Once upon a time, my friends at Upbeat sent me some lovely yoghurt protein drinks to perk up my mornings. What a wonderful time that was. Ever since that beautiful day, I’ve been living the dream with these yoghurt protein drinks and it has indeed perked up my mornings.

Hello little cool bag of delights

Hello little cool bag of delights

I never used to eat breakfast but now I cannot function without it. I suffer from runger pretty bad and so always try and get a decent amount of protein in first thing to keep me full and help with muscle building and repair. It can’t always be convenient to prep eggs first thing and I’m not quite converted to steak for breakfast so I do rely on whey protein when I’m busy. Each little bottle of Upbeat contains 20g of protein (as much as a chicken breast or four eggs!), is low in fat (for quick digestion!) and is a solid source of calcium. At under 150 calories, I’d pair them with porridge or similar at breakfast or have it as a cheeky snack to bridge the gap between meals – runger be gone!

At the moment there are two fruity flavours – Strawberry and Mango & Passion Fruit. These are both 100% verified delicious. Upbeat contains freshly filtered whey from british milk and real fruit puree. These do have 11g of sugar, but as a runner I’m not afraid of a little sugar, especially from lovely old fruit and at breakfast. Unfortunately they do contain a bit of sucralose sweetener – I try and avoid artificial sweetener where I can but it’s only a wee bit so I’m inclined to take it in my stride. If you eat well 90% of the time I figure there are worse things that can happen.

I think the Upbeat drinks are very handy and tasty ways to top up your protein levels, and would definitely recommend you giving them a go! They’re available in Holland and Barrett and Tesco amongst other places!

Thank you to Upbeat, who sent me these to try out for free but, as ever, all opinions my own.

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I’m not normally one for fat loss programmes or aesthetic goals,  but recently I think there might have been a bit of a backlash against exercising or eating to change the way you look. While I personally exercise to do cool shit (like run up mountains) and I eat to fuel that, I do not think there is anything wrong with wanting to feel confident in your own skin. I have an issue with the way media portrays and targets women’s insecurities, and with people preaching about a certain way you should look, or the promulgation of unrealistic goals and dangerous methods of aesthetic manipulation. I certainly do not think that there’s anything wrong with wanting to look good, and setting out to achieve that with realistic goals and healthy methods.  This is why, when Julia Buckley offered a chance to review her new fat loss book, The Fat Burn Revolution, I was keen to get an insight.

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I’d seen Julia’s fat loss programme gain a lot of momentum on twitter. Her participants were talking of solid results and increased energy levels (no complaints of tiredness or hunger, just increased energy and strength), and she had started and fostered an online group that encouraged and supported its members. No body bashing, no shame, just support and growth. This impressed me. The lovely Becca over at From Snickers To Marathon has been training with Julia and using her methods for over a year now, and is a big fan of the programme. Becca is a marathoner and tough mudder competitior, and I know she values and appreciates her strength and power. Becca has seen amazing results and, as well as looking absolutely fantastic, she is stronger and fitter too. Surely not a bad thing?

So, what did I think of The Fat Burn Revolution?

What does it cover?

The book covers a wide range of topics, from food, gear, metabolism, mental preparation, full boy stretches and three phases of workouts. It’s pretty comprehensive.

What did I like?

I liked the fact that food is not dictated to you – it instead lays down several sensible guidelines (cut sugar, include protein at every meal, up your veg intake etc.) and leaves the ins and outs to you. The advice isn’t ground breaking, but it’s a good set of rules to live by if you’re looking to cut body fat.

I liked the section on stretches – I thought it was very comprehensive and would be useful to any athlete, not just those following the programme. It identifies which muscles are targeted, how to carry out the stretch and things to avoid, all with photos, so it’s a pretty good little stretching bible. I also liked the section on mental preparation – an often overlooked but key part of embarking on any training regime for any purpose.

I haven’t had a chance to test out any of the workouts but they are short, sharp and require minimal equipment. Great for people who don’t have access to a gym (or who don’t want to join one) or who like to workout from home. Although I’ve not tried them, they look like they shouldn’t be underestimated! Short doesn’t mean easy. Julia also covers what to do if you miss one workout or several workouts, as well as workout safety points – ticking all the boxes!

