Protein – A Guide For Runners

It’s easy to assume that protein is only important for those who are looking to ‘bulk up’. But think again: proteins are the building blocks of all human life!


You probably know that humans are mostly made of water – but protein comes a close second. Proteins are made up of amino acids, and are key for a number of bodily processes, including:

  • Building and repairing muscles.
  • Transporting oxygen in your blood cells.
  • Repairing your brain and nerves.
  • Making enzymes, which are critical to every chemical reaction in your body.
  • Creating antibodies and all of your immune system.

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Your body doesn’t store proteins long term like it does with fat. This means that you need to eat protein regularly to stay in good health. Sources of protein include: meat, fish, insects (if you’re brave enough!), dairy products, eggs, pulses, legumes, soy, fruits, nuts and seeds.


High and low quality protein

Some proteins are of higher quality than others – this is judged by the number of amino acids contained in a protein.  You need lots of different types of amino acids to function properly, so less amino acids = lower quality.

This doesn’t mean that the low quality protein isn’t useful – just that you need to ensure you eat the right mixture of them to get all the amino acids. This is the challenge that a lot of vegans face: as you can see from the list of high quality proteins, half come from animals.

High quality proteins include:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Chickpeas
  • Quinoa
  • Black beans
  • Pumpkin seeds

What should I have whilst I’m running, and when?

You should focus on eating the highest quality proteins listed above. It’s a good idea to have a meal with a high quality protein in it within an hour after training, to help your muscles to begin to recover.

Do I need extra protein because I’m training?

No, as long as you’re eating enough to start with. There’s no need to start eating lots of protein or taking protein powders: those are only useful for elite strength training athletes!

You need about 1 gram of protein for each kilogram of your body weight, per day.

For someone who weighs 70kg (11 stone), that would mean 60-70 grams per day. That could look something like this: 1 chicken breast, half a cup of lentils, a cup of milk, 1 egg and a yoghurt. So as long as you’re eating a healthy balanced diet, you’re probably doing fine!

Hydration – A Guide For Runners

We all know that we should be drinking water regularly, but most of us probably aren’t getting enough. Just why is it so important?


Water helps us to…

  • Regulate body temperature
  • Remove waste from the body
  • Protect the joints from damage
  • Protect the eyes (with tears)
  • Conduct biochemical reactions in the body
  • Make chewing and swallowing possible (saliva)
  • Carry nutrients & oxygen around the body (blood)

We Are Water

So much of us is made up of water. An adult body is about 60% water; our blood is 90% water, our muscles are 75% water, bones are 25% water, and even our fat cells are 5% water!

We constantly lose water throughout the day by breathing, sweating and going to the toilet.


Avoid Dehydration

On an average day, we should be drinking between 1.5 and 2.5 litres (15-20 glasses) of water. Between 1 and 1.5 litres of this (8-12 glasses) should come from drinks; the rest is made up of liquids contained in the foods we eat. On a hot day, or during exercise, you need to drink more. Carrying a bottle around with you wherever you go is such an easy way to do this. Take small sips throughout the day and avoid dehydration!


You may be dehydrated if…

  • Your mouth feels dry
  • You are getting mild headaches
  • Your pee is dark yellow or brown
  • You are feeling tired/lethargic.

How do I make sure I am hydrated during my training?

Answer: You probably don’t need as much extra water as you think, as long as you are generally well hydrated. Have a drink of water before you go training and a glass afterwards, and you should be fine!

Drink more if you’re thirsty. If it’s a hot day, make sure you top up your fluid levels before you go out. If you’re running for more than a hour, you might need to take a small bottle of water with you.

Now that I’m training, should I drink sports drinks like Gatorade or Lucozade?

Answer: No. If you’re running for less than 90 minutes, you don’t really need sports drinks, and they contain a lot of sugar.

Elite athletes sometimes need them to replace the electrolytes and fuel that they lose during long distance races like marathons, but you almost certainly don’t.

So what we’re saying is – go and drink some water right now! If you’d like to know more, or you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to pop us a tweet.

Carbohydrates – A Guide For Runners

What is a carbohydrate?

Carbohydrates are a source of energy. The more complex the carbohydrate, the longer it takes to release the energy. 1 gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories, so it’s worth knowing how that energy is released.


