Are You Getting Enough Potassium?

When it comes to blood pressure and heart health one of the most common recommendations is to reduce your sodium intake. You often hear people saying “I need to cut down how much salt I eat”. But you rarely hear people saying “I need to get more potassium”. A new study from Boston University shows that people who have increased potassium intakes have reduced rates of cardiovascular disease.

What Are The Recommended Daily Allowances?

According to the Institute of Medicine (2005) the RDA for sodium is 2400mg and the RDA for potassium is 4700mg. That’s almost a 1:2 ratio of sodium to potassium and that’s what would be desired according to them. However, according to the Food Safety Authority in Ireland our RDA for sodium is 4000mg and RDA for potassium is just 2000mg. That’s a 2:1 ratio of sodium to potassium. Heart disease is a very common problem in Ireland. I wonder why? I don’t know about you but I’m going to side with the Institute of Medicine and researchers at Boston University on this one.

What The Boston Study Found

The scientists followed over 2,000 people, ages 30-64, and tracked their eating and health data over 12 years. When the study started, none of these folks had cardiovascular disease. They found that the more potassium people ate, the less risk of cardiovascular disease they had. Specifically, risk was elevated at potassium intakes of less than 2500 mg, but began to drop once people were eating more than that.

This is just another example of how you can improve your diet by adding something to your nutrition. In this case it’s potassium. Instead of cutting something out like almost every diet out there. It’s not my place to tell you reduce your sodium intake but it’s worth looking at what kind of ratio you might have.

Where Can You Get More Potassium?

Many fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, and legumes are packed with potassium. For perspective, here’s a shortlist of how much potassium a typical serving of a few popular foods contain. (List taken from

  • Potato (1 medium): 926 mg
  • Acorn squash (1 cup cooked): 896 mg
  • Spinach (1 cup cooked): 839 mg
  • Butternut squash (1 cup cooked): 582
  • Plain lowfat yogurt (8 ounces): 573
  • Sweet potato (1 cup cooked): 572
  • Kiwifruit (1 cup): 562
  • Clams (3 ounces): 534
  • White beans (½ cup cooked): 480
  • Cantaloupe (1 cup): 473
  • Banana (1 medium): 452
  • Soybeans (½ cup cooked): 443
  • Grapefruit (1 fruit): 415
  • Carrots (1 cup): 410
  • Milk (1 cup): 382
  • Pinto beans (½ cup cooked): 373
  • Lentils (½ cup cooked): 366
  • Kidney beans (½ cup cooked)
  • Split peas (½ cup cooked): 355
  • Navy beans (½ cup cooked): 354
  • Tempeh (½ cup): 342
  • Edamame (½ cup cooked): 338
  • Mandarin oranges (1 cup): 324
  • Cauliflower (1 cup raw): 320
  • Red bell pepper (1 cup raw): 314
  • Raisins (¼ cup): 307
  • Black bans (½ cup cooked): 306
  • Pork (3 ounces): 303



Paleo Vs Mediterranean Vs Intermittent Fasting

It’s A Triple Threat Match

Researchers in New Zealand pitted the three titled diets against each other in a year long study. They took 250 people classified as overweight or obese, asked them to pick one of the popular diets and then would check in with them twice in the year. Each participant was given written resources, a 30 minute face to face instruction session and an exercise plan. Other than that there was virtually no support. This was to mimic what happens all the time when people decide to follow a diet and go it alone without any coaching or support. Would one be much better than the others? Could the participants stick to the plan for the year long study?

What Did Each Diet Look Like?

Modified Paleo Diet: Participants were instructed to emphasize fruit and vegetables, animal protein, coconut products, butter and extra-virgin olive oil. They were also to avoid grains, sugar, and processed seed oil. However, to help participants stick to this diet some full-fat dairy could be included, as well as a serving of legumes and grain-based foods. This is why it was a modified paleo diet.

Mediterranean Diet: Guidelines for this diet were based on Harvard’s Healthy Eating Pyramid and emphasized high amounts of fruit, vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, legumes, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, with moderate amounts of fish, chicken, eggs, and dairy, and red meat once per week or less.

Intermittent Fasting Diet: Participants could fast on any two days of the week of their choosing. This meant cutting calories to 500 for women and 600 for men on fasting days. Their fasting-day meals could be anything they wanted, but they were advised to select foods rich in protein and low-carbohydrate vegetables. On non-fasting days, participants could eat whatever they wanted but were given a general recommendation to follow a sensibly healthy diet.

How Did They Do?

