Nutritional Considerations for Team Sport Athletes

What are the foods team-sport athletes REALLY need? How does such athlete calculate their carbohydrate requirements? What’s the deal with supplements? Find out below.

Estimated read time: 20mins

Topics covered:

  • Macro-Nutrient requirements
  • Shopping list on a budget
  • Quality of food sources
  • Carbohydrate timings
  • Post workout (PWO) recommendations
  • Hunger dictating feeding
  • Essential supplements
  • Fad supplements

Participating experts: Adam Hope (StrengthTable) (AH (ST)), Ben Coker (StrengthTable) (BC (ST)), Ben Coomber (BC), Alexander Ferentinos (AF), Martin MacDonald (MM)

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Health Screens in the UK – A Waste of Money? – by Jamie Bolton

I recently had the ‘pleasure’ of a BUPA Health Screen (the inverted comma’s will soon become clear!). Now, working in the realm of health and fitness, I can quite honestly say my expectations were low for what the doctor might say. Something to the tune of –

“Saturated fat bad for you

Eat more whole grains

Supplements are bad

Do more cardio

Your BMI is too high”

I’m pleased to, and despair to say – they didn’t disappoint.

The morning kicked off with the basics. Height, weight, BMI. On the positive side here, the nurse did acknowledge BMI is pretty meaningless for a strength training individual who’s clearly not obese, but she still couldn’t help but comment that at a BMI of 29, it was still high (*rolls eyes*).

Now, one thing that I couldn’t help but think might skew morning’s results was my last feeding – organic sausages, onion gravy & sweet potato mash – the night before. That kind of meal always causes me some crazy fluid retention and makes me hold about 2-3kg water for the next 18hours or so. It had thrown my weight up by about 2kg this morning already – and I had a horrid suspicion it may well throw my blood pressure off too – it did. My BP came out borderline high.

After some blood samples, urine, hearing, vision, and respiratory tests, I was through to see the doc. Oh goody.

But first – they had to offer me an array of sugary snacks & drinks, since having fasted for at least 6 hours I was clearly about to keel over (It was more like 15hrs at this point due to intermittent fasting, but I digress). I declined.

So I ran through my medical questionnaire with the doc first (before looking at test results). Here we go –

“You eat how much protein? Bad for your kidneys”.

“You lift weights four times a week? That’s bad”

“You say you eat a lot of saturated fat? – that causes high cholesterol and heart disease”

“You take supplements? You don’t take the horrid creatine do you?!”

“You don’t eat breakfast?! Intermittent what?!?!”

“Cardio only a few times a week!? You need to up that”

At this point I was halfway to severing though my tongue from biting down on it so damn hard to stop myself from leaping up and bludgeoning this poor misguided doctor to a pulp. But I managed to hold and finally we got to the results, where I thought I’d start to chip in some home truths.

“Well your kidneys seem to be functioning perfectly well, in fact far better than I usually see.”Yes, that would be because there is no link between high protein intake and impaired kidney function. The studies that you are referring too were done on people with impaired kidney function already. Follow ups show no impact on kidneys from high protein intake.

“Your cholesterol levels are very good. HDL is above where we like to see it, and LDL well below. But I’d still recommend cutting back on saturated fat.” Okay, at this point I really did want to commit an atrocity. But I tried to point out how this is wrong and outdated (for those interest check out, a site pack with the real research!). She wouldn’t have it. We agreed to disagree. I agreed she was an idiot.

If she had looked like this I may have given her some slack...

Now, as I mentioned earlier, my BP came out borderline high. Not high. Borderline high. Now, seeing as she couldn’t find fault with anything else despite me doing so many things clearly wrong. She decided to tear into this one. I pointed out a high salt/ sodium dinner the night before was probably putting the result out. Nope. Apparently my supplements were probably to blame. I learnt a lot here from her – whey protein causes high BP, vitamin D causes high BP, omega 3 causes high BP (note the tongue in cheek humour). A quick google search for studies shows the opposite is true in all cases. I gave up at this point since it was clear she wouldn’t listen.

I’ll start to round up here, but the short story is it didn’t get any better. Cardio apparently builds longer ‘lean’ muscle whilst weight training builds shorter (fat?) muscles. I didn’t even know how to react to the implication here therefore that cardio also changes the insertion point of muscles in the body. *Head in hands despairing*.

In summary, I was pretty pissed off with the level of competency displayed by private health care practitioners who were being paid £1000 for this (luckily not out of my pocket). There was a complete lack of up to date knowledge, on well, anything. They could interpret some tests well enough, but that was about it. As to lifestyle advice – give me a break.

