Miso quinoa buddha bowl

This recipe is the perfect dinner for two, including carbs, plenty of veg and protein. Double or quadruple the recipe and you have some great lunches throughout the week, as this tastes just as good cold. These flavours taste amazing together but equally, if you have leftovers lying around just chuck them in – that’s the amazing thing about grain bowls.

DSC_0348

SUCH YUM

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1 pakchoi
  • 250g cooked quinoa (approx 80g uncooked)
  • 150g cabbage
  • 1/2 large avocado
  • 1/2 block tofu or tempeh
  • Paprika
  • Chilli powder

Dressing

  • 5tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1tbsp soya sauce
  • 1tsp miso paste
  • 1tsp ginger paste/lazy ginger

Method:

  1. Head the oven to 60 degrees (to keep the ingredients warm)
  2. Start by cooking the chickpeas. Pour a drizzle of sesame oil in a non stick pan and add the drained chickpeas
  3. Sprinkle on the spices and toss. Cook until browning (about 5 minutes)
  4. Pour into a bowl and keep warm in the oven (at 60 degrees)
  5. Quarter the pak choi lengthways and place in the frying pan with more sesame oil
  6. Cook for around 3 minutes on each side, until browned and soft. Place in the oven to keep warm.
  7. Dice the cabbage and cook in the frying pan with a dash of sesame oil
  8. While the cabbage is cooking, cook the quinoa. If it is the ready-cooked quinoa this should take just a few minutes
  9. Fry the tofu/tempeh in a pan whilst the cabbage and quinoa is cooking
  10. Dice the avocado half
  11. Make the dressing by whisking together all the ingredients with a fork
  12. Make up the buddha bowls by placing in all the ingredients into 2 bowls/plates and pour on the dressing

DSC_0337

Supplements – what, why and how?

I’ve been asked so many times what I think about X supplement and approached by brands to promote new bizarre sounding pills claiming to solve all your training problems. Whilst some of them may have tentative supporting evidence, a lot don’t. I know the supplements market is a total minefield, so here are some of the most popular supplements out there, and evidence for and against them. Obviously research is always coming out saying X, Y or Z – I’ve included a lot of reviews and meta analyses to try to get a balanced view of the literature but always think critically about what people are trying to sell you. Just remember: there’s no magic pill that’ll suddenly make you fit or give you the perfect abs. Training is hard whatever supplements you take, and quite often it’s worth spending the £50 you spend on supplements on a personal training session or a few books on nutrition. Knowledge is power (literally in this case!).

 

Protein

Our muscles are made up of protein fibres, some of which are broken down and rebuilt each time we exercise. Protein supplements/shakes claim to enhance recovery of muscles and aid growth, thereby improving performance. However, the level of conflicting information (and the price of a lot of the supplements) warrants a closer look at the evidence of their efficacy.

The evidence: Looking at muscle recovery time, muscle soreness and muscle growth, the data are inconclusive. Some meta-analyses state that here’s no evidence to suggest that muscle recovery is faster when someone consumes protein before, after or during a workout. However, a lot of the studies looked at small sample sizes, and measures of ‘muscle soreness’ and recovery are often hard to quantify. There is, however, fairly strong evidence to suggest that people in a calorie deficit may benefit from taking protein supplements, and that protein can reduce muscle catabolism (break down) following a workout. Verdict: if you’re looking to build muscle and/or are in a calorie deficit, protein may help you out. However, if you’re looking to reduce DOMS or decrease recovery time, the jury is out on whether protein can help. Because of the mixed evidence, it may be worth trying it out, especially if you’re vegan or struggling to fit in enough protein in your diet and wanting to train hard. Find what works for you!

 

BCAAs

BCAAs or branched-chain amino acids are amino acids with side chains. There are three types: leucine, isoleucine and valine. The supplements are sold to increase protein synthesis, purportedly increasing muscle mass (even while in a calorie deficit) when paired with the right training. When taken regularly, supplementation may decrease fatigue during exercise by reducing the increase in serotonin during exercise, which contributes to fatigue.

