Friends, cake, sweets, leggings… a few of my favourite things

My blog has been so behind recently. Since getting back from Dubai I’ve been a bit all over the place. So a great place to start is a post on some things I’ve been loving and trying lately (as well as a mini guest appearing from Papa Apple).

Starting with some seriously needed catch up time with my lovely friend, Charlotte at the weekend in Brighton. Seeing her (and her husband, Paddy!) was exactly what I needed. I was in need of a good chat and vent. She’d baked an obscenely good carrot cake with the perfect ratio of sponge to icing (basically 1:1).I had two slices – I had to be certain it tasted as amazing the first time 😉 I did have grand plans of doing a Brighton parkrun (ideally the Preston Park one, which I’ve yet to do) but my calf has been playing up (insert sigh here) so I played it safe and enjoyed a lovely lie-in.Charlotte and I headed into town to do some coffee drinking and shopping before getting to Food For Friend bang on 12 to get a table (they don’t take bookings at the weekend and they’re super popular). It’s a great vegetarian and vegan restaurant that has such a diverse menu.

We got a table and checked out the menu. The last time we went there we made a poor choice of both getting the same sweet potato cake things. They were nice but it was a lot of sweet potato and not much else. This time we were more savvy. We ordered a sharing platter of lots of different things, such as cauliflower fritters, hummus, halloumi bites and lots more. Charlotte ordered some chips on the side and I ordered tofu crispy bite things and some fried aubergine things.It was delicious! So many flavours, textures and good stuff going on. We ordered more halloumi bites though towards the end because they really are the show-stoppers. We decided to forgo pudding (shocker I know) and mosey about a bit more. We’d popped into a great sweet shop before the restaurant so we had a bit of sweet stuff to keep us satisfied.

The sweet shop was amazing. It’s called SugarSin. It was quite an amusing experience because we’d only gone in there to have a look as it was quite a colourful and fun looking shop. We browsed the pick n mix but really we weren’t going to buy anything. The shop owner asked us if we needed help and we did that British thing of “no no just browsing”. He asked us if we’d like to try any of the sweets… any? Ooooh OK maybe just a try then. And then after telling us some information about the sweets (they’re from Sweden so not your traditional Candy King style affair) we’d grabbed bags and were loading up. Such easy prey haha!But let me tell you, the sweets are so good. Lots of different ones you wouldn’t see anywhere else. Worth it!So a very lovely trip to Brighton, as always. I went home feeling a bit more clear-headed and happy. What friends are for 🙂

And another one of my great loves along with good friends and good food… leggings! I was recently sent some leggings from the rather creative guys at Gear Bunch. Now if you’ve read my blog for even a tiny period of time you’ll know I quite like myself a pair of leggings. So when they offered to let me a try a pair of theirs I was more than willing, of course.

Their leggings are very jazzy indeed. I mean there’s no other way to describe them. If you want to make a statement at the gym or out running, these are for you. They have some truly fantastic designs and colours. I’m a little more subtle in my fashion choices so decided to choose a pair that weren’t quite so “out there” with the design. I quite liked the ombre effect and pink and black is a nice blend.They fitted nicely and were tight but not overwhelmingly so. They gave my bum a nice flattering look and didn’t sag anywhere. I could do lunges and use the bike in them. I would say with the colour I chose that underwear choice is something to consider wisely however as they can become slightly sheer when stretched.I imagine it really depends on the design you go for as to how much of an issue this is but with the pink colouring at the top I wasn’t able to wear black underwear (sorry if TMI but I’m being honest). They did require an occasional pull up though and didn’t feel like a second skin like say Lululemon or Nike.Overall I quite like them as a funky pair of leggings. I probably wouldn’t wear them on squat days just because of the sheer factor but all other stuff would be fine. I don’t know how they’d be for running however as I don’t wear leggings to run in that much at all!

There’s been a lot of social media hype regarding the recent release of the Halo Top ice cream. It’s a very popular ice cream brand in American. It’s a “guilt-free” ice cream in that it’s a lot lower in calories and it’s not full of artificial gunk and nasties. Now don’t get me wrong, ice cream is ice cream. It’s a supplementary item to your diet. If you want a pint of Ben & Jerry’s have a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. It won’t kill you. But sometimes I want to eat a pint of ice cream on a Wednesday night and not feel like I’ve just filled my body with excessive amounts of sugar. I’m a volume eater so this perfectly fits into my persona. I’m sadly not one of those people who can have a scoop and put it away. It doesn’t work for me.

