Is it Shepherd’s or Cottage Pie

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.

Ingredients:

– 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

Method:

– 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 👌.

Caffeine – The athletic performance enhancer

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.

Why supplement?

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.

Timing

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.

Dosing strategy

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.

Caffeine Anhydrous

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Creatine – which kind of sporting performance it may help, how much to dose and considerations for combat and weight making athletes

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

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.

Dosing

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.

Optimising

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.

Weight making

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.

Brain health

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.

Healthy Chocolate Chip Muffins

Another sweet treat for you today. These muffins are probably simpler to make than the ‘real’ ones. There’s a good mix of protein, unprocessed carbohydrates and healthy fats.

Give them a shot and let me know your thoughts!

Ingredients

– 2 medium bananas

– 2 large eggs

– 1 cup or peanut butter

– 2 tbsps of honey

– 3 tbsps of cacoa nibs

– 1/2 tsp of baking powder

Method

– Pre heat oven to 175c

– Simply blend all ingredients together, ensuring bananas are completely blended.

– Either grease muffin tray or put in cases

– Fill trays between 1/2 and 3/4 for each muffin

– Allow to cook for 12-15 minutes

– Remove from oven and let muffins stand for 5 minutes 👌

Energy density: 199kcal each muffin (12 muffins)