Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Product review - L-Carnitine Drink by Multipower

I've been meaning to write a review for this product for ages but haven't found the time so it has remained half-written for months now! :-S

I'm not generally a fan of 'sports drinks' as I see no need for them during normal (i.e. non-endurance) exercise activities, especially if you want to lose bodyfat! In my last post (Energy, fuel systems & fat burning 101) I talked about how the body generates fuel from the food we eat and briefly touched on what we need to do in order to encourage our body to lose the excess fuel that we've stored as fat.

Glucose-based energy drinks are extremely efficient fast-acting energy and fuel providers. This is because they contain simple sugars which the body absorbs immediately into the bloodstream - it doesn't even need to break them down at all, like it would if you'd eaten a plate of complex carbohydrates like rice, pasta or vegetables.

So, if you are a) engaging in a long-distance/endurance activity where you're likely to be active for well over an hour, or b) have just finished an intense weight training session and want to re-stock your muscle glycogen stores and encourage muscle repair and growth (yes, if you want to build muscle you need protein AND carbohydrates!), then in addition to a protein shake, some fast-acting muscle fuel might be just what the doctor ordered!

Personally though, I'd recommend a banana over a high glucose-drink like for this purpose, simply because of the amount of sugar it provides.

For example, take a look at these stats for a regular sized bottle (380ml, just over the size of a can of cola) of Lucozade orange:

Yes, that really *does* say 52.4g of sugar per bottle! That's more than 10 teaspoons of sugar, instant-access glucose which is going to hit your bloodstream - POW!

Bearing in mind that the GDA (Guideline Daily Amount) of sugar for a woman is 90g per day, that's quite a substantial proportion right there, over half in fact!

Do you really think you're going to use up all of that sugar? I guess it's possible but if you don't where is it going to go - yup, our primordial starvation-thwarting-mechanism will kick in and any excess will be stored as fat!

Foods like oats and brown rice release their energy slowly and over a sustained period - this makes them ideal fuel sources if you want to avoid energy dips or hunger pangs soon after eating a meal and also sugar/energy spikes too. The latter being particularly important because if we flood our bodies with too much sugar over a prolonged period of time, insulin becomes overloaded and inefficient at mopping up the excess glucose in our blood. This results in less of it being produced and/or the cells in our bodies becoming resistant to its effects, leading to type 2 ("adult onset") diabetes. Not good!!

I did recently try out Lucozade's new Sport Lite drink, and as you can see it's not nearly as sugar-loaded with a mere teaspoon per bottle:

Unfortunately however, one important thing has been left out of this 'lite' sports drink, and that is taste! It reminded me of the watery squash they serve at my son's parent's evenings, it was frankly quite disappointing!

So you can now see why I shy away from 'energy drinks'. The lighter versions taste like an over-diluted version of their original counterparts and, unless you're whippet thin and/or you're out for a 4 hour cycle or a 90 minute training run, the full-sugar versions are really not needed!

So imagine if you were to hear of an sports energy drink which worked not by providing carbohydrates for fuel, but by encouraging your body to burn its own fat stores for energy... that would be pretty cool huh?!

Well, Multipower have come up with a drink that does just that!

Introducing Multipower's L-Carnitine Drink (

If you're not already supplementing with L-Carnitine, or indeed - like me a few months ago - have no idea what on earth it is (I couldn't even spell it at first and kept typing 'l-cartinine', 'l-carnite', 'l-carniten', 'l-cartine' etc into search boxes, thank goodness for Google's "Did you mean:...."!!), here's a brief summary in simple layman's terms:

L-Carnitine is a nutrient whose sole function is help convert fat into energy.

Ah - ha! Now I have your attention right?

L-Carnitine is often referred to as a non-essential amino acid, although it is not one in the classic sense. Carnitine's role is to transport fatty acids into the mitochondria (central powerhouses) of your cells where it is then converted into energy ready for immediate use. This process provides muscular energy by burning fat, and also prevents fatty build-up around vital organs such as your heart and liver.