So Halo Top is a lovely compromise of not pushing the boat out but still getting a solid ice cream satisfaction. However it is expensive – £5 a tub, ouch. The Chocolate flavour is delicious though and though it’s not as dense or full of all the chocolatey bits and pieces of a B&J tub, it is still very tasty.

I was also recently asked to review a weight-loss supplement. Now I don’t need to lose weight so this wasn’t something I was going to try. However I asked my dad if he fancied giving it a go (he’s currently doing Slimming World) and he said he was game.

The product is called Maxislim BerryTrim. It has a high strength of Glucomannan which, according to the product is “proven weight loss and gut health”. I don’t now where these sources are though. It argues that the soluble fibre in the product will make you feel fuller for longer. I can understand the logic behind that. Glucomannan has a low energy density, which researchers (again, not sure who) say “can encourage feelings of fullness as it expands in the digestive tract“.

Gut health is important, helping you have a good immune system and healthy digestive system. So that at least sounds like a winner. More fibre is definitely a good thing if your diet lacks it. The product also contains Inulin, a prebiotic that helps with gut health as well.I mean personally I’m not a fan of weight-loss supplements but supporting gut health and getting the digestive system moving is a good thing. Each serving is 22 calories and contains a host of ingredients such as L-Carnitine l-Tartrate, Green Tea Extract, Acai Berry powder, Barley Grass powder, Beetroot juice amongst others. It’s a vegan-friendly product. It also won the ‘Best Supplement’ at the UK Natural Health Trade Summit in October 2017.So my dad tried it for a few days. I got him to answer a few questions for me so I could write up his thoughts… He didn’t have a great experience it must be said.

  • How did it taste? It was inoffensive but the aftertaste lingered for hours – it really left a poor taste, but it went down quite easily.
  • How did it mix with water (recommended way to consume)? Mixed with water very easy. Not lumpy but I preferred the sachets as more consistent than the tub [bare in mind, this is a man who doesn’t like faff]
  • Initial reaction? Texture was like a very cheap fruit powder drink. It had a weak flavour. Not one I looked forward to drinking.
  • Later reaction? This was the real issue for me. After two days of these I experienced an upset stomach, very loose bowl movements and a general feeling of unwellness in the stomach. Yes it made me feel full but not in a good way. [This is more information than I’ve ever wanted from my dad…]
  • Could you see it working for others? Not if they have the same reaction as I did.
  • Weight lost? 1/2 lb in a week, but bare in mind I’m also doing Slimming World and consistently losing with that.

So that’s his honest thoughts. It sounds like it might be useful to some people who don’t get enough fibre in their diets and need to add a bit of “oomph” in but realistic you could just eat more vegetables.

Have you ever tried a weight-loss supplement?

Do you like patterned and jazzy leggings?

What’s your favourite pick n mix sweet?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the leggings and the weight-loss supplement for free in exchange for a review on my bog. All opinions are my (and my dad’s) honest one.**

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?

Simply Supplements – take 2

Happy Friday! This morning I have another review of some supplements from the guys at Simply Supplements. I’ve previously reviewed some of their products before (check it out HERE) and was happy to do another review for them.

Simply Supplements is an online shop selling a wide range of different supplements. I chose two different ones to try.

Alpha Lipoic Acid 250mg

When Simply Supplements asked me to take my pick of something it was perfect timing as I’d only recently heard about some of the benefits of Alpha Lipoic Acid (in combination with the second supplement I chose) to runners and athletes in general. I can’t remember where exactly I read about it, but it was peaked my interest for definite.

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After doing my DNAFit test I’m keenly aware that I need to ‘up’ my antioxidants that I have in order to help remove free radicals from my system to improve my recovery and stave off injuries. And this little gem apparently does just that: it helps “defend cells against oxidative damage caused by ‘free-radical’ molecules.” (Source). It’s also supposed to help build lean body mass and reduce fat.

Acetyl L-Carnitine 500mg

Acetyl L-Carnitine was the second supplement I chose and, according to evidence, works best in combination with the previous supplement Alpha Lipoic Acid.

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“Acetyl L Carnitine transports important fatty acids into the mitochondria of cells to support vitality and energy” (source). Basically it helps provide the body with more energy. For further information see this article for 11 benefits from taking it).

Though the above two nutrients are present in some foods (e.g. spinach, broccoli, beef, and kidney), the amounts tend to be quite small. So the supplements help in that respect. I’m always more of a fan of getting my nutrients from food than tablets (far more fun that way!), but in this case this seems preferable.

