My training at 39-ish

So another year has gone by and I’m another year older. A bit late, but here is the annual update on my training, nutrition and other key happenings in life. If you’re somewhat interested, links to my previous annual updates can be found here: 36-ish37-ish and 38-ish.

Context and Goals
39-year-old. 180cm. 77kg.

I want to be fit enough, fast enough and strong enough to get through the daily challenges of life. Basically just I want to live healthy and well into old age.

Year Forty. Go on…

Food
Where to start? Well, it’s a wholefood diet. Something along the lines of an ancestral or paleo type diet. This has been my basic template for the last nine or ten years now. It has evolved over the years and I generally rotate between lower and higher carbohydrate intake throughout the year depending on my physical and mental requirements. In general, my protein intake is fairly stable throughout the year and I would switch between a high carbohydrate or high fat diet depending on the season and how I looked, felt or performed (mentally and physically).

Most days I’ll eat 3 meals, with at least 5 hours between meals, to allow the digestive system to do its job to metabolise nutrients to properly fuel the body. Most recently, I have added a high protein snack towards the end of the day as part of my evening routine. This usually consists of some protein powder mixed into some Greek yoghurt or cottage cheese.

As a general rule, my macronutrient breakdown would average out to be in the ballpark of:

  • Protein: about 200g;
  • Fats and oils: about 115g;
  • Carbohydrates: about 130g (depending on activity level).
  • Total: about 2355 calories.

Since the middle of February, I have made a conscious effort to increase my weight and build some lean muscle tissue which has required an increase in caloric consumption. I have added more carbohydrate to most meals, especially on training and / or competition days to help facilitate lean muscle growth.

These days, my macronutrient break down has looked a little more like this:

  • Protein: about 240g;
  • Fats and oils: about 85g;
  • Carbohydrates: about 240g.
  • Total: about 2685 calories.

What does this look like on a plate? It starts with quality sources of protein, such as beef, lamb, pork, game meats like kangaroo and venison, or some fish. Then, a variety of leafy greens, root vegetables or rice and finally some healthy fats like, butter, ghee or olive oil. 

I also eat eggs almost daily, bone broths and fermented foods, like kimchi and yoghurt.

I drink a lot of mineral water and my coffee is almost always black.

Throughout the previous year with coronavirus related lockdowns within the community, my alcohol consumption went up, then down, then up again. Drinking the occasional glass of red wine with my partner throughout the winter, then experimenting with cocktails during the warmer months. Most recently, I have once again dialed back on the alcohol to zero, with the exception of special occasions like Anzac Day, or my birthday.

I normally train first thing in the morning, after a cup of black coffee with some collagen peptides. Since February, I have consumed a serve of WPC prior to my workout, in order increase protein synthesis, stimulate muscle growth and to help prevent the breakdown of lean muscle.

This has worked well for me for a while now and I have been able to maintain a healthy body composition, sustained physical performance and with fairly consistent energy levels throughout the day. In that time, I have increased my weight by nearly three kilograms. Looking in the mirror, I would say that the majority of the weight increase has been lean muscle. Not bad for year forty.

I’ll stress this again, this is what has worked for me.

Eating out. It’s now 2021 and eating out is a part of the modern social culture. 

Most of 2020 eating out was taken off the cards with practically all restaurants being closed. This meant that I was able to dial in my nutrition pretty well without the temptation of fancy, over-indulgent meals at nice restaurants. Whilst I did eat out on occasion, I was really lucky with the fact that my partner eats very similar to myself so it was pretty easy for us to cook and share meals together at home with ease for the majority of the year. It also gave us some additional quality time together which I thought was pretty amazing.

I also know a little bit about nutrition and how to cook which helped.

Additionally, my partner recently commenced contest preparation for her third bodybuilding / bikini competition, which has increased the requirement to keep her the nutrition in order. I have chosen to basically eat the same as her, using my macros in order to support my goals of building muscle. It makes meal time easier for us when we eat together or when preparing meals for the week. It’s also an easy way for me to support her through her preparation.

Supplements
Generally, I don’t take a lot of supplements. I try to get all of my nutrient requirements through diet alone, with the addition of some Cod Liver Oil during the winter months to boost vitamins A and D, which among other things, supports optimal immune system function.

For pre-workout, I’ll make a cup of black coffee with some collagen peptides.

Magnesium. This is probably one of the most important supplements for me. Magnesium is vitally important to over 300 biological functions in the body  from regulating protein synthesis to muscle function and supporting proper sleep patterns.  As the demands for physical training, stress or professional workloads increase, the requirement for magnesium increases.

