Caffeine and me

I recently bought a coffee machine. I never thought I would. I mean, I’m not really one of those OMG I NEED COFFEE TO FUNCTION type of people.

If I don’t have caffeine in a day then I’m generally OK. It’s just habit and the enjoyment factor as to why I regularly drink it. I don’t start shaking or fading through the day or get headaches.

At work it’s a way to get away from the desk and keep me from endlessly snacking on #allthefood in the office. I’ll have a black instant coffee, and thoroughly enjoy it. At the weekend I’d treat myself to something a bit more elaborate at Starbucks, but more because it’s a fun drink to enjoy. I’m that person who has an obnoxious order… half decaf half caf medium Americano with sugar free hazelnut syrup and hot skimmed milk. Why half and half? Because I do like to limit caffeine where I can (and sugar…). I don’t want to become dependent on it and I like to use caffeine in big races to inject some speed into my legs. I don’t want my tolerance level to become skewed.

So why did I get a coffee machine then? Well, I was finding that my Starbucks weekend habit was fairly costly over the year (my drink is around £2.40, so around a fiver a week). In the back of my cupboard I found a milk frother that I’d never used and found I could heat up almond milk and froth it nicely to add to my coffee. I also bought my own sugar-free hazelnut syrup from Amazon, because I’m fancy like that 😉 And literally it’s like Starbucks in my kitchen!I’ve also been drinking a pre-workout before the gym which contains quite a high dose of caffeine (~240mg) and I didn’t want to keep buying it – though I enjoy using it from time to time because it has other added benefits. I do enjoy feeling a bit more awake before the gym so didn’t want to give up entirely on caffeine.So with a coffee machine I could dictate how much coffee I had (and whether it was caffeinated or not) and reduce my coffee/pre-workout expenditure. Killing two birds with one stone.

After a lengthy time wondering what type to buy (most people advising on the very cool looking Nespresso machines) I eventually just settled for a simple coffee maker.

The problem with the Nespresso machines (and the pod coffee makers in general) is that the size of the drink you get is quite small. And I didn’t really want anything too fancy first thing in the morning. Also the pods themselves were expensive, so defeating the point of trying to save money. I wanted a proper MUG of coffee that was cheap and easy to use.So I bought this very cheap Russell Hobs Brew and Go machine from Amazon (around £27.99 – this isn’t a sponsored post by the way!). It comes with a travel cup and basically you can dictate how much coffee you put in and how much water you use. Perfect!

Some people give caffeine a bad rep or just avoid it for their own reasons and that’s fine. Everyone to themselves. But I know that a little bit of caffeine before the gym or before a race can really help my performance. It’s a legal supplement to take and it’s cheap. But if I didn’t have my cup of coffee before a race it wouldn’t panic me. I do parkrun and long runs every week without coffee and perform just fine. Perhaps it’s psychological then that I see these performance gains… who knows. What I do know is, I enjoy coffee and enjoy feeling more awake at 5.30am before I hit the gym.

What are your thoughts on coffee and caffeine in general?

If you drink coffee, how do you take it?

Do you have a coffee machine?

Full of positivity and MuscleFood pre-workout review

I’m in a super positive and happy place right now. I’ve started 2017 just feeling good and ready to take on the year. I came into work on Tuesday feeling in a good mood, much to the delight of my colleagues 😉

Though I don’t tend to make big grand New Year’s resolutions (last year’s resolution was to be more punctual. That lasted a week) I have made a couple of notes to myself on things I’d like to improve on. One being more conscious of my spending – so only one takeaway a month rather than three or four… Another is being more confident and ready to take on new challenges at work.

I’ve recently bee promoted, to start the new role in March, and it gave me all the anxieties before Christmas wondering if I could actually do it, whether I’d fail, whether they’d demote me once they found out I couldn’t do it…But instead I’ve switched it round and thought, “OK let’s do this”. If people have confidence in me, then who am I to argue with that? I just need to stay focused, work hard and not be afraid to ask for help.

In terms of running and goals in the fitness area? I actually haven’t a clue. I’ve become a lot more relaxed about running in general and I no longer feel the desperate urgency to fulfil my Marathon Major goals as soon as possible. After Tokyo I want to reset and chill for a bit. Just run for fun. Enter races that make me happy and just pootle along. I’m enjoying the gym so I’ll carry on there, maybe look for some new challenges in that area. Basically I’m content and it feels like a weird place to be in, but also very nice. I think I’ve relaxed a bit more….weird.