Zoomable figure

Adherence refers to the percentage of people who stuck with the diet for the full 12 month study even if not following the guidelines completely.

As you can see the fasting diet was by far the most popular choice and had the most weight loss. The adherence to the fasting and Mediterranean diets were both similar above 50%. The paleo diet was picked by the fewest and had the lowest adherence. People just didn’t stick with it and those who did lost the least weigh. That was a modified diet also, not the strictest form of paleo.

What Could This Mean For You?

The study results reflect what I see with gym members and clients all the time. People normally have a hard time sticking to a strict approach. In this case that was the modified paleo diet, which is arguably the most strict of the diets. When people have more flexibility with their food choices they lose more weight. In this scenario that was the intermittent fasting group.

Also consider this. The study was 12 months long with people who were overweight or obese. They had weight to lose. In two of the diet approaches just over half of the people stuck with them and only 35% of people stuck with the other diet. The most successful of all these people only lost an average of 4 kilos in 12 months! Basically 50% of people or more will quit on a diet or training plan by themselves. And the ones who stick with it will get dreadful results anyway. That just shows that people need coaching, support and accountability. Diets can’t be trusted to be beneficial either, it’s healthier habits that work better. If you’re someone who doesn’t want to go it alone and actually wants long term results, CLICK HERE and we can make it happen. You won’t follow a diet destined to fail and you’ll have support every step of the way.


Jospe MR, Roy M, Brown RC, Haszard JJ, Meredith-Jones K, Fangupo LJ, et al. Intermittent fasting, Paleolithic, or Mediterranean diets in the real world: exploratory secondary analyses of a weight-loss trial that included choice of diet and exercise. Am J Clin Nutr. 2020 Mar 1;111(3):503–14.

How To Manage Problem Foods

Almost every one of us have problem foods. These are foods that we just find hard to resist. When you want to burn fat and fit into your favourite clothes better, how we manage these foods can be a difference maker. You’ve probably heard the saying ‘Everything in moderation’ right? Does it actually work?

Researchers at Penn State University asked 186 women who were classified as overweight or obese to rank the foods they can’t resist and find hard to stop eating. The most common foods that topped their lists were;

  • Ice cream
  • Crisps
  • Chocolate
  • Cookies
  • Pizza

No huge surprises there! The researchers then had the women follow a weight loss plan for 12 months and monitored their strategies for managing their problem foods. After the 12 months they found that the best strategy to manage problem foods was limiting the portion sizes. In fact the women who used this strategy more often lost 7.2 kilos compared to women who used it less frequently who only lost 3.8 kilos. That’s almost twice as much weight loss by following that one strategy.

How Can You Work On Your Problem Foods?

Make a list of your problem foods. This will increase your awareness of them and hopefully reveal some patterns. While the researchers didn’t say avoiding foods completely was a great strategy, we can use our own initiative on that. Let’s look at it this way. You’re tired, stressed or absolutely starving. There’s a tasty food from your problem food list staring at you in your kitchen cupboard or fridge. What do you think will happen? No matter how much willpower you have you’re going to grab that food and tuck in. If the problem food is in your house it’s going to be eaten. However, the same goes for foods that are healthier for you. If we have foods that are better for us in the house we’re more likely to eat those too. It’s just about being aware of these things and slowly making that switch. And at the end of the day if you must use a strategy for problem foods limit the portion sizes.

Maybe Eating In Moderation Does Work, Maybe It Doesn’t

It depends. That’s the honest answer. My way of coaching is that there no good or bad foods. Foods are either better or worse for you and your goals. Everyone is different. There are some foods that just don’t work with people and should probably be avoided. Refer to these foods as your “Red Light” foods. These foods might not work for you because;

  • They don’t help you achieve your goals
  • You always overeat them
  • You’re allergic to them
  • You can’t digest them easily
  • They give you pains or make you feel awful afterwards

Take 5 minutes out of your day, get a pen and paper and actually write down a list of your problem foods. Be completely honest with yourself and how these foods affect you. If there’s a food on the list that you know you can enjoy without overeating and have control while eating it, great. If a food has any “Red Light” characteristics then you know what to do.

Eat Slowly and Until 80% Full

Do You Eat Too Quickly?