The evidence: BCAAs are one of the most heavily studied supplements on the market. In terms of exercise (there are many other uses of BCAA supplementation), there are two main factors looked at: increased exercise performance and reduced muscle breakdown. The former has much mixed evidence, mostly suggesting that BCAAs are unlikely to significantly improve exercise performance. The latter, however, has much more evidence supporting it. Multiple studies show that supplementation before and after exercise reduce muscle breakdown after strenuous exercise, reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

 

Creatine

Creatine is produced naturally in the body and stored predominantly in skeletal muscle. However, it is also sold as a supplement and marketed as helping to improve energy production for short duration, high intensity exercises. Theoretically, it is used by the body as a substrate to form ATP (the little packets of energy our body uses), and therefore supplementing with it means more ATP (energy) can be produced.

The evidence: Creatine is one of the more sound supplements on the market. According to one review paper, creatine is the most effective supplement to increase high-energy exercise capacity and muscle mass during training. As it turns out, of the 500 peer-reviewed papers looking into the effects of creatine, 70% concluded that it benefitted high intensity performance. However, when looking at more endurance exercises, the evidence is inconclusive, showing that if you want something for long-distance running, you should probably look elsewhere.

Nb/ There have been concerns that creatine supplementation may alter liver and kidney function, so if you have underlying conditions, creatine use should be avoided. In general though, it seems to be relatively safe!

 

Beta-alanine

Beta-alanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that is used by athletes to improve performance. Purported benefits include improving exercise capacity, building lean muscle mass and improving physical functions in the elderly.

The evidence: This supplement definitely shows some clear evidence that it can improve performance by reducing fatigue, thus making building muscle easier for those who take it. The benefits are seen most clearly in high intensity activities lasting 60s to 300s. However, the side effects are not widely studied but commonly experienced. If you’ve ever taken beta alanine you’ll probably be aware of the tingly feeling you can get, which is unpleasant at best. Few studies if any have looked into the safety of this supplement, and whilst it appears safe at recommended doses, take it at your own risk.

 

Electrolytes

When we exercise we sweat, losing salts as well as water. Salts are important for our muscles to function properly and too few of them cause the body to cramp up. If you’re into endurance exercise or workout in hot places, chances are you’ve considered taking electrolytes. Electrolytes help replenish the salts lost when we sweat, thus keeping our muscles working properly, and are provided in a way that doesn’t give our body too much of any one type of salt (e.g. sodium). Supplementation aims to reduce heat stress, muscle cramps and aid rehydration.

The evidence: electrolyte supplementation has been shown to reduce cramping caused by electrolyte loss (lots of sweating), but cramping can still occur due to other factors. It reduces heat stress, so if you’re working out hard in a hot country (e.g. racing or competing abroad) this may be something to consider. If you’re not working out in extreme heat for extended periods of time, electrolytes are probably not required for your everyday training schedule.

 

I hope this helps clarify some things for you!

5DS_1556

Choosing supplements to aid your workouts can be a minefield

Protein cookie dough

When you just want something that tastes unhealthy, looks unhealthy and is just the right amount of decadent, this one is for you.

It needs no more introduction: peanut-butter protein cookie dough

DSC_0617

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 50g peanut flour
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein
  • 100g honey
  • 100g peanut butter
  • 60g 70% (or more) dark chocolate (chips or finely chopped)

Method:

  • Pour all the ingredients except for the chocolate in a blender
  • Start slowly and then increase blending speed to mix
  • If you would like peanut butter swirls add the peanut butter at the end and blend slowly, or hand mix in
  • Fold the chocolate pieces into the mix
  • Refrigerate

DSC_0624

Blackberry protein sponge

This cake uses some strange ingredients that you might not usually associate with cakes, but once you taste it you’ll see why! The chickpea keeps the cake moist without becoming dense and the blackberries give it a pleasant tang that stops it being too sweet or bland.

