Quick and Easy Granola Bars to fuel you training with a healthy snack.
During this time, where food options might be limited in our households, I think it is especially beneficial to have some healthy and easy to make snacks on hand to satisfy or cravings. Whether you just want something in between your meals, just before training or as a recovery snack, these are perfect and really easy to make in 20 min!
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup raw almonds, walnuts, or any kind of nuts that you like (roughly chopped)
1 heaping packed cup dates (pitted)
2 Tbsp chia seeds
2 Tbsp sunflower seeds
2 Tbsp flax seeds (ground or whole)
2 Tbsp hemp seeds
1/4 cup agave nectar or maple syrup
1/4 cup creamy salted natural peanut butter or almond butter
Toast the oats and almonds in a 350-degree F /176 C oven for 13-15 minutes or until slightly golden brown.
Process dates in a blender or food processor until only small bits remain . It should form a “dough” like consistency.
Place oats, almonds and dates in a large mixing bowl. Add seeds and set aside.
Warm agave and peanut or almond butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir and pour over oat mixture and then mix with a spoon or your hands to combine.
Transfer to an 8×8 dish or other small pan lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper so they lift out easily.
Press the layer down with something flat, such as the bottom of a glass, to get them really packed tight. This will help them from being crumbly. Chill in the fridge or freezer for 15-20 minutes to harden.
Remove bars from dish, chop them into even bars and Store in an airtight container for up to a few days.
How to fuel yourself properly for training and optimal recovery – the benefits of plant-based nutrition
Among the other benefits of a plant based diet, like reduced risk of morbidity and mortality, heart disease, cancer, or developing type 2 diabetes, a plant-based diet also has shown to be especially beneficial for athletes. Many studies show multiple benefits that I am going to review in this post, so if you are interested how to get your performance to the next level, have a read. In the end I also mention the most important facts that you should take away from all of this in order to benefit you training, recovery and health and some practical advice to take small steps towards a better nutrition.
This is about what you should try to eat more of, rather than what you should not eat!
If you want to built muscle and help your muscles recover faster from training, getting a good amount of indispensable amino acids like BCAAs (what proteins are made of) through our diet is really important as they are important for promoting muscle protein synthesis and our bodies can´t make them themselves. Many people are worried that they won´t get enough protein on a vegan diet because they won´t get the protein from meat or dairy protein such as Whey. (7) According to the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine the protein recommendation for endurance and strength-trained athletes ranges from 1.2 to 1.7 g/kg (1). From my own experience I can say that it is really manageable to get that amount of protein on a fully vegan diet if you eat enough calories from whole foods such as legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds (have a look at my earlier blog post if you want to learn how to built a perfect healthy meal). Protein is in everything we eat and that´s where the animals get it from in the first place. Therefore animals are just the middle men and we can avoid them by eating the plant ourselves. If you are not convinced picture just picture an ox for a second. Does this animal look weak to you? NO, because it is huge, has enormous muscles and you definitely don´t want to come near it if it looks angry. And guess what it eats… not meat but only plants. For long, the misconception that vegan diets provide insufficient amino acids, labelt plant protein as an incomplete protein source as they don´t have a “complete” amino acid profile. But even if whole foods like quinoa or even cacao didn´t have that it wouldn´t matter because we don´t need to get all amino acids at exactly the same time, but throughout the day or week and that is easily done by eating a variety of vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
Furthermore, consuming animal protein also results in us having higher circulating levels of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO).TMAO is a substance that injures the lining of our vessels, creates inflammation, and facilitates the formation of cholesterol plaques in our blood vessels. And that, of course, is highly problematic for cardiovascular health and inhibits blood flow to our muscles which results in poorer recovery. (4)
Data of a huge cross sectional study showed that omnivores consumed more total energy, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and protein but less ﬁber, calcium, and iron than vegetarians. Vegans consumed the least energy, saturated fat, sodium, and calcium, but the most ﬁber and iron as the diet is naturally higher in whole foods and furthermore provides the body with more vitamins and nutrients. The study concluded that the main advantage for the serious athlete to adopt a nutritarian-style vegan or near vegan diet may be the improved immunocompetence (better immune response to viruses etc.) with the positive effect of not missing training and events because of illness . This is especially important for people doing all sorts of sport because training causes stress to the body and alone a single intense workout temporarily diminishes immune function. So we should do all that we can to help our bodies to reduce stress and inflammation in the first place as we are more vulnerable anyway if we train hard. For example excess fat intake and poor food choices may exacerbate exercise and induced immunosuppression where as Carotenoid (pigment molecules abundant in green and other coloured vegetables) are known to enhance immune function. Furthermore antioxidants (molecules in colourful vegetables) are really helpful to reduce inflammation in the body which is created through free radicals which are produced during exercise and are known to play a role in prominent conditions such as cardiovascular disease and the development of cancer. Antioxidants can neutralize inflammation and studies found that supplements of specific isolated antioxidants would be vastly outperformed by the complex combinations of antioxidants and other phytonutrients in high-micronutrient, whole foods. So it can be said that it is most effective to eat more foods that are high in antioxidants, some of which are listed below (the same is observed in epidemiological studies). In Conclusion there are simply many proven benefits of eating more colourful vegetables to help recovery and reduce inflammation that is created through training.
