My Protein Project – The Art of Supplementation

MaximuscleI am now entering the third week of my muscle hypertrophy phase, fifth week of my Maximuscle Protein Project . The last couple of weeks have been a little tougher as the excitement dwindles and the 5.40am starts become slower. Nevertheless I’ve kept going and feel much more confident in the gym, seeing great progress in terms of the weight I can lift.

George-NorthThe results I am seeing can be attributed, in part, to my work in the gym but that work would count for very little without the changes to my diet. I have done training plans in the past but never paid such close attention to my diet and I have never taken protein supplements to support my training. The difference is remarkable.

In a recent article in The Sun George North, British & Irish Lions’ star, discussed the importance of protein within his training and recovery. North is quick to point out that supplements are not specifically for elite athletes, they can benefit any person with any level of exercise providing you understand when and what to take. I have certainly felt the benefits of the supplements I am taking. In comparison to previous gym efforts I’ve gained more muscle, I am recovering more quickly from each session and my strength is improving week-on-week. It’s fantastically rewarding seeing continued developments so quickly.

The world of supplementation, however, can be incredibly daunting. What products do I need? When should I be taking them? Do they actually work? Luckily for me I’ve had the experts at Maximuscle, our client, to call upon. My problem from the off is that I am allergic to whey, the fundamental ingredient in all protein supplements. You’d think that was game over. Speaking to the team at Maximuscle, however, I’ve been able to re-work my plan.

I am now taking MaxiRaw Casein as my main protein shake. This is then supported by a MaxiRaw Primary BCAAs drink during my workout. These two supplements support my muscle repair and growth in the same way a Maximuscle Promax shake would. On top of that I am also adding a serving of MaxiRaw Creatine Charge to one of my protein shakes. Creatine, in layman’s terms, supports the growth of muscle mass and can be found in the Maximuscle Cyclone range.

Protein-PancakesMy advice to you, when it comes to buying supplements, is to have a clear goal in mind. The aim for the first six weeks of my Protein Project is to gain size and strength hence I have introduced creatine and I am taking two shakes a day. Following the six weeks growth I will do four weeks in which I try to strip fat at which point I’ll stop using creatine and take one casein shake a day. Different whey protein supplements will support different training goals, make sure you match them up.

Also, there is no need to go mad with buying loads of different supplements. If there is another supplement that supports your goal then include it, for instance Maximuscle Promax Lean can be supported by using Thermobol in a fat loss training plan but it is not essential.

Finally, protein supplements are exactly what they say they are – supplements. They are not meal replacements. Be sure to get your diet right first and then support that with the protein supplements. They are a brilliantly convenient way to ensure you are taking on the right amount of protein at the right time. Mine also taste great and provide me with a daily treat. You can use the protein powder to create a whole host of awesome snacks, I attempted Protein Pancakes this weekend, you can find more recipes here: http://www.maximuscle.com/nutrition/high-protein-recipes

My Protein Project – Preparation is Key

Week three of my Maximuscle Protein Project and things are going really well. As I mentioned last week, I’ve been through two weeks of strength and conditioning and have just started the muscle hypertrophy phase.

Training-PlanMy DOMS phase is decreasing as my body gets used to being worked, allowing me to train harder and, thankfully, walk properly. What has been most noticeable since the start is that I feel like I’m starting to get into a rhythm with my routine both day-to-day and in the gym. This routine has been born from strict preparation.

Everyone in PR knows how important it is to plan and be prepared for events, campaigns, meetings, pitches and just about every element of the job. I decided I should use this professional skill to aid my protein project. My aim from the start has been to show that anyone can change their body or fitness levels around their hectic PR life and here are my top tips for how to do so:

  • Weekly Shop: I have found this is the most cost and time effective way of sticking to my meal plan. Every Sunday I’ll head to the supermarket and buy enough food to suffice for all dinners, lunches and snacks for the week. My weekly shop generally costs £60 – £70 (for two people). Not only does this make it easier to stick to a healthy diet as you get home and already know what you’re having for dinner, it also stops you buying £7 lunches and prevents the temptation of snacking on ‘bad’ foods during the day.
  • Cook in bulk: If you’re lunch menu consists of a few portions of chicken, or foods that need to be cooked, cook them on Sunday so it’s ready for the week.
  • Use your energy: If, like me, you like to ‘switch-off’ when you get home, make sure your get prepared before you start to relax. Use the left-over energy you have from the working day and as soon as you get in the door, get the dinner on, pack your gym bag, make your lunch and have everything sitting by the front door ready for tomorrow.
  • Know your stuff: check your gym plan before you get to the gym. Make sure you know exactly what exercises you’re going to do and how to do them. There is nothing worse than wasting time in the gym by lingering between exercises.