Julia’s programme incorporates her own mantra, “mostly healthy, most of the time”. I personally try and follow the 80/20 rule to life and try not to be too rigid when it comes to diet and training, and I think this is a healthy and sustainable approach to healthy living. I like that Julia’s book promotes moderation and acknowledges that you can be committed without obsession, and thought it was refreshing to see this approach in a book dedicated to fat loss.

What didn’t I like? 

Overall I thought the content of the book was very good. I thought the e-book layout could be improved, for readability and also for purely aesthetic reasons, but this doesn’t affect all important content so I should stop being so picky. I personally don’t go in for the motivational quotes under some of the pictures (“be your own superhero”) but this may be your bag!

I didn’t really like the concept of “you wear what you eat” either (a little close to food/fat shaming for my liking) but, again, this kind of motivation could work very well for someone else.

One note on the food is the approach to carbs –  rice is described as “tasteless, cheap bulk” and starchy carbs are not part of The Fat Burn Revolution diet. Instead, Julia urges participants to full up on vegetables. While I do think that limiting carbs is a good way to lose fat (and water) I also think it’s important that this particular bit of advice is read in the context of the book. The workouts are short and sharp and are designed to blast fat and increase metabolic after burn.  In this context, filling up on vegetables is a great idea. If your workouts are longer, or you do any kind of endurance training, carbs will not be stored as fat and are an essential part of your fuelling strategy.

Overall?

I think this book is a good, easy to follow guide to losing fat healthily. I think it’s suitable for beginners (it explains everything) through to people who are more advanced (who may not need the introductory sections as much) and takes a realistic approach.

Julia’s e-book is available on Bloomsbury or in paperback and Kindle formats from Amazon. You can find out more about Julia, the programme and the results over at her website. I’d also recommend checking out Becca’s blog, as she has a whole section on posts about training with Julia, as well as this great post on a year using Julia’s method.

You can also chat with Julia and Becca over on twitter, and join in the movement using #TFBR.

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My pals over at VitHit kindly sent me some of their fruity concoctions to try out! I got one of each of these flavours:

  • Berry Boost
  • Lean & Green
  • Detox
  • Citrus Revive

They’re all made with real fruit juice, herbs and tea and have no added sugars, which all sounds like a bit of a winner to me.

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On closer inspection of the ingredients, I was impressed with the line up of healthy things packed in to the little bottles. The Detox contains two cups of green tea and a full complement of vitamins B1, B6 and B12. The Lean and Green contains two cups of Mate tea and L-Carnitine, and the Revive has two cups of white tea as well as Siberian gingseng. All of the flavours also contain 100% of your RDA for vitamin C, which is a tasty and handy way to fend off winter bugs!

One downside for me is that all the flavours I got contained sucralose artificial sweetener. I appreciate the desire to keep sugar (and calories) low, but I personally try and keep artificial sweeteners out of my system as much as possible. I think these would be much better if they were sweetened with fruit juice alone, or even stevia, to keep things as natural as possible.

Taste wise I thought they were yummy! Not out of this world get in my belly yummy, but decent tasting enough. I think the closest thing I could compare them to is Oasis.

Overall I think these are a yummy and easy way to get in a helping hand of vitamins and all the super duper antioxidants that tea brings to the table. Nice one VitHit!

VitHit drinks are available at Tesco stores and are £1.45 a bottle. You can also follow @VitHitMan over on twitter!

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I love snacks. Snacks are the best. What could make snacks better? Getting snacks delivered directly to your door. Healthy yummy snacks you don’t even have to venture to Holland and Barrett for. That, my friends, is the dream. So, when Nutribox sent me a chirpy e-mail asking if I was interested in a box of sports nutrition snacks being delivered directly to my door, I was all in for the idea.

The Nutribox describes itself as “a box of deliciously nutritious snacks all made with gluten free ingredients, delivered FREE to your door monthly. Our healthy snack box is great if you want to eat more healthily or if you are following a particular diet or lifestyle and are looking for paleo snacks, vegan snacks, sports nutrition snacks, energy snacks or raw snacks.”

