Body Signs, Nutrition

The Body Signs Series – #2 Muscle Pain & Weakness

Are your muscles weak & achy, even if you haven’t exercised recently? Then you may consider checking your nutrient levels because:

  • Vitamin D is needed for muscle fibre (especially fast-twitch fibres) and cell protein synthesis, as well as optimal immune function, hormone & heart health. It is also an important epigenetic regulator that influences the expression of hundreds of genes. Other signs of deficiency include myofascial back pain, loss of muscle strength, bone tenderness & pain, hypotonia (poor muscle tone) and joint pain. Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with accelerated ageing (btw did you know you can actually REVERSE ageing?).
  • Thiamin (vit. B1) is needed for the clearance of lactic acid and thus B1 deficiency can lead to muscle pain due to lactic acid build up. It is also needed for optimal function of the nervous system and so insufficiency can contribute to neurological pain and reduced signalling in muscle cells. Other signs of thiamin deficiency include glucose intolerance, tingling and numbness, increased heart rate, poor cognition (memory, confusion), poor coordination, burning feet syndrome, abnormal reflexes and more.
  • Dietary protein provides the building blocks (amino acids) necessary for muscle synthesis, amongst many other functions such as hormone & immunoglobulin production. Low intake of protein may not be the only reason for poor protein status – insufficient stomach acid and digestive enzymes can reduce the amount of protein our bodies absorb from our diet.

Of course, there are many other reasons why we may have achy, wobbly muscles. These include accelerated ageing, active viral infection (fever, etc.), chronic fatigue syndrome, thyroid, autoimmune & neuromuscular conditions, prolonged bed rest and certain medications.


If possible, always check your nutrient status and speak with your healthcare provider before starting any supplementation.

Your body is talking, are you listening?


Reblog: Protein Powders 101

A lot of you may be wondering about protein powders… Should I be taking them? Which one should I buy? How often? And so on.

Read a summary of fellow blogger Deniza’s guide to protein powders to help you make the right decision.




Guide to Protein Powders: Which kind is best for what?

Which protein powder is best to build muscle, lose weight, boost immune system and more? This guide explains the different kinds of protein supplements, choose the one that fits your lifestyle best!

Whey Protein Concentrate
This is the most basic form of protein. It is oftentimes cheaper compared to the other kinds of protein powders and best suited for those starting out.

Make sure to choose a protein that comes from grass-fed cows. Otherwise, your body will not be able to use all those amino acids to build and repair muscle tissue.

Whey Isolate

Whey Isolate is one of the quickest absorbing proteins. This kind of protein is best for those dieting. As Whey Protein Isolate contains the highest amount of BCAA’s (branched chain amino acids), it will help you sleep better, recover quickly and reduce appetite as well.

– Casein
Casein-rich protein is most found in all kinds of dairy products. It is broken down very slowly, over the course of several hours. It is great to reduce hunger when taken either at night or in the morning for breakfast.

– Milk Protein Isolate
This kind of protein is a blend of both casein and whey protein. It is typically a little bit pricey, but worth the money. Again, opt for grass-fed kinds to get all health benefits.

Egg White Powder
Along with Whey Protein, Egg White Protein is the best way to get in as many essential amino acids as possible. Egg albumin is an excellent supplement to reduce muscle soreness, boost immune system, prevent I nsulin resistance and improve sleep.

Brown rice protein
Brown rice protein is a good source of complex carbohydrates, vitamin B, and fiber. However, make sure to use rice protein from a brand whose products are laboratory-tested, as most rice proteins contain pesticides. These induce cancer and speed up the aging process of our cells.

In addition to that, rice protein does not contain all essential amino acids, thus it is not suited for those looking to get complete protein by using this supplement.

– Pea protein
Pea protein comes from the yellow split pea and is very popular among vegetarians and vegans. Pea protein is hypoallergenic and is a great whole-food source. However, again, it is not a complete source of protein, as most plant-based proteins.

– Hemp protein
Hemp protein is derived from the seeds of the cannabis plant. It is one of the only plant-based proteins containing all 21 essential amino acids. It is vegan-friendly and hypoallergenic as well. It is higher in calories compared to the other protein sources, but well worth it.

Almond flour/ protein
Almond flour or protein is not a complete source of protein. However, just as hemp protein, it contains a high amount of essential fatty acids and calcium.

Soy Protein
Soy protein is a good source of protein as well. It contains all essential amino acids and is loaded with glutamine, arginine (helps dilate blood vessels and allows for quicker digestion of nutrients) and BCAA’s.

