Protein powders and how to chose the right one for you …

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There are so many protein powders on the market making all sorts of claims.
Weight loss. Muscle gains. Improved stamina. The list goes on. So how do you know which is the best product for you ?

What’s important is to know how much protein you need, how much you can safely digest and what form of protein powder works best for your body.

When choosing a protein powder consider the following :

Look for a quality product. You usually do get what you pay for. Those super cheap supermarket powders are often filled with artificial sweeteners, flavours, additives and colours. All of which reduce the amount of quality protein in your powder and are things we all should be generally trying to avoid in our foods.

Look for a complete protein. There is a misconception that plant based proteins are not complete and therefore not usable to the body. Good quality protein powders, whether they are plant or dairy based, should have a balanced profile meaning that the necessary amino acids for them to be usable by the body are present.

Many people find that whey based proteins can cause digestive upset – bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea or cramping. Plant based proteins can be a better option for those who find dairy based proteins difficult to digest. Good quality plant based proteins often contain amino acids making them even more efficiently digested and far less likely to cause digestive issues.

Take care with the amount of protein per serve when choosing your protein source. For most people 20-30mg of protein per serve is enough and all that the body is able to digest and use at any given time. Products with more than this amount per serve can be a waste of money as anything over this amount can tax kidney function and usually gets flushed through your system quickly without actually providing any extra benefit.

My preferred protein powder is Prana Protein and this is the only protein product I stock. It is plant based, has amino acids included and there is a wide range of products depending on what you are trying to achieve. As an added bonus they taste delicious and work well in other recipes like protein balls. Recipes below …

How to eat protein balls and still be able to pay your mortgage….

Lemon Coconut Protein Balls … a variation on a well loved theme …

Low iron and why you are so darn tired all the time …

“Iron – one of the essential trace elements of life on earth. Formed deep within stars then scattered across space by collapsed supernovas which spew their contents right across the universe. Iron is secreted in our soils, hiding in our glaciers, floating in our oceans and carried in our blood” Ann Jones

I was amazed by this incredibly poetic description of how iron comes to us. So many of us have experienced times of low iron. So how does it happen and what can we do about it ?

Blended green smoothie with ingredients on wooden table

 

There are lots of reasons why you may be low in iron :

* Dietary insufficiency
* Blood loss from disease, trauma, menstruation
* Times of increased need e.g. recovery from injury, pregnancy, post birth, exercise
* Drug mugging – some medication make it hard for you to absorb iron. These include antibiotics, acid blocking medications, osteoporosis treatments, thyroid supplements.
* Lack of necessary digestive enzymes and cofactors needed for absorption
* Too much calcium or phosphorus

Iron is needed for many functions but the main one is for regenerating and rebuilding red blood cells. RBC’s use haemoglobin to carry oxygen around the body. Insufficient iron leads to low RBC count and means that the heart and lungs have to work much harder to ensure that oxygen is getting where it’s needed. Apart from blood production and oxygen transport iron is also needed for healthy levels of enzymes which control many cell functions and for healthy immune responses.

Signs of low iron :

* brittle or flaking nails
* cold hands and feet
* tongue soreness
* food cravings
* fatigue/lethargy/poor recovery/low motivation
* headaches
* shortness of breath
* lightheadedness
* palpitations/erratic heart rate
* poor immune function
* poor concentration
* depression, anxiety and panic
* muscle weakness and pale skin

Sources of iron include meat, dark leafy vegetables, dried fruit, nuts, blackstrap molasses, pumpkin and seeds, eggs.

Things needed to absorb iron efficiently – vitamin C, B12, folic acid, digestive enzymes and adequate stomach acid. Coffee, tea and wine can decrease your ability to absorb iron as can some medications (see above).

Blood tests :
An iron study of your blood is a snapshot of your current situation.
It is important to have good levels of serum iron and ferritin. The reference ranges on your blood test results are not always a good indicator of an adequate iron status. Read more here about pathology testing.

Depending on your level of deficiency, addressing low iron can take several months to correct and depends greatly on the quality and appropriateness of your supplement. There area number of herbal medicines which can increase red blood cell count and iron absorption making your supplementation much more effective. Anyone who has experienced constipation, nausea or other side effects of ‘off the supermarket shelf’ iron supplements can tell you how unpleasant it can be.

