand out ingredients in this recipe. They contain vitamin E, calcium, and iron. Vitamin E contains anti-oxidant properties and supports immune function. Calcium is important for maintaining the structure of teeth and bones and Iron helps in the production of certain hormones and getting oxygen to muscles.
There’s a good amount of healthy fats, some carbohydrate and protein.
– 75g almond flour
– 120g oats
– 50g mixed nuts
– 3 tbsp unsweetened cacao powder
– 3 tbsp coconut oil
– 3 large eggs
– 3 tbsp of honey
– Preheat oven to 180 degrees
– Ground oats in processor and mix together with ground almonds and cacoa powder.
– Roughly chop nuts and add them to mixture.
– Combine coconut oil and honey in a bowel and place in microwave. Heat mixture until melted. Remove and whisk together.
– Crack and add eggs to honey and coconut oil mix. Whisk until the mixture is evenly combined and smooth with lumps.
– Add liquid mixture to dry mixture and mix thoroughly.
– Use small amount of coconut oil to grease the sides and bottom of a small cake or pie tray similar to that in the recipe picture.
– Place in the preheated oven for 45/50 minutes. Check the cake is cooked by piercing it with a knife, if it comes out clean, you’re good to go.
Today’s post is looking at another potent performance enhancing supplement. This one maybe doesn’t get the same recognition as other better known supplements but could certainly play a role in improving performance both in training and competition.
The supplement is dietary nitrates, often more commonly thought of as beetroot powder, pills and juice. Now although it’s not true beetroot is the only source of dietary nitrate, it’s derivatives are certainly the most well known for having an athletic enhancing effect.
As with the other supplements I’ve discussed and written about recently, it’s important to define what is meant by performance. Having done this, we can then determine whether the supplement can support improvements in your specific sporting event.
Historically, beetroot supplements have been better associated with endurance type events likely due to its association of being a vasodilator, meaning it works by expanding blood vessels and increasing blood flow.
Indeed, dietary nitrates have been seen to increase cerebral blood flow, (blood to the brain), Whilst also helping with lowering blood pressure. Interestingly with dietary nitrate supplementation, the higher blood pressure is seen at rest, the more it comes down by.
Dietary nitrates in forms such as concentrated beetroot juice, actually appear better for team sports than long lasting sub maximal endurance events. More specifically, the evidence suggests that impact is seen best in high intensity, intermittent exercises which involve repeated sprint efforts for exercise lasting 12-40 minutes in duration. These improvements are seen in regards to exercise time to exhaustion. The research is also equivalent for exercise tasks lasting under 12 minutes in duration.
Although not usually the first supplement that springs to mind when talking with fighters or those training different combat sports, dietary nitrates could definitely be a good choice for heavy training sessions or indeed competition.
Dietary nitrate is proposed to work by enhancing the function of type 2 fast twitch muscle fibres, those essential for continued execution of striking and grappling techniques.
Dietary nitrates can work to change the oxygen cost of exercise and subsequently make muscles more efficient. This is achieved at a less ‘energy cost’ to the body. This basically means dietary nitrates are supporting the fast twitch muscle fibres to produce force with less impact to the your energy reserves, therefore going for longer till fatiguing.
If comparing two athletes where their lactate threshold & VO2 Max are the same, these being the two big markers for endurance exercise performance, a lower oxygen cost will mean you are running at a lower fraction of VO2 max so will fatigue less rapidly.
Some highly trained athletes may respond less favourably. Type 2 muscle fibres are fare more sensitive to nitrate than type 1 endurance fibres. Therefore a ‘non responder’ effect could be down to elite endurance based athlete’s muscles. This could be as Theo muscle fibres will be better oxygenated and their mitochondria better trained away from the requirements of more explosive effort requiring athletes.
As noted already, dietary nitrates are found in root vegetables and leafy greens such as lettuce, celery, rocket, spinach and beetroot. However, although eating these foods will without doubt positively effect health, especially for heavy training athletes, the amounts needed for the performance enhancing effects described are going to be difficult to achieve by eating them alone.
