Sagicor SIGMA Corporate Run + Nutrition Advice and Recipe Ideas

Sagicor SIGMA Corporate Run

5K races has been a big hit in Jamaica over the past few years. Every year new charity races are formed, with many opportunities for Jamaicans to give back to a particular cause. But probably more importantly are the health and fitness trends that have emerged with this new obsession. Persons are much more concerned about their wellness, evidenced by increased sightings of joggers, yoga practitioners, and a move towards cleaner, lighter cuisines.

Sagicor SIGMA Corporate Run – The Caribbean’s largest

Sagicor Sigma LogoOne race in particular has continued to attract thousands of excited participants and raise millions over the past 15 years. Since the first staging of the event in February 1999, Sagicor’s SIGMA Corporate Run has raised a total of JMD 124.5M (approx. USD 120K) towards enhancing healthcare services for Jamaicans islandwide. The Run is a 5.5 Kilometer (3.4 mile) event that is open to runners and walkers of all fitness levels and abilities. It is different from all other road races as the focus is on company teams. With over 22,200 registered participants this year, SIGMA continues to be the Caribbean largest 5K race.  This year race will kick off promptly at 7:30 a.m. on February 16 along Kingston’s hip-strip Knutsford Boulevard, and is under the patronage of Lady Patricia Allen, World and Olympic Champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and season five winner of The Voice, Tessanne Chin.

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Check out Sagicor’s website for more race details. [Race photos courtesy of Sagicor]

Let’s Talk Nutrition

When it comes to runners’ nutrition, it can get pretty technical, especially for longer runs such as marathons and half marathons, but for shorter runs such as 5K and 10K races, it’s pretty simple. Good nutrition should be an integral part to any runner’s diet, but different foods are healthiest and most important at different times of the day. The key thing here is knowing what to eat, and when to eat it. Here are a few tips.

The night before:

You want dinner the night before to be somewhat carb-heavy (so as to carb-load your muscles) with a fair amount of protein to keep you from feeling ravenous in the morning. Ensure to make it regular white pasta or rice rather than brown. Even though whole wheat products should star in your usual fare, studies have shown that too much fiber causes intestinal distress while running. Many runners have complained about the need to go during a run. There surely aren’t any pit stops along the way for Sigma. Oh yea, please sleep. The 7-8 hour kind.

Reggae bow-tie pasta salad with tuna and sardine

Reggae bow-tie pasta salad with tuna and sardine

Check out this delicious bow tie pasta dish with protein, calcium and omega 3 rich sardines and tuna. Also, here’s a foolproof way to cook the perfect pasta every time.

The morning of:

For such a short distance, the body doesn’t really need much added energy. In fact, just a cup or two of black coffee will give you an extra boost needed to shave a few seconds (minutes) off your PR. However, because coffee’s energizing effect comes from it being a stimulant, you may need to supplement this with true energy calories. The best bet is a carb-rich fruit such as a banana or an apple, or a simple peanut butter sandwich (white bread, as whole wheat takes longer to digest) or a bagel. Skimp on the cream cheese though; excess fat has the unwanted effects of retarding digestion and can lead to intestinal distress during a run.

apple-mango-banana smoothie

apple-mango-banana smoothie

Smoothies are also a good choice as they deliver a rush of vitamins and nutrients without weighing you down. Blend a frozen banana with low fat milk and some of your favourite nuts. Whatever you do, do not stuff yourself in fear of becoming hungry during the race. Sad to say, I learnt this the hard way and almost threw up half way through one of my races. I’ll give you time to stop laughing and compose yourself. Good. Hydration is also key: you want to down at least 8 ounces (one glass) of water an hour before the start of the race.

This delicious Apple-Mango-Banana smoothie loaded with good carbohydrates and natural sugars will definitely fuel your run. Or this delectable bruschetta with gorgonzola cheese and coffee-flavoured honey.

Bruschetta with Gorgonzola Cheese and HoneyKist Blue Mountain Flavoured Coffee

Bruschetta with Gorgonzola Cheese and HoneyKist Blue Mountain Flavoured Coffee

During the race:

The only thing you should worry about during a 5K is finishing the race, and possibly mild hydration. Most runners can complete a 5K without the need to rehydrate. I surely can’t because I sweat like a farmer’s horse. There’s a proper way to hydrate. If you’re feeling thirsty during a run then you’re already dehydrated. Avoid this by making use of the water stops. There should be about 2 stops for a 5K race. You really don’t need any more than that. Sip, don’t gulp. Plain water should do the trick, but you may benefit from the added kick of electrolytes and glucose found in sport drinks. Also, room temperature is best. If you need to eat during a 5K then you should probably consider another activity. I suggest a diet.