All the above should definitely ensure that L-Carnitine forms part of your fat burning stack, but if that wasn't enough there are also additional reported health benefits too, here are a list of some of them:

Reported L-Carnitine Benefits:

* helping reduce cholesterol and triglyceride blood levels
* decreasing fat mass
* increasing lean body mass
* improving muscular strength
* increasing energy
* reducing muscle fatigue
* suppressing appetite
* reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the so-called "bad" cholesterol) blood levels in people with type 2 diabetes
* preventing fatty buildup, especially in the heart, liver, and skeletal muscles
* helping to heal sports related injuries
* supporting the cardiovascular system
* boosting male fertility
* promoting healthy skin
* may be useful for angina pectoris, congestive heart failure, and elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels
* also used for recovery from a heart attack
* improving memory and mental capacity - may help delay the progression of Alzheimer's disease and relieve senile depression and other forms of dementia, and improve memory in the elderly.

(please note that the benefits reported above may not all have been proven by clinical trials)

This is just a collection of the widespread health benefits I have read since researching into L-Carnitine (I've included a few links for further reading) and studies are ongoing as to just how beneficial this nutrient actually is but it all sounds terribly exciting to me!

At the most basic level I am obviously very interested in L-Carnitine's role in fat mobilisation to cells for energy so I was keen to try it out, here are my observations:


I love the slim sports bottle. The actual top of the bottle is foil sealed for extra freshness and it's got a proper sports cap.


I tried the pineapple flavour L-Carnitine drink and absolutely loved it. It's fruity and tangy and not a bit too sweet or sickly - there is enough flavour there to satisfy, in fact it's really very moreish! It's hard to believe there are less than 10 Calories a bottle!


Before my ankle surgery, I was drinking Multipower's L-Carnitine drink before heading down to the gym for cardio sessions at lunch and also 30 minutes prior to my boxercises classes. I really felt that it helped with energy levels, especially during boxercise which was fabulous as at the time I was on a reduced carbohydrate diet and my energy levels had dipped somewhat - I didn't notice this happening after taking the drink though so that has to be good news!

My body fat was reduced at the time, but because I'm not a scientist I cannot say whether that was solely due to the L-Carnitine drink as my activity levels were high and my calories were relatively low. However, since L-Carnitine plays such a key part in fat mobilisation I'm hopeful that it contributed to my fat loss.


The only bugbear I have with Multipower is the fact that they sell their products in such huge packs, their L-Carnitine drink is no exception to this and you have to buy a minimum of 24 bottles at a time. If you buy bigger quantities you pay less... but I'd really like to see an option to buy a pack of 12 and I think that would encourage more people to do likewise as there's not such a large initial outlay. A mixed pack would be good also, can't wait to try the cranberry flavour!

Price-wise, it's about 50p more expensive than a bottle of Lucozade Sports Lite but seeing that I think more than £1 is far too much to pay for a little sugar and electrolyte water that tastes like weak squash, I'm more than happy to pay the extra!

Plus you get the 1,000mg of L-Carnitine it provides and the the far superior taste... and bottle for that instance - the Lucozade has one of those annoying semi-sealed latex openings (like a bottle teat) such that you have to practically crush the bottle with your hands and suck to the point of goldfish-cheeks just to get any liquid out, which means you end up inhaling a load of air! *Not* a good look for anyone I might add ;-)

L-Carnitine naturally occurs in red meat and other animal source foods, but you'd have to eat over a kilo of beef before you could match the quantity in one bottle of L-Carnitine drink! Oh and unlike 'normal' sports drinks that you see people gulping down mid-exercise, Multipower's L-Carnitine drink should be drunk about 30 mins or so before you engage in any physical activity so that it can get to work before you do!

I think that's it for now, this was only meant to be a brief review but as you can see it's turned out to be anything but!

I'll leave you for now with some links at the bottom to browse if you're after any more information on L-Carnitine and its health and/or fitness benefits.

Bye for now, stay strong!



Links relating to L-Carnitine that may be of interest
(Please note that I am not responsible for the content on any of these sites or their accuracy)

Fitness & Fat Burning Information Links

Potential Health Benefits of L-Carnitine

Friday, 11 February 2011

Energy, fuel systems & fat burning 101

This post originally started out as a product review, but as I got carried away (which I'm sure you all know I often do while blogging!) with the science behind both the storage and production of energy as well as the process of fat burning, that it kinda metamorphosed into one super-long post!