Onto my review then!

MuscleFood Rampage™ Pre-Workout Formula

A few weeks ago MuscleFood sent me some pre-workout to try out.Pre-workout is actually something I’ve only just become familiar with. I drink BCCAs (branched-chain amino acida) during my workout which help maintain muscle mass when doing strength workouts, especially as I do my morning workouts fasted. My goals are not to lose fat and I don’t want to lose muscle either.

So what’s a pre-workout then? You basically drink it before you workout as the name suggests! It usually contains a stimulant like caffeine and some other supplements to help get the most out of your workout and reduce fatigue.MuscleFood kindly sent me two different flavours of the their pre-workout Rampage (what a name, eh): Lem & Pink Grapefruit and Orange & Pineapple. It contains BCAAs to reduce muscle breakdown and help with recovery, as I mentioned above, Arginine AKG which is another essential amino aciden which helps the body to create energy from protein, fats and carbs, Beta Alaine which helps with performance (though be warned, it does cause some rather odd tingling!), Taurine for muscle growth promotion and recovery, Citrulline Malate to help fatigue and manage lactic acid, Creatine Monohydrate which is a well documented and studies supplement to help with building muscle and Beet4Perf™ which is a natural beetroot ingredient to help boost performance as well (I love my beetroot supplements!). It also contains 200mg of caffeine (the equivalent two cups of instant coffee).To be honest, I was highly sceptical of pre-workouts in general when I first heard about them as it all sounds a bit weird. Stimulants for working out? Hmmm. But then caffeine has been proven to help push harder and I often use caffeinated gels during marathons and drink a coffee before a race – and in general most mornings. I obviously don’t want to become dependent on caffeine but getting up at 5am to start my workout at 5.30am is tough going and having caffeine just before really helps. I just make sure I don’t have any further caffeine later in the day.

Though to be honest I don’t find I need anymore, whereas if I don’t drink the pre-workout by 10am I definitely need my morning cup of coffee. Normally I’d have two cups of coffee a day so now I’ve switched to decaf on days I drink this. I’m not hugely sensitive to caffeine and don’t get any headaches of withdrawal symptoms if I don’t drink it for a few days so I think I’m OK.

So what did I think? Well, the taste isn’t amazing. It’s not disgusting or unpleasant, it’s just something to get used to. Both flavours are nice enough but some mornings it does take an effort to get it down. I make up one scoop with 200ml of water and that seems like the perfect amount. Any more water and the taste gets worse as it waters down. The grapefruit flavour is better than the pineapple in my opinion.

Taste aside, did it aid with my performance and recovery? It’s a tough one to know for certain, but I do believe it’s helped me. Within 15 minutes of drinking it I start to get the tingles (they’re no hugely unpleasant, just a weird itchy palms kind of feeling) and then I feel a lot more awake. It’s not made me feel invicible and nor can I suddenly deadlift 10kg more. However I felt more “get up and go” and more alert. Obviously the caffeine is a big factor here but the other bits and bobs could be contributing too. After particularly heavy squats, my legs weren’t quite as sore as they might be. But again this is all very cause-effect stipulation and subjectivity.

I do enjoy taking it though and am happy to keep it in my routine. I won’t take it before every gym visit, just when I think I need it. I’ll also have a week or so without it every now and again to help keep my caffeine tolerance at a nice level. I don’t want to become too dependent or used to it.

I don’t think it’s necessary for the gym or to make any significant gains. It’s more of a pick-me-up to help supplement you as and when you need it – if you need it at all! But I do recommend it if you fancy adding a little it of oomph to your workout occasionally. I’m tempted to try it before a race as well to see how that goes.

Have you ever tried using per-workout?

Do you use any supplements?

