The Battle between Juicing & Blending

Ever since I got my Nutribullet at Christmas I’ve been absolutely obsessed with blending any kind of fruit, veg, nut & seed I can get my hands on.  I’ve just about got used to people at work asking me ‘err, what kind of pond life do you have for breakfast this morning Katherine?!’  I’ll admit it, I’ve been totally taken in by the marketing hype around ‘nutrition extracting’ and I even start to crave blended spinach & avocado if I go a couple of days without…hey, there are worse things I could crave!!

I’ve read a lot about the benefits and pitfalls of blending and juicing recently so when Joe Blogs invited me to an evening of juicing vs blending hosted by Currys and Philips, I couldn’t wait to hear more from the experts!

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Meeting at Joe Blogs head office in Kings Cross, I joined some other bloggers to find out who the real winner was in the battle between juicing and blending.  It was a fight I was looking forward to!

First off we were joined by Stephanie, founder of juicing company Raw & Juicy who introduced the 2 contenders.  Would juicing prove itself to be the ultimate detox tool…?  Or would blending be crowned champion with its more substantial smoothie making?  Let me confess now, I was firmly in the blending corner from the start…

First up: Juicing

Juicing essentially extracts all the water and nutrients from produce and discards most of the fibre leaving behind a pulp.  The first thing I learned was that there are 2 different types of juicer you can use…I just assumed they were all the same!

Centrifugal Juicer

These juicers have fast rotating blades that quickly grind the fruit and veg into a pulp.  The upside is that food needs little prep in the way of peeling etc but the downside is that you can lose a lot of enzymes which, in my opinion, defeats the point.

Masticating Juicer

The other type is a masticating juicer which juices the fruit and veg much more slowly and thoroughly to preserve more flavour, vitamins and minerals.  However, the downside to this is that the preparation takes more time and effort and, from what I’ve seen, these type of juicers are more expensive.

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Juicing: The Good Bits

  • Juice is easy for the body to digest because of the low fibre content
  • Huge nutritional density due to the volume of produce used – it takes 12kg of carrots to produce 1 litre of juice!
  • Gives you increased energy
  • Pleasant consistency
  • Easy on the stomach

Juicing: The Bad Bits

  • Can cause blood sugar spikes leading to mood swings and energy loss.  Vegetables aren’t so bad, but juicing fruit gives you a high sugar content – one to be wary of if you do it regularly
  • Lots of wastage – juicing leaves behind a lot of pulp that isn’t needed.  However, you can use this creatively and turn the pulp into ice lollies, compost or add to soups!  Not entirely sure about a carrot pulp ice lolly but I’m sure pineapple and raspberry would be delicious!
  • Not as filling as blending due to the lack of fibre
  • Requires lots of cleaning – there’s no getting around this one, juicers are messy!

Raw & Juicy

Next we took a look at Blending:

Blending differs from juicing because it liquidises the whole fruit or vegetable and turns it into a thicker smoothie.

Blending: The Good Bits

  • Blending retains all the fibre making smoothies more filling than juice
  • Slower absorption gives you more sustained energy
  • You need less produce
  • Can add nuts, seeds and oils for an added nutritional punch
  • Easier to clean!

 Blending: The Bad Bits

  • Some people aren’t keen on the pulp consistency
  • Takes longer to digest

It’s also worth remembering, a smoothie isn’t a drink, it’s blended food, so knocking it straight back will put a strain on the digestive system.  Unless you shove a whole plate of food in your mouth at once you shouldn’t do the same with a smoothie!

So, on the one hand you’ve got juicing which gives you a dense nutritional burst and on the other you have blending which offers you a wider range of nutrients and fibre…I think we might have to call it a draw!

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Mocktail Masterclass

Next was the fun bit, we got to make our very own juices and smoothies using loads of fresh fruit and veg!  A team of people from the Cocktail Service came to show us how it was done.  Apparently, the concept of juicing and blending dates as far back as 150BC where there was evidence of people mashing up pomegranates and figs!

The first drink was called Berries Matter, a mocktail which was expertly made for us in a blender.  This was a mix of cranberry & pomegranate juice, strawberries, raspberries, agave (natural sweetener) and ice.  It tasted lovely, I wasn’t sure it actually needed the agave syrup but I guess it may have been a little bitter without it.  Because of the juice content, the liquids started to separate quite quickly so it’s definitely one to enjoy straight from the blender.