Practical things to take away from all the science and studies:
eat more green leafy vegetables as they support immune function
eat more colourful vegetables because they are high in antioxidants and help your body recover
limit your animal protein intake as it inhibits blood flow and therefore optimal recovery, especially after training
–> maybe try some plant based protein (as it isn´t inferior to animal based protein and see how that works for you. I have personally noticed that I don´t feel all too good after having whey protein and that my recovery is so much better after a plant-based protein shake)
I already listed some of my favourite plant based protein supplement companies that I tried and I personally think that their protein is just as good as the whey protein ones, with multiple flavour options and a great taste, so have a look at the article below if you need some inspiration (don´t make the mistake to take pure hemp protein or some such and expect it to taste like something other than grass)
All that said it has also be taken into account that “vegan” does not necessarily directly mean healthy as it can nowadays also consist of processed foods such as meat alternatives. Furthermore athletes should be testing their blood from time to time in order to make sure that their ferritin (iron stores) is high enough due to the reduced bioavailability of the type of iron that is found in plants. But again I have made the experience that if I eat a good amount of whole foods I don’t have any problems with that. (coffein has also a big impact on iron absorption so if you always have coffee straight after or with your meals you should consider that the iron absorption is really limited). Furthermore vegans or vegetarians should take a vitamin B12 supplement because B12 is made from bacteria in the soil and we can’t make it ourselves (animals can’t either, but they get supplemented as well so you can get vitamin B12 through meat). In Addition to that I would advice to take a Vitamin D supplement as well, at least during the winter, as our bodys need sunshine to produce it and we would need around 15 min of direct exposure to strong sunlight in order to produce a good amount (most effective on bare forearms or the forehead).
If you found this post interesting please give me a like and make sure to follow this blog ; )
The next recipe will be a healthy snack to fuel you training and recovery properly so stay tuned for that!
1 Nutrition and Athletic Performance. (2009). Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise AMERICAN DIETETIC ASSOCIATION DIETITIANS OF CANADA
2Fueling the Vegetarian (Vegan) Athlete Joel Fuhrman and Deana M. Ferreri Dr. Fuhrman.com, Inc., Flemington, NJ
Quick and easy Easter Nests that are made out of coconut chips coated in chocolate. Those take literally 10 min to make and are foolproof so go on and give them a try.
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut flakes
approximately 1 cup vegan chocolate
favourite oval shaped nut or candy
Preheat oven to 350°F / 165°C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Spread the shredded coconut on the parchment paper and bake for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the coconut is golden brown and slightly crispy. (keep an eye on it as is burns easily) Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
Melt the chocolate in a hot water bath, when done pour over the toasted coconut and turn the mixture with a spatula until the coconut is fully coated.
Allow the bowl to sit for 5 minutes to let the mixture begin to stiffen, then scoop 2 tbsp balls back onto the parchment lined baking tray and press down with the spatula or the back of a spoon to form small “nests”, careful to leave a dip in the centre.
Now you can fill the centre with your favourite round oval shaped candy or round nut.
Freeze to set quickly and enjoy!
You can store the leftovers in the fridge and keep in mind that they will melt and fall apart if kept too long at room temperature.
Nut triangles are a sweet treat from Germany that consist of a dry base with some crunchy nut mix on top. They are especially delicious if coated in chocolate and taste really good either as desert or afternoon treat with tea or coffee.
350 g whole grain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
100 g coconut oil (melted)
90 g sugar (I used 1/2 coconut sugar )
10 tbsp water
450 g nuts
90 g coconut oil
175 g apple sauce
80 g sugar
cinnamon or every other spice you like
Combine all the ingredients of the first paragraph with an electric mixer and work the dough with your hands, dispersing it into a smooth ball.
Grease your baking tray with some coconut oil and spread the dough with your hands, evenly to cover the whole surface. (You could also roll out the dough beforehand and then flip it onto the tray). Puncture the dough with a fork at several places to create small holes which let the air get through more easily.
Preheat the oven to 180° C / 356 °F
Grind the nuts in a food processor. Place the coconut oil, apple sauce, sugar and spices in a pan and bring to a boil. Take off the heat and stir the nuts through until combined. Then spread the mixture evenly onto the dough on your baking tray. (this gets easier if you spoon the mixture onto several places and spread it evenly from there)
Place the nut triangles in the oven for 20-25 min until golden brown and let them cool afterwards.
Cut them in triangular shapes and melt some chocolate in a hot water bath.
Drizzle chocolate onto the triangles or dip them into the chocolate and afterwards let them cool on some parchment paper until the chocolate is set. Keep them in the fridge for a few days and ENJOY !
health benefits that you did not know about and how plants can be the remedy for many common issues like high blood pressure, being overweight and diabetes
Being plant based… this is a very important topic for me hence this article. This is not about me trying to convince you of veganism by any means but just my honest opinion on the issue ( one of the many being climate chance) that we are going to face in the future and some of my own experiences with the plant-based lifestyle. As I feel really passionate about this topic there is a lot that I want to touch on, but at first I want to talk about the health benefits for everyone on a plant-based diet and how to include some more plant foods in your life. In order to make this a little bit easier I included a 5 step plan to achieve that. So please just have a read and conclude for yourself if this is important for you or not. If you do want to improve your nutrition please have a look at some of my ideas to make life easier for you, that I included at the end.
By the way, by plant-based I mean a vegetarian or vegan diet as many studies concern these rather than only a vegan diet. The following shows that even if you are not prepared to go fully vegan, there are already many benefits by going vegetarian or by just adding more vegetables and whole foods to your diet.