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Carbohydrates are usually split into two main categories, simple carbs (or sugars) and complex carbs (or starches). This is a good general rule, though there are a few bits worth getting your head around.

Carbohydrates are built from units of sugar (saccharides), the longer the chain of units, the more complex the carbohydrate. To use the sugar your body needs to chop up this chain. This means that complex carbohydrates release their energy slower than simple (short chain) ones. This gives them a lower GI value

The longer it takes to turn it into sugar, the more complex (and probably better) the carbohydrate.


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What should I go for whilst I’m running?

You should try to eat mostly complex carbohydrates that provide slow release energy, concentrating on:

  • Vegetables
  • Wholegrain or wholemeal varieties (e.g. wholemeal bread/pasta etc.)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Beans and lentils

Avoid having too many:

  • Cakes, biscuits and sweets
  • Soft drinks
  • White varieties of rice/pasta/bread etc.

Do I need more carbohydrates because I’m training?

Answer: In most cases, no. It’s a good idea to have a healthy snack like a small trail mix 1-2 hours before going training, but you probably don’t need to be eating any extra carbohydrates until you are running for more than 90 minutes at a time. You’ll burn around 100 calories for every mile you run, so there’s no need to load up with extra carbohydrates!

Healthy Workplace: Flu-Fighting Food

Foods to fight off minor illnesses

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The majority of short-term sickness absence is caused by minor illnesses that are easily preventable with good hygiene and a strong immune system. The immune system can be boosted by certain foods, which can help to fight off colds, flu and other minor illnesses!

These foods are separated into groups with the following functions:

Anti-inflammatory foods

Foods in this group have properties that can reduce inflammation (pain and swelling) that is associated with many minor illnesses and aches & pains – for example swollen glands, or joint pain.

  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Oily fish
  • Dark Green Veggies
  • Almonds

Antiviral foods

These foods have properties that can reduce the symptoms of viruses including the common cold.

  • Garlic
  • Coconut
  • Chillies (decongestant)
  • Prawns (and other seafood)
  • Elderberry
  • Green tea
  • Liquorice

Colourful foods (rich in vitamins)

You can get loads of  vitamins and minerals from fruits and veg, and each different colour is related to a different group of nutrients, with different benefits.

For fighting off minor illnesses and viruses, you should focus on:

  • Reds, yellows and oranges
  • Dark greens, purples and blues

Drink more water

Good hydration is key for almost every aspect of physical health, and your immune system is no different: keep a water bottle with you and drink regularly!

Find more from our workplace health series here.


Healthy Workplace: Fighting Fatigue

Maintaining Energy Levels

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Drops in energy levels and feeling generally tired are all too common in modern office environments. Managing energy levels effectively is possible, and it can lead to huge improvements in performance.

Here are 4 key actions to avoid crashing:

1. Manage your caffeine intake

Caffeine is a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s great for giving you an energy boost or making you more alert; on the other hand, when the rush wears off your energy levels can crash, leaving you irritable and sluggish. Some ideas to try:

  • Reduce caffeine dependency by offering and promoting alternatives such as water, fruit tea, or juice.
  • Try switching to decaf, especially in the afternoons.
  • Swap coffee breaks for walks – you can stretch your legs, get some fresh air and give your brain a break, which should perk you up!

2. Snack smart

All too often a drop in energy has us reaching for a quick fix in the form of a sugary snack or drink. It’s like plugging a leak with a piece of kitchen paper: it’s not going to hold for long! Some better options are:

  • Trail mixes – the perfect high energy, high nutrient snack for when you need a boost. Here’s how to make one.
  • A banana – the right blend of nutrients for a healthy energy boost!
  • Crackers and cheese – a mixture of complex carbs and protein to keep you going.

3. Improve hydration

Drinking enough water is really important for maintaining energy levels. Over 2/3 of your body is water; dehydration makes you feel tired, irritable and unable to work at your best.

4. Eat more complex carbohydrates

This is all about eating foods which release their energy more slowly to help maintain more consistent energy levels. You can find out more about how it works from this simple explanation of Glycaemic Index (GI) levels in different foods. The main food groups to include are:

  • Wholegrain/wholemeal varieties of bread/rice/pasta/cereals
  • Fresh vegetables with the skin left on where possible
  • Nuts, seeds, beans and lentils

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In the graph, you can see that a high GI food makes the blood sugar rise and fall quickly, leading to drops in energy levels throughout the day. Low GI foods keep the energy levels more stable.