We need change and luckily for us professionals such as Joseph Lightfoot with his Move. Eat. Treat. campaign and Martin MacDonald of MacNutrition, are pushing to educate the powers that be. Do your part – support their causes and spread their word to stop this ignorance in our health system.

Let’s be clear…this isn’t a blanket certification that all health-care professionals are idiots. They’re not. I’m sure there are plenty out there who are very good at what they do. Maybe I was just unlucky. But I had low expectations based on what I read and see everyday. And unfortunately this doc failed to meet even those.

If I had to do this all over again, I’d do this a little different – I’d get some blood tests done and assess myself by, well, myself. If something then came out well & truly wrong, I’d look up some help. But I’m not about to shell out that kind of money for some out of date… no… in fact, just incorrect advice.

The take-away message? You can’t necessarily trust the word of all ‘professionals’. There are good ones and bad ones out there – seek the good ones if you can but be prepared that may not be possible. Educate yourself if this is what really interests you. It’s your life and if you truly care about your health & fitness, perhaps you should be taking this into your own hands and do some research.

Training, Food & Short Breaks – by Jamie Bolton

A few weeks back, unexpectedly I had to travel on business to Argentina. When I say unexpectedly, I mean pretty much on the day of travel, so I had little to no time to prepare. But what I did have was the intent, as ever, to continue my usual ‘lifestyle’ and make things work, whatever that might end up meaning.

I’m sure you’ve all been there. When away from the usual routine, fitting in diet, let alone training, can be quite a trouble, but it needn’t be.

I was away for 3 days, and here’s what I did.

From the off, I made sure to pack my training gear. Not all the usual bells and whistles (by that I mean as a metaphor, not literally!), but just some trainers, shorts and a top. Simple. I also tossed in my ‘pillbox’ with my usual omega 3’s, curcumin & vitamin D – not that I actually needed the latter, it’s summertime in Argentina! No protein supplements (Argentina is the place to get a steak or 5 after all) – but regardless of where, for such a short trip, it’s just not worth it. Moreover, look up a little on protein cycling and you’ll see a low period isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a few days and utilisation thereafter can be improved, but I digress.

Aeroplane food isn’t always the greatest, so I find the easiest way around this is to ignore the usual ‘carby’ suspects like bread, and if needed – fast. I’ll mention quite a few fasts on this trip, but this article isn’t the place for a fuller discussion – as an intro for those interested I’d recommend reading this article by John Romanellio as a start or checking out Martin Berkhan’s for the real nitty gritty, but the benefits are numerous, not least for sidestepping otherwise crappy meals.

I’ll confess now and admit what I did also have was a few glasses of red wine too! I could try to claim it was for the purported health benefits from reservratol and other nutrients, but in reality, I like a glass and it also helps to get to sleep – it’s a 13 hour flight!

The rest of the time while I was there, I kept my nutrition pretty simple. I tended to fall back to 2 good meals a day, and didn’t snack either. I also walked – everywhere. I must have covered a good 6 miles a day by foot.

I probably under ate overall while I was away, but I kept my protein as high as I could and didn’t sweat the rest, it’s just not worth the cortisol release! As to what I ate, well, mainly eggs & bacon for breakfast each day, and my other meal was always steak – heck I went through about 2kgs of it in 3days. With that in mind – here’s some food porn:



More steak

and a rare treat for me!

And yep that is an ice cream sat there. And it was darn good. I’m only human! And it was also my only indulgence, minus the wine!

That leaves the training. My hotel had the usual fayre – the under-equipped joke. So, I spent 5 minutes on google and found something a 10minute walk away a little better. And so I headed to the “Megatlon” gym chain locally, and was surprised and unsurprised in equal measure. 3 squat racks – and only 2 bench presses, so far so good. But the rest largely matched up to the standard commercial equipment, but it was good enough. So I got in my 5/3/1 squats and presses regardless, ample assistance work too, and was pretty happy. Job done.

And that more or less sums the trip up. Was it ideal? Not from a strength training perspective. Could I have made it better? Sure, I could have dropped the deviances from diet, but it’s important to live a little too, and those who know me know how strict I am the other 90% of the time so it’s nothing in the grand scheme of things. But what I did, absolutely do, was made it work. My diet was largely on check. I got in the training I needed to do. And I did 10x more walking than I would have done at home, some good NEPA there.

The way I did it may not be for everyone. The fasts in particular. But for me it works. And that’s what this is all about. Don’t let unexpected trips away from the usual routine deviate your route to progress. Find a way. Be clever about your food choices. Make the training sessions happen if they’re scheduled. And don’t be afraid to improvise if needed – remember the jungle gym series anyone!

