Healthy apple and maple crumble

dsc_0795

A good crumble should be the staple of all autumn and winter dinner parties, as it is simple enough to make on a whim with little time. The recipe is totally fool proof and doesn’t require expensive ingredients that you wouldn’t find at your local supermarket. So no excuses not to make this one. It can be gluten free, is totally vegan and has no refined sugar in it. It is high in fibre, contains slow release carbohydrates and is so delicious you could serve it to the most discerning of guests without them knowing it’s healthy.

dsc_0774

Ingredients:

Filling

  • 7 large apples (cooking apples work well)
  • 1-2tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ginger (optional)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup (optional but works well with cooking apples)

Crumble

  • 200g ground almonds (or make your own by blending almonds to the desired consistency)
  • 200g oats
  • 80g maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • Coconut/almond milk

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C
  • Begin by chopping the apples into 1-2 cm pieces, leaving out the core*
  • Place these in a large saucepan with about 1-2cm water covering the bottom of the pan
  • Add cinnamon, ginger and maple syrup, if using
  • Stir occasionally until the mixture starts breaking down
  • Turn off the heat and pour into a 20cm deep dish, before making the topping
  • Mix together the ground almonds, oats and cinnamon
  • In a saucepan, melt the coconut oil and mix with the maple syrup
  • Once mixed, pour over the oats and almonds and mix
  • If there isn’t enough liquid, use small amounts of coconut or almond milk until the whole mixture is well mixed
  • Pour evenly over the top of the apples and pat down
  • Bake for 20-30 minutes until the top is lightly browned at the edges
dsc_0778

Cooking the apples beforehand releases the sugars in them and means less cooking in the oven (which means eating sooner).

 

dsc_0781

Making your own ground almonds is easy and often cheaper than buying it ready made

dsc_0785

dsc_0791

Very few smells are as good as an apple crumble in the oven

* I know that some people prefer to peel their apples before using them in crumble. I don’t bother as a) I am lazy and b) the skin adds to the texture and increases fibre content. However, this is up to you!

 

How to feed your fitness goals

Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist. I do, however, read up as much as I can on subjects that interest me, and getting the right nutrition really, really interests me.

Have you ever seen those quotes that say how important the right diet is for getting the body you want? Ones that keep popping up are ‘70% diet, 30% workout’ and ‘abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym’. But where is this mysterious kitchen that abs are supposedly made in? The point is that without getting your diet and nutrition right, you can workout all you like and for all the effort you’re putting in, whatever goal you’re aiming for will remain elusive until you get the food you need. Unfortunately, the internet is filled with diet advice, from quick weight loss methods to how to bulk up fast. Nutrition isn’t overly complicated though – once you have your sights set on a particular goal and taught yourself the right foods to eat, you’re 90% of the way there. The rest is dedication and consistency.

So what is the ‘right diet’? This totally depends on your goal. In this article I’m going to outline the basic components of the diet you need for your fitness goal, whether that’s aesthetics, long distance running or bulking up.

Calorie goal

In terms of physics, losing or gaining weight is as simple as calories in vs calories out. However, when it comes down to the biology, your body processes different foods very differently. Sugars, for example (especially glucose, but also fructose in fruits) are digested very easily, so you will get basically 100% of the calories from a sugary treat. Vegetables and other foods must be further broken down and processed by the body, meaning that fewer calories are absorbed and turned straight into fats. Without going into depth on the biology this basically means that everyone should be eating fewer sugary foods and more vegetables and proteins. But we all already knew that didn’t we.

myfitnesspal-and-databricks-case-study

My Fitness Pal – the king of all calorie/macro counting apps. 

To lose fat: Your goal should be to create a calorie deficit of up to 20%. This means that if your intake is 2500 calories a day, you should cut it by up to 500 calories a day to lose fat. Cutting more than this means you’re likely to get hungry and end up breaking the diet and gaining back any weight you’ve lost. Don’t do it! In simple numbers, 3500 calories is equivalent to 1lb of fat. Therefore cutting 500 calories per day means you should lose 1lb a week (the science is more complicated because when you lose weight, your metabolism tends to slow, making it harder to lose fat, but this is a good starting point).

To gain muscle: You need to have a calorie surplus. Keeping your calories slightly above your maintenance level (which can be calculated online) will allow your body to turn the calories to muscle when you gym. Particularly important is eating the right type of calories – sugar is likely to turn straight to fat, so what you really want to be eating is protein and slow-release carbs. More on this later.