It takes 20 minutes for fullness cues to be sent around our bodies. That is the time it takes your stomach to send a signal to your brain and come back again to say you’re full. It’s in those 20 minutes that someone can overeat. Speaking to clients and gym members over the years, eating too quickly is one of the things that comes up a lot. The good news is it’s also something that be worked on without actually changing your diet. This is the reason it’s one of the first habits I coach clients. Even when someone says “I eat healthily” they can still overeat if they eat too quickly. It can still happen with good quality foods. If I scoff down huge amounts of the best foods the chances are that I’ll still eat too many calories. The food may be highly nutritious but if I’m looking to burn some fat it just won’t work. Now imagine if my food choices weren’t great, the surplus calories would reach a huge total. Which leads to today’s point of interest.

Slow Down

Part of my coaching is to allow you to eat your favourite foods but to improve your habits. I want to add better things in and not cut things out. This goes in the face of every diet you see on social media or TV. You know the ones where you cut out carbs, lose a ton of weight, regain the weight and learn nothing. I’m not a fan of “everything in moderation” either. Your idea of moderation will be different to mine and the next person’s and the next’s etc. Instead of cutting things out and being restrictive I want to coach someone healthier habits for their goals, how much to eat and why. The first part of that is eating slowly.

Let’s say your diet is absolutely dreadful and includes high calorie meals full of sugar and fat. Not only that but you eat really fast. In the time it takes your brain to send the ‘I’m full’ signal to your stomach you would consume tons of excess calories. If you just slowed down you would eat a lot less and consume fewer calories in that 20 minute window. You haven’t changed the food but you’ve saved yourself from more damage.

Here are some tips to do it;

  • Take smaller bites
  • Chew a little longer
  • Try to taste the food more
  • Have a drink between bites
  • Chat with whoever you’re eating with

You’ll be surprised how much more you’ll enjoy your meal. Once you’ve slowed down a little you can then move on to the next habit.

Eat Until 80% Full

Think of this as eating until you’re no longer hungry. You don’t have to stuff yourself with each meal. We don’t live on a deserted island not knowing when we’ll get food again. Gratefully the majority of us have food readily available for our next meal and you don’t need to hit your daily calorie numbers in one sitting. Most people have a problem with leaving food behind so they clear the plate. This becomes a problem when portion control isn’t great and so most of us finish a meal feeling stuffed. Before you learn better portion control, eating until 80% full or until no longer hungry helps with this problem. A good gauge of having eaten the right amount is that you shouldn’t feel hungry, you should feel energised and able to get up and move around easily or go for a walk. If you feel sluggish, heavy or need to sit down after eating you’ve probably overdone it!

Something For You To Try

After a typical meal of yours note how you feel immediately after finishing and each hour until your next meal. If you’ve eaten the correct amount for your fat loss goals it should resemble something like this;

Immediately after – Not hungry at all or like you could have eaten a little more.

1 hour after – Fully satisfied with no desire to eat another meal.

2 hours after – Maybe a little hungry but by no means an overwhelming need to eat.

3 hours after – You should be feeling the need to eat again. A 7 or 8 out of 10 for hunger. This could be more or less depending on any physical activity you might have done. If you’re not hungry now you probably ate too much at that previous meal.

4 hours after – You are now at an 8 or 9 out of 10 for hunger. Objects are turning into different foods like that lion sees in the Madagascar animated movie. It’s around this time that if we let our hunger get this far we’re more likely to make poor food choices.

Take Home Message

Eating slowly and until 80% full might take some getting used to. If you’re serious about changing your health and fitness for the better it really is worth giving a go for a couple weeks. It will help improve digestion, your training performance should be better and you’ll enjoy your meals more. And it’s not even restrictive. Hope this helps!

Glycemic Index and Load

Often when people begin to look at their nutrition more closely they come across glycemic index and glycemic load. They hear or read that you need to make sure to eat foods that are low on both scales and avoid everything else. But as you’ll see in the next few paragraphs they’re not quite the same and the numbers for both can be conflicting.

What Are They?

The glycemic index (GI) gives a food a score on a scale of 0-100 for how quickly it is digested and released as sugar into the blood stream. Pure glucose (sugar) is given a score of 100. Lower GI foods cause your blood sugar to rise at a slower rate after eating that food. Higher GI foods cause the blood sugar to rise quicker. Glycemic load (GL) gives a more accurate assessment of how a food will impact your blood sugar levels. It does this on a ranking scale also but it measures the amount of carbohydrates in a serving of a particular food. Foods with a low GL rank from 0-10 and have very little impact on your blood sugar. A GL between 10-20 will have a moderate impact and a high GL over 20 can cause a sugar spike.

