Ben Marshall

Hey everyone,

Sorry I have been gone for so long but the past 3 months have been a bit of a whirlwind. Moving to the literal other side of the world (The UK to Australia) and then driving across it from east to west (Perth to Sydney) has taken most of my time.It’s been incredible and now being based on the east coast I still have a lot more travelling to do. However throughout all this health and fitness has not been far from my mind.

Travelling can really take it out of you both mentally and physically. This can be detrimental to your physical fitness goals; if you’re physically tired then you won’t want to exercise. If you’re mentally tired you might not make such great choices on your diet. From experience, I can tell you that planning a balanced meal out and then trying to cook it on a gas stove isn’t the most appealing thing when everyone else has take away. So I wanted to list out the ways I try and stay on top of my diet and exercise when travelling.

My top tips for staying in shape when travelling are:

Plan ahead:

Know roughly how long you are away for, what resources you will access to and when and also what your diet is most likely to be.

For me this was easy, I know I will be travelling for about 3 months, I know that I will have gym access whenever I am in a city environment, so I purchased a 24 access card for one of the most popular gyms in Australia. So no matter when I have some free time I can access the gym rather than letting its opening times dictate my trip.

As for food, I am in complete control of my diet due to travelling via car and therefore carrying and cooking all my own food. I do know that the foods I carry are mostly going to be longer life items such as canned goods such as beans and then dried foods such as pasta and rice.

Take the most of any opportunity:

If you know you have an hour spare in the morning before anything is planned, get up early and workout. It doesn’t have to be in a gym, a beach will do (actually beach workouts are so much harder than a gym workout- just try one).

Take any small victory you can:

In these situations, you might not feel like waking up from a tent or from sleeping in your car and exercising but I can guarantee that you will feel amazing after you do. You don’t have to set records or even work out as you normally would. But by doing something you will set yourself up in the right mind frame to stay on track to your goals.

Relax:

Some days you won’t be able to go to the gym, sometimes there will be a few days in a row in which you won’t be able to work out. That’s ok! It can do you good to have time away from it. As long as you are conscious of your activity level and energy intake (and by that I mean keep in balance your food intake to your energy expenditure) then you will be fine.

I actually went 8 days without using the gym, this not only gave my body a break but also meant that as soon as I got back into a situation where I could workout I had more motivation than ever to get back to it.

Just remember health is a balance of physical and mental happiness, sometimes to really benefit mentally such as from experiences you have to be a little lenient in your physical happiness. It’s not the end of the world to lose some definition in your body, and I don’t mean give up and forget about your goals, stay on track as much as you can but you decided to travel for the experiences of a lifetime, don’t let anything get in the way of that, especially not yourself.

Ben

 

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Going Veggie?

 

Benjamin Marshall

So Recently I decided to go vegetarian

For those who know me this was quite a big shock. I am probably the last person people would expect to give up meat. I love meat, the taste the texture, the nutritional profile (because I’m a nerd). I have done eating challenges of wings, steak, burgers and would have safely said meat was an integral part of my diet especially when eating out.

When eating out I would rely on it as a convenient and easy way to ensure I get my protein intake in, especially chicken and beef. I would be the first person you would think of when it came time to eat steak (not because I am a Meat Head).

But yet I’ve decided to give it up… why?

I’m not going to go into a moral debate on here as to my reasoning behind it. There are so many arguments over this subject and this is not what I want to get into on this post. The only relevant reason to this post as to why I gave it up is:

 because I can!

You do not require “meat” to stay healthy or to build muscle. What you require is protein, and yes meat is a great source of complete protein but there are also many other sources of protein which can more than adequately fulfil my requirements.

Where will I get my Protein from?

Lentils, chickpeas, cannellini beans, rice, peas, kidney beans, broccoli, eggs, milk, yoghurt, pasta, wheat, soy, peanuts, cashews, almonds the list goes on and on.