If you are vegan, the whole cake can be made vegan by using egg substitute and vegan protein (although be aware – vegan protein absorbs more liquid, so you may need to add a splash of water or almond milk). As it is, this cake packs in a huge amount of protein and important fibre so definitely constitutes a very healthy treat.

You can make this into one large loaf using a loaf tin or alternatively you can make 2 small round cakes, which you can stack together like a Victoria sponge cake. I use cashew cream and homemade blackberry jam for the filling.

I would 100% recommend you pick your own blackberries for this – not only is that free but also they taste amaaaaazing and you get the gratification of working for your dessert. Now is the season and they’re everywhere so have a forage!

Macros (cake only): 270cals, F: 12g, C: 24.2, P: 15.5

DSC_0224

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 100ml honey (may need less with sweeter protein powder)
  • 50ml vegetable oil
  • 100ml almond milk
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 100g vanilla/unflavoured protein
  • 100g self-raising wholemeal/white flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 150g – 200g blackberries

Method:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180C (160 fan)
  • Blend together all the liquid ingredients with the chickpeas until smooth (a couple of minutes)
  • In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients to blend
  • Fold in the dry ingredients into the chickpea liquid mix
  • Add half the blackberries and mix (it should be easy
  • Pour into a deep greased tin, preferably with a removable base (or two shallow round tins for filled sponge) and place the remaining blackberries on top
  • Cook for 35-40 minutes if in shallow tins or 45 minutes if in loaf tin. Check with cake prodder to see if it comes out clean. This may take an hour to cook in a deep tin
  • Remove from the oven; keep in tin and let cool on wire rack. Remove from tin when cooler and leave to cool further on the rack. Do not cut until at room temperature.
DSC_0180

If you sandwich the cakes you should level off the lower one using a bread knife

DSC_0190

Spread on the jam and cashew cream thickly, leaving some space at the edges

DSC_0221

Sandwich and enjoy!

Chocolate protein truffles

This recipe is a staple that should always be found in your fridge if you’re into fitness or love chocolate. The only problem is, as soon as you make them, they’re basically gone straight away, especially if you have sisters! But at around 30 calories a bite, you can make a few batches and not feel terrible if you eat them all (been there, done that, no regrets).

Per ball – P: 4.1g, C: 0.6g F: 1.4g, 30 calories

Ingredients:

  • 120g protein powder of choice*
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 50g ground almonds **
  • 150-200ml almond milk
  • Honey/agave/maple syrup (optional, to taste)

* I use nutristrength chocolate whey isolate. You can use vegan protein but you may have to use more milk. Salted caramel and various other proteins work really well here too! Experiment and let me know what you come up with.

** If you like peanuts, peanut flour created smores truffles – SO GOOD

Method:

  • Mix the dry ingredients together make sure they are well blended.
  • Add the milk slowly, mixing as you go. I usually use around 170ml with whey protein. You may not need the full 200ml
  • Add the honey/sweetener at this point and mix in
  • You should get to the consistence where it is extremely hard to mix but not dry.
  • Wet your hands and grab small (walnut sized) balls of mixture and roll into a ball (the mixture, not you)
  • Pour cocoa powder onto a chopping board/flat surface. Roll the ball in it using your palm.
  • Store in the fridge (best when eaten cold).

Enjoy!

P1190058

unnamed

Protein nicecream

This is where the future of guilt-free desserts is at. In case you’ve not yet become acquainted, nicecream is a wonderful invention that tastes like a mix between marshmallow fluff, ice-cream and banana milkshake – and it’s totally healthy!

I always make mine for 2, so this recipe is for 1 big portion or small portions for 2 (but realistically who wants to share). It can be made vegan really easily (use nut milk and vegan protein) and is a great alternative to a protein shake if you’re craving something sweet. I use a mix of Women’s Best cookies & cream/vanilla and unflavoured MyProtein whey.