Vitamin C. Is a water soluble vitamin that has been shown to improve antioxidant levels, improve overall immunity, improve iron absorption, lower blood pressure, reduce heart disease and dementia risk. Vitamin C is also critical for collagen synthesis. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It makes up the skin, bones, tendons, ligaments, and many other structures. Vitamin C is essential for collagen synthesis. That means the conversion of amino acids into functional collagen that the body can use.

That’s about it really.

Training
Strength and conditioning. During the last 12 months I’ve mainly focused on two training protocols. The first being mostly completing the bigger compound lifts first, then finish up with some accessory exercises and a finisher.

That means, deadlifts, power cleans, weighted pull-ups, horizontal and vertical presses. Followed by some accessory work like push-ups, dips, cable rows, split squats and ab rollouts.

I have generally split these movements into two separate training blocks, being push and pull, with the other being squat and press.

Sets and repetitions will vary each workout, but generally I’ll aim for about 25-30 repetitions in total for each movement. How many sets it takes reach that total will depend on how I’m feeling on the day. So days that could mean a standard 5 x 5 protocol and on others it could mean something like 2 x 15. 

My other strength and conditioning focus has been the kettlebell lifts. I really enjoy training with kettlebells and have found them to be an incredibly versatile training tool over the years.

Training with kettlebells can be more dynamic and can develop strength and conditioning when implemented in circuit style training. I’ve also found that I can get a higher volume of lifts during my kettlebell training phases, not to mention a good sweat.

Farmer’s carries and high volume kettlebell swings have featured consistently in my programming.

Really simple. But simple works.

I’m not setting strength records, but I’m doing pretty well for a guy who has just turned 40 years old. I’m athletic, have a decent strength to weight ratio, can run reasonably quick, generally in pretty good health and rarely injured. Pretty important for somebody entering “middle-age”. This allows me to be consistent. And consistency is the key to long term health and performance. I can be active across a variety of disciplines just about any day that I choose, which is more often than not.

Running. It’s been mostly interval work and some 5km efforts. The Army loves running. So occasionally, I’ll have to run longer distances out to about 8km. As general rule however, it’s just the shorter, more intense runs that I feel the most benefit from.

During the last twelve months I competed in one virtual race with the New York Road Runners (NYRR), where you track a run locally and upload it to a global leaderboard.

Virtual Races:

  • NYRR Virtual, 5k (21:50min)

As opposed to running, I have been walking a lot more. A great opportunity to listen to a podcast, catch up with a friend or spend some time out in nature.

Basketball. It’s back. I’m really enjoying being on the court. Both socially and competitively. It’s a sport I’ve played since I was 12 years old. The 2020 competitions were brought to an immediate closure in March. Really disappointing as we were playing well and winning.

Overall, I’m having a lot of fun playing sport again. I just love competing. Each night I’m matching up against players half my age so it’s a good feeling to be competitive and even beat most of my opponents on a nightly basis.

Right now my training consists of four days of strength and conditioning combined with one or sometimes two days of running (mostly easy / mid-level efforts and some sprint work). Each workout will last about 40 to 50 minutes. I play basketball two nights a week, on Tuesday and Thursday.

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A final point. Doing something is better than doing nothing.

Lifestyle and Travel
I’m living in Melbourne, Australia. It’s my fifth year back in my home state. It really is great being around family and friends for such an extended period of time. I feel like I am a part of the local community again, which is great. It does feel nice to be able to hold a decent conversation with your local barista or butcher a daily / weekly basis.

The importance of good social connections is often overlooked when it comes to optimising your health and how well you perform at all levels on a daily basis.

This year is my eighteenth year in the Army. A life time. For the most part it’s been an exciting career that has allowed me to develop as a human and contribute to the global society in a positive way. A career that has taken me to almost every corner of the world and I have had the opportunity to work with many great people from a variety of countries sharing the same values and goals as myself.

My girlfriend / partner. What can I say? She is nothing short of amazing. Highly driven, intelligent, independent, strong and beautiful. Running an office as an associate lawyer for a major personal injury law firm. She also lectures law subjects at the local university, instructs fitness classes and as discussed earlier, is in the middle of her third bodybuilding / bikini contest preparation. Most importantly, she makes me strive to be a better human every day.

We were fortunate enough to meet about a month prior to the initial lockdown early last year. In my estimation, just enough time to figure out that we were both decent humans with great potential, both as individuals and as a couple.

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Note. We still are both decent humans.

