What is PCOS?

PCOS is a common endocrine disorder, affecting how an individual’s ovaries work, impacting a range of hormones. Some of the characteristics of PCOS are:

  • irregular periods – the ovaries do not release eggs (ovulation) regularly
  • excess androgen – there is an excess of “male hormones” resulting in excess facial and body hair
  • polycystic ovaries – the ovaries are enlarged and contain numerous sacs filled with fluid (follicles) surrounding the eggs.

How do I know if I have PCOS?

To be diagnosed you must meet at least 2 of the above characteristics.

Common symptoms of PCOS?

Common symptoms of PCOS can vary between individuals – some people may experience them, other may not even have them. They include: irregular periods, difficulty getting pregnant, excessive hair growth, weight gain, thinning hair on the head and acne.

PCOS management

Unfortunately, the exact cause of PCOS is unknown and, therefore, there is no “cure”. However, there are multiple ways to manage PCOS symptoms. The first thing to do is think about lifestyle modification, such as dietary changes, movement, stress management and sleep. With the support of a healthcare professional you may also consider medication and supplementation.

Dietary recommendation for PCOS

If you can try to include all key macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat) at every meal. This helps to stabilize blood glucose levels and manage insuline resistance – plus, it keeps you satisfied for longer.

Some evidence suggest choosing more wholegrain carbohydrates and reduce consumption of white carbohydrates. Consuming more wholegrains will increase the amount of fibre in your diet and this has been found to improve fasting insuline and glucose, as well as having a positive effect on insuline resistance and sensitivity.

Another helpful dietary recommendation is to add more food rich in omega-3 to your diet, such as salmon, flaxseeds, walnuts and chia seeds. They have been found to reduce chronic inflammation linked to PCOS.

Think about your eating habits

What you eat but also the way you eat can support both your mental and physical health, which are crucial for managing PCOS symptoms. The aim when it comes to managing PCOS is to regulate blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation.

Let’s see how:

  1. Firstly, it is essential to eat regularly. This will ensure you stabilize your blood sugar levels and it helps with insulin resistance and maintaining energy levels stable. It can also help two reduce eventual cravings. Try to eat every 3-4 hours when possible.
  2. Secondly, it is essential to eat enough. Most of the time we tend to restrict our food intake which can result in increased levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), contributing to chronic inflammation.

When trying to approach dietary changes, try to be flexible and think about small steps and sustainable ways to do it. Find changes that work best for you.

As there is no one size that fits all approach, if you need personalised support, I can help. Contact me via email francesca@fsnutritionist.com or book a free discovery call.


Is snacking bad?

Over the years, snacking has developed a bad reputation, seen as something to avoid because “snacks are extra calories”, etc. As a consequence, most people don’t snack because they don’t think snacking is a “healthy” habit.
However, when it comes to nutrition there is nothing that should be avoided (well, definitely stay away from fad diets, clean juices, detox teas, etc.) apart if you have specific allergy or other clinical conditions. 

Why is snacking important?

  1. Help manage hunger levels – Many clients report that they don’t have self-control when it comes to meal time and they eat past their fullness point. One of the main reasons is that they are not eating enough or eating satisfying food at their 3 principal meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) or they are not having snacks throughout the day. By learning how to build a satisfying meal and adding more snacks this feeling of “no self-control” disappeared.
  2. Stabilize and sustain energy levels – When we restrict our diet and we have low energy levels our body demands energy that is readily available and we may end up craving fun food such as chocolate, cake, biscuits. Why? Because we need something that gives us that energy boost (=sugar). Sometimes, we really need fun foods for various reasons (it’s totally fine) but often we are not eating enough. Having balanced meals and adding snacks between meals will keep our body’s energy levels up.
  3. Help fuel for exercise and recover from exercise.
  4. Provide additional nutrients in your diet – For example, some yoghurt with fruit and nuts as a snack will provide you with calcium, minerals, vitamins and healthy fats. For those who struggle to eat fruit, adding it during snack time might be a good place to start.

This article will explore 3 steps to choosing a balanced snack. Don’t forget to download my “Snacking guide” by subscribing to my newsletter. Click the picture at the bottom of the page.

Step 1: Identify Nourishing Ingredients

Look at the ingredients: choose nutrient dense ingredients, usually rich in fibre as they help to keep steady energy levels by gradually releasing glucose in your blood. Look out for nuts, seeds, mixed cereals, oat, dried fruits for an energy and fibre boost. Remember that the ingredients are listed in quantity order, with the highest at the beginning.

