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Natural and Organic Product Expo 2013

A few weeks back I was lucky enough to attend the Natural and Organic Product Expo in London with work. It’s the leading European show for natural and organic products, and was mighty impressive. We stayed in the beautiful Kensington Palace hotel and had a lovely room with a stunning view of the Kensington park. DSCF1247

When we arrived on Saturday we headed straight to Wholefoods for lunch and a mooch around. I had a lovely soup, and stocked up on some bars and tea! In the evening we went to a dinner hosted by Solgar in the hotel, there was a great buffet with vegetarian and vegan options- the ginger and lime sorbet was amazing!

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On Sunday we headed to Olympia for the expo, basically it is a trade only show and is an excellent chance for those in the industry to chat to suppliers, new company’s and try out new and existing products. I had an awesome day, and didn’t even eat lunch as I was eating so many samples on the way around. I’ll try and do my best to recap things that stood out, there was over 500 exhibitors so I may forget some!!

There were also some great talks being held which I would have loved to attend, but I simply ran out of time as I spent too long in the food and beauty sections!

One of my favourite new product discoveries was the Aduna baobab powder. Baobab is an African fruit that is packed with goodness. It is an excellent source of vitamin C, calcium, potassium, thiamine and fibre and a good source of vitamin B6. It’s great for the skin, hair and just general well-being as well as helping support energy levels and a healthy immune system. The comparison of baobab to other superfoods like chia and hemp was striking as it was much higher in pretty much every vitamin/mineral category.

Bear were there with their delicious fruit nibbles and yoyos. I am a big fan of their yoyo’s as fuel during long runs, and I loved their new mango flavour. I had to express my disappointment though at the granola being discontinued…bring it back!!

Carley’s of Cornwall were exhibiting their excellent nut and seed butters. I am a huge fan of their raw nut butters, particularly the almond and rainforest variety’s. Their black tahini spread looks amazing too. I like making my own nut butters but for when you are short on time this is a great brand to go for.

There was loads of different coconut water companies, my favourite new discoveries were Chi Coconut water  and Cocofina. I can’t believe there are still new companies coming out all the time, the market is so saturated!

My favourite bar company Clif Bar were also at the show. They have now launched a bigger range of flavours in the UK and Ireland with choc almond fudge, white choc macadamia (the best!) and blueberry crisp available alongside crunchy pb and oatmeal raisin. I tried their shot blocks for the first and probably last time, something did not agree with me when I took them on a long run, I still love their gels though!

The most interesting guy I met at the show was Mike Bronner from Dr. Bronner’s. He discussed at length the history behind the company which was a truly amazing story. Their liquid soaps (18 in 1 purposes!!) are awesome as well as their whole host of other beauty products.

I tried the Food For life sprouted grain bread for the first time. They sprout the grains to release all those powerful nutrients and enzymes, using 18 grains and seeds from all over the world. They have yeast-free, gluten free, vegan and diabetic options to boot.

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I also checked out the stands of some of my favourite brands like Green people whose skincare products I use religiously, Happy Kitchen who make delicious wholefood brownies and KOKO who used to be Kara! I used to be a big fan of their coconut milk, but I am not so mad on all the added sugar, I prefer to make my own nut mylks lately! Superlife were also there tasting their fantastic smoothie mix and breakfast topping.

Living Naturally soap nuts was a cool product which I had never seen before. Soapnuts are the dried shells or husks from the soapberry tree. The saponin contained in these soapnuts which produces a soaping effect, is a 100% natural alternative to chemical laundry detergent and cleansers.

Another favourite new discovery was LoveChock. Lovechock is made by hand from the best organic, raw cacao from Ecuador. Instead of being roasted, the beans are cold ground. They have fantastic and really distinct flavour combinations like mulberry/vanilla, goji/orange and pineapple/incaberry.

I loved the hot ginger muscle rub from Natural Hero. It’s like a sports massage in a tube, great for those tired aching muscles, with its blend of premium grade ginger root, rosemary, starflower and sweet fennel essential oils. It also contains no parabens, no SLS and no petrochemicals.

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My favourite discovery of the weekend was Rawlicious . They have a stunning collection of raw crackers, kale chips and snackaroons. By far my favourite product though was their ultimate raw protein, it’s a rice protein (pretty much the same as Sunwarrior) but is UK based and a lot more affordable. Loved the chocolate flavour!

Zen Zen was a new dairy free ice cream made from coconut milk, it’s totally delicious, and sweetened with fruit sugar which is fantastic. Loved the chocolate one!

Other stand outs for me were Nordic naturals, I am loving their vegan Algae Omega 3. Viridian who have a new beauty tea launching soon. The usual favourites Pulsin, Bounce, the Raw Choc Company, and Chia Bia were all sampled in full!
There was also plenty of chocolate tasted, my favourites were Seed + Bean’s lavender which was insanely good and their chilli + lime which packed a real fiery punch! They are one of the very few British chocolate organic fairtrade producers in the country, using local and small scale suppliers wherever they can.
Om bars are a favourite treat of mine, though I don’t buy them often as they are super expensive. I wasn’t a big fan of their new coconut flavour it’s even milkier tasting than the existing probiotic coconut one, I just don’t like milky tasting chocolate, it has to be bitter for me!DSCF1249Last but not least is Natural balance foods whose Nakd and Trek bars I am already a huge fan of. I tried their new protein crunch bars, and new trek flapjacks. The protein crunch bars are quite nice, although I’m not so keen on soya protein. I wasn’t a fan of the new Trek bars they are far too sugary sweet and not really that filling.DSCF1250The show was great, I got loads of swag, tried far too many samples and talked to a lot of great and interesting people within the industry. There are so many brilliant natural and organic brands out there and it’s great that it’s a sector that continues to grow year on year.