So I thought I'd split it out into two posts, the product review and the science part.

Here's the latter:

Energy In

When you eat a meal containing carbohydrates, they are broken down to form glucose , which is often referred to as "blood sugar".

As glucose is a monosaccharide, or "simple sugar" as it's commonly known, it passes straight through the wall of the small intestine and into the bloodstream. It is here that the hormone insulin, which is released by the pancreas when it detects an increase of glucose in the blood (i.e. after a carbohydrate-rich meal), facilitates the transport of glucose to the liver and muscles where it undergoes a storage process called glycogenesis, during which time the glucose is converted into glycogen (see pics below - click for larger image) and stored in the liver (for blood sugar regulation) and skeletal muscles (for energy).

In the event of a surplus of glucose in the blood (i.e. the glycogen stores in your muscles and liver are full to capacity, and glucose is not immediately required for energy), instead of ferrying the glucose to your liver and muscle cells, insulin encourages the body to convert glucose to fat and store it adipocytes (fat cells) as adipose tissue (AKA "body fat"). This feature has earned insulin the nickname "the fat storage hormone", which is unfortunate as storing fat is not its sole purpose!

This ability to store surplus food as fat is a fabulous feature of the human body. Fat is a relatively metabolically inactive tissue that exists in a mainly anhydrous (water-free) environment. This makes it light and requiring very little effort or energy from the body to maintain it - this is in stark contrast to our muscles which are a lot more dense and store as much as 3g of water for every 1g of glycogen! Also, one gram of fat provides the body with 9 Kcals (Calories) of energy (which is more than double the energy provided by a gram of carbohydrate), and this equates to a whopping 3500 Calories of energy available to us for every pound of fat present on our body.

Human beings would not have been able to survive as a race if we didn't have this storage feature available to us. When food is plentiful we store it easily as fat and carry it around with us - literally on our person - far more effective than storing it in a fridge! When our bodies detect that we are consuming less Calories than needed to run efficiently, we are then able able to tap into our 'mobile larder' and utilise some of our fat stores.

This human larder feature was great back in the days before the agricultural and industrial revolutions, but the simple fact is that is that in these modern times, where food is plentiful and portion sizes far exceed our nutritional needs, we do not have to worry about preparing for "feast and famine" situations. Unfortunately our bodies don't seem to have cottoned onto that fact yet! :-)

Energy Out

When we exercise, the opposite to the storage process (glycogenesis) that I mentioned above occurs and a process called glycolysis takes place during which adenosine triphosphate (ATP), is produced.

Often referred to as the body's "energy currency", energy is released when one of ATP's phospate bonds breaks off resulting in ATP reverting back to ADP (adensosine diphosphate - i.e. 'tri' becomes 'di')

During the first 20-30 minutes of aerobic activity, the body will primarily be using up its stored glycogen supplies to provide energy for your workout. After that it will look to other sources for glucose and it's at this time that it will recruit your fat stores. That is, unless you were to recently have drunk - or be drinking - a sugary/glucose-rich energy drink as your body will immediately take advantage of the instantly accessible glucose in your bloodstream and turn to that to provide the energy for your workout, and who could blame it?

Fat burning

In order for us to lose bodyfat we need to persuade our bodies to use it as an energy source i.e. as its fuel.

Normal metabolic processes like cell reproduction, brain functionality, breathing, pumping blood throughout the body etc all require fuel, and so it follows that if we consume fewer calories than we use during these processes we create a deficit which leads to - yup, you guessed it - fat loss!

Examining ones diet should really be the first port of call for anyone wishing to lose weight - after all, comparatively, the time you spend exercising during the day vs the time you are not is pretty minute. Because of this, it's really Calories you burn when you're *not* active that matter more than the ones you burn when you are - hence the need for an overall Calorie deficit as mentioned above.