On a side note, dietary nitrate supports muscle function by enhancing nitric oxide bioavailability in the body. If you pair any nitric oxide interventions/boosters with antioxidants it can act to boost its impact, so don’t skip having the dark greens mentioned above!
The research indicates a 6-8 mmol dosage is needed for performance enhancing effects. You’ll find 5/6 mmol nitrate in 300g spinach, which is more than your average bag bought from the supermarket. Alternatively 3 medium high nitrate containing beetroots or 6 to 8 low containing smaller beetroot.
Aside from vegetable size obviously, nitrate strength can depend on where the veg is grown, how long it took to get on the supermarket shelf, the growing conditions and time of year.
The optimal strategy is using a beetroot juice or even more conveniently, concentrated beetroot shots. A 6-8mmol dose = 500ml natural beetroot juice. A one shot concentrated version, for example Beet-It 70ml, usually contains around 300ml equivalent to natural beat juice. Therefore ideally take two shots as opposed to one, as other studies indicate performance enhancing effects closer to 8 mmol.
There doesn’t appear to be an advantage in taking significantly more than the upper limit of 8 mmol for further training effect. However, bigger athletes may require more.
Timing of ingestion is crucial with dietary nitrates. To ensure you get get maximal effect, you’ll need to consume your dosage 2 – 3 hours before you start training or competing.
The biggest performance boost is when plasma nitrite ,(converted from nitrate), peaks in the blood stream, which is related to how much nitrate you take and when you take it. For example if you take 8 mmol of concentrated nitrate, (beetroot juice), nitrite plasma will boost 2/2.5 hours later. At 6 hours it is still seen to be fairly high but 12 to 24 hours later it is back to baseline.
A loading strategy is also advisable if planning to use nitrates for a specific event, especially if competing and using for the first time to ensure your digestion tolerates it.
Research showed a daily dose of 0.5 L of beetroot for 6 days can reduce resting blood pressure, whilst lowering the oxygen cost of exercise ( measured on a treadmill)by 7% and increasing time to exhaustion by 15%.
A strategy to implement would be to try to take 2 shots a day in the morning and afternoon between 2 to 5 days out. Try this for a few days minimum prior to competing.
Be aware that bacteria in mouth converts the nitrate into nitrite which then works to increase plasma (blood) nitrite concentrations. This isn’t a science, but there may be a logic to mouth swilling your beetroot shot for 20 seconds prior to ingestion, similar to carbohydrate mouth rinsing.
Be aware also, commercial mouthwash stops you converting the nitrate in your diet by killing mouth bacteria, so avoid it if you can!
Lastly, huge shout out to Andrew Jones from Exeter University, (@andybeatroot), who I gleaned much of this information from!
Today’s recipe is a dinner time speciality. Traditionally Shepard’s pie is made with lamb and Cottage pie with beef. You decide which meat to go with as both are pretty damn tasty and good sources of complete protein.
This meal is a great pre or post training meal. It’s got a nice healthy dose of carbohydrate, protein and various micronutrients. Try to get a lean cut when buying your mince beef or lamb.
– 1 large potato
– 1 large sweet potato
– 2 large carrots
– 1/2 tbsp of butter
– 100ml of milk
– 1 tin of chopped tomato
– 500g of lean beef or lamb mince
– 1 medium onion
– 4 cloves of garlic
– 2 tbsp of sour cream/creme fresh
– 2 tbsp of dried mint
– 1 tbsp of oregano
– 1/2 tsp of sea salt
– 1/2 tsp of black pepper
– Chop the potatoes, carrots and sweet potato into rough chunks. Boil or steam until soft and ready to mash.
– Once cooked, drain the water from the root veg and add butter and milk. A pinch of salt & pepper can also be added. Mash until all the lumps are removed and set to one side.
– Pre heat Your oven to 180c. Chop garlic roughly and put into blender with chopped tomato, sour cream/creme fresh, mint, oregano, salt and pepper.
– Chop onion up into your desired size and heat in pan on low heat until translucent. Now add the mince and cook until brown. Once browned, add the tomato mix and allow to simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.
– Grease a pie dish and add mixture. Add mashed veg on top and smooth the mixture down using the back of a large serving spoon.