Macros (per portion): C: 35.2g, P: 36.3, F: 2.9g

Ingredients:

  • 2 frozen bananas (frozen overnight)
  • 100ml milk of choice (use less if you want it thicker)
  • 3 scoops protein of choice
  • Vanilla essence (optional)

Add all the ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth.

DSC_0313

DSC_0317

DSC_0328

My daily routine

 

I have been asked many times what I usually eat in a day, how often I workout, what I do when I workout etc etc. At first I wasn’t going to write it – I don’t eat anything special. My diet isn’t an insight into how to get abs or the ‘perfect’ diet, so why would anyone want to see it? But then I thought, that’s why I’m going to write it – my diet isn’t a miracle worker, but then healthiness isn’t a miracle. It requires hard work and dedication, but you also need to have fun. Unless you’re training and eating to compete, ‘clean eating’ just isn’t sustainable or fun enough to contemplate doing all the time (at least for me). So if you’re reading this to find some miracle, you might as well stop. But I hope you don’t, because this is what a real person with real cravings and a real life eats. If you think that it’s filled with superfoods, hours of cardio and no cake, think again!

_1jj0284

I try to run about 4-5 times a week, either on the track or on the treadmill before a workout (photo by @mattlincolnphoto)

Daily diet: I don’t have a standard diet that I stick to everyday – my diet switches up daily and, like most people, I go through phases of eating really healthily and then have days when I eat probably (a lot) more than I should. But that’s balance, and that’s the ethos I live by. I base my diet on vegetables, but enjoy fish, quorn and complex carbs too. I try to limit animal products (except for eggs) and don’t eat meat.

Sleep: Sleep is a huge part of my life. I sleep 8-8.5h per night, although if I had my way it’d probably be more like 9.5-10h. I am a koala bear and can sleep at pretty much any time, anywhere. Sleep is so so important and stops you craving sugary snacks when you hit an energy slump in the afternoon. It also means you can train hard – it’s always so difficult if you’re sleep deprived. A good sleep routine helps me. I usually go to bed by 10, and am asleep before 11pm 🙂

Exercise: My workouts vary from day to day, and I try to mix up the parts of the body worked. I start most workouts with a 2km run or a 15 minute steep incline (8-10%) walk. This is to warm up my legs (especially needed in the winter) and increase my heart rate. This is all the cardio I do unless I got to track to train with the athletics club! I go for 2km in under 8 minutes, but of course everyone will vary. I workout abs twice a week at least, legs/butt I leave to running and arms/shoulders/back twice. Any remaining workouts are usually at the running, boxing or classes to mix things up a little. Sometimes I do full body workouts, which follow a Barry’s Bootcamp style (run, circuit, run circuit etc.). These are amazing if you want to burn fat, as they incorporate weights and cardio.

Supplements:

BCAA – Branched chain amino acids. These are three of the nine essential amino acids in humans and help muscles recover and grow after exercise. They may help reduce fatigue and DOMS in athletes. However, BCAAs probably aren’t required if you get lots of protein in your diet.

Protein – Similar to BCAAs, protein supplementation helps fix minute tears in muscle fibres after exercise. Having protein shakes is really useful if you’re not going to eat in the 45 minutes after exercise, as this is when protein is most needed by the body. I mostly use vegan protein, as whey, whilst it is absorbed more easily into the body, may not be as good for you in the long run (another post entirely)! I love strippd vanilla pea and hemp protein and am also a massive fan of Nutristrength whey isolate, which is kind on your stomach and really natural even if you’re lactose intolerant. Use FLORA15 if you’d like 15% off!

Multi-vitamins – I take multi-vitaminseveryday. They’re useful if you’re vegan or have a restrictive diet, although most people should have enough of the vitamins in their diet in general if you eat a variety of foods!

Ginkgo – Ginkgo has been used as a supplement for thousands of years in China. Whilst I’m wary of anecdotes about the wonders of traditional medicine, gingko has been widely researched and shown to slightly boost memory and cognitive speed. It may improve circulation (much needed for me) and increase energy levels.

dsc_1283

BCAAs, protein, snack bar and some other essentials I take to the gym

Day 1:

Breakfast: Smoothie bowl (check out some of my favourite recipes here and here) topped with muesli and crystallised ginger.