Have you made any big goals for this year?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the Rampage Pre-Workout from MuscleFood for free in return for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

 

MuscleFood Live Clean™ meals review

I’m not going to lie, I don’t eat microwaveable meals meals (“ready meals”) that often at all. But when MuscleFood contacted me and asked if I wanted to try out their new line of ‘healthier’ ready meals (not vegetarian)…well I was intrigued.MuscleFood is an online food and supplement company. I’ve bought many things from them before, from their meat selection (regular chicken breasts or mince to more exotic meats such as llama and ostrich) to their egg whites, and to their protein powder (I bought the unflavoured type to add to my porridge – perfection), and it’s all been really good. I’ve actually also got a couple of protein pizzas in my freezer that I’ve yet to try…

But I’ve never tried their pre-prepared microwaveable meals. And this is mainly because I enjoy cooking and am not a fan of a “dinner ding”. Though their meals didn’t look like your bog-standard tiny-portions, over-salted and dodgy ingredient meals. They’re high in protein and under 500 calories, which sounded like the perfect dinner to me.

I received a selection from their Live Clean™ range: Oriental Chicken Pad Thai and Beef Lasagna With Italian Veg.

The Pad Thai contains spiced chicken and wholewheat noodles in a spicy peanut sauce with “crunchy” Asian veg. The Lasagne contains beef with wholewheat lasagne and Parmentier sweet potatoes, fennel seeds and roasted Italian veg. Interestingly they’ve been designed by a Michelin trained chef and the packaging has been designed so it doesn’t all get cooked at once. A valid, valid point. Chicken and veg don’t cook at the same time. So no more watery, mushy veg!

Beef Lasagne

Having been brought up on cook-from-frozen lasagnes as a child (my mum wasn’t the best of cooks…bless her), I tend to avoid them. I was a bit dubious about this ready meal but I liked that it came with a serving of vegetables on the side and it didn’t look like a heap of sweaty melted cheese.

What I like is that it’s separated into two different compartments so you can cook the lasagne for longer than you cook the veg, so the veg doesn’t turn into mush. It was ready in four minutes.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this, not being a huge lasagne fan. It wasn’t overly creamy or cheesy, but definitely had a good amount of meaty filling and you could really taste the fennel in the vegetables and potatoes. The ingredients list looks pretty damn stellar for a microwave meal and the nutritional profile is really good. Nice and high in protein and carbs.

I would definitely eat this again. Though being the greedy person I am with a huge appetite I did need to bulk it out a bit with more veg, but that’s just me. I think for a normal person it would be fine.

(This was before I added the extra veg)

Chicken Pad Thai

This meal really appealed to me as chicken is my protein of choice. It sounded very tasty as well with peanut sauce and Asian vegetables.

Again, you cooked the two sections for different lengths, but it was ready within two minutes. This meal is a lot higher in protein and lower in carbs.

Taste-wise it wasn’t too spicy but lovely and aromatic. I again added more veg to this as I felt there wasn’t a huge amount in the mix. Though the chunks of chicken were huge and a good amount of them!

(Again this was before I added the extra veg)

I’d happily eat both of these two meals again. For nights when I’m running to come home to a nicely balanced quick meal like either of these would be super useful. I like that the ingredients aren’t full of rubbish and they’re very filling and tasty. The price isn’t that bad either, you can get seven meals for £28, five meals for £20 or one meal for £4.95. Obviously it would be cheaper to make these yourself but for the saving in time and convenience you are of course going to spend more.

The only sad thing is their lack of vegetarian and vegan options.

(I do have a referral code for MuscleFood which gives you some freebies if you order using it, such as chicken breasts or other items–> AS548885).

Do you eat ready meals?

What’s your ideal ready meal?

Have you bought anything from MuscleFood before?

 

**Full Disclaimer: I received the meals for free in exchange for a review. Al opinions are my own honest ones.**

Rants and Raves #27

And I’m back on the Rants and Raves again! I actually have quite a full-house today, so let’s get going.

Rave: As I mentioned in the previous post, I treated myself to a new pair of trainers. Why is it that it always requires an injury or niggle to trigger me to do something sensible? The logic of a runner I suppose… or maybe just me!IMG_8516

They’re Mizuno Wave Paradoxes and I believe this could be my fourth pair. I did consider buying another pair of ASICs (the Luminus ones I reviewed a while ago) but they’re very expensive and my Luminuses haven’t actually worn out yet. So why don’t I just wear them? Well, Mizunos have always been my fail safe. I’ve worn them for several marathons now – possibly all of them and I always go back to them. They are quite ‘stiff’ but I find this works for my feet. For £57 as well you can’t go wrong (I got them from www.sportsshoes.com).