After the race:

So, you’re on top of the world because you (hopefully) clocked your best PR. In the meantime while you wait for your buddies to cross the finish line, you want to head straight to the free food, mostly so that you can be first in line. JK. But seriously, your body is now craving all the energy, nutrients and water you’ve expended. Your best bet here are three key things: liquid, preferably a sports drink to rehydrate and to replenish lost electrolytes; carbs to restore glucose levels; and protein to rebuild muscles.

Low Fat Pak Choy Ricotta Frittata

Low Fat Pak Choy Ricotta Frittata

A good all in one is a glass of chocolate milk. Or make this quick but nutrient rich recovery shake that is sure to replenish your energy levels and kick-start your recovery process. Or, try this tasty and protein-packed low-fat frittata with ricotta cheese that will fill you up with muscle-replenishing protein.

Post-Workout Recovery Shake

Post-Workout Recovery Shake

Provided that you’ve been eating right (for the most part), you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Remember, it’s 3.1 miles, not an eternal 26.2 grueling, knee-shattering, shin-splitting, asphalt-pounding mile marathon.

All the best,

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FREE Smoothies + Grand Opening of Toss & Roll Salad Bar New Location

A few months ago I published a post on my experience at Toss and Roll, one of Kingston’s hottest and most recently opened salad bars. Since then I’ve received a number of great reviews from friends and colleagues who have eaten there, but the main concern was the location; it didn’t offer much seating capacity, and the limited al fresco set-up meant it only allowed for casual lunch meet ups. But that’s all about to change.

As was expected, things kicked off and the demand for more space, longer opening hours, and a more central location became pertinent. Just under nine months in, Toss and Roll will be relocating to 75 Hope Road (beside the recently opened Opa! Greek Restaurant) and will extend their hours to 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. The redesigned menu will feature a variety of new dishes including a breakfast fare, assorted teas and smoothies, along with long-standing crowd favourites. 

Toss and Roll New Location2 Toss and Roll New Location3

Of course, fitness junkies and owners Keisha and Jermaine Bailey have managed to keep the menu quite clean and lean with fresh fruits and veggies, whole wheat offerings, and lean meats.

Come and check out their grand opening tomorrow Saturday, January 25 and enjoy discounts and free smoothies.

Toss and Roll Grand Opening

Eat right, live better.

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Maintaining Healthy Habits During the Holidays

With the holidays fast approaching, you may (should?) be worrying about maintaining the healthy habits you’ve worked so hard to develop during the year. Never-ending Christmas dinner parties and free booze make it rather challenging to stay focused on low-carb diets and high-cardio regimes. For me, and possibly everyone else, Christmas is the time families are united over a dinner spread fit for a (ravenous) king. Moreover, who wants to be that guy who refuses the fruitcake and wine? Psshhh.

The holidays will throw every bit of temptation in your face, and sure as hell it’ll be delicious, but you can still stay winning. Here are a few tips how:

1. Be True To Yourself

If you’re planning to lose pounds during the holidays, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. Instead, try to maintain your current weight and fitness level. You’re not off the hook so easily; you have to make time for some amount of exercise. It may not be your ideal 40-60 minutes uphill sprint, but a quick 20 minutes maintenance run should do the trick in burning that extra glass of Merlot you managed to gulp down while saying your goodbyes. (C’mon, I know I’m not the only one who does this. Right?)

2. Pre-game Before Heading Out

No, I don’t mean to gulp down booze, (actually, you may want to skip this), but actually to snack on something light and healthy (some veggies, a pack of nuts, fruit) before storming out to that Christmas dinner. This will avoid being too hungry to think when you’ve arrived and not caring about what makes its way to your mouth, and ultimately to your thighs (or in my case, everywhere but).

3. Portion Control 

Portion control should be part of your regular yearlong regime, and it’s no different during the holidays. In fact, it’s even more important now that calories abound, masked by delicious and free. Eat until you’re satisfied, not until you can’t feel your ribs. Take a stroll around the buffet before you start loading your plate with every item. Choose wisely. I usually skip carbs and head straight for meats and veggies. But be careful, those too can pack a caloric punch. If you overeat at one meal, go light on the next. Portion control should also be extended to beverages, both alcoholic and not. A glass of your favourite drink can pack more calories than a dinner plate.

4. Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is probably the simplest (not necessarily easiest) strategy here. And there are a few reasons why this is important. Firstly, the body often-times confuses hunger with thirst as the symptoms (i.e. feeling weak, dizzy and cranky) are pretty much the same. Also, for people like myself whose inhibitions for booze consumption is rather minuscule during this period, staying hydrated is really vital. As a rule of thumb, to avoid dehydration for every cocktail you consume, drink a glass of water.

5. Get some Zzz’s

With all the festivities and frolic, it’s very easy to lose track of the hours and a good night’s rest. The good thing is that being the holidays, you are able to sleep in late. Nonetheless, don’t make this a habit. Your body needs a good, undisturbed 7-8 hours of sleep in order to rebuild cells and maintain a healthy immune system. Lack of proper sleep is a main cause for a host of ailments, including weight gain.