Lunch: Wholemeal pitta filled with vegetables I roasted over the weekend (squash, parsnip, carrot, tomato, kale), tomato paste, chilli flakes and mozzarella. Plain yogurt for dessert.

Snack: A protein bar/shake and some BCAAs after my workout.

Dinner: Homemade sweet potato and chickpea curry with Pollock

Dessert: Protein banana nice cream (food of the gods)

 

Day 2:

Breakfast: Bowl of chia and oat protein pudding (half chia and oats, mixed with almond milk or water and protein powder).

Snack: Slice of homemade beetroot chocolate cake

Lunch: Sourdough toast, ½ avocado, 2 scrambled eggs, polenta

Post-workout snack: Grenade carb-killa protein shake, BCAAs

Dinner: 2 egg omelette, quorn chicken pieces, kale, tomato

Pre-bedtime snack: cereal and crystallised ginger with coconut and protein powder.

 

Day 3:

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs (2) on homemade protein toast

Snack: Apple and peanut butter

Lunch: Kind bar and protein shake (I was full!)

Dinner: (LOTS of) Homemade veggie lasagne with apple crumble for pudding

dsc_0795

Apple crumble! I could eat this all day everyday ❤

I hope you find that useful, and don’t hesitate to ask any questions you might have. Remember, being healthy is not a miracle and it’s not a diet. It’s got to be a sustainable way of living, and one that you enjoy doing!

Rest days – why and how ?

img_5200

Put your feet up and relax – you’ve earned it!

For those of us who train hard, it’s often difficult to force ourselves to rest, especially if we’re not feeling overly tired or stiff. However, going without a rest day can cause injuries, exhaustion and other symptoms of over-training. A lot of us have the mind-set of all or nothing – it’s so hard to push ourselves to go to the gym everyday, that once we’re in a routine we don’t want to break it, and therefore taking a day off can feel like you’re falling behind. However, first hand experience has shown me that rest days are PART of an exercise routine, not just a day off. Here’s why:

Rest prevents injury

Our bodies are only built for a certain amount of strenuous activity. This level can be built up over time, but try to build it up too quickly and you’ll likely injure yourself. This is for a number of reasons, from the increase of tiny muscle tears that aren’t given time to recover, to the loss of form of a tired body. After intense exercise, our main muscle groups become tired and lazy, meaning poor form in further exercises. Poor form can lead to injury. On a side note, this is how I managed to get IT band syndrome on BOTH my legs only 4 months apart, putting me out for around a year off and on. Whilst I wasn’t training as much as others, the intensity of training was too much too soon, and caused my form to get worse, causing long term injuries. You really, REALLY don’t want this.

Allows the build-up of muscle

When we workout, we cause tiny muscle-fibre tears, that can thankfully be repaired by our immune system and adequate amounts of protein in our diet. However, this takes time and rest, and as above, without this tears can accumulate, leading to bigger muscle tears and injury. Rest days are needed to build back up muscles, nerves, bones and connective tissues. This is why it’s important to stagger muscle-group workout days, not working out the same muscle group for around three days after you last worked it out.

Better sleep

Interestingly, middle amounts of exercise help sleep a huge amount, but too much exercise can actually negatively affect sleep. Over-training increases the hormone, which is not only the stress hormone, but also the hormone that wakes you up in the morning. Having too much of it will wake you up in the night and keep you awake when you’re trying to sleep. You can find out if this is happening to you by measuring your resting heart rate (RHR) on a day you’re well rested and again when you think you might be over training. A raised RHR is a telltale sign that your body is on high alert, which could be due to over-training.

Better resistance to illness

Your immune system takes a hit when you’re tired, as it has to work extra hard to repair muscles and joints, alongside its usual job of fighting off millions of pathogens everyday. More rest gives your immune system a break too, meaning it’s better able to fight off any lurgies that are around.