That being said, it's not as cut-and-dried as that, because there are so many different factors that affect the rate at which your body burns calories and/or stores fat, a few examples being:

* stress levels
In the same way that insulin is referred to as the "fat storage hormone", cortisol, one of our key "fight or flight" hormones, is also demonised by the diet industry. Cortisol is a very useful and necessary hormone so long as the perceived 'threat' that led to its secretion is alleviated as soon as possible.

Scientific studies have linked chronic stress to a number of health issues including high blood pressure, digestive complaints, inflammation, skin problems, impaired reproductive functionality, increased heart rate, increased abdominal fat... the list goes on!

Also, due to its catabolic nature, cortisol also encourages your body to break down body tissue (including precious hard-earned muscle which we *really* don't want!) and reduces bone formation!

As if all that wasn't bad enough, cortisol also increases your appetite too, which is another undesirable side-effect that can make resisting temptation during dieting even more difficult!

All in all, you really want to keep your stress levels as low as possible. In today's busy working world that may be incredibly difficult. However there are things we can do to help reduce our levels like taking time out even if it's just for 20-30 minutes, ensuring we get a good night's sleep, watching a funny movie or participating in some sort of physical exercise.

* alcohol
Your body cannot store alcohol so it uses it for fuel, and continues to do so until it it has all been removed from your bloodstream.

While your body is doing this it is not recruiting any other fuel sources which means that if you're eating a big meal and enjoying several large glasses of wine with it, you may well find that more of it gets stored as fat than would have done had you not been drinking. It's also worth noting that as alcohol is such a great disinhibitor you often find that the more drunk you get, the less likely you are to make healthy decision when it comes to food!

My advice would be to avoid drinking alcohol in large amounts as much as is possible, however I realise from my own experience that this isn't always easy to stick to so if you're out on a big night out, why not hit a club/late night bar and try and incorporate some dancing into your evening to burn off those excess alcohol calories that way :-)

* general state of health
If you are unwell your body will tend to focus its efforts towards fighting the cause of this illness/infection and might end up shutting down/reducing functions that require more energy like hair/nail growth, building new (and sustaining existing!) muscle etc...

* food types

If you consume a decent amount of protein in your meals you'll use more energy processing it than you would carbohydrates or fat so your net calorie intake is reduced.

This also means that your body takes longer to process your meal, which results in your feeling fuller for longer.

* fitness levels/body composition
As well as paying attention to your diet, it is also important to consider the benefits of exercise and strength training for burning body fat. Not only does exercising burn Calories, it is also the case that fitter you are, and the more muscle you have on your body, the greater the number of Calories your body will burn throughout the day, even when you're sitting down reading blog posts! :-)

Gaining extra muscle also helps to strengthen bones as the more you have, the more force you exert on your bones (onto which your muscles attach) causing them to grow stronger to cope with the added strain. Running is also hugely beneficial for increasing bone density because of the high impact it produces.

So after taking all the above into consideration, how do we encourage our bodies to burn fat as a fuel during exercise?

Well, in order to 'tap into' your body's fat stores you need to first have used up your body's supply of the more easily attainable glycogen.

Here are 2 popular methods I've heard of that exploit muscle glycogen depletion to promote fat oxidation:

1) Aerobic/cardiovascular "cardio" activity performed on an empty stomach (e.g. first thing in the morning before breakfast).
Commonly known as "Fasted Cardio" this is very popular amongst those wishing to utilise their fat stores for fuel while exercising because of the absence of glucose in the blood. The theory is that once the body has burnt through its supply of intramuscular glycogen it will turn to its fat stores.

It is important to take on board carbohydrates and proteins as soon as possible after this exercise though to avoid low energy levels throughout the morning.

The efficacy of Fasted Cardio provokes many differences of opinions, especially among bodybuilders! Here's an interesting article from the fabulous T-Nation site.

2) Performing cardio after a weight-training session.
During a 'traditional'/'classic' weights session, e.g. lifting heavy weights for short periods of time, you will primarily have been exercising anaerobically (during which time the body will *only* be burning glycogen or glucose as neither fats nor proteins can be processed in the absence of oxygen). If you follow up a 30-45 minute weights session with some low-intensity cardio you can pretty much guarantee that you'll be tapping into your fat stores for fuel.