I understand that very few people have the time, energy or willpower to count calories, so trying to get a calorie surplus or deficit is difficult when you have no idea how many calories you eat. From this point you have two options:

  • Start calorie counting (the My Fitness Pal app is the easiest way to do this). Keep it up for about 2 weeks to 1 month so you have an idea of how many calories you eat on a daily basis. You can then estimate quite well how many calories you eat when you’re not counting. Use this to change your calorie intake according to your goals.
  • If you want to lose weight but can’t fathom having to log every item of food you eat, cut out certain foods that you KNOW have high amounts of calories and sugar. An example could be a chocolate bar, biscuits or a starbucks Frappuccino. Cutting out 2 big unhealthy things from your diet a day will set you up to lose weight, and you’ll be a lot healthier for it! To gain muscle, I would recommend taking 1-2 protein shakes a day after the gym. These have varying amounts of calories but allow you to up your calorie intake with the right macronutrient – protein!

nb. Meal prepping is a great way to do both of these things – make your lunches at the beginning of the week so you’re not tempted by unhealthy deals at the local supermarket

n7mioo3

Meal prepping is no longer something for elite bodybuilders and bikini competitors – anyone who wants to make eating healthier at work SHOULD meal prep.

For simple goals such as losing or gaining weight, you need to track progress to know you’re doing everything right. Weigh yourself at least once a week and at most every other day to make sure you’re keeping on track. But don’t obsess – no one likes a person who can’t think of anything but how he or she looks or weighs. Instead focus on how you feel and your health – both are more important than your physique!

Macros

The term ‘macros’ refers to the three macronutrients your body needs to run effectively. Most of us have heard of low-carb diets such as the dukan or atkins diets, but for the majority of us, we just want to eat normally like normal people and be healthy, and this involves carbohydrates, protein and fats. Getting your macros right is a sure-fire way to getting the right diet to reach your goals, but again, it involves counting on apps such as my fitness pal and requires time and effort (however it does mean you can eat whatever you like, as long as it fits into your calculates macro goals!). If you check out the #IIFYM (if it fits your macros) hash-tag on instagram , you’ll see what I mean!

 

Counting macros: The average person should be eating 35-40% protein, 35-40% carbohydrates and 20% fats. However, exact percentages really depend on your goals and what sports you do.

  • Running and other aerobic exercise (eg. rowing, tennis, squash etc.) – carbohydrates are important as a fuel source when you’re doing aerobic exercise for a long time. For long distance runners, on training days your macros should be around C: 60%, P: 20%, F: 20%. On rest days you can eat fewer carbs and more protein and fats for repair of muscle. Short and middle distance runners/exercisers need more protein as muscle is broken down faster in sprinting and needs to be built back up; C: 45-50%, P: 30-35%, F: 20%
  • Weight lifting and other anaerobic exercises (eg. jumping, sprints, HIIT): The amount of protein consumed here should always be high, but percentages depend on whether you’re cutting, maintaining or bulking. For bodybuilding, high carbs allow for rapid weight gain (C: 40-60%, P: 25% – 35%, F: 15-25%) for cutting, low carb diets shed fat like nothing else (C: 10-30%, P: 40-50%, F: 30-40%). 10% carbs is crazily low, and only those looking to compete in aesthetics competitions should even attempt this, and always with supervision.

In general, carbohydrates provide energy and should be increased as exercise intensity and duration increases. It should be limited if you want to lose fat and increased if you want to gain weight. Women also need slightly fewer carbohydrates than men, as they are better at metabolising it. Rule of thumb: if you feel weak or overly-fatigued, especially after workouts, you may need to increase your carbs. The type of carbohydrate is important too – longer chain (low GI) carbs are better for sustained release energy. Some examples are listed below.

Protein is used to repair muscles that undergo micro-tears during training. Those who exercise more generally need more protein than a sedentary person, especially if they are looking to gain muscle. Good protein sources for all types of diet are outlined below.

Fats should never go under 15% of the total daily calorie intake. This is because many hormones are made using fatty acids and other fat molecules, so not getting enough fat can really mess up your body. In addition, many vitamins are fat-soluble. If you don’t eat enough fat you might not absorb enough vitamins and minerals. This can result in long-term problems in the future (and this is why looking really lean might not be that good for your health!).

Below I have listed some really healthy sources of the three macronutrients. Most foods have a mix of the three macros, and it’s important to get a mix of foods so you also get your required vitamins in everyday too. In addition, it’s easy to live healthily being vegetarian or vegan, gluten free etc etc. It’s just a matter of knowing what you can eat and what you should eat for your goals.