Step 2: Look out for Sweeteners

Look for natural sources (dried fruit, maple syrup, honey, cane or brown sugar). You might be tempted by low sugar options, however, lower sugar content is not automatically linked to a healthier option. Some bars may be high in sugar because of the naturally occurring sugar coming from dried fruit, fruit purée, etc. Try to limit sugar sweeteners and sugar alcohols (aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame, mannitol, sorbito, maltitol, etc.) as they can cause bloating and gas. Be aware that many food labeled as “sugar free” may contain sugar alcohols.

Step 3: Focus on Short Ingredients List

Usually in long list there are ingredients that don’t have any meaning from a nutritional point of view but are need for texture or colour – they are safe, but they usually reduce the quality of the product. In short, long ingredients list may be a sign of highly-processed food and poor quality ingredients.

Click here or on the picture below to download your FREE Snacking Guide.


Nutrition advice: who can I trust?

What we eat and how we move or use our bodies are two of the most powerful tools we have for staying physically and mentally healthy. And this is well know within the wellness community. As a result, with the number of resources supposedly giving out nutrition advice increasing dramatically over the past decades. Morevoer, there is an increased number of people seeking nutritional advice. But who can you really trust?

The trouble of seeking nutrition advice is that there is no legal definition of “Nutritionist” and there is no specific course or exam to pass to use this title. There are a few government-approved health practitioner register. However, it it estimated that many people practicing as Nutritionist are not register in any of them.

In conclusion, what I’ve been noticing is that when it comes to food, everyone seems entitled to give out nutrition advice and believe they are “an expert”! From Health Coaches or Fit experts to Dietitians and Nutritionists, it can be overwhelming and confusing to understand who is really qualified. 

In this paragraph, we will discover together who can you trust for nutrition advice.

Who can give personalised nutrition advice in the UK?

Registered Dietitian (RD)

Registered Dietitians (RD) have obtained at least a four-year degree in nutrition/dietetics at universities accredited by the British Dietetic Association. They are expert in treating and managing specific medical condition using scientific based nutritional advice. They typically work in the NHS, private practice, private healthcare company or medical research. RD, is a legally protected title, regulated by the Health Care Professional Council (HCPC).

Registered Nutritionist (ANutr & RNutr)

Registered Nutritionist have obtained at least a three-year degree in nutrition at university and most of the time along with a postgraduate qualification. They use scientific, evidence-based nutrition advice to share the impact of food and lifestyle on individuals’ health. They are member of the Association for Nutrition (AfN) a voluntary government-approved register. Registered Associate Nutritionist (ANutr) are newly graduates, which need to have an additional 3 years supervised practice to become Registered Nutritionist (RNutr). This is something I’m in the process of transferring to next year.

Nutritional Therapist 

Nutritional Therapists have obtained a diploma or undergraduate degree in nutritional therapy accredited by either:

This title is recognised as complementary medicine along with other holistic approaches. They use a mixture of science-based and non evidence-based advice. 

Finally, anyone who uses a title other than Registered Dietitian (RD), Registered Nutritionist (ANutr or RNutr) or Nutritional Therapist (evidence based!) is not qualified to give out personalised nutritional advice. 

What should you do to protect yourself?

If you need support and want to receive personalised nutrition advice, ask anyone about their qualifications and see if they are qualified. Finally, search for professionals with a legally protected title, such as the ones mentioned above.

Get in touch with me now at francesca@fsnutritionist.com to start working with me.


Caffeine and Exercise performance

The latest evidence, has shown that when caffeine is taken in moderation (around 3-6 mg/kg body mass) acts as an effective ergogenic aid for improving power and speed in resistance sport. In particular, caffeine may be beneficial for endurance-type of sports (such as cycling, running and swimming), while for sport-specific performance (such as soccer, basketball, rugby, etc.) several studies report little to none benefits.

The ideal timing of caffeine ingestion will depend on the type of caffeine source you choose (coffee, gels, mouth rinsing, etc). Roughly 60 minutes prior exercise has shown to be effective. 

Positive and Side effects of caffeine

Some of the positive effects reported of caffeine supplementation are:

  • Enhanced endurance training
  • Improved cognitive functions
  • Boosted velocity, power and strength in resistance training
  • Improved ability to work harder for longer

If you are considering taking caffeine supplements before a performance, it is important to be aware of the side effects linked to caffeine consumption. The most common side effects are:

  • Tachycardia and heart palpitations
  • Anxiety
  • Impaired sleep/insomnia
  • Headache
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort

Every athlete will respond differently to caffeine ingestion as genetics play a crucial role in the way our body metabolize caffeine. The physiological and physical response may differ amongst individuals.
More specifically, variations in CYP1A2 genotype have shown to influence caffeine metabolism! You may metabolize caffeine much quicker than another athlete.