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She lives in Bendigo, Victoria. About a ninety minute drive outside of Melbourne. It’s only four turns from my door to hers. We were lucky enough to be able to travel between the two locations during the lockdown months, which did give us some sort of freedom or normality during a period of time that could just as easily have been incredibly lonely and mentally tough.

We were both lucky to have the opportunity to remain employed throughout the last twelve months and the transition to the work-from-home life made it even easier to spend time together between Bendigo and Melbourne. We are both back working at our respective office / barracks most days which means our time together has been reduced to mostly the weekends.

Having the opportunity to spend time in Bendigo has been great. A regional city with the country town sense of community. There are some amazing restaurants to try and some fantastic cocktail bars that are worth checking out. Not to mention some good coffee and a decent gym by the name of McQuinn’s.

As usual, I also spent some time at the family holiday home on the Mornington Peninsula. Always a great option for a lazy weekend getaway and some valuable beach time. We also spent a few nights between Crown Towers Resort Melbourne and the Jackalope Hotel Resort on the Peninsula around the Christmas / New Year period.

We also travelled to Adelaide in early January for five days. Most of our time was spent visiting beaches and cafes along the coast during the day and some inner city cocktail bars in the evenings.

So, what’s next?
The next twelve months is going to be an exciting time. On a personal note, I am seriously considering the possibility of transitioning out of the full-time service with the Army in order to provide more stability at home. I’ll most definitely continue to contribute with the Army Reserve. I feel that it is time for me find a new challenge on a professional level.

I’m always looking at ways to continue my development both personally and professionally. Most recently I have taken a deeper look into the works of Dr. Jordan B. Peterson and furthering my knowledge of long term property investment to better prepare myself for the future.

Life can be whatever you want it to be, and there are some really exciting times are ahead.

Until then… Live well. Train hard. Enjoy life.

Fasting: hydration and exercise performance

hydration1Despite the commonly known importance of water in the body for optimal performance, many athletes and weekend warriors alike do not seriously consider the effects of hydration before, during and / or after athletic performance.

Water maintains blood volume, regulates body temperature and is involved in muscle contractions along with a variety of other processes within the body.

So… is it safe to exercise whilst fasting? Yes. To a point. Although it has been done previously, it’s generally not a smart thing to complete a marathon or multiple high intensity metabolic conditioning workouts in the middle of a fast. These activities can be highly taxing on on the body and if not fuelled correctly, injury or illness could be the result.

That being said, exercise is a great way to complete a fast as it can prime the body for the uptake of nutrients.

In fact, the body has been conditioned throughout our history to be able to produce both mental and physical feats under the fasting conditions.

Humans wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t the case. 

Some of the benefits of fasted exercise

  • May provide an energy boost post workout
  • May raise blood sugar levels whilst in a fasted state
  • Improved cognitive function which can help focus during exercise
  • Increased adrenaline levels whilst fasting can help to push through extra repetitions or efforts
  • Increase in production of human growth hormone
  • Increase in testosterone production
  • May help with stress and anxiety
  • May improve body composition

Hydration and exercise

Whenever you workout, in order to achieve optimal performance you need to be properly hydrated. It doesn’t matter if you’re training in a fasted or a fed state.

When in a fasted state, the body is not getting any hydration from foods so it is important to remember to hydrate before, during and after your workouts.

Now it takes a bit of time for the water in the cup to effectively be transported around the body and into your muscles. Proper Hydration needs to occur prior to the workout, but not immediately before. Aim for somewhere around 30 to 45 minutes prior to the planned starting time.

The hydration protocol for fasted activity

To achieve proper hydration prior to exercise consume one of the following fluids 30-45 minutes prior to working out:

  • A glass of water with a pinch of real salt (such as Celtic or Himalayan)
  • A glass of low sugar electrolyte drink
  • A cup of bone broth with salt (to taste)

These drinks contain electrolytes critical to health function and performance.

Consume another serve once in the post workout window.

Why you should be eating oysters

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Oysters are saltwater bivalve mollusks that live in marine habitats such as bays and oceans. Mostly known for their reported aphrodisiac qualities, these mollusks have a lot to offer in terms of health benefits.

They are an excellent source of protein, healthy omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals all critical to optimal human performance.

Why it’s a superfood?

  • Excellent source of protein, vitamin B12, zinc and selenium;
  • Good source of copper, iron and manganese;
  • Contains omega-3 fatty acids.

Nutritional powerhouse
Oysters offer an outstanding nutritional profile which is only really rivalled by organ meats.  Extremely high in a variety of important nutrients and low in total calories, oysters are an incredibly nutrient dense food source.