Meat is not the only source of protein and you will be surprised at how much of your own protein intake is gathered from none meat sources.

How will I make sure I am getting my protein requirements?

Due to the fact I track my Macros (that is that I count the protein, carbs and fats in everything I eat) I will have a very accurate understanding of my nutritional balance, exactly the same as I would if I were still eating meat, I am just choosing to get my protein from a different source.

 The major consideration here is that if I choose to get my protein from beans and pulses, I have to account for the fact I am getting my protein alongside my carbohydrates. Lean meats are a source of protein only and other meats contain fats, now I have to anticipate my carbohydrate intake will be coupled with my protein intake in whole foods.

Of course, this can be fixed by using refined sources such as soy protein or dairy but just something to consider.

I have wanted to do this for a while and finally ran out of excuses….so here we go a new chapter in my life.

This post is just a little update and I will go into much more detail in upcoming blogs.

Stay tuned,

Ben

 

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Ben Marshall

Personally, I am not really a big fan of snacking, I find that most “snack” foods are very calorific and do not actually satisfy me, so for this reason I try and avoid snacking and aim for whole full meals instead.Whether you are trying to slim down or trying to make better choices in your day to day lifestyle, snacking can be the major downfall to your diet being successful.

Whether you are trying to slim down or trying to make better choices in your day to day lifestyle, snacking can be the major downfall to your diet being successful.

Having a “snack” in between meals is by no means a bad thing and can be planned into your day as a very effective way of keeping hunger away and to boost energy. The problem occurs however when people in fact don’t plan snacks and act out of hunger and their “snack” turns into a full on binge.

People tend not to snack on filling foods such as salad or vegetables and instead go for something such as chocolate, crisps or sweets. Normally things such as these are very high in fat and simple sugars, the problem with these types of foods is that they are not voluminous and therefore it is very easy to over eat due to hunger. The outcome of this is that what may have been intended to be a small snack ends up being an extremely calorific meal possibly more than the calories in an average lunch or dinner.

How to avoid snacking?

Gelato

 

 

Choice of food

Your choice of foods will play a huge role in your willingness to snack. What I am referring to here is actually not the choice of snack foods, but the foods you choose to consume for your main meals. If you aim to consume more voluminous foods then not only are you less likely to feel hungry and the need to snack but also if you do snack on voluminous foods then you are less likely to cause damage to your diet.

This picture is a great example of the difference that volume can make and yes both do have the same calories. If you were to break the foods pictured on the right and split them into 3 or 4 meals you would most probably feel very full and not feel the need to snack. If you were to take the foods pictured on the left then you would almost certainly feel the need to snack in-between meals. As most of the foods on the left are sweet or salty the outcome is to crave more of these foods which can be seen to be very calorically dense.

By choosing more wholesome foods in your main meals you can actually reduce the potential to snack.

calorie-density

Availability

Now I am not saying you have to completely cut out these “snacky” foods however for a lot of people they struggle with portion control and cannot stop themselves from only having one, they then come up with a number of excuses and justifications to allow themselves to have another … and another. And you can see where this leads, back to the situation of overeating.

The best way to avoid this is to limit the availability of these foods, if they are not available to you then you cannot eat them. If you know you can’t eat just one or two Oreos then don’t buy them and keep them in your house. You are much less likely to have a craving for Oreos of they are not visible and available to you.

The problem can be for those people who work in an office where biscuits seem to multiply and are on a demand. This is where preparation can come in and if you have an alternative prepared then this can really save you. It doesn’t have to be a stick of celery but aim for something voluminous.

popcorn

Popcorn is a great snack which can fill you up for relatively low calories. Metcalfe’s popcorn has saved me a number of times when I have been craving something sweet but don’t want to bust my diet.

Keep busy

Just the same as comfort eating is a thing, so is boredom eating.

You are more likely to snack when you are bored. The Sad fact is when we don’t have anything stimulating to do our mind wanders and it normally wanders to one of the two basic human instincts. Eating sugary foods releases endorphins into the brain which in turn makes us happy and content, the opposite to the feelings of boredom.