Wherever you are – make it work.

Until next time. Train Hard. Train Smart. Be Strong.

The Power of Micro Nutrients – by Ben Coker

In the quest for muscle building, fat loss and even athletic performance, much attention is given to macro nutrients. This is good to a degree; science and research has helped us to take human performance to the next level. It seems though that along the way it is easy to become too focused on macro nutrients.

Let us not forget that our bodies are made up of cells and they rely on specific biochemical reactions to enable proper metabolism, maintenance and growth. These reactions rely on the presence of a whole host of micro nutrients (vitamins and minerals).

Full Article

A Day of learning from MacDonald’s Nutrition Seminar! (That’s Martin MacDonald) – by Ben Coker

For those who don’t know Martin, in short, he is an awesome nutritionist that cuts through the crap out there. Check his full bio and work at his website

Anyway, this Sunday gone saw the first Mac Nutrition conference held at Loughborough University. From having known Martin whilst at university and by following his website, facebook and twitter accounts I have come to greatly respect Martin as a professional.

His knowledge on nutrition is extensive but it is not solely this that holds Martin high in my regards. It is his passion and ability to cut through the crap blurring nutrition currently. Crap that is born out of ignorance (both innocent and not so) and the brain washing of the masses! Martin does this with science and well informed analysis of research and on top of all that…he speaks from tried tested and proven experience!

As a result I eagerly awaited this event expecting it to be full of information, myth busting (with scientific founding) and humor…I wasn’t disappointed!


I think this some up Martin’s approach to nutrition! Sensible.


In today’s blog, I though I’d share just a few points from the two seminars that were particularly interesting and or need to be hammered home. I say a few, as you all need to get yourself over to his site and the next conference to find out all the gems from the guy himself!

1. Percentages don’t work. Consider a ratio of 55% CHO, 25% Fat, 20% Protein, as a prescribed guideline. Take an 80kg individual:

Maintenance 2500kcal = 344g CHO, 69g Fat, 125g Protein

Fat Loss 2000kcal = 275g CHO, 55g Fat, 100g Protein.

In the maintenance example CHO is 4.3g/kg…Fat is 0.86g/kg…Protein is 1.56g/kg

In the Fat Loss example CHO is 3.4g/kg…Fat is 0.69g/kg…Protein is 1.25g/kg


…Same percentages but different g/kg values! In the above Fat loss example at those percentage ratios for a 2000kcal diet, the intake of fat and protein is too low. Take home message: g/kg ratios change with absolute calorie intake.


2. Low glycogen levels don’t reduce the IGF-1 signaling pathway i.e. protein synthesis is not hindered by training in a glycogen depleted state.


 3. When leucine is taken on top of a protein intake that elicits the max protein synthesis levels, there is a further marked increase in protein synthesis. There is something in leucine (currently not locked down) that drastically drives protein synthesis.


4. The black swan theory. Black swans are outliers, as historically they existed outside the realm of regular expectations (i.e. white swans). In short the theory states that there are exceptions to the general rules. E.g. a high carb diet isn’t always bad, and a low fat diet isn’t necessarily bad either. What is bad is when dogmas and unfounded guidelines develop.

‘Become open to current or new ideas, be interested in their sources to enable an informed decision on the matter’.

I guess what it boils down to is that being 100% in a particular ‘camp’ is wrong.


5. There has been a recent increase in micro nutrient deficiencies of Vit D, Calcium, Iron and Zinc. Government bodies are stressing about this YET they have continually told us (and still do) to not eat foods that are actually the best sources of them! (Red meat, eggs, milk & dairy products).


6. Basically everyone could benefit from Vitamin D supplementation. Even 90 minutes in the sun at 35% skin exposure is not enough to achieve normal blood vitamin D levels…A further 1300IU/d is needed.


7. In case you haven’t got it yet…Red meat, eggs, milk & dairy products are perfectly healthy to eat and are needed in your diet and the saturated fat in them increases your mojo!