Find more from our workplace health series here.


Healthy Workplace: Dealing With Digestion

Digestion

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Perhaps it’s not the most glamorous subject but feeling uncomfortable, bloated or a bit below par digestively is a common issue, and one that is rarely noticed or reported for fear of embarrassment. Nevertheless it can throw you off your game!

Here are 4 easy ways to remedy the situation:

1. Reduce bloating

There are some foods that have been shown to reduce bloating, and the good news is that lots of them have been added to herbal teas to provide an easy method of consumption. If you’ve got a tea cupboard at work, it might be worth stocking it with teas that contain:

  • Aniseed
  • Basil
  • Caraway
  • Fennel
  • Mint
  • Papaya

2. Eat pre and probiotic foods

Some foods (probiotics) contain live ‘good’ bacteria that support your gut function, others (prebiotics) contain a special type of carbohydrate that feed the good bacteria that are in your stomach and improve digestion. Some good options are:

  • Sweet potato – Prebiotic
  • Parsnip – Prebiotic
  • Jerusalem artichoke – Prebiotic
  • Chicory – Prebiotic
  • Live yoghurt – Probiotic

3. Eat more fibre

Fibre is the cornerstone of good digestion, it comes in two forms but both are important for good digestive health. Increase fibre by eating:

  • Wholegrain foods
  • Lentils, beans and other legumes
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Vegetables

And leave the skin on whenever you can!

4. Improve hydration

Good hydration is at the centre of so many essential processes. Having plenty of water is an essential part of any healthy routine and contributes significantly to healthy digestion.

Find more from our workplace health series here.


Healthy Workplace: Rest, Relax, Recover

R & R & R

(Rest, Relaxation and Recovery)

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Recovery is just as important as performance: without fully recovering, you cannot expect to repeat a great performance, at work or anywhere else!

Here are five techniques for making sure you’re always ready to give 100%:

1. Get good sleep

Good sleep is the foundation of good recovery. It’s when our brains work out problems, and when our bodies repair and reset. Some simple ways to improve sleep are:

2. Take time to calm down

After periods of intense activity (physical or mental), it is important to find time to be calm and relax to relieve tension and stress so that they are not carried over into the next day and beyond. Stress is growing problem in the UK and accounts for lots of time off and lost productivity. Here are a few things that can help:

  • Allocating 20-30 minutes to sit quietly, perhaps with a book or a drink, and calm down after work.
  • Practicing yoga
  • Learning to meditate, even for 10 minutes a day
  • Find or build a calming playlist that you can listen to when you’re feeling stressed.

3. Eat good quality protein

Protein helps our bodies to repair themselves and build new cells. Our ability to recover quickly depends on eating sources of good quality protein. Here are some of the best sources:

  • Oily Fish
  • Eggs
  • Lentils and beans
  • Quorn, tofu and other soy products
  • Lean meats
  • Milk and other dairy products

4. Make your diet as colourful as possible

The vitamins and minerals in fruit, vegetables and wholegrains, especially antioxidants, contribute to our ability to fight off environmental stressors and recover effectively. Focus on:

  • Dark Greens
  • Blues and Purples
  • Reds

5. Low GI foods

A steady supply of energy is also important for rest and recovery, and stable energy providers like low GI foods are a great choice.

Find more from our workplace health series here.


Healthy Workplace: Staying Positive

Be Positive

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Feeling good about what you’re doing and what you’re going to do are really important when it comes to performing at your best. It’s an integral part of maintaining motivation and feeling empowered to achieve your best work!

Here are 4 things that can help people to feel more positive and optimistic at work:

1. Focusing on solutions

It’s easy to find problems: no process is perfect and nobody is perfect. Thinking about some possible solutions or committing to working on one, rather than simply pointing out a problem, is a much more constructive way to work. It keeps everyone feeling positive!

2. Practice, not perfection.

In the same vein, chasing perfection is draining and exhausting. It’s unlikely that it’ll ever be achieved, but that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve something you can be proud of. Create a culture of practice and improvement rather than chasing perfection, and people are able to feel more optimistic even in the face of adversity.