If you are busy you don’t need these feeling and you can even forget the feeling of genuine hunger as your brain is too focused on other things. If you have a productive day planned ahead of you I guarantee you will snack less.

Drink water

Sometimes our need to snack comes from the feeling of hunger, however, this actually isn’t hunger but instead thirst. Consider if you have drunk enough in the day? Before you reach for the chocolate or crisps have a large glass of water and then wait 10 minutes, if you are still hungry after this then the chances are you do need to eat something. However, for most the water will satisfy the hunger signals by filling your stomach.

Coffee

One final option is to use a stimulant such as coffee to blunt your appetite, not only will the hot liquid fill up your stomach but the caffeine kick you receive from the coffee will temporarily  replace the need for energy from calories broken down by food. A coffee will also stimulate you eliminating the boredom aspect of hunger.

So next time you are reaching for your in-between meal snack, have a drink of water and a coffee, find something else to occupy yourself with and aim to make more voluminous food choices.

These are my ways of stopping snacking tarnishing my diet, this allows me to focus on making smart informed food choices which will drive me towards my goal and not reacting to hunger and grabbing some chocolate.

Ben

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Benjamin J Marshall

**Edit: I posted this in 2016 before I went vegan in 2017, I have left this up for accountability but I do not promote the use of any animal products for any reason especially in health.

 

When it comes to the question of protein bars and protein intake in general there are lots of opinions which get thrown around, so let me join the debate and give you my take on protein bars.

Are they a good source of protein?

When should you have them?

Are they useful?

Are they worth the money?

 

Benjamin J Marshall

Firstly let’s define what we are talking about:

There are two types of “Protein bars” the first is a aptly named Protein bar that is because for all intents and  purposes it is a bar made out of a block of protein (usually whey protein), these bars can range from 14g-40g of protein dependent upon size and ingredient make up.

The other type of “Protein bars” are what should be called Meal Replacement bars and these are intended as a convenient substitute for a meal. The problem with these is that sometimes the protein really isn’t that high, ranging between 4g-14g of protein and they tend to have higher carbs and fats than actual Protein bars totalling the same or more calories.

As a general rule you can classify it as a Protein bar if its protein content is the highest macronutrient content. Whereas if it contains comparatively more carbs or high fats and lower protein it is more likely to be a Meal Replacement bar. As the name suggests a meal replacement should be a ….meal replacement and therefore contain the macronutrients you can expect in a small meal, hence the higher fat and carb content, whereas a protein bar should not contain the same high fats and carbs. The best comparison to make is:  if you were to eat only a protein source such as a can of tuna or a chicken breast you would expect a high protein content and a lower fat and carb content. However if you were to eat a small meal such as a chicken sandwich, you would expect the additional fats and carbs and a lower protein content comparatively.

Benjamin J Marshall

Here we have a Meal Replacement bar and a Protein bar both by Profirst: the protein bar has 21g of protein for 199kcal whereas the Meal Replacement contains 14g protein for 210kcal. How does the Meal Replacement bar have more calories if the protein is lower? This is because the carbohydrates are higher with 45g per 100g of bar vs only 31g per bar in the Protein bar. However both these bars are actually very low in calories  and fat only 8-9g respectively whereas some so called “Protein bars” can total over 500 calories with 25- 30g of fat!

The real thing to address here is HOW protein bars are used. What I mean by this is- if you have a sweet tooth and you want to get your “fix” then having a protein bar is probably a much better choice for you than a normal chocolate bar as it will allow you to adhere to your diet.

There is nothing wrong with eating a normal chocolate bar if you can fit it into your diet , the problem only occurs when you then have a craving for another and another and the decision to have one bar can then lead to over consumption of calories.

Benjamin J Marshall

Are they a good source of protein?