Whether or not this method is indeed useful in assisting with fat oxidation, it is generally the approach I take when incorporating both strength and cardiovascular training into one workout, as I find that aerobic exercise tires my muscles out such that I wouldn't have as effective a weights session were I to tack it onto the back of a cardio one.

The subject of fat burning during exercise and its various methods (HIIT Vs SSC, fasted cardio Vs fueled etc...) does seem a contentious one with many people having differing opinions as to what's effective and what's not. As everyone's bodies behave in different ways I think it important for you to try a variety of methods and settle on what you feel provides the best results while keeping you healthy and energised.


Lastly, I just wanted to go back to the subject of taking on additional sugar during exercise and I would like to point out that I am not saying that we should never consume carbohydrates during cardio activity. Continued carbohydrate refueling is of paramount importance during endurance sports such as running/hiking/cycling etc, this is because:

a) muscle glycogen can only be used to produce energy for muscles, it cannot be used to regulate blood sugar levels as this is the role of the glycogen stored in the liver, and so

b) in the case of complete liver glycogen and glucose depletion your body will enter a state of hypoglycemia which brings with it unpleasant (and potentially life-threatening!) side-effects.

This is definitely *not* what you want to encounter 90 minutes into a training run or cycle, the latter being the most dangerous given how far 90 minutes of cycling can take you before you 'bonk' or 'hit the wall'.

It is worth noting, however, that the the better condition you are in, athletically (i.e. the more 'trained' you are), the greater the volume of glycogen your muscles can store, which is one of the reasons why elite runners and cyclists can go further without 'hitting the wall' than ordinary athletes. Add to this the fact that the fitter you are aerobically the more adept your body becomes at utilising fat for fuel and this fully illustrates why all endurance athletes (and not just people who train for strength and/or aesthetics) should incorporate strength training into their workouts and make muscle hypertrophy - as well as cardiovascular fitness training - a priority!

I myself am prone to hypoglycaemic (low blood sugar) episodes which manifest in the form of nausea, shaking, dizziness, feeling uncomfortably hot and going deathly pale. In these instances the only thing for it is a can of full-fat coca cola - eughh! Does the trick though. I'd like to add that I haven't had one of these episodes in ages since I started ensuring that I eat breakfast every morning without fail, which leads me onto another point I'd like to make about carbohydrate.

The anabolic regeneration of your body that takes place during sleep requires a great deal of fuel to facilitate it. This is what results in the depletion of your glycogen stocks, so to even consider starting your working day without taking any carbohydrate on board is probably not the best choice to make.

Glucose is food for our brain, and because it cannot store it in the same way that the muscles and liver can, it relies on there being a steady stream of it in the blood. So don't starve your brain!



So there you go, I've found this all so interesting that I do feel like I could write the same amount of text twice over again still!! I think that I should really stop here though, before I get even more carried away :-)

I do hope that you have found this post to be informative (if perhaps a bit long-winded!), I know I've certainly had loads of fun researching and writing it :-)

In fact, I found researching the individual topics so enjoyable that yesterday I spoke to my other half about possibly completing a course in Human Nutrition and he's in agreement that I should go for it! So I'm actually going to add another string to my bow and complement my Level 2 Gym Instructor qualification (and forthcoming First Aid certification) by completing a Certificate in Nutrition and Weight Management. I haven't decided who with just yet as the same qualification seems to vary considerably in price across the different fitness qualification providers and there also seem to be a few different award bodies too... it's all a little confusing!

You see, I've harboured a dream to become a dietician/nutritional advisor for almost 15 years! When my son was born he was almost 7 weeks early and quite jaundiced. Because of this I ended up spending about 2 weeks in King's College Hospital, London while he recovered enough to be sent home and while I was in hospital I was assigned a dietician who was just wonderful. I ballooned in weight to over 200lbs when I was pregnant and after I gave birth I was constantly ravenous and didn't find the hospital meals nearly substantial enough. I was clearly very overweight but she didn't judge me at all, just just made sure I had enough to eat to keep me happy and even brought up extra wholemeal bread sandwiches. She was a doll and I dearly wish I remembered her name. This lovely dietician had such a profound effect on me, that to this day I still feel indebted to her kindness and wish I could tell her how grateful I was and indeed still am.