It’s worth speaking to someone who can identify the causes of your deficiency and the most effective, safe and side effect free iron sources for you.

 

 

 

Blood tests come back normal but you still feel bad ….

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Does this scenario sound familiar to you ? You don’t feel well. Something doesn’t feel right in your body.  You go to the GP, get some blood tests done and they all come back within the ‘normal range’. The GP tells you everything is fine and that’s that. You go home feeling like it must be in your head. No one has taken how you feel seriously. You still feel crappy, tired, down, sore or sick but there’s no ‘evidence’ so nothing gets done about it. You are within the ‘acceptable level of health’ but is it acceptable to you ?

If I had a dollar for each time I looked at a set of blood results and saw that things were not, in fact, all ok, I would be a lot wealthier than I am. It is rare for me to see a completely normal, unremarkable set of bloods. There is almost always something out of kilter or at least off the mark enough to indicate where there may be a problem.

The ‘normal ranges’ set for most pathology tests are not accurate for everyone.  They are based on averages of a wildly diverse group of people. For instance, your iron results might look normal on paper but would you still feel they were accurate if I told you that they were based on a reference range sourced from a group of men or women ranging in age from 18 – 69 years with little consideration given to factors such as disease, hormone status, level of activity or specific diets which all impact on peoples ability to use and store iron ?

Same goes for thyroid function. Natural health practitioners estimate that 10% of adult women are in the sub-optimal or low functioning range yet the stated ‘normal range’ doesn’t back this up. Standard testing accepts a thyroid stimulating hormone range of    0.5 – 4.0 mIU/L.  Anything below 1.0 or above 2.0 rings alarm bells for me. People may have many, many signs of thyroid dysfunction but if the tests are ‘in range’ you go home without any support for what can be a very difficult health issue.

So if you are feeling below par and want to know why book your appointment, bring in your paperwork and lets find some answers and solutions.

 

 

Sleep difficulties ? Massage to the rescue

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Over the last couple of weeks, for a number of weird and wonderful reasons I have been having real trouble with sleep. Getting to sleep, staying asleep, weird dreams – it’s all been a bit of a drag really.

At times I have felt weary, emotional, overwhelmed and frustrated. Never underestimate the importance and benefits of good quality sleep. Any insomniac will tell you that !

I have been doing guided meditations, having small evening meals, baths, warm drinks, taking magnesium and calming herbs. They’ve all helped but nothing really gave me that lovely ‘knocked out for eight hours’ feeling.

Last night my daughter, who doubles as the most skilful massage therapist I have ever known went to town on my sore muscles. She knows her stuff, she is intuitive and her help in getting me some sleep has been beyond measure. Yes, I am unashamedly biased – she is lovely, kind and talented but apart from these qualities she actually does have some serious massage game and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Check out her website or FB page for testimonials to her skills.

Some of you know her as Feel Better, Move Better Remedial Massage.

After a quick assessment she went to work easing sore muscles, finding strange spots that I didn’t even know I was holding tension in, resolving my imbalanced hips and lower back, calming my central nervous system and leaving me feeling cared for, loved up and more relaxed and calm than I thought possible. What followed was nine hours , yes NINE HOURS, of restorative slumber.

We have undertaken to do weekly massages to see how this affects my sleep – thank you massage gods for blessing me ! I’m sure it’s going to be a raging success.

So if you need some help with sleep, sore muscles, injuries or stress take my advice and book an appointment. You won’t regret it, I promise !

 

 

 

One for the boys … the magic of testosterone

 

muscles

Are you one of those men who doesn’t really pay much attention to your health ? When was the last time you felt really good ? Had a routine blood test ? Had a check up ?

Lately I have been encountering a number men who have a sadly common list of symptoms. They feel unwell, low or just not themselves somehow. Some have seen their GP but been told that everything is fine. They are testosterone deficient and it’s really dragging them down but they are being sent home without answers and it’s a crying shame.