Macronutrient  
Carbohydrate Wholemeal bread, sweet potato, chickpeas, brown rice, oats, bananas, beans, wholemeal pasta, couscous, potatoes
Protein Chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, plain yogurt, tofu, milk, cottage cheese, whey protein powder, pea/hemp protein powder, beans and legumes
Fat Nuts, nut butters, avocados, olive oil, dark chocolate, cheese, egg yolk, fatty fish (salmon, trout, mackerel etc), coconut oil

OK, so now you’ve read this you’re probably super confused and asking why abs have to be made in the kitchen. Don’t worry – you’re not alone! Luckily, it’s actually quite easy to take steps towards improving your diet and working towards your goals without counting calories or macros. Once you know what’s good for you and what foods you need for what goal, all you have to do is increase those foods and decrease the others. Although progress may be slower than if you were counting macros, slow progress throughout your life is better than quick progress for one month before you give up because you’re going to die if you eat one more Tupperware of boiled chicken and broccoli. Not to mention more fun.

You can count macros, run to keep fit, lift weights, workout everyday or just three times a week, count macros, count calories, not count anything at all except the hours to your next meal – my point is that any steps that you take to improve your health are right. There is no ‘wrong’ way to be fit and something that works for one person may not work for another and vice versa. Figure out what works for you, learn as much as you can about your body and remember: everything in moderation.

I really hope this helps you as you start to take steps towards your goals. The only person you can compare yourself to is the person you were yesterday. Go and smash it!

 

University – to drink or not to drink?

The rise of the twenty-something granny

Walking through the university gym at 5pm, picking my way over groups of people on the floor, it’s difficult not to notice the number of groups of girls doing a similar sort of workout. With sweaty faces and various weights laid out beside them, it’s easy to tell they too have joined the biggest female fitness community – Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guide. And of course there are no weights left on the rack for me to start week 20. Back at home at the end of the day, I ask my friend what she has planned for the evening. Contrary to what outsiders might expect of a uni student with no current deadlines, her response doesn’t involve any drinking, or even staying out late. 10:30pm bedtime after a home cooked dinner is her day-off plan.

ip_086-2015-02-13-1dx_9884-e1427845186267

24 year old Kaya Itsines (@kayla_itsines), creator of BBG – the bikini body guide. IG following: 5.6m

So why is this? Why are more and more people eschewing getting ‘hammered’ and passing out for early beds and the gym? At our weekly athletics socials, the number of people who are not drinking because they have a race, or a deadline, or simply because their body needs a rest is amazing. This isn’t to say that our socials are boring and quiet, and it’s certainly not saying that everyone is tee-total, but it’s hard not to notice that certain people are getting more “sensible” with their drinking habits.

As a nation, the UK has been decreasing alcohol consumption since 2002, and despite what the Daily Mail might have you believe, alcohol sales peaked way back in 2004, and have been falling since then. A ‘YouGov’ study showed that in the UK, “one third (33%) of those surveyed have cut down on their alcohol consumption in the past year with a further ten percent saying they have given up alcohol completely.” In addition, “the proportion of young adults (16-25) who reported that they do not drink alcohol at all [increased] between 2005 and 2013.” The stats go some way to explaining people’s views towards alcohol and drinking. 44% of those surveyed agreed that alcohol is bad for your health – perhaps a surprisingly small amount, but a start nonetheless.

chtfig2_tcm77-340674

Amount of alcohol drank on the heaviest drinking day in the last week by gender, showing a gradual decrease in over drinking from 2005 – 2012. This fall is driven by the younger age groups (Drinking Habits Amongst Adults, 2012)

Speaking to some friends who don’t drink much, I asked why they had decided to cut back on alcohol. The answers could be split into two categories: maximising productivity and the ever increasing view that being drunk is unattractive. It seems that with the increasing pressures of today, taking a day off for a hangover, or even just working at a sub-optimal level is an unacceptable side-effect of drinking. As one person put it, ‘it’s just un-conducive to life’. If you think about it, spending £9,000 a year on fees for a university education means that every wasted moment costs money – money many people can ill afford. I believe more people are viewing university as an opportunity, not just academically but also with everything else university has to offer, such as sports. One friend stated that the choice of drinking or not drinking was all down to priorities. “Drinking leads to many attractive traits, such as… increased confidence and relaxation, but for me these are outweighed by the negatives”. For her, these include consequences to fitness and health, and understandably, anyone who takes their health seriously is not going to go out drinking to dangerous levels on a regular basis.