Watermelon As An Example

Watermelon is a very good example of a carbohydrate with a high glycemic index of over 70 but a low glycemic load under 10. The GI is high because it’s based on lots of watermelon but an actual serving of it has a GL of just 7. This is because watermelon is mostly water! Lower GI and GL foods tend to have more fiber and nutrients in them and help keep our energy levels more balanced throughout the day.

Insulin Release

You can still get a blood sugar spike from eating a lot of a low or moderate GL food however and so it’s also important to know the correct amounts to eat. When your blood sugar rises dramatically your body releases insulin to bring it back down. When this happens too frequently it can lead to insulin resistance and in some cases type 2 diabetes. There are many things that have an influence on your absorption of sugar from foods and their reaction on insulin release.

These things include;

  • Your fitness level
  • Amount of body fat you have
  • Genetics
  • Gut health
  • Amount of muscle you have
  • Whether you’ve trained recently, how hard and how long you trained
  • The time of day
  • What else you ate in a particular meal

The Take Home Message

Taking all of this into consideration I feel using the GI or GL is kind of over complicating things. If you want to improve your health and fitness just focus on doing the basics well and consistently. Eat mostly minimally processed foods that are higher in nutrients. Make sure you’re getting enough protein and vegetables. Exercise consistently and aim to improve your strength or fitness levels. When you can get more/improve sleep, do so. Give yourself a break now and then to try and manage stress. Keep things simple and enjoy the process without complicating things.

Have You Heard Of The Master Mineral?

Let Me Introduce You To Magnesium

Yes, the “master mineral” is in fact magnesium. It has earned this title as it is used in hundreds of processes in our bodies. It was during the reading for my vitamin D post that I thought magnesium deserved its own and here we are. Vitamin D supplementation is good because most of us aren’t getting enough. But if we are also deficient in magnesium, the vitamin D we take doesn’t get used properly. Unfortunately we’re more than likely deficient in magnesium too.


  • Fights inflammation
  • Improves muscle function
  • Makes new proteins to build muscle
  • Boosts exercise performance
  • Promotes healthy blood pressure
  • Reduces insulin resistance
  • Prevents plaque formation in our blood vessels
  • Allows the body to maintain proper calcium levels
  • Is helpful in preventing migraine headaches
  • Fights depression

You can see why it’s called a master mineral with all of the things it does for us.

How Do I Know If I Need More Magnesium?

Common habits that lead to a magnesium deficiency include drinking carbonated drinks, high alcohol consumption, high coffee consumption, sugary diets, taking prescription medications and even having IBS can lead to it. You may exhibit excessive anxiety, suffer from muscle cramps and eye twitches. A deficiency has also been linked to a difficulty losing fat! It is likely that one or more of these things might relate to your lifestyle.

The recommended intake for magnesium is 400-420mg for men and 310-320mg for women. It is found in foods such as green leafy vegetables, spinach, beans, nuts, avocadoes, bananas and dark chocolate. The issue is that you may not eat or enjoy these foods. Even if you do, you might need to eat some of all of these to hit the recommended daily amounts. As this is a personal training website chances are that you exercise to some degree also. Sweating through exercise can deplete magnesium by up to 20% and so this is where a magnesium supplement can help.

A great benefit of magnesium supplementation has shown to be improving your sleep. It activates parts of our brain to help quiet the mind and calm us down. Added to the effects of improving mood and decreasing anxiety it might just help you get a better and more restful sleep. Most people who use magnesium take it 30 minutes to an hour before going to sleep. I hope it helps you if you decide to try it!

Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?

The Sunshine Vitamin

The majority of people could do with more vitamin D. That’s right, the vitamin you get from the sun. Your body makes vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight. The problem for us here in Ireland is that the sun comes out for about 2 minutes in between bouts of rainfall. You can also get the vitamin from fatty fish or some fortified dairy products but it’s challenging to get enough from diet alone.  Some people don’t even eat much of either of those. Added to the fact of not getting much sun exposure and this leads to a lot of people being deficient in vitamin D. While you can look up the many things that low vitamin D levels can lead to, I’ll list the ones that are most relevant to us.

  • Loss of strength and diminished athletic performance
  • Difficulty building muscle
  • Lower testosterone levels
  • Increased chance of Type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease
  • Depression
  • Low sex drive and function in women

If you don’t trust me on that last one see the following study;

Krysiak R, Szwajkosz A, Marek B, Okopień B. The effect of vitamin D supplementation on sexual functioning and depressive symptoms in young women with low vitamin D status. Endokrynol Pol. 2018;69(2):168-174. doi: 10.5603/EP.a2018.0013. Epub 2018 Feb 14. PMID: 29442353.