Natural Aphrodisiac
Are oysters an aphrodisiac? The question of whether or not raw oysters can cause sexual arousal has long been debated. Unfortunately, there is actually very little evidence to suggest this is the case.

That being said, why have oysters been so long associated as an aphrodisiac? Most likely because oysters are an excellent source of zinc, a mineral critical sexual health.

Oysters also contain varying levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that stimulates the ‘arousal’ centre in the brain (including sexual arousal). This mechanism could potentially take effect  immediately, giving you a psychological edge and boost sexual arousal and performance.

Whilst the evidence may not support improved sexual health, it will provide many nutrients that will improve overall health and performance.

Making the most of oysters
Oysters can be eaten either raw or cooked. To note, there is a small concern for bacterial infection. Oysters occasionally contain a species of bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus, which can more dangerous than salmonella in susceptible people with compromised immune function.

If you have any concern, steaming or boiling are both popular methods which kill off any harmful bacteria and will not cause any loss of nutrition.

Beef liver: the original superfood

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Beef liver has a long history as a traditionally valued food. Often eaten by traditional cultures as soon as practicable, even in preference over the muscle meat. In fact, some traditional cultures only consumed the organ meats, with the leaner muscle meats being often discarded or given to away to wolves / early dogs.

More recently, especially in Western cultures, organ meats like beef liver have fallen out of the regular rotation in favour of the leaner, more palatable muscle meats.

Most local butchers will stock beef liver, but you will probably need to ask as they keep most of the organ meats away from the public eye in cool rooms / freezers due to the limited sales. By comparison, the selection of muscle cuts from all animals is often more readily available for viewing and purchase. Organ meats like beef liver are actually very cheap when compared to the more popular cuts of muscle meat and pack a real bang for your buck when you consider the nutrient density. 

In fact, it’s one of the most nutritious foods on the planet.

Nutrition

A dense source of protein, vitamins and minerals critical to human performance packed into a single food source. Just a quick look at some of the key nutrients in 100 grams of beef liver paints a powerful picture:

  • Protein: 27 grams
  • Vitamin A: 26,091 IU | 522% DV
  • Vitamin B2: 3.4 mg | 201% DV
  • Vitamin B3: 17.5 mg | 87% DV
  • Vitamin B6: 1 mg | 51% DV
  • Vitamin B9 (folate): 260 mcg | 65% DV
  • Vitamin B12: 83.1 mcg | 1386% DV
  • Choline: 418 mg
  • Copper: 14.6 mg | 730% DV
  • Iron: 6.2 mg | 34% DV
  • Selenium: 32.8 mcg | 47%
  • Zinc: 5.2 mg | 35% DV

How to get more liver into the diet

Here are just a few ways to get more of this nutrient dense superfood into the diet:

  • Pan fried. Liver goes well when fried with onions;
  • Bolognese sauces. Liver and other organ meats can be chopped or minced and then mixed with regular ground beef and added to pasta or vegetable dishes;
  • Burger patties. As with Bolognese sauces, chop or mince organ meats and mix it with ground beef to make highly nutritious burgers.
  • Liverloaf. This is basically a meatloaf that is prepared with a mix of both beef and liver mince.

Fasting: hour by hour

How long should you fast? That depends on which health benefits you’re trying to tap into. The longer you do fast however, the more the health benefits begin to add up.

This does not mean that long fasts are for everybody. It depends. As an example, if you’re just trying to increase ketone levels for sustained energy and improved cognitive performance, then a 17 or 18 hour fast (which can be performed daily) might be enough. However, if you’re trying to reduce chronic inflammation or metabolic disorder then stretching it out to about 72 hours could stimulate the appropriate physiological response.

Here are the benefits of fasting broken down by the number of hours fasted:

13-16 hour fast

A 13-16 hour fast is considered to be intermittent fasting and can be conducted daily. At 13 hours of fasting, the digestive system down regulates (goes to sleep) and your body will begin to secrete more human growth hormone (HGH). The HGH assists in a variety of processes including the maintenance of lean mass, burning fat and slowing down the ageing process.

At this point, the body is transitioning to the use of stored body fat for immediate energy. 

16 hour fast

This is when most people begin to produce additional ketones. Ketones are a sign that the liver has transitioned from burning glucose (sugar) to burning fats for energy. In addition, ketones are neuro-protective and will move into the brain, giving you energy and a greater mental clarity. 