Testosterone is a hormone that helps men feel good. It’s great for maintaining muscle mass, bone strength and density, sexual function, libido, production of sperm, confidence, good mood and energy.

At around age 40 testosterone starts to naturally decline but in healthy men this should only be by around 1-3% per year. Other reasons for declining testosterone are high cholesterol and blood pressure, too much sugar intake, poor sleep, obesity, stress, low levels of exercise, too much alcohol and some medical conditions like diabetes.

So what are the symptoms of low testosterone ? Low libido, erectile dysfunction, osteoporosis, low mood/depression, reduced strength and muscle loss, infertility, sleep problems, reduced energy and confidence and weight gain, especially around the belly region.

Why isn’t it being picked up by doctors ? I have seen a number of pathology results lately which place men in the ‘normal’ range according to their blood results. The problem with these reference ranges is that they are so wide you could drive a truck through them, they are based on sampling of men aged 18-69 with a host of varying health conditions and they don’t relate specifically to your age group. The ‘acceptable level of health’ has been set so low that many men are suffering unnecessarily.

A testosterone result of 8.5 might put you in the ‘normal’ range but normal for who ? A 65 year old man with diabetes, an 18 year old boy, a 45 year old athlete ? While pathology testing is useful it’s just as important to look at your symptoms and see if they match up.

So what can you do ? Make sure you aren’t inhibiting your testosterone production with the factors mentioned before – sleep, stress, obesity etc. Ensure that you have a good intake of healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, coconut oil – healthy cholesterol is the building block of testosterone and low fat diets are not your friend. Get some exercise – especially HIIT and weight bearing/lifting. The good news is that if you are trying to increase your testosterone you need to have more sex – I haven’t had anyone complain about that yet.

There are lots of ways to naturally increase testosterone. Ensuring adequate levels of zinc, potassium, vitamins A, B6, C and E is important. There are also a number of herbs which are very effective in getting things running well again.

So if you recognise yourself here don’t just put up with it. Come and see me – we can get you back on track again.

No time for breakfast…

smoothie with blueberries, banana and cereal

Are mornings a stress filled rush hour for you ??? Getting ready for work, school or uni, making lunches, feeding children, finding sports uniforms, feeding pets, hanging out washing … Things can feel pretty frantic. Not the best way to start the day.Your cortisol levels are naturally at their highest in the mornings so adding in a frantic schedule can cause a skyrocket of stress hormones.

You have two choices – streamline what you need to do or get up earlier. Either way you need to make time for breakfast. When you skip breakfast your body is literally running on empty and the effects can be hard and wide reaching.

As I said, cortisol levels are highest around 7am. When you eat breakfast your levels decrease and you can avoid that jittery, anxious, nervous feeling that often comes mid morning when you’ve not eaten.

You also need to eat to restore glycogen and level out blood sugars. This has a positive effect on your mood, hunger and helps avoid that ‘hangry’ feeling where your body is crying out for sustenance and making you irritable and cranky.

Regularly missing breakfast is also associated with increased risks of heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure and increases your risk of weight gain/obesity.

When you skip meals, especially breakfast, your body can go into famine mode and start trying to store energy. Eating breakfast helps you to avoid this and increases your metabolism throughout the day making weight management easier.

The best breakfasts include some protein, healthy carb and  fats e.g. eggs, avocado, oats, nut butters. If that all sounds like an impossible dream why not give a smoothie a go. Its ready in minutes, you can take it with you, it suits those people who don’t really feel all that hungry in the morning and, when made well, has all the things you need to power you through till lunch.

My current obsession is with Prana protein powders which are plant based and taste fantastic. For a super smoothie which provides you with fibre, carbs, good fats, hormone balancing effects, blood sugar modulation, antioxidant rich berries and is completely delicious give this one a go ….I sometimes can’t wait till morning so will have it for dinner too but that’s another story….

Ripe organic blueberry. prana

My favourite breakfast smoothie

1/2 frozen banana
lots of ice
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup water, add more as necessary to get the consistency you like
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 heaped tablespoon of vanilla creme or coconut Prana protein powder
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon maca and cacao powder

Place all of this in your blender, whiz it up and you’re good to go.

You can play around with the fruits and milks to find what you like best.