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Then we got to have a go ourselves so Bonnie, Lorna, Emma and I got cracking on a Tropical Smoothie. First we used the Philips Viva 700w juicer to juice half a pineapple and 6 kiwis.  We then put the juice in the Avance 2L blender and added 3 bananas, a mango and half a melon.  Topping up with ice, the mixture was blended and made around 5 smoothies – delicious!

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We then moved on to a vegetable based drink called the Booster.  We juiced 3 large celery sticks, 3 carrots and a pack of 4 ready prepared beetroots, this was then added to the blender with an avocado and more ice.  Apparently pre-packed cooked beetroots aren’t the best for juicing as they are so soft so they turn to pulp very quickly so we added another one straight into the blender.  If you’re going to juice beetroots, raw ones are best!

This one wasn’t to everyone’s taste but I actually quite enjoyed it.  I think because the last 2 drinks were quite sweet it was a bit like having pudding before dinner!

Berries Matter, Booster and the Tropical Smoothie

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You can add most types of fruit and veg to a juice or smoothie, each with different health benefits.  Some interesting facts:

  • Kiwis contains 5x the amount of vitamin C as oranges – the perfect cold buster
  • Bananas can solve all your problems having proven to help with stamina, mood and even asthma
  • Fresh pineapples are the only known natural source of bromelain, an enzyme with anti-inflammatory properties that can promote healing

All in all it was a lovely evening, something I didn’t expect to say about spending my evening juicing celery!  I’ll be sticking to my morning smoothies but, if I had more time I would definitely consider adding some fresh juice into the mix too.

By the end of the night, and please forgive me, I couldn’t help but think these drinks would be great with a bit of vodka…now that would have been a knock out!

I would like to thank Joe Blogs, Currys and Philips for having me.  Whilst I was invited to take part in the evening, I was not paid to write this post.  All views, as always, are my own.

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The Power of Music in Sport

Haile Gebrselassie is one of the greatest and most successful runners of all time. In 1998 Haile took the Indoor World Record for 2,000 metres…whilst ‘I’m the scatman, ski bi dibby dib yo da’ boomed into the Birmingham arena.  At Haile’s request.

I’ve always enjoyed running with music, not only does it help me switch off and drift into my own thoughts, but it can also be a powerful motivator through the tough miles.  My Dad always says running with music is for wimps. Well, I guess me and Haile have something in common…because apparently we’re both wimps!

But what is it about this rather odd track that Haile likes?

It’s nice music, it’s fast written, that’s why I could break a world record, by that music…’I’m a Scatman! Dum dum’ and then you know the timing and at the same time your style changes immediately.

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Are there performance gains to be had from running with music?  If so, why do you see so many faster runners listening to the sounds of their own bodies rather than their favourite tunes?  Most importantly, could my Dad be wrong??

Last weekend, Currys invited me to a workshop that would help me find the answers to these very questions.  With the rise of events such as Run to the Beat and the increasing frequency of live music along race routes, there must be some science behind the power of music?

I met some other fitness bloggers, and Dr Costas Karageorghis (who has spent years researching the psychological effects of music on running), for a fun afternoon learning how it can be beneficial to athletic performance.

A little warm up game!

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There have been strong links between music and sport for a long time – the National Anthem is always played during international competitions, the All Blacks perform an intimidating Haka before playing rugby, and who doesn’t feel energetic as soon as they hear the theme tune from Rocky?!

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So, everyone loves music but what exactly does music do during exercise?  After explaining the different constituents, tempo, rhythm, melody etc, Dr Karageorghis revealed that listening to your favourite tunes on the run can have the following benefits:

  • Lowers perception of effort
  • Can trick your mind into feeling less tired
  • Encourages positive thoughts and mood
  • Can increase endurance by 20% if you sync your body to the music (that’s a BIG claim!)