Also, HGH production continues to increase and the body begins to accelerate the fat burning process.

18-24 hour fast

At 18 hours, the body will begin to stimulate autophagy. What this means is your cells internal intelligence has been switched on and they are able to repair themselves by cleaning out old and / or damaged cells.

At 24 hours, your intestinal cells reboot and GABA production increases. GABA is the neurotransmitter known to relax the brain and help with anxiety.

At this point in time, the body would have depleted its liver glycogen stores and would now be operating primarily on ketones (from the break down of fatty acids) for energy.

36 hour fast

The longer you fast, the more it forces your body to deplete glycogen stores, and release stored energy in the form of body fat (an evolutionary adaption in response to not having a constant food source). As the body breaks down stored body fat and converts it to usable energy, the body also releases toxins that have also been stored within the fat cells. Proper hydration and even supplementation with a binder, such as charcoal may help the body to eliminate toxins during periods of fasting.

36-48 hour fasts is where to start to see an increase in stem cell regeneration, fat loss, greater anti-ageing benefits, and an increase in dopamine levels.

At this point, autophagy increases by approx. 300%.

48 hour fast

At 48 hours, cellular regeneration commences and inflammation begins to decrease. Autophagy continues to increase and the body begins to reset dopamine receptor sites.

72 hour fast

This is where autophagy peaks.

+ 72 hour fasting

Although longer fasts can be beneficial, fasting for periods greater than 72 hours should only be conducted under medical supervision or with consultation.

 

Kettlebell exercises you should be doing

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Why spend so much time in the gym isolating muscle groups when you can build dynamic total-body strength and conditioning with kettlebells?

The kettlbell has been around the fitness industry for many years. More recently, they have been gaining more popularity with CrossFit, F45 and a variety of other high intensity circuit type training programs.

When used correctly, kettlebells are extremely effective training tools for providing total-body strength and conditioning. The problem is that most people use kettlebells incorrectly. Like any other movement within the gym, proper coaching and execution is required to maximise the benefit.

The army often uses the term “be brilliant at the basics” and elite athletes are usually elite because they’re better at the fundamentals than everybody else. Mastering the fundamentals is critical to success. In training and in life.

The fundamentals of kettlebell training can be broken down into a handful of exercises. If you can master these movements you’ll be well on the way to developing a highly conditioned physique.

Below is a list of exercises that form the fundamentals of kettlebell training:

The Goblet Squat
The squat is one of the 5 basic movement patterns and has many variations. The goblet squat isn’t just a lower body exercise… it’s a full-body conditioning exercise that promotes optimal mobility.

Check out this article for a more detailed description of the goblet squat.

The Swing
The kettlebell swing, in which you project the kettlebell to shoulder-height only, is an insanely effective exercise when executed with proper form. Hip power, hip hinging, and breathing techniques make it incredibly powerful.

It’s a two-for-one exercise, meaning you’re able to combine strength training and cardiovascular conditioning into one efficient movement.

Check out this article for a more detailed description of the kettlebell swing.

The Get-up
The get-up is a slow, deliberate movement that’s been around for centuries. The get-up will help you with functional tasks as well as higher-level exercises. It teaches you to move fluidly, and when you add the external load (such as a kettlebell) it requires strength, mobility, coordination and is a skilled movement.

Check out this article for a more detailed description of the get-up.

The Clean
Similar to the kettlebell swing, the clean is another explosive exercise for total-body strength and conditioning. The main difference from the swing is that the kettlebell finishes in the rack position as opposed to being projected horizontally away from your body.

As defined by Pavel Tsatsouline, an accurate description of the kettlebell clean is:

  • Pick up the kettlebell, swing it back between your legs as if for a swing, and bring it to the rack in one swift movement.
  • Then drop the kettlebell back between your legs and repeat the drill for repetitions.

This movement can take some time to learn, but once you have it mastered it can be used high-powered kettlebell strength and conditioning complexes.

The Press
If you have mastered the earlier exercises, you should have demonstrated appropriate shoulder mobility and stability required to press.

The kettlebell press is another exceptional movement to learn. The press is not just a shoulder exercise, as you are required to recruit muscle activation from the entire body for maximum pressing power and strength.

If you work on your overhead presses hard enough, you will hardly need to do anything else for your upper body and midsection.

The condition:

  • Clean the kettlebell and press it strictly overhead to lockout.

The standard:

  • Pause for a moment, in the rack position to ensure that you are not using any momentum generated by the clean, for the press.
  • Press with the knees softly locked and with minimal back / side bend.
  • Keep the whole body tight, specifically the midsection, glutes and quads.
  • Keep the pressing shoulder down.
  • Lock out the elbow completely and pause at the top.