Inside the lovely box of snacks, there was this array of beauties…

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I think you’ll all heartily agree this is an excellent snack selection for the discerning every day athlete. It’s all the sort of thing I would fill my top draw at work with and not feel bad about. It’s exactly the type of on-the-go snacks you can keep in your handbag for when runger strikes, or in your kit bag to have pre or post workout. I love finding healthy, nutritious packaged food that I can take with me to help me avoid making bad, caught-hungry-in-a-train-station-and-there’s-only-a-pasty-stand choices.It absolutely pained me to not be in the UK when this arrived. Luckily I have some ace (and hungry) friends who were willing to take one for the team and test the snacks out for me. Heroes. They set about testing, with several criteria, giving each snack a score out of 30. THIRTY.

The top three snacks were…

Ed’s favourite… 

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“19/30. Damn good. Liked the texture. Good flavour and crunch. Like a peanut pillow. Memory foam pillow.”

Mike’s favourite… 

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“16/30. None of us are marzipan fans. But we loved the texture. And the nuts. And the general idea of it. In another flavour*, it would have been tops.”

*I pointed out that the peanut flavour bounce ball was indeed, heaven on earth. 

Lucy’s favourite… 

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“18/30. I loved these cheeky bad boys. Juicy texture with an acid explosion? Very sour. But we loved them!”

Other snack reviews include…

The Ludlow Nut Company Trail Mix and Scarlet Pumpernel: “For both of these we think ‘pretty standard’. Not pushing the seed boundaries. They’ve just poured seeds in a bag. Mr Ludlow has failed. F for effort. He’s disqualified.”

Pulsin Protein Sport: (see my previous review here) “The boys would be happy to take it to the gym…because they don’t care about the taste. And they are in pain.”

If you fancy one of these sexy sport nutrition boxes from Nutribox then I have excellent news! Nutribox have given me a whopping 35% discount code for the first 10 of my readers to use the code ‘SOPHIE35’ in the discount boxes at www.thenutribox.com/join. What superstars. Make sure you’re quick as there’s only 10, but if there’s demand for more I will give them my best internet smile and see if they can hook us up.

Thank you to Nutribox for bringing this excellent snack box to my attention, and to Mike, Lucy and Ed for so kindly testing out its contents.

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The best thing about running in a new country is discovering all the awesome running nutrition they have on offer that you don’t get at home. I am mourning the loss of Torq (my gel of choice) and think I’ll need to make a bulk order to be shipped over, but happily embracing some new products I’ve found!

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POCARI SWEAT

I understand this is a Japanese drink but it’s freely available here and seriously cheap (AED 2.50 a can, which is about 42p). It’s an electrolyte drink with sugar and added salt. It is sweetened with natural fruit juice (good) but also corn syrup (bad) and tastes pretty salty.  Got rid of my dehydration headache (regular feature out here) a treat though!

Their website has a rad little book with lots of science-y information about dehydration, body composition and the role of electrolytes and salt in rehydration. If you’re a nerd like me it’s well worth a look.

RACE FOOD

We all know that the best running supplements are the ones that taste like sweets. Shot bloks anyone? So I was delighted to come across these little beauties – individually packaged little bits of cranberry and almond nougat! Quick and slow release sugars from dried cranberries, honey and glucose syrup, protein from egg whites and almonds as well as some healthy fats from the almonds too, they pack a well rounded nutritional punch that delivers sustained energy release.

Each little bar contains 85 calories, 15g of carbohydrate, 1.2g of protein and 2.6g of fat. They’re perfect little bite sized pieces for people like me who would like to eat as much ‘real’ food as possible but whose stomachs can’t manage a lot on the move! On my limited trial runs they’ve settled in my stomach well and I’ve noticed boosted and sustained energy – result! They’re also flipping DELICIOUS.

A little pack of 5 costs around AED 11 (about £1.85) which I think is a pretty good price. Looking forward to taking them on longer runs!

Have you ever been abroad and found running goodies you want to ship back by the trunk?

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