For the past year I have more or less adopted a plant-based nutrition approach. At first more accidentally because I started to cook a lot for myself and that way started to become more interested in cooking in general. A lot of cookbooks that we had had for years and that I had previously never looked at suddenly sprang to my attention. Cookbooks like “Deliciously Ella” which worked with a lot of ingredients previously unknown to me like quinoa, chia seeds or hummus. Combined with me new goals for nutrition at the time I started to investigate a lot of plant based recipes primarily because they were deemed healthy from social media and other sources, not knowing that over time I started to prefer these over a lot of other food. At first all those recipes seemed really complicated, containing ingredients that I could not remember to ever heard of and was far from using before.
But time by time I got my staples together, Avocado, tempeh/tofu and generally more vegetables and fruit. Avocado on toast and smoothies became my go-to meals and without me noticing I found myself only eating meat or fish on special occasions, going out or when my mum cooked for us and at was just more convenient for me to eat what she had prepared. Diary milk had long gone from my pantry as I found that I always felt sick after having it and was replaced by plant milk wich made my skin a lot better. Over time I watched some documentaries and listend to tome podcasts that made me aware of the actual benefits for my health, my environment as well as my recovery. In the following I want to share these with you, alongside some of my experience in my daily life as well as with the stigma around “being vegan”. I have no intentions on converting you to veganism but on the contrary just want to educate and tell my personal experiences.
How does it benefit me personally ?
Suboptimal nutrition is a leading contributor to chronic disease and premature death in the United States and worldwide
Don´t we all want to life a long, happy life, without having a chronic illness or dying of cancer at the age of 50. At least I, want to see my grandchildren grow up and be able to play with them, instead of telling them that I am too old and can´t move that much anymore because I am in risk of a stroke or have too high blood pressure. I don´t want to be taking pills at a certain age every day to counteract all those symptoms that I could have avoided even getting by just optimising my nutrition. This might take me a few weeks to get used to, but what are a few weeks compared to my whole life?
Even if you don´t see it that way, I beliefe that if you were on of those people having diabetes or cardiovascular disease you would probably do anything to get rid of those and continue with your normal lives. I am no doctor and I am not giving out any advice if you are ill but I just want to outline some of the recent studies about the power of a plant-based lifestyle on disease prevention and even treatment. In my opinion our healthcare system should focus a lot more on disease preventions rather than prescribing pills to everyone who has a problem. There is a lot one could say about the links between the pharmacy Industrie and health care but this isn´t the intention of this post. So if you are interested in proves where a plant-based diet has done much good for ill people and which is not commonly known, because doctors usually don´t look at diet, go on and have a read.
Almost one half of cardio-metabolic deaths in the U.S. might be prevented through proper nutrition.
According to a recent analysis, certain dietary factors, including high intakes of sodium and processed meat products and low intakes of fruits and vegetables, were associated with 45.5% of cardio-metabolic deaths, were as a “plant-based diet” (vegan or vegetarian) is associated as effective strategy for improving nutrient intake. Plant-based diets are also associated with decreased all-cause mortality and decreased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and coronary heart disease. This is mainly due to the risk factors for those, being diets high in animal fat and reﬁned foods alongside obesity (being over-weight). (2)
For example all the time a lot of people die from suvere illnesses like cardiovascular disease. It is the leading cause for deaths in the United States and every 37 seconds one person dies. It is caused by a damage to your heart or blood vessels through Plaque building in your arteries and venes (atherosclerosis). These blocked blood vessels can lead to a heart attack, chest pain or stroke and are mainly caused though too high cholesterol levels. (3) Which are in turn caused by a diet to too high in saturated fat and trans-fats found in animal and highly processed products (diary,eggs,meat) , obesity and Diabetes because high blood sugar contributes to higher levels of Cholesterol. (4)
Diabetes: An estimated 382 million adults worldwide had diabetes in 2013; this number is expected to rise to 592 million by 2035. Numerous studies have shown that vegans and vegetarians are at a much lower risk of diabetes and additionally those diets have shown to be helpful not only in prevention but also in the treatment of type 2 diabetes in several clinical trials. Compared with more conventional diets in treatment of type 2 diabetes, vegetarian diets are almost twice as effective and showed a significantly better control over blood sugar levels. The glycemic control also seems to be linked to diet as the release of an important hormone (gastrointestinal hormone) is for example diminished after eating processed meat. (2)
HighBlood pressure is another common issue that many people take daily medication for. 143 million life-years of disability were attributable to hypertension (high blood pressure) and is associates with other leading causes of death as even only 10 mm Hg increase in diastolic blood pressure doubles the risk of a stroke. On the contrary the reduction of 5 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure leads to a 7 percent reduced risk of all-cause mortality, a 9 percent reduced risk of heart disease. That shows the immense impact of good blood sugar levels of out whole health status. A meta-analysis of multiple studies and trials proved that subjects on a vegetarian diet had much better blood pressure levels compared to a omnivorous control group and that furthermore a vegetarian diet decreased both systolic and diastolic blood pressure independent of other factors such as salt intake or exercise levels. Again it is important to notice that only the reduction in systolic blood pressure by 5 mm Hg is estimated to result in a 7% reduction in all-cause mortality, a 9% reduction in mortality due to coronary heart disease, and a 14% reduction in mortality due to stroke, which shows how important even a slight decrease in blood pressure levels can be and that these can be accomplished without medication on a plant-based diet. (2)
Almost 10 Millon people die from cancer every year. Already in 2007 a study published by the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research showed that the consumption of processed as well as red meat has been associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer because some chemicals in meat and especially meat cooked at high temperature, induces DNA damage which is the source for tumours that then spread around the body and create what er know as cancer (9)When we ingest animal protein, it results in our bodies producing higher levels of the hormone insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1)which stimulates cell division and growth in both healthy and cancer cells and, for this reason, having higher circulating levels of IGF-1 has been consistently associated with increased cancer risk, proliferation, and malignancy(12) .