There are two ways to press overhead for repetitions. The first being to clean the kettlebell before each press. This is known as the “clean-and-press”. The second method is cleaning the kettlebell once, then pressing it multiple times from the rack position. This is known as the “military press”.

Homemade Sourdough Bread

The year 2020 has been fairly eventful. Bushfires. The untimely death of Kobe and Gianna Bryant. The coronavirus global pandemic and the societal lockdowns that followed. I have noticed that a lot of people on social media have been making their own sourdough breads whilst in isolation.

This is a skill that I have been wanting to learn for a while.

Here is the recipe that I used to make my very own sourdough bread. No kneading required. First, I made my own sourdough starter, which took 5-7 days mature. This recipe only requires the starter to be mixed with water and flour, then letting the mixture rise naturally overnight to finally bake in the morning.

What is sourdough bread?

Simply put, it’s a bread made without the use of a commercial yeast, but with a sourdough starter or culture instead. The starter is what makes the bread rise. Generally, breads made with a sourdough starter have more flavour than yeasted bread.

Equipment required

  • 4-6 quart cast iron dutch oven with lid (or bread baker)
  • some mixing bowls
  • measuring cup
  • digital kitchen scale

How to make sourdough bread (quick version)

  1. Mix the flours (520 grams) and salt (2-3 teaspoons) together.
  2. Mix sourdough starter and water together (90 grams starter with 385 grams water).
  3. Combine all in a medium bowl, until flour is fully incorporated.
  4. Let rest 15 minutes. Stretch the dough, inside the bowl. Repeat 15 minutes later.
  5. Cover and leave to rest on the kitchen counter for 9-12 hours (at room temperature).
  6. In the morning, stretch, fold and shape. Place in a parchment-lined bowl, let rise for 1 hour in the refrigerator and preheat the oven.
  7. Score.
  8. Bake 35-40 minutes.

How to schedule sourdough bread?

  1. 12 noon: Feed the sourdough starter. 4-8 hours before you plan to mix up the dough, feed your starter (alternatively, you can use the unfed starter straight from the fridge at 8 pm).
  2. 8 pm: Mix. Mix flours and salt, and mix starter and water, and mix all into a ball. After 15 mins, stretch the dough, using the “stretch and fold” technique. Cover for 15 more minutes and repeat the stretch and fold.
  3. Proof. Cover with plastic wrap or a wet towel, to proof (rise) overnight, or 9-12 hours at room temperature on the kitchen counter.
  4. 7-8 am. Shape. Check your dough and when it has almost doubled in size, stretch, fold, and shape. Place in a parchment-lined bowl, dusted with flour.
  5. Final Rise and Preheat Oven. Place the shaped dough in the fridge for 1 hour while you preheat the oven (heating up your dutch oven or bread baker too, for 50-60 minutes at 250C) 
  6. 9 am: Place and score. Pull your heated dutch oven out of the oven. Lift your shaped dough, either flipping or lifting out by the parchment, carefully place into the hot dutch oven. 
  7. Score the bread using a sharp knife (lightly oiled) or bread lame, cutting a single slash slit into the dough, about an inch (2 cm) deep.
  8. Bake with the lid on for 20 minutes. Remove lid, lower heat to 200C and bake 15-20 more minutes, until very deeply golden. You will want it darker than you might think. Let it cool on a rack before cutting. If you like a softer crust bake covered 25 minutes, uncovered 10-15 minutes.
  9. 10 am: Bon appetite!

Making your own sourdough starter

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During the lockdown period I decided to teach myself how to make real sourdough bread from scratch. The step in this process is to make your own sourdough starter, or culture.

I will post a second part to this article detailing my attempt at preparing and baking an actual loaf of sourdough bread.

What is a sourdough starter?
Also known as a sourdough culture, a starter is a mixture of flour and water which acts as a leavening agent. Wild yeast is present in all flour and a starter is a way to activate the yeast in order to bake with it. The sourness comes from the living bacteria growing alongside the yeast in the starter.

As the starter matures the wild yeast and bacteria develop making it stronger and more complex in flavour.

Only a small amount of sourdough starter is needed to make a loaf of bread. Wild yeast works more slowly than commercial yeast so recipes made with a sourdough starter will typically take longer to make.

Making a sourdough starter is a simple process of combining flour and water, which is then subsequently ‘fed’ or refreshed with more flour and water over a period to encourage the yeast to ferment and the bacteria to develop.