Caffeine sources: where can you find it?

Common sources of caffeine is: coffee, tea, cocoa, caffeine mouth rinsing or caffeinated gels.

My tip: As for other aspects of sports nutrition, I would recommend experimenting with caffeine during your training session.
This way you will be prepared for the competition, knowing exactly what works for you and what doesn’t.

Further reading: 
Guest, N.S., VanDusseldorp, T.A., Nelson, M.T. et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and exercise performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 18, 1 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-020-00383-4 


8 Red Flags of Underfuelling

What does underfuelling mean?

Underfuelling means that you are not consuming enough energy to support your body’s demand to sustain your daily life activities (cleaning home, going to the office, play with your kids, hangout with friends…) combined with your training sessions (whatever these are). 

Underfuelling can happen to anyone – whether you identify yourself as a man, woman or not, whether you are an elite athlete, dancer or gym goers.

What are the main sign of underfuelling?

These are 8 of the main sign of underfuelling:

  • Feeling fatigued most of the time
  • Experiencing poor recovery
  • Being often sick with colds or other illnesses
  • Getting injured frequently
  • Hitting a performance wall – you feel as if you can’t improve further
  • Having irregular or absent menstrual cycle
  • Experiencing gastro-intestinal issues, along with other red flags
  • Having low libido

Overtime, being in an energy deficit can lead to Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S), a clinical syndrome caused by an imbalance between excessive energy output (training load or lifestyle) and inadequate energy intake (not eating enough). This syndrome can affect key physiological processes with a negative impact on both health and performance. The underline cause is also known as LEA (Low Energy Availability).

LEA represents a state in which the energy left in the body is not sufficient to support all physiological functions to maintain optimal health. Other consequences that could be linked to LEA are:

  • Impaired performance
  • Reduced training adaptations
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Low mood/irritability
  • Compromised immune function
  • Feeling low in energy

It is crucial to understand how to optimise nutrition and adequately fuel our body to support our health and trainings. 

NOTE: If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are in a LEA state as they could be linked to other root causes. Always speak to your GP if you are concern. 

Your training and health will benefit from nutrition support and working with a registered nutritionist can help to formulate strategies that work. Overall patterns matter most and small habits can build lasting improvements to your performance and health.


Glazed Salmon

A delicious option for a quick lunch or a recovery meal (post-workout), ready in about 15 minutes. A great balance of protein (to repair muscle and tissues fibres) and carbohydrate (to replenish glycogen stores). Plus, salmon is a great source of Omega-3.

Glazed Salmon

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Rating: ★★★★★
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 skinless salmon fillet
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp teriyaki sauce
  • 1cm fresh ginger, finely sliced or grated
  • 2 handfuls of broccoli florets
  • 2 courgettes, sliced
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • Wholegrain Rice

Directions

  1. In a pan heat some olive, add the vegetables and cook over a medium heat until tended but still firm.
  2. In a small ball mix together the sauces and a dash of water.
  3. In another pan hear a drizzle of olive oil with grated ginger and chilli flakes.
  4. Add the salmon fillets to the same pan and cook for about 3-4 minutes. Poor over the sauce mixture and cook for another 4-5 minutes (or less depending on the size of your salmon fillet).
  5. Add the rice to the vegetables pan as stir fry for a few minutes.
  6. Serve the salmon with the rice and vegetables. Sprinkle some chilli flakes, sesame seeds and Nigella seeds for extra flavour.

Top tip: having some microwave rice or mixed grains in your cupboard will make your life easier! For a cheaper option cook your grains in large quantities in advance and store in the fridge or freezer for those days when you have zero time to cook.


Porridge Cake

This Porridge Cake is rich in fibre and delicious. If you want to try something different for breakfast this is for you. This recipes serves 6 portions (roughly!) and it is great for meal prepping.

If you slice it in small rectangle you can make some cereal bars ,perfect to carry out with you on busy morning.

Serve with some fresh milk or yogurt.

Porridge cake

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Rating: ★★★★★
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 250g rolled oat
  • 2 Tbsp flaxseeds
  • 1 1/2 apple
  • 400ml milk
  • 1 tsp cinnamon, ground
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg, ground
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 70g honey or maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Peel and dice the apple. Add them in a bowl and squeeze some lemon juice. Add the spices and stir well.
  3. Add the oats, milk and honey. Mix well.
  4. Line a baking tray and add the mixture. Spread evenly.
  5. Add some blueberries or raspberries or chocolate chips.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.