– Place in the preheated oven for 40 mins. Once done, remove and stand for 5 minutes before serving 👌.
Following the recent post on creatine, today’s piece is going to look at another science backed means by which to improve your athletic performance.
There is a wide and wonderful selection of products promising to improve your athletic output, but very few supplements are actually evidence based to show consistent and robust improvements. One which does however demonstrate this across the board, is caffeine.
For the athlete, at its very basic level, performance outside of technical competence means excelling in endurance, speed and strength. What is particularly appealing about caffeine is it actually has a pretty far reaching effect on each of these different qualities.
Caffeine is a stimulant that effects cognitive functioning. It improves neuromuscular function, vigilance and alertness, as well as reducing the perception of exertion during exercise. These improvements are seen across endurance based situations, (running, cycling, swimming,etc), and short term sub-maximal and/or repeated sprint tasks.
As in all posts, I do like to give a nod to combat sports performance. In a recent podcast, a well respected performance nutritionist working with pro boxers discussed using caffeine prior to a fight. He’ll give his fighters a coffee or caffeine shot, 30 minutes before the fight. Then the same 10 minutes before they enter the ring.
The above strategy appears logical when considering blood levels rise and peak approximately 60 minutes after ingesting. A men’s professional boxing match at the top level is between 10 and 12, 3 minute rounds with 1 minute breaks between. This strategy would allow for cognitive enhancing effects early on in the fight, whilst ensuring the significant ergogenic effects from peak caffeine blood levels will be realised towards the end of the fight. This should occur exactly around the point that glycogen levels and dehydration could all be taking a toll on the fighter’s performance
The above strategy can be adjusted in line with any other chosen disciple, by purely doing the calculations of 60 minutes being peak blood level presence and relate that to where in the competition the athlete will most benefit from a higher perceived level to exhaustion and greater cognitive functioning.
In regards to dosing, 3-9 mg of caffeine per kg of body weight (bw) has shown a ergogenic effect on endurance exercise of 1 to 2 hours and exercise around 100% of vo2 max that lasts approximately 1-5 minutes.
With sub maximal and repeated sprint tasks, look to initially work with the 3-6 mg per kg of bw range, 50/60 minutes prior to exercising. A more practical strategy for longer endurance events of 90 plus minutes maybe to work with lower doses closer to around 3mg per kg of bw. This should be consumed between 15 – 80 minutes during the event and keeping in-line with the research, taken alongside a carbohydrate solution beverage.
Doses above 9mg per kg of bw do not appear to increase performance benefits and could raise risks of negative side effects including nausea, anxiety and insomnia.
An effective method for ingestion is using caffeine anhydrous, a super charged alternative to a standard caffeine pill. After harvesting, caffeine is extracted from the plant matter and dehydrated. This produces a highly concentrated caffeine powder termed caffeine anhydrous. It will hit the bloodstream much faster than just a plain caffeine pill so consider this in regards to your timing of ingestion.
We’ve basically focused exclusively on taking caffeine pre exercise to enhance performance, Whilst also touching on taking during exercise. However, caffeine is also a powerful substance to include post workout and has been seen to support glycogen resynthesis in the muscle and liver post exercise. Therefore don’t be shy to add a coffee to your post workout shake.
Although contradicting evidence exists, on balance it dosnt appear necessary to practice caffeine withdrawal to get a better sport performance effect from supplementing pre exercise. With this in mind, do experiment to see what works best for you.
In closing, what’s important to note is that the effects of caffeine are highly individual due to your genetic makeup. As seen on the dosing strategies, the range is fairly significant in what represents the best “effective dose”. With this in mind, just be mindful of where start with your experimentation and probably best to air on the side of caution, your sleep could thank you for it.
Today’s short post will look at the performance enhancing effects of supplemental creatine. I’ll detail how it improves your performances and in what specific sporting contexts it’s best placed. I’ll detail a dosing strategy and lastly, touch on considerations for weight making athletes and also, how creatine can even support your brain health.