Sourdough starter timeline
The process of making a sourdough starter can be lengthy (about 5 or 6 days), it is not complicated. This is the process that I have used with success.

If the process below is followed, you should be well on the way to creating you very own sourdough starter:

Day 0
125 g flour + 125 g water, stand for 48 hours.

  1. Place the flour and water in a mixing bowl and stir until well combined.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a glass jar, seal and set aside in a warm draught-free place for about 48 hours.

Variations
Rye or wholemeal flour can be substituted for plain flour for variety.

Day 2
1st feeding: 125 g starter + 125 g flour + 125 g water, stand for 24 hours.

  1. Remove and discard all but 125 g of the sourdough starter from the jar.
  2. Add 125 g plain flour and 125 g water to the jar and stir well to combine.
  3. Seal the jar and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 24 hours.

After the first feeding and rise, the starter should have risen slightly (up to 50%). Random bubbles should become visible on the surface as well as through the side of the jar indicating the wild yeast is active and starting the multiply.

Day 3
2nd feeding: 125 g starter + 125 g flour + 125 g water, stand for 24 hours.

  1. Remove and discard all but 125 g of the sourdough starter from the jar.
  2. Add 125 g plain flour and 125 g water to the jar and stir well to combine.
  3. Seal the jar and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 24 hours.

After the second feeding and rise there will be more visible bubbles but they will be smaller and more uniform.

Day 4
3rd feeding: 125 g starter + 125 g flour + 125 g water, stand until doubled in size (8-24 hours).

  1. Remove and discard all but 125 g of the sourdough starter from the jar.
  2. Add 125 g plain flour and 125 g water to the jar and stir well to combine
  3. Seal the jar and set aside in a warm, draught-free place until doubled in size (8-24 hours, depending on the strength of your starter).

After the third feeding and rise, the starter will become more vigorous and may rise by up to 100% in less than 24 hours. Bubbles will be very evident on the surface as well as through the side of the jar.

It may have quite a sour or tangy aroma.

Day 5
If the starter has not doubled in size, continue the process above and feed every 12 hours until it has doubled in 8 hours or less.

From here, the sourdough starter is considered ‘active’ and is ready for use.

Keeping your sourdough starter
Once you have an active starter it can be kept at room temperature or stored in the fridge.

If you you’re not planning to use the starter often, it is best to store it in the fridge where it will require less maintenance. To do this, just feed as instructed previously, seal the jar and then stand at room temperature for 2-3 hours (to help reinvigorate the yeast) before placing in the fridge to store.

A starter stored in the fridge will only require feeding once a week to maintain it.

Alternatively, if you plan to use the starter regularly, the starter can be stored at room temperature and will require to be fed daily at approximately the same time.

How to count macro-nutrients

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The term macro-nutrients (macros) originates from the Greek word makros, meaning large. Macros are the nutrients you require daily in large amounts.

Macro-nutrients provide the body with energy (calories) and provide the building blocks of cellular growth, immune function, and overall repair. They are:

  • Fat. 9 calories / gram;
  • Protein. 4 calories / gram;
  • Carbohydrate. 4 calories / gram.

Your body also requires micronutrients in smaller amounts, such as vitamins and minerals.

Fats
Of all the macro-nutrients, fats (and oils) provide the most energy (calories) per gram. Important for critical functions such as nutrient absorption (especially the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E & K), hormone production, temperature regulation and providing an alternative energy source (in fact, cardiac muscle cells derive up to 90% of their energy requirement from fatty acids).

Dietary fats are either saturated or unsaturated.

Saturated fats come mostly from animal sources. At the chemical level they are tightly packed and have no double bonds, hence the term saturated. These fats are generally solid at room temperature and tend to be shelf-stable for a longer period of time.

Unsaturated fats include those that are monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Chemically, these fatty acids are loosely packed and have either a single (mono) or multiple (poly) double bonds. The important Omega-3 fatty acids belong in this group. Unsaturated fats are generally in liquid form even when refrigerated and have a shorter shelf life.

The recommended daily intake is between 20-35% of the total caloric intake, although many people find optimal function and performance at higher levels.

Good sources of healthy fat include fish, meats, avocado, nuts, butter, olive and coconut oils.

Proteins
Proteins are important for the body to be able to build and repair cells and tissue structures, produce enzymes and hormones as well as regulate your immune system. Protein requirements will vary depending on individual body weight and fitness levels.

Typical recommendations for protein intake is between 15-25% of the total caloric intake.