I still have this dream to become a registered dietician myself. However, to become fully recognised by the British Dietetic Association, I'd need to complete a degree course in Human Nutrition & Dietetics and that would require me to a) complete a science course first as I have no A-Levels and b) leave my job as I can't seem to find any that are part time! (b) is not possible as we have an expensive mortgage!!

That being said, the university from the first link (London Metropolitan University) does another nutrition degree course (Human Nutrition BSc) which doesn't require you to study full time but doesn't have the dietetic element.

This course is accredited by The Nutrition Society and successful completion results in admission to the Register of Associate Public Health Nutritionists. This article from the government's 'Next Step' website is very helpful and informative. The role of a nutritionist sounds a very interesting one indeed, especially with the option to participate in scientific studies.

All food for thought as they say and if I'm honest I'm very excited about the future. Although fitness training is - and always will be - hugely important to me, it's the science of food that really floats my boat. I know that I want to specialise in nutrition, it's where my heart and real interest lies, and one day I know I'll get there, I just have to explore the various avenues I might need to pursue in order to reach my goal.

Okay, I really will stop writing now, I think this is the longest post I've ever made - eek!

So it's bye for now, stay strong & healthy, until next time


Thursday, 3 February 2011

4 Weeks post-surgery recovery update

Wow, that's a catchy title eh? Sounds like the title of a medical paper, hmmm

Okay how about:

The Adventures of Tara and her new-improved-NON-wooden foot!


Yes dear readers, today for the first time in weeks Tara actually has mobility in her right foot - huzzah! I hadn't realised how stiff the whole joint was until today when I attempted to point the toes on my right foot in line with my left and could only get about halfway between fully-flexed and pointed (i.e. 'good toes' vs 'naughty toes' ballet style....) - not good!

Now however, thanks to the fabulous Graham Anderson (who has been my long-suffering physio since I took my first injury-prone steps into the world of running back in 2004), from Balance Physio (in Clapham, London), I now have almost full flexion and I can actually walk without a limp - double huzzah!

I also have some good calf stretches to do, plus a plethora of specific resistance band exercises to boot - all of which I found spectacularly difficult today given the state of my poor withered calf and quads... yes, atrophy has set in big style!! It's heart-breaking really, can't stand seeing good muscle go to waste but what can I do... It's only been this week when I've really been able to put weight on my right foot and that's still only slight...

...and don't get me started on the hand blisters!! You'd think that after using crutches solidly for weeks my hands would adapt, but in fact every day hurt even more than the previous!

Positives though... (and we should always look to the positives during times of discomfort) my lats are *hugely* stronger following my brief sojourn to the land of two crutches and zero right leg weight!! The movement is similar to that of gymnasts on the Olympic Rings. Also, my left leg was my weakest - not so any more!! Likewise my left glutes, not good either or calf for that matter. Now that I've become one-legged-peg or Herr Flick as my other half has so affectionately named me!! Those of you who are too young to remember... of for whom 'Allo 'Allo regrettably (or perhaps thankfully!) passed you by, Herr Flick was a member of the Gestapo who possessed a rather unfortunate limp... I might be able to find a video of it, hang on...

ahh yes, here we go, 'tis I!

well, according to my ever loving(??) boyfriend anyway! Although not any longer!

So yes, I've got the resistance band exercises as well as a rather nifty one somewhat akin to a leg press but not so as obviously I am unable to use that machine right now!

It's kind like this - you lie on your back with one foot (not two like in the picture) pushed against a swiss/stability/gym (whatever you want to call it!) ball and push deep into the ball.

This way I'm working my glutes and my quads (as long as I don't turn my knee in which is something I got picked up on!), but not to the cost of my recovery as it's not fully body weight - I obviously can't exert the same force pushing through my foot as I could if I were pushing against a weight stack or even my own bodyweight (think step-ups which are a no-no!!).

This exercise also has the added advantage of increasing stability in my hips as it's a unilateral move and I have to work to keep the ball from rolling away from underneath my foot!