Stir-fry noodles with glazed tofu

You must try it – ready in 20 minutes or less! This meal is perfect as a post-workout meal as it provides around 20g of protein and 60g of carbs:
– Tofu is a great plant based source of protein
– Noodles provide you with plenty of carbs
– Veggies provide you with additional carbs, fibre, micronutrients all crucial when we speak about recovery nutrition!

Stir-Fry noodles with glazed tofu

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Rating: ★★★★★
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 150g tofu (I used the @cauldronfoods original tofu and it’s my favourite)
  • Egg noodle, 1 nest (around 65g)
  • 1 medium/large courgette
  • 1 medium/large carrot, peeled
  • 1 Tbsp Corn starch
  • 1 Tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp teriyaki sauce
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil or sesame oil
  • fresh grated ginger (1cm or more)
  • To serve:
  • Fresh coriander
  • Chili flakes
  • Nigella seeds or sesame seeds

Directions

  1. Dice the tofu and add it into a bowl with corn starch, mix until the tofu is well coated.
  2. Cut the vegetables using the “julienne” technique (or finely chop them if you don’t have time)
  3. Heat the olive oil in a non sticky pan and add the grated ginger. Stir fry for 1 minutes (be careful not to burn it) then add the vegetables.
  4. Stir fry for 5 minutes and add the soy sauce. Cook until soft but still firm.
  5. Meanwhile cook the noodles accordingly to the pack instructions.
  6. In another non sticky pan add the the tofu (drizzle some olive oil if needed) cook the tofu and once there is a crispy crust add the teriyaki sauce with 1 Tbsp of water. Stir well.
  7. Serve your noodles with the veggies, tofu and fresh coriander. Sprinkle some nigella seeds and chili flakes for extra flavor.


Pesto eggs with mixed grains and broccoli

If you have never tried pesto eggs you must!!! So delicious and easy to cook. This quick meal works well as a post-workout meal providing you with a good amount of protein (around 20g) and carbohydrates, but also important micronutrients coming from the veggies, eggs, mixed grains and mixed seeds.

  • Difficulty: super easy
  • Print

Ingredients


* 100g cooked mixed grains
* 200g broccoli florets
* 2 eggs
* 1 Tbsp olive oil
* 1 heaped Tbsp pesto
* 2 Tbsp mixed seeds
* Chili flakes
* Salt and pepper
[\recipe-ingredients]

Directions


1. Cut the broccoli florets in small pieces.
2. Heat the olive oil in a non sticky pan and add the broccoli. Stir-fry untile cooked. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Remove the broccoli and set aside. In the same pan heat the pesto. When the pesto start bubbling crack the eggs on top of it. Cook for a few minutes but keep the egg yolks running.
4. Serve the eggs and broccoli with the mixed grains. Sprinkle some seeds, pepper and chili flakes.

[\recipe-directions]
[\recipe]


Creamy salmon pasta

Creamy salmon pasta

This creamy salmon pasta is my go-to recipe when I need a delicious meal ready in less than 30 minutes. The combo of salmon, lemon zest, ricotta cheese, spinach and peas is simply mouthwatering (and nutritious).

You can swap the spinach for chestnut mushrooms – trust me it’s a winning combination!

If you don’t like ricotta you can use creme fraiche instead.

Creamy salmon pasta

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Credit: fsnutritionist.com

Ingredients

  • 160 grams linguine or spaghetti
  • 2 fillets salmon, skinless and boneless
  • 1/2 leek, finely sliced
  • 50 ml white wine, optional
  • 100 grams frozen peas
  • 2 handfuls spinach
  • 4 Tbsp ricotta cheese
  • 1 lemon zest
  • dill, fresh or dry
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Directions

  1. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan and add the leek. Cook for 3 minutes and add a dash of water if needed.
  2. Boil a kettle and fill a large saucepan with the water. Bring to boil, add a pinch of salt and the linguine. Cook for 10 minutes (or according to pack instructions).
  3. Add the salmon fillets to the leek and cook for 5 minutes or until thoroughly cooked. Add a dash of wine if you wish. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Gently break up the salmon into big chunks.
  5. Add the peas and spinach.
  6. Cook for another 3 minutes, until the spinach has wilted and the peas are soft. Add dill to the salmon.
  7. Stir the ricotta in a small bowl with a ladle of the pasta water to thin the sauce. Add the sauce to the salmon.
  8. Drain the pasta and add to the pan with the salmon and sauce. Mix well.
  9. Serve garnished with some extra dill and lemon zest.