Good sources of protein include meat, fish, poultry, eggs, lentils and diary products.

Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates provide the body with fuel. They are broken down into sugars by the body and either provide immediate energy or are stored in the liver and muscles for later use in the form of glycogen.

Carbohydrates can either be complex or simple.

Simple carbohydrates (monosaccharides and disaccharides) are made up of either one or two sugar units and can be broken down fairly quickly in the body. Simply put, blood sugar levels typically rise quickly, then drop just as quick after the consumption of simple carbohydrates.

Complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides and oligosaccharides) are made up of long strings of sugar units that take longer to break down for use in the body. Due to these longer strings of sugars, complex carbohydrates take longer to be broken down and as such, generally have a lesser impact on blood glucose levels.

In addition to providing fuel to the body, complex carbohydrates, particularly fiber, can help the body to maintain healthy digestive function and a reduction in LDL cholesterol levels.

Although high, typical recommendations for carbohydrate intake is between 45-65% of the total caloric intake.

Good sources of carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, tubers and grains.

How to actually count macro-nutrients
Use the following steps to effectively count macro-nutrients:

  1. Identify how many calories you want to eat each day.
  2. Identify the ratio of macro-nutrients that you want to consume. The current recommendations in Australia are as follows:
    • Fat: 20-35%
    • Protein: 15-25%
    • Carbohydrate: 45-65%
  3. Multiply the total daily calories by the identified percentages.
  4. Divide the calorie amounts by the macro-nutrient calorie-per-gram number.

The Example
Our case athlete is following a 2,000 calorie diet using 25% fats, 25% protein and 50% carbohydrates.

Fat (9 calories / gram)

  • 25% of 2,000 calories = 500 calories of fat per day
  • total amount of fat per day = 500/9 = 56 grams

Protein (4 calories / gram)

  • 25% of 2,000 calories = 500 calories of protein per day
  • total amount of protein per day = 500/4 = 125 grams

Carbohydrates (4 calories / gram)

  • 50% of 2,000 calories = 1,000 calories of carbohydrates per day
  • total amount of carbohydrates per day = 1,000/4 = 250 grams

From these simple equations we can determine how many grams for each macro-nutrient our case athlete should be eating per day. With the above example to achieve the goal of 2,000 calories our case athlete would need to eat 56 grams of fat, 125 grams of protein and 250 grams of carbohydrates.

Let us look at one more case athlete. Still following an 2,000 calorie diet, but following a fairly standard ketogenic nutrition plan using 65% fats, 25% protein and 10% carbohydrates.

Fat (9 calories / gram)

  • 65% of 2,000 calories = 1300 calories of fat per day
  • total amount of fat per day = 1300/9 = 144 grams

Protein (4 calories / gram)

  • 25% of 2,000 calories = 500 calories of protein per day
  • total amount of protein per day = 500/4 = 125 grams

Carbohydrates (4 calories / gram)

  • 10% of 2,000 calories = 200 calories of carbohydrates per day
  • total amount of carbohydrates per day = 200/4 = 50 grams

For ketogenic case athlete to achieve the same goal of 2,000 calories they would need to eat 144 grams of fat, 125 grams of protein and 50 grams of carbohydrates.

Two different case athletes with different macro-nutrient breakdowns and achieving the same total caloric intake.

Final thoughts
Each macro-nutrient has important role in the body, essential to optimal health and performance. Understanding how to count these macros can produce a variety of health benefits, including the improvement in the overall quality of diet, smarter food choices and portion control, which when combined with a healthy exercise program can assist in reaching specific goals including improved body composition, lean muscle growth and / or effective weight loss.

When I track my calories I have found the CRONOMETER application to be a great tool for not only tracking macros, but have found that it also tracks more vitamins and minerals than any other application on the market.

Why you should be eating summer squash

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Why it’s a superfood?

  • High in vitamin A and antioxidants (beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin);
  • Good source of vitamins B6, C, K, folate, thiamine, magnesium, manganese, potassium and copper.

Healthy evidence
An article posted in the journal Public Health Nutrition reported that squash extracts reduced symptoms of a common condition affecting older men, benign prostatic hypertrophy. The high content of lutein may also help against dementia associated ageing, as suggested by a 2010 review article in the journal Clinics in Geriatric Medicine.

Making the most of Summer Squash
Most of the nutrients in summer squash hold up well to cooking. Unfortunately, those that do not are the nutrients present in the largest amounts. The high water content and delicate flesh argue for rapid cooking with little or no liquid, such as roasting or sauteing.