The only disappointment during the session was that Balance's ultra-cool Alter-G anti-gravity treadmill:

was unfortunately out of use at the time I went so I wasn't able to don the spectacular Alter-G Shorts... which remind me of Wallace & Gromit for some reason...


...and basically run in an air bubble at a fraction of my bodyweight!

Boo :-(

I am however booked in next week for some more physio advice, ankle manipulation and fun on the anti-gravity treadmill too - whoop! Very excited, it'll be the first time I've moved faster than a lolloping limp/slow dragging walk in almost 5 weeks!!

Good gosh! I've peaked too early I'm afraid... I was meant to tell you my recent news in chronological order and the like but have totally screwed that up so I guess I'll rewind a bit and enlighten you on my slow progress to date since I last offered some rambling text up to you all a couple of weeks ago. Okay, let's go back, waaaay back...

In fact, this might be helpful - here's an surgery time-line for you:

07/01/2011 - Arthroscopic surgery of the right ankle

08/01/2011 - Home for 2 weeks rest

10/01/2011 - First day on my own since the surgery, had to negotiate stairs on my own and solve such complex puzzles as how to get a full cup of coffee through from the kitchen to the living room when you're on two crutches and can only put one foot down. (Click here for ingenious solution ;-) ). Lunch items such as soup were also a bit of an enigma... *whyyyyy* did I think soup was a good idea to buy pre-surgery, I wasn't sick, just incapacitated! The answer to this problem was to decant said soup into a (tightly sealed!) tupperware box and carry in a bag on the arm of one crutch... (I avoided soup as much as possible during the two weeks I had off work!)

14/01/2011 - first attempt at gentle post-surgery exercise

16/01/2011 - second attempt at gentle post-surgery exercise

18/01/2011 - The *first* time I was able to put a small amount of weight on my right foot without feeling like I would scream... yes, a whole 11 days later!!

20/01/2011 - Dressing, padding and surgical wrapping removed (so first day I was able to move my foot at all post-surgery)... heel started feeling less numb a few days later.

Having all the wrappings removed was rather a relief, not least because of the increased mobility, but also because I'd been terrified that my ankle was actually *as* swollen as it appeared with all the bandages on!

It turns out it was a lot less so and my 2 weeks of careful rest has resulted in an ankle my surgeon was actually very pleased with!

The dimpling is from the clever gauze stuff they had between my skin and the padding to draw away any bleeding (if present) from the skin... rather like running technical t-shirts... wicking material, v clever! The dots on the right side of my foot are where my surgeon marked out my nerves for reference during the operation and I'm pleased to report that they're all still intact!!

Oh and please forgive the dreadful toenails... I'm not a terribly girly girl, so on the rare occasion that I painted my toenails for the UKBFF Stars of Tomorrow show last year I a) bought cheap nailpolish not realising it really made difference, and b) didn't take it off for yonks.... ooops, hence stained toenails - oh well... It's a good job my boyfriend doesn't have a foot fetish really!

Oh, while I was at my post-surgery appointment I was shown the pictures from the operation that they took inside my foot.... HUGELY exciting for me, I got to keep them too (after asking nicely!), looky here!

IMG_001 shows the bit of cartilage - the OCD (Osteochondral Defect) - that had partially broken off and was flapping about and 'catching' when I performed twisting movements like in netball or put my weight on my foot while it wasn't in a stable flat position - i.e. wearing heels or standing on tiptoe. IMG_006 also shows the same thing (I think!). In IMG_005 you can clearly see the lump of inflamed tissue that was also present in my ankle that Mr Davies removed. Not sure about the other pictures though to be honest, not that great at making sense of medial ankle images!

22/01/2011 - first time walking on both feet (albeit obviously mega-crutch-assisted!), the previous day and a bit had been spent feeling like someone had beaten me about the ribs and back because of the muscle ache from all the work on both crutches going to and from the foot and ankle centre! I also managed another gentle workout this day - picture update to follow soon (fingers crossed!)

24/01/2011 - first day back at work, very much enjoyed someone else doing the cooking at lunch time and managed an upper body workout straight after work. However I only took one crutch with me. Error. Ankle horribly sore and swollen by the end of the day:

25/01/2011 - had to take day off to rest and ice my ankle. Very pleased that I did though and didn't just try and man it up and go to work as it felt remarkably better the next day :-)

26/01/2011 - 28/01/2011 spent the rest of the week using both crutches and hardly putting any weight at all on right foot as a precautionary measure.