SPECIAL OFFER FOR MARCH APPOINTMENTS !!!!

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SPECIAL DISCOUNT OFFER FOR MARCH APPOINTMENTS !

 

Get $25 off your appointment ! This offer is available to the first 15 people who book an appointment in March. Offer ends Sunday 8pm.

Respond by email to info@naturocath.com.au to claim this offer.
Follow me on Facebook , like and share this post and you could get your appointment for FREE

Note : Does not include herbs or supplements

 

 

 

 

The drop on caffeine ….

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My daughter’s partner is a self confessed coffee snob. He will travel miles for the perfect cup. He takes hours making his own cold drip coffee. He gets other people to snaffle up special beans for him when they are available. He talks about coffee like other people talk about wine – lots of whimsical adjectives like ‘citrussy, smooth, sharp and bright’. He is taking great delight in my daughters budding coffee appreciation and I love watching how happy it makes him when he finds or makes some that makes the grade. So is this an innocent enjoyment or an unhealthy habit ????

Australia’s caffeine consumption is going up and up. Our cafe culture, home coffee machines, caffeinated drinks and dietary supplements all contribute to our caffeine intake.

There is no doubt that a small amount of caffeine can improve performance with mental acuity, focus and energy increased by about 10% with a morning coffee hit. Other benefits include antioxidant effects which reduce risks of cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimers Disease and diabetes.

The problem with caffeine consumption is that most people have too much and they combine it with things like cows milk and sugar which blocks our ability to absorb the beneficial aspects of caffeine. Too much coffee also places a strain on liver function, overloading our detoxification system.

A small coffee contains approximately 100mg of caffeine and tea about 35mg. So called ‘energy drinks’ contain between 80 and 220mg of caffeine. Dietary supplements such as pre-workout supplements contain between 150 and 400mg.

The products containing high levels of caffeine are not safe or beneficial, especially for children, and I am often alarmed by how many people I see regularly consuming potentially harmful products. The risks add up when combined with other toxins such as alcohol e.g. Red Bull and Vodka drinks.

Caffeine has a half life of eight hours. This means that eight hours after your 100mg caffeine coffee you will still have 50mg in your system.

Your liver can only metabolise 30-40mg of caffeine at a time so regardless of how much more caffeine you consume you will still only be able to metabolise and use the original amount you ingested. When you have multiple doses of caffeine throughout the day you can’t actually use it so it accumulates in your body. These high accumulated levels can become problematic causing or contributing to anxiety, insomnia, cardiovascular problems, mood disorders, headaches, skin and digestive problems.

Caffeine in pregnancy – pregnant Mum’s need to take particular care. Adult livers are about the size of your fist, babies only the size of a five cent piece. Adult livers detoxify caffeine in 8 hours, babies take 128 days so it makes sense to avoid caffeine while pregnant and breast feeding.

So, have a coffee if you enjoy it but be careful about overloading your liver and undoing any benefit you might gain from it. Try swapping to lower caffeine teas, decaf coffees, herbal teas or caffeine free alternatives.

 

 

The weather is warming up ….. Smoothie Time

smoothie with blueberries, banana and cereal. the toning. selective focus

Whether you are trying to get some extra nutrients into your diet, lose some weight or change up your breakfast routine you need to make smoothies your new best friend.

Quick to pull together, nutrient dense and so many variations that you’ll never be bored.
I swear by smoothies and have one almost every day. Lately I have been adding in some Just Greens or Just Reds powder for an extra boost and I am really noticing the difference. ( I don’t get paid to endorse these products – I just really like them )

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For even more oomph try adding some omega 3 sources like a teaspoon of flax, walnut or chia oil. Spirulina is a great source of amino acids and iodine. Probiotics found in live yoghurts or available in powder form is great for gut health. Protein powders can also be a huge help, especially when recovering from exercise. Use a clean powder like rice, pea or pure whey powder.

Whenever I speak to people who tell me they are too busy to eat well I steer them towards smoothies. If you have some frozen fruit and a blender you are off and racing. You can easily adjust the calorie level to suit your health goals and its easy to add in ingredients that you may be needing at specific times. 