3. Good posture

It might sound like it has come a bit out of left field, but having a good posture and keeping your head up can make a difference to how positive and empowered you feel. Practising good posture, keeping your head up and back straight could provide that little boost of confidence that is required at a difficult time.

4. Flexible working and rewards

It goes without saying that people respond to different motivators. Knowing what works for your team is very important when it comes to getting the most from them. Here are some of the areas where it might be valuable to focus:

  • Notice effort and success equally. Success is often the product of persistence in the face of repeated failure, so it’s the effort that counts in the end.
  • Provide thoughtful rewards, or allow people to choose their own.
  • Be flexible and allow for individual working styles. People work better in different environments, and being accommodating as far as possible can provide great benefits in productivity.
  • Show you care, take every opportunity to support people in their lives, both in and out of work.

Find more from our workplace health series here.


Healthy Workplace: Perfect Posture

Practising perfect posture

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More people need to take time off work for musculoskeletal issues like lower back pain than anything else. There are 3 simple things you can do to prevent this problem before it happens:

1. Practise good posture

Good posture is a combination of knowing and practising. The key elements of good posture are as follows, but you have to practice them! Check your posture every 10-20 minutes and correct it if you have slouched.

  • Feet facing forwards, legs straight
  • Engaged legs, a little bit of tension in the upper legs
  • A natural curve in the lower back, and straight upper back
  • A slight forward tilt to the pelvis, pushing lower back backwards and bringing thighs forwards.
  • Shoulders back and relaxed
  • Chin gently tucked in towards the neck, with neck straightened

2. Make sure you have the correct equipment

Having the basic equipment to support your body whilst you work can significantly reduce the amount of pressure on your spine, and the amount of problems you experience. The 4 most important things are:

  • A supportive chair that allows the natural arch in your lower back, and ideally has head and neck support
  • A computer screen that is at eye level so that you don’t have to strain your neck to type
  • A screen that is far enough from your face that your eyes do not feel strained from looking at it
  • Space to get up and stretch regularly throughout your day

3. Move regularly

Being able to get up from your desk and move around regularly will help your muscles to relax and allow you to correct your posture. You could try:

  • Getting up and moving every 20 minutes
  • Making the effort to make your own tea or coffee so that you have to leave your desk
  • Conducting walking meetings so that everyone is able to move and stretch

Find more from our workplace health series here.


Healthy Workplace: Keeping Your Focus

Concentrate on concentrating!

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Being able to focus and concentrate on the task at hand can be a key driver of performance. A loss of concentration, or the ability to concentrate can really affect productivity, particularly in the afternoons. Here are 4 simple things that can help: they may be simple, but how many of them do you actually practice on a daily basis?

1. Improve hydration

Perhaps the biggest reason for a drop in focus and concentration is dehydration. Just 2% dehydration can lead to a drop in mental performance, and you won’t even feel thirsty until you’re way beyond that! Keeping a bottle of water on your desk and re-filling it regularly will really help.

2. Take regular screen breaks

Staring at a lit screen for long periods of time is draining on the eyes and the brain. There is no point being in front of the screen if you can’t focus on what you’re doing! You should:

  • Get up and move away from your screen at least every 20 minutes
  • Take 5 minutes away from the screen to rest your eyes every hour. Do some other small task

3. Create a steady energy supply

Maintaining consistent energy levels is very important when it comes to keeping yourself focused and able to concentrate. Quick fixes like sugary snacks will have you peaking and crashing throughout the day, which is a recipe for disaster. To maintain a consistent supply of energy you should:

  • Eat meals based on low GI carbs (more about GI here)
  • Opt for healthy snacks that release their energy slowly
  • Try not to go too long between meals, even if they are small

4. Create a quiet and peaceful environment, or play some gentle music

There’s always the odd person who thrives in a bustling environment, and who can tune out the sounds around them, but most people need a peaceful environment to be able to concentrate fully. It’s part of creating the right environment for productivity and mutual respect. You can:

  • Remove unnecessary distractions
  • Keep general noise to a minimum
  • Listen to a playlist of calming music
  • Agree to disturb one another only when strictly necessary
  • Communicate online before asking someone a question in person to make sure they are not busy

Find more from our workplace health series here.