The World Health Organization(WHO) estimates that more than 1.3 billion adults worldwide are overweight. As mentioned before a plant-based diet is also the optimal diet for weight loss as it generally provides a higher volume, due to a lot more focus on vegetables and leafy greens and a higher Fiber intake that is not only good for our gut microbiome but also keeps us full for longer. Additionally the BMI(Body Mass Index) tends to increase with the frequency of consumed animal products. So if you want to loose weight easily you might want to consider this. Furthermore even if a plant-based diet does not directly mean a healthy diet, as nowadays nearly every desirable product has its replacement, it is easier to loose weight, without changing a lot, if you stop eating those highly processed foods that are high in saturated and trans-fats and mainly found in animal products. Start to replace them with whole plant foods that provide your body with the minerals and antioxidants that it needs to thrive. Many cases have also shown that issues with acne disappears if you cut diary out of your diet.
In addition I want to outline that against many believes fruit sugar is really different to for example the sugar in sweets, as fruits contain fibre which makes us digest the sugars in fruit totally different and don´t give us that sugar rush that we can experience otherwise due to the spike in blood sugar and that imbalances our glucose levels in our blood. Fruits have proven to help with weight loss as they reduce hunger and increase meal satisfaction especially if consumed briefly to a meal.
But even more important is the fiber intake through fruits and vegetables. Studies have shown that individuals consuming a amount of >20 g fiber/day which is equal to around 200g of fruit, had significantly lower risk of premature death by about 40% and also showed to be really beneficial for successful ageing. Furthermore a diet high in fiber has proved to have a good effect on mental well-being, reduces the risk of depression and provides the body with anti-inflammatory markers that help it to recover. (10)
The lowest target that everyone should try to achieve is 5-a-day which means five hands of vegetables and fruits every day because there are so many benefits of having those, as shown below. But research in the UK has shown that young adults get the fewest portions of fruit and veg and only 21% of 16-24 year olds achieve the 5-a-day target mostly because they don´t know how to incorporate fruits and vegetables into their diet.
Now you see that a little thing, like just eating more plants, has a huge impact on your overall health. It is easy to make small steps towards a healthy life by including some more fruits in vegetables into your diet that will make you feel better and life longer. So if you are ready to start but don´t really know how to do then scroll down because I have worked out 5 tips to make your life a lot easier ; )
5 steps to a more plant-based diet
build your plate right – a wholesome, healthy meal should contain: nuts, seeds , legumes, whole grains and vegetables/fruits so tray to include these in all of your meal
reinvent your pantry – to make it easier for you to stick to new foods that you want to introduce -> if you don´t have meat or milk in the house you will need to find something else to eat
take small steps, nobody is perfect – try one new thing at a time such as swapping white pasta with whole wheat pasta for more fibre
Approach it like this: Think about the foods that you would like to incorporate more into your diet, rather than thinking of the foods you believe you shouldn´t eat.
! generally eating more fruits and vegetables is really important as they contain the vitamins, antioxidants and fibre that we need on a daily basis, so try to get at least your 5-a-day in (5 hands full)
eat enough – many people struggle to built muscle on a plant-based diet or feel tired all the time but not because the diet is insufficient, but because plant foods are generally lower in calories than animal products, which means that many need to eat a lot more than before
supplement – Vitamin B12 (because no one can make it, even the animals are given supplements that you consume if you eat meat on a regular basis), Vitamin D (except if you life somewhere much warmer than in Europe), (Plant-based Protein)
The conscious decision to go vegan
I believe that everyone needs to come to his/her own conclusion on this topic and as I said earlier I don´t want to convert anyone to veganism as I think that this is such a big decision that it will only be sustainable if you decide for yourself. But I do want to mention that some of the main reasons for me to go vegan were environmental ones alongside the great benefits for performance in sport. But I think that this discussion would go to far at this point as I already bombarded you with so many facts and researches and I don´t want this post to be too long so that everyone eventually looses interest. So stay tuned for more and subscribe to my blog if you don´t want to miss that.
But if I convinced you that including at least some more plants in your diet wouldn´t hurt, on the contrary probably make your life a bit better, than I am more than happy and want to help you a little bit if you now know that you want to improve your diet but don´t know how exactly. Please don´t fall for the common believes that a plant-based or vegan diet is expensive and complicated for it is not, if you give yourselves the chance to get used to it and built a basis of staples and recipes that you enjoy.
Some of my favourite resources for inspiration and education
– Deliciously Ella
– The happy Pear
– Five Sek Health
– Simnett Nutrition (Calestenics, Nutrition)
– Maddie Limburger (at home workouts, Lifestyle)
– Jon Venus (body builder, fitness)
– Game Changers
– What the Health
– Vivo Life (supplements)
– Raw Sports(supplements)
If you are interested in more detailed information such as recipes or meal plants, please let me know ; )
Will I loose all my progress during isolation or detraining?
Science explained and some tips to remain fit.