Christmas is a time for fun, family, and certainly food. But it doesn’t have to mean regret and frustration come January. Neither should it mean denying yourself your favourite holiday foods. Just be smart about it.

Happy holidays,

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Mango-Cucumber Salad w HoneyKist® Habanero Gourmet Honey Vinaigrette

Mango-Cucumber Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 full-sized east-indian mangoes (or your favourite kind), peeled, pitted and cut into 1 in. cubes
  • 1 lb. cucumbers
  • 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsps. HoneyKist®  Habenero-flavoured honey
  • 1 tbsp. smoked black sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp. sliced almonds

cubed mangoes

Method:

  1. Peel cucumber in alternating stripes lengthwise. Cut in half lengthwise and slice into ¼ pieces.
  2. In a salad bowl combine cucumbers and mango.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk honey and red wine vinegar to form a light vinaigrette. Drizzle over mango and cucumbers.
  4. Top with almond slices and sesame seeds.

cucumber and honey

This medley of bold Caribbean flavours and contrasting textures will surely leave your tastebuds in awe. Sun-ripened, naturally sweet east indian mangoes paired with refreshing, half moons of crisp cucumber slices drizzled with a light vinaigrette of tangy red wine vinegar and sweet and spicy habanero-infused honey really wakes up the tongue. For even more flavour and texture contrasts, this salad is finished to perfection with crunchy almond slices and smoked black sesame seeds. A-MAZE-BALLS!

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Eat healthy,

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mango-cucumber salad plated

(Re)gaining Control – Be the Boss of your Palate and Ultimately your Health

okra pumpkin eggplant

Okra, Pumpkin, and Eggplant, chopped and awaiting their fate. #eatclean

There’s an old adage that food is the language of love. Whilst this may be true, there’s an even greater truth to be had: food in itself is a language; and one that needs to be understood and appreciated in order to partake in the conversation.

Let’s skip back to as recent as a few years ago when I really didn’t think twice before chowing down a combo from the country’s most popular fast food chains. You know, jumbo fries, soda, mayonnaise and all. Oh yea, and extra bacon. Gotta. Have. Bacon. Why did I do it? Well, apart from the convenience and (then) affordability, it’s really what I felt for. Yup, some call it cravings, but now in retrospect I call it ignorance. Ignorance of an undiversified, uneducated, and undisputedly limited palette. You see, by limiting – however involuntarily it may seem – your palette’s exposure to foods, we are really doing our body – and health – an injustice: we limit our body’s ability to develop the language to communicate with our mind properly. I find (as Jamaicans?) we are very (too) conservative in our meal choices. We get way too squeamish, way too easy, way too often. I have one bit of advice for people like this: don’t bash it till you’ve tried it at least once. You might just discover your newest favourite dish or ingredient. Trust me on this.

Even though everyone will have a different take on the language of food, there are some key things that remain across board. Along my journey to explore the depths and heights of my palette while eating healthily, I’ve learnt a few things:

  1. Eat with an open mouth and open mind. Remember, bash not till you’ve had it at least once. Your immune system is mostly likely stronger than you think. 🙂 I am not saying to go about shoving every ill into your mouth, but if the only thing stopping you from trying it is a fear of going against the conventionality of your current diet, then by all means stuff your face with that curried turtle (Tobago) or those crunchy, nutty fried ants (Colombia). #yum 
  2. Try to discover, and possibly incorporate into your own food preparations, at least one new ingredient every month. This could range from as simple as a newly discovered spice (for example annatto seeds) or as bold as a new meat (like the abovementioned turtle.)
  3. Cook for loved ones. And aspire to inspire them with your new-found healthy takes on common dishes. NB. You might want to take it slow as not all will be as receptive as you’d hope. Don’t take it too serious though. They’ll warm up. Cooking for loved ones is more than proving your culinary prowess; it’s an opportunity to get a first hand experience at the remarkable power of food to bring people together, inspire collaboration, and form the beginning of many indelible moments.
  4. Discern the difference between eating to stay alive, and eating to, well, enjoy life. And to be healthy of course. If we slow down a bit and be mindful of what we put in our mouths we would probably be a little more cautious of the harms that are masked behind convenient, tasty, and cheap. There are many times when I’ve had to spend a few extra dollars because I chose water instead of liquid sugar (aka soda) – something I am yet to fully understand the economics behind. Or when I’ve had to pay the same price even when I didn’t take those fries or soda. Or the fact that salads almost always are the most expensive items on a menu, quantity to cost ratio respected.
  5. Become fascinated with everything food; it’s journey from farm to plate; everything in between and thereafter. Stay hungry for more knowledge. Lose yourself in the warm embrace of your kitchen (or in a good restaurant, depending on the day). Thirst for more. And more. And when you’ve think you’ve had enough, travel. You can’t possibly try every thing in your lifetime so there’s always a stone left unturned.
  6. Do you. Understand how the body, your body, responds to what it is fed. Now I am much less tolerant to carb-loaded meals and sugary drinks. I respect vegans, and as much as I’ve upped the vegetable ratio in my meals, there is no way I am prepared to give up meat. Not because I can’t, but because I don’t want to. Quite frankly there isn’t any reason to. But let’s not get too deep into this matter; that’s for another post.
  7. Get into a fitness/workout routine. I know, I know…this may sound easier said than done, and  I know most of you will immediately think you don’t have the time, or resources. But trust me, you don’t have to break the bank and join a top-notch gym, or wake up 2 hours earlier than normal to get a “proper” workout done. All you need to do is do something, and do it at your own pace. Oh yea, and try to stay committed. This may mean waking up half hour earlier to go jogging, walking to work instead, taking (an extra trip up and down) the stairs, bruk out, eh hem, eh dance to your favourite songs; whatever it takes to get your heart rate going. Now the fun part is that after you’ve started this, and if you’re any good to yourself, you will automatically begin to eat more consciously. Why? Well, for the simple fact for not  undoing the hours (minutes?) of gyrating or jogging that you gave so much willpower and time to. It’s like a chain reaction on your way to healthier, better, you.