Whilst the beat is important, and syncing your movements to the music has the most positive impact, the lyrics can also be very powerful. Words can carry strong personal messages that help to motivate and focus.  I was surprised that several very successful athletes listen to specific tracks before they go into competition to help mentally prime them:

  • Michael Phelps got in the zone at London 2012 with Lil’ Wayne’s ‘I Am Me’ before taking home 6 medals
    • “Ain’t nobody f**king with me man…I know the game is crazy, it’s more crazy than it’s ever been”
  • Iwan Thomas uses music as part of his pre-run routine on the start line with Prodigy, ‘Firestarter’
    • “I’m the trouble starter, punking instigator, I’m the fear addicted, danger illustrated”
  • James Cracknell – favours Red Hot Chili Peppers, ‘Get on Top’
    • Get on top, get on top, hit me, come get me, I bite but she bit me”

These are all very stimulating tracks and, generally, the more stimulating the music, the more active you feel.  However, sedative music can also have a very beneficial & calming effect.

Before the 2004 Athens Olympics, Dame Kelly Holmes had been feeling very anxious following a period of injury.  She used music to help control her pre-race anxiety and block everything out by listening to the soulful Alicia Keys.

Kelly Holmes Athens 2004

Interestingly, Olympic gold medalist, Audley Harrison combated pre-fight nerves by listening to Japanese classical music to induce relaxation & focus, and Whitney Houston’s ‘One Moment in Time’ has been cited as the track used to calm the GB Bobsleigh team whilst still being mentally stimulating through the lyrics:

I want one moment in time
When I’m more than I thought I could be
When all of my dreams are a heartbeat away
And the answers are all up to me

It’s not just before and during sport where music can be helpful.  There are also gains to be had from listening to slow, sedated music post exercise which can help slow the heart rate and reduce stress. I’m definitely going to be giving that a try!

By the end of the session I was left with no doubt in my mind that music is a very powerful tool and I’m absolutely convinced of the benefits (sorry Dad!)

We were then introduced to Monster headphones.  Monster make a range of sports specific headphones, iSport, that are designed to stay in the ear, be sweat proof, shock proof and comfortable. There are several models available but they were keen to show us their wireless SuperSlim which are fairly new to the UK.

The iSport SuperSlim are a bluetooth headphone that claim to deliver exceptional sound quality and stay in the ear with a unique SportClip no matter activity your doing, despite being so small.  We were all lucky enough to be given a pair to try!  I’ll give these a full review when I’ve had a chance to try them properly after the London Marathon – no matter how powerful music is, it will never be as powerful as a London Marathon crowd!

Monster iSport SuperSlim

There’s nothing I love more than an easy run in the sunshine with some upbeat tunes in my ear – here are my top 10 running tracks:

  • Til I Collapse – Eminem
  • Paris – Jay Z & Kanye
  • Party Right – Lethal Bizzle
  • Berzerk – Eminem
  • Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
  • What a Feeling – The Hughes Corporation
  • Not Giving In – Rudimental
  • Keep Your Head Up – Ben Howard
  • Don’t You Know who I Think I Am? – Fall Out Boy
  • Hitz – Chase & Status

I guess number 11 should probably be Scatman…!

I would like to thank Currys for the opportunity to attend this workshop, all views are my own.

Thanks for the awesome goody bag!

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Review: Zombie Evacuation Race

THE UK MAINLAND IS UNDER QUARANTINE, I REPEAT, THE UK MAINLAND IS UNDER QUARANTINE…

When I was invited to take part in the Zombie Evacuation Race by Currys the day after Halloween I was dead excited and immediately said yes.  This was promptly followed by a warning that I may be electrocuted….erm, OK, what’s a little electrocution right?!

“Run for your life through a 5km course dodging the UNDEAD and navigating a multitude of challenging obstacles designed specifically to slow down your escape from relentless ZOMBIE horde who are hungry for fresh brains! Survive or be become one of them!!

Only the fittest will survive…”

I arrived at Allianz Park in North London at 8am and headed to the registration tent, or the Evacuee Check-In, where I signed the bit that precludes you from suing anyone if you do in fact get infected by zombies, or electrocuted, or lose a limb, all the usual stuff.

I was then given a ‘GPS tracking device’ which was a waist belt with 3 lifelines attached with velcro – loose all 3 lifelines and you’re officially infected!