Lunch-BoxThese tips may seem elementary but knowing this is what you should do and actually doing them is a different thing. Preparation not only saves time but it alleviates the possibility of quitting. If your bag is packed, your lunch is ready and it’s all waiting for you by the front door, why wouldn’t you get up and go to the gym? If you wake up and still have all of that to do, turning the alarm off and rolling over is definitely the more appealing option.

For me, being prepared makes it easier to stay dedicated.

My Protein Project – Setting a Base

The start of any training regime can be daunting. A lot of people struggle with the notion of where to start – I know what I want to achieve, I know how long I want it to take but how am I going to get there?

Protein-Project-LogoI have now completed two full weeks of my Protein Project and will share how I have targeted the start of my training plan. The last fourteen days have been focussed on strength and conditioning, getting my body used to going to the gym again. In my opinion it is really important to ease into a training regime and set a solid base from which to develop.

The strength and conditioning phase involves a mixture of weights and cardio with a relatively high-calorie diet. I have outlined a few training and nutrition tips that I have picked-up:

Training

  • Full body sessions: It is important to work multiple muscle sets in each session, pick exercises that work more than one muscle.
  • Don’t ignore your legs: Each session should involve some form of leg workout. Your legs are a major muscle group and it’s very important they’re worked as much as your upper body. It is particularly important to focus on your legs at the start of a muscle building routine as the exercises you do tend to work the full body and it will allow you to set a strong base to develop your upper body, moving forward.
  • Lift light: choose a weight that you can comfortably complete five sets of six to eight repetitions.
  • Form is King: For those who are unfamiliar with the term form, I am referring to technique. Form is vital to ensure your muscles are working as hard as they can but, more importantly, preventing injuries. Focus on how you position your body, how you perform the movement and how you pick up and put down the weights.
  • Respect your rest: Another method of preventing injury, and a lesson that I learnt early in my Protein Project, is ensuring you have rest days. Your muscles need time to recover. Resting will allow this to happen faster and with recovery, comes growth.

Nutrition

  • Plan ahead: plan your weekly meals on a weekend and then buy as much as you need in one shop. This will prevent temptation during the week but it is also much more cost effective than buying lunch every day.
  • Calories are your friends: Don’t be scared to eat. I’m eating six to eight meals a day, including two protein shakes, to ensure my body has sufficient fuel to rebuild every day. Each meal should contain approximately 20g protein, a few grams of fat and around 60-80g of carbohydrates during the strength and conditioning phase.
  • Protein is your pal: protein is imperative to muscle growth. It is important to get the right amount of protein, at the right times. Personally, it has helped my body recover much quicker than before which has therefore allowed me to keep progressing in each training session. This is where my Maximuscle protein shakes are very useful.

Nutrition-PlanThe next stage of my protein project will be the ‘muscle hypertrophy‘ phase, it will involve a similar nutrition plan but my training will now be focussed on bigger weights with less reps. The idea is that the bigger weights will cause greater muscle strain, causing more minute tears, allowing more space for repair and therefore growth.

I’ve got a cricket match on Sunday and, whilst it’s not going to be the most athletically testing sporting occasion, I’m looking forward to seeing how my performance has improved. Surely stronger arms mean faster bowling? We’ll see.

Interview with an Intern – Toby Bradshaw

Toby-poseToday we say farewell to Toby Bradshaw who has been interning with us for the last two months. It’s been great having him on our pod, whilst his dress sense is questionable, his energy and work ethic has been fantastic. Toby offered up some insights into why PR appeals to him, his experience with Speed and the plans for his future, well, as planned as you can be whilst on the brink of the three best years of your life…Uni

You’re on your year out between A-Levels and University, why did you choose to get PR experience?