The second category I came across about why people don’t drink is one that denotes changing views of drunkeness. Interestingly, attitudes towards drinking in society vary across countries, regardless of the amount of alcohol consumed. In the UK, Scandinavia, US an Australia, drinking is associated with violent and antisocial behaviour, whereas in the Mediterranean and some South American cultures, drinking behaviour is viewed as peaceful and sociable. Therefore perhaps it is not surprising that the way drunkenness is viewed can change temporally as well as spatially. The view of a drunken man or woman, especially if they are young, is seen as unattractive, and somewhat tragic, in the same way that anyone out of control is negatively viewed.

The time that I started to notice youths taking more care of their health admittedly came from a slightly skewed portion of the population. I got my fitness instagram when I was 17, and saw a growing community of girls (and many guys), making health and fitness a high priority in their lives – much more so than (thought often alongside) popularity and partying. However, looking around me in school, then home, then university gyms, I saw the change spreading outside of instagram into the ‘real world’. Smiling at early 20-somethings running on the downs, we share a moment of recognition of the other’s effort to look after their body. Because let’s be honest – when you’re stressed with work and tired from everyday life, sometimes running is the last thing you want to do. But making the effort to get out, get some fresh air and get the endorphins pumping starts a positive feedback loop of self-improvement, that clearly is starting to take effect on more than just those who might consider themselves ‘fit-freaks’ or amateur athletes. Living a healthy lifestyle is truly becoming accessible for all. For me, reducing the amount I drink on a weekly basis has been a natural progression – if I have training planned, or a deadline, or really anything that requires full functioning of my brain or body the day after a night out, chances are I won’t drink (much). It’s surprisingly simple – and I’m a social sec!

jen-selter-4

22 year old Jen Selter (@jenselter) – health and fitness advocate, known for her ‘belfies’ (butt selfies, don’t ask). Instagram following: 9.9m

So where is drinking culture at universities moving to now? I think that looking at social media accounts can give a good clue as to what is considered ‘cool’, and what certain attitudes are. Gone are the days of ‘heroine chic’ stick thin models – now it’s all about fitness and health, or at least looking like you’re fit. Social media celebrities such as Kayla Itsines (@kayla_itsines) or Jen Selter (@jenselter) are not going out of fashion any time soon, so perhaps the view that fit is good is here to stay. And with it is going to be the rise of the ‘sensible youths’ – earlier bed times, less alcohol, better nutrition, more fitness. I’m yet to find a university that’s filled more with fit-freaks than drunk freshers, but I have no doubt that that’s the direction it’s moving in. Maybe it’s about time for a bigger university gym.

Barry’s Bootcamp

london-hero2

The central London bootcamp room. Photo taken from website

This. This is where it’s at. I absolutely LOVE Barry’s bootcamp. Last week I attended the bootcamp in Euston, having heard great things about it from multiple people, including Maiken (@maikenf) who I attended it with. There are two bootcamps in London – one right by Euston station, and the other in east London, near Old street. The one in Euston is somewhat smaller than the one in Old Street, but leaves plenty of space for everyone to workout safely without fear of being whacked by their next door neighbour with their medicine ball.

 

Upon arrival at the bootcamp, I signed in, was told to sign a medical questionnaire and offered the chance to order a protein shake for after the session, which I did (blueberry cobbler FYI). I was then told that newbies would have an induction five minutes before the class started, to make sure we knew what was what. Still not entirely sure I knew what was what, at 12:30pm I took my place at bench 12 for the first round of floor. The workout was 1h in total, alternating between floor and treadmill work (although you can choose to stay on the floor for the full time – or treadmill if you’re mental….). The day I attended it was abs day, using 5kg+ medicine balls (I used 6kg which was tough for me) to do minute long exercises, each working abs in a slightly different way. The instructor (@hannahlouiseluck IG) flawlessly instructed both the treadmill and floor group, shouting out instructions to each, which certainly made me at least feel like I was in a personal training session, rather than a group of 30 people.

The floor exercises could easily be made easier or more difficult by using different weights – a minimum weight for men and women was given at the beginning of the class, allowing everyone to work as hard as was comfortable for them. The treadmill section had three levels, denoted by different speeds that Hannah would shout out at each change of speed. This allowed less fit people to decrease the speed in order not to have a heart attack, and those cardio bunnies to jack up the speed to get the most out of the workout. As a very competitive person, I loved the row of treadmills, where if was possible to look at how fast your next-door neighbour was going. This really pushed me to my limits, which was way faster than I would go in my own workouts.