Setting the honesty gauge to 100%, there are times when I crave the unhealthiest of things – things that have brought me pleasure in my past soda-drinking, white rice-eating life. But now I understand what those foods are, and what they do, and that maybe, just maybe, there something in that pile of loaded potato skins that my body needs.

Understanding your body and eating healthy isn’t just for those who want to lose weight or want to be part of a fitness fad. It’s much more. Think of it as another level evolutionary sophistication: knowing that you are now able to crave something else other than “comfort food”. Or better yet, that you are able to make an actual meal other than dunking something in the deep fryer.

What are some of the benefits I’ve seen personally? Well, for starters, 30+ pounds lighter; three official 5K runs averaging 30 minutes (pretty good for a one who had no prior engagement with physical activity yet alone running) with another 3 in mind before summer comes around; a renewed sense of health and fitness including my new addiction to running (we’ll get back to this later); a wealth of knowledge on food and it’s powerful ability to shape your life’s path; free products courtesy of my food blog; new and exciting friendships; and countless unforgettable moments, just to name a few.

Remember, you are what you eat.

One love,

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fruit salad

ShakeItUp – Post-Workout Recovery Shake

Shake it Up! - Post-Workout Recovery Shake

My recent (i.e. little-under-a-year) fitness lifestyle has seen me more days in the gym (straining to) lift weights, trying to beat my personal best on the treadmill, or, more often than not, hopping cluelessly from one machine to the next trying to see which muscle to tear that day. The point is, by time I get home I am pretty exhausted, and in good fitness style, it is recommended that you eat within an hour of your workout routine. For me the quickest and easiest (and possibly tastiest) way to replenish the lost vitamins and nutrients – without gorging yourself that is – is with a hearty homemade smoothie or shake.

bananasBananas provide natural sweetness and creaminess to the shake, and are a good source of a host of nutrients: potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C. They are also high in dietary fibre and low in sodium. It’s a fact that bananas are one of the most popular go-to foods when fuel is needed.

blueberriesBlueberries are a bold addition to any shake, other than turning it a rich mauvish colour. They are noted for their brain-boosting antioxidant power, high dietary fiber content, and ability help stabilize blood sugar levels. The low-calorie, immune-boosting berries also promote a healthy metabolism and recent studies have shown to help reduce belly fat. Personally blueberries are a fave, and I recently discovered that I can source them affordably at Loshusan Supermarket at Barbican Centre (see location details here.)

oatmeal rawOatmeal is star health food, known mainly for its cholesterol lowering and energy-boosting abilities.  Oatmeal also contains high levels calcium, potassium and magnesium, coupled with Vitamin B-complex. All these vitamins and minerals are very essential for the nervous system. Especially due to its high fibre and protein content, adding oatmeal to the shake provides an extended sensation of fullness, which is an added bonus for all those watching their waist (weight).

flax seeds

flax seeds

Being the number one source of omega-3s makes flax seeds a no-brainer for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. They are also a good source of protein, fiber and B-complex vitamins, and possess notable cardiovascular benefits. Sunflower seeds also add a good crunchy texture to the shake, along with key nutrients: magnesium, vitamin E, B vitamins, protein and carbohydrates.

sunflower seeds

sunflower seeds

This is just one of the many shakes I’ve whipped up in the past. You can essentially make a shake from just about any ingredient that can be blended. What would be your ideal post-workout shake?

Shake it up!

 

One love,

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