I have always known that I didn’t want a mundane job. I knew I wanted variety in my work and for it to be focused around problem solving so PR fits the criteria.

What was your understanding of PR before joining Speed?

I think I had associated it far too much with Advertising, where in reality even their premises are quite distant. In PR you aren’t bludgeoning consumers with your client’s opinion of your client, instead you bring them or their product into the forum and ask people to discuss it. I’ve found it surprisingly meritocratic.

Have any campaigns grabbed your attention in recent history?

Not a campaign as such, but my favourite example of a product’s interaction with their consumers is probably Jägermeister. It was a really niche German digestif in 2003 which sold fewer than 70,000 bottles a year in the UK. Seasonaires in German resorts then took the obscure local drink, ‘bombed’ it with Red Bull and brought the phenomenon back to the UK. In 2009 Jägermeister sales were 700,000 bottles a year. By being brought into the wider public domain with the Jägerbomb gimmick a drink which had existed since 1935 increased its sales tenfold in six years. I think it is a brilliant example of how popular culture can create a brand. The brand is everywhere now. If you were able to replicate that as a PR then you would have a very happy client.

What do you think of Speed?

What I like most is that it’s a really dynamic environment. You often work with several different clients in different fields all in a day which keeps you active and creative

What was your favourite moment?

The overall highlight was being asked to a client meeting last week. It was the first one I have been invited to and was with an important client so I was quite nervous beforehand; but being told I had handled it well afterwards put me on a massive high and was my best moment so far

Did you enjoying working with the team?

Yeah I think the consumer team definitely have the most fun on their accounts. It seems to include a lot of sport, food and luxury products.

Toby-TeaWho is your favourite member of the consumer team?

I’m in a good position to answer this question because I hop from desk to desk depending on who is in the office, so I have been able to sample a few neighbours. Sarah Apps is my favourite at the moment – we had a lot of banter the week I was her neighbour.

What did you learn in your two months with Speed?

I have learnt a lot about independent work. You can’t always pester your line-manager for an answer so often it’s better to work out what the right course of action is and come to them with a solution not a problem

Which member of the consumer team is PR personified?

It is the duo of Ciaran and Harriet Courage. If as a client I were employing a PR, I would look for someone who if in a situation they said “Don’t worry, I’ll sort it” I would believe them.

If you could work for any brand who would it be and why?

I would love to work for Red Bull. The Felix Baumgartner space jump and all their interaction with extreme sport have made them a really likable brand.

Can you see yourself pursuing a career in PR after University?

I need to spend a lot more time in the industry before I could make a firm decision but I could certainly see it as one of a few career paths.

How many more ‘Gap Years’ are you going to take?

The ‘Gap Life’ is an appealing concept but I think I will have to grow up soon, possibly after University, possibly later.

Thanks for everything, Toby. We wish you all the best in the future.

My Protein Project – Time to Change

Following the success of the three Maximuscle Protein Project contestants, Oli, David and James, I have decided to take on my own Protein Project. Maximuscle are one of our clients and this was a PR campaign that I completely immersed myself in. I was involved from conception through to the ‘Wrap Party’ and I continue to work on the legacy piece now. It’s been an incredible project to be part of; seeing the success of the contestants and working so closely with the Maximuscle nutritionists and training experts is truly inspiring.

3-ContestantsThrough the last twelve I’ve been witness to intense training sessions and become accustomed to the rigours of training and recovery. I have also learnt the importance of nutrition in any training plan. Armed with that knowledge I felt in a great position to take the challenge on. The first thing was decide my goal.

I was entered into this year’s Virgin London Marathon but injured my ankle four weeks from race day. The injury did more than physical damage, I was devastated. The London Marathon is an event I have always wanted to do and I took the challenge really seriously, I put in a lot of hours training and even stopped playing rugby, to stay injury free, only to watch my teammates  win twelve games on the bounce and take the league title – a bitter-sweet moment.  Being a keen sportsman I hate not being able to be active, the ankle injury put me out for two months and that really wound me up. To add to that frustration I started to build myself a beer belly. My boozing and bad eating habits didn’t suffer a two month lay-off, in fact, they were probably more prominent. By the end of the Protein Project I was in the worse shape I’ve ever been in but my ankle was back to working order and so I decided it was time. Time to change; I want to be fitter than ever, stronger than ever and in better shape than I’ve ever been.