Yes and No – Dependent upon what kind of “Protein Bar” you get – some bars “boast” 9g of protein which for a bar of over 300 Calories isn’t very good. You of course can have these but be aware that there will more than likely be other bars which can contain up to 40g of protein.

When should you have them?

There is no time you “should” have a protein bar, they are no better for you than any other source of protein so having a protein bar after a work out will not be better for you than eating a meal with the same amount of protein (and you would probably get more protein from an actual meal). However they are useful if you are busy and traveling as they are small and convenient to carry and don’t go off (although if it’s hot they can melt and get very messy).

Are they Useful?

In short – Yes they are, protein bars and meal replacement bars can be a very effective way to cure hunger pains and tide you over. However as they are small I would not recommend trying to replace your lunch completely with one bar as you will be hungry later on, leading you to need to eat something else and potentially binge snacking and throwing your diet out the window. However if you have a little wait before your next meal then they can be a great and convenient little protein hit.

Are they worth the money?

No -If you are looking for a sweet fix then they probably aren’t worth the money, as most protein bars are around the £2.80 -£4 mark if bought individually in store. Compared to a normal chocolate bar of 65p(ish) for a sugar fix, I would probably say save some money have a little chocolate bar and fit it into your diet. If you are low on protein and need boost your total for the day and a wholesome meal isn’t available then it is an expensive way of getting a 20g of protein but the necessity is up to you.

Yes-However if you can buy them in bulk then you can pick them up for around 75p-£1 mark then yes I would recommend them as they will help get your protein in.

Over all do I recommend them?

If you want to have them and they work into your diet without breaking the bank then go for it, they can be tasty and convenient. But they are not the be-all and end-all of protein source and they tend to be expensive for what they are. If you are going to buy them I would suggest shopping around and ordering them online from places such as – http://www.discount-supplements.co.uk/ as they tend to have good sales and offers which work out cheaper.

But the key here is to enjoy your food which allows you to progress towards your goals and if protein bars can do that then they are worth it to you.

Ben

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Benjamin J Marshall

Fat burners are abundant in fitness media currently. So I get asked a lot what I think about them and more importantly, do they actually work? So, here are my thoughts:

Fat burners have turned into a controversial topic, with marketing and advertising making them probably the second most known supplement to the general public, after protein. Some will argue that they do nothing and others believe that they are the real secret to getting lean.


So what are fat burners?

A fat burner is most commonly found in a pill form and normally suggested by suppliers to be taken once upon waking and once before exercise, or in the early afternoon. The main ingredient of fat burners is caffeine. Some products are purely caffeine, whereas others contain other ingredients such as L-carnitine, Raspberry Ketones and Green Tea. Indeed, a singular tablet can contain up to 200mg of caffeine, whereas in comparison a Red Bull or regular coffee is about 80mg. Let’s examine this; most fat burners will have a description on the back of the bottle claiming the thermogenic effect of their product. Although some studies have shown that caffeine, as well as L-carnitine, do have some thermogenic effects on the body, the registered results are so small it really is negligible in the grand scheme of things.

Most fat burners say something similar to “to obtain maximum effects use in conjunction with a diet regime.” This is due to the fact that fat burners themselves don’t actually “burn fat” (this is the dirty little secret)… Fundamentally it is the calorific deficit which causes the fat loss. Your body burns fat when it has to rely on its internal fat stores for energy, as there is a negative energy balance (aka. You are taking in less energy than you use). The fat burners there might make sustaining the diet easier by giving you a caffeine boost to help you get through the day, with a lack of incoming energy in the form of calories.

There is also the argument that this caffeine causes you to burn more calories throughout the day – by being slightly more energetic, ‘fidgeting’. Although this is such a small proportion of calories it is barely worth registering. However, the other calories you burn might be in the gym, where you push yourself through the last few reps because you have the caffeine boost.