After the class, Maiken and I went to get changed and shower in the small but beautiful changing rooms (but alas, no sauna). Before leaving we went to collect our pre-ordered smoothies from the smoothies counter (and of course took a bunch of photos).

img_8146

Maike (@maikenf) and I post class, all sweaty with protein shakes in hand!

Good for:

  • The endorphin buzz was like something I’ve never felt before. I’ve had a ‘runner’s high’ after training before but this was something else!
  • The competitive aspect of this was great for me, and really pushed me
  • Hannah, the instructor knew many people’s names and would congratulate and encourage those who she knew by name and often those who she didn’t as well.
  • All round workout – I was aching all over the next day (in a great way). Although I went for abs day, this worked out my entire body
  • Cardio bunnies who want a little more than just a run

 

Less good:

  • This was TOUGH – good for fitties! Although it is possible to make it easier with lighter weights and slower speeds, so this isn’t really a negative.
  • Cost – this class is not cheap! At £20 per person per class, it’s not really feasible to do this on the regular.
img_5113

Almost worth the £5 they cost

Cost: £20 for one class, decreasing down to £15 per class if you book a block of 50 (£750 total).

http://www.barrysbootcamp.com

Healthy Banana Bread

DSC_0670

Banana bread is a superfood. Not in the instagram yoga-mum sense of the word, but in the way that everyone loves a good banana loaf (unless you dislike bananas) and it makes you feel amazing. I can promise you that I have made friends solely through the production and sharing of this banana bread. Its warmth and soft texture makes it perfect for autumn and winter, but this lighter version makes sure it’s not too stodgy and unhealthy. The wholemeal flour increases the fibre and nutrient content, and the date syrup (or alternative) ensures no refined sugars are used.

It’s not totally good for you as such, and doesn’t taste at all like it is (like all the best desserts), but it’s a huge improvement on the traditional recipe (which uses butter, white flour and sugar) and is so delicious it’s suitable for everyone! When I asked my friends, they said it didn’t taste like a healthy dessert, and didn’t have that weird texture too many sugar-free desserts have.

Macros: 244 calories, 13.7g fat, 26.5g carbs, 4.1g protein.

P1190148

For a marbled effect, add cocoa powder to half the mixture

This isn’t vegan or gluten free, but can be made both! See *notes at the bottom for ingredient substitutions.

Ingredients (serves 10):

  • 25g coconut oil
  • 100ml vegetable oil
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs (or 1tbsp almond butter)
  • 2 large bananas (or three small ones)
  • 75ml milk of choice
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 200g flour of choice (I use 100g wholewheat and 100g white)
  • Optional: nuts, dark chocolate

Method:

  • Pre-heat the over to 180 degrees Celsius and line a loaf tin with baking parchment
  • Heat up the coconut oil if it is solid
  • Add the coconut and vegetable oils with the vanilla essence to a bowl and mix until combined
  • Beat in the eggs and sugar
  • Mash the bananas and add to the mix
  • Add the milk, baking soda, cinnamon and salt to the bowl and mix everything together
  • Add the flour slowly and fold in to the liquid mixture using a large wooden spoon
  • Add any extras you want at this point and fold in
  • Pour into the loaf tin, and top with cinnamon, or, if you’re feeling decadent, with brown sugar (this creates a crunchy top)
  • Bake in the oven for 1h (insert a toothpick/knife into the centre after one hour – if the cake is done, it should come out clean)
  • Leave to cool in the tin until the tin is cool. Remove from the tin and leave to col completely on a wire rack before cutting.

DSC_0680

*Notes:

Oils: It is possible to use 125ml coconut oil here. However, my aim to is make this affordable for everyone, and coconut oil is not known for being super cheap 😉 But do feel free to switch up ingredients as you like! Coconut oil is better for you, and doesn’t taste at all in this recipe – vegetable oil is a little more processed but works perfectly fine. Don’t use olive oil unless you love the taste in your cakes – it overpowers the bananas!

Bananas: Try to use ripe to over-ripe bananas. I always have a stash in my freezer that I freeze as soon as they become over-ripe. They are perfect for this recipe (and a million other things, such as my carrot cake smoothie bowl recipe).

Protein: If you want this as a post-workout snack, try adding 2 scoops of unflavoured protein powder to the mix.

Vegan? Use flax eggs or 1tbsp almond butter, and make sure to use dairy-free milk. My favourites are hazelnut milk and coconut milk.

Gluten free? This recipe works fine with all-purpose gluten free flour, although liquid levels may have to be increased. Play around and let me know what works for you!

DSC_0685

Let me know what you think in the comments below, or if you made any ingredients substitutions that you think work well! 🙂