8. Look to these 8 points to see whether a study that labels fat as bad is valid. Basically these 8 methods can be used (in a biased manner) to prove that fat is bad:

  • Draw causative conclusion from observational studies
  • Call high sugar, high vegetable oil diets ‘high fat’. They are junk food diets!
  • Group saturated fats and trans fats together
  • Study it in animals – even better a) study it in animals that get sick easy C57BL/6J mice or b) feed animals a diet they are not accustomed to c) use purified diets with zero bioactive compounds.
  • Start with a false premise e.g. insulin resistance is always bad.
  • Feed a high CHO eater a high fat meal and draw long term conclusions from acute responses.
  • Compare fish oil rich diet to saturated fat rich diets n.b. fish oil diets are the best of the best! How about saturated fat compared to carbs??
  • Give individual fatty acids in large amounts e.g. palmitic acid (unnatural ratios)


9. Lipids (the healthy kind) have loads of important roles in the human body. Don’t cut them out your diet.


10. NutriGrain is devil food (and vegetable oil). They contain vegetable oil and lots of sugar. Linoleic acid is found in large amounts in vegetable oil. In short, Linoleic acid binds to FFAR1 receptors and increase B-cell excitability. This promotes insulin secretion. Add this to the carb induced insulin response and wham excess storage going down! Avoid vegetable oil.


11. Strength athletes this is your macro nutrient priority: Protein, fats, and then the rest of your allotted calories come from carbs. Team sports athletes this is your priority: Protein, adequate carbs for your activity, then fill up the rest of your allotted calories from fats.


Wrap up

This was just the tip of the iceberg! Both conferences were packed full of information that went way beyond the 20 pages of info we got in the complementary handouts!

If you are serious about top level nutrition and or want to dish the truth out to someone who comes out with an ignorant statement like ‘saturated fat is bad for you’, make sure you check out Mac Nutrition and get to any future conferences!



The Economics Of Sports Nutrition – Editorial from our Nutrition Partners,




In this harsh economic climate, it seems it’s not the latest fat loss pill or miracle muscle building powder that customers are concerned with but rather the economics of sports nutrition, or put more simply ‘price’ and ‘quality.’ Looking at the rising cost of global raw materials, higher transportation costs and dramatic economic growth in India and China, we explore the various economic factors and more importantly their effect on you, your wallet and your sports supplements.    

Firstly, and generally speaking, all food is now more expensive, looking specifically at wheat and corn as an example ,both food staples have been hit hard for the past two years and experts believe it’s due to a combination of climate change, natural disasters and crop disease. ‘Eastern Europe has experienced severe drought for the past two years and has stopped exporting wheat altogether to ensure enough of a domestic supply. A disease called wheat rust UG99 has wiped out crops across Africa and is spreading to other wheat-producing countries at a rapid pace.’ (Investopedia US, 2011) Furthermore, corn is now being used to make ethanol, possibly a form of sustainable fuel, with acres of corn fields now being grown specifically to power your car and not fill your belly. This then has a knock on effect, since almost all industrialized meats are fed on corn, mainly because it is the cheapest feed available and so as the price of corn rises, so does the price of meat because of the higher input price.

Against this tough backdrop, the cost of sports supplements has also spiralled in the past two years, notably whey protein (the ingredient used in most sports protein drinks) not only because of the macro economic factors mentioned, but also due to the increasing demand from the booming sports nutrition sector which looks set to continue for years to come.

So what are customers saying? In a recent survey, asked 4,554 customers what the most important factor was when buying sports nutrition, topping the list was ‘price’ with 49% of people stating this is mainly what they look for when buying sports supplements, that’s close to 1 in 2 people. This was slightly more than the 30% of people who stated ‘high quality products,’ 3 times more than the 15% who believed ‘taste’ was the main factor and more than 6 times the 8% of people who wanted ‘easy shopping online.’

Marketing Director at Mark Coxhead says, ‘it seems the economic down turn has shifted peoples’ purchasing priorities. Now, more than ever, a far greater value is placed on true quality and value for money. Our company philosophy is to continually work with suppliers to reduce costs whilst using only the very finest quality ingredients. The fact that we are certified to ISO9001 by SGS, a UKAS accredited company, gives additional quality assurance for consumers”.

So is there light at the end of the tunnel? It seems there is, and it comes in the form of As the largest branded manufacturer of protein powders in the UK and with the added muscle of online retail giant The Hut Group (who they recently acquired they have gone against the ‘commercial grain’. They have used their bulk buying capabilities to demand even larger discounts from suppliers and sacrificed profit margins to bring the price down on their extensive range of sports supplements. All this at a time when the rest of the industry are increasing their prices. As of the 6th September, they’ve implemented price reductions across over a hundred products including some of their best-selling products like Impact Whey Isolate, Creatine Monohydrate and L Glutamine. What is more, the reductions are for exactly the same products, using the same premium grade ingredients.