Looking at the above list I’d prefer to have more vitamin D wouldn’t you? It’s not my place to tell you how much to take should you decide to supplement with vitamin D however. The particular supplement that I take gives me 2500IU of vitamin D in one softgel. Most recommendations you’ll find in the training world will say take up to 5000IU per day. And just recently some studies administered up to 60,000IU of vitamin D to combat Covid-19. (See –


Protein – Quantity, Quality and Timing

Do You Know All You Need About Protein?

There are 3 factors when it comes to protein. How much you should eat, which protein to eat and when are the best times to eat it. The latest and best research states that consuming 1.6 grams per kilo of body weight is the optimum amount of protein per day. I would aim for 0.8 – 1 gram per pound of body weight. If you aim for the lower end you might not hit it, if you aim for the upper range and just miss, you’ll fall right into the perfect range. For those looking for fat loss it’s fine to eat a little more.

When it comes to quality, research also has this covered. Casein has shown to be the gold standard, followed by whey protein concentrate and then whey protein isolate. We can see this in the Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Scores of 141, 133 and 125 for the 3 proteins respectively. Pea protein only scored 73 as a comparison. For you guys who may be spending money on protein supplements, casein is usually more expensive and so most people go for whey. For anyone who is just starting out in their training you can’t really go wrong once you’re hitting the protein intake amount with any of the 3 proteins. Start there and then see how you progress.

The timing of protein intake is where science doesn’t quite have it nailed down. The best results up to now has been a fairly equal spread of protein throughout the day. If you weigh 200 pounds you’d likely need 160-200 grams of protein per day. Spread over 4 meals that’d be 40-50 grams of protein at each meal which is fairly easy to do with supplementation. It becomes a little tougher with whole foods and is even harder if you’re a vegan/vegetarian without supplementation. It’s clearly not impossible but just more difficult.

What Did Some Studies Say?

A Japanese study looked into protein timing and came out with interesting results. They split a group of men into 2 groups. Both groups were given breakfast, lunch and dinner and were consuming the same overall amount of protein as the other. The big difference was that one group had a high protein breakfast using a protein drink and the other had very little protein at breakfast but much more at dinner. This reflects the majority of peoples’ diets. Think of the person rushing out the door with only a coffee and some toast (if even) or those of you who might only have cereal for instance. This was the nutrition for 12 weeks and all subjects did 3 strength training sessions per week. After 12 weeks the high protein breakfast group put on 40% more muscle than the low protein breakfast group. Without a different weights program and having the same amount of protein per day that’s an incredible result. It is crucial to your progress to have adequate protein at breakfast to stimulate more muscle protein synthesis. This means your body will make new proteins to build more muscle.

Using the Japanese study’s results we now know we need a more even amount of protein throughout our daily meals. However, we can do even better than that again. Let’s say your last meal is at 7 or 8pm, your body will now go without protein for up to 12 hours until breakfast the next morning. Instead of that, a smart practice for you to adopt is to eat some protein 30 minutes before going to bed.

A meta-study reviewed the results of 9 individual studies which looked at night time protein intake. They concluded that;

“The consumption of 20-40 grams of casein approximately 30 minutes before sleep stimulates whole-body protein synthesis rates over a subsequent overnight period in young and elderly men (preceded or not by resistance exercise, respectively). In addition, pre-sleep protein consumption can augment the muscle adaptive response (muscle fiber cross-sectional area, strength, and muscle mass) during 10-12 weeks of resistance training in young, but not in elderly men.”

In other words, consuming casein protein before bed makes your body build more muscle throughout the night. It also helps your muscles get stronger and bigger. Alternatively you could use a whey protein or a whole food option which wouldn’t do as much as casein but would be a lot better than no protein at all.

MMPT Takeaways

  • Try to have an even spread of protein intake throughout the day, especially at breakfast.
  • Experiment with protein 30 minutes before bed and see how it affects your training and progress


Jun Yasudea, et al, “Evenly Distributed Protein Intake over 3 Meals Augments Resistance Exercise-Induced Muscle Hypertrophy in Healthy Young Men,” The Journal of Nutrition, 2020, April 22.

Caio E.G. Reis, et al. “Effects of pre-sleep protein consumption on muscle-related outcomes – A systematic review,” Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 2020.

Samuel L. Buckner, et al. “Protein timing during the day and its relevance for muscle strength and lean mass,” Clin Physiol Funct Imaging, 2018, Mar;38(2):332-337.