This is a test to myself, I had set myself a target of four hours in which to run the London Marathon and that was supposed to be my big achievement for 2013 but that didn’t happen so now I have to prove to myself that I have the will-power, drive and determination, to become the best athlete I’ve ever been. My formula to achieve this involves four gym sessions and at least one cardio session a week, six meals a day, including two Maximuscle protein shakes, no sweets or chocolate or crisps and no alcohol.

With my goal in mind – improved physique and performance – my gym plan will be split into four sections:

-          Two weeks strength and conditioning: getting my body used to going to the gym again

-          Four weeks muscle build: lots of (good) calories, big weights, low reps

-          Four weeks fat loss: cut down the calories, minimal carbs, intense gym sessions that focus on cardiovascular training

-          Two weeks lean muscle build: Focus will be on body weight training, i.e. press-ups, pull-ups, dips, etc.

Protein-Project-LogoI am now one week in and I can feel it in both a good and bad way. Whilst the ‘delayed onset of muscle soreness’ (DOMS) is impairing my every move,  I feel more energised thanks to my better diet, no booze on the weekend and my pre-work gym sessions. The biggest achievement this week, however, was the reception I got from my mates; at a rugby dinner, on Thursday night, instead of getting lambasted for not drinking I was supported, which came as quite a shock. I guess they’re thinking my Protein Project will come to an end in perfect time for the start of next season and I’ll be a better player for it.

Over the next twelve weeks I will keep you updated with my progress. The highs and lows, the pains and gains but, most importantly, how I am managing to fit this challenge into my hectic PR work schedule. I want to prove that it’s possible to change your life around your work with the right dedication and, quite appropriately for a PR professional, planning.

It’ll be alright on the night

The night before any event I get those butterflies in my stomach. No matter how much preparation time you allow beforehand you can never truly guarantee that little unforeseen circumstance won’t rear its ugly head! But earlier this week I helped run one of the most successful events of my career to date.

Finding the right venue, sourcing a caterer, photographer, and treats for goody bags should never be underestimated. The time, care and precision involved is phenomenal. So here are my three quick fire tips for pulling off a successful event:

Plan, plan and plan again

From critical time paths, running schedules, briefs and to-do lists it’s important to plan everything down to the last detail. And when that’s done throw a couple of curve balls in the mix to plan around so you’re never caught short.

Expect the unexpected

You never know what’s going to happen. People can be relied upon to be unreliable so always make sure you have a stand by or stand in available. If a venue lets you down you may have a problem. If a caterer lets you down, there’s always M&S!

Remember… It pays to be ballsy

As any PR will tell you, you can never guarantee media attendance. You always expect drop outs. You can minimise these by picking dates and times that will suit the key media you’re trying to appeal to. The forefront of your mind will always be getting the best for your client. A couple of months ago we took a judgement call to postpone our event because we knew we could get better but the dates weren’t quite right and people kept going down with the Norovirus. A few months later we secured media attendance from all the key journalists we wanted but hadn’t been able to crack. This resulted in one extremely happy client and 10 converted journalists.

That’s the way to do it

A few weeks ago I wrote about the failed approach businesses were taking when facing criticism about their corporation tax affairs. The advice was simple:

First of all, if you haven’t done anything wrong, don’t act like you have.

Secondly, in such situations where you are facing a direct and clear criticism about a single issue about which you are in the right, keep your response focussed on that issue alone and don’t dilute it.

When I read the Observer article yesterday (Sunday May, 19th) by Eric Schmidt, it was good to see Google taking a similar approach. Have a read, and you will see good, clear messaging that is impactful and positive for the company. If they can stick to their guns on these messages moving forward, and if other businesses take a similar approach, then companies will start to take control of the issue again and mitigate the damage it is having upon their collective reputations.

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