I met up with my fellow bloggers (and fellow Clapham Chaser Fiona who was also ready to take on a few zombies) and the nice lady from Joe Blogs gave us all a different piece of the latest wearable tech to test out during the run courtesy of Currys.  I was given a Withings Pulse O2, a nifty little device that tracks steps, running, elevation, heart rate and sleep, I couldn’t wait to give it a go!  There will be more on the Pulse O2 to follow as I’m still giving it a full test run but so far so good!

The cold rainy start to the day had made way to sunshine and the atmosphere was brilliant.  As we made our way to the start line on the track (the same track that was used as the warm up tack for the 2012 Olympics no less) ominous music was blasting over the tannoy and we could see the gruesome zombies shuffling and limping on the rugby pitch.

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The race organisers did a great job getting everyone in the mood – a Sargent from Majesty’s RAZORS (Royal Army Zombie Outbreak Response Squadron, obvs) explained that as of 0700 hours the UK Mainland had been placed under quarantine due to a zombie outbreak.  We were warned that we should not engage in any physical contact with the zombies as the infection was highly contagious and we should proceed directly to the evacuation zone – uh oh!

Start Line Selfie. Photo by @BeiFit

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As the zombies hovered dangerously close, eager to get their grubby infected paws on our fresh skin, the Sargent started to lead us round the track and into the woods on our mission.  I really wasn’t sure what to expect but I had the same nervous energy I get when I know I’m going to be doing some sprinting, I’ve just never sprinted away from zombies before!

Together with the music building a sense of fear and dread, thick smoke was pumping out on the ground creating a mist that was difficult to see through, were the zombies going to attack us already?!  We started with a jog, sticking together seemed the safest thing to do, but as the course opened up and I decided to put my legs to work and go for it.

All over a sudden we were rounding a corner and the music from some kind of horror film with a baby (Carrie?!) was playing and THERE WERE ZOMBIES!!! It really was quite terrifying to be faced with a group of mentalists swaying back and forth looking like death and trying to attack me…so I ran faster and screamed!

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The course continued through the woods with a number of  zombies zones to navigate, some covered in sheets with blood smeared over them, some zombies hidden under things waiting to pounce, some just milling around looking completely insane, there was even a zombie bridge and groom!

Various obstacles, as well as zombies, also plagued the way including barbed wire, ditches, dogs (although I’m not sure they were part of the course, they were much more friendly than zombie dogs…), more smoke, minefields, steps, even the brambles in the thick woodlands were attacking me!

And as for this guy…was I scared to run up the stairs towards him to get past…?  Maybe a little, wouldn’t you be?!

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My bull-in-a-china-shop approach didn’t really work and I was left without any lifelines in less than 10 minutes, a more cautious approach may have been more effective in hindsight.  As the course came back towards headquarters we were taken into a large, pitch black warehouse…a pitch black warehouse full of zombies, that was definitely a scary part!

Action shot. This may have been the point of infection…

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Out of the warehouse we went over a bouncy castle and then were faced with the final challenge. The rugby field.  This reminded me of a scene from The Faculty, stood at one end we had to run to the other but the the field was full of insane looking zombies that wanted to catch us, it was quite unnerving.  Head down and RUN!!!!

Of course I was already infected but it was still scary.  At the end there were 2 tunnels, one for Survivors and one for the Infected..I crawled through the Infected one and I was done!

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The race crew then whisked me away and turned me into a zombie so I could join in the chasing on the rugby field to scare a few unwitting suspects – it was fun, fun, fun!

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The Zombie Evacuation race was brilliant, a brilliant idea, brilliant execution and a LOT of fun.  There are a few logistics that need to be ironed out (some of the course was very unclear and I didn’t actually get a finish time despite the timing chip) and it’s very expensive for a 5K, but I can promise you will have a great time.

I’d like to thank both Currys and Joe Blogs for sponsoring me for this event.

As for me, well, I feel fine now. The infection’s gone.  Totally recovered in fact.

I mean, I’ve got a little headache I can’t shift…and a twitch in my eye…but who doesn’t??  I’m also looking a little pale but that’s nothing a little fake tan can’t fix, right??

Then there’s the bleeding and….Oh

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Please note that this post was not sponsored and all views are my own