However, I never recommend anyone to use soy products. I just want you to know that it is nearly impossible to buy truly organic soy protein products nowadays. Most of them are loaded with additional growth hormones, which increases the phytoestrogen content. This is a plant-based form of estrogen. Too much of this has shown to contribute to breast cancer in women, as well as colon cancer.

Sweet lupine flour
Sweet lupine is not well-known, but it is actually a complete source of protein. In addition to its high protein content, it contains complex carbohydrates as well. Thus, it is not suited to be used alone as a protein supplement.

People allergic to peanuts could have problems digesting this kind of protein though, so be careful at first.

Read Deniza’s full post on choosing protein powders here:


Calories and Optimal Food Intake – Part 2

In the Paul‘s last post we looked at the basics about calories and metabolism. Now let’s see how calories affect weight management:

Whether you are trying to lose weight, maintain weight, or gain more, calories matter.

Calorie restriction is counterproductive and does not work because when you consume less energy than your body requires, the body adapts.

When you do not eat enough calories, the body has the ability to slow down thyroid hormone output in an effort to maintain energy balance. Your thyroid is responsible for fat, carbohydrate, and protein metabolism.

Your body will begin to hold onto fat stores because it is in starvation mode and instead uses muscle to provide energy. Muscle is highly calorie intensive to maintain and in a prolonged calorie deficit it is one of the first things that the body looks to get rid of, and in turn will further slow down your metabolism.


The body will also slow the digestive tract in an effort to conserve energy. The digestive tract is responsible for breaking down food to its simplest form so that the body can use the nutrients to function. When a person is not consuming enough calories the stomach empties slower and the lining of the intestinal tract can shrink.  The digestive tract can become so severely damaged that it cannot properly digest food, and this can lead to malnutrition and electrolyte imbalances.

Not only is a restricted calorie diet not the ideal way to lose body fat, it can actually cause negative side effects in other ways, and even increase your fat storage!

When you are under stress both physically and psychologically (a reduced calorie diet creates stress on the body), the body secretes a hormone called cortisol. The primary function of cortisol is to convert amino acids found in the muscles into glucose (blood sugar) to give the body extra energy to overcome the stress.

In a way, this means more ‘sugar’ is produced by the body as a reaction to stress. When cortisol is chronically elevated it makes the body think it needs to store fat around the waist, so that it will have a source of easily accessible energy. High cortisol also makes you unable to make rational food choices, by activating the part of the brain that makes you crave pleasurable foods.

In short, restricting calories can ultimately make the body react in the same way it reacts to stress – by conserving energy stores as fat (the opposite of what you want to achieve) and causing you to crave more (probably sugary) comfort foods.

Time to Eat - Clock

Another hormone that is affected by a restricted calorie diet is insulin. In a healthy body, insulin behaves like a key that opens the door of the cell so that glucose can move from the blood, and be pushed into the cells where it is either burned or stored as fat. Insulin plays a primary role in managing body composition by mediating fat burning and energy levels and is thereby involved in the development of lean tissue.

When you don’t eat you experience ‘low blood glucose’. In reaction to this, adrenaline is released to elevate the blood sugar and keep you going. This leads to spikes in blood glucose and insulin, causing insulin resistance.

Constant spikes of insulin (also caused by the consumption of simple carbohydrates or sugars) can eventually result in insulin resistance. This occurs when your cells are less affected by insulin and the receptors don’t properly bind with insulin. In other words, the body is desensitized to insulin. Insulin then does not properly function as a key to the door of the cell, and the energy gets stored as body fat.

In conclusion, the bottom line is that restricting calories really doesn’t help your mental or physical health. Focus on the quality of your food and not the quantity, rather than reducing calorie intake to reduce body fat. Begin by consuming more calories to build up lean tissue and speed up the metabolism, and then restrict calories to better reduce body fat.

Here are a few more tips for optimizing your daily calorie intake:

  • Eat frequent meals 5-6 times a day.
  • Have ready to eat meals available.
  • Don’t wait until you are hungry to eat.
  • Add good clean fat.
  • Invest in a good protein powder.
  • Eat calorie dense foods.

By Paul Magnus



Food, Food and, Yes, More Food!

Allow me to introduce my latest contributor.

Kevin Cooper, Personal Trainer and Business Manager at Pinnacle Performance has been running in the fitness industry “marathon” since 2001. “Lots has been learned and more to be achieved” is his comment when asked to describe himself.

I am very excited that Kevin will share his vast insights. Intense, focused, humorous and above all knowledgeable. Kevin will say it as it is. Welcome aboard Kevin.



So much to say such little time or space, undoubtedly the most controversial topic out there when it comes to the industry….