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Thoughts? Well, you know me, anything that keeps me from getting injured I’m all for! There appears to be a lot of evidence out there that helps back up the claim that together these supplements are a powerhouse of force against oxidative stress (thereby reducing cell damage and ageing). There’s a lot more science to this (as you can imagine) of which I won’t go into, mainly because it’s a) not particularly interesting to read and b) I’m not that intelligent to understand it 😉 but the links I’ve provided go into a bit more detail if you are interested/more intelligent than me.

Having now tried another set of their supplements, I’m confident that Simply Supplements are a great company and I highly recommend their products. The tablets are nice and small and you can take one-two a day of each with meals. I’m probably going to continue buying these supplements when I’m finished as the evidence is so strong and it’s something I think my body would benefit from with my running and high injury status.

What supplements do you use?

How do you support the weakness in your body?

What’s important to you about a supplement?

**Full Disclosure: I was sent these supplements for free to review by Simply Supplements. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Simply Supplements review

I’ve been working from home the past three days doing an online course in order to acquire more skills for my job and let me tell you, self-motivation is hard-work! Only having a set amount of time to do it though does spark the adrenaline a little, and obviously wanting to pass the exam at the end of it!

Anyway, on to more interesting things.

I was asked if I would review some products from the vitamin supplement online store Simply Supplements. I happily agreed because I don’t take any supplements and with marathon training trucking along I thought I could do with any help I could get!

Their website also has a cool blog which goes into some details about different bits and bobs to do with health, fitness and weight-loss (and marathon training!).

I chose three different supplements to trial:

L-Taurine 600mg 

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I chose this product because it’s apparently very good endurance and supports the maintenance of muscle.

From the website: “L-Taurine is concentrated in muscle tissues and the central nervous system, and is one of the few amino acids that contain sulphur…Through its high vitamin B6 content, L-Taurine is also believed to improve the body’s transportation and metabolism of protein and iron.” Source

Thoughts? It sounded great! I also read the reviews from other customers, which were all positive and along similar lines. Obviously I need to take the supplement for longer than the two weeks I’ve been taking it but no ill effects and my marathon training still continues to go well. My long runs have felt strong as well.

Aloe Vera 6000mg

IMG_0516 Aloe Vera is supposed to be good for digestion, promoting good bacteria in the gut and maintaining a health pH balance.

Thoughts? I actually don’t have any digestion issues, apart from the occasional bloat from too many apples or too many vegetables (I’m looking at you, sprouts). This wasn’t the reason why I chose this supplement. I’ve heard aloe vera is great for many different things (THIS article is good), one of those being inflammation. As a runner doing high mileage (for me!!) I wanted something to help with recovery and reduce injury (though I know a bit of inflammation isn’t bad). Again, so far so good. The tablets are nice and small as well so easy to take.

Omega 3 1000mg Capsules

IMG_0576 Omega 3 is great for the brain, heart and eyes. You’d usually find the omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in oily fish, flaxseeds, nuts, etc. and can be a tricky one to get the recommended daily dose if fish and nuts don’t rock your world (though sprouts have a good dose apparently!).

Omega 3 helps normalise blood pressure, cholesterol levels and can help reduce heart disease. And it can help maintain a good brain and good eyes.

(Fun but gross fact: a common causes of excessive ear wax is a deficiency in omega 3 fatty acids)

Thoughts? If I could eat oily fish (or all fish in general really) on a daily basis I would, but fish is expensive. It’s also harder to put into everyday recipes. I’m a huge fan of taking these supplements because now I’m no longer feeling guilty that I don’t eat a huge amount of fish (or nuts – I like pistachio nuts, but most nuts are a bit of a problem for me as I can’t stop at a small handful!)

I like that fish oils are from clean ocean waters and are subject to stringent environmental measures that protect the surrounding eco-system. However the product isn’t vegetarian as it contains gelatine. The tablet is also quite big but it’s easier to take because it’s smooth and shiny, if that makes sense??

Simply SupplementsTablet sizes 

Simply Supplements is a great online store as it just has so many different things. I had trouble deciding what to go for and judging by the reviews, there are a lot of happy customers.

What supplements do you take (if any)?

What pill do you think they should invent? I think they make a “keep on running” pill which stops all injuries from happening . Or a “I never need to wash my hair again” pill…but I’m sensing I’m edging away from reality now 😉

Are you able to take large tablets? My dad can take tablets without water. This is amazing.