When I refer to creatine in this post I am referring specifically to creatine monohydrate. Although you will find other brand alternatives, all the research indicates creatine monohydrate will meet all your performance goals adequately. Of particular importance, it is also the most cost effective of the creatine products on the market.
Performance enhancing is a fairly generic term, so let’s define in what context creatine can actually help you perform better. Creatine can acutely enhance performance of sports that require repeated high intensity exercise. Such examples include football and other team sports, power lifting, short & middle distance running and many combat sports.
Creatine improves recovery in short recovery periods between repeated bouts of maximal exercise. It is speculated it can also act as a buffer within the muscle (from muscle acidity), therefore delaying fatigue. Research also indicates creatine leads to improvements in muscular strength, force production, (or torque) and can lead to greater gains in lean muscle mass.
Although there is some differing papers, generally research does not suggest an improvement for endurance performance from creatine supplementation.
Non meat eaters
In its natural form, creatine is found in meat, fish and poultry products. Therefore supplementing with it can be especially important for vegetarian and vegan athletes.
In fact the biggest performance benefit will be seen by those who don’t consume much creatine containing foods such meat and fish. Vegetable sources are low in comparison. Herring is highest at 0.65-1.10g per 100g with salmon & beef next highest at 0.45g per 100g.
There is some discussion around when to best take your creatine, especially from gym bros! It seems that post workout though is the optimal timing. However, in reality creatine works only when muscle is saturated by it, therefore consistency is far more important than timing in order to get a training effect.
Here is a best practice strategy when starting creatine supplementation;
– Creatine loading phase of 20g a day split into 4 doses of 5g throughout the day, for 5 days.
– Maintenance dose of 2g daily.
– Maintenance does can increase from 3-5g but watch weight gain.
The research does not support concerns regarding long term use, so don’t feel a need to cycle off. It could also support maintaining your lean mass during off season or times of reduced training such as when injured.
As noted, post workout seems the optimal time to consume creatine. Total muscle creatine can be increased when consumed in a solution with simple carbohydrate. Protein and carbohydrate solution also seen to enhance muscle take up via insulin stimulation.
I have a particular interest in combat sports where reaching a predetermined competition weight is often essential for competing athletes. This though is relevant for a number weight category sports.
When consuming creatine, changes in body composition can result from an increases in intracellular water, stimulation of protein synthesis or decrease in protein breakdown. Although these ultimately have positive benefits, they bring an added layer to consider when ‘cutting weight’.
If the athlete has a minimum of six to seven weeks before competition, and a high amount of weight to loose, they can reduce their daily dosing from 5 to 2.5 g, two to three weeks out. This will ensure optimal benefit for the initial stage of camp and some additional water weight may be lost whilst a continued ,(all be it sub optimal), benefit can continued to be obtained.
If there is shorter notice and the athlete is really struggling with weight loss, stop creatine one to three weeks before the weigh in. It will take four weeks to get to base line levels but a sharp drop in creatine stores happen after just one week.
Regarding loosing weight however, the question is how much weight will cutting creatine actually result in? Potentially this could be around 1% though, which may be crucial for those with a lot to cut. One week cutting (creatine), is probably optimal in regards to cutting some excess fluid retention but not loosing performance enhancing effects.
Lastly, a consideration is using creatine post weigh in, especially when weighing in 24 hours plus, prior to competition. Such instances usually see the competing athlete loosing greater amounts of weight due to the additional time to recover.
Due to its water retention quantities, creatine should be used in the post weigh in phase if the athlete has been using it already. A combat athlete especially needs to consider the importance of fluid retention post weigh in. Try adding between 5 and 10g post weigh in in your hydration protocol. This can help cellular hydration.
Lastly, and of significant interest to both combat athletes and those with historical family neuro disorders, there is research that champions creatine for its neurological benefits.
Creatine stores decline with age, but supplements can restore these levels and might even boost memory and intelligence in older people. Some research suggests supplemental creatine may boost memory and reasoning skills in those at risk of low creatine levels due to their diet. It also has potential to help heal from a concussion. When taken at the onset of head injury creatine can reduce the effects of the concussion.
Please let me know your thoughts with a comment! If there’s anything else you’d see to read or see, let me know.