What to eat ? What time? And why? Well to put it as basically as possible and for those of us that have some sort of idea about this black hole we call nutrition, the rules are trial and error based. Take ownership of it and learn to take basic guidelines and perfect them, the most intensive content out there might be unbelievable to me but not work at all for the next person.

Trial and error, ladies and gents, that’s the beauty of this game and all variables that you can imagine get broken down to a term we love to use – “it depends”.

Depends on the following:

Meal one time:

  • Is meal one carbohydrate dominant?
  • Is meal one more fat than protein?
  • Is meal one a stimulant like coffee?
  • Is meal one a mix of all forms?

An absolute no-fail choice that works for most, yes not for everyone, is to start your day off with a protein and fat meal. A simple choice will be scrambled eggs drizzled with olive oil. Easy yet effective. Don’t be scared of the yellow yolks that contain 9 essential amino acids! Get it in and enjoy risk-free taste and texture.

Once meal one is behind you keep meal timing down to max 4 hour intervals to ensure you send a consistent signal to your body of maintenance in energy and consumption through food. This will in turn ensure that your body does not create a storage pattern of energy. Instead it sends signals of absorbing and processing of food.

Keep up the protein+fat mix and consume a serving of a carbohydrate-based meal, like sweet potato for post workout only. This in turn creates an insulin sensitivity signal so that the carb can be utilized more effectively. And a greater percentage of it can be utilized in the body in that post workout phase.

So, many variables and one can successfully say that breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day. It’s the first signal to your body of the day.

So the question is will protein and a fat be more beneficial than a carb start ?

Here we go …. it depends … How do you feel post meal? How does the meal effect your energy levels?  What’s the effect of the meal on your digestion? Etc etc etc.

One sure conclusion that can be drawn is the simple fact of when you consume a certain food first thing in the morning it sends a signal that depicts the rest of your day – guaranteed.

Stay away from carbs till post workout. Be sure to consume them when they are going to be utilized fully. We will certainly delve deeper into this subject as your understanding of your own body commences.

This is where taking control of your meals comes in. It is never easy but I can vouch for the fact that it is well worth it.

This is certainly an easier read on this topic, however get the ABC right the first time and it will make the outcome much more simple yet effective.

Your time is now, go get it and own your results from start to finish!



Peanut Butter Protein Balls

Protein Balls

When looking for quick fix which can help me keep up with my protein intake I make this ever so easy snack balls. You can add honey, maple, agave syrup or sweetener of your choice but for me less is more 😉

All you need is:

  • 2 TBS of organic peanut butter (I use organic, plain)
  • 1 scoop of protein powder (I used vanilla) any will do
  • 1 handful of goji berries (optional) any berries or raisins



Mix all the ingredients together and form into small balls

Refrigerate for 30 min and enjoy!


Protein Powders vs Real Protein

By Adrianna McDonald

There is no doubt and never will be about the importance of protein in your diet. It is an essential nutrient that helps the body to build, repair and maintain its organs, cells and tissues.

You can meet your daily protein requirements whether you drink shakes and/or eat whole foods, but nutrition from both is not equal.

Protein-rich whole foods are more nutritionally complex than shakes, so they offer a greater variety of vitamins and minerals. Chewing them takes a longer period of time and they satisfy your hunger, keeping you full for longer.

Protein powders were always present in the bodybuilding world but lately became popular with the general public as people realized the full potential of protein supplements in their everyday life.

“Before I start elaborating I want you to know that there is NO real substitute for real food!”

Protein powder is a supplement to your diet and should not be a replacement.

Protein quality has also been enormously overstated and even distorted for marketing purposes and most brands are full of sweeteners and other additives which your body may struggle with.

The variety is enormous : whey protein, beef, casein, plant, etc.thumb_IMG_6459_1024

The most popular is Whey Isolate and is largely used in the bodybuilding world.

Even though whey has a higher BV (biological value) than beef, chicken, fish, or milk protein, if the total quantity of protein you consume throughout the day is sufficient (best if you know your macros), then there is no need to substitute whey for food proteins as it won’t give you additional muscle gains.


thumb_IMG_6457_1024Myself and most of my clients tend to use it as a post-workout drink only. There is no evidence that protein supplements digest more efficiently than whole foods but they definitely digested faster which is most important after training. There is still lots of debate amongst the experts as to post-workout nutrition. There is not much proof if a protein-carb drink will produce better muscular growth than whole foods, as long as complete whole foods are eaten within an hour or so post-workout.

No doubt protein powders are convenient and supplementing with a couple of scoops a day (especially post-workout) is not a bad idea.

If you are a very busy individual and you struggle with your protein intake try adding protein powders to your meals instead of replacing them.