Plant Based Sports Nutrition- The Basics

Sports nutrition basically is the supplementation of your additional diet with special products to ensure that physically active people are meeting the extra demands placed on their body by exercise.

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Regularly taking part in strenuous exercise increases your body’s requirements for all the basic nutrients- carbohydrates, fats, proteins as well as vitamins minerals and enzymes. People who take part in exercise regularly have much higher demands in terms of nutrients than the average persons. Hence why when the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of certain vitamins and minerals are discussed this is actually a minimum you should be getting, and active people will have much higher requirements than these numbers.

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Carbohydrates are the best fuel for energy production. They can be stored in the body as glycogen in the muscles and liver and they act as a ready available source of energy for the body during strenuous exercise. As I talked about in the previous post, there are two types. Simple carbohydrates like dried fruit such as dates and figs are great for an instant energy boost. I used those fruit leather type bars during marathon training runs as they gave me an instant hit of energy. Complex carbohydrates give a sustained energy release, things like oatmeal the morning before a longer run provide a slow release to get you through your workout. I know that if I don’t eat enough carbohydrates my energy levels are very low and I struggle through workouts.

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Protein is made up of amino acids and serves to build and repair the muscles. When we exercise the muscle must begin to break down (catabolic phase) before we can build it up (anabolic phase). Protein is essential for this building phase, and if we are lacking in protein it can cause muscle breakdown. Well planned diets (even vegan ones-surprise!) make it easy to get good amounts of protein in. Plant based sources like beans, legumes, pseudograins, nuts and seeds provide really good amounts of protein.

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Fats are also a good source of stored energy. Essential fatty acids (the good fats that our bodies need!) help with inflammation (particularly good for the joints- especially if you are a runner!) as well as helping to metabolise fats for energy. That’s right EFA’s like coconut oil actually help you to burn fat! I like to get my good fats from nuts, seeds, avocado’s, coconut products and omega oils. I used Viridian’s joint oil during marathon training, it’s a blend of seed oils as well as anti-inflammatory spices like ginger, turmeric and chillies, and antioxidants like raspberry, cranberry and pomegranate. It was absolutely amazing as I started taking it when I had really bad knee pain and it cleared it up within days!

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I personally like to use a protein powder supplement after working out just as I find it easier that way to get in high amounts of protein, as I never like eating too big a meal straight after a workout. Whey protein is considered to be the most nutritionally complete protein, but as it is dairy based I believe it creates an acidic environment in the body which leads to the leaching of vitamins and minerals, and can cause problems like bloating.

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As a vegan I use plant based proteins like Sunwarrior’s brown rice or warrior blend proteins. They contain all the essential amino acids, are very alkalising to the body and easy to digest. Amino acids like L-glutamine are essential post workout as the body becomes seriously depleted during strenuous exercise and a standard diet is unlikely to provide high enough amounts to replenish the body’s stores. I like to make a green smoothie with a scoop or two of plant protein after exercise. Protein is generally taken after exercise to repair the muscles, although there is a lot of thought about the benefits of taking it before/after workouts.

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I also like to use green foods like spirulina, chlorella and wheatgrass, they are great sources of natural plant based vitamins and minerals including the B vitamins which are great for energy levels. Wheatgrass contains all the essential amino acids and spirulina is a good source of plant based iron and protein. Spirulina is 60-70% protein (more than 300 times that of fish) and 58 times richer in iron than spinach! I know that runners especially females tend to have much lower iron stores than the general population so it is quite important to get adequate amounts. Iron is essential for energy production and metabolism. I have also just started using Sunwarrior’s activated barley which is said to be great for energy levels, so I will let you know how I get on with that.

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Another important mineral that pretty much every member of the population is lacking in is magnesium, it is vital for energy production and a deficiency can cause chronic fatigue and cramping. Leafy greens like kale are good sources of magnesium as well as nuts and seeds. Magnesium oil is great to apply externally to the body as it is really well absorbed through the skin. Coconut water is also a good source during exercise but only if the duration is less than an hour, anything higher than that requires something with more sodium such as Viridians Sports Electrolyte fix. I love to use that product during and after a particularly tough workout as it a great natural source of the minerals (magnesium, potassium, sodium and chloride) that we lose in sweat, it’s very important to replace these as otherwise it can lead to dehydration.

Other supplements I take that are related to sports are Rhodiola Rosea which is an adatogenic herb supporting the adrenal glands which can become stressed in those who do a lot of exercise leading to adrenal fatigue. I also take maca for it’s energy benefits as well as it’s nourishing effect on the adrenal glands.

Sports nutrition is a vast subject which I’ve just begun to scrape the surface of, but I hope this is of some benefit to anyone out there doing a little or a lot of exercise. Although we all think we eat the perfect healthy balanced diet, the truth is that our demand for nutrients can be a lot higher if we are active, and with high pressure lifestyles and produce lacking the vitamins and minerals it once did, supplementation becomes increasingly important. Supplementation should never be in place of a healthy diet, but just a way to top up on your levels of certain things in order to meet your body’s increased energy demands.