29/01/2011 - Worked my shoulders in the day time and then went to the dog track in the evening (as you do!), being on crutches did prove particularly useful as I was the only one of our group who was able to get a seat! Also won some money too which is always nice :-)

31/01/2011 - lamented the fact that it was the end of January already and reflected on how old that revelation made me feel. Spent a little too long in the supermarket after work and foot felt incredibly achey as a results... lots of ice that night

01/02/2011 - can it really be February already?! Foot felt a lot better, ice at night again

02/02/2011 - foot felt terrible - how unpredictable can one's recovery be?! More ice that night

03/02/2011 - physio appointment! So back to the start we go!

Oh, I forgot to mention earlier that I bought some new heavier ankle weights! They're quite nifty in that they've got individual pockets each containing a 1kg weight:

They are however very cumbersome and unwieldy but I guess that's to be expected at such a weight! I have therefore had to 'cap' the ends (e.g. the part near my fragile ankle!) with my lighter weights to prevent them slipping down and hurting the joint...

... I can attest to the fact that it's not the most aesthetically pleasing solution to this exercise dilemma, but it's pretty effective and as I'm the only one who sees me when I work-out at home, I don't really care either way! ;-)

So that *almost* concludes this update for now! In true Tara fashion I've probably blabbered on far too much but I do hope you've stuck with me :-)

Although I'm obviously not able to do any cardio or lower leg weight training like squats, lunges etc, I'm still keeping up my upper body and core work and I'm feeling very excited about the coming year's competitions during 2011. I couldn't find a list of all the forthcoming bodybuilding, figure, fitness, bikini etc competitions and contests for 2011 where everything was all in one place so I put one together myself.

You can find it here:, I hope it's helpful, it certainly is for me to have all the federations and shows together in a single point of reference!

I had really hoped to do the Muscle Mania/Fitness Britain Show in April this year but realistically I think that might be a bridge too far in terms of it being so close to my surgery so I'm thinking May at the earliest would be for the best. I definitely want to do FAME UK again, it's very expensive but I really enjoyed the experience last year (if you've not seen my pics then here's a link to the album on facebook :-) ). It's funny looking back at pics that are that old, I'm not sure I'd go on stage now if I looked the way I did then - not that I looked 'bad' per se - just not nearly lean enough!

At the moment I'm trying to organise my life as much as possible in terms of scheduling my training in (I trained my tris and bis after work today, was a great session, I felt super strong!).

I'm also cleaning out my diet as much as possible. The only real weakness I can see is alcohol. I don't eat sweets, chocolates, cakes, crisps etc, nor much pasta, bread etc as I prefer to get my carbohydrates from rice/quinoa and vegetables as much as possible.

So for now I've cut out all drinking at home and am limiting myself to when I'm out socialising. We've got friends over next week though so will doubtless have a glass or two of red wine but not much more than that as it's a school night! However, closer to my first show I'm pretty sure I'll cut out the alcohol altogether, I just won't have room for it in my macros!

My protein is quite high at the moment as I'm trying to keep the weight down while I'm so inactive and lose as little muscle as possible. My macro ratios are about 50/30/20 - although my protein was higher today as I had a weights session. I'm really pleased with how things are going, I've actually lost weight recently but bizarrely I'm not pleased about that as I'm pretty certain it's all muscle that has gone from my right leg!

Okay, I'm waffling here, I need to post this and go to bed but I'm super keen to update again soon and also post a few reviews as I've been working my way through the Multipower range and I'm itching to tell you about what I've tried so far, I'm really impressed!

I'm also hoping to start video blogging - vlogging? that must be right, ha! I figure that it would take me a lot less time to waffle into a webcam that it would to type this random stream of consciousness that erupts from my brain at arbitrary intervals. Finding anyone to *watch* it however is a different matter so we'll see how that goes shall we ;-) You'd watch my vlogs wouldn't you? x

Bye for now, stay strong