Everyone know this situations when you are injured or ill and can´t train or are not allowed to. This has always been a really difficult thing to handle for me as I instantly felt guilty because I wasn´t training as usual and thought that I would loose my progress and everything I worked really hard for in the past weeks. That I would loose a lot f muscle and endurance and therefore wouldn´t be able to keep up with the others anymore and all the time I had previously had invested would go to waist.
If you can relate to that than I can reassure you that none of this will happen!
I intentionally started this blog post to address situations when you are injured or need to focus on other tasks in life that make it impossible for you to train as much as you are used to. But in the current situation of the Corona Virus I thought that now this is important for nearly every athlete, no matter what you are training for at the moment. Gyms and running tracks are all closed so no training for all of us, at least not the kind of we are normally used to.
Will I lose all my progress? Was all that effort useless? and What am I going to do with all of this time? That were just some of the many questions that popped up in my mind the instant I knew that all the Gyms were closing and all training was cancelled. Everyone started to get anxious and worried, but I can assure you it is not as bad as it might seem. First of all we should be grateful for being alive and if you haven´t caught the virus yet be grateful for that. I realised that because we are now all stuck at home we start to connect a lot more to the people around us and most importantly to ourselves. Suddenly we all need to figure out what to do with all of the time that we normally wouldn´t have. I see a lot more people in their garden, planting flowers or just enjoying the sunshine as well as people going for a run because now that we know of people that are completely isolated we realise how nice it is to move our bodies outside. Now we have the time to do all the things that we always wanted to do but then neglected saying “I don´t have time for that right now”. Well let me tell you: now is the time! Start reading all those books that have been standing in your bookshelves for ages. Go on, start investing more time in the things that you enjoy.
But what about my training? So first of all relax! You are not going to lose all your progress. For beginners in strength training multiple studies have shown that detraining for under four weeks has no significant impact in the long term. The figure below shows that detraining for 3 weeks has no real difference to training continuously for 24.
For trained lifters (at least 3 years) studies have also shown that
“Strength performance in general is (…) readily retained for up to 4 week of inactivity, but highly trained athletes’ eccentric force and sport-specific power may suffer significant declines.”
That means that if your are really used to strength training a few weeks of won´t lead to a massive decrease on strength. But it also shows that “eccentric force and sport-specific power may suffer” which in return means that in the next weeks when neither of us has access to the Gym we should not stress about that but rather focus on keeping our explosive power and sport specific skills like practising a lot of explosive movements or technique.
Nevertheless the loss of muscle mass is a different subject to strength loss. First of all it should be noticed that during the first weeks of detraining the muscle is going to look a lot smaller, not because of significant muscle loss but due to the fact that the muscle no longer stores huge amounts of Glycogen and the Glykogen stores become smaller. This way the muscle appears smaller than before because it does not hold on to as much water as before. (1) Furthermore a Studie has shown that:
“Trained persons performing regular resistance training are encouraged to allow adequate rest between training sessions without fear of atrophy. Brief (~3 weeks) absences from training appear not to cause significant atrophy and potentially promote greater hypertrophy upon return to training”
Generally that means that if you are not able to train as frequently over a period of time you can maintain your strength and muscle mass to a certain extend. But this does not mean that you should or can relax all through the isolation period. Fortunately during isolation you are still able to do some sort of exercise unlike if you really had to have bedrest because you are actually ill or injured. That way you can still practise some body weight movement to stay fit or adapt to your current situation by using some type of resistance bands or water bottles as weights. This will definitely help you to retain some muscle mass and stay in shape which is especially important for all endurance athletes because our endurance capacity does suffer a lot more during times of detraining.
“it would seem worthwhile for the injured or less active athlete to perform either a reduced training programme or an alternative form of training (i.e. to cross-train), in an attempt to avoid or reduce detraining.”
Another factor which we should positively take into account is the principle of “muscle memory”. During overload resistance training myonuclei seem to be recruited into the growing muscle fiber (even though some argue if they are added before or after a hypertrophy threshold – 26% fiber growth- is reached). Studies have shown that the myonuclei in a fiber segment remain the same after 21 days of denervation which proves that myonuclei are not lost during atrophy. (1)
That means that you gather extra myoluclei during resistance training as shown below. As your muscle tissue grows we seem to add more myonuclei to the tissue which are not lost even if the fiber shrinks during detraining and might even remain for longer than 15 years (Gundersen, 2016).
For this reason this phänomenon is called “muscle memory” because it indicates that the muscle tissue can remember former times of training and remember the earlier growth through resistance training. The idea is that you can quickly return to previous training levels and regain muscle size if you’ve been highly trained before even after a long period of detraining. (1)
All in all it seems like we don´t need to worry too much about loosing all our achieved progress because or body provides us with a number of mechanisms that allow und to regain muscle quicker than previously. That said it is also important to remember that we will not loose muscle as easily as we think we do because initially what we loose the most in water and Glykogen. Nevertheless in times where we can´t train as we are normally used to we should still keep doing some sort of exercise just to maintain a certain level of fitness which will help us later to get back to or normal practise more easily. Also exercise is an excellent method to release endorphins which can be nothing than helpful in this uncertain times where we might tend to be absorbed into a much to negative state of mind which neither helps us nor the people around us.