MyProtein Review – take 2

I’ve recently been sent some products from MyProtein to review. I’ve previously done a MyProtein review before (find it HERE) and I quite like the company, hence my willingness to do more product reviews for them. The website has a lot of different products on offer, from supplements, protein powders, nutritional items and accessories all related to fitness and health. I got to choose a few items, so here we go.

Glucosamine Sulphate (find HERE)

This is a supplement you take one of every day and it provides 1000mg of glucosamine sulphate, which is a naturally occurring nutrient that is a major component of our body’s cartilage (it’s basically in the fluid around the joints).

IMG_8561 It’s aimed at those who wish to have optimum bone health, especially those who are very active. I’m so hyper aware of my body and any impending injuries or current injuries that this really appealed to me. Anything to help, you know?

It’s quite a large tablet to take but I’m sure you could split it in two to make it easier. I can’t say I’ve felt a difference from taking this (though I have only been taking it for a week or so) but I had no side effects. Also a lot of the reviews on the website profess positive views on it’s ability to help with pain in the joints and “clicky” knees. On further investigation I’ve found it’s actually used as a treatment for osteoarthritis. To be honest, I don’t think I need to take this but I think if you do experience clicky knees or painful joints it might help.

MSM Powder (find HERE)

MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) is a form of sulphur and provides a flexible bond between the proteins for your hair, skin, joints, tendons and cartilage. This is a bag full of MSM power of which you take 1g daily alongside food.

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This is ideal for, again, people who are training long term and to help them get the right balance of nutrients for the body.

I drink it in the morning mixed with squash (yes I’m still addicted) and I can’t taste it at all. Again I have no side effects from taking it but I’ve also not noticed any benefits (but again, I’ve only been taking it for just over a week). Similarly to glucosamine sulphate, it’s used for osteoarthritis and also join inflammation, bursitis, tendonitis…which was all very good news for me with my latest injury woes! Very timely indeed (though I’m pretty sure I don’t have osteoarthritis!!). For £5.99 it’s not a bad price considering you only take 1g a day so it will last a fair while.

ZMA® (find HERE)

This is another tablet-form supplement with a blend of zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6. The benefits are that magnesium helps with the body’s electrolyte balance, bone and teeth  maintenance along with the supporting of the nervous system, muscles, protein synthesis and helps reduce fatigue. The zinc supports the immune system, metabolism, the maintenance of testosterone levels, it supports your vision, skin, hair, nails and bones. It also has a protective element against oxidative stress. The vitamin B6 helps to regulate your hormones.

IMG_8560I think this is clearly a good supplement for anyone, not just for those with fitness inclinations. I have to say that I’m quite impressed with this product. I read the reviews on the website and found it aligned with what I’d found: very good, deep night’s sleep! Perhaps my opinion was influenced by what I read, either way I’ve been sleeping brilliantly. OK I don’t get up at 5am anymore so that does help too but genuinely my sleep has been pretty damn good. I’m a very light sleeper but I wake up a lot less in the night now. Who knows! It is a more pricey product however at £28.99, though the tablet is a more reasonable size if that’s any consolation…

CoconPure Oil (find HERE)

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This is a very large tub (460g) of 100% organic coconut oil, unrefined and non-bleached. Coconut oil is a very healthy oil as it’s rich in lauric acid and medium chain triglycerides, so though it is high in saturated fat most of this is good fat (not the same as that found in chocolate and cake) and is metabolised differently in the body. IMG_8585

Coconut oil can be used in so many different recipes. I often fry my vegetables or eggs in it, or melt a tablespoon of it and toss some roasting vegetables in it. It adds a very subtle coconut flavour to my meals. You can also use it in baking. MyProtein actually has a quite interesting article on the usages and benefits HERE.

For £9.99 I think this is an absolute bargain for the quantity and quality you get. I’m very pleased with it and use it probably every day.

Overall thoughts: As I said, I’m a fan of MyProtein. Though there is a danger of just wanting to buy everything from the website. When you read about the benefits that certain supplements provide you can get carried away wanting to be sure you’re not missing out on some vital vitamin or mineral. I’m sure if you were sensible you could get a lot of these benefits from eating a well varied and balanced diet. However for those who want to be certain and are maybe nervous they’re missing out then it’s ideal, especially for people like me who are injury prone! Anything that could support my body and help me get stronger is something that instantly appeals to me.

If you take supplements, which do you take?

Do you use coconut oil? What’s your favourite use of it?

Have you use MyProtein before?

***Full Disclosure: These products were sent to me for free by MyProtein.com but all opinions are my own.***