It is important to remember that psychological and mental factors can be applied here in the form of placebo. Many people will think that as they are taking a fat burner and spending money on it, that they should also stick to their diet to make sure it works… now, although the logic is backwards and the priority should be on the diet, the outcome will effectively be the same.

Therefore, sticking to a diet (calorific deficit) will cause you to lose weight.


Conclusion:

Do they melt away fat? – No

Do the tablets alone cause fat loss?– a tiny, tiny amount perhaps, but the actual fat loss comes from the calorific deficit you put yourself in whilst on a diet or exercising

Do they work to give you energy when consuming low calories? – Yes, due to the high caffeine content.

So why do people take them?

The appeal of fat burners is the idea that just by taking a pill you will magically melt away body fat. This plays into the instant reward mentality of the society in which we now live: working out is hard, time consuming and difficult to stick to. Thus, many people will blindly follow the notion that they can look like a fitness model just by taking a single pill. Sadly this is not the case. And it is this vulnerability and lack of proper knowledge that some supplement companies will exploit.

I am a true believer of making sure that your everyday diet should provide everything that you need in terms of nutrition and supplements should be exactly that; supplementary to your diet. Therefore used for convenience (like a protein shake) or ease of access (such as creatine). They can be beneficial, but you should not rely on these products.

Fat burners would be very low down on my recommendation list in terms of supplements, but if you have everything else in your training and diet nailed down and some money to spend, then you may feel that you are in a position to see what they do for you.

Or, just enjoy a coffee…

Ben

 

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Benjamin J Marshall

**Edit: I posted this in 2016 before I went vegan in 2017, I have left this up for accountability but I do not promote the use of any animal products for any reason especially in health.

If you really want to change yourself to be healthier you need to change your diet and focus on nutrition. A diet isn’t something you go onto. You’re not on a diet, if you’re ‘on’ a diet you can come ‘off’ it.

Your diet is the selection of foods that you eat every day.

You don’t need to go on a crazy low carb diet or a radical 500k kcal diet. These are short term solutions and these are exactly the kind of diet someone goes “on” to just to then come off and then people end up going back to exactly where they started.

Your diet should be BALANCED this is the most important thing.

You can personalize it however you want. If you want higher fat and low carb or visa versa that is fine as long as you’re keeping everything in balance. Let’s talk about balance – then your meals should be made up of a balance between protein, carbohydrates and fats.

Here’s a simple breakdown of balance and why.

Fats:

Far too many people say that fat is bad for you or even worse that fat will make you fat,

This is simply not true, it is an oversimplification and has sadly impacted on the way in which the general public now view foods. You need fats in your diet to help hormone production and to stay healthy.

Fat does not go to being stored as fat any more than any other food! That is not how nutrition works.

Carbohydrates:

Carbs have also received bad press recently with “low carb” marketing taking over stores. People think that if something is low carb that it will be better for them – this again is not true.

What is a carb? In the most simplistic term a carb is the easiest source of energy for the human body. Be it complex or simple it is still available energy. You need energy to live remember so why have a low carb version if something if you want energy?

Protein:

Proteins are the building blocks of the human body. Some people thank that protein is only needed if you are a body builder but this is simply not the case at all. Protein makes up everything we are, our hair our skin, and of course our muscles. Everyone needs protein to maintain good cellular health and help repair your body. Don’t think protein isn’t important for you because you’re not aiming to put on muscle or if you’re worried about getting huge (protein won’t make you put on muscle magically).

And note that I haven’t said meat here, protein isn’t just meat, protein can be found in a large variety of vegetables and grains, so for you veggies out there don’t neglect protein and make sure you’re getting enough.

So what is a good balance?

You should try to make sure that every meal you have is balanced in the sense you have a good proportion of protein and carbs per meal as well as a smaller proportion of fats as remember these are more calorifically dense. Balance also falls over the whole day not just one meal, there is no advantage of eating little and often compared to a traditional 3 meals a day, as long as you are eating enough calories and a balance of Macro-nutrients then it honestly does not matter.

Ben

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