How and What to Eat Pre-Intra-Post Workout

By Adrianna McDonald

As I stated before in the article about Nutrition Timing what and when you eat depends on your health and fitness goals. You are unique and what will be right for you, may not be right for someone else.

An endurance athlete will eat differently to a bodybuilder who wants to put on size or a bodybuilder getting ready for a competition and finally, very different to an average gym goer or non exerciser.

As an endurance athlete, your carbohydrate intake and calorie needs will be much higher because of the long distance and duration of your training.

As a bodybuilder protein and calorie needs would be higher to promote the muscle growth.

Pre & Post Workout Quote

If you are getting ready for a fitness competition like Miranda, where dropping the body fat percentage is required, your protein and fat intake can be higher but carbohydrates should be lower.

Here nutrition is essential if you want to change your body composition. Depending on the person (remember you are unique), training intensity, and the stage at which they are prior to a competition I will use different approach.

Mostly, the pre-workout meal will stay high protein and fats. For intra-workout nutrition (during exercise) I like to use BCAAs (Branched-chain Amino Acids). These are very important as lifting weights puts enormous amount of stress on the body and the BCAAs will support the immune system, help to cope with this stress and prevent muscle loss. Your body cannot produce BCAAs so they must be consumed.

And for post-workout I would use Vitargo which is a fast-absorbing carbohydrate and
protein isolate which is also the type of protein that is absorbed the fastest by the body. Repairing and refuelling the depleted muscles immediately after training is crucial for muscle repair so protein itself or a combination of both, protein and carbs, would be required.

As to post-workout meals, in my opinion these should be eaten an hour after training and should consist of foods high in protein and starchy carbohydrates.

Pre & Post Workout Quote 2


Adrianna on: Meal Timing

Meal or nutrient timing refers to eating nutrients (protein or carbs) in specific amount at specific times (before, during, or after exercise).

In terms of sports nutrition, different meals should be eaten at different times of the day:

  • Post workout meals should be higher in carbs, especially faster-digesting starchy carbs (such as potatoes or rice) or sweeter carbs (such as fruit).
  • All other meals should be lower in carbs, lean protein plus healthy fats and fibrous vegetables.

This placement of carbs could help people with their performance in the gym while getting leaner, stronger, and healthier. But for the average person who exercises occasionally or not at all and is trying to just look or feel better, nutrient timing is not as important as overall daily calorie intake.

Post-workout “anabolic window of opportunity”
Brian St Pierre at Precision Nutrition states that nutrient timing can play a key role in fitness as proven by various research studies which found something we call the post-workout “anabolic window of opportunity.”

Heavy resistance training sensitizes muscle tissues to carbohydrates. After a heavy weight training session, your muscle cells are scrambling to soak up carbs to promote recovery. That means the higher your daily workout volume, the better you’ll be sensitized to carbs. – St Pierre, Precision Nutrition

Weight training or sprint intervals make our body a nutrient-processing powerhouse. During this time our muscles need glucose, either oxidizing it as fuel or more readily storing it as glycogen (instead of fat). And post-workout protein consumption cranks up protein synthesis.
Recent studies indicate that the “anabolic window of opportunity” is actually a whole lot bigger than we used to believe, you probably have one or two hours on both sides of your training to get these benefits.

Nevertheless we ought to remember that  we’re all unique. There’s no one-size-fits all rule. Just like when you exercise, what’s most important is that you make high-quality choices, consistently, whenever it works for you.

Meal Timing quote

Meal frequency
For years dietitians and nutritionists thought that the best approach to splitting up your daily food intake was to eat small meals frequently throughout the day. From early research it was assumed that eating often would speed up the metabolism, help control the hormones insulin and cortisol, and manage the appetite.
However, a recent review in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, and other lines of evidence, suggest otherwise:

As long as we eat the right foods in the right amounts, meal frequency seems to be a matter of personal preference. You can eat lots of small meals each day (i.e. every few hours). Or you can eat a few big meals each day (i.e. with bigger time gaps between them). And there’s almost no physiological difference. – St Pierre, Precision Nutrition

However, there could be psychological differences, mind you. Which is why you should listen to your own body. If you’re covering all your other bases and your current meal frequency isn’t working, try switching it up. Experiment with fewer meals if you eat more frequently. And more meals if you eat less frequently. Because either approach is physiologically valid, you’re free to find the lifestyle approach that works best for you.

When nutrient timing still matters
Nutrient timing is a complex subject and there are legitimate uses of nutrient timing for certain people.
If you’re a bodybuilder or an endurance athlete, the meaning of nutrient timing is much different than if you’re an sedentary office worker just getting into exercise and trying to improve your nutrition.
Some people are already very lean, compete at an elite level of physique or athletics. For bodybuilders, physique competitors, and/or weight class athletes an extra half-percent of body fat can mean the difference between winning and losing.