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-11-24-33

Nutrition is as important (if not more) on rest days as workout days. Pack in the protein! 

The reasons why you should rest vary a little depending on why type of exercise you do – lifting weights causes different issues to running long distance, but the essential point remains: rest is essential to progress. Rest days don’t have to involve hours of inactivity – getting up and walking around is important to keep muscles warm and your heart healthy. However, if your workouts are usually light to moderate intensity, rest days can involve a little more physical activity, for example yoga, pilates, a (very) slow and short jog or a longer walk. Food wise, you’ll need a little less food on your rest day but don’t be fooled: you may not be working out that day, but our bodies still burn more calories the day after a heavy session, meaning that you’ll require more food than if you had taken the whole day off.

 

Prescription for rest day:

  • Lots of protein
  • Slightly less carbs than usual
  • No intense exercise – a light jog at most, but don’t overdo it!
  • This is NOT a cheat day: using your rest day as a cheat day won’t do your body or mind any favours. Plan it like a training day and nourish yourself accordingly.
  • Stretch and foam roll

 

Finding out what works for you may take a bit of time and fiddling, but making sure you keep a track of how you feel will mean you can ace your rest day like any other day of training.

img_5266

Sleep is life

High protein salmon and prawn linguine

This delicious dinner has macros to suit everyone on all but the most carb-restricted of diets, and is delicious enough to serve to anyone, even those who aren’t into healthy food (everyone has those family members and friends!).

This meal has approximately  870 calories, 69g carbs33g fat and 82g protein per person. This is including the skin of the salmon , which is filled with good oils (but feel free to remove it is you’re not a fan), 1 salmon per person, Explore Cuisine lentil spaghetti and a drizzle of chilli oil at the end.

IMG_4201

 Ingredients (serves 2):

  • ½ head of broccoli
  • 2 shallots, or ½ white onion, finely chopped
  • 150g spaghetti (I use lentil Explore Cuisine spaghetti as it is higher in protein)
  • 140g low fat yogurt
  • 200g prawns
  • 1-2 salmon fillets
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 egg
  • Drizzle of chilli infused olive oil

Method:

  • Steam the salmon and prawns until cooked through (times may differ from frozen so check the packet!)
  • At the same time, fill a pan with salted water and bring to the boil. Add the pasta and cook for the recommended time
  • Steam the broccoli until soft
  • Fry the garlic and shallots/onion in some 1kcal spray and add the broccoli to the pan once cooked
  • Turn off the heat and add the yogurt. Mix together.
  • Flake the salmon and add it and the prawns to the sauce
  • Drain the pasta once done and then return it to the saucepan
  • Add the sauce to the pasta and crack an egg on top
  • Mix the egg with the pasta – it will cook on the residual heat from the sauce and pasta (if you are worried it won’t cook, you can turn on the heat for a short amount of time to cook it some more).
  • Serve up and top with chilli infused oil and salt and pepper to taste.
    Enjoy!! I know I did.

 

Carrot cake smoothie bowl

Anyone who follows me on instagram will know about my obsession with smoothie bowls. Easy to make, healthy and delicious, smoothie bowls are the future of easy breakfasts.

The possibilities are almost endless when it comes to what to put in your smoothie bowl. Favourites for me include frozen banana (always useful to freeze your bananas – without their skins – as soon as they become over ripe), protein powder, Huel (vanilla powder) and frozen spinach.

Here is a recipe for one of my favourite smoothie bowls – carrot cake! It’s super good for you and filling too, which is perfect for keeping you going until lunch.

DSC_0030

Ingredients:

  • Milk of choice (I use coconut milk)
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 large/2 small carrots (no need to peel!)
  • 3-4 dates
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein (or unflavoured protein and vanilla essence)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Ginger powder, to taste
  • 1 tsp maca
  • 2 ice cubes

Blend, pour, eat! Let me know what you think in the comments below.

DSC_0034

Carrot cake smoothie bowl, topped with desiccated coconut and currants