For more information visit




About is Europe’s leading online sports nutrition brand and forms part of the UK’s leading multi-product, multi-website online retailer The Hut Group. Established in 2004 by Oliver Cookson, has expanded at an incredible rate, and was recently ranked 21st in the Sunday Times Fast-Track 100 list. Winning multiple awards, including the CBI Growing Business of the Year and National Business Awards Regional Winner, has firmly established itself as a market leader in the world of sports nutrition.

Buying in bulk, manufacturing in-house and selling direct online to consumers allows to offer the lowest prices in Europe guaranteed.  Using only the finest quality ingredients and the latest production processes (certified to ISO9001:2008 by SGS, a UKAS accredited company), ensures the finest product quality is maintained.

Contact details

For further information or for images call PR Manager Ross Edgley on 0161 947 2777/ 07841 749 167 or email

5 Foods for Muscle Gain – by Jamie Bolton

2012 again. Our crazed gunman is back. Remember him? Last time he wanted to know the 5 best movements he should be doing. This time he’s back and wants to know the 5 best foods for muscle gain…..

Ahhh I’ll cut the storytelling and get to the chase. Today I’ve got for you 5 of my favorite foods to include on a muscle gain phase. (As opposed to a fat gain phase, you don’t want to go on one of them, believe me.)

In no particular order:

Whole Milk
Milk is one of nature’s best muscle foods. The problem is industry likes to toy with it too much. So it’s important to get it in as untouched a state as possible. The first step is to get whole milk. You shouldn’t be afraid of the fats anyway (natural healthy good calories, and essential for fat-soluble vitamins). The next is to go organic. You don’t want the hormones and crap they put into the cows otherwise. The final step, is to go unhomogenised. This means the milk isn’t all the same consistency most of us are used to – the way they usually do this is through considerable undesirable processing (note – there is no safety risk with this element).

The ultimate step is to get raw milk. But for most of us this isn’t really possible. And some would worry about the safety issues of un-pasteurised milk. Ultimately go as far along the steps as your budget or possibilities allow.

And why do we want milk? A lovely balance of top notch protein, carbs and fats. Packed full of vitamins and minerals. It’s designed for baby cows to grow off of – born at about 20kg, calfs then grow over 3-4 years into 730kg cows, 230kg a year weight gain. Say no more.

Whole milk - serious muscle gain potential

Cows again. Beef is an awesome source of protein and fats to support muscle growth. Go organic or better yet, grass-fed, if you can, to get it as close to the way nature intended – free of hormones and fed on a natural diet.

In particular, it comes full of B-vitamins, iron, phosphorus and zinc; plus smaller doses of other vitamins and minerals. And if you go grass-fed, its got Omega-3s too. Not to mention its a natural source of creatine, albeit in small doses.

Sweet Potatoes
An awesome, tasty source of low-GI carbs. Perfect for post-workout or any other carby meal. In fact, toss it on top of some beef as mentioned above for a cottage pie, and you’ve got one hell of a meal.

Ground beef & sweet potato combine for an awesome pie

Choked full of beta carotene (vitamin A) in particular, and a list as long as your arm of other nutrients, vitamin B, magnesium and potassium to name a few.

Additionally, as opposed to many carb sources like breads, pasta’s and so on, they are gluten-free. Many of you will probably think, ‘so what, I’m not gluten intolerant anyway’. Well, you might not be completely intolerant, but often gluten causes GI distress without you even realising you have a partial intolerance (bloated anyone?). Sweet potatoes won’t cause any of that.

Nut Butters
Think Almond, Cashew, and Hazelnut. Peanut is okay (though not strictly a nut but a legume) but is slightly estrogenic. A great way of getting good calories in from healthy fats. I know I can sit and eat a whole jar at a time without even thinking.

In particular, cashews are often referred to as ‘nature’s vitamin pill’. Say no more. You can buy from a store or you can make your own in a blender – you could try making brazil nut butter for instance, or whatever else floats your boat!

The old-school bodybuilders in the golden era would get through up to 20 of these a day. With the yolks. And rightly so. A damn awesome muscle food.

A full compliment of amino acids and good fats. Vitamins A, D & E in decent doses. In fact eggs are one of the few natural-sources of vitamin D. Plus a good dollop of Choline and other essential minerals

Finally, eat the damn yolks. One, you probably need the calories anyway. Two, most of the goodness is in the yolk anyway – the fat soluble vitamins and minerals, the healthy fats themselves, and half of the protein. Moreover, why pay for something if you’re going to throw half of it away. Either fry them, scramble them, boil them or even drink them. Just get them down.

There you have it. My 5 favorite muscle foods. Let us know what yours are.

Until next time. Train Hard. Train Smart. Be Strong.

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