Yet, there is one thing that trumps all of the above:
“The best nutrient timing in the world won’t compensate for poor-quality, mindless, and/or inconsistent food intake”

*This post was based on Brian St Pierre’s article “Is Nutrient Timing Dead?” for


About protein and why you need it

Last week Adrianna shared with you my over all macro composition in this post. Today we will look at one of those macros and why it should take up the majority of your nutrition plan.

Eating protein with every meal will help stabilise your blood sugar levels and keep you feeling full for longer. There is evidence that consuming a moderate amount of high-quality protein (25–35 grams) during each meal stimulates muscle protein synthesis, promotes muscle health, and plays a critical role in preserving lean body mass as we age. Consuming protein at every meal also promotes weight loss making it an essential component of a healthy diet.

Protein Fact 1
From Proteins (Food Power) by Dr Virginia & Robert Silverstein (1992)

Every cell in the body contains protein and it is a part of every tissue, including our organs, muscles and skin. An adequate dietary protein intake is important for building, maintaining and repairing body tissues. Many hormones and enzymes that function to regulate body processes and chemical reactions are made of protein too. Let’s not forget that it also supplies body with energy and that not only how much protein you eat is the key but the type of it as well.

Protein Fact 2.jpg
Laura Larsen, author of Diet & Nutrition Scrapbook

There are complete and incomplete proteins. The quality (completeness) of protein is determined by its amino acid composition. Complete protein comes from animal sources and contains all 9 of the essential amino acids. An incomplete protein is low in one or more of the essential amino acids and is usually a plant-based protein.

So next time you sit down for your meal have a look at what’s on your plate – have you got enough protein?


To Supp or Not to Supp?

A Modern Day Dilemma

Supplements… where do I start? In a paradoxical world where some people are malnourished due to scarce resources and other are malnourished due to poor diet one has to wonder what is the best way to get the nutrients we need.

Enter the supplements – a modern phenomenon of adding man-made nutrients to our diets. From powdered vegetables to vitamins to amino acids, this has become and industry worth billion of dollars (US$104 billion as of 2013 to be precise).

Of course as a rule of thumb we should always try to get our nutrients (mind, not just vitamins, but also minerals, proteins, oils, essential acids and so forth) from natural whole foods. However, there are many factors that could undermine our efforts to hit our daily target of the good stuff.

Image from 

Nutrient thieves

Naturally we lose nutrients as we go about our daily activities, however certain situations may leave us a little bit drained. For example, when we are stressed our bodies use more nutrients at a faster rate. But it is not just proteins and carbohydrates that we lose.

Dr. Griffin, Dr. Neblett and Kissinger state that “The increased metabolism [due to prolonged stress] can also cause an increase in the use and excretion of many nutrients such as vitamins A, C,D,E,K, and B complex, and minerals such as magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, chromium, selenium, zinc, and potassium.”

“Eating right is just as important as managing stress
because vulnerability to stress increases with poor diet”

Philip Rice, Stress and Health. Moorhead State University

Another issue is the quality of food that we eat nowadays. It is not just junk food that is the culprit here. A lot of our groceries are either heavily processed or chemically treated to extend their shelf life. These processes significantly reduce the nutrients of the foods we buy and eat. In this case, the best solution is to opt for organic or locally grown produce (and check the labels!).

And of course there are certain personal situations which may make matters worse. Suffering from digestive problems may mean that no matter how much nutrients from natural food one gets, the body is not absorbing and/or converting enough of those into fuel. Other illnesses may also require specific supplementation (currently fighting a cold with Vitamin C, zinc, lemon and ginger 🙂 ) Also, intense training requires more nutrients such as protein, amino acids, trace minerals and electrolytes which are lost through sweat.


To Supp or Not to Supp?

So should we jump with both feet in to this trend? Personally, I like to avoid artificially made things, especially when it comes to what I put in my body. Deciding whether to take supplements is an important health decision filled with mine pits – there is so much information and so many supplements that haven’t been tested which make it very confusing.

My recommendation is to read, read and read some more! Check labels and consult with qualified professionals (not me!). But first and foremost evaluate your needs. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you eating enough natural whole foods?11882472_768857866556298_1315508989_o
  • Do you feel constantly tired or are you energetic?
  • Are you experiencing a lot of stress in your life at the moment?
  • Are you ill, undergoing intense training programme or suffering from specific health issues?

Think carefully about your answers and if you think natural whole foods may not be enough, do consult with an expert and make sure you choose high quality supplements.