Rant: The colour of said trainers. It looks like they’ve gone through the wash with a pair of jeans. My last pair were pink which was a whole lot better than this light blue colour. But after a few parkrun visits I’m sure the colour will be unrecognisable.

Rave: Crisp cold mornings are far nicer than soggy mild ones in my opinion.IMG_8477Yes it’s cold but it’s just so beautiful. And Alfie doesn’t get anywhere near as muddy.

Rave: And on that note of coldness, I’ve been wanting a hat for ages to wear when I walk Alfie as putting my hood up feels a bit silly and antisocial (and isn’t actually that much warmer). I found this hat in Tesco for £2!IMG_8517

It’s so snug and lovely. I can’t believe their winter stuff is in the sale already.

Rant: Don’t put tissues in your FlipBelt and then wash it. IMG_8596

Big mistake. Little pieces of white tissue everywhere! Arggh. I rarely take tissue with me on a run but I did for my failed 18 miler just in case. Then I forgot and merrily went on my way to washing it *sighs*.

Rave: One of my close friends is getting married in July and I’m really excited. It should be a fantastic day as they’re such a lovely couple. I did have a little bit of fun on the RSVP though…IMG_8518

She found it amusing thankfully Winking smile

Rant: I’m an idiot (probably a good portion of my rants in general are down to my own stupidity I’m sure). I booked a holiday completely on a whim, paying for it and everything before realising it was the day after said wedding. I evenly smugly booked Southampton airport because “how easy would that be”. Not so easy considering the day before I’m in Gloucester and was intending on staying over in a hotel. It means no drinking for me now and a very late drive home after the wedding. Oh well.

Rave: And to segue nicely into my booked holiday (stupid timing aside)… I signed up to go on the Body Type Nutrition Retreat. It’s run by Ben Coomber, the nutritionist who’s podcast I’m obsessed with. Basically it’s six days of 3-4 hours of training and 1-2 hours of nutrition coaching (per day). There are workshops and training sessions focused on strength and conditioning so you can learn and progress in your fitness goals. It’s not running-focused, but rather overall health. As I’ve got so into the gym and lifting weights I wanted to gain better knowledge in the area, as well as nutrition in general. There’s also a lot of fun and games involved. I thought “hey you only live once!”. I’m in a stage in my life where I can do what the hell I want and this interested me. It’s also nice to know I’m going on holiday with a bunch of like-minded people.

Rave: Good food! I never used to eat much steak at all but I’ve suddenly had such a craving for it. Obviously I’ve always been a keen meat-eater so I guess this is hardly surprising.IMG_8642

This was a grass-fed Irish rump steak (from MuscleFood – use this code AS284829 for freebies!) with a steak seasoning, a load of veg with Saint-Félicien cheese. Very tasty and filling! Mid-week steak, can’t go wrong (unless your a veggie…).

Rant: Idiots on the road. This guy in the photo below wearing SHORTS. Not only is it FEBRUARY but shorts on a moped at any time during the year is a stupid move. If he fell off his bike he could lose half the skin on his leg at best. Rush hour on a Tuesday morning is not a good time to play dice with the traffic.IMG_8669

Speaking of idiots, there was another guy the other week on a motorbike zooming along the motorway with his hands OFF THE HANDLEBARS. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. He was just sat that with this ridiculous grin on his face with no hands, clearly showing off. After ranting on Facebook about it my policewoman friend questioned me about it and then later said they think they have him on camera so he’ll get done. Good! Because it isn’t just his life he’s risking.

And on that happy note…

What’s the worst thing you’ve seen someone do on the road?

Favourite type of steak and how do you like it? I really enjoy rib eye medium rare. I prefer the more fatty cuts just because they’re a bit more flavoursome.

Have you got any holidays planned this year?

Rants and Raves #26

Every time I write a Rants and Raves post I have to go to my blog and see what number I’m on. Kind of shot myself in the foot with this putting numbers on them… Oh well, nice to see how many I’ve done though.

Rant: Sometimes I’ll have a little look at my blog stats and how people have found their way to my blog. Sometimes it’s from Twitter, Bloglovin‘ or other blogs. But it’s always interesting when people have Googled something and come to my blog that way. Some of the search terms make sense (like a product review) but others are bizarre.