I hope that these information where somewhat useful and helped to brighten your day just a little. If your are interested in some at home workouts or other ideas what you could do with your free time please let me know, I am happy to help ; )
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Some of you may or may have not heared about REDs, former known as Female Athlete triad and now the more defined syndrom of Relative Energy Deficiancy in Sport. I want to talk about this as it something that affected me as well as many other athletes in my sport career and that I was until recently not aware of. But then I listened to a podcast called “Trainbraive” (link down below) which is hosted by Renee Mcgregor a sports and eating disorder diatician who is also author of the book “Orthorexia: when healthy eating goes bad”. In this podcast they talked about the Syndrom as well as the connection to eating disorders which intrested me especially as I personally have struggeld with negative thoughts around food for the past year. That was initially the reason why I stared to inform myself about the warning signals and risks that come with REDs and was shocked to find that everything that they discribed was also a common theme in my life.
REDs was first researched in 2014 and is basically when the energy availability is insufficient for the form of exercise that a person is doing. That generally comes from to low energy intake, simply said just eating to less(undereating) or overexercising. In females that low energy availabilty usually can be noticed by a disruption or stop of menstruation which is the reason for the believe that this Syndrom only occurs in women because it was only noticed there. But lately the reseach has shown that also men are concerned even if the warning signs are harder to notice.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) defined RED-S as a syndrome of health and performance impairments resulting from an energy deficit.
Why is this an important issue?
REDs can cause many negative side effects. For females the loss of a regular menstrual cycle (Ammanorrhea) also affects their hormones which leads to hormonal imbalances and finally has a huge impact on bone density. A study in 2018 demonstrated decreased BMD, altered bone microarchitecture and bone turnover markers, decreased estimates of bone strength and increased risk for bone stress injuries compared with eumenorrhoeic athletes and those who are energy replete. But these hormonal imbalances of Oestrogen and Progesterone in women also occur in men, mainly with Testosterone ,which has a profound impact on training adaptation and efficiancy. This is due to downregulations because the body thinks it is starving and puts systems into “saving mode” so that the full potential of the body cannot be reached. Furthermore this might lead to even more training because athletes think that they aren’t doing enough because Thea aren’t seeing results. That is also a main cause for stress fractures which are a bone stress response that can be triggered with either too much training or too less fuel. In addition the prolonged low energy availability puts subjects at risk of infection, illness, fatigue and nutrient deficiencies. A study in 2018 reviewed the largest survey of adolescent/young adult female athletes where 1000 girls/women completed online questionnaires on Low energy availability(EA) which was then used to investigate EA in females and it’s consequences on health and athletical performance. It showed that individuals with low EA were at a higher prevalence of menstrual dysfunction, impaired bone heath, endocrine abnormalities, metabolic impairment, haematological abnormalities, psychological disorders, cardiovascular symptoms and gastrointestinal symptoms. Additionally athletes with low EA had a greater prevalence of decreased training response, impaired judgement, decreased coordination, decreased concentration, irritability, depression and decreased endurance performance compared with the control group(1).
Who is at risk and what are signs?
In general REDs can occur in any sport, age group and level of performance but especially in athletes doing sports with a high power to weight ratio such as cyclists, Triathletes, Runners or Dancers. Furthermore particularly young athletes can be affected as puberty is already an energy demanding time. In the trial mentioned above low EA was observed in 47.3% of the sample of female athletes participating in a wide variety of sports presenting to a sports medicine clinic (2). That indicates that a big proportion of athletes of all types and shapes are affected. Meaning that weight loss can be an indicator but doesn’t has to be as every body is different and might manage the energy deficiancy otherwise on short terms. For Females the loss of a regular, menstrual circle can be a good indicator, as well as a history of bone stress fractures or frequent viral infections. The same goes for men but there other signs of REDS are still hard to recognize as the hormonal imbalances are sometimes hard to notice. Studies have also shown that there are also psychological signs because low EA has a direct impact on psychological well-being. Adolescent females with FHA have been found to have a higher incidence of mild depressive traits, psychosomatic disorders, and a decreased ability to manage stress as well as increased depression, social insecurity and introversion and fears of weight gain compared with healthy controls(3).
Furthermore I am going to review some of the signs that I noticed myself and maybe this will help you to recognize some of those tendencies in yourself or other people that matter to you. If this is the case please immediately contact a professional or at least your coach and try to tell them about your issues because otherwise much time can go to waste during which you are not in a good place ,nor is your training. Also I can only tell from my own experience and that does not mean that those signs that I see looking back will occur or matter for everyone.
My experiences with RED-S
I don’t want to through my whole journey with sport including overexercising and under eating in this post as I think that I need to commit a complete other post to this because it is a really important part of my journey and needs a lot more explaning. But part of this is especially important for the issue of RED-S which is why I still want to share some of it.
During the last season I really started to invest more and more time in my training. I knew I had chances to qualify for the European Championships in Trithle/Biathle (which I explained in the “about me” section) but which is simply a part of Modern Pentathlon and includes running, swimming and shooting. So at the start of 2019 I went to a training camp in Greece with my swimming team. As I am not only a swimmer I swopped some of the sessions and did a running Programm instead. Part of the problem was that I don’t have a coach that overlooks all of the disciplines that I need to train but only multiple coaches for swimming and shooting that try to adapt to my training schedule. Even though my swimming coach is brilliant and very understanding she can’t overlook all the training that I am doing or estimate how exhausting the sessions might be as she is not a running coach. In the end that basically resulted in me training too much and recovering to less because I feared that I wasn´t doing enough and I had to coach who could tell me that i was doing enough already. On top of that I was vegetarian at the time and the vegetarian food options weren´t great as the hotel were we were staying at was very small. All in all I was training too much, nor taking enough rest to give my body the time to recover properly ans eating to little as well. This kind of continued when I went back home and over the time of a month I started to notice some changes. Positively I felt a lot better when I was running as I was just lighter and I felt a lot easier to achieve my times. But on the contrary I noticed that swimming was getting harder and harder and I was always cold, outside and in the water as well. My lips started to turn blue after a few minutes into the training and all I could think of was just to get out of the water. Swimming was´t fun anymore, I started to dread every training session because I knew I couldn´t perform as I was always shaking.