To make things even easier and more time efficient you could try making up some freezer smoothie bags. Put the ingredients in the blender with some water or milk and you have breakfast ready in under a minute.

smoothiefreezerbags

Here’s a few of my favourites …. Use frozen fruit where you can or add lots of ice. Add enough water and ice to these recipes to get the consistency you like. Mix it up – there’s no hard and fast rules here. Add what you like and get blending.

My favourite smoothie
1/3 cup each of frozen mango and berries
1/2 small frozen banana
1/4 cup unsweetened apple juice
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons Just Reds powder
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 big handfuls of greens – spinach, celery, parsley, kale

Chocolate almond smoothie – for when you feel like something a bit sweet
1 cup almond milk
2 tablespoons chocolate protein powder
3 medjool dates
Lots of ice

Creaky joints smoothie – great for arthritis or any type of joint pain
1 stick celery with leaves
Small handful of parsley
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 peeled orange
1 cup cubed pineapple ( frozen is good)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

Liver Boosting Smoothie – great of you have been exercising a lot, taking medications, using alcohol, eating processed foods or too much fat
1 small beetroot
juice of a lemon
big handful of kale
1/2 cucumber
1 orange

Digestive Help Smoothie – for IBS type symptoms
1 cup honeydew melon
1/2 cucumber
1/2 cup plain yoghurt with live cultures
1 teaspoon psyllium husks
1 teaspoon grated ginger
2 teaspoons honey

Stomach Settler – for an upset tummy
1/2 frozen banana
1/2 avocado
1 teaspoon chia seed
2 teaspoons honey
fresh mint

Lean muscle building smoothie – great for after the gym
1 orange
1 frozen banana
1 teaspoon chia seeds
2 teaspoons spiralling or Just Greens powder
1 cup water or coconut water
2 tablespoons clean protein powder

Recovery smoothie – replenishes after exercising and promotes recovery and muscle repair
1 banana
1 cup almond or rice milk
1/2 coconut water or water
2 tablespoons clean protein powder
1 teaspoon each of flax seeds, chia seeds and LSA
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon nut butter

Mega Green smoothie – so many minerals, anti-oxidants, immune boosters and liver supporters to keep you feeling great
1½ cups water
10 spinach leaves
5 kale leaves, stalk removed
3 celery stalks with leaves
1  apple, cored and chopped
1  pear, cored and chopped
1  banana frozen
Juice of ½  lemon
1/2 avocado
big handful of parsley

Blended green smoothie with ingredients on wooden table

Lemon Coconut Protein Balls … a variation on a well loved theme …

lemon ball

There are lots of lemons on our tree at the moment so I thought it was time to start using them. Like everyone I know at the moment, I have a bit of a cold and have been drinking lots of honey and lemon tea and some of these little happy snacks should go very nicely with that. Can’t beat tea, a yummy snack and a good book in bed when you’re feeing a bit poorly.

Lots of people have told me that they love the protein balls recipe  (https://naturocath.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/how-to-eat-protein-balls-and-still-be-able-to-pay-your-mortgage/) and the hippy lamingtonshttps://naturocath.wordpress.com/author/naturocath/) so I thought I’d share a variation on this theme.

I made a batch of these this afternoon and they are happily chillin’ in the fridge for later on when the urge takes me.

Lemon Coconut Protein Balls 

2 cups raw cashews
1 1/2 cups desiccated coconut ( I toasted mine in a pan to make it super yummy but untoasted is ok )
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 tablespoons coconut oil , soft but not melted
Juice and rind of 2 lemons, limes or one of each
2 tablespoons vanilla protein powder

Extra 3/4 cup coconut for rolling – I toasted this too. Go on, do it, it tastes so much better !

Place cashews in a bowl and pour over enough boiling water to cover. Leave for at least 30 mins.

Place drained cashews and all other ingredients into a food processor and blend until combined and mostly smooth but not quite like a nut butter. Roll heaped teaspoons of this mixture into balls and roll in toasted coconut.

Chill in the fridge.

NB. Depending on the juiciness of your lemons you may need to adjust the amount of coconut or liquid you use but this is a very forgiving recipe so don’t get too worried about being precise.