“Jamie Oliver and his sister Anna” came up a lot in different variations. Yes I love Jamie and yes he has a sister called Anna-Marie (I had to Google that, I’m not that obsessed I assure you) but how this is relevant to my blog I don’t know. Probably because I go to his restaurants every other week I suppose.

And some search terms are just plain WEIRD.

What

There’s an Anna naughty pudding? It must be really naughty if it’s especially for me – I’m the cake monster after all and am rarely defeated.

This one really concerned me though:

Weird search term for my blog

No, that is not OK. And the fact it was used FOUR times to get to my blog is really worrying.

Rave: A recently opened trampoline centre in Southampton. This is so much fun. I used to do trampolining back in the day at school and loved it, so when some girls at the running club suggested going last Monday evening I was totally up for it.Oxygen Free Jumping Southampton

The place is basically full of trampolines and there’s also an area where you can do monkey bars, swinging ropes, tight-rope walking and flips into a pit of foamy cubes. We spent an hour bouncing around, larking about and just generally acting like kids. It was brilliant.Oxygen Free Jumping Southampton (6)

We were hot sweaty messes afterwards. I was really proud of myself for doing the monkey (ladder?) bars several times without falling. My upper body strength has improved so much! Some of the girls said they ached a bit the next day but I was fine, which really shows how far I’ve come and my gym sessions aren’t a waste of time. Because hello how important is it to be successful at monkey bars?? 😉Oxygen Free Jumping SouthamptonShame my flips were far less than stellar…I think I managed two (into the foamy cubes) and that was it. Graceful I am not.

Rave: I still love colouring. My mum got me a really cool colouring book (it even says it on the book, haha!). It’s a cake colouring book!!IMG_7497

Clearly my kinda thing!

Rant: Oh hi winter, decided to turn up did you? Though saying that I’m far happier it to be freezing than wet and windy. Let’s not have a combination of all three though please! I’ve been getting so fed up of cleaning Alfie’s paws and giving him baths after walks, it’s ridiculous. I cringe when I hear him shoot off across the local field and all I hear is the squidge of the grass and see the mud flick up. To try and combat this cyclical pattern, I got him a lovely little coat.

IMG_7378A bargain £12 from Pets At Home

It partially covers his undercarriage as well which is very helpful. I think the word used to describe Alfie’s opinion of his new garment is “indifference” so that’s good I suppose…

Rant: And to continue that theme of ranting, this is becoming a regular occurrence…Wet trainersDisgusting soggy trainers after wet runs. I’m not tempted to put them on radiators as Martin Yelling suggested in MarathonTalk because my flat is tiny and the smell of wet trainers would just overcome the place. So sat outside my flat with newspaper in is the next best thing. It works nicely but makes me look a little mad to my neighbours. I have no fear that they’ll be nicked either – who on earth would want them??

Rave: Nike Pro Shorts. I think I have four pairs now. I love them. The colours are so funky!IMG_7049This week it’s been far too cold to wear them though of course which is a shame. But when the weather gets warmer they’ll be back again. The good thing about the gym is you’re shielded from the elements. The only thing is I walk Alfie before and after the gym so it’s very nippy in just shorts!

Rave: I’m still loving MuscleFood.com (<– referral link – you get freebies, I get money off). I can really bulk buy on meat like turkey steaks, chicken sausages, steaks, bacon and burgers. I had one box delivered to my parent’s house as it was easier than my flat and my dad kindly agreed to store some of it in their giant freezer. Unfortunately I forgot to ask him to separate the chicken breasts…IMG_7595Twelve chicken breasts all frozen together! There was no way to separate them individually. So over the weekend I defrosted them then cooked all 12 breasts. I re-froze a fair number of them and then kept the others in the fridge for meals in the week and random chicken snacks at work (is it weird I snack on chicken at work??).

I’m also currently obsessed with cheese. Instead of buying my usual Laughing Cow processed cheese and Babybels I’m now buying the proper stuff as I got a bit addicted over Christmas. I’ve been getting through Stilton, goat’s cheese, Brie, Camebert and Taleggio (Italian Brie basically). I just throw it onto my salads or grate it onto meals. So tasty and so much better for me than the processed junk.

Have you ever been trampolining?

What’s your favourite way to relax?

What’s your favourite cheese?