It also had a huge impact on my every day life not only on my performance. My mind started to obsess about food in every situation. All that I was think at every free minute was What am I going to eat next?, Is there a better, healthier option? and what have I done training vize to deserve to eat? In the beginning it was only important that the food that I ate was “good”. Good for my training, my recovery and good in general, meaning no refined sugars or too many fats because that was what I had read about on social media and in articles. But it got to the point were I has massive issues with eating out because I could not control what exactly I was eating. eating and food in general meant stress for me and I completely blocked out my hunger cues so that my body had to adapt to the minimum amount of fuel I was putting into it. At the time I didn´t even notice that I had basically no energy. I dind´t want to meet with friends or do anything except numming myself with training. I thought that always training was what made me happy, but truthfully I wasn´t at all happy at the time. Locking back I didn´t even enjoy the feeling when I stood on the podium at the Europeans, having just won the silver medal because I just did not feel anything. I had started to block out all the emotions to ignore the state at which my body was. And all of that just because I wanted to become a better athlete and do my best. Since then I didn´t get my period and now that I have taken some time of training because I chose to focus on my studies I knowticed that I developed a really bad relationship with training in general. I nor longer enjoy running as much as I did before because it reminds me of the time when I used to train soo much.
That doesn´t mean that everyone that trains hard for a competition and wants to optimise their training will fall into this circle or will have the same negative experiences that I did. My situation is very unique as is everyones and symptoms can be different for everyone as well. All I wish to accomplish by telling my story is to rise awareness that overtraining and not resting properly can easily have huge impact on your every day lives without us even noticing. REDs might be a very new subject that I raised in the sports community but in my opinion it is really important to be informed about for coaches as well as for athletes in order to prevent athletes from falling into this cycle of self-sabotaging or just not being well.
1 Relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S) Siobhan M Statuta,1 Irfan M Asif,2 Jonathan A Drezner3, BJSM
2 Low energy availability surrogates correlate with health and performance consequences of Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport Kathryn E Ackerman,1,2 Bryan Holtzman,1 Katherine M Cooper,1 Erin F Flynn,1 Georgie Bruinvels,3,4 Adam S Tenforde,5 Kristin L Popp,6 Andrew J Simpkin,4,7 Allyson L Parziale1 Original
3 IOC consensus statement on relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S): 2018 update Margo Mountjoy,1 Jorunn Kaiander Sundgot-Borgen,2 Louise M Burke,3,4 Kathryn E Ackerman,5,6 Cheri Blauwet,7 Naama Constantini,8 Constance Lebrun,9 Bronwen Lundy,3 Anna Katarina Melin,10 Nanna L Meyer,11 Roberta T Sherman,12 Adam S Tenforde,13 Monica Klungland Torstveit,14 Richard Budgett15 (British Journal of Sports Medicine)
4 Infographic. Relative energy deficiency in sport: an infographic guide Nicola Keay, 1 Alan Rankin2 Infographics Figure 1 Relative energy deficiency in sport: effects on health and performance. on 18 February 2019 by guest. Protected by copyright.http://bjsm.bmj.com/Br J Sports Med: first published
Hi everyone, I thought I should do a quick update on my current goals and training situation so that you can understand where I want to get over the next few months and where my starting point was.
After my summer break and the end of my competition season I decided to take a different approach to things with my training and my goals. During the past months i had lost quite a bit of weight due to the many important competitions and the training and stress that came with them. This wasn´t necessarily bad for me at that point because especially as an endurance athlete lower weight is sometimes an advantage because you have to carry less weight around and i really noticed that running felt far easier than it had before. I felt like i had reached just the perfect competition physique and the results also supported me with that impression. But never the less, many people mentioned my weight loss to me because before that point I never really had the slim appearance of a runner and it was therefore really obvious to people even they hadn´t seen me in a while. That didn´t really bother me mostly but when my coaches started telling me that i should make sure to gain back some body mass after the competition had ended, i became more mindful of the change that had happend, even if it was unintentionally. I started to recognize the downsides of weighing less and just being smaller… Even if it had helped me with my running, my swimming performance was not as good as it had be previously. I felt like i didn´t have enough strength in the water and not enough energy to sprint in my training sessions. But I also noticed a difference in my every day life as i was always freezing and had less energy than before. All these things additionally to the advice from my coaches and there fear that i might injure myself or become sick really quickly, I decided that i wanted to gain some weight over the next months and see what changes that would make to my performance and energy levels.
In Addition to that I wasn´t satisfied with my physique anymore even if i had reached my used-to-be “dream physique” at which I was very slim and athletic. That upset me quite a bit because I realised that the way i looked at that point didn´t make me feel more happy that before. That showed me that the way i look didn´t have much influence on my mental wellbeing and that on the conterary i didn´t feel as happy and fulfilled as i wanted to even if i had reached my physique goal. Something needed to change and i started to think about how i wanted to feel in the first place instead of how i wanted to look. So i decided on some new goals that i wanted to reach and that simultainiously matched with my intention to gain some weight back because i no longer wanted to look small but instead strong and energised.
This is why i decided on the main goal of GROWTH in general over the next few months. I want to grow more muscle but also focus more on my mental wellbeing and do more of the things that make me happy and fulfil my body. First of all i want to do more training sessions that i enjoy and cut out those that i don´t enjoy as much or that just bore me eventually. Before i had never taken the time to go to the gym more than once a week because i didn´t have the time with all the running, swimming, shooting and so on, even if i really enjoyed going to the gym and doing some resistance training. Now i simply make the time and try to go to the gym three times a week and try to work on building muscle especially on the legs. But in order to achieve that i need to go into a calorie sulplus where i eat more than my maintenance calorie intake (but i will make a blog post regarding lean bulking as well). Additionally i cut down on my swimming sessions and just go swimming one or twice the week to maintain a level of endurance and strength. Right now, just after a few weeks i feel so much happier and energised because i just do what makes me happy. But never the less this will be a much longer process because i need some time to get into the right state with my food intake in the first place. I realised that it is quite hard to start eating a lot more food in order to be able to build muscle because i am not used to it anymore and simply not that hungry. But on the other side i definitely need to eat more because i think i am still not having my maintenance calories every day. Because i struggle with this a lot i decided to use a technique called reverse dieting where you up your calories each or every two weeks in order to give your body time to adjust to the increasing amount of food that you eat. I am really looking forward to see if that helps me and gets me to where i want to get which is to eat intuitively just the right amount of food to fuel my body. And i mean who doesn´t want to be able to eat more food ; ) In Theorie i will be able to increase my calorie intake for quite a bit until i reach my maintenance and this is when my weight will start to go up. Then i assume i will be carrying on for a bit as i want to put on some weight but i will seen when i get to that point. And this will take some time…
All in all I defined a few goals for the next few months that are really important to me and i think will keep me motivated :
build muscle – especially on the thighs
become stronger – being able to lift heavier weights
eat more (reverse dieting) – to be able to built muscle and have more energy
listen to my body and do what I enjoy doing
make time for my social life – don´t stress about training as much because mental health is as important as physical
Please let me know if you want to know more about the reverse dieting approach and for whom this can be helpful or if you have any other questions. I will keep you updated on my progress and how this worked out for me so stay tuned ; )
I am also thinking about doing a physique comparison in a few months to compare the differences and to see if i reached my goals or moving towards them, do you think this would be a good idea?
How to set the right goals that are realistic and keep you motivated to carry on.
Goal setting is a really important topic in almost every aspect of our lifes wether you want to reach a specific goal in sport, your career or if you want to change your physique.
So for the perfect goal you want to look at a few points:
only set yourself a goal that is actually possible to reach (otherwise you will be demotivated and stop working towards it really quickly)
small steps help! Set yourself multiple small goals that you can achieve in a shorter amount of time. so instead of saying “i want to loose 10kg till next summer “, say “i want to loose 2kg over the next following month and then 2 again or maybe 3” – That is called short-term and long-term goal setting
make clear why this goal is so important to you and why you need to achieve it
write that down and look at it if you loose your focus or feel unmotivated to carry on. If you initially found the right reason this will always keep you going
work for yourself and not for anyone else, don`t say “i want to loose weight because my partner doesn´t find me attractive anymore ” but have a think about the reasons why you might want to loose weight (maybe because you don´t like your body yourself or because you want to feel more athletic, or because you are looking forward to look great in that bikini you just bought for your next holiday) * these are just examples but whatever your goal is you should always want to achieve them for you and only you!
It is also very important to change your goal if you find that it does´t work for you anymore and to accept if a goal is unachievable at the moment. For me this meant moving away from the goal of competing in pentathlon competitions because i realised that it was an unrealistic goal for me at the time. I had no coach that trained me every day but multiple people in different disciplines who all told me different things to focus on, mainly because they all had different goals for me in mind. That put me in a very difficult situation because everything i did was wrong for some reason because i hadn´t focused on one single goal but too many to achieve at the same time. That made me very unhappy because i felt like i didn´t accomplish anything with my training and had waisted my time doing hours and hours of training without satisfying result.
My solution in this situation was to completely change my goal to something that I really wanted to do for myself and that didn´t put me under constant stress. So instead on working towards pentathlon competitions I am now focussing on Triathle (Swimming, Running and shooting) which gives me more time to prepare as the competitions are only in the summer and enables me to focus on building some strength and muscle in the gym over the winter. That is something i usually never had the time or energy for but that i always enjoyed doing on holidays.
Through rethinking my goals for the next year until i finish with school (hopefully) i now set myself the short-term-goal of GROWTH. Meaning that I want to build muscle and move away from the endurance athlete physique that I am at right now. Being light weight is really helpful if you do a lot of running but also makes you appear smaller and that is just something that annoys me at the moment. I want to be and look strong and not just slim and athletic.
My general advice is to find something that motivates you because it is something that you rally want to achieve for yourself. Set yourself short-term goals for the next week or month and then long-term goals for the next three months or half year. Write them down and reflect upon the goals you have set yourself. Were they realistic or not? And be truthful to yourself, if you don´t work for it you won´t achieve your goal but be also kind to yourself for things that you can´t do anything against, like if you get ill or something. You won´t loose progress because of one week that you weren´t fully in it!
Please leave a comment down below if you found this post helpful and let me know if you want more detailed information on how to loose weight or my plans for lean bulking.
As long as you eat a varied diet out of whole foods that is not a poblem ; )
The thing is you gonna